Monday Morning Update: November 21

The Islanders tailspin hits bottom; James Harden reaches his final form’ and Landon Collins wins a windy one

1. The Islanders’ basement blunders

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The basement has been a depressingly recurrent theme of this (to be fair) still young New York Islanders season. First, it was the rumor-gone-wild courtesy of WFAN morning host Craig Carton and consistently not commented on by the Islanders, regarding the GM and coach’s living situation. Namely, that the coach lives in the GM’s basement, which is…not ideal

Now, much more importantly, they find themselves in the basement of the standings, not just in the Metro division, or the Eastern Conference, but the in the entire NHL, as of Sunday morning. And it doesn’t look to get any better in the coming days, as the Isles spend the holiday week in California, playing three high-caliber teams on the road in the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks.

There’s been plenty of speculation over the job status of the aforementioned coach and GM, Jack Capuano and Garth Snow. While the team has been a disappointment, the lack of change so far still makes sense to me. I rarely am in favor of midseason coaching changes, and I think if the Islanders are to make a change, it should be both the coach and GM’s office getting new nameplates. That’s a lot of change to make during a season, so I don’t disagree with waiting until the summer to do so.

That said, the most concerning thing about Capuano’s tenure has been the regression of young players not named John Tavares. He seems particularly harsh on younger guys and unafraid to sit them, which can breed insecurity in those players and change their on-ice habits. If you look at the career of Anders Lee and Ryan Strome, for example, both showed promise during their rookie seasons two years ago.

Those auspicious beginnings, however, were followed by serious regression after Capuano scratched Lee in Game 7 against the Capitals despite his strong season and non-terrible first six games and moved Strome down to Bridgeport last season. This is (obviously) is not a one-to-one comparison, but there’s a notable difference between the way the Islanders have treated their young players, with frequent benchings or other “punishment” and the patience teams like the Oilers and Maple Leafs have shown with their young stars. Connor McDavid, for example, was not sat during a 10-game scoreless streak and ended that streak with a hat trick.

The Islanders don’t have a McDavid, but their young players might benefit from that kind of faith and patience during a long hockey season.

I think Capuano and Snow have earned the right to finish the season, even if it is likely time for a change. But if there is any argument to make the change immediately, it’s the future of the team’s many young prospects, including the guys we’ve talked about, and newcomers like Anthony Beauvilier and Matthew Barzal.

2. Time to tank?

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That last thought leads me to more note on the Islanders, before we leave me alone with my deranged thoughts. More than one person I’ve seen has wondered whether, now that the Islanders already find themselves so far gone, is it time to call the season a wash and embrace the badness, in order to boost their eventual lottery odds?

For a little more on that, I turned to two people to give me some insight, our own Matt Tardiff, and Tom Dragani. Ol’ Statt Tardiff was able to give me the numbers behind the tank, while Tom’s experience with the Process and the 76ers have some insights to the emotional end.

They agreed and told me it’s time for the team to accept their fate, even if the brass hasn’t seemed quite to do that yet. Tom also advised me to drink heavily and watch junior hockey, which sounds like it could alternate between euphoric and devastating.

For my part? I don’t think this Islanders team is making the playoffs, especially in a crowded Metro division that features a couple of title contenders along with a few upstarts. And, if you read above, it will come as no surprise to say I think the Islanders young players could do with more playing time.

Perhaps it’s time to embrace the tank, start Beauvilier every night, give Ho-Sang or del Colle a chance to play with the big boys and get ready for 2017-2018.

3. The hits just keep on coming

It seems that the Islanders’ failing may be getting to former forward Matt Martin. He’s been more reckless this year than during his time in blue and orange, and he had another “incident” this weekend, as he slammed the Canadiens’ young blueliner Nathan Beaulieu into the boards, face first, before trading hands with Beaulieu. It’s just the latest in what we’ll call an eventful season for Martin, who has also traded fists during the preseason, in the season opener, and in starting a line brawl against the Vancouver Canucks (seems he has a particular bone to pick with the Candian franchises.)

Martin wasn’t alone in that game, though, as Alexi Emelin perhaps sought to extract some revenge as he drove Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk into the dasher as time expired. To me, this was the dirtier play, although you won’t catch me defending Martin in this instance.

This did, however, bring to mind why I stand by fighting in hockey. While the act itself may be brutish, I’d rather see two willing combatants exchange a few wobbly jabs on skates than have players look to making cheap hits into the board after whistles and away from the play. Fighting is violent, dangerous, and imperfect, and things should be done to reduce the harm it brings,  but it’s better than seeing someone driven into the board with malice.

4. James Harden reaches his final form

I’ve always had an appreciation for James Harden, and this season so far has been a great time to be a fan of the Beard. He provided his latest highlight reel material in the clip you can see above, draining a step-back three with enough swag to bring the roof down, or at least end a ballgame, which is effectively what he did.

Mike D’Antoni is probably not a very good NBA coach. But he can do a few things, and if you’re hiring him, you’re hoping one of them is turning a great offensive player into a points-scoring machine. Sometimes, it can bring a franchise to new heights, as it did with the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash. Other times, it can ask a player to ultimately do too much and cost a player his health, and a team some success.

Harden is thriving in D’Antoni’s system, which prioritizes his unique brand of offense. He’s scoring more than 28 PPG, seven points higher than his career average, and he’s distributing the ball like a true point guard, averaging 12.5 assists per game. His more advanced metrics have improved, too, with his shooting percentage (from both two-and three-point range) up. It all adds up to a career high 31.9 PER rating and  a peak version of James Harden

In these early stages,  it looks like this latest marriage between D’Antoni and the Rockets is a fruitful one.

5. Marky Mark and his oh so funky bunch

Mark Cuban

ESPN’s True Hoop network but out one of, if not the best piece of sports reporting in 2016 this week, a profile on Chandler Parsons, Mark Cuban, and the pair’s perilous friendship.

It gives insight both into Cuban, an individual who forces me to use the word “unique” despite my hatred for it, as there are truly few others like him, in sports or in business, and certainly in both, and Parsons, a former star on the rise in the Association, now beset by injuries and a shell of what he used to be.

The story, in the end, paints a rosy picture, and that’s probably fairly accurate, as the Mavs never made a long-term offer, but Parson still got his paycheck. Alls well that ends well, or something like that.

But Cuban was noticeably absent throughout the story, refusing to actually give a quote on certain topics or do anything outside of shake his head. Between that and the DeAndre Jordan emoji fiasco, this seems like it could be a pair of big L’s for my favorite Shark.

The NBA is still better with him around, and in the press, though.

6. The Houston Astros need to just chill out, man

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Safe to say those in the Astros offices are not taking the “off” part of offseason too literally.

Nolan Ryan’s club has been busy, first dealing two fairly well-regarded prospects for an aging Brian McCann, and agreed to eat most of his salary in the process. Next, they signed former Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick to a brand new contract.

It’s still not vacation time quite yet in Houston, however, as the latest rumor has the team in the market for veteran standout Carlos Beltran, who was last seen playing for their in-state opponents the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers may need to just chill out a bit. They seem to be eager to chase off Yankees’ castoffs, which doesn’t quite seem to me a recipe for success. Granted, the Bronx Bombers are also rumored to be in on Beltran, but Houston certainly seems to be determined to rebuild this team over the winter.

Good on them for taking action, though. They have some strong assets in players like Altuve and Keuchel, and were everyone’s favorite young underdogs just a season ago. There’s something to be said for striking while the iron is hot, and perhaps they stole someone out from under another team’s nose and could do so again.

But typically, when so many else are silent, maybe there’s a reason for it.

7. Not Texas strong

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Football giveth and football taketh away.

A few months ago, the leaves were green, and head coach Charlie Strong had the Texas Longhorns looking like a surprise team to watch after toppling Notre Dame in week one. Now that the leaves are on the ground, however, the Long Horns (and Fighting Irish) look much weaker than they once had. You can file this one under the category of what have you done for me lately.

In a state like Texas, that’s the way it goes. Strong had pulled the promising start routine before, only to fall before the end of the season, as he had again in 2016. In 2017, the Long Horns and Strong alike will be hoping for a comeback, but they’ll be doing it separately.

For Charlie’s sake, I hope his resume is strong (sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

8. Cowboys ride, Eagles fall

Dak Prescott is for real; Carson Wentz is not. At least in their rookie years.

Wentz impressed in the early part of the season, but the idea he was going to be instant offense was laughable. As I said in last week’s podcast, I think Wentz has plenty to figure out before he can make that next step. He can stand still in the pocket and make a timed throw well, but if you ask him to make a tough decision, move and throw, or complete a difficult pass, he tends to miss his target and  turn the ball over.

Dak, meanwhile, looks like he has the tools. Granted, he is in the perfect situation for a rookie to succeed, surrounded by a strong line and a powerful young running back. He also has a fairly stacked receiving arsenal, and what’s more, he seemed to solidify his connection with the best potential target on Sunday. Prescott connected with WR Dex Bryant six times for 80 years and, most importantly, two scores in the Cowboy’s ninth win of the season, this time a 27-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

If Dak and Dez can really get a connection going, that will cause problems for teams in the NFC East, the NFC as a whole, and even whichever AFC team (the Patriots or Raiders) can find their way to Houston. Dez is a big, athletic target, who, despite his rather memorable near-catch incidents, has a pretty good set of hands.

If Dak and Dez have figured it out, then it’s time to watch out. NFC East teams especially will need to invest in some top-notch defensive talent to stop that duo.

Perhaps someone like……..

9. Landon Collins wins the Giants a football game (again)

In the past few updates, we’ve been using the #9 spot to ask some questions about the Giants, so we’ll do so again here.

Should Giants breakout defensive back Landon Collins be in the conversation for defensive POY? It’s going to be harder and harder to argue against him if he keeps making these kinds of game-altering plays week after week, especially when they so directly relate to a postive result.

While the score between the Giants and Bears was far too close for comfort, there were plenty of bright spots. Rashad Jennings and the run game looked as good as it has all season, and Eli went without a turnover for the first time in forever. But the

But the surprising skill of this secondary has been the story all season, and Collins stole the show once again this week. His dynamic play and ability to force turnovers has changed more

His dynamic play and ability to force turnovers has changed more than one game this year. His interception yesterday obviously sealed the win, and his interceptions against the Eagles,

Safe to say, the man deserves some serious credit and consideration, particularly if the Giants find themselves in the playoffs this year.

Have a good week, everybody. For more, follow @MurraySportTalk on Twitter.

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4 thoughts on “Monday Morning Update: November 21

  1. When he removed the tape, he scraped the **** out of the shaft. Graphite does not react well to razor blades. And when you pay $300+ for a driver, you do7128#&n;t want the integrity of the shaft altered by careless techs.

    Like

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