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Dear Chiefs Fans…Be Patient

Dear Chiefs fans,

I know you’re excited about the Chiefs drafting a quarterback in the first round for the first time since 1983.  I, as a fellow Chiefs fan, share your excitement and desire to see Patrick Mahomes II succeed in Kansas City (like I do with every draft pick taken by the Chiefs).  This is like getting a new car, you know, the one you cannot wait to show off to your friends.  It’s an exciting time to be a Chiefs fan.

However, there is one thing that I ask of you…

Be patient.

Patrick Mahomes II has all the tools to make him a great quarterback in the NFL for a long, long time to come.  However, as Coach Reid put it, “he’s not a finished product”.

I know, many of you hate Alex Smith for one reason or another.  I do not share your sentiment; however, I know the feeling of not having a quarterback to call your own.  Smith has given everything to this franchise.  I mean, look at where they were before he got here.  They were 2-14 with four seasons of Matt Cassel.  When Cassel was inevitably hurt, they had quarterbacks like Brodie Croyle, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, and Brady Quinn fill in for him.  Now, look at what has happened to the Chiefs since Smith came here:

41-20 record as a starter

92.2 passer rating

76 touchdowns to 28 interceptions

91.6 postseason passer rating

Led Chiefs to first postseason win since 1994

In short, Alex Smith has been one of the better quarterbacks in National Football League.  He’s not the guy you want to lead your fantasy team, however, he is a guy you would want to lead your favorite NFL team.

He’s also a guy you would want someone like Mahomes to learn from.  Mahomes has a big arm and can make plays on the fly when he has to (which he did quite often at Texas Tech, who had the worst defense in D1).  However, his footwork is horrible, to put it nice.  He can get away with that slinging the ball around in the Big 12, which is known for high-octane offenses and no defense; however, that will not work in the NFL.  Defenses are too big and too fast for that to work.  Therefore, as Coach Reid has alluded to, he’s going to need to develop.

Now, here’s the good news.  Mahomes can develop here.  This is the perfect situation for a kid like him to land.  In many ways, it’s like when the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers.  They already had a future Hall-of-Famer in Brett Favre, but, Favre was getting into his “will he retire for real this time” phase.  The Packers were also a well put together team having made the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons.  Rodgers didn’t start right away.  In fact, he sat for three seasons behind Favre in Green Bay.  He finally got his chance in 2008 and, in 2010, the Packers won the Super Bowl.  One of the architects of those Packers teams was a guy by the name of John Dorsey.  You may know him as the Chiefs General Manager.

The Chiefs have a coach who also is nicknamed “The Quarterback Whisperer”.  His resume includes coaching guys like Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick.  With Michael Vick, Coach Reid made him not only a pocket passer, but, an accurate one at that.  If there is one guy in the NFL who knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks, it’s Reid.

Finally, the Chiefs are not in need of a Savior to save the franchise.  They have made it to the postseason in three of the last four seasons and are coming off an AFC West title for the first time since 2010.  Dorsey and Reid have rebuilt a winning culture in Kansas City with shroud talent evaluating and top notch coaching.  The Chiefs aren’t asking Mahomes to save the franchise, however, they feel he is the guy to get them over the top.

However, before we’re hoisting any Lombardi trophies and planning any parades down Main Street in Kansas City, let us be patient.  Every time Alex Smith throws an interception (which doesn’t happen as often as you may think) remember, Mahomes isn’t ready yet.  He will be, but, he’s not as of yet.

Be excited, Chiefs fans.  Just also be patient.

The loss that didn’t have to be

So, the Blues lost the opening game of the Western Conference Semifinals to Nashville by a goal Wednesday night. The natural question – at least the question I want to ask – is who’s at fault? It’s easy to blame an individual, but generally I don’t think that’s fair. This is a team sport, and teams lose games. Just like teams win games. So it’s not fair to blame any single player for the Blues losing game 1. Except maybe PK Subban. He did not do us any favors.

At any rate, I saw quite a few highs and lows last night. Somebody that didn’t quite look himself was Jake Allen. The goal he let in right after the injury to Kevin Fiala was bad. No way around it. He should have had that one, and I think Jake would tell you the same thing. If I ever get press credentials, I’ll ask him. But until then, we’ll have to go off assumptions. I have a feeling Marty Brodeur and Allen will work on that. I wonder how much the 17 minute and some change delay in the game caused by the Fiala injury had to do with that goal, though. It’s one thing to get a nearly 20 minute break between periods when you’re expecting it, but it’s entirely another for it to happen seemingly randomly during the game.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jake had some spectacular stops on a Nashville team that certainly doesn’t want for talent. I can’t think of a worse game number 34’s had under the Yeo/Brodeur era, but it’s not like bad games since Hitchcock moved on come about too often for Jake. A save percentage under 1.000 is bad for Allen as of late. I feel good about him in between the pipes come Friday. And having Brodeur to help him is an invaluable resource.

There were, of course, some positives. Vladimír Sobotka’s goal was pretty sweet. Primo top shelf, goal. Glad you’re doing that here, not in Russia. Paul Stastny was looking like himself setting plays up from the boards and in the trapezoid. Colton Parayko worked his way in to score the Blues’ first goal in a pretty impressive matter. Oh, and Ryan Reaves continued to show why he’s a terrifying human being that will quite literally murder you if you make the mistake of stepping on his ice without a blue sweater just to prove he can.

There is, however, the unpleasant matter of Jay Bouwmeester to discuss. Pietro’s defense partner didn’t have himself a game. It started early on when he fell a few times. I get it Jay, ice is slick. But you’re a professional hockey player. You should know how to skate. Of course, falling down isn’t something completely unheard of for Jay. But it’s something I’d like to see less of.

The biggest Jay problem of the night, however, was a misplayed puck that ended up being the winning goal for the Preds. Straight up, Jay misplayed it. There’s no way around it. It didn’t take a bad hop. It didn’t hit a bad patch of ice. It didn’t jump off the board oddly. It was misplayed. And Jake Allen didn’t react well. But Bouwmeester should have been able to bring it out of the defensive zone with ease and he didn’t. And that mistake cost the Blues the game.

This isn’t to say that Bouwmeester is a terrible player or should be cut or something. It is to say that someone on the top d line who’s been in the league for eleven seasons (his first NHL appearance was in 2002, but he bounced around the AHL before coming back up for the Panthers for the 2005-06 season) shouldn’t make that kind of a mistake in the second round of a playoff series. Calm yourself, Jay. You’re not a rookie. This isn’t your first playoff game. You’re better than that. I’ve seen it. But you definitely cost the Blues this game.

But, let’s not get too upset. The Blues lost game one of last year’s second round by one goal, too. And, quite frankly, I think that Dallas team was better than this year’s Nashville team. And we’ve been a better road team of late. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played.

Three down!

There you have it, folks. We’re three games into the playoffs, and Blues have won three games. I’ve seen the Blues win the first two games a playoff series before and go on to drop it (cough 2014 cough), but never the first three. As a matter of fact, the Blues have never won the first three games and not gone on to sweep the series. Including in 1993 against Chicago. I mention that but for no other reason than it’s always fun to think back to beating the Blackhawks.

Firstly, and most obviously, we’re #blest to be getting this level of performance out of our starting goalie two years in a row. For every bit as phenomenal as Brian Elliott was last season, Jake Allen has been better. That’s not to take anything away from Moose at all, but to praise just how ell Snake ahs played. If you’ve watched any – and I mean any – of the games thus far, you’ve seen Allen make amazing plays. You seen him flash his glove, you seen him stack the pads (you’d swear Mike Liut was back between the pipes), you’ve seen him turn pucks away with the stick, the blocker and the skate. Kick save and a beauty as Marv Albert would say calling Mike Richter in the 1994 Cup Finals.

In short, Marty Brodeur has fixed Allen. He’s gone from a save percentage as low as .600 before being pulled in the second period in a game at home against Washington on January 19th of this year to a save percentage better than .950 in the first two games of this year’s playoffs. Part of what Brodeur did was develop a schedule for Allen and Carter Hutton. That’s done well because it gives the goalies a break without doing their psychological welfare harm – they know the break’s coming. They don’t feel like they’ve done something wrong and are being pulled or benched. Marty helped Jake get his head right and you can most certainly see the amazing dividends that’s paying.

But a large part of the success of Jake Allen comes from the fact that hardly anybody is getting in front of him. I’ll admit, I had my doubts when Doug Armstrong traded away Kevin Shattenkirk. I’d never heard of this Zach Sanford kid we got in return. I thought we’d given away our best defenseman. And I stand by my assessment that losing Shatty didn’t do the Blues defense any favors, but it forced the entire defense to step up. Particularly notable in this is Joel Edmundson. But the fact that the Wild are hardly able to get anyone in front of the net is a testament to the good things this defense is doing. Sure, the Wild got 50+ shots on goal in the first game, but ask yourself how many of them came from the outside. Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise are about the only two Wild players who know what the middle of the Blues’ defensive zone looks like.

The one problem I can see with the Blues is their lack of goal scoring. There seems to be a bad, familiar habit of scoring a goal then falling back and putting the game on the goaltender’s back. This must stop. I thought this was broken in the first period of game three, but it reared its ugly head once again. The Blues seem to be playing their best playoff hockey when the game is tied. We have no idea how they’d play behind. But I wish they’d pretend they are, at best tied. Keep up the forcheck. Keep up the good puck movement. Get a few powerplay goals. But by and large, keep it up boys. You’re making us proud!

Also, there’s a very real chance Chelsea Dagger won’t be heard at all this playoff season. And everyone except Helen Keller will surely appreciate that.

The Blues and the Playoffs

It’s always dangerous to try to predict the future, but I like to live dangerously, so here we go. Plus, I’m not being paid for this – I don’t even get a press pass, so I figure I’m safe. At any rate, if the playoffs started today, the Blues would play everyone’s favorite team with a serial predator winger, the Chicago Blackhawks.   Now looking past their obviously culturally-appropriated name and to the club as a hockey team, the Hawks are (unfortunately) good. With their having won three Cups since the 2009-10 season, one could reasonably argue they’re the closest thing dynasty the NHL has today. But that doesn’t mean they’re insurmountable.

We all remember the Blues going up two games to none (both wins coming in overtime on home ice, including the triple overtime win in game one) before giving up four in a row and being eliminated by the Hawks in the 2014 playoffs. That, combined with the Blues’ first round exit at the hands of the Minnesota Wild in 2015 left many Note fans (myself included) wondering if the Blues were ever going to advance past the Conference Quarterfinals again, or if seeing that happen in 2012 when the Blues got past San Jose in the first round, only to be bounced by Los Angeles in the Semifinals was the deepest the Blues were going to go for a while.

But then came 2016. The Central Division second place Blues faced off against the third place club from Chicago. And won the first game at 9:04 of overtime off of a David Backes goal. Well, it was really just a pass to Alexander Steen that deflected off of Trevor van Riemsdyk’s foot and past Corey Crawford. But it got the job done. The series then went back and forth with Chicago evening the series in game 6, in what looked like the beginnings of an epic collapse by the Blues. But the Blues came back and won game seven in front of the Scottrade faithful off of a Troy Brouwer (a Cup champion with Chicago in 2010, himself) at 8:31 of the third. And, in the words of Doc Emrick, calling the game for NBC, “the defending champions are defending no more!” The Blues had done it. They killed the beast – they downed the Blackhawks. They didn’t fold, thanks in large part to veteran leadership from the likes of Brouwer (thanks for letting him get away, Doug Armstrong). And interesting side note, by the way. The last time the Blues played a game seven prior to this series was in a losing campaign against Vancouver in 2003. Our coach at the time? Current Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville.

The Blues then went on to take down the best team in the Central, the Dallas Stars in seven games and punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals to face the San Jose Sharks. Ultimately, the fatigue of playing two seven game series in a row got the better of the Notes and they fell in six to the Sharks, who went on to lose to Pittsburgh in the Finals. But the Blues went further than they had ever gone in my lifetime (this series went six games, the 2001 Western Conference Finals, where the Blues lost to the Avalanche only went five).

I’m sure you’re thinking “yeah, I know…I was there” right about now. But the reason I talk about all this is because I want to make my point that the Blues have it in them to go deep into the playoffs. Perhaps they have enough in the tank to give us that illusive summertime parade down Market Street. We’re missing some key players from last season – Backes, Brouwer, Elliot, Fabri (to injury), but that’s not to say it can’t be done. The Blues still have a crap-ton of talent (that’s a technical measurement, by the way).

Getting past Chicago would be tough. The Blackhaws are a good team. They have talent. But we may not have to play them in the first round. We’re two points behind Nashville for the third spot in the West. If we can overtake Nashville, we’d play the skidding Minnesota Wild in the first round. Alternative, the Wild are seven points behind Chicago with a game in hand, which means we’d play the Wild instead of the Hawks in the first round. But, as it stands, if the playoffs started today, the Blues would play the Blackhawks in the first round – again. If we learned anything from last year, it’s that the Blues can win that series.

Also, very much of note, the Blues are only two points behind Nashville, with a game in hand. There’s still quite a bit of hockey to be played, and the Blues look to be hot right now. Plus, the Blues only play two teams (Calgary and Nashville) that are currently in a playoff spot for the rest of the season. So, with focus and continued hard work, there are some easy points to be picked up. Sliding into that third spot in the Central can certainly be done.

Gonzo for Cuonzo: Missouri Hires Cuonzo Martin as Head Coach

In desperate need of a spark, Jim Sterk and the Missouri Tigers hired former California head coach Cuonzo Martin on Wednesday.  Martin, who has spent time at Missouri State, Tennessee, and California before joining the Tigers, takes over a program that is without direction.

Since Missouri’s transfer from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, the basketball program has made one NCAA Tournament, one NIT, and have had three losing seasons.  Over the course of five seasons, the Tigers went from one of the best teams in the Big 12 (one of college basketball’s toughest conferences) to worst in the SEC (one of college basketball’s worst Power 5 conferences).  The last three seasons under head coach Kim Anderson were especially hard, going 27-67 overall while finishing with a paltry 8-46 conference record.

It’s not all Anderson’s fault for the downturn at Mizzou.  His predecessor, Frank Haith, did him no favors.  Haith, who was hired despite being under a NCAA investigation from his previous job as Miami (FL)’s head coach, left the program in disarray before leaving in the middle of the night to coach at Tulsa.  Anderson took over a program that was under NCAA investigations that got so bad that they had to self-impose a postseason ban in 2016.

Martin takes over a program that has seen its APR rise under Anderson and will be coming off NCAA sanctions in August.  There are also rumors that he may be bringing in the nation’s top high school player, Michael Porter Jr., with him.

Martin steps into a challenging, yet, good situation.  Missouri was better than their record indicated.  They took Xavier to overtime in the Tire Pros Invitational.  They beat NCAA Tournament teams Arkansas and Vanderbilt.  They lost five games by one possession and four more by three possessions.  They also won a SEC Tournament game for the first time in three years.

This is nothing new for Martin.  Martin took over a Missouri State program that finished seventh in the Missouri Valley and, within three years, were MVC Champions.  Martin then went to Tennessee, where he took over for Bruce Pearl.  Pearl had been suspended by SEC Commissioner, Mike Slive, for his lying to NCAA investigators who were investigating recruiting violations Pearl had committed.  Martin led the Volunteers to two NITs and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in his final year.  However, during the 2014 season, Tennessee fans started a petition to fire Martin and re-hire Pearl.  After the season, Martin resigned and went to coach California.  In three seasons with California, Martin led the Bears to a NCAA Tournament and two NITs.

If Martin can bring the Porter’s back to Columbia, Missouri fans could see a resurgence of Missouri basketball.  Martin is the highest-profile head coaching hire for Mizzou since they hire Quin Snyder in 1999.  While Snyder’s teams never fully lived up to their potential, they did have talent and were consistently in the NCAA Tournament.  Snyder’s biggest problems were more off the court than on and he left the program in bad shape.

Martin doesn’t have off the court issues.  In fact, he’s fixed programs with off the court issues (see Tennessee).  If Martin can bring the types of recruits that he brought to California, Mizzou could be towards the top of the SEC in a few years.

This hire gives Mizzou fans the ability to see light at the end of the tunnel.  Buckle up, Tigers fans, basketball is back at Mizzou.