New York Islanders: 3 takeaways from loss to Capitals

New York Islanders, Mat Barzal

The New York Islanders lost to the Washington Capitals in regulation after poor backchecking cost them a chance at victory. Leo Komarov made his season debut last night, and boy, did the Capitals feel his impact.

He gifted them a 5-minute major that turned the momentum late in the 3rd period. And then, with only 26 seconds left, Komarov decides to not backcheck, and the Capitals score. First of all, Barry Trotz should not have someone like Leo Komarov out there with a minute left. Second of all, Leo Komarov plays mainly because of his penalty-killing ability, but he never gets to kill one because he’s always in the box. Hockey is a team game, and the Isles didn’t lose just because of Komarov. So, what did NHL fans learn from last night’s game?

The First Line is the Only Line

You cannot expect to win a hockey game when you only have 8 real players on the ice at all times. Other good teams, like the Bruins, have 19 real players available. The Islanders have both their first lines, Noah Dobson and whichever goalie is in.

It’s physically impossible for them to win consistently if half the team doesn’t perform. There needs to be a switch-up in lines. I would like to see JG Pageau get some help for once. Put Josh Bailey on the third line with Pageau and Wahlstrom. Also, have Michael Dal Colle replace Anthony Beauvillier on the second line until he comes back. MDC, Brock Nelson, and Kieffer Bellows on the second line. Keep everything else the same.

Noah Dobson Will be a top defenseman in the League

It’s always amazing to see a young star in the making. When I saw players like Odell Beckham Jr, Patrick Mahomes, and Mat Barzal become superstars, I always was smiling ear to ear when they played. I get the same feeling when I see Noah Dobson play.

Dobson has only played 40 official NHL games in his young career, but he plays like he’s played 300. Dobson is calm with the puck, he’s strong in the corners, and he shoots at will. Trotz has always said when you’re outside the dots, shoot for your teammates, and that’s what Dobson does. Noah Dobson will be a top 20 defender in the league in 2 years’ time.

Nick Leddy Must be Moved

The Nick Leddy trade was a great trade, the keyword is was. Nick Leddy is a shell of his former self, and he’s dragging Scott Mayfield down with him. Leddy puts no pressure on forwards and misses his man almost every time. The only thing he has left is his speed and his shot. The Islanders need a real defenseman to pair with Scott Mayfield. Maybe the Keith Yandle rumors heat up? Or maybe the Islanders take a shot at Vince Dunn, who was placed on the trade block recently.

New York Giants: A mid-round receiving threat to keep an eye on at the Senior Bowl

New York Giants, Shi Smith

The New York Giants love to draft Senior Bowl standouts. Down in Mobile, Alabama, this week, the Senior Bowl is underway. Plenty of lesser-known draft prospects are showing up and showing out in an attempt to boost their draft stocks. Through the first few Senior Bowl practices, a couple of players have already made their presence known.

This year’s wide receiver group at the Senior Bowl is particularly interesting for the New York Giants. The New York Giants are in need of reinforcements on offense. Dave Gettleman and John Mara vowed to add playmakers to the offensive side of the ball this offseason.

This promise to find playmakers has Giants fans mightily excited. Many fans and analysts alike have mocked top wide receivers to the Giants at eleven overall in their mock drafts. But some fans and analysts are a bit contrarian and predict that New York will spend their first-round pick on another position, maybe on defense. If that is the case, then the Giants will need to do one of two things: sign a top-tier wide receiver in free agency or hit on a gem in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.

One wide receiver at the Senior Bowl has been making his name known during practice week. Shi Smith out of South Carolina is standing out amongst the talented receiver options in Mobile this week and could be a target for the Giants in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Shi Smith stats and highlights

Shi Smith is a senior who played four years of collegiate football at South Carolina. In his senior year, though, Smith saw his role increase and elevated his game to another level. In 2020, Shi Smith played 9 games and totaled 633 receiving yards with 4 receiving touchdowns.

Smith projects primarily as a slot receiver in the NFL. He is listed at 5 feet 10 inches, 186 pounds, but works better from the slot with a cushion between him and the defender. Shi also has excellent body control, allowing him to make some spectacular catches.

What really turned heads at the Senior Bowl this week was Shi Smith’s route running. Shi was creating tons of separation on his routes against some of the Senior Bowl’s best cornerbacks.

Superb route running is far more translatable to NFL success than the ability to make contested catches. If Smith can separate this well at the next level, he will be a late-round steal for whatever team selects him in the NFL Draft.

New York Rangers: Colin Blackwell making the most of his opportunity

Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers

When the New York Rangers called up forward Colin Blackwell from the taxi squad to replace Brendan Lemieux, they were looking for a spark to ignite a struggling group of forwards. And so far, albeit only two games, it looks as though coach David Quinn made a great decision – a rarity for the Rangers’ head coach. In each of his first two games with the team, Blackwell has tallied a point. He scored his fourth career goal this past Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and notched an assist in Tuesday night’s loss at Buffalo. Though a very small sample size, the Harvard-graduate has been exceptional.

Colin Blackwell is Making the Most of His Opportunity:

How He Got to Broadway:

When drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft No. 194 overall, the odds were against Blackwell. On average, a draft class produces around 60 NHL players, with the majority of them being drafted in rounds one or two. The difficult road to the big-leagues was no exception for Blackwell, who didn’t play his first games in the NHL until 2019 when the Nashville Predators called him up for six games.

The next year, he spent the first half of the 2019-2020 season with Nashville’s AHL team, the Milwaukee Admirals. While in Milwaukee, Blackwell impressed the organization by tallying 23 points in 26 games and earned another shot at the NHL. In 27 games with the Predators in 2019-2020, he accounted for a modest 10 points. Those 10 points weren’t enough to earn a contract extension, though, and he entered the 2020 offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Over the course of the offseason, Blackwell garnered the interest of multiple teams and eventually chose to sign a two-year deal for $1.475 million with the Rangers.

His Rangers Career:

Blackwell knew he had an outside chance of making the roster out of training camp when he signed, but a little adversity was obviously nothing new to him. He took the challenge head-on and fought for a roster spot during training camp. Despite a strong showing in camp, the large number of skilled forwards on the Rangers’ roster left Blackwell on the outside looking in – again. He was placed on the taxi squad and stayed there for the first four games of the season.

Game Number One

After a slow start to the season for the Blueshirts, the stars aligned, and the Harvard-alum was granted an opportunity to make his mark. Blackwell wasted no time to make said mark, scoring a goal on one of his first shifts with the Rangers.

To score a goal in your first game with a new team is impressive in its own right, but to get it via tip-in off a slap shot is extraordinary. The concentration and hand-eye coordination that is required to perform a tip-in successfully is remarkable.

Game Number Two

Heading into the next game, expectations were conservative for Blackwell. Very few believed he’d be able to make a big contribution for a second consecutive game. But all odds were defied once again, as he assisted on the first goal of K’Andre Miller’s career.

While his second point with the Rangers wasn’t as impressive, it’s still worth recognizing. Blackwell does exactly what he needs to do to give Miller a chance. He locates the open man, slides the puck over softly, and lets the rookie do the rest of the work. Exactly how you draw it up.

No one expected Colin Blackwell to be making contributions for the Rangers when he signed with the team a few months ago. Most viewed him as a depth-piece with a bit of upside. But here we are, watching a player make the most of his opportunity.

New York Mets secure the services of left-handed reliever Aaron Loup

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets solved their left-handed relief issues on Wednesday, by signing veteran southpaw Aaron Loup to a one-year contract. After losing Justin Wilson to free agency, the team needed at least one lefty out of the bullpen, as most of the options are right-handed: Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Robert Gsellman, and Jeurys Familia, just to name a few.

The salary that Loup will receive from the New York Mets hasn’t been reported yet. He makes for a nice addition to a bullpen that lost its top target, Brad Hand, recently.

The 33-year-old Loup has a career 3.38 ERA and a 3.50 FIP in 351 innings. He hasn’t earned more than $2 million in any year during his MLB tenure: cheap production.

Loup is more than a left-handed specialist:

Career vs. lefties: .233/.302/.320, .279 wOBA, 2.96 FIP, 3.19 xFIP, 4.16 K/BB

Career vs. righties: .264 /.332/.424, .324 wOBA, 3.91 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, 2.70 K/BB

Of course, he is at his best against left-handed batters, but he uses a four-pitch arsenal to retire batters of both hands.

Lefties on the Mets’ bullpen

The newest Mets’ pitcher had a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out 22 batters while holding lefties to a .212/.278/.303 slash line.

Here is the current state of the Mets’ bullpen, as far as left-handers go, according to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo: “Currently, the only lefty relievers on the Mets’ 40-man roster are Daniel Zamora and Stephen Tarpley, both of whom possess checkered recent histories. The Mets also signed veteran specialist Jerry Blevins to a Minor League deal, inviting him to Spring Training. They have several additional pitchers who could come out of the bullpen if needed, including Steven Matz, Joey Lucchesi and prospect Thomas Szapucki, though the team intends to keep at least Matz and Lucchesi stretched out as starters.”

The Mets’ bullpen was mediocre in 2020, but now, it appears to be very much improved on paper.

What’s next for JoJo Calderwood after UFC 257?

This past Saturday at UFC 257, Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood (15-5) took on Jessica Eye (15-9, 1 NC) on the PPV main card. Both of these flyweight contenders had a lot on the line on Saturday night.

Whoever won this fight was going to be in a position where they could get a top five opponent next. However, a loss would put them way back in the UFC flyweight division. Calderwood had a lot to prove on Saturday night.

Originally, JoJo Calderwood was supposed to get a UFC title shot back in June of last year. However, Valentina Shevchenko injured her knee and the fight was scrapped. The promotion offered to allow Calderwood to wait for the title shot.

However, Calderwood wanted to stay active. She said that she didn’t want a lengthy layoff leading into her first UFC title shot. With that in mind, she took a fight against Jennifer Maia. She was submitted in the first round and as a result, lost her UFC title shot.

At UFC 257, she had the chance to get back on track and that’s what she did. Over the course of three rounds, Calderwood used her effective kicks and knees to keep Eye at range. She mixed up her shots well and was able to walk away with a unanimous decision victory.

What’s next after UFC 257?

As mentioned, Calderwood was supposed to get a title shot last year. With this win at UFC 257, I think she’s right back near that conversation. However, she’s going to need one more win to get that shot at the title.

In looking at the rankings, I believe there are a couple of matchups that make a lot of sense for Calderwood. For Calderwood’s next fight, I would pair her up against either Katlyn Chookagian (15-4) or Lauren Murphy (14-4).

Both of those contenders are near a title shot, however, we already know that Jessica Andrade is getting the next crack at the UFC title. Chookagian and Murphy should honestly fight, however, Murphy doesn’t seem interested in that matchup.

I think the promotion should put Calderwood against one of those two contenders with a title shot on the line. Again, Calderwood was supposed to get the shot before Shevchenko was hurt. She still deserves to be in the conversation.

If the UFC pairs up Calderwood with one of those two, the winner would be in a great position to challenge the winner of Shevchenko – Andrade. It’ll be interesting to see how this situation at flyweight plays out.

Darren O’Day provides an elite weapon against right-handed hitters for the Yankees

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are still making waves in the free agent market, even after adding DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber and trading for Jameson Taillon. This time, they decided to bring a veteran, effective bullpen arm in Darren O’Day.

“Sources: Yankees in agreement on a deal with relief pitcher Darren O’Day, pending physical,” The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler tweeted on Wednesday. Other writers confirmed the news.

Much like Adam Ottavino – who was traded in the past few days to the Boston Red Sox in a salary relief move – O’Day is the kind of side-arm righty that is very, very tough on batters of his same hand.

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, O’Day will receive $1.75M in 2021. There is a $1.4M player option for 2022 or a $700K buyout. If O’Day declines the option, the New York Yankees have a $3.15M option.

The Yankees are getting a good one

Pitching in the American League East is nothing new for O’Day, who was a member of the Baltimore Orioles from 2012 to 2018.

For his career, the 38-year-old O’Day has a 2.51 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 604 career games.

Despite his fame as a righty specialist, the Yankees are getting a complete reliever. He has held lefties to a .228/.299/.412 line with a .303 wOBA. Of course, he has been far more effective vs. right-handed hitters, with a stellar .193/.262/.287 and a paltry .248 wOBA.

His 2020 was stellar with the Atlanta Braves. In 16.1 innings, he had a 1.10 ERA and a 2.76 FIP, with 12.12 K/9 and 2.76 BB/9.

While not as dominant and versatile as guys like Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton or Chad Green, the New York Yankees are acquiring what could theoretically be their fourth-best reliever and another reliable arm with an eye on the playoffs.

The Yankees, even after adding O’Day, still have some room in the payroll before hitting the luxury tax threshold of $210M. Will they go for another reliever? Will they seek a left-handed bat?

Report: New York Yankees sign dominant veteran relief pitcher to contract

New York Yankees, Darren O'Day

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made another move this week, signing relief pitcher Darren O’Day, formerly of the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles. After trading Adam Ottavino to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees opened up $8.15 million in available financial flexibility, and it was only a matter of time before they secured another bullpen arm to support the team.

Cashman has already allocated plenty of resources toward the starting pitching rotation, even if some of the players are coming off significant injuries. He has acquired former Cy Young award-winning pitcher Corey Kluber and traded for Pittsburgh Pirates’ homegrown talent Jameson Taillon.

Taillon is good friends with Gerrit Cole, who both developed in the Pirates’ farm system. Now that both players are on the Yankees, the expectation is they could be a dynamic duo, working off one another and their chemistry.

What are the Yankees getting in Darren O’Day?

However, it was only a matter of time before the Yankees bolstered the bullpen, and O’Day had a phenomenal 2020 season, despite a small sample size. Over 16.1 innings, he recorded a 1.10 ERA with 12.12 strikeouts per nine. He’s not a high ground-ball rate pitcher but records outs regularly and has been a consistent relief arm throughout his career.

His last significant sample size was back in 2017 when he pitched 60.1 innings and recorded a 3.43 ERA. He has always hovered in the double-digit strikeout per nine percentage, and routinely leaves batters on base. He has a career average of 83.7% left on base, an astronomical number that suggests he works his way out of trouble well, especially when brought in to help in tough situations.

The only issue with O’Day is that he is 38 years old but is a 6-foot-4 and 220-pound pitcher, and it seems as if he has a bit of juice left in the tank. The Yankees might be getting the last bit of gas, but he can be an influential player for the team in 2021.

 

 

New York Mets: Don’t sleep on JD Davis’ offensive potential

After the New York Mets traded most of their shortstop depth in the deal that brought Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Big Apple, the most likely scenario has them using Jeff McNeil at second base and JD Davis at the hot corner.

Defensively, it may not be an ideal solution. Davis had -8 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at third base in 2020, and accumulates -19 there in 770 career innings at the position. Other metrics support the thesis that he just isn’t a good player with the glove.

However, the Mets may want to keep his bat in the lineup. Even after a somewhat inconsistent 2020 that saw him slash .247/.371/.389 with a 116 wRC+, it’s important to remember that Davis slashed .307/.369/.527 with a .373 wOBA, 22 home runs, and a 136 wRC+ in 2019. He was one of the Mets’ best performers two years ago.

If he doesn’t improve, at least modestly, with the glove, he may have a hard time securing regular playing time, especially if the Mets can’t use the designated hitter spot (still in discussion.) However, if he bats like 2019 and not like 2020, manager Luis Rojas will be forced to find him at-bats.

The Mets want to see him bounce back

For now, he is ticketed for the arbitration process, as he and the New York Mets couldn’t agree on a contract. He requested $2.475 million and was offered $2.1 million by the Mets when arbitration figures were exchanged.

Barring additional signings, the Mets will enter 2021 with Davis as their starting third baseman. His defensive development will surely be one of the hottest spring training storylines, but it will be his bat that will dictate how many plate appearances he’ll enjoy in 2021.

The potential for a bounceback is there. Even in his “poor” 2020, Statcast loves Davis, as he was in the 71st percentile in average exit velocity; 80th percentile in hard-hit rate; and 78th percentile in expected wOBA. He hit the ball hard, and had some bad luck. The 2021 campaign, for him, will be about proving that his 2019 was no fluke.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Should the Yankees get aggressive with a Josh Hader trade?

New York Yankees, Josha Hader

After being near quiet in the offseason, the New York Yankees made some big waves across baseball with the resigning of DJ LeMahieu, signing Corey Kluber, and trading for potential ace Jameson Taillon. But the Yankees still have needs. The Yankees lost two arms from the bullpen, first Tommy Kahnle, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and then traded Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox in a salary dump. The dump took $8.15M off the luxury tax salary cap.

According to Spotrac.com, the Yankees payroll is presently at $199.2 million. So the Yankees have freed up about $10 million. In the past few days, I have written about several reliever arms the Yankees could get on the cheap. But the Yankees could use a reliever of Tommy Kahnle’s quality. One of the best relievers in the game is the 26-year-old Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers. The catch is the Brewers don’t need to move Hader, and in a trade, they will want the world for him.

Before we discuss what it would take to get Hader to the Bronx, let’s look at why the Yankees would love to put him in pinstripes. First, he is the best reliever in the National League. Last season with 13 saves, he has a career 2.54 ERA over 172 relief outings in four MLB seasons, all with the Brewers. And that wasn’t a fluke. In 2018 he went 6-1, was an All-Star, and came in seventh in the Cy Young voting. In 2019 he had a 2.62 ERA and was again an All-Star. Because of these stats, it’s going to cost the Yankees if they pursue him.

Industry sources confirm that the New York Yankees were in talks with the Brewers to get Hader earlier in the offseason but, for some reason, backed off. You never know what Yankee general manager Brian Cashman has up his sleeve. He may be waiting to see what other offers are made for the reliever, just like he waited to see what action DJ LeMahieu would get from other suiters.

Other than Hader being one of the best relievers in the game, there are other upsides to a deal. The Yankees can afford his payroll of $6.65M this year. If they could complete the trade, the Yankees would have control of him through the 2023 season. The stumbling block to the deal is that they will probably want Deivi Garcia, Alexander Vizcaino, and two more prospects. The Yankees have already sent four prospects to the Pirates in exchange for Taillon. Although this wouldn’t strip the farm system, it would put a pretty big dent in it. The Yankees have to decide if it is worth it. We all know when Cashman really wants something, he can be really creative.

So far this season, he has gotten LeMahieu for as much as $10 million less per year than many suggested. He made the trade for Jameson Taillon, giving up no major prospects. The New York Yankees can afford this deal should they get aggressive and build a top-notch bullpen. If they make the Hader deal they still will have a couple of million to add another arm. On Hader’s part, he would have to cut his famous locks for a chance at a World Series win.

 

After losing at UFC 257, what’s next for Jessica Eye?

This past Saturday at UFC 257, we saw a bit of a grudge match in the flyweight division. Former top contender, Jessica “Evil” Eye (15-9, 1 NC), took on Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood (15-5).

This fight between top contenders was going to be big for the UFC‘s flyweight division. Both ladies were entering this contest off of a loss so the winner would move back towards the top while the loser would really get shuffled back.

Eye and Calderwood had a very entertaining bout at UFC 257. For the most part, these two ladies stood and traded over the course of three rounds. Throughout the fight, Eye just appeared to be a step behind JoJo Calderwood.

Calderwood was able to use her kicks and her knees to really keep Eye from getting going on Saturday night. In the end, the judges unanimously gave the fight to Calderwood.

Jessica Eye was leaning on her boxing a little too much at UFC 257 and it cost her. She never really got any momentum going and was out of range when it comes to significant strikes most of the night. The former title challenger has now lost two straight.

What’s next after UFC 257?

In 2018, Jessica Eye moved to the UFC’s flyweight division. Finally, it appeared that she would be fighting in her natural weight class after struggling for years in the bantamweight division.

Right away, it looked like Eye belonged. In 2018, Jessica Eye went 3-0 which included a win over Katlyn Chookagian. Those wins led her to UFC 238 where she earned a shot at the champion, Valentina Shevchenko.

That is where things were derailed a bit. Eye was completely outclassed by Shevchenko and was knocked out cold in the second round by a headkick. Eye was able to bounce back at UFC 245 when she beat Viviane Araujo by decision.

However, 2020 was a rough year for Jessica Eye. She dealt with some health issues outside the cage and lost a decision to Cynthia Calvillo. That was her only fight in 2020 and now she’s just lost her first fight of 2021. After these losses, Eye has gone from first to eighth in the rankings.

So what does the UFC do with Jessica Eye? In looking at the rankings, I think a good next opponent for Jessica Eye would be Roxanne Modafferi (25-18). Modafferi just lost on this trip to Fight Island.

However, Modafferi is 3-3 in her last six fights. Her wins have come against Antonina Shevchenko, Maycee Barber, and Andrea Lee. Her losses have all come against some of the better flyweights in the UFC.

A matchup between these two ladies makes sense from a rankings perspective and it makes sense just looking at where they are currently at in their careers. Not sure if this is where the promotion goes, but it’s the fight that makes the most sense to me.