In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Josh Kestenbaum, asks our panel of experts three questions: Will the Seahawks return to a third-straight Super Bowl, which team will be the most active at the upcoming NHL trade deadline and which MLB team has improved the most this off-season?
1. Will the Seahawks make it to a third-straight Super Bowl next season? If not, who will unseat them?
Matt: I do not see the Seahawks returning to the Super Bowl next year. Their defense will remain largely intact, but their offense just is not good enough. They must get a receiver to keep pace with teams like the Packers and Cowboys in the NFC. The Hawks draft 31st and will have no elite receivers left on the board. The Seahawks are ready, whether justified or not, to make Russell Wilson the highest-paid QB in the NFL. This will leave the team with no cap space to bolster their receiving corps in free agency. And after their supposed “greatest defense ever” was picked apart by Brady in the Super Bowl, there is no reason to believe the Seahawks will be able to beat a healthy Aaron Rodgers in next year’s playoffs.
Andrew: The Seahawks will not make their third-straight Super Bowl simply because they do not have enough money to bring back some of their elite players. With Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas getting big contracts and Russell Wilson expected to get one as well, Marshawn Lynch will be the odd man out. Despite the questionable play at the end of the Super Bowl, Seattle has established itself as a run-first offense. Unless Robert Turbin can have a breakthrough year and fill Lynch’s shoes or the Seahawks pick up another running back in the offseason, Seattle will lose one of its biggest advantages. Without a strong running back, expect the Green Bay Packers to take the NFC, barring Brian Bostick attempting to recover another onside kick.
Kyle: Next season, expect to see Seattle in the Super Bowl, but don’t expect to see them there again soon after that. With no major contracts expiring this offseason, the Seahawks can expect to keep all their skill players for next season, plus whatever additions they make this offseason. However, after next season, Russell Wilson’s contract will expire, and after two Super Bowl appearances and one win, he’s not going to be cheap. Most of their starting secondary expires at the end of next season as well, stripping the defense of their most valuable assets. Seattle will be in the big game again, but barring some magic, they won’t be there soon after.
Matt gets 3 points for addressing Seattle’s need for a No. 1 receiver. Kyle gets 2 points for bringing up Seattle’s cap issues, and Andrew gets 1 point for poking fun at Bostick.
2. With the NHL trade deadline approaching, which team will be the most active?
Matt: It’s a buyer’s market this year in the NHL, with so many bad teams looking to trade away talent and improve their chances of getting the number one pick in the draft. I believe that the most active of those teams will be the Maple Leafs, losers of 11-straight games. The Leafs have imploded for the third-straight year in a row, and it’s time for a change. It’s time to blow up that team. They’re so dysfunctional, they deserve their own reality show on the E! Network. Their core players are unwilling to change their me-first attitude, which resulted in the firing of their coach midway through the season. After repeatedly being called “uncoachable,” management has no choice but to trade away Kessel, Phaneuf, Kadri and Lupul. All four of those players, especially Kessel, would rake in a very nice return for the Leafs and expedite the rebuilding process.
Andrew: Expect the Buffalo Sabres to be the most active team with the NHL trade deadline approaching. After just snapping a 14-game losing streak, Buffalo has the worst record in the NHL and is on pace to have the second-worst goal differential in league history. Needless to say, the Sabres could use a lot of help. In fact, most recently, head coach Ted Nolan told his players that “maybe somebody will see you and want you.” It is wrong when motivation stems from playing well in order to get traded to a better team. With the playoffs well out of reach, all the Sabres can do is move on, so expect players to be moved around for role players and potential draft picks.
Kyle: At this stage in the season, with the record they have so far, the Buffalo Sabres will be the most active at the trade deadline. This is a team that has been at the bottom of the league for the entirety of the season and needs to start looking towards the future. Dealing large contracts will free up cap space, and with the high demand for defensemen in the league, you may see Buffalo deal a few of their own.
Matt gets 3 points for pitching a Maple Leafs E! Network reality show. Andrew and Kyle get 1 point each for picking the worst team in the league.
3. Which MLB team improved the most through off-season acquisitions?
Matt: Clearly the teams in Chicago are the most improved, with the White Sox trade for Jeff Samadzija and the Cubs signing of Jon Lester. However, I believe both of these teams are still a year or two away from being serious contenders. The one team that turned itself from a possible worst-to-first candidate this offseason is the Boston Red Sox. After winning the world series, the Red Sox had a hugely disappointing season in 2014. In order to ensure success this year, the team threw so much money at Pablo Sandoval that he left the world-champion Giants, and the team also signed Hanley Ramirez. The biggest problem with the Sox last season was their pitching. Since then, they have acquired Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson, all solid pitchers at the end of the rotation. The Sox are still missing a true ace, but James Shields is still available, and the Red Sox are willing to spend any amount to compete. Their lack of an ace will hopefully, force them to make a deal with the devil, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro and trade for Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee.
Andrew: The Red Sox have taken full advantage of their offseason and will be the most improved team in 2015. After finishing last in the American League East with a disappointing 71-91 season, Boston can only get better. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they are one of MLB’s richest franchises. In an expensive acquisition of almost $200 million, the Red Sox picked up two leading sluggers in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. These two add much needed depth on the offensive side for Boston. Last season, the Red Sox ranked in the bottom third of runs scored. With the two big acquisitions, expect that to change this season.
Kyle: With the addition of slugger Melky Cabrera, the Chicago White Sox are the winners of the MLB offseason thus far. In addition, a trade with Oakland netted the Sox former Notre Dame receiver-turned-pitcher, Jeff Samardzija to bolster their core rotation. Cabrera is an addition to a team that already sports Rookie-of-the-Year, Jose Abreu and ace lefty Chris Sale. Look for the White Sox to make a splash with all this firepower next season.
Matt gets 3 points for showing Boston’s improvment. Kyle gets 2 points for pointing out Chicago’s firepower, and Andrew gets 1 point for reminding us how bad the Sox were.
Matt wins Around the Dorm 9-5-3.