Uncomfortably drafty

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Uncomfortably drafty

By Michael Felger

I know, I know, Bruins fans.

It all feels so . . . familiar.

Of course, we'll do some B's this week, and some Celtics, too. But mostly we'll do what we usually do every year at this time -- bitch about the Patriots draft.

Hey, Felger!Another-mind boggling, frustrating, contrarian draft by Belichick. Nothing for the defense except the 400th cornerback he's drafted since Asante left. I'm not so concerned with the first pick. Obviously, Light is either gone or almost gone. He sucked, anyway. But trading out at 28 for next year, which he will trade out for the next year, really annoys me. I'm going on record as saying this will be a Mayo-year draft. Only one kid sticks and is an actual player.SteveChester NH

This I know: If it were any other coach and any other team, they would be getting hammered for this draft. Belichick and the Pats have had only one truly good draft class in the last five years, yet he's still portrayed as a master of the draft. I'm not sure where that comes from. Belichick can certainly manipulate picks and move around the board, no question about it, but when it comes to actually taking players, his record is far more spotty.

Michael,The draft is interpreted by basically two kinds of people: Those who would defend Belichick no matter who he drafted, and those of us who already know that he will go out of his way to never draft what the team really needs because . . . well . .. because he is just Bill and that's what he does. It's almost as if he looks at the game film of every opposing quarterback having five full minutes to sit back there and pick his team apart, but then reads the press clippings of people telling him to get a stud pass rusher and so he decides to just not do it because that would be giving in. After all, he is the genius who can do with scrapheap players like Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain.Maybe the Patriots will have a good regular-season record, but without any kind of pass rush they'll be one and done in the playoffs again this year.RickWinthrop

Your scenario -- Belichick not picking a position just because everyone is telling him to -- is obviously not the case, but I know what you're saying. It does feel that way.

Bottom line, I just think he's extraordinarily picky when it comes to taking linebackers. And I think the defense has been hurt by it.

Hey Felger,I bet Bill Belichick in his spare time is one of those guys who collects stamps, coins, or baseball cards. He'd brag to you about some rare coin or stamp or Mickey Mantle rookie card and tell you how it could get five figures at a trade show. And then five minutes later, puts it back in the attic and lets it collect dust until he pulls it out again sometime next year, with that pattern repeating annually. Next year the Draft Party in Foxboro may as well double as a Coin Collectors convention, where you can only look at the coins, and can't really turn it into anything valuable unless you place value on unfulfilled potential.KevinFramingham

Obviously a recurring complaint, one that I feel has merit. It seems like the Patriots have gotten a little too caught up in how smart everyone tells them they are when they accumulate picks and trade off for future considerations. Once again, the Pats dealt off a first-round pick for a future first (from New Orleans) and a second this year. And that sounds terrific on paper. But when you keep trading that first-rounder every year and then use the second-rounder on Darius Butler -- what good is it? I thought the point of the exercise was to take players, not play with picks.

Felger,I saw you rip Belichick's draft picks this year, just like you did last year. How did that turn out?Also, Tom E. is SO shocked at the picks this year? No front-seven guy. Why the corner? RB's and QB? He said all along that this was such a deep draft at the defensive front, yet made no moves in that area.HELLO?!?!? Bill Belichick is one of the greatest football minds of all time. You don't think for a second that he wouldn't dump gas on the hype fire to divert you media fools if he saw talent elsewhere in the draft and he wanted attention diverted from it? You're all drinking his Kool-Aid, just the way he likes it. CharlieVermont

Obviously, the number one defense of Belichick and the Pats. "They know what they're doing!" "Look at their track record!" Again, I would say that their drafting track record isn't nearly as strong as their regular-season record the last five years, but I'll allow it. After all, Belichick is pretty good.

But does that then mean we're not supposed to say anything the day after the draft? Just say he knows what he's doing? How about that Red Sox bullpen? What fun is that?

Here's the way it works, Charlie. Keep track of what we say. When Belichick is proven right in time (Devin McCourty), put it back in our faces. And when he's wrong (the Seymour trade), just ignore it and remind us that he won three Super Bowls in four years.

Felger,Look for Bill Belichick to appear on the show "Hoarders" some day.What would concern me as a Pats fan is two teams that draft very well -- in fact, better than the Patriots -- took a CB and DE at 27 (Ravens) and 31 (Steelers). The Pats traded out. Solder was a pick I think they had to make. But what if (BC tackle Anthony) Constanzo is a hit and Solder is bust? What if Vereen is a bust and (Illinois RB Mikel) Leshoure (taken one pick behind Vereen) is a hit? And what if (Ras-I) Dowling is injured and not a shutdown corner? Then this draft looks like 2009. You want to get two contributors in every draft, thats what good teams do. You can question and attack the approach, but we wont know for sure until the season starts, whenever that is.And for all those that talk about value, answer me this:In 2002, Bill Belichick took Ty Warren with the 13th overall pick. Warren had a history in college of taking plays off. So he was sure Warren would be a contributor, but saw nothing in (Robert) Quinn, (Cameron) Heyward or (Cameron) Jordan that made them worth it with picks 14-31, when they had the same problems that the 2002 Patriots had (defensive line).I think there is something to the fact that maybe Belichick has been at this a little too long. If the Pats had the sixth pick today, would they take Seymour? If they had the 21st pick, would they select Wilfork? See, I think its a bunch of bunk that Belichick never changes. Youre wrong about that, Mike. Hes become more and more wacky over the years.The Pats have traded up in the past (remember Daniel Graham and Jackson)? They have taken two first-rounders (Watson and Wilfork). This is a recent phenomena of trading out and not trading up. It started in 2007 and has become a trend. GeorgeWoburn

I agree that the Patriots change course all the time, George. Just look at what they did in the 2006 offseason (Reche Caldwell) and what they did in 2007 (Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Kyle Brady, Sammy Morris, Adalius Thomas). Sometimes they're consistent. And sometimes they change based on needs and circumstances, just like everyone else.

But your point about their trading down and out more than ever is an excellent one. For whatever reason, it's gotten worse.

Felger You DB!Game 1 Celtics vs. Heat. 2:30 mark of the third quarter. Flagrant Type 1 foul committed by Jermaine O'Neal.That is the exact time I smelled what David Stern was cooking. It's when my serious interest in the professional basketball season ended. The Red Wings vs. Sharks game went on for good and I didn't even bother to watch Tuesday night's offering from NBE (National Basketball Entertainment).When a hard screen counts as a flagrant foul, the NBE has lost more than its credibility. The S.S. Credibility set sail the moment former official Tim Donaghy admitted to playoff games being fixed. With calls like this in a playoff game, the NBE loses it's ability to call itself a contact sport. This is not only a league where its championships are decided by when and where officials choose to enforce touch fouls, but it's now a place where toughness and physicality are a liability. You may think having Perkins would give the Celtics their tough interior defense back. I think if he's not on a team blessed by Stern, he just provides the refs six easy whistles. Forget sending a message. Forget McHale taking out Rambis, forget the Bad boys and the '90s Knicks. Basketball is now officially dead and buried and what we have in its place is a 48-minute televised back rub for the team that Stern deems worthy on any given night. I know Mikey, I know, it's been this way since Jordan made his comeback, but I guess I'm thicker than Shaq's event planner, or just slightly smarter than the average NBE fan. But hey, it's only Basketball. It's not like I'm a Sacramento Kings fan. What will be interesting is who the NBE will back in the finals. The alleged rapist and confirmed homophobe Kobe, or the most hated man in modern team sports, LeBron James? My best guess? The Lakers complete the three-peat, tie the Celtics for total titles (including Minneapolis) and Miami hires the Iron Sheik as its head coach for next season. MikeAttleboro

No arguments from me, Mikey. The league may want Miami in this one, but the good news for now is that they obviously want a long series. So you better believe Eddie Rush andor Bennett Salvatore is headed to Boston for Game 3. Stern would have Tommy Heinsohn ref the game if that's what it took. The C's are winning the next one. Take it to the bank.

Mike, You can't blame the refs for Celtics Game 1 loss. Rondo and Garnett appeared to join Jeff Green and Vic the Brick in the nebula of eternal nothingness -- and as long as Garnett and Rondo are no-shows, you are going nowhere.That said, head of NBA and WWE officiating Earl Hebner once again managed to disrupt the flow of the game and look incompetent doing it. James Jones didn't have a problem when he belly-bumped LeBron after hitting a three, but on his next trip through the lane he exploded to the floor like Jermaine ONeals elbow pad contained C4. Flagrant foul. Embarrassing.Pierce straps 'em on and wants to get tough and gets tossed for it with a quarter to go in a playoff game? Embarrassing. Double technical for a hard screen? Disgraceful.Imagine if Bird and Kareem jawed in the '84 finals and they just tossed one of them? Unthinkable. It's just not what people watch the NBA playoffs for. What was about to happen with Pierce and Wade, arguably the two biggest competitors on that floor, we cannot know, but that moment is why you wait 82 meaningless games and buy the freakin' playoff tickets for. The NBA would rather snuff out that competitive fire before it gets out of hand. You paid to see Jose Canseco and instead Earl Hebner conspired to make you watch a fourth quarter with Ozzie instead.If watching a team full of physically gifted athletes play with no balls, craft or passion was what the NBA playoffs was about, Jeff Green would be the guy sporting rings instead of "the most talented guy in the trade.P.S. I said at the beginning of the year that any team that is not smart enough to follow Dwayne Wade even though he is the only proven winner on that team is too dumb to win. Who knows if this was a one-game explosion, or the start of a trend. We will find out as soon as LeBron feels like he isn't getting the credit he deserves.Peace,JakeBoston

Written before Game 2, clearly. And now that we saw LeBron get his on Tuesday night, aren't you even more worried? LeBron demanded his share of the spotlight and he actually delivered on it. If that's the way it's going to go -- Wade and LeBron taking turns, and James actually coming through when it's his turn -- then this thing is over.

As for your take on the officiating, you are absolutely correct. It's one of the biggest problems with the sport of basketball itself. Refereeing just plays way too big a role in the outcome of games.

Felger,Well, I guess it's a good week for the Bruins again. Who would have thought they win seven of eight since the first two games of that Montreal series?But I've still got two negatives.First, Lucic has been in this funk for months. Yes, MONTHS. Lucic has one goal since March 8, so something has happened and he has not been able to rebound. Second, Thomas is growing into a true playoff player, but Chara definitely has not had the same increase. He has not progressed at all and I am fairly worried. He just looks so uncomfortable. BUT, Seidenberg has picked up the slack, which I feel dumb not realizing he would do since we saw him do this with Carolina. DaveWoburn

It's gotten so bad with Lucic that I would demote him off that top line. Put Peverly or Kelly up there, even if they're out of position a bit. Or Ryder. It's amazing that Krejci has been able to do what he's done against the Flyers carrying that piece of luggage on the wing.

And you're absolutely right about Thomas, Chara and Seidenberg. The only one in that group who hasn't elevated is the captain, but that may be changing. Chara obviously got his shot back on Wednesday night, and the way he was muscling James van Riemsdyk in front of the net should give you confidence that he's working his way back. I don't think Chara is a great playoff performer, but he's not as bad as he showed against Montreal. He was clearly pretty ill.

Felger,For you to lump Thomas' 2009 playoffs with your (former) hero Rask's 2010 playoffs shows that you have a short memory. Here are the numbers: Tim Thomas 2009 had a 1.85 GAA in the playoffs and Rask last year had a 2.61 GAA. That is a BIG difference. Tim Thomas did steal a win or two that year and has already stolen two in this playoff season. Thomas should be kept next year and Rask should be traded. Tuukka goes down way too early, so teams just shoot over either shoulder. Develop a new goalie to back up Thomas, as TT has two more good years left. He is no J.D. Drew!!P.S. Chara and Lucic aren't slower than usual, they are always slow. Both overrated for sure.BobRochester, NH

I don't know why we're talking about this now, but if the B's needed cap room I'd still trade Thomas over Rask. Rask is, obviously, much younger and much cheaper. And I think he's going to be an excellent goalie. The Canadiens walked away from Halak last year and got a great season from Carey Price. The Blackhawks moved on from Antti Niemi and got a terrific year from rookie Corey Crawford. It happens.

But the good news is that the B's may not need the room. The caps are going up thanks to that new TV deal and with Ryder coming off the books and Savard potentially retiring, the B's might have all the room they need without having to touch the goaltending.

As for your first point: if you think that this is the way Tim Thomas has played in the postseason his entire career, then you've been watching a different guy. I don't care what the numbers say. Something clicked towards the end of the Canadiens series and he's taken it to another level since. You can't compare the way he's played the last week to what he did against Carolina two years ago. This is different. This is special.

And now we're about to see if we can say that about the Bruins as a team. If they can beat the Flyers (and they will; there is no freaking way they blow a 3-0 series lead to the same team two years in row), then they can beat the Lightning. Don't ask me about the Cup Finals yet. But I'll tell you what, they have a good chance of getting there. It's reached the point where we'll be disappointed if they don't.

Read Felger's weekly column on Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., at 98.5 the Sports Hub.

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