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Panthers searching for goals following coaching change

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    Aleksander Barkov scores the game-winning goal on a shootout as he dekes the puck past Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks goalie. Photo courtesy of miamiherald.com.

   After what some expected to be an awakening for the Florida Panthers, former head coach Gerard Gallant’s dismissal has only resulted in disarray and losses for the south Florida team. Gallant was fired nearly three weeks ago after a devastating loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in which the Panthers let their third-year coach go before he could even return to Sunrise.

   He was one of the front office changes that occurred, the other notable one being the firing of former President of Hockey Operations for Florida, Dave Tallon. “Gallant was Tallon’s hire. Tallon was given an unceremonious kick upstairs. It doesn’t take analytics to do that math”, said Greg Wyshynski, journalist for Yahoo Sports.

  Tom Rowe, the former AHL (American Hockey League) coach and Panthers general manager took Gallant’s place behind the bench. At first, people were hopeful, as Rowe’s first game went into overtime, restricting the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the NHL’s most explosive teams, to only one goal before the Blackhawks eventually scored again and won the game.

  Hope swelled up as, on Dec. 1, the “Cats” forced yet another game into overtime, however actually winning this one, 2-1 against the Detroit Red Wings. According to Dave Hogg, correspondent for the NHL website, Aleksander Barkov brought victory to Rowe’s Panthers with the overtime goal, bringing Rowe’s NHL record to 1-0-1 (the first number being wins, the second number being regulation losses, and the third being overtime or shootout losses).

  This generated optimism for fans and players alike. Derek MacKenzie, Florida captain, said, “It was big to get him his first win. Hopefully we’ll get him many more.”

   The expectations of achievement and being able to defensively stop a team have not matched up with reality. In the eight games since Gallant’s firing, out of a possible 16 points, the team earned only seven, three of which came from overtime losses (out of four overtime games), and two came from wins, giving them a 2-3-3 record since Rowe’s promotion on Nov. 28.

  Every week, Bleacher Report releases Power Rankings that analyze all 30 teams of the National Hockey League and place them into a ranking based on their performances. In week 8, which was published on the day of Gallant’s firing, the Panthers were ranked number 17, in the average range.

   Fast forward two weeks later, to Dec. 12, and the Panthers have descended the rankings to number 19, which may not seem all that bad, but demonstrates an obvious regression. The week 10 power rankings also do not include a pitiful 5-1 loss against Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild.

  With the turmoil and confusion that arose within the team’s front office, it is no wonder that the Panthers have been experiencing troubles on the ice. The team has stuttered to 13-13-4 record, fifth place in the Atlantic Division, barely ahead of the Detroit Red Wings, and the injuries and diminishing attendance certainly don’t help the team’s performance.

   However, Rowe may be able to find a way to launch the “Cats” into the playoffs with a little more than half the season remaining.

National Football League searches for viewers and answers

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    Football fans have provided possible reasons behind the viewership decline in this poll. Photo courtesy of cnbc.com
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    Tom Brady prepares to hand of the ball in hopes to score a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.
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    Tennessee Titans runningback Derrick Henry attempts to rush past Oakland Raiders safety Karl Joseph. Photo courtesy of mercurynews.com (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images).

  A proclaimed epidemic in the National Football League, professional football viewership has decreased in the past few months, losing money for one of the most lucrative American industries. Watching football, the most popular sport in the United States, is a Sunday activity for many, so hearing the news of a viewership decline may come as a surprise for some.

  “Monday Night Football is down 24% from this time a year ago, Sunday Night Football down 19% and Thursday night down 18%,” according to Sports Illustrated.

  The NFL has been trying to figure out the sources of this decrease, hoping to determine a way to fix it. The organization believes that some of the problems arise from the duration of the game and the constant clock stoppages which lengthen the match.

  “Could [the games] be shorter? Could they be better? Are replays too long?” said Brian Rolapp, NFL Media Executive Vice President. “We are constantly looking at those things to make the pace of the games more interesting,” he said.

  One of the main arguments that comes with the abhorrent length of the game is the incessant flags (some of which people complain ruins the game as they are not accurate penalties) and commercials that plague the league week after week. While some think that NFL RedZone, a channel which only shows scoring and major plays while skipping through different games and limiting commercials, may have played a major role in this decline.

  “Not sure why the NFL even allows it, but I would much rather watch RedZone than sit through a network broadcast for 3.5 hours—almost half of which are commercials,” said Dave Spaulding, a football fan, as reported by Peter King of the Monday Morning Quarterback.

  However, some even question the idea that viewership has actually gone down. According to the Fox Sports PR’s twitter account, the Thanksgiving matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins had 35.1 million people watching, the most for a regular season game ever on Fox.

  Whether or not the amount of viewers has actually diminished, the fans have definitely found errors with the NFL, and the organization hopes to fix it in the future.

Tom Brady prepares to hand of the ball in hopes to score a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.
Tom Brady prepares to hand of the ball in hopes to score a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com

Panthers pull surprising move amid Gallant’s dismissal

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    Gallant waiting for a taxi following his firing as head coach of the Florida Panthers

Amid a disappointing 11-10-1 start to the season after twenty games, the Florida Panthers, the former Atlantic Division champions, have fired head coach Gerard Gallant in a somewhat surprising move.

  Expectations were high for the Panthers coming into the season, marred by the fact that top players Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad went down with injuries in preseason games, out long term.

  However, Panthers joint owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu hold a “win now” mentality with the team, aspiring to win a Stanley Cup within the next three years. The Panthers traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina on sunday to face off against the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite building up a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Panthers ultimately fell 3-2 in what appeared to be the owner’s final straw with Gallant.

  The way the Panthers lost, giving up three consecutive goals, proved to be the proverbial nail in the coffin for Gallant. “We just said we were going to be making a coaching change.” General Manager Tom Rowe continues, “We didn’t go into a whole lot of detail. We just said the inconsistency of the team and we wanted to take the team in a different direction.” Rowe will take over as the head coach of the team as he formerly coached the Panthers’ minor league affiliate team, the Springfield Thunderbirds.

  Gallant reportedly had multiple disagreements with team management  over the summer regarding the direction of the team “There was a philosophical divide,” Rowe said. “We wanted to develop a team and build a team that was fast, that moved the puck quickly that attacked the offensive net, pressure the puck in all three zones. Gerard and I talked about it. He said he wanted to get a little more size. We decided to go in a different direction. Were we on the same page every day of the week? No … [We] had a philosophy that was different and that did weigh into the decision.”

  The Panthers now sit at tenth place in the Eastern Conference, but just two points out of a playoff spot, which is why the head coaching change comes as a surprise. Gallant is a very popular coach among the hockey community, who are seemingly upset at his dismissal.

  “You can’t fire a coach right after he has been nominated for coach of the year, can you? But the Panthers canned Gallant. For no justifiable reason,” said hockey pundit Pierre LeBrun. He refers to Gallant’s nomination for the coach of the year award in the preceding season.

  It will be an interesting finish for the Panthers this year, with time still remaining in the season for a playoff push. The Panthers play next on Saturday, December 3rd, in Ottawa against the Senators,  

Atlantic football soars into the second round of the playoffs

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 Ending the previous season with a crushing loss against the Flanagan High Falcons, the Atlantic Eagles seek vengeance in this year’s playoffs. Cruising through the regular season, the Eagles boast an impressive 8-3 overall record with notable wins against Boca Raton High School and Wellington High School.

  The Eagles faced district foe Wellington in the first round of the district playoffs, putting them away easily with a 28-21 final score in a game that was not nearly as close as the score tells.

  Safety and Duke University commit Marquis Waters, who 247Sports describes as “an explosive player that can take charge in any situation,” as he leads the way for the Eagles as they now face the Palm Beach Gardens High School Gators in the second round, coming in as favorites. The Gators had upset district rival Park Vista last week in a shocker, winning by 10 points, with a score of 38-28. The Gators are known for using an offense that mixes up a running and passing game. Runningback Dennis Hubbard proves to be a dynamic back that can exploit any holes in a defense.

  Atlantic hopes to combat this offense by putting emphasis on the play of their safeties. Presumably being brought up for safety blitzes and staying back for cover options rotationally, Palm Beach Garden’s offense will hopefully be held at ease.

  Make sure to catch Atlantic’s game at Palm Beach Gardens tonight!

Week 9 college football recap

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Following an exciting week of college football, the playoff scene is slightly clearer. At the number one spot comes Alabama, winning a tough defensive battle against rival LSU by a score of 10-0. Having a high-octane offense, it comes across as slightly concerning that the Crimson Tide was only able to score a touchdown and a field goal on a mediocre LSU team.

           Sitting idly in second place comes Clemson University. The Tigers cruised to victory over Syracuse 54-0. Clemson quarterback and Heisman trophy hopeful, Deshaun Watson, left the game in the second quarter due to shoulder stiffness after receiving a hit from a Syracuse lineman. Sitting at a perfect 9-0, Clemson aims to complete a perfect season with games remaining against Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, and South Carolina.

Returning to national relevance, the Wolverines of the University of Michigan also hold an undefeated record, navigating through a very talented Big Ten conference. Winning big conference games in Happy Valley against #10 Penn State and a home game against #8 Wisconsin show the sheer talent that this team holds. Michigan holds a Heisman contender of its own in Jabrill Peppers, a dual linebacker and defensive back. Peppers is arguably the best defensive players in the nation.“I can think of five different positions he could be really good at,” says Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Uniquely, Peppers has the ability to play offensively and defensively, having lined up for several plays at wide receiver and returning punts, finding success. Michigan faces another tough foe this week against Iowa.

Rounding out the top four in the rankings comes the University of Washington. The Huskies lead the Pac-12 conference over rivals Washington State and Stanford after winning all nine games that they’ve played in thus far. Led by quarterback Jake Browning, the Huskies run a fast paced offense that oftentimes catch their opponents off guard. Seen as a cinderella team, Washington quickly rose to national prominence under head coach Chris Petersen.  Having to face in-state rival Washington State, in what has been dubbed the “Apple Cup”, may be the only thing standing between Washington and their first college football playoff appearence. Washington goes in as a three point favorite. They continue their quest for perfection this week against #20 USC in Seattle.

Ohio St. and Louisville remain hot on the heels of the top four in the latest rankings, with both teams coming off big wins against conference opponents. Lamar Jackson, Heisman favorite and quarterback of Louisville is on pace to break the record for most total touchdowns by an individual player. As of now, he has attributed to 45 touchdowns with three games to go, needed 48 to break the record. Ohio State obliterated #10 Nebraska at home this past week with a convincing 62-3 victory.

College football playoff rankings are released every tuesday at 7 pm on ESPN.

      

Burnt out basketball?

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    The Heat are set to face Orlando in the season opener.

   Just three years ago, the Miami Heat were basking in the glory of their third NBA Finals victory, hurdling the elusive back-to-back championships that many elite teams fail to reach. Now, they face an entirely new challenge: simply making the playoffs.

   Franchise player Dwyane Wade explored his options in free agency this year, ultimately deciding to play for his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls. In wake of Wade’s departure, all-star center Chris Bosh has anticipated becoming the leader of the Heat. However, he was unfortunately deemed unfit to start the season due to an ongoing issue with blood clots in his legs. With the sustainability of his career in question, Bosh will certainly be out for the season.

   This leaves Hassan Whiteside as the Heat’s best player and presumed team leader. Listed as seven feet tall, the immensely talented center was drafted out of Marshall University, as the hope to lead Miami to success this year. It will be a tough challenge, as the Southeast division looks to be one of the premier divisions in the NBA with teams like Atlanta, Washington, and Charlotte being playoff contenders that are projected to finish in a higher placement in the standings than Miami.

   Seemingly adding insult to injury, according to the National Basketball Association’s website, it was revealed that Josh McRoberts suffered a broken foot during the playoffs and will be unable to play at the beginning of the season. Given this information, Miami is left reeling as to what they can do to make any marginal improvement from last year.

   They look to an experienced coach coupled with a youthful roster to make magic happen, centering their offense around Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and a close quartered offense that will feature a high tempo and a lot of tight passing that will lead to a high number of layups and close shots.

   The Heat open their season this year on Oct. 26 at home against the Orlando Magic.

South Florida native exceeds expectations in college football

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  Boynton Beach native Lamar Jackson has been creating a tremendous amount of news around the country. Jackson plays quarterback for the University of Louisville, and in the first four weeks of college football, Louisville led the country in touchdowns: 35. Jackson had accounted for 25 of those touchdowns, rushing for twelve and then passing for thirteen. After week five against Clemson, Jackson scored three more touchdowns (one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns) and remains the scoring leader in the NCAA. Eliezer Christopher, senior, said “That’s flat-out amazing…A quarterback doesn’t even score that many in the first three games but he did it. He defeated all odds.”

  However, the Louisville quarterback is only ranked nineteenth on the list of passing yard leaders. Interestingly enough, he has, so far this season at least, posted a rating of 162.2(a calculation that measures how well the quarterback is doing, considering such factors as completion percentage, among other things) according to ESPN; only four quarterbacks in the top 20 for passing yards have a higher rating.

  Jackson, whose name was rarely, if ever, included in talks for the Heisman Trophy last year, is now the lead candidate according to many analysts, experts, and NCAA football fans. Sports Illustrated has the Louisville quarterback ranked number one on its list of possible Heisman candidates. “Compared to last year, this year he can really get the Heisman.” Christopher said. “I can’t really see anyone in college football getting the Heisman but him.”

  The Louisville Cardinals are currently 4-1. They won their first four games but were defeated 42-36 by Clemson in a heartbreaking loss after their comeback failed.  They hope to return rejuvenated and prepared to dominate after a bye last week. Their next game is Friday, Oct. 14 against the Duke Blue Devils.    

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson hurdles over a Syracuse defender in an attempt to score a touchdown. Photo courtesy of NCAA.com
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson hurdles over a Syracuse defender in an attempt to score a touchdown. Photo courtesy of NCAA.com

Tragedy Strikes In Miami

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Tragic news broke out of Miami Beach early Sunday morning, with the announcement of Miami Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death.

Fernandez, only 24 years old, was found dead after his boat crashed into the entrance of Miami Harbor. The driver of the boat was traveling roughly 40 miles per hour in the dark hours of the early morning, thinking that he was travelling parallel to the entrance of the rocky harbor, when the boat hit the rocks head-on.

Divers recovered two of the bodies under the boat, with the other body having been launched thirty feet onto the rocks.  

Fernandez defected from Cuba at the age of fifteen, on his fourth attempt in 2008, and was drafted by Miami in the 2011 MLB entry draft. Fernandez was becoming one of baseball’s most electric pitchers, with a high velocity fastball and a wide array of tantalizing pitches in his arsenal. Though very young, many pundits placed his career on pace for one of a hall of famer. In each of his four seasons, Fernandez had a sub-3.00 Earned Run Average and led the Marlins in wins and strikeouts.

In his final start, Fernandez pitched a gem against division foe Washington, delivering an eight inning, twelve strikeout win.

Major League Baseball and all thirty of its teams sends condolences to Fernandez’s family and his pregnant girlfriend that he leaves behind. Fernandez was known for his passionate approach to the game of baseball. Praised by his teammates for a fantastic work ethic, he always strived to be the best.

When you watch kids playing Little League… that’s the joy that Jose played with — and the passion he felt about playing”, said Don Mattingly, Marlins Manager, in regards to his joyful outlook on life.

Jose Fernandez delivering a pitch
Jose Fernandez delivering a pitch

Jose will be greatly missed in the South Florida community as a player, and above all, a man that loved life.

Cats on the prowl

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    Jussi Jokinen scores a tying goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu have ushered in a new era of change, designing a new logo and jersey for the Florida Panthers for this upcoming season. Basing the logo off of the symbol for the 131st airborne regiment, the logo takes on a shield design that holds the image of a Florida Panther surrounded by a midnight blue and a “Florida” wordpress logo in a sea of crimson. This marks the first major change to the look of the team, wearing the same logo since the team’s inception in 1993.

Along with a new logo, the “Cats” will be fielding a largely new team, especially on defense, after the signings of highly touted free-agents Keith Yandle and Jason Demers. The two free agents will join 2014 rookie of the year Aaron Ekblad, in what hopes to be a strong defense that will stifle teams. On the backend of the defense lies 37 year old all-star goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was in consideration for the Vezina trophy in 2015.

Florida, defending champions of the Atlantic division, was met with a disappointing first round playoff exit from the hands of the New York Islanders in a hard fought six game series. Redemption is on the minds of star players Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, the young stars of the blossoming team, as they face the Islanders for the first time in the new season on Nov. 12 at the BB&T Center.

Barkov, 22, aims to become one of the elite centers in the National Hockey League, having scored 28 goals and 31 assists in 62 games played in 2015. With intention to play a full season for the first time in his young career, higher point totals appear to be on the horizon. Gerard Gallant, head coach, remarks “There’s not a whole lot of work to do with him. You leave him alone and let him play his game. We’re happy with him. We don’t have to talk to him too much, and I think that’s how he likes it.”

Playing alongside Barkov is the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr. Clocking in at 44 years of age, Jagr continues to produce at a level of play unthinkable for a player of his age, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. Jagr prides himself on his extreme work ethic, spending many late nights in the gym and even containing a clause in his contract to include 24/7 access to the team arena so that he can practice when desired. Jagr will be playing on Barkov’s right side on the first line.

Much of the Panthers’ success will ride on their younger players. General Manager Dale Tallon built the current team through drafting, rather than trading for players. Drafted players include Nick Bjugstad (2010), Jonathan Huberdeau (2011), Vincent Trocheck (2011), Aleksander Barkov (2013), and Aaron Ekblad (2014). All said players are under the age of 25 and signed to long term contracts, with the goal to lead the Panthers to an eventual Stanley Cup championship. The plan is already in the works, with the team marginally improving every year since 2013.

The Panthers will valiantly fight off the improved Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins to try to reclaim their division title and make a hopeful run for the Stanley Cup.

The season begins on Oct. 13 against the New Jersey Devils in Sunrise, Florida.

Winning millions: Is betting on fantasy football gambling?

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Photo courtesy of Bryce Rosen and the ESPN Fantasy Sports App
Photo courtesy of Bryce Rosen and the ESPN Fantasy Sports App

   Fantasy football is one of the most well-known aspects of football. The basic goal of fantasy football is to draft NFL players to form a starting lineup, which is then used to compete against people based on how the players perform. Some argue whether fantasy football is a form of gambling, especially with the creation of daily fantasy sports, such as DraftKings or FanDuel.

   According to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, a federal law, fantasy football is not actually gambling. Yet, people continue to dispute this, stating that fantasy football is just another way for people to bet money online; they claim that this should be unlawful, but websites have discovered ways around the terminology of the Act.

   In response to that, others say that fantasy football is and should remain completely legal. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association said “fantasy sports leagues are games of skill.”

   It does not break the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act as, in fantasy football, people need to take numerous factors into account. “A manager must know more than simple depth charts and statistics to win; they also must to take into account injuries, coaching styles, weather patterns, prospects, home and away statistics, and many other pieces of information in order to be a successful fantasy sports manager,” said the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. This is more than a person will think about when they gamble, which is the main argument supporting fantasy sports’ legality.

   Some students refute this. “I think playing fantasy football is gambling because you are betting money to win a competition, which is gambling,” Michael Cuthbertson, senior, said. “For daily fantasy websites, such as DraftKings or FanDuel, you are paying money for a real player and are using that player to get money for yourself…Last season, DeAndre Hopkins, the wide receiver for the Houston Texans…said that people are making money using his name in a gambling competition so he should get some of the money.”

   Although the main debate has been created as a result of the popularity of daily fantasy sports and its “win money now” philosophy, it still applies to regular fantasy football, especially when money is often used as a part of a wager for the league. Any new federal decision on the legality of fantasy football has yet to be made, however.

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