The Weekly Blues

The Buffa Bullet Points, November 8th, 2011-

 Blues Fire Davis Payne-House of Payne closes for business

  • Expected move after mixed start.  The oldest rule in the book calls for the coach to be shoved off the boat first before players.
  • Ken Hitchcock moves in, brings veteran mindset, relationship with Armstrong and Arnott/Langerbrunner.   Suggesting a move that was set up before season started.  Payne’s seat was set to explode if zero progress occured before mid November.  Armstrong had chance to make move with Hitch moving around in Columbus, took the bold step and pulled trigger.  Tough yet not a shocker after Andy Murray was thrown out in 2009.
  • The firing of Payne mirrors the play in front of Halak.   The players don’t play to the level in front of Halak that they do in front of backup Brian Elliot.  The entire team quit playing for Payne.  Accountability my friends is key here.  If the Blues had put forth the effort promised to a hard working head coach like Payne, he is still here today.
  • Payne took the firing like a dose of medicine.  Down the hatch, silent, honorable and with a healthy wager of respect for the team that gave him his first NHL job.   There were no excuses or extended pleas.  Payne handed over the whistle and dry erase board and left the building with his pride intact.  I’ve always like Payne.  He spoke directly to the media on any matter, demanded the best from his team and coached the right way.  When his kids let him down, he didn’t call them out in public.  He benched Oshie in the 3rd game of the year and sat him out last year when he missed a practice.  Payne was a silent warrior and did things the right way.  I hope he gets a job with another NHL team and comes back.
  • Players need to be held accountable next.  In the day after Payne’s firing, they were all reading from the redemption teleprompter, saying all th right things.  I want to see some reaction play.  The biggest irony in sports has coaches going before players.  Easier on payroll.  Switch spots behind bench.   4th coach in six seasons for Blues.  Ugly trend.  Moving chairs continue.  The greatest reminder, unfortunately, for a player is to see the head coach get fired.  They know it happened based directly from the lack of performance they failed to generate.
  • Payne was old school, direct with media and did things his way.   Players didn’t respond and his game ends.  If team makes zero progress in time coach takes the desk, the seat gets hot.   New ownership sped the move up.
  • I agree with Bernie Miklasz’s article where he labels the Blues young talent “little darlings”.  Players like Perron, Oshie, Berglund and ex Blue Erik Johnson, who were set up to be superstars by President John Davidson but have so far disappointed.    The youth talent hasn’t delivered, and the one blessing in Payne firing/Hitchcock’s hiring is that he won’t see them as the golden group anymore.  The kids are just a few players on a team.
  • If this doesn’t rally the team, NOTHING will.   Expect trades and moves. The Blues main problem is inconsistency from game to game in overall performance.   Can Hitchcock change that with a couple hard practices?  We will see.  Mike Keenan was the last coach to not be hired during the season.   Joel Quennville, Mike Kitchen, Andy Murray, Davis Payne and now Hitchcock are in season hires.  Unhealthy trend.  The Blues change head coaches like I change t-shirts.  When things get wet and messy.   It will be interesting to see if the respected veteran Hitchcock(who won a Stanley Cup in 1999 with Brett Hull) can turn things around and straighten out the derailed train here.
  • The things I will look for the next 5 games at home here will be the consistency.   The Blues will come roaring out of the gate to show their new coach they mean business tonight.  However, the main thing to watch are the next 4 games.  Can they keep it up and maintain the tempo?  Will Hitchcock get through to these players?  Payne was optimistic about the team’s chances because after a rough 13 game start, the Blues are now playing 5 at home and enjoying an easy schedule for a couple weeks.  Hitchcock comes in at an opportune time.  In front of the home crowd against the team rival Blackhawks.
  • One good thing about Hitchcock is his new lieutenants will be Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, who played for him in Dallas.   They will serve as his on ice assistants, notifying Hitch of the loose ends and fatty parts of the team.  If Oshie and Bergie don’t step up their play, look for Hitch and Armstrong to ship them out.   Hitch doesn’t see individual players as gold mines.  He was the coach who forced Brett Hull to play defense and become a more complete player in 1999’s championship run.   Every player will get a healthy look and dose of reality.  That is the one good thing about the move.   All the players are on notice.  After the coach, they come next.
  • I agree with Halak getting the start in net tonight.   He hasn’t played well and his save percentage is horrible, but he needs to have the chance to grasp the starting job.  We all know Elliot can play well, but Halak is the guy with 3 years left on his deal.   The Blues need to press Halak and see what he can bring while the season is still young.
  • Tonight’s game will be played with a heavy heart.   The Blues honor Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev tonight before the game, honoring the two former Blues who died in the plane crash near Moscow, Russia.   Pavol and Igor played for the KHL hockey team Lokomotiv and perished in the crash.   A letter from Demitra’s wife will be read before the game and I don’t expect a dry eye in Scottrade.  Demitra’s wife and kids won’t be there because after their dad’s death, the kids don’t want to get on a plane.  Now that is truly heart wrenching.
  • Where does this team go from here?  Hopefully up and into the race.  Hitchcock will take no prisoners and demand a high level of play or ticket out of town for the players who fail to measure up.  The trade deadline is a little over 3 months away.

Goodnight Rams and Spags.

  • The Rams played a horrible game on Sunday, losing to the Cardinals 19-13 on an overtime punt return from Arizona returner Patrick Petersen.  The Rams led the game 9-6, 11-6 and 13-6 yet couldn’t score the points to put the Cards away.  This team finds ways to lose and are truly pathetic.  They are 1-7 now and dead men walking.
  • If Payne gets fired after a season and a half of failing to reach expectaions, Steve Spagnuolo has to be next.  In St. Louis, Rams coaches are given the benefit of the doubt for some reason.  Spags must be next to go.  1-7 record in 2011 needs some scrutiny and inspection.  9-33 record in 3 seasons is a ticket out of town.  Why are Rams coaches given the benefit of the doubt while the Blues usher in head coaches like golf caddies?  Mismanagement from above their pay grade.
  • Rams play is plain ugly.  Give away more games than a cheating gambler.  A friend of mine put it best.  The offense is downright offensive.  How many times will a team win a football game without scoring a single touchdown on either side of the ball.  The answer is not very often.  This team has plummeted since the comeback 2010 season and every head is on the chopping block.   Owner Stan Kroneke didn’t buy the team to see it fail miserable.  He will make changes, cut heads and turn this team around.  What owner wants to buy into a franchise where home games will soon be blocked out locally?
  • It’s absolutely hysterical that The Rams could walk into Arizona, a team with a 1-6 record and playing without their starting QB and lose the game and fail to score any touchdowns.  How do you do that and have your head coach not get the ax the following morning?  The fact that Spags has survived 48 hours is amazing.
  • The Rams are beating themselves.  There’s no other excuse for producing such a lackluster performance against a bad team like Arizona, especially after the big win over New Orleans the week before.
  • What is the answer for this team?  Reinforcements and healthy bodies.  Will Mark Clayton ever make it onto the playing field?  Is Danario Alexander done for the year with chronic knee soreness?  Is Sam Bradford 100 percent?  How long before Steven Jackson pulls a muscle?  Losing Danny Amendola hurt the offense.  On Sunday, WR Greg Salas was lost for the season and Lance Kendricks went down.  This team was good enough to compete at the beginning of the season yet looks like a shell of itself now.
  • Sam Bradford needs to unleash hell on the practice field this week.  The kid demands plenty of himself yet doesn’t let it be known to his teammates.  This is his team.  Its great to see Steven Jackson shouting at Roger Saffold but Bradford needs to get loud.  His performance is dictated by how well his offensive line performs and if his receivers catch.  He needs to step it up.  Look at Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady for example.  They don’t accept lackluster efforts.  When Bradford becomes that guy, takes ordinary talent and mixes it with cutthroat leadership, great things will happen.
  • Steven Jackson can’t be faulted.  He has produced back to back big running days and is doing everything he can do to bring this team up to winning ready.   SJ39 is running wild, being consistent, staying healthy and leading his teammates.  You won’t see a louder voice in the locker room.
  • The thing that killed me on Sunday.  With 1 minute and 20 seconds left in the game, the Rams had a chance to kick a 50 yard field goal.   Josh Brown was brought to this team for his big leg, a leg we know well from his Seahawks days.  He should have kicked the ball through the uprights for the winning score.  Spags instead opted for the run on 4th down and Jackson was stopped cold for  a loss.  Why do you always have to run on 4th down?  The defense is stacked to stop the run yet they still do.  Makes zero sense.  Do the play action and dump it to the full back or hit a quick slant.  All a receiver has to do is dart inside the defender and catch a 2 yard pass.   Brown got the opportunity to kick later and had his 42 yard attempt blocked.  Poetic justice for Spags, who should have lost his job for the decision.

Will a St. Louis Sports team other than the Cardinals ever win a championship?  I’m just asking an ordinary question.   Will the closest the Rams or Blues get to a championship party is seeing Tony La Russa bring his title into the dome before a game or into Scottrade for the drop of the puck?  Is that the closest either team will get for the next few years?  As my co-worker Chris Carrara pleaded, “Win one before I die!”   The Blues are winless in over forty years of play in St. Louis.   The Rams won a Super Bowl in 1999 but have sunk far below in the 12 years since.  A legit question is being placed here.  Are the Cardinals all we got? When will the Blues or Rams give something back to us other than supreme disappointment?  The clock is ticking.   It has been for over a decade.

Moving onto other topics-

  • Joe Frazier passed away last night after a long bout with liver cancer.  He was 67 years old and went down like his fighting days.  Resistance and power included.  Frazier was one of the greatest boxers to ever step into a ring.  He was the first guy to officially shut Muhammed Ali up, breaking his jaw and beating him once at the Garden and nearly again in “The Thrilla in Manila”.  Frazier fought in an era when fighters stood in the middle of the ring and traded heavy power punches.  There wasn’t as much hugging and dancing.  Frazier attacked opponents, knocking them to the canvas or landing there himself(as seen in 2 bad fights with George Foreman).   He will forever be connected with Ali because of their three fights.   The Thrilla in Manila included both fighters beating each other raw and bloody, up until the point where Frazier’s eyes were swollen shut and his trainer wouldn’t let him go out for the 15th round.  These guys were tougher than Greek warriors.   They were true boxers and hitters.  Getting hit by Frazier would be like sticking your head between subway cars.  Counter clockwise tilt.  In his later years, he signed many boxing memorabilia, met with fans, put his face out there and stayed in the public eye.  HBO Films did a great piece on the Manila fight.   Frazier left everything in the ring and in the end, he treated life the same way.   You go after life, and not the other way around.
  • Looking forward to Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito getting back into the ring again for the rematch.   The last time Cotto faced him in the ring, his face was bloodied and he was looking at his first loss.   Weeks later, Margarito’s gloves were found to be packed with cement, thus raising the need for a rematch.  Cotto is a proud Puerto Rican boxer and deserved a chance to right a wrong.   Margarito got his face pounded last year by Manny Pacquaio, spoiling his comeback and setting him out of boxing for an entire year.   Now the two men clash again.  Cotto looking for revenge and Margarito searching for his reputation as a brick faced puncher.  They come together on December 3rd and there will be fireworks, plenty of action and a clean decision.   Antonio cheated the first time(denies it with stupidity to this day) and now he has to come back to a close bloody fight with an opponent in Cotto looking to even the score.   This will be interesting.  Pure Good/Bad clashing.
  • Boardwalk Empire continues to amaze on Sundays on HBO.  From Steve Buscemi’s slow boil performance as the center of corruption in Atlantic City, Nucky Thompson, to Terrence Winter’s gritty writing and the outlandish sets, this roaring twenties Gangster epic series simply delivers.    Riding through its second season with ease, Nucky’s old right hand, Jimmy Daherty is coming into his own power and trying to steal back the city from the treasurer/father figure.  Along the way, he is joining forces with Lucky Luciano and Al Capone.   FBI agent Nelson Van Alden(Michael Shannon, all nerves and edge) is struggling to remain professional as he takes care of a child out of wedlock.  There’s sinners, thieves, killers, wounded warriors and women who stick by their men for no rhyme or reason.   Margaret(Kelly McDonald) is the heart of the show, an Irish immigrant who fell for Nucky but finds his sins causing her to question everything she is all about.   Boardwalk Empire entertains zero clear cut heroes or villains.  Don’t forget about Chalky White(Michael Kenneth Williams aka Omar from the Wire), the black pride of the city, fighting off racism in the Ku Klux Clan and rival liqueor dealers in the city.  A show that started as a parable on prohibition has evolved into a story of anti-heroes into watching regular men and women make choices that put their life at risk and cause bloodshed.  This is the Gold Rush where everybody is on their own team.
  • Mizzou is moving to the SEC conference and here is my take.  This is a short term problem but a long term reward.   Moving into the SEC allows better recruiting, more money flow into the program and a better fleet of opponents.  MU doesn’t get to face Kansas anymore but they can build a better team and get better prime time programming.  This is a chance at the big time.  MU loyalists will hate this move at first and so they should.  It is taking away everything they know and love.  Close to the chest is officially gone and the cold comfort of competition lurks around the corner.  For the near future, MU will take a beating.  They will embarrass several fans.  Until QB James Franklin can learn to throw or the MU defense can learn how to tackle(with the body and not just the arms), the scoreboard will be rough.  Gary Pinkel may lose his job or survive to see the light in 3-5 seasons.  Call it what you want but the MU Tigers are playing with the big boys starting next year.  Watch now.  Accept later.  This is worth the risk and emotional leverage of the fan base.
  • Terry Francona interviewed for the Cards managing job today in Cincy and if both sides are seeing eye to eye on the future, the Cards need to lock down Tito as the skipper.  Look no further and make this guy the leader.  Its safe, smart and savvy for the media to play with.  There’s rich history in Francona’s success in Boston.  There’s potential dirt in his September collapse this past season.   It’s all there, so make the deal.  Francona is the perfect fit for this team.  Let’s hope for a deal to get done before I break out of work on Friday.
  • Disturbing fact about the Rams.   They have scored 100 points and allowed 211 points to their opponents.  It equals a 1-7 record.  Painful stats.   For some bad teams, the answers are all in the statistics.
  • J.Edgar Hype builds for this weekend.   The story of the man who redefined justice at any cost and wrapped his powerful hands around the FBI and launched it comes out Friday and it bleeds Oscar potential.   Clint Eastwood directing Leonardo DiCaprio(one of the smartest actors in Hollywood) as J. Edgar Hoover in a movie written by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black(wrote Oscar nominated MILK) and produced by Warner Bros..   What else do you need?  A juicy story.   Hoover’s rise from lawman to the head of the FBI to the typical anti-hero.   This is what award winners are made from.   Everything about this film shines from a distance. Eastwood doesn’t cast a bright light on his subjects.  He makes movies about torn men, bloody history and scarred decision making.  This film will delve into what made Hoover tick, and stick around in the psychologically department.   Rumors about Hoover’s sexual preference will get hints here, as will his wielding stroke of power across the Federal Bureau for 30 years.    November and December mean Oscar bait my friends.  DiCap is the perfect choice because the kid is fearless and has been ever since Martin Scorsese rescued him from career wreckage.  He threw him into Gangs of New York and he has been aces since.  Leo is a master at characters dealing with paranoia, as shown in The Aviator and Shutter Island.  Few actors can capture an audience with nervous tics, mental energy and an exhaustingly great ability to resist overplaying a role.  Eastwood doesn’t waste a dollar or take.   Expect greatness on the screen.
  • If I were Rams Owner Stan Kroenke, I would beg Bill Cowher to come coach here.  Throw a ton of money at him.  Give him control and free rein to get in anybody’s face and send a message.   The Rams have a core built here.  Bradford, Jackson, Long, Quinn, and Amendola when he returns.   I don’t want Josh McDaniels moving into the head coaching spot because we all know how he did in Denver.  Cowher needs to be persuaded.  Pure and simple.  Give this team a pulse.  They need something or else the season goes sour quick.
  • Herman Cain is suspected of sexual harassment.   A politician is charged with doing sexual acts with the wrong parties.  No way….???!!  Why is this news for ears and eyes?  Political suits have been doing bad things for decades and will never change.  People forget because the person is on a television screen that he can do no wrong.  Everyone is fallable.  Of course he denied it.  Cain actually said he hasn’t had sexual interaction with anyone.   Whoa!  Let’s not go there.  I want my leader getting some sexy time before he goes nuts and makes a bad decision based on no bedroom action.
  • DVD Review-Jenna Fisher is the reason to watch Little Help, an ordinary run of the mill recovery story about a widowed mother trying to piece her life back together.   Rob Benedict and Ron Leibman co-star here but the show belongs to Fisher, the St. Louis talent who made a career on NBC’s The Office, but makes a fine showcase here in carrying this indie film.   When her husband dies suddenly, Fisher’s loner is forced to realign her life and reconnect with her son, who wants to call his dad a fireman who died in 9/11 when all his father did was sell real estate.  She also likes to drink and smoke her problems away and only when a malpractice suit comes forward, do she realize things need to be turned around.  There are a few surprises in this film and some small delight, but we have seen it before and the only reason to take a dip her is Fisher.  Great work.
  • The Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 3 game trailer on FOX is awesome.  Big time cool working here.   Watching the clip with Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill killing bad guys and looking cool doing it, you’re waiting for a movie release date only to realize the trailer is for a new video game.   The special effects, action and pace are great but its the match of Worthington and Hill that make this 90 second clip roll smoothly.   Wisecracking macho cool action slick work.
  • The Penn State college football crisis is highly unfortunate.   Legendary head coach Joe Paterno’s career is in jeapardy after his one time defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky is charged with 15 counts of child molestation.  Wow, no one saw this coming.    Paterno’s program looked clean and shiny from a regular point of view, but Sandusky’s arrest this weekend paints a cloudy picture of Penn State and Paterno may lose his job shortly after getting his record setting 409th win.   The main problem is the length at which Sandusky worked for Penn State while committing the acts.   For these acts to go undetected while he was on their payroll is bad business and will shake up the university.  Sometimes, you just don’t know people or you don’t care to look too far within a person.   Sad news for Joe, a coach I carry a lot of respect for.
  • Song of the Day-AC/DC performing “Shoot to Thrill”, a wild classic rocker that can be heard all over the net on trailers and shows.   This band is known for old school hardcore rock, no metal or additional noise required.   This is a song to get the blood and juices flowing in the morning.   Try it out and resist the urge to run a few miles.
  • Second Song of the Day-Florence + The Machine performing “Never Let Me Go”.  A passionate slow moving ballad from her new disc, Ceremonials.   Like her or not, you have to respect Florence Welch’s powerfully deep voice and her songs all boil around the pursuit and relialble hurt of love.   She is a romantic redhead who likes to shout her issues through a microphone so the entire world can hear.   A musician who expresses her own fight through her music and doesn’t hide a bit of her soul.    This is her second album, the last being “Lungs’, a collection of fiery ballad rockers that sting several trips through later.   Listen to this new song and you’ll walk away muttering the lingering anthem of the tune, “Never let me go, never let me go, and it’s over, I’m giving in, never let me go.”
  • If there is one thing I can promise you about parenthood is that worrying becomes a tool in your life.  You worry to resist the most scary set of outcomes for your child.   It’s a real deal.   You worry, worry, and keep worrying over everything.   If we don’t worry, the pain and stress of parenthood’s darkest hour will consume you.   In the first 8 weeks of my kid’s life, he has spent 6 days in intensive care, the rest medicated for SVT(heart rate elevation), suffering from severe reflux and changing formulas and sleeping periods like a time traveller.  All I can tell you is.  It will be the most original and entertainingly stressful ride you will take in life.  Is it worth it?  Yes.  More than worth it IF you are up to the task.

That’s all I have tonight folks.  Thanks for reading, come again and return hungry for more brutally honest news because that’s the only way I know how to bring it.

Goodnight and good luck,


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