Yesterday morning we mourned the official end of the college football season. This morning? We celebrate the beginning of my favorite season: Hockey season. The NHL officially drops the puck on a brand new season today and there’s at least one scheduled hockey game per day for the next 116 days. Holy smokes … pinch me.
I’m telling you this 1) because I’m excited, 2) because this is a newsletter about sports things that you should know, and 3) so you know what’s to blame when I start looking more tired and acting more erratic than normal … which is saying a lot.
Unfortunately, my request to make today’s newsletter exclusively NHL content was denied, but we will be leading off with some stickypuck prep here in a minute. That’ll do for now, but just know that I’m going to work tirelessly to get you as hooked on the NHL as I am so that I have some excellent company on my descent into madness.
📰 What you need to know
1. Welcome to the 2021 NHL season 🏒
My life once again has purpose this morning because the NHL is BACK, baby. After a strange offseason, the NHL kicks off a unique, condensed 56-game campaign with a handful of intriguing matchups tonight. The only thing better than hockey back in our lives? Me getting the opportunity to plug my own writing here in this space. Self-love is important!
If you’re trying to get yourself up to speed on how this pandemic-shortened season will work, I’ve got you covered with an easy little primer right here. Don’t feel bad if you’re a little overwhelmed and feel like you’ve forgotten everything about hockey and all that’s happened since last season. I was in the same boat up until putting together this guide that provides a quick outlook on every team in the league heading into 2021.
But I’ve been around long enough to know that predictions are what really sell, so let’s dive into some of those:
- Auston Matthews leads the league in goals: Not super bold prediction considering Matthews finished one goal off the goal lead and tied Alex Ovechkin in even-strength goals (35) last season, but I think Matthews has a career year in a shortened season and becomes one of very few players to even sniff 40 goals
- A Rangers rookie wins Calder: But it’s not top overall pick Alexis LaFreniere. With Henrik Lundqvist no longer in between the pipes, Igor Shesterkin is set to become the starter and he’s likely going to have the greatest impact of all rookies
- Elias Pettersson wins Hart: The safe bet for Hart this year is probably a guy like Connor McDavid or Nathan MacKinnon, but Pettersson is a very sensible dark horse. He developed into a complete player last year and is going to be an undeniable superstar for a long time
You can find more predictions right here, some of which will inevitably be wrong because hockey is a stupid, unpredictable sport that is impossible to predict most years. This year should be even more chaotic than usual thanks to the pandemic, but I’d appreciate it greatly if you came along for the ride with me.
If you’ve got any additional hockey questions or feedback, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or shoot me an email (email@example.com).
2. James Harden is officially fed up in Houston 🏀
The James Harden drama cooled off for a bit but, boy, was it ever back with a vengeance on Tuesday night. We’ve sort of been waiting for the James Harden situation to come to a head in Houston, one way or another, and we may have finally reached the point of no return.
After the Rockets got smoked by the Lakers and fell to 3-7 last night, Harden wasn’t shy about his stance on the team in his postgame press conference … and it certainly sounds like he still wants out. He essentially quit on the team for everyone to see, and his teammates were not thrilled.
- Harden: “We’re just not good enough. Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. It’s clear … I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. This situation … it’s crazy. I don’t think it can be fixed. Thanks.” (He abruptly ended his presser there)
- John Wall, postgame: “When you have certain guys in the mix that don’t want to buy in as one, it’s gonna be hard to do anything special as a basketball team … It hurts. If we can all get on the same page, we can be something good here. We can’t dwell down on it because it’s only been nine games. Come on, man. You’re going to jump off the cliff off of nine games? There’s a lot of basketball still to be played.”
At this point it seems like Harden is doing his best to pressure the Rockets into getting rid of him, and they may have to bite sooner than later. Despite all his talent on the floor, he’s clearly creating a mess within the locker room and the team is just fractured right now.
Although, I gotta say, I’m all for the Rockets just straight-up refusing to let Harden win. It doesn’t seem like he’s got a damn left to give at this point, and I’m VERY curious to see how far he’d be willing to take this trade crusade.
3. Who’s up for an NFL mock draft? 🏈
The end of college football season is a real good news/bad news scenario. The bad news is, obviously, college football is done for a while. The good news? It’s officially time for MOCK DRAFT SZN! (Okay, Mock Draft SZN never really ends here at CBS Sports but now is truly the time for those mocks to shine.)
- Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
- Jets: Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon
- Dolphins: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- Falcons: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
- Bengals: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
- Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
- Lions: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
- Panthers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
- Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
- Cowboys: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
As you’ll notice, there are a number of key names not featured in the top 10 — including Ohio State‘s Justin Fields, North Dakota State‘s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones,Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle — so feel free to check out the entire first-round mock to see where Wilson has them landing.
If you don’t like what you see, don’t worry … this is only the beginning. Soon enough we’ll have so many mock drafts that we’ll have to mock draft all the mock drafts. It’s a beautiful time of year.
4. A way-too-early look at the CFB 2021 Top 25 🏈
If you thought it was too early for a mock draft … well, you’re DEFINITELY going to think that it’s too early to look at college football’s top 25 for 2021. In fairness, you’re right, that’s why we call it the 2021 way-too-early top 25. But that’s not going to stop us from giving it to you, of course.
Here’s who Dennis Dodd’s got atop his pre-pre-preseason rankings:
- Ohio State
- Iowa State
- North Carolina
- Texas A&M
For the full rankings and analysis, you can head here. Also, if you’re mad about your team’s way-too-early ranking, chill out. Have a Dr. Pepper or something. It’s January 13th.
📝 Odds & Ends
📺 What to watch today
🏒 Penguins vs. Flyers, 5:30 p.m. | PHI -115 | TV: NBCSN
🏀 Pelicans vs. Clippers, 10 p.m. | LAC -6.5 | TV: ESPN
🏒 Blues vs. Avalanche, 10:30 p.m. | COL -145 | TV: NBCSN
📝 Top scores from last night
Joel Embiid had 45 points and 16 rebounds in the overtime thriller.
💵 Winning wagers: MIA +9, Over (212.5)
Cade Cunningham scored 18 points and grabbed seven boards as the Cowboys held off a late rally.
💵 Winning wagers: OKST +145, Push (145)