New York Giants: Saquon Barkley feeling good after return to drills

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley recently made the next step in his return to participating as an active member of the team, and that came in the form of taking part in live drills. Barkley was on the field for both 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s during the most recent of the joint practices with the Patriots, and even received snaps against the New England defense.

Most importantly, Barkley is doing well in his return so far with no sign of a setback coming up.

It felt good. Obviously, I wasn’t at practice yesterday, but it feels good being with the team, feels good to get a couple of team reps,” Barkley told reporters. “It’s just fun to be able to play football again, feel like a little kid and just taking it day by day.”

Looking ahead towards week 1

We still don’t know if Barkley is going to be ready for week 1 of the regular season. However, Barkley claims that within the context of the training the Giants have given him, he’s going 100 percent.

Within the realm of what I was doing, I was 100 percent. I didn’t get to really open up, they kind of blew the whistle. I personally think maybe it would have been a different outcome there. I’m going 100 percent with what I’m able to do, but continue as we get more reps and I get more team reps and more work in, more of those natural reps are going to come in.”

The Giants open the season in under three weeks and all eyes will be on Barkley as we get closer to the opener. The team has clearly prepared for Barkley potentially not being present, as shown by their multiple additions to the backup running back position.

But with higher stakes this season for an offense that has been poor for years, and with Barkley’s contract situation getting closer to being relevant, there’s quite a lot of pressure for him to be on the field from the start. At this rate of recovery, that may be possible – but it’s still not quite a safe bet to make.

NASCAR: Drivers prefer resin-covered racing surface rather than PJ1

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway was different than what we’ve seen before. Typically, the NASCAR sanctioning body would spray PJ1 in the corners in an attempt to create grip for multi-groove racing. PJ1 made grip but would make racing less entertaining as cars drive significantly easier through the grip.

For Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400, NASCAR ditched the PJ1 in place of resin in the corners. Like PJ1, the goal is to create a multi-groove racing surface. However, the resin made the cars still difficult to drive, and we saw one of the best races at Michigan International Speedway in recent history.

The race was in a sense a hybrid version of a superspeedway race. Cars were bump drafting down the straightaways and working together at high speeds. There was a lot of three or four-wide racing, and it led to an entertaining race.

NASCAR used resin in the corners at Nashville Superspeedway in June and saw entertaining racing come out of it. Nashville is a concrete-covered racing surface while Michigan isn’t, so teams weren’t sure if the racing product would be as good on Sunday.

However, drivers and fans seem to agree that the resin makes for better racing.

Ryan Blaney: “You could go up there and feel it. I didn’t think it was, like, overkill amounts of grip, like the PJ1 had here. I thought the PJ1 had crazy amounts of grip. I thought the resin kind of wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. You could kind of play around with it while also running the bottom or the middle. I thought it was thumbs up for me.. I thought it was good middle ground between not having anything and the PJ1”.

Tyler Reddick: “Resin showed that it had promise. We got to use it in Michigan, and seeing how much different it was compared to what PJ1 has been like Michigan in the past was very promising as well. I’m definately excited to use it at tracks where we’ve used PJ1 in the past. You could move around on it, it wasn’t icy before it got worked in. [There’s] more grip available when it hasn’t been ran on, but it doeasn’t get so gripped up and ridiculous that you can’t run anywhere but in PJ1. I though that was a great gain with the resin”.

William Byron: “I was always kind of against the PJ1 because I felt like it was unpredictible and it was causing a lot of crashes in practice. When you watch the Truck Series or Xfinity [Series] guys go out there and crash right away, that isn’t really fair. It’s not neccessarily driver error, some of it is the track. I think the resin has made the track more foregiving. When I went to block the No. 11 [at Michigan] and held him off, I was up there in the resin and way too high because of the contact there and saved it — I don’t know if that would’ve happened with the PJ1. So, I think it’s better to not have someting on the track that is detrimental and makes you race more cautiously. I feel like having a little bit more grip and an option to go to, but not something that is dominant is perfect”.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

It’s time for Robert Saleh to prove why he got the New York Jets job

new york jets, robert saleh

Ending the New York Jets lengthy postseason drought is still a tall task, but early injuries have raised the pressure on the new boss.

For New York Jets fans, hiring Robert Saleh was like getting that one Christmas gift your parents insist they’re not getting you.

Saleh was one of the most sought-after coordinators during the NFL’s search for head coaches in 2021. He was an anomaly in the lens of modern American football in that his prior duties have centered around defense, a new arrival in the brotherhood of NFL head coaches at a time when stats like 30 points or 400 yards appear on more losing box scores than ever. Of the seven new hires, Saleh was the only one with a background primarily in defense.

He nonetheless earned interviews with all but two of the teams looking to fill headset vacancies. His eventual hire by the Jets earned positive reviews both domestically and abroad. A football fan landscape that uses any simple Jets mistake as a guaranteed punchline almost didn’t know what to do with itself.

Jets supporters would’ve taken any average football mind after the harrowing two years under Adam Gase’s watch…something along the lines of the mediocrity on display with say, Eric Magini would’ve been downright euphoric. Getting Saleh, the coveted coordinator from San Francisco, could’ve been classified as the closest feeling the Jets have had to a postseason triumph since their visit to the AFC title game at the start of the prior decade. Saleh’s mantra of “All Gas, No Brake” has been more quoted than lines from the scripts of The Sopranos…no easy tasks in Northern New Jersey.

Despite the praises hoisted upon Saleh (and a strong refurbishing of the team’s depth chart), the Jets’ issues didn’t instantly vanish. No one was booking trips to Inglewood for Super Bowl LVI. MetLife Stadium probably won’t have to reschedule any events in January. The feeling of being a savior, a prophet amongst metropolitan football fans, has to feel good. But it’s going to take a lot of work to keep that trust.

Jets fans were understandably patient: Gase’s antics over the last two seasons left the franchise in shambles. “Trusting the process” has become a parody of itself…especially since such a strategy has produced nothing greater than heartbreak in the conference semifinals for the concept’s originators in Philadelphia…but Gang Green’s worshippers had no choice. Merely improving from last year’s disaster would be viewed as a genuine step in the right direction. The veteran additions they made this offseason were strong markers in that path back to respectability.

The trigger fingers of NFL decision-makers are quicker than ever: Gase’s two-year tenure was the shortest in Jets history to end via firing since Rich Kotite’s cursed 32 games in 1995-96 (Al Groh resigned after a single season in 2000). But, perhaps a completely winless campaign notwithstanding, Saleh isn’t getting fired if/when the Jets miss the playoffs this year.

 Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

But Saleh probably thought he’d at least get to enjoy the spectacle of opening kickoff before dealing with his first true test.

Saleh’s first games as an NFL head coach are going to held without the services of two of his top defenders after a costly business trip to Green Bay. Carl Lawson is done for the year after rupturing his Achilles while linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle) is out for at least the first five games after leaving the exhibition showcase that concluded the trip. The football gods continued to show no mercy as the Jets prepare for their final preseason contest on Friday against Philadelphia (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS); former Eagles Vinny Curry will miss the reunion with his former team and all 17 regular season games after that after he was diagnosed with blood clots.

Saleh has also been left to finish cleaning up the mess the prior regime left behind. The incompetence of the last two seasons created so many holes that it was a near guarantee that some area on the roster was going to be neglected. New York’s secondary appears to be the odd group out: inexperienced raw talent reigns at the top of the cornerback depth chart (Bless Austin and Bryce Hall). The new, experienced arrivals upfront could’ve helped the Jets get by, especially in the early going. Now, Saleh is dealt his first major crisis before the calendar flips to September, to the point where the team is planning to seek out more help in the pass rush before the season starts…an endeavor that would ignore holes like backup quarterback and the aforementioned secondary. He’ll have to work through his first games with a relatively thin group on the defensive front.

In other words…the showcase that got Saleh hired continues.

If one’s criteria for hiring a new head coach stopped at a quick glance at the standings, Saleh’s status as a former 49ers assistant likely would’ve eliminated him. San Francisco followed up an NFC title with a 6-10 showing that sank them to the bottom of the NFC West. But the standings often rarely tell a team’s full story.

Since Gase, among others, was doing a fine job of upending the Jets’ fortunes on his own, the football gods might’ve left the Jets alone during the 2020 season. They instead turned their focus to the Bay Area, where several key ingredients were forcibly removed from the 49ers’ Super Bowl recipe. Saleh’s unit was no exception: the defensive injury list resembled a Pro Bowl ballot. Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, and Richard Sherman missed significant time, while Emmanuel Moseley, Jimmie Ward, and K’Waun Williams were also medical departures. San Francisco was extensively also affected by the COVID-19 issues that invaded the NFL last season; local restrictions forced them to relocate to Arizona for the last portions of their season.

Saleh responded to the challenges head-on. Whereas some new hires (i.e. Arthur Smith, Tennessee offensive coordinator-turned-Atlanta head coach) earned their promotions through on-field results, Saleh earned his job through adaptation.

Despite the front seven losing a good part of its bite, San Francisco’s defense managed to keep its pressure at a consistent rate, forcing hurries on 11.2 percent of opposing quarterback dropouts (fifth-best in the league). In more conventional stats, Saleh’s ragtag group of defenders allowed 350 yards or less in six of their final games. One such effort allowed the Washington Football Team’s offense to put up 193 yards…in a game the 49ers lost 23-15. Washington’s points were primarily earned through a Chase Young fumble return touchdown and Kamren Curl pick-six and two other drives totaling 42 yards that led to Dustin Hopkins field goals. Their longest drive of the day, a 72-yard trek to open the second half, also produced a Hopkins triple.

Under Saleh’s watch, depth man Kerry Hyder got back to numbers (49 tackles, 18 quarterback knockdowns, 8.5 sacks) not reached since his sophomore season in Detroit, which was followed by a torn Achilles that cost him his whole 2017 campaign. He was rewarded with a three-year deal from Seattle.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw said that Saleh’s composure helped the 49ers keep their composure in a time of distress.

“(He made) sure that every guy is doing their job 100 percent of the time, as good as they can, hard as they can,” Greenlaw said per Shayna Rubin of The Mercury News. “Saleh said if we bring that every week to the game, we’re going to be one of the most dominant teams. Having the mentality he has, the mindset he has, it carries to us on defense. I don’t know where he’s going to go from here, but I know that mentality will stick with us.”

Now, Saleh has to deal with that adversity right from the get-go. He’s not looking for sympathy…he’s looking for players to step up.

“The NFL train stops for nobody,” Saleh said after last weekend’s 23-14 preseason win over Green Bay per Randy Lange of the team website. It was Saleh’s first public comments after the dire Lawson diagnosis. “When someone falls off the train…it’s another opportunity for someone to jump on the train. A lot of men at that defensive end spot are chomping at the bit for the opportunity, and they got it. We’ll work our tails off to get them ready, and I know they’ll work their tails off to reciprocate.”

The New York Jets have been a franchise that has had to deal with adversity, a team that has been forced to adapt to landscapes changed through both self-inflicted calamities and issues bestowed from parties from abroad. Fortunately, they’ve found a head coach that earned his biggest opportunity to date through overcoming such issues.

This time, however, it’s time to do it in green gear.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants: Matt Peart needs to impress in Sunday’s preseason finale

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants offensive line has been a problem for years. If the Giants do not solve this problem, they are putting their entire 2021 season at risk. Offensive line play is important and a bad offensive line could spoil an entire season. The Giants have question marks all over the offensive line, but right tackle Matt Peart might be the biggest question mark in the unit.

The Giants drafted Matt Peart in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He saw limited playing time as a rookie, taking the field for only 150 snaps. Peart impressed the coaching staff in his small sample size, though, and was projected to be the starter this season. After dealing with a back injury all offseason, Matt Peart was activated off the PUP list a few weeks ago and returned to the lineup.

Matt Peart’s return to the lineup has been a bit underwhelming. The second-year tackle out of UConn struggled in his first preseason action against the Jets two weeks ago and he has struggled to consistently perform at a high level in practice. New York’s last preseason game will take place this Sunday and head coach Joe Judge plans to give the starters plenty of playing time. Matt Peart needs to impress in this year’s preseason finale so the team can feel confident in him as a starter in the regular season.

Matt Peart in a crucial preseason finale

The New York Giants play the New England Patriots on Sunday in the final week of the preseason. This is the last chance for any roster bubble players to solidify a spot with the team and for fringe starters to secure their place in the opening lineup.

Right tackle Matt Peart is one of those players on the Giants looking to solidify his place with the first team this week. The Giants have a lowkey competition ongoing at right tackle. Veteran tackle Nate Solder has reportedly had a solid training camp. The Giants expect Solder to be their swing tackle and their backup for both left and right tackle. But if Matt Peart struggles on Sunday the way he did in Preseason Week One, Nate Solder could push for the starting position.

Matt Peart has only played 11 snaps this preseason. But in that small snap count, Peart was beaten in pass protection and let up a sack on a crucial third down. Combine that underwhelming performance with some struggles in practice, and some fans are calling for Nate Solder to be placed into the starting lineup.

Sunday’s preseason finale will be the last moment that the Giants’ coaching staff gets to evaluate their roster before the final wave of cuts. The team will also have to finalize its starting lineup within the next two weeks. With an impressive performance on Sunday, Matt Peart can give the Giants confidence in him as the starting right tackle entering the regular season.

Is McKee – Pitbull 2 at 155 the fight for Bellator to make? The featherweight champ thinks so

AJ McKee

It’s been about one month since Bellator 263 and the conclusion of the Featherweight Grand Prix. In the finals, AJ McKee (18-0) took on arguably the greatest fighter in Bellator in history in Patricio Pitbull (32-5).

Pitbull was the Bellator featherweight and lightweight champion entering the contest. He hadn’t lost at featherweight since his 2015 decision loss to Daniel Straus. A loss that Pitbull avenged a year and a half later.

AJ McKee has been the heralded prospect of Bellator since he made his promotional debut. McKee had spent all 17 of his professional fights fighting under the Bellator banner. After years of winning and improving, this was finally his shot.

McKee didn’t let the moment slip away. While many were betting on the long-reigning champion to get it done, McKee was ready to show the world that he’s the best that the promotion has to offer.

The fight seemingly ended before it even started. Just under two minutes into the Bellator 263 headliner, McKee landed a vicious head kick and combination that seemingly had Pitbull out. McKee then put Pitbull in a standing guillotine to choke him out and become the new featherweight champion.

What will Bellator do with McKee next?

When it comes to Bellator, AJ McKee is on top of the world. He’s the best the promotion has to offer, he has star power, and he’s undefeated. The real question is what’s next for the featherweight champion.

McKee spoke with Ariel Helwani this week and was honest about the fact that he didn’t know. He did say that he believes the fight to make is him facing off against Patricio Pitbull for the lightweight title.

However, at this time, it doesn’t appear that Bellator is leaning in that direction. There are a few options for the promotion. One option would be to have the two run things back at featherweight.

This is certainly not what McKee wants, but it is what Pitbull wants. Pitbull has put in the time with Bellator to gain good favor with the promotion. It’s possible they grant him a rematch at 145 pounds.

Another possibility is that McKee defends his featherweight title against top contender Mads Burnell (16-3). Burnell would give McKee a new look and he’s currently riding a seven-fight win streak.

The other option would be to have McKee take a fight at lightweight, but not against Pitbull. This would give the Bellator champion a taste of 155 pounds without actually putting him in there with the champion. I believe this is the least likely of the three scenarios.

Based on the whispers, my guess is that McKee will defends his 145 pounds title next. If I had to make a prediction, I think Burnell gets the nod. I don’t believe Bellator is doing the immediate rematch, and a win for McKee and another win for Pitbull would make their rematch even bigger regardless of what weight class it’s in.

PFL Playoffs continue tomorrow night with the Light Heavyweights and Featherweights

Tomorrow night on ESPN, the PFL playoffs continue. For their ninth event of the 2021 season, the light heavyweights and featherweights will take center stage as we see another round of the PFL playoffs.

Opening up the card tomorrow night at PFL 9 is going to be the light heavyweight playoffs. The first matchup of the evening features UFC vet Cezar Ferreira (14-9) taking on the Norwegian, Marthin Hamlet (7-2).

Both men enter this playoff contest coming off losses in their last matchups. Ferreira lost a decision to Chris Camozzi while Hamlet was submitted by Cory Hendricks. Despite the losses, both men still had a spot in the PFL playoffs.

It’ll be an interesting battle tomorrow night. I’m expecting Ferreira to strike from range while Hamlet will be pushing the action looking to get takedowns. He can be successful if he can get Ferriera tired, but he really needs to watch out for the Brazilian’s submission game.

In the other light heavyweight contest we will see 2019 PFL champion Emiliano Sordi (23-8-1) take on Antonio Carlos Junior (11-5). Both men enter this contest coming off draws in their last fight. Sordi fought to a draw with Dan Spohn while Carlos Junior fought to a draw with Vinny Magalhaes.

To start the PFL season, Carlos Junior submitted Tom Lawler which snapped a losing streak dating back to his time in the UFC. Sordi is looking to punch his ticket to the finals for the second consecutive season. The draw with Spohn snapped a six-fight win streak.

PFL Featherweights and Predictions

The two featured playoff matchups for the PFL tomorrow night come from the featherweight division. In the co-main event, we will see a matchup between Bubba Jenkins (16-4) and Chris Wade (19-6).

Since making the jump to the PFL from the UFC, Wade has gone 7-3 with the promotion. So far, he’s 2-0 this season and in his last fight he secured a knockout win over Arman Ospanov in the second round.

Prior to his time with PFL, Jenkins spent the majority of his career with Bellator. 2021 is Jenkins’ first season with the Professional Fighters League and thus far he’s 2-0 with wins over Bobby Moffett and former champion Lance Palmer.

In the main event of PFL 9, we will see English striker Brendan Loughnane (21-3) take on the Dagestani grappler Movlid Khaybulaev (17-0-1, 1 NC). As you can see, Khaybulaev has never lost in his professional career in 19 fights.

In his career, he’s used that classic Dagestani style of wrestling to suffocate his opponents. He will look to do that to Loughnane tomorrow night. Loughnane got one shot in the UFC early on his career and loss.

He then appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series where he won, but still wasn’t brought into the UFC. Instead, Loughnane ended up with PFL where he’s gone 4-0 so far with the promotion. Tomorrow night, he’s going to look to keep things standing and avoid the takedowns of Khaybulaev.

Predictions: 

  • Brendan Loughnane vs Movlid Khaybulaev (Khaybulaev by Unanimous Decision)
  • Bubba Jenkins vs Chris Wade (Jenkins by Unanimous Decision)
  • Emiliano Sordi vs Antonio Carlos Junior (Sordi by TKO – Round 2)
  • Cezar Ferreira vs Marthin Hamlet (Ferreira by Submission – Round 1)

Jake Paul wants a boxing match with Jorge Masvidal

This weekend the combat sports world will turn their attention to the boxing ring. On Sunday night, Jake Paul (3-0) is back as he’s taking on former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (19-7-1 MMA) in the main event of a Showtime Boxing card.

This is a big step up in competition for Jake Paul. Paul first fought a fellow YouTuber in Ali Gib back in January of 2020 in his pro boxing debut. That night, Paul scored a first round knockout.

He then fought in November of last year when he took on former NBA player Nate Robinson. This fight went into the second round, but the result was the same. Jake Paul faceplanted Robinson to score the second round knockout.

From there, Jake Paul turned his attention to boxing MMA fighters. After calling out a number of fighters, Paul settled on a boxing match with former MMA world champion Ben Askren. Askren of course is known for his wrestling and not his striking.

Jake Paul knocked Askren out in the first round and showed the world he can knock out real fighters too. Now, he’s taking on a serious threat in Tyron Woodley. For the first time, Jake Paul is boxing someone who can legitimately hurt him.

Boxing Masvidal Next?

Even with a dangerous opponent in front of him, Jake Paul isn’t skipping a beat on calling people out. Now, he’s turned his attention to a UFC fighter that he was once seemingly friends with. That fighter is the UFC’s BMF, Jorge Masvidal (35-15).

Paul trained a little with Masvidal before the Askren fight and the two spent some time together. That said, Masvidal came out recently and told Ariel Helwani that he believes Woodley will knock out Jake Paul in the boxing ring.

Jake Paul didn’t take kindly to these comments. In a media scrum yesterday, Paul turned his attacks towards Jorge Masvidal. Paul said, “Anyone here listen to a Masvidal interview and go, ‘Wow that guys intellectual!’… I don’t think anyone says that. He’s a street fighter gangster who got knocked the f–k out in his last fight so maybe he’s losing some brain cells.”

When asked about a potential boxing match with Masvidal, Paul said, “I would love to fight Masvidal. I think it could very much so happen.” Masvidal responded on Twitter saying, “I guess this means you’ll stop hitting me up now on social media to hang out and train. Don’t worry about me you got a handful of problems coming your way.”

Would you want to see Masvidal in the boxing ring against Jake Paul? Sounds like it could happen down the line if Paul wins this weekend.

Stipe Miocic to meet with UFC next month regarding his return

MMA, Stipe Miocic

The greatest heavyweight in the history of the UFC is getting ready to ramp up the comeback conversations. Stipe Miocic (20-4) has been motivated to get back in the cage ever since he lost the heavyweight title back in March.

Miocic defended his title against Francis Ngannou (16-3) at UFC 260. This was a rematch from a couple of years ago. In the first fight, Miocic completely dominated and overwhelmed Ngannou in a lopsided decision.

The second fight was completely different. Ngannou was calculated and remained calmed throughout on his way to knocking Miocic out in the second round to become the UFC heavyweight champion.

After the loss, Miocic has stated that he wants the trilogy with Ngannou to regain his heavyweight title. However, the UFC had no plans for that right away. Miocic needed time to recover and with a baby on the way, he decided to sit back for a while.

In the mean time, there has been a ton of activity in the heavyweight division. Despite the title being on the line just a few months ago, the UFC created an interim title that Derrick Lewis (25-8, 1 NC) and Ciryl Gane (10-0) just fought for at UFC 265.

Miocic to meet with the UFC

Gane stopped Lewis in the third round to become the interim UFC heavyweight champion. With the interim title around his waste, Gane will be taking on the undisputed champion, Francis Ngannou, likely at the end of the year or in early 2022.

So where does that leave the greatest heavyweight in UFC history? Well, Miocic is in a bit of a waiting pattern. He told ESPN this week that his wife is due with their son in the next couple of weeks. After the baby is born, Miocic is flying to Las Vegas to meet with Dana White regarding what’s next.

Miocic did mention that he was a little annoyed he didn’t get a call for the interim title fight. That was never in the UFC’s plans. White has publicly mentioned a fight with Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC) as an option for Miocic. Miocic told ESPN he would be down for that fight, but Jones has been less interested in this matchup in the past.

I have to say, with Ngannou – Gane happening, I would love for the UFC to book Miocic against Jones. The greatest of all time versus the greatest heavyweight has a nice ring to it. Not too mention the fact that it would provide a clear number one contender for the winner of Ngannou – Gane.

Islanders’ front office named one of the best in the NHL

The shift over the past three years with the Islanders has been one word: dramatic.

Both on and off the ice, the Isles have become a model for stability and success. Players want to come and play on Long Island now, a brand new building — UBS Arena — will be the franchise’s home this season, and the team has made it three straight years of playoffs with two consecutive third-round appearances in 2020 and 2021.

The organization’s transformation under the Lou Lamoriello-Barry Trotz regime still has a few doubters (frankly I don’t know why), but they might not have much of an argument anymore after The Athletic released its 2021 NHL front office rankings yesterday.

The Islanders, according to the survey done by the fans, place 5th among the entire league. The only teams ahead of them are Tampa Bay, Colorado, Detroit (the most shocking of the clubs ranked in my opinion), and Florida (another wow candidate).

In every category listed — roster building, cap management, draft and development, trading, free agency and vision — the Isles saw slight increases, particularly from the fan base perspective. “From the ownership group to Lou and Barry, this team has completely rebranded themselves,” was one fan’s comment. The dumpster fire that was has been extinguished and rebuilt into a competitive, engaging organization. Proud, once again, to be an Isles fan!”

Seeing those numbers is a huge jump up from the previous two years where the Islanders ranked — 16th in 2020 and 23rd in 2019. Becoming a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the short amount of time they have probably helped too.

“The Islanders have become an organization to envy,” stated the site’s analytical wiz Dom Luszczyszyn, “where the magic is real from a full team buy-in and that starts from the top down.” “The vision may be a little different from what other teams are selling, but it’s become impossible not to buy into it.”

Even with how ultra quiet this summer has been for the Islanders, they continue to make tremendous strides. This latest development is just more proof. Credit to Lamoriello, his staff and Trotz for the remarkable work they have done to truly make the Islanders a top franchise once again.

It wasn’t long ago the Isles were lost cause and had no direction, but my how times have changed. They now stand as one of the elite clubs in the NHL and so does their front office.

While we still wait for any news from Lamoriello and Co., some Islander players are already back on Long Island.

At his annual Matt Martin summer hockey camp, Mathew Barzal and Kyle Palmieri — who is still unsigned despite numerous reports he will be back in an Islander uniform — participated in the festivities. There was even a rumor that floated on social media Palmieri was seen clean shaven while working with the kids.

Use your imagination with that little tidbit.

Brock Nelson’s rampage this summer in his home state’s DaBeauty League came to an end last night in sad but excellent fashion.

Nelson’s squad, Team Walser, lost in the championship game 10-9 despite him recording a hat trick. His final stat line from the league was 23 goals and 39 points in 10 games.

Yankees News, 8/26: Boone skips over stud young pitcher, big West Coast series set to begin

luis gil, yankees

The New York Yankees are preparing to take on the Oakland Athletics in the first game of a four-game series on Thursday evening. With the game starting at 9:40 PM, the Yankees will host Jameson Taillon on the mound.

As of late, Taillon has been phenomenal for the Bombers, allowing eight runs over his last five games, including 28 total strikeouts. Despite having a 3.94 ERA, Taillon has taken tremendous steps forward in his rehabilitation after coming back from his second Tommy John surgery.

However, Oakland is no pushover but has lost their last four games straight. In fact, they have lost nine of their last 11 games, giving the Yankees a solid advantage heading into Thursday night’s match-up.

The Athletics will host James Kaprielian on the mound, currently enjoying a 3.25 ERA on the season over 88.2 innings pitched. In his last outing against the San Francisco Giants, he allowed just one run over 5.0 innings.

Nonetheless, the Yankees’ offense has been on fire as of late, so there’s a good chance he will have his work cut out for him. Starting off the series on a good note will give the Yankees the necessary momentum to continue their winning streak, coming off a series sweep against Atlanta Braves.

Yankees skipped over one of those young star pitchers:

Over three games, young starting pitcher Luis Gil hasn’t given up an earned run. With a 15.2 inning sample size, Gil houses a 0.00 ERA, logging 10.34 strikeouts per 9 and a 100% left on-base percentage. This must be one of the best performances from a debut pitcher this season, if not in the team’s history.

However, the Yanks remain cautiously optimistic he can continue this impressive trend of success. Boone elected to skip over him due to a rainout this past week but still has Gil at the forefront of his mind.

Skipper Aaron Boone referenced a rainout as the reason Luis Gil was skipped over in the rotation:

“After the washout and everything, (we’re) keeping everyone on line,” manager Aaron Boone said Monday. “So (Gil) will be pitch (Tuesday in Triple-A). Obviously, he’s on the radar and he earned that with a lot of good performances. But once we were rained out Sunday, that skipped it for this time.”

Gil has earned himself another opportunity to feature at the MLB level, but the Yankees are sticking with more experienced players for the time being. It is entirely possible he makes his next appearance when the Bombers return back to the Bronx against Baltimore on September 3. Building momentum and confidence is a necessity for young pitchers, and Baltimore offers him a good opportunity to continue his streak.