Worst of 2017: Unforgettable moments? Well, not exactly
WORST REMINDER THAT GOING UNDEFEATED IS REALLY, REALLY RIDICULOUSLY DIFFICULT
When Julian Edelman went down after planting awkwardly on the Ford Field turf, the Patriots still had Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and a host of running backs at their disposal. But Edelman's absence made life more tenuous for the Patriots offense. Right there with Wes Welker and Troy Brown as among the most trusted middle-of-the-field chain-movers Tom Brady's ever worked with, Edelman was in many ways expected to be the engine of one of the league's best offenses, complementing uber-talents like Gronkowski and Cooks. With him they had a shot to go unbeaten, many believed. Without him, the Patriots were a Gronkowski injury away from becoming average or worse. Before they even had a chance to embark on what looked like it could be a dream season, the Patriots were shaken by a nightmare injury.
WORST REALIZATION THAT IT'S TIME TO GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
There's an argument to be made on both sides of the Jimmy Garoppolo trade. Some believe the Patriots were hosed on the second-round return from the 49ers. Others see a player who provided valuable insurance for three-and-a-half years, who helped earn the Patriots home-field advantage in the 2016 postseason by winning two starts, and helped the Patriots recoup the second-round pick the Patriots spent on him in 2014. No matter how you look at it, the reality is the Patriots didn't want to part ways with the player they knew could be Tom Brady's successor. They'd invested in him. They knew what they had. But because Tom Brady beat out their timeline, and because Garoppolo didn't want to stick around on a bridge deal until Brady was ready to be replaced, they had to cut bait. That re-start the search for the next guy, and that has to sting. They got it right once and the odds on them being able to do that again -- judging by the success rate the rest of the league has had at that position -- seem long.
WORST SALARY CAP DEPARTURE: AVERY BRADLEY
When the NBA announced that the salary cap for this season was going to be about $99 million, or about $2-3 million below expectations, it’s impact could be felt by many – including the Celtics. It meant the Celtics had to shed salary in order to sign Gordon Hayward. And that meant Avery Bradley, at the time the longest tenured Celtic, was on the move to Detroit in exchange for Marcus Morris.
Bradley’s departure was supposed to be a significant blow to the team’s defense, but the Celtics have still managed to be among the better teams defensively and have ranked among the top teams record-wise most of this season. And while Morris has made an impact when he has played, his health has been a major concern in Boston. He has already missed 17 games with a sore left knee, which is more games missed than his five previous NBA seasons combined. Meanwhile, Bradley continues to lead by example as the Pistons eye a return to the playoffs.
WORST TIMING: JULIEN FIRED ON PATS PARADE DAY
The firing of Bruins coach Claude Julien was both one of the best and worst moments of 2017 for very different reasons. While clearly a difficult choice after Julien led the Bruins to a Cup win in 2011 and became the winningest head coach in franchise history after nearly a decade behind the bench, it was the right move for a B’s team that wasn’t moving forward with a youthful team ready to play a faster, skilled game. It was clearly the right move as evidenced by the Bruins going a red-hot 18-8-1 after Bruce Cassidy took over for Julien in early February, and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in three years after they’d collapsed in each of the previous two seasons under Julien. But the decision to make the change and stage the press conference on the morning of the New England Patriots Super Bowl parade was one of the worst moments of the sporting year in Boston. It looked like the Bruins were trying to bury the decision with all the media attention focused on the Patriots, but in hindsight, they had nothing to be afraid of in making the coaching switch.
WORST HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE?
Hockey Hall of Fame weekend had a decidedly Bruins tone with Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk and B’s owner Jeremy Jacobs all getting inducted at the same time, and that was certainly cause for some serious Black and Gold pride. But there were also some very mixed feelings among hockey fans about Jacobs getting inducted in the “builder” category despite his longstanding position as one of the most powerful members of the NHL Board of Governors. Hockey fans have long blamed hawkish NHL owners like Jacobs as the driving forces behind the NHL lockouts that have taken away the games. Jacobs was long blamed in Boston for not spending enough prior to the advent of the salary cap. Despite all of this it’s hard to deny Jacobs’ dominant influence on everything that’s happened in the 40-plus years he’s served as the owner of an NHL franchise. The salary cap he pushed so fervently for has really saved the small market teams around the league.
Pablo Sandoval released. Some might argue it was a positive moment when the Red Sox finally moved on from Pablo Sandoval, eating the remainder of his contract after one of the more spectacular failed signings in the sport’s history. But one way or another, the disappointment outweighs the benefit of any bloodletting. This was supposed to be a big acquisition, and the effects linger still with the Sox on the hook for his salary.