Thursday, November 29, 2012
We already know the Steelers' defense needs to replicate its performance from two weeks ago when they held Baltimore to six points. So what should be the game plan for the Steelers' offense heading into this weekend?
One thing we know wont work is having Charlie Batch or an injured Ben Roethlisberger drop back to pass 40 times. Batch is 38 years old and Roethlisberger's arm strength after his recent shoulder injury doesn't exactly open the playbook. There's also a shakeup in the offensive line where Maurkice Pouncey could play left guard, Doug Legursky at center, and either Kelvin Beachum or Ramon Foster at right tackle. Those moves, combined with the road atmosphere might make pass protection just a little more difficult than usual especially since Paul Kruger abused Mike Adams and Byron Leftwich in Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
So, despite getting Antonio Brown back and having (hopefully) a more focused Mike Wallace, the Steelers will not be allowed to rely on the pass. If they have any shot of winning this game, they must pound the ball.
Steelers fans, particularly the older crowd, always clamor for old-fashion ground and pound offense. "Four yards and a cloud of dust." This should definitely be one of those games. In fact, unless they are trailing by more than two touchdowns, the Steelers should never go four wideouts in the first half. Not when they have a big running back and potentially a huge offensive line, if they start the right players.
Speaking of which, here is my offensive line assuming everyone is healthy. From left to right: Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster. That's a big offensive line, one that is accustomed to pulling and run blocking. Willie Colon has been masterful at pulling this season while David DeCastro became a first round pick because of his run blocking at Stanford. If experience is an issue for DeCastro, replace him with Pouncey and put Legursky at center. Throw in 6'8 350 pound Max Starks, full back Will Johnson, and 230 pound running back, Jonathan Dwyer, and you've got an offense than can wear down the 26th ranked rushing defense which quiets the crowd and keeps Flacco from using his no-huddle offense.
To make matters worse for the Ravens' defense, Ray Lewis's backup, Dannell Ellerbe, has missed practice this week with knee and ankle injuries. If he is unable to go, the Ravens will need to rely on a third string player to play middle linebacker.
The situation the Steelers face this weekend is extremely tough to say the least. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures but, this is not one of those times. This should be a very conservative game for the offense on the assumption that the defense can hold Joe Flacco and Ray Rice in check. Would it be an easy game plan to execute? No. The Ravens still have a very good defense, one that isn't fully reflected by statistics. However, a strong running game gives the Steelers their best chance to win while trying to put this game on the quarterback could be a huge mistake.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
When it comes to college football discussions, I typically leave the arguments for people with more knowledge of the subject. However, after hearing all the talk about Manti Te'o for Heisman over Johnny Manziel, it's impossible for me to stay silent.
Skip Bayless wrote a piece yesterday touting Te'o as the next Heisman Trophy winner, citing his leadership and captaincy of Notre Dame's defense, a unit Bayless feels was the best in football. He criticizes the media for creating hype around a two-loss quarterback while there's a perfectly good linebacker playing on a perfect team.
And he's not the only one.
Pundits and college football fans alike believe Te'o is a Heisman Trophy winner because of Notre Dame's success. After all, many believed the Fighting Irish would be good but few thought they would be playing for a national title. The problem is, that's a team accomplishment, not an individual one. The Heisman Trophy goes to the best college football player, not the captain of the best college football team. Obviously the team's record and performance should factor in, but it should not be THE reason why a player wins that honor.
No matter how much hyperbole people put into Te'o's season (like Skip Bayless saying Te'o sacked Landry Jones into "oblivion" when Te'o only had one sack against Oklahoma) it shouldn't take away from the fact that he was not the essential MVP of Division 1 football.
That honor should belong to Johnny "Football" Manziel, the Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback who broke Cam Newton's single-season yard record. Manziel finished with 3419 yards passing, 1181 yards rushing, and 43 total touchdowns. He outscored Louisiana Tech, the highest scoring team in college football, 59-57 to give them their first loss of the season. At Manziel's hand, the Aggies destroyed SMU, SC State, Auburn, Arkansas, #15 Mississippi St., Sam Houston St., and Missouri.
And, oh yeah, he led them to victory over #1 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a venue where the Crimson Tide have only lost three times in the last four years.
While the Aggies did lose two games, both were against top ten teams, LSU and Florida. Technically, the Fighting Irish went 4-0 against ranked opponents while the Aggies went 3-2. But, the Aggies play in the SEC which is basically minor-league football. They don't have the benefit of playing Navy, Pitt (no offense), Wake Forest and Miami (FL) like Notre Dame does. And, when they do play cupcake teams, Manziel and the Aggies don't need three overtimes to win, especially at home.
Under Manziel, the Aggies scored the 4th most points in college football. According to Bayless and others, the Fighting Irish gave up the 2nd fewest points in football because of Te'o.
But how much is that true? We know Manziel is 24th in passing touchdowns and 6th in rushing touchdowns. That directly contributes to the amount of points Texas A&M has scored this season. Manti Te'o is second in the NCAA in interceptions and that's about it. The supposed tackling machine isn't even in the top 50 in tackles. Obviously, he has been the linchpin in one of the stingiest defenses this season, but his numbers don't show that he has been the biggest reason for his team's success.
In fact, as far as sacks go, Te'o is ranked sixth on his own team. Maybe it isn't part of Notre Dame's defense to have him rush the quarterback, but if Te'o was truly a Heisman winning, all around player, he would have a little more production in that area.
If you want a fair comparison, just look at the last defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. Charles Woodson not only picked off passes, he ran back punts and played wide receiver. Te'o is a hell of a linebacker, but his leadership qualities are more pronounced than his actual play on the field.
My vote -which doesn't count- goes to "Johnny Football." It's very boring to pick a quarterback since so many of them have won the Heisman over the years but, at the same time, it is the most important position in the sport. Te'o is the leader of an excellent defense, one that will play for a national title. But Manziel broke records and won 10 game and he did this in the toughest conference in football, in his first year as a college football player.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
The Steelers need a real running back whose not afraid to get hit and wont shoot his mouth off every few weeks on Twitter. Your four injury plagued years have helped minimally while you continue to fumble your way back onto the bench.
Heading into yesterday's game, your offense had a plan to pound the football with you leading the charge. Against one of the league's worst rushing defenses, you were supposed to lead the way and make life easy on your 100 year old quarterback. Instead, you fumbled the ball twice, losing one of those fumbles which led directly to Cleveland's first score of the game. Your team had a lead and momentum until you carelessly lost the ball, similar to what Mike Wallace did in Baltimore the week before.
Speaking of Mike Wallace, pack your bags as well.
Want to know the difference between you and some of the players you want to be in the same pay grade with? They fight for the ball and they make the difficult plays. Sure, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald are physically bigger, but they also hustle to the ball and fight for every target. Oh, and they rarely ever fumble, especially in crucial games. You've had quite a few drops this season but none more painful than the one yesterday that led to an interception.
On top of that, your attitude towards getting a new contract, combined with your poor performance this season ensures that you will either A) make significantly less money than you wanted with the Steelers, or, B) make significantly less money than you wanted with someone else. No one is going to pay $100 million for a receiver that only runs in a straight line, can't adjust to the ball, and wont fight for every play. Not even the Washington Redskins.
But at least you have options. Rashard Mendenhall, on the other hand, is going to be handled as an undrafted free agent. The size and talent are there but the toughness is questionable and the health is unreliable. Gone are the days of you being used as a feature back when you were drafted in the first round out of Illinois, Rashard. Enjoy being a poor man's Ron Dayne or Derrick Ward on a team that needs an extra running back.
The Steelers had holes to fill coming into this season. Thanks to you two, it looks like there will be two more positions added to the list. Wallace, you're nothing but a one-trick pony as Mike Tomlin stated months ago. You may want big time money and you may consider yourself part of the "Young Money Family" but both of those players have passed you up and you're going to be hard pressed to find a team with enough cap space to meet your demands.
As for Mendenhall, I have two words for you: Tim Worley.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Yesterday it was the NHLPA's turn to submit a proposal and have it shot down. Union spokesman, Donald Fehr, proposed the latest CBA plan -what he called a "dramatic move"- around noon Wednesday and the league promptly said no.
If you're starting to get worried about another missed NHL season, you're not alone.
Fehr's proposal compromised with the league's demands of a 50/50 HRR split while adding the "make whole" provision which slowly reimburses players who would be in violation of the new CBA based on their current contract situation. That provision has both sides about $182 million apart or, $1.2 million over five years per team.
Furthermore, the new deal would protect players from losing money in years 2-5 of the agreement. That means, if the league were somehow to collapse or the economy was so awful that HRR fell, the players would not lose a penny. At first glance, it should be a no-brainer for the owners to accept since hockey has seen dramatic revenue increases the last seven years. However, given the uncertainty of things outside of hockey which could directly affect the league, there is a risk involved.
Nevertheless, this is a moot point since the league shot down the newest proposal. No future meetings have been scheduled at this time but both sides are expected to structure negotiations Friday.
During the NHLPA's submission of the latest proposal, Donald Fehr patted himself on the back for giving up so much to try and get a deal done. While he tries to play the media, the media plays him, letting out a collective "meh" when they read the plan. Many believed there were changes and compromises to the league's plan, but nothing that would get an agreement signed.
Another problem is Gary Bettman's refusal to move from the league's current plan. Rather than hinting at a future counter proposal, Bettman flatly stated, "quite frankly, we have proposed a long-term agreement that we think is fair and balanced." If the players learned anything from 2005, it's that the commissioner has no problem sticking to his guns. This is especially true when you consider the players are losing $8-10 million a day while the owners continue to make money off their businesses. Do you think Detroit Red Wings/Little Caesar's owner, Mike Ilitch, is losing sleep (or money) over stalled talks?
If there's any good news to the most recent proposal being shot down in a flaming ball of fury, it's that both sides are in communication and there is still time left to save the season. After all, the NHL didn't decide to cancel the 2004-2005 season until mid-February. But, both sides need to understand what is at stake and, unfortunately, having two lawyers involved in negotiations only hinders the process; especially when they last came from the NBA and MLB.
Monday, November 19, 2012
The head coach needs to do more than provide dull quotes and tireless rhetoric.
Since his arrival to Pittsburgh in 2007, Mike Tomlin has been extremely good at handling the locker room and entertaining a room full of reporters. The former being crucial for a head coach in any professional sport, especially, football where egos are larger than the multi-million dollar houses.
As for the latter, Tomlin has been a walking book of clichés. Some of his best include "that's the nature of the business" and "next man up." His best quote from this past week when discussing how the team will deal with injuries, "excuses are tools for the incompetent." If that's true coach, then what's your excuse?
What excuse can you provide for allowing Byron Leftwich to stay in the game with what appeared to be two cracked ribs and a shoulder injury? According to Alan Robinson of the Trib, Tomlin shrugged off the injury simply stating, "He sustained some hits but that's football."
Leftwich broke two ribs and injured his throwing shoulder. Considering the arm throws the ball and the midsection requires torque to produce velocity on a throw, you could argue those are somewhat important areas to injure. All facetiousness aside, the fact that Leftwich was remained in the game despite suffering the injury on the third offensive series is mind blowing. If Tomlin -along with everyone else on the sideline- didn't see Leftwich grimacing and wincing after every play, all they had to do was look at the ball. The "zip" on Byron's passes were missing with the most glaring example occurring late in the game on a 3rd and long. Leftwich bounced a ten yard pass to Wallace.
Where is the authoritative figure? Where is the head coach who is supposed to be skilled at making quick decisions?
He waited and then did nothing.
Here's another poor decision: The Steelers are driving down the field and find themselves in the red zone with a chance to retake the lead. With the game still in the third quarter, the Steelers burn two crucial timeouts in a matter of minutes. In the end, they had to settle for a field goal while the timeouts came back to haunt them when they had the ball with a minute remaining in the game and couldn't move into field goal range. A good coach, a competent coach, organizes his team and makes sure those timeouts aren't wasted. Even if they have to burn one early, there's no excuse to call another one two plays later, especially at home.
Mike Tomlin might not like giving excuses, but he is surely showing signs of incompetence. He's drafted four Pro Bowl players in six combined drafts. Even if he's not involved in the drafting process, he is involved in developing those players, many of whom have been cut.
Last season, instead of firing his offensive coordinator like most coaches, he forced Bruce Arians to back out of Pittsburgh with a faux retirement which further complicated the situation. Then, he fired his special teams coach after the Steelers had one of their better performances on special teams the year before.
Jacoby Jones says thank you, by the way.
The Pittsburgh Steelers missed Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Troy Polamalu this past Sunday and still, they had multiple chances to win. The Ravens have an old, banged-up defense and an offense that was stuck in mud; however, due to a lack of focus, leadership, and organization by the Steelers and their brain trust, the Ravens went home with another win. You would like to think it was an off-game, but this has been a trend for several seasons. Even wins against inferior teams like the Eagles and Chiefs prove to be a constant struggle.
It is time for Mike Tomlin to stop preaching on Tuesdays and start applying his coaching on Sundays. The Steelers are still in the playoff hunt despite their injuries, but they need better coaching to stay in contention.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
The Pittsburgh Steelers come into this contest with the top statistical defense and 18th ranked offense, tied with Baltimore. They are 6-3.
The rivalry of the Steelers and Ravens is the best in football today. But, its starting to lose its luster as both teams get older and some of the marquee players retire.
Hines Ward and James Farrior retired last year while Ed Reed and Ray Lewis -not playing because of torn triceps- look to be well on their way out of Baltimore. To make matters worse, Ben Roethlisberger will be out for this game forcing the Steelers to use Byron Leftwich.
While both teams have a winning record and look to be well on their way to a playoff berth, the fact is, they aren't as good as they have been in year's past. The Ravens have zero secondary. Already feeling the pain of missing Ladarius Webb, the Ravens will be without Jimmy Smith after undergoing groin surgery earlier in the week. So, despite missing Troy Polamalu, the Steelers will still have a better secondary heading into this game.
The Steelers, as mentioned earlier, will not have Ben Roethlisberger. Going into a divisional matchup without your top player could spell disaster but, they have a solid backup in Byron Leftwich and an offensive coordinator whose game plan shifts depending on the personnel. Surprisingly, I do not think it will be difficult for the Steelers to put up points. Their struggles lie with stopping the Ravens from doing the same.
The Steelers may have the fifth ranked rushing defense, but they have struggled to stop the run at times this season. Darren Mcfadden ran over the Steelers for 113 yards and a touchdown in week 3 while Jamaal Charles went for 100 last week. Ray Rice is one of the top running backs in the league with a big offensive line in front of him; a line that can easily plow over Ziggy Hood as teams have done all season.
The Ravens also have a deep threat in Torrey Smith to keep the Steelers from crowding the line of scrimmage. There's a case to be made that Smith's production has been the biggest catalyst for the Ravens this season. So far, Smith has 31 receptions for a team high 548 yards. His seven touchdowns are more than all the other Ravens' receivers combined.
And then there's Joe Flacco, self-proclaimed elite quarterback whose 88.3 passer rating is 14th best in the league. Despite having nearly 25 less completions than Ben Roethlisberger, Flacco has racked up more yards meaning bigger plays. It will be interesting to see how Flacco plays in this game. While the Ravens typically struggle on the road, their quarterback has won two of the last three games at Heinz Field.
This should be a great game. It may not feature two dominant defenses like it use to but it is still the best rivalry in professional football. The Ravens have a chance to land a potential knockout blow at the Steelers' chances to win the division, while the Steelers could take a giant step forward without their quarterback if they can beat the Ravens. If you're looking for a low scoring, strong defensive game, look elsewhere. This could be a shootout.
Sunday night can't come soon enough.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Dear Ben Roethlisberger,
Let me first apologize for jinxing you and your offensive line with my previous post. I mistakenly touted your offensive line for being tough, gritty, effective for running the ball and protective of your life. Seeing as you sustained an injury that apparently threatened your life and your running backs only managed 77 total yards on 27 carries Monday night, it is clear I acted irrationally on giving the big guys up front "props".
With that being said, let me get straight to the point. Do not, under any circumstances, return to the field until you are 100%. That means a fully healed dislocated rib and sprained shoulder. Yes, you have a reputation for being the toughest quarterback in the league and yes, you make a huge difference in the game when you're running around slinging the ball; however, do not come back until you are completely recovered.
This team has seven games left with five of those games against terrible teams. In fact, the combined record of the Chargers, Bengals, Cowboys and Browns (twice) is 16-29 and none of those teams has a winning record. The Ravens pose the biggest threat but maybe Byron Leftwich can steal a win with a more systematic offense than what the Steelers typically have. If that happens, you're looking at a record of 12-4 or 11-5. That's probably a home game against a team like the Indianapolis Colts.
This team is good enough to make the playoffs without your help for the rest of the season. It is not a compliment to them but more of a byproduct of playing in a bad conference with an easy schedule. They can survive with Byron Leftwich at quarterback. They cannot win playoff games without you being healthy and if you decide to try and tough it out, you'll do more harm than good.
If you come back too early from a shoulder injury -I'm assuming you wont come back from the rib injury until it is 100%- you risk putting your team in the same situation as last season. Remember how bad the offense looked against the 49ers and Broncos? Imagine trying to find an open receiver when the defense knows you cant throw the ball further than 30 yards because of a bad shoulder.
You're a tough player, Ben. And you're definitely the man here in Pittsburgh when it comes to leading championship teams. So be a championship player. Come back when the pain dissipates, not when "it doesn't hurt as much as before." Learn your lesson from last year.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Make no mistake, if the Steelers want to win the division and compete for a seventh Super Bowl, they'll need Ben Roethlisberger to be his best.
And the group responsible for protecting Ben has been equally as good through the first eight games of the season. To me, the offensive line is the team MVP so far. They've been interchanged and they've certainly shown some struggles from time to time, but when the team wins, they're usually a big part of the reason.
Consider this, Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to shatter his single season passing attempts mark with 596. This would also place him 28th all-time in attempts, tied with Jon Kitna in 2006 and yet, he's only been sacked 17 times all season. That number is good enough for 13th in the league and it would mark the lowest totals since 2010 when Ben only played in 12 games. Obviously, the less Roethlisberger gets hit, the harder it is for him to get hurt. From a performance standpoint, it also leads to fewer turnovers as the four interceptions and two lost fumbles suggest.
The season statistics for the Steelers rushing offense look hideous compared to the rest of the league. Through the first six weeks of the season, Pittsburgh didn't have a running back register 100+ yards in a game. Even worse, four of those weeks saw running backs failing to register 30 yards.
In week seven, everything changed.
Jonathan Dwyer rattled off 122 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals and then followed up with 107 yards against the Washington Redskins in week eight. When Dwyer was out in week nine with a leg injury, Isaac Redman returned and put up 146 yards against the defending Super Bowl champs. Redman and Dwyer may have talent, but they're a fair cry from the likes of Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson.
Many believe the offensive line started run blocking when Willie Colon slammed Bengals' linebacker Vontaze Burfict into the turf at Paul Brown Stadium. It reminded people of the old Pittsburgh Steelers offense: tough, mean. It also gave the Steelers an ability to run the clock out and win games, something that's been missing over the last few seasons.
The offensive line has been the most improved group over the first half of the season and, as a result, the team has tremendously improved, going from a 2-3 start to three straight victories. With the Baltimore Ravens on the schedule twice in the next four weeks, it is critical to have a cohesive group of big offensive linemen who can move the pile. It is equally important to have that same group protect the quarterback against a hungry defense.
One thing is for certain, if the offensive line continues to show this kind of improvement, the sky could be the limit for the Steelers' offense.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Everyone; President Frank Coonelly, GM Neal Huntington, Asst. GM Greg Smith and Kyle Stark a.k.a. "hoka hey." The Pirates website has an article titled "Pirates chairman intends to stay course."
And that's exactly the problem. Once again, the front office sees a problem and does nothing to fix it. Just as I wrote on Sunday about the Pirates hiring a bunting master to be the hitting coach, the Pirates fail to address another issue here.
Ask yourself this: would the Yankees tolerate an epic collapse at the end of the season to miss the playoffs? Absolutely not and therein lies the difference. The Yankees look for ways to get better and they look for a plan to make sure they do not make the same mistake twice. Throw out payroll, throw out all of the royalties of playing in the biggest TV market in America, and look at the fundamental thinking between the two clubs. One aggressively seeks improvement while the other hangs on until tolerance reaches a torturous level.
The Pirates don't have to spend $500 million on a player to become a playoff team. As the Reds, Rays, Brewers, Twins and A's have shown, it doesn't take a multi-billionaire to run a winning team. The only problem with being a small market team is that it restricts the amount of "misses" you are allowed to have, whether it be in the draft or free agency.
This franchise in Pittsburgh has had a lot of misses and for that specific reason, changes need to be made. Or, at the very least, one change.
Does anyone know why Frank Coonelly is still associated with this franchise? Other than hiring Neal Huntington what has Coonelly done for the organization? Better yet, what sticks out among people who know the name Frank Coonelly?
To me, it's the DUI he had last December when he was pulled over for driving on the wrong side of the road (maybe he was with Alameda Ta'amu.) When I think of Frank Coonelly, I think of him intimidating a bar owner for trying to make an extra buck at the expense of a losing team. To this day, that one is a head scratcher since Frank has spent the last five years doing the exact same thing. Want to know why the Pirates are a poorly run organization and look even worse doing it? It's because they keep people like Frank Coonelly.
Coonelly should have been fired and a replacement should have already been on his way to Pittsburgh after MONTHS of researching the right man for the job.
There's no reason to keep this man; no reason at all. What's worse, Bob Nutting knows it, otherwise he wouldn't have announced this decision on election day.
Stay the course.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Yes, nothing says "improve our hitting" like a former shortstop with a career .265 average. Never mind the fact that his last coaching gig was for the Arizona AA affiliate Mobile Baybears where his team finished ninth out of ten teams in hitting. Now, he is suppose to take a group of major leaguers, well, players at the major league level, and turning them into a better hitting ball club?
To be fair, he can't be worse than Gregg Ritchie. If you've spoken to coach Ritchie, you know he's an extremely nice person with a lot of knowledge of the game. But, he's not a good hitting instructor. Like Bell, Richie's past teams have never put up solid numbers under his guidance. His departure to George Washington University is a positive for the Pittsburgh Pirates despite the fact that the hitting instruction may have been coming from Clint Hurdle.
You may be asking, "if Clint Hurdle is the real hitting coach, why the outrage over Jay Bell?"
Because he's a waste of a spot on the bench. Judging by his numbers as a player and a coach, Jay Bell offers zero new approaches to this team. Bell does have some decent numbers from his playing days with the Indians, Pirates, Royals, Diamondbacks and Mets. For a middle infielder his 191 career home runs are certainly impressive. But, he's going to a team that finished 12th in baseball with 170 homers. He is currently ranked 227th all-time in runs scored with 1,123. But what is Bell most known for?
That's right, Jay Bell use to move runners over with ease back in the early 90's under Jim Leyland. In 1991, Bell had 39 sacrifice bunts. By comparison, Clint Barmes and Kevin Correia led the way last season with eight. Now the team's new hitting coach is bringing his bunting skills to Pittsburgh where they play small ball with a lineup that possesses pretty good power.
The beat goes on for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There's never a solid solution to fill a hole. For all intents and purposes, the front office is Chevy Chase plugging gum into the Hoover Dam. Obviously the losing and lack of money have become obstacles for fixing a problem, but there has to be a smarter way to improve the club.
Unlike Bob Smizik, I plan to write off Jay Bell with this team. His expertise is not in any category the team actually needs to improve on. How is he going to teach players about their approach to hitting when he struck out 20% of the time during his career? Unless the Pirates plan on signing a big free agent to improve the lineup I just don't see Bell as a positive impact on the team.
Friday, November 2, 2012
Fans who purchased tickets to the event will be issued a full refund.
"The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today's decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time," said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. "We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events." (via NHL.com)
The Winter Classic idea was introduced in 2001 when Michigan and Michigan State played in Spartan Stadium in what was known as "The Cold War". The first regular season hockey game to be played outdoors was in 2008 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres. In that game, Sidney Crosby scored the game winning goal in the shootout to lift the Penguins, and perhaps the NHL, out of the fog of a 2005 season lockout.
Now the league faces the same issue as before with the Winter Classic and all NHL games up to November 30th being cancelled.
The good news is that both sides are planning on meeting this weekend to discuss the finer points of the labor dispute. Both the NHL and NHLPA agree with the 50/50 split in revenue sharing that the league put forward a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, that was all they seemed to agree on. The NHLPA submitted three separate proposals to find some common ground. All were rejected by the league office.
Negotiations are always good news for a league suffering from a work stoppage and with the revenue sharing issue close to being finalized, the NHL may finally reach the beginning of the end of the lockout.