Posts Tagged ‘Season Expectations’

Mike Babcock raised some eyebrows on Thursday when asked to assess his team so far this season.

“Obviously (I’m) ecstatic,” the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach told reporters, including TSN’s Mark Masters. “Any way you look at it, we’ve (gotten) off to a good start. We think our team’s going to get better. We have significant pieces not here and they will be here.”

That may have simply been optimism, or just a prediction rather than an update. Either way, Babcock was clearly referring to holdout William Nylander and the injured Auston Matthews.

“So we’ll be a deeper team (with them), but in the meantime, we’ve been allowed to grow players and create depth in (our) organization, which is important,” the bench boss added.

Nylander and the Leafs have until Dec. 1 to resolve their stalemate before the forward is forced to miss the rest of the season. The 22-year-old has yet to report because he doesn’t have a contract.

Toronto is comfortable going without Nylander for the entire campaign if no deal is reached by the deadline, as Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported on Saturday.

Matthews, meanwhile, has been out since Oct. 27 with a shoulder injury.

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Center Jason Kelce, already a two-time Pro Bowler, rose to even greater fame during the Philadelphia Eagles‘ run to Super Bowl LII last season as a leader of the wholly-embraced ‘underdog’ team.

An eighth-year veteran, Kelce cites the Eagles’ loss of several experienced players in the offseason as reason for a 4-5 record through the first 10 weeks.

“Last year, it just seemed like everybody was clicking. We had guys like Brent Celek who had been here a long time who was very accountable, Torrey Smithwho had been in the league for a long time, very accountable. Mack Hollins was a guy that gave great effort. LeGarrette Blount and all of these running backs that, they had their limited amount of stuff that they had to know, but they knew what to do, and they knew how to do those things. That’s what we’re missing. We’re missing that accountability,” Kelce said Wednesday, according to Tim McManus of ESPN.

Celek retired after being released by the team. Blount joined the Detroit Lions in free agency, Smith was traded to the Carolina Panthers, and Hollins is on injured reserve due to a groin injury.

The Eagles opened the 2018 campaign as the NFL’s 11th-youngest team by average age. They ranked 23rd in that department at the beginning of the 2017 season.

Kelce says the Eagles haven’t been able to replace the value brought last season by players who had been around a long time and who knew the “ins and outs of the game.”

“This isn’t just players, this is coaches, this is everybody. Everybody takes accountability in making sure that everybody is ready to go,” Kelce said.

“(Last year) there was a much greater level of accountability from a cohesive standpoint of everybody working together.”

The Eagles are tied for second place in the NFC East heading into a Week 11 matchup against the 8-1 New Orleans Saints.

At this point last season, the Boston Celtics were 11-2 – about two-thirds of the way through a 16-game win streak. Things are a little different this year, with the team wobbling along at 7-6 and struggling to find its identity on offense.

After Sunday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, star point guard Kyrie Irvingwondered whether a well-tenured veteran might help stabilize a team which currently ranks 27th in the league in offensive rating, scoring just 104.2 points per 100 possessions.

“I think it just comes with, just some experience,” Irving said, according to MassLive’s Tom Westerholm. “Looking at this locker room, me being in my eighth year and being a ‘veteran’ as well as Al (Horford) and (Aron) Baynes. Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint, when you want to play, when you want to do what you want to do. It’s all about attitude and effort. That’s all it is.”

It isn’t clear whether Irving was making a direct petition to his team’s front office or simply preaching patience as one of the league’s least-experienced teamsworks through its growing pains. The Celtics’ roster is currently maxed out at 15 players, with a pair of prospects on two-way contracts; testing Irving’s hypothesis would require jettisoning one of his colleagues to make room for a veteran.

Last year’s Celtics managed a 55-27 regular-season record en route to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals – with no player older or more experienced than Horford. Those lofty results came despite Gordon Hayward and Irving both missing time with injury.

The New York Mets may have a new face on their Opening Day roster, or so says their new general manager.

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t rule out the possibility that Tim Tebowcould make the club’s Opening Day roster. If he doesn’t make the cut, the former NFL quarterback would begin the 2018 season in Triple-A, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Tebow began the 2018 season with Double-A Binghamton and played 84 games before suffering a hand injury in July which prevented him from finishing the campaign. Over 298 plate appearances, Tebow authored a .273/.336/.399 slash line with six home runs and one stolen base.

The 31-year-old is represented by CAA Sports, the agency Van Wagenen worked for prior to being hired as a Mets executive earlier this offseason.

This news likely means Tebow will be invited to spring training and afforded the opportunity to compete for an outfield job alongside Michael ConfortoBrandon NimmoJay BruceYoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares.

Fans hoping the Los Angeles Dodgers are about to make a major splash in free agency may need to temper expectations.

A document prepared for potential investors reveals that the Dodgers plan to keep their player payroll below the competitive-balance luxury tax threshold for the next four seasons, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

The projections in the document outline the Dodgers’ plan to have a payroll of $185 million for both the 2019 and 2020 seasons, which would have them comfortably beneath the $206-million threshold. The team’s payroll would then rise to $191 million in 2021 and $196 million in 2022 under the plan. L.A. spent $195 million in player payroll for 2018.

The Dodgers have been linked to free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, who’s expected to command a substantial investment. The 26-year-old rejected a reported 10-year, $300-million contract from the Washington Nationals late in the 2018 season.

L.A.’s current payroll, per Baseball Reference, sits just north of $132 million before arbitration with a projected payroll afterward of $180.7 million, leaving the team little wiggle room. Several key players, including shortstop Corey Seager and outfielder Joc Pederson, are bound for arbitration this offseason.

If the Dodgers stick with their projections stated in the document, their activity in free agency will be limited unless other changes are made to reduce payroll.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson is excited about the Houston Texans‘ outlook for the remainder of the 2018 season following Tuesday’s trade-deadline acquisition of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

“Nothing, really, should stop the train,” Watson said on Wednesday, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle.

The Texans acquired Thomas from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a fourth-round pick and swaps of seventh-rounders. He’s expected to suit up alongside DeAndre Hopkins when the Texans face his former club on Sunday.

Thomas, a nine-year veteran who caught 36 of 56 targets for 402 yards and three touchdowns with the Broncos this season, will help fill the void Will Fuller‘s season-ending torn ACL left behind.

The Texans are 5-3 through eight weeks and occupy first place in the AFC South.

After Amari Cooper‘s first practice with the Dallas Cowboys since Monday’s trade from the Oakland Raiders, he spoke glowingly of his new surroundings.

“It feels like a fresh start, just like a freshman year in college or something like that. … I mean the first thing you think about when you hear the Cowboys is that star, ‘America’s Team,’ and all of that. It’s a great franchise,” Cooper said Wednesday, according to Kevin Patra of Around the NFL.

The Cowboys acquired Cooper, 24, in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The fourth-year pro was named to the Pro Bowl in both of his first two seasons. He caught 22 of 32 targets for 280 yards and one touchdown over the first six games of the 2018 season with the Raiders.

Cooper suffered a concussion in his final game with the Raiders in Week 6, but he’ll have another week to recover and get up to speed in his new offense with the Cowboys on bye in Week 8.

“I have to stack the days together,” Cooper said. “Obviously learn the system and just be ready to go out there when my name is called. All the other stuff will come.”

The Cowboys will host the Tennessee Titans in Week 9.