SportsNet - April 2013
When Cristiano Ronaldo waved good bye to Manchester United a few years ago, everyone thought that they had seen the last of him in the Premiership. However, the world turns and things that might have seemed impossible a short time ago are now looking decidedly possible.
It is widely known that Ronaldo has told Real Madrid that he will NOT be signing a new contract at the Bernabeu. It is also known that his contract run out in 2015. Ronaldo has told Real Madrid that he will, if necessary, run down his contract and leave for free. Bearing in mind that Real paid £80m for him, it is obvious that they cannot allow that to happen, so Ronaldo will be allowed to leave if the right bid comes along.
I did write some weeks ago, that Manchester United had been in touch with Ronaldo`s agent, who has a good relationship with Sir Alex, about bringing Ronaldo back to Old Trafford. They also spoke specifically to club sponsors Nike, who also happen to be Ronaldo`s main sponsors as well. My inside information from the club is that Manchester United are offering a deal worth around £65m, which may also include Nani going the other way.
The Detroit Red Wings are sure to be one of the most popular upset picks of the first round. Sportsbooks have rightly made the Anaheim Ducks the favorites in this one, but this isn't a series that I see going the distance. Let's take a closer look at where the advantages lie.
The Wings have made the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive year. That is a monumental accomplishment and Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Howard pretty much carried this team on their backs in the final four games of the regular season. These are great leaders with a lot of pride and they did everything in their power to make sure the streak didn't come to an end on their watch. The problem with all of this is, what now? This late season push certainly won't hide the flaws riddled throughout this team. Instead, many fans are chalking up the Ducks season to a fluke year due to the lockout shortened season.
When these two teams met last season, most people were expected long, hard-fought series. Instead, the Kings steamrolled the Blues in shocking fashion and swept them in four games. The rest as we know, is history, but why are the Kings being favored this year? A different team has won the Stanley Cup in each of the last nine seasons and I don't know if LA have it in them to go the distance again this time around. I expect a much better showing from St Louis this year and I expect them to win the series.
Do you think the Chicago Blackhawks are goint to steamroll the 8th seeded Minnesota Wild? If so, you probably don't want to continue reading this article. Once we take a look at the betting odds, we find out that Chicago is favored by a full two games over Minnesota. This means that the Blackhawks must win this series in four or five games to make it worth a bet. Based on what I see, there is value to be had on the underdog Wild. Let's take a closer look at three factors to consider.
Put up your hand if you can look me in the eye and say Corey Crawford is capable of a Conne Smythe winning run. Crawford has put up excellent numbers this year, but this is not a guy who has proven anything to me yet. When the pressure is on, Crawford is a very mixed bag. The talent is there, but is the consistency? The benefit he has going for him is the team in front of him controls possession a ridiculously 55.8% of the time and provides excellent goal support. Does he have to be great to win this series? No. But does he need to be great to wrap this up in four or five games? Probably, and I'm willing to bet against it happening.
For the second time in four years, divisional realignment is coming to the Big Ten.
In preparation for the arrival of Maryland and Rutgers, the Big Ten has announced a new divisional format that will kick in for the 2014 season. Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers form the Eastern Division, while Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin make up the Western division.
The new alignment emphasizes geography over historic balance, and it also does a fairly good job of preserving the conference’s many historic rivalries. The league will also transition to a nine-game league schedule in 2016, and with the exception of Indiana-Purdue, all of the permanent cross-divisional rivalries have been eliminated.
Some thoughts on the Big Ten’s realignment plan:
1. No more Legends and Leaders Divisions.