ICE, ICE, BABY

How to choose an NHL team if you're done with the Texans

Either the Flyers or Devils would be a good choice to root for. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

If you're like any number of Houstonians this past weekend, you've probably reached the end of your rope with the Texans. If I'm mistaken, and you enjoy watching Bill O’Brien continue to waste three and a half hours of your fall Sundays then by all means disregard this exercise, go Texans. If I've piqued your interest then allow me to pose a few questions.

What if there was something else out there you could watch? What if there was another sport that - like football - seamlessly blended athleticism and brutality? What if - dare I suggest - we watched something besides a Texans team that has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt its inability to properly coach in critical moments or evaluate free agents and draft talent beyond the first round?

Houston football has been mired in mediocrity for years now, and it seemed each year there was a justifiable excuse. This year is different. This was supposed to be the year that the stars aligned with a vaunted defense and an electric offense finally coming together at the same time. Instead, it looks like just another disappointing year, but this time there are no excuses to lean on.

So I've decided as a result that this is the year I give hockey its due diligence. As a native Houstonian I've had little reason to immerse myself in the sport seeing as there has never been a local (professional) team, but at 32 I believe that excuse has lost enough tread and it's time to expand. What better time to do so than during the NHL preseason just after the Texans have all but verified another upcoming season of futility? But how to go about picking a team?

I figured I'd start by eliminating cities I simply can't root for. A few fall off immediately:

Boston Bruins - if their fans are as obnoxious as Patriots fans then I can't associate with that.

Detroit Red Wings - Lazy pick, too bandwagon. Also, they're bad.

New York Rangers - Won't root for anything New York, so I guess the Islanders are gone as well

Los Angeles Kings - Won't root for L.A. either. Third Coast all the way baby.

Chicago - Not only because it's Chicago, but also because they've won a few cups recently, so it would be a lazy trendy pick. Also, I don't want to get sick of hearing Chelsea Dagger.

Washington Capitals - I like the team and I like Ovechkin, but they just won the whole thing and I can't hop on the bandwagon.

Pittsburgh Penguins - Way too trendy. As one hockey enthusiast claims “They're like the Yankees of hockey.” So yeah. No.

Every Canadian team because I don't want to go through customs to see a home game.

Dallas Stars - It's Dallas. It is Texas, but it's also Dallas.

OK, plenty of teams eliminated already. The next easiest way to get rid of a few teams is to eliminate based off of logo or uniform. Because if you're not forced to pick something as dumb as Houston's Texas Flag Bull amalgamation, then don't. A few more fall off as a result:

Anaheim Ducks - They were cool before they rebranded.

St. Louis Blues - It's a music note.

Colorado Avalanche - Just a goofy pairing of steel blue and burgundy that I can't sign off on.

Minnesota Wild - It's probably cool in Minnesota, and I get what they're doing with the hunter green motif, it's just not my thing.

Carolina Hurricanes - The logo and jerseys look like they were lazily created in a video game.

Now let's eliminate some of the worst teams, because if we're watching hockey to avoid watching bad football, there's no point in replacing it with bad hockey. They don't have to be world beaters for me, but I'd like to be less frustrated. That filters out the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes.

Eight candidates left. I'm not very keen on the idea of my hockey team being from Nashville, Columbus, or Florida, so those are gone.

That leaves the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, and Las Vegas Golden Knights.

I actually would like to watch whatever team I choose, and any Astros fan worth their salt knows how much fun it is to catch those West Coast road trips. A 9 p.m. start time for home games doesn't excite me one bit so that knocks out San Jose and - unfortunately -Vegas.

That leaves Philly and Jersey.

Now New Jersey has an awesome logo and mascot, but Philly has a great jersey. Both had fairly even decent seasons last year as well but two things stand out for Philly to me that win me over:

First, from what I've gathered, they're a young, up and coming team, a la 2015 Astros.

Second, it seems like everyone not from Philly hates them. Being from Houston, my teams rarely move the needle for anyone. You never hear “How can you be fans of Houston?!” No one hates the Texans, they just don't care about them. No one hates the Astros, they're too much fun to watch and they haven't done anything to anyone except LA. Some people grumble about the Rockets but that moreso directed at James Harden’s playstyle than anything.

Let's go with the polarizing team for once. Let's be hated. Go Flyers.

And there it is. What you have laid out for you is a foolproof procedure for choosing your very own hockey team to root for. Tinker with the eliminations as you see fit and see what you come up with. Then join me hand in hand into a wonderful new sports territory; a land scarcely explored by fellow Houstonians, yet fully embraced by her transplants.

Or hold fast and watch the Texans ship sink to the depths of the AFC South once again. Your call.

***NOTE: This article is null and void in the event of Houston landing its own NHL team.***




 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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