Many Expos fans may hate to see the Nationals succeed in any way and hope that they stay a seller dweller forever. Unfortunately that did happen last year, although there were probably a lot of smirks when Stephen Strasburg was shut down and would be pitching in the playoffs, then watching the Nats get eliminated 3 games to 2 to the St. Louis Cardinals. Now with the 2013 season approaching the Nats look to continue their success this season with Stephen Strasburg to pitch the entire season and what the Nationals hope a second consecutive post-season run. This year will be a tough one with the Braves and Phillies trying their best to make sure that they can pass the Nats in the standings. If Washington can get Bryce Harper to play good baseball in his second full season and Strasburg pitches even better than he did last season, then there are no limits for the Washington Nationals in the 2013, barring injuries of course! Right now I am curious to see how Strasburg pitches at the beginning of the season. He is a great ball player and has an amazing upside that any team would like to have, the thing that I will be watching for is if being having been shut down last season will affect his confidence in anyway; I really do not think it will, but in sports you never know.
The Montreal Canadiens are one of the surprise teams this season with solid play and a roster that some feel is still lacking size. They had played solid hockey for the majority of the season, but an even greater surprise are the Ottawa Senators. The Sens are currently 4th in the conference since Monday the 25th of February and have won 6 out of their last 10 games (6-3-1) and are riding a 5 game winning streak. The Senators are also a team that has lost Jared Cowen, Guillaume Latendresse, Peter Regin, Milan Michalek, #1 center Jason Spezza, Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and now #1 Goaltender Craig Anderson to various injuries and yet have still found a way to play great hockey. Captain Daniel Alfredsson is leading the charge with players like Kyle Turris, Erik Condra, Mika Zibanejad and Ben Bishop who are trying their best to keep up the winning in Ottawa, with many other young players getting a primo chance to show that they belong in Ottawa and the NHL. If this team manages to keep winning without their core top players like Spezza and Karlsson helping them, it will make it a much harder season, but if they manage to pull it off and make it to the playoffs then this will be one of the greater hockey stories this season, but for now let’s just wait and see.
Oh the Oilers, the Edmonton Oilers, and are the Oilers fans the most patient fans on the planet, or what? I mean they have such a positive future with their young forwards like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov who has recently been drafted. Add in Sam Gagner who is coming into his own and Justin Shultz who was the rookie signed out of free agency and you have got a great young core of players. Unfortunately the Oilers lack a strong defensive core and their goaltending is young and still has a future, but at the moment he is not a Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, or Carey Price type goaltender. The Oilers, since Monday have had a 7-7-4 record and are only a few points from a playoff spot. If the Oilers do not reach the playoffs this year they may have to make some tough decisions. If they miss the playoffs, do they bring in a new GM to replace Steve Tambellini? Since Tambellini replaced Kevin Lowe in 2008 the team has had bad luck, but under him have had a bunch of good 1st round choices, the thing he has had a hard time addressing is the defense and although he has Shultz, maybe it is time to get another GM? If not a GM change, then what about trading away upcoming UFA’s like Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton and Nikolai Khabibulin for draft picks, or defensive prospects, or another goaltending prospect, because you can never have too many prospects. Do not get me wrong, I hope that the Oilers make the playoffs, I really like the team and loved watching them in the 2006 playoffs and I know this rebuild seems never-ending, but once a few more D-men get added I think this team could become a top threat in the West like Vancouver, Chicago and Los Angeles. In any case, something needs to change for the Oilers fortunes, because the most patient fans might become the grumpiest fans very soon.
What do Victor Martinez, Brian Wilson and Jose Bautista have in common? Aside the fact they are all baseball players, it’s simple, they were all injured last season and look to have a comeback season. First off Victor Martinez who is the DH in Detroit missed all of last season after tearing his left ACL during the off-season, because of this injury he even missed the post-season run. Jose Bautista who was having a great 2012 season with 27 Homeruns and 65 RBIs had his season end after the All-Star break with a wrist injury. Last but not least, Brian Wilson who only played 2 games with the giants last season before injuring his elbow ended his season with a Tommy John Surgery resulting in him missing out on the World Series Championship that the Giants had won without him. With Martinez back in Detroit he looks to bring another powerful bat to a team that already has Miguel Cabrera, last seasons Triple-Crown winner and a team that wants to get back to the post-season badly. Jose Bautista is the Toronto Blue Jays slugger and although Edwin Encarnacion kept Bautista’s seat warm with hitting 42 homeruns, Bauatista looks to take his spot in the lineup and make a one-two punch with Encarnacion and help the new Blue Jays make a push for the playoffs. Once again we land on Wilson, unfortunately for him the Giants decided to let Wilson go to a free agency and let Sergio Romo take the closer position. Now Wilson still has yet to sign, but if the price is right I believe that there is a team out there willing to give Wilson another chance. Frankly, I think the Jays should sign him to a 1-year deal and see if he can pull off the same magic he did for the Giants, but that is just me.
All of these things I discussed are “wait and see” moments and hopefully all of them have great stories, but with sports you never know!
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Check back later this week for Part 2 of The Saboteur!