Mitch's Sports Report: End Of An Era In South Burlington; Bruins Keep Julien, But He Needs Help
It's the end of an era in South Burlington. Sheila Burleigh, who coached South Burlington girls' high school basketball for forty-two years, has announced her retirement.
The Burlington Free Press reports Burleigh will remain with the school as a physical education teacher, but her days coaching the Rebel girls have come to an end, and Burleigh leaves behind an impressive career record: 597 wins, 315 losses, and five Division One state championships. Burleigh also started the field hockey program at South Burlington high, winning back to back titles in 1984 and '85. School officials say they hope to find a new coach and fill the position this spring, but after more than four decades and nearly 600 wins, Burleigh's will be a tough act to follow.
In Toronto the Blue Jays beat the NY Yankees for a second conservative game, doing it with the long ball. Josh Donaldson smacked a three-run blast off Nathan Eovaldi in the bottom of the fifth and Troy Tulowitzki also went yard against the Yankees' starter in the sixth. The Yanks return to the Stadium tonigth to host the Seattle Mariners with Luis Severino getting the start for New York. The Blue Jays move on to Fenway Park to open a four-game series against their AL East rivals and Rick Porcello will make his second start of the year for Boston tronigjt. The Sox were idle last night, as were the NY Mets, who visit the Indians in Cleveland tonight.
Also I mentioned yesterday that the Baltimore Orioles finally lost and so there are no undefeated teams left to start the season, but there are two clubs that have yet to pick up a win. If you know a fan of the Minnesota Twins or Atlanta Braves, give them a hug. Both teams are 0-9 to start the year.
More Game Ones in the opening round of the NHL playoffs last night. The New York Islanders scored a big win, coming back from deficits three different times in the game to beat the Florida Panthers 5-4. John Tavares had two goals and an assist and Kyle Okposo scored the go-ahead and eventual game winner in the third period as the Isles steal home ice advantage with the win in Florida.
Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0, John Carlson giving Holtby the only goal he would need. In Dallas, the Stars routed the Minnesota Wild 4-0. Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists in the win for the heavily favored Stars, and a big win for the San Jose Sharks as they topped the L.A. Kings 4-3 on a tie-breaking goal by Joe Pavelski, his second of the game.
Finally, let's talk about a team that is not in the race for Lord Stanley's Cup. In addressing the Boston Bruins' second straight year of failing to make the playoffs on the last day of the season, I mentioned the--quote--"inevitable" firing of Bruins' coach Claude Julien that would surely follow.
And I was right, if the word "inevitable" somehow meant "an event which will not occur."
Yesterday Bruins' general manager Don Sweeney announced that Julien, the coach with the most wins in club history, would return for a tenth season behind the Boston bench, and while I applaud Sweeney for not making Julien yet another sacrificial coaching scapegoat for the failures of those who actually skate the ice and shoot the pucks, a lot more work has to be done by management and ownership to give Julien the kinds of players he needs to win, and you could make a strong argument that a lot of those players have already worn the Black and Gold, only to be shipped out of town for lesser returns.
Dougie Hamilton is only the most recent example. The Bruins claim he told them he didn't want to re-sign with the club, but they sent him off pretty quickly for draft picks without shopping around a coveted player who may have yielded a roster ready player along with draft picks in return. The curious decision to trade Johnny Boychuk to free up salary cap space and then re-sign the less effective Adam McQuaid to a multi-year deal also makes little sense.
Sweeney and the Bruins are about to get burned again for a different reason, as they decided to hold on to Loui Eriksson rather than trade him as he becomes an unrestricted free agent, hoping his offense would translate to a playoff push. The Bruins don't have the money under their cap needed to re-sign Eriksson to a long term deal at the kind of money he'll be looking for after a career year, so he's going to leave while the Bruins get nothing in return. For the retention of Julien to work, Bruins management and ownership will need to somehow shore up a leaky defense and commit themselves to a realization that letting mercurial talents like Tyler Seguin and so many others leave will hurt them in the long run. They are not the New England Patriots, who seem able to plug any player into their system and make it work. If the Bruins keep letting young star players go, missing the playoffs will be just the start of their problems. And that really is inevitable.