Friday, October 28, 2016

Video Of The Week: The Record Company

Sometimes social media does good things, like when Katie Sunshine instagrammed herself hula hooping to The Record Company's Rita Mae Young, caught the band's attention, and became the entire video of the song onto herself:

The Record Company hail from Los Angeles and their blues-based old-school rock comes informed with rap, soul and a bit of country to make the sound I wished The Black Keys would have made if I liked them.

They formed in 2011, have been relatively active since 2013 and are currently touring the U.S. and playing late-night talk shows. I'm curious to hear what the future holds for the trio.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trebek's On Fire!

I'll take "Insulting A Contestant" for $500, Alex!

Perhaps Alex Trebek has been hosting Jeopardy! for too long...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2016-17 NHL Season Preview: The Awards

And so I went with my Eastern Conference and Western Conference predictions... might as well dig myself an even deeper hole and try to predict the various award winners.

President's Cup (regular season champs): Montréal Canadiens
Prince Of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference Cup finalists): Washington Capitals
Clarence-Campbell Trophy (Western Conference Cup finalists): Chicago Blackhawks
Stanley Cup Champions: Washington Capitals
Conn Smythe (playoff MVP): Braden Holtby

Art Ross (points scoring leader): Connor McDavid
Rocket Richard (leading goal scorer): Alex Ovechkin
Hart (MVP voted by the press): Connor McDavid
Ted Lindsay (MVP voted by players): Sergei Bobrovsky
Vezina (top goalie): Sergei Bobrovsky
Calder (best rookie): Patrick Laine
Lady Byng (most sportsmanlike): Johnny Gaudreau
Norris (best defenseman): Mark Giordano
Bill Masterton (perseverance/comeback): Brian Elliott
Frank Selke (best defensive forward): Tomas Plekanec
Jack Adams (top coach): John Tortorella
King Clancy (humanitarian): P.K. Subban
Mark Messier (best leader): John Tavares
GM: Pierre Dorion

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

NHL Preview: 2016-17 Season: Eastern Conference

I was wrong last year when I predicted the Columbus Blue Jackets would contend for first in their division (ending up third) and that the Pittsburgh Penguins would thus fail to make the playoffs (they won the Stanley Cup, against another team I predicted would fail to make the postseason, the San Jose Sharks).

This year, I'm fucking doubling down.

Eastern Conference:

The Atlantic Division:

1. Montréal Canadiens

Shea Weber is good for a couple more seasons, Carey Price can stop 91% of pucks for a year or two as well, and the leaders are still there: Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and 30-goal scorers Max Pacioretty and newly-minted first-line center Alex Galchenyuk.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

For every red, there is blue. The Bolts have a nice one-two punch of Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskyi in nets, and an attack made up of Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Ryan Callahan and Tyler Johnson. On defense, it helps to have Victor Hedman, but Anton Stralman is no slouch, and neither is Slater Koekkoek.

3. Ottawa Senators

If the Sens make it to the playoffs and against the Habs, they'll win. Craig Anderson has had the best over Carey Price on two of the last three postseasons, and history will repeat itself. With Derick Brassard to follow Kyle Turris, the Sens now have a nice pair of 1A centers to rotate their wingers around, which should keep the likes of Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Matt Puempel sharp, and having the best-skating defenseman in the game in Erik Karlsson helps as well. Guy Boucher is also probably the best coach for this team.

4. Florida Panthers

They won the division last year but were exhausted come playoff time. They'll pace themselves this season, which will help. They're a terrific team to watch play, although I'm uncertain of the revamped defense. I liked the variety on last year's squad better.

5. Detroit Red Wings

NEVER count Detroit out. But the competition is extremely steep this year. I doubt the Wings are deep enough to make it through, what with having to sign such free agents as Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek this summer, but they may be in contention for the final playoff spot until the last few days of the season.

6. Boston Bruins

File this under "Claude Julien's Final Season", although the team's failings - the defense, and lack of a good enough backup goalie - solely lies on the shoulders of GM Don Sweeney. That defense is what NHL goalies have nightmares about.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Austin Matthews, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly and the rrest of this talented young squad will be reminded that they play for the Leafs and falter. Time and time again. Sharks North.

8. Buffalo Sabres

I'll say like I did two years ago: "I hate to be like everyone else and put the Sabres behind the Leafs, because I like their young crop of kids, and the veterans they brought in to keep the ship afloat until the youngsters are ready are trustworthy and reliable." But I will never believe in Dan Bylsma as a head coach.

The Metropolitan Division:

1. Washington Capitals

They will dominate this year again. The team was built for a two-year window and it's still wide open. Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom are still tremendous offensive weapons, now surrounded by Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby is the best goaltender in the world, and the defense is perfectly balanced with John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Brooks Orpik, Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen. Barry Trotz has this covered... in the regular season

2. Columbus Blue Jackets

He may have failed to deliver for Team USA at the World Cup, but head coach John Tortorella has the type of team he likes to coach on hand in Columbus: quiet leaders, young players willing to learn, and a Vezina-caliber goalie. There'll be growing pains, but they'll work around their differences and make it work. The Torts Redemption is on, and he'll get Jack Adams trophy votes. Seth Jones' stock will also rise. Cam Atkinson may score 40 goals.

3. New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist still has a year orm two left of being an elite goalie, Ryan McDonagh is All-Star material, and they may have the best and most balanced offense in the league with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad, Michael Grabner, prized free agent prospect Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, and young Russian star Pavel Buchnevich. I'm not worried about them this year, but that defense will not hold up two years from now.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

They made the cut last year and will be hard to forget this year, led by Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecky, but the young defense still isn't ready to dominate, save perhaps for Calder runner-up Shane Gostisbehere and rookie Ivan Provorov. Former Isles captain Mark Streit might be trade bait, while Radko Gudas will still deliver borderline-dirty hits. Steve Mason needs to continue making up for ultimately failing in Columbus.

5. New York Islanders

GM Garth Snow was criticized for not retaining the services of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, but Andrew Ladd is the type of leader the team needed to move forward. If he could chip in for 30 goals, it'd be nice, but I'll expect 20-25 in his first season with the team, as he likely will not be paired with John Tavares right away. I see the star center playing with a couple of rookies, perhaps Anthony Beauvillier, Michael Dal Colle, or a young player needing a boost like Ryan Strome. As he has shown at the World Cup, Jaroslav Halak is still unparalleled under pressure. The defense is thinner here than elsewhere in the conference, so Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk may need someone else to step in at some point during the season. Thomas Hickey and Ryan Pulock, that means you.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

Great idea to have a goaltending battle in the midst of a defense title, particularly when everyone knows Matt Murray has won it already. Marc-André Fleury could end up in a number of places: Las Vegas, Dallas, Calgary, Vancouver, Carolina... Sidney Crosby is also due to miss half a season with a concussion. You don't hit lightning in a bottle twice in a row.

7. New Jersey Devils

Nice move acquiring perennial loser Taylor Hall from the Oilers, although it did cost a steady defenseman. If Michael Cammalleri can miss less than 20 games to injury, the Devils will ice an offense they have never seen save once in their entire history (that time they had both Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk). Corey Schneider is fine in net, though he still strikes me as just below elite, and the defense has too many holes in it for the team to even dream about the playoffs.

8. Carolina Hurricanes

When Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner are your go-to guys, you're in trouble. When you re-sign Cam Ward as your starter in nets ten years past his prime, you're dead. Attendance will again suffer, and the team will have to move to Québec eventually.

The playoff picture:
Montréal (1A) - Florida (8)
Tampa Bay (2) - Ottawa (3)
Washington (1B) - Philadelphia (7)
Columbus (2) - NY Rangers (3)

NHL Preview: 2016-17 Season: Western Conference

The balance of power has shifted in the Central Division, with teams from the South taking over for former powerhouses Colorado And St. Louis. In the Pacific, Alberta rises, B.C. falters, and the Sharks will have a rude awakening.

Western Conference:

The Central Division:

1.  Nashville Predators

The Preds made the biggest splash of the off-season by trading long-time captain Shea Weber for younger superstar P.K. Subban, thus securing both the present and future. Mike Ribeiro is still an efficient passer, James Neal is still a terrific sniper, the support staff is high-end, Pekka Rinne has proven to still be at the top of his game, and Roman Josi would be a #1 defenseman just about anywhere else. The Preds are the team to beat, either finishing first in the division and making it to the second round or finishing third and making it to the Cup Final.

2. Chicago Blackhawks

They've settled in with their ''dynasty'' status and are ready for another go at the Cup. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are now supported by Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, with Marian Hossa still in the mix; some kids will need to make an immediate impact for the team to keep rolling in the playoffs, but regular-season success is ensured by the offensive balance and a back end that starts with Corey Crawford, then kicks in with Duncan Keith (the best of the post-Nicklas Lidstrom generation?), Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. That's power, right there. And Joel Quenneville is among the top five head coaches in the game right now.

3. Minnesota Wild

Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikko Koivu, need to prove they're not over the hill (they aren't), and  Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle will become fine second-liners. Devan Dubnyk will need to play like he did two years ago, when he almost won the Vezina and Hart trophies for this team to have a chance, but Ryan Suter, Marco Scandella and the rest of the underrated defense corps will do their part.

4. Dallas Stars

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Jason Spezza and Antoine Roussel. Patrick Sharp. A defense comprised of John Klingberg, Dan Hamhuis, Stephen Johns, Patrick Nemeth ane other promising kids. All they need is a goalie. GM Jim Nill may hold out until Christmas, but will fix the problem when the price drops on either Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, Ryan Miller, Jaroslav Halak, Marc-André Fleury or James Reimer.

5. Winnipeg Jets

I like this team a lot. Blake Wheeler is a fine captain and power forward, Mark Scheifele is ready to take on the mantle of #1 center, Bryan Little is fine backing him up, and I do believe rookie Patrick Laine has it in him to score 40 goals. Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Entrom, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers make a formidable top-4 on defense, and I'm fairly confident that goalie Connor Hellebuyck is going to have a great career; whether he's ready to take top spot in his second NHL season remains to be seen.

6. St. Louis Blues

Ok, so was trading Brian Elliott to leave the crease to Jake Allen the right move? The Blues will find out this season. Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester still lead the defense, but Kevin Shattenkik (a UFA at season's end) may not last all year, and it's slimmer pickings after that. Vladimir Tarasenko is still an elite sniper and Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny can help out. But this team is no longer a contender. They're aging without being the type of winners the Hawks are.

7. Colorado Avalanche

Head coach Patrick Roy left the team late this summer because he did not feel management (i.e. former team captain Joe Sakic) had not done enough to improve the team. Roy, also VP of Player Personnel, felt his opinion wasn't taken into enough consideration when it came to the roster he was asked to ice - probably having to do with Matt Duchene still being on the team despite two years of criticism from Roy and his allies in the dressing room about Duchene's lack of leadership and team play, as well as shoddy defense and not being able to land prized free agent Alexander Radulov. New head coach Jared Bednar, despite an AHL championship least season, will not fare well. The Avs will battle for last place overall with the Arizona and Carolina.

The Pacific Division:

1. Anaheim Ducks

John Gibson is the man in nets, but the Ducks remain built on throwing their weight around and scoring garbage goals - and they still have Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to do that, with Ryan Kesler to help. Getting Randy Carlyle back as coach is a weird move, but the Ducks may have landed the best/quietest/cheapest forward available in Antoine Vermette. Rickard Rackell and Jakob Silfverberg are also fine dependable forwards. There might be some movement on the blue line because of next summer's expansion draft, and one of Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen may be on the move, particularly is Shea Theodore proves ready for a top-unit spot.

2. Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid might win the Art Ross trophy. Cam Talbot could win 40 games. They brought in Milan Lucic and traded away disgruntled forward Taylor Hall to solidify the defense with Adam Larsson. They managed to keep goal-scoring genius Jordan Eberle. This could finally work.

3. Los Angeles Kings

Anze Kopitar is now the captain, Drew Doughty can finally stop crying about not having a Norris trophy and concentrate on his game, and Jonathan Quick knows how to coast through a regular season to turn it on come playoff time. And that's not mentioning the fact that the team's actal top line consists of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

4. Calgary Flames

Johnny Gaudreau leads this team, and Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Troy Brouwer and Matt Stajan will follow. The defense is in fine shape too, led by captain Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton, but I'm surprised they didn't go hunting for a bigger name in nets than Brian Elliott, whom I like but isn't the flash I expected the Flames to go for.

5. San Jose Sharks

Urgh. I was asked about my opinion with the NHL awarding a new franchise to Las Vegas on a radio show this summer. I said I'd rather cheer for Vegas than the Sharks or Leafs. Chukus maximus, again. Next.

6. Vancouver Canucks

Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin are not getting younger, and Alexandre Burrows may still have gas in the tank; the uneven Loui Eriksson might score 25-30, but a lame-duck coach will use Ryan Miller too much instead of up-and-comer Jacob Markstrom. This team is too old too succeed, not experienced enough to win, and so poorly coached and managed that in any other hockey league, it would be in last place. Thankfully, the NHL still has teams in Arizona and Carolina, and Colorado is looking to spend a couple of years in the basement, wasting their captain's prime years. But I digress, this was about the Canucks sucking. And they do.

7. Arizona Coyotes

''The Seattle Portland Québec Phoenix Arizona franchise isn't done going through harsh times.'' I like playing the hits, what can I say?

The playoff picture:
Anaheim  (1A) - Dallas (7)
Edmonton (2) - Los Angeles (3)
Nashville (1B) - Calgary (8)
Chicago (2) - Minnesota (3)