Friday, March 21, 2014

No major deals? B's still excel

<Buy Cheapp>By Nick Mallard,

Updated: 03/21/2014 06:50:18 AM EDT

Circle March 5 on your calendar.

That date just two weeks ago was the day critics sounded the death knell for the Boston Bruins and their hopes this season.

The experts said the Bruins needed to make a big transaction by that day, the NHL trade deadline. The defense was too inexperienced. The team needed depth. The amount of holes in the roster was akin to Swiss cheese.

Without some kind of big deal, the Bruins would fade down the stretch. If they made the playoffs, a quick and painful exit was imminent.

It can't be argued that the Bruins lacked a splashy move at the deadline. Acquiring Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, a pair of unspectacular defensemen, was essentially all General Manager Peter Chiarelli did.

Sure, the Bruins had won their last two games as the deadline approached, but prior to that, they had dropped a pair coming out of the Olympic break. Certainly, something had to be done to make sure Boston did more than tread water down the stretch.

The lack of movement at the deadline would surely be Boston's undoing.

What's that old saying? Hindsight is 20-20?

Looking back, it certainly seems that doing very little at the trade deadline was the right thing to do. Since then, the Bruins (47-17-5) have rattled off eight more victories, running their winning streak to 10 games.

And yes, inexperience on the blue line -- the problem many critics felt could be solved at the deadline -- could still come back to haunt Boston. Who knows how defensemen like Matt Bartkowksi and Dougie Hamilton -- crucial to the team's success this season -- will react in extended playoff minutes without Dennis Seidenberg manning a defensive spot.

But that's the future. In the present tense, Boston is firing on all cylinders. The 10-game winning streak matches the Anaheim Ducks' own stretch for the longest in the NHL this season.

Defensively, there have been hiccups, but the Black and Gold find ways to overcome the flaws. Whether it's 36-year-old Jarome Iginla finding the fountain of youth and leading the team in goals with 26 or netminder Tuukka Rask -- and backup Chad Johnson, for that matter -- stealing games, every night there's a new hero.

Depth isn't an issue, at least offensively. Iginla's play resembles his all-world years in Calgary a decade ago, while linemates David Krejci (team-leading 60-points) and Milan Lucic look as motivated and effective as ever.

And Brad Marchand, the team's pesky sparkplug, has forgotten his scoring slump that started the season, having now potted 22 goals, and is clicking seamlessly with Patrice Bergeron (20 goals) and Reilly Smith (19 goals).

And it's not just the top two lines potting markers. Defenseman Torey Krug is the two-way, puck-moving point man fans have clamored over for years, scoring 14 goals this season and providing key minutes on the power play. Captain Zdeno Chara has even gotten in on the offensive end, scoring 16 times.

Behind a solid team-defense philosophy, Rask and Johnson have combined to put up the second-best goals-against average in the league (2.10). Rask is third in both GAA and save percentage and has won 31 games, while Johnson has been sensational in relief, going 15-3-1 with a 2.14 GAA.

Combine a red-hot offense and spectacular netminding and you get a league-leading plus-74 goal differential.

The key to Boston continuing the success lies with Claude Julien. The head coach shrugged off recent comments about the team peaking too early, pointing to several things he thinks his players can do better. That drive will certainly keep the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins from falling into complacency down the stretch.

While there's still a lot of hockey left to be played this spring, it's nice to see the world didn't end following the trade deadline. They're not a perfect team, but the Bruins have embraced the idea of being a team perfectly.

Why change now?

Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter and Tout @n_mallard

Thursday, March 20, 2014

See Robinson Cano run - well, probably not


Seattle Mariners' robinson cano jay z Cano at bat against the Cleveland Indians during a spring training baseball game, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Robinson Cano is beginning the first season of a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.

Imagine how much he might havve made if he ran hard to first base.

Cano's baseball skills are undeniable: He has batted .300 or better in seven of nine seasons, has hit at least 25 homers five consecutive years, has played in at least 159 games in each of the last seven seasons and won two Gold Gloves as a second baseman. But, you know, he doesn't like running out ground balls.

I recall once going to a Yo-Yo Ma concert in which the famed cellist dogged it on some minor chords because, as he told me afterward, "they're just minor chords." That's the last time I'm paying $6 on StubHub for classical tickets.

Some argue that Cano has occasional leg problems, and by picking a spot here and there not to run hard, is saving those legs. Really? By jogging those 90 feet between home plate and first base, he's extending his career? Please. A Ritz-Carlton bellhop covers more ground between the check-in desk and the elevator bank, and he's carrying luggage.

With his new contract, Cano is making $150,000 a game, but that doesn't guarantee the former Yankee will run out grounders. That would be like me getting 150 grand per column and leaving off punctuation from time to time because I'm not in the mood.

To negotiate his latest deal, Cano switched agents, from Scott Boras to Jay Z. From rapping to repping, Jay Z has seamlessly made the transition from offensive lyrics to offensive contracts.

(Column Intermission: Springbrook's boys basketball team won three games in three nights to advance to the Maryland Class 4A state semifinals. When the Blue Devils won the region final - as Aaron Robinson made four of five three-pointers in the opening quarter - I nearly cried for the first time since watching "Rudy." And my stepson, Isaiah Eisendorf, has gotten so good, I might add him to my will and drop my brother; sorry, Steve.)

Jay Z had hoped to procure Cano a $300 million deal, but settled for a mere $240 million with no conditions on running out grounders. I am reminded of the pre-Scott Boras/Jay Z days, when greed did not overtake America and contract talks were a lot simpler - as demonstrated in this scene from the 1942 film "Casablanca," in which Sam the piano player considers a job offer:

Rick: "Sam, Ferrari wants you to work for him at the Blue Parrot."

Sam: "Oh I like it fine here [at Rick's]."

Rick: "He'll double what I pay you."

Sam: "Yeah, but I ain't got time to spend the money I make here."

Rick (to Ferrari): "Sorry."

Sure, Sam left a lot of money on the table, and with Jay Z or Boras in his corner, he probably could've tripled his salary. But what about happiness? What if he didn't like the commute to the east end of Casablanca? Sam was ahead of the curve and likely ran with gusto to his piano every shift.

Will the Mariners get their $240 million worth? If he helps them win, Cano will spike attendance, but, otherwise, he is not a draw. People come out for A-Rod and Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, to see Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole pitch, but nobody's changing their Friday night plans to watch Cano run halfheartedly after hitting a ground ball.

A number of years ago, I applied for a position at a telephone company as a utility line repairman. At the job interview, I mentioned that, on occasion, I didn't like climbing telephone poles early in the morning. That ended the interview and my chances for the job.

Similarly - and I know someone out there is going to tell me this isn't analogous - shouldn't the fact that a player doesn't run hard to first on routine grounders preclude him from work at the highest levels of baseball? Apparently not. Well, shouldn't it at least preclude him from signing one of the biggest contracts in MLB history? Apparently not.

I wonder if Robinson Cano at least runs hard to the bank. Nah. He probably has direct deposit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SHLD: Sears Will Spin Off Lands' End on April 4

Burke Speaker, Investorplace Writer

sears ( SHLD) is pushing Land's End out on its own to be an independent company beginning in April, which will trade under NASDAQ with the symbol LE.

]SHLD stockholders as of March 24 will receive a 0.3 share of Land's End for each share of SHLD stock they own.

Reuters is reporting that prior to the spin-off, Lands' End will pay a $500 million dividend to Sears which is funded by a new senior secured term loan.

Sears has been struggling financially and it's been speculated for some time that it would shed Land's End.

Lands' End is the latest asset that Sears has shed as it struggles with mounting operating losses and declining sales.

Sears spun off its Orchard Supply Hardware Stores unit in 2011 and its Sears Hometown and Outlet business in 2012. The company continues to operate its Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain.

Lands' End is expected to borrow perhaps some $175 million for capital via an asset-based senior secured revolving credit facility, Sears said in its announcement.

Sears is down in the last full year by 13%, but went up about 1% on the news.

SHLD stock is down 8% year to date.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

©2014 InvestorPlace Media, LLC

Monday, March 17, 2014

Target deals 3/16: Eggs, cheese, apples, granola bars and more!

Target has some good deals this week on eggs, cheese, apples, granola bars and more! There is also an in-ad Deal Of The Day for pet food and litter. Please share any other deals you find at Target this week!

The deals from the ad this week are valid 3/16 - 3/22/14.

In-ad coupon: $10 off dog/cat food or cat litter purchase of $40 or more (excludes treats and rawhides). Valid in-store only. Coupon expires 3/22/14.

Deals from the ad:

Eggs, 1 dozen, $1.79 - .50 mobile coupon when you text THANKS to 827438 AND 5% off Cartwheel discount

Market Pantry shredded cheese, 6 - 8 oz, $2.00 - .75/1 mobile coupon when you text THANKS to 827438 AND 5% off Cartwheel discount

Market Pantry granola bars, 6 or 8 count, $1.50 - %5 off Cartwheel discount

Gala or Granny Smith apples, 3 lb bag, $2.99 - $1 fresh fruit mobile coupon when you text THANKS to 827438 AND 5% off Cartwheel discount for bagged apples

Hormel Always Tender baby back pork ribs, $2.99/lb - $1 coupon from 2/9 SS

Additional ways to save at Target: printable coupons: You can find printable coupons at when you scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on Coupons. The store Target coupons can be combined with manufacturer's coupons on the same item.

Cartwheel discounts: There are also coupons available through their Cartwheel program HERE. With the Cartwheel discounts, you can load specific % off savings to your Cartwheel account and then print out a barcode that is scanned at the register at the store or show the barcode on your smartphone through the Cartwheel app (which is what I usually do to save money on ink and paper). These Cartwheel savings can be combined with store and manufacturer's coupons for even greater savings. No more than one manufacturer coupon, one Target coupon and one Cartwheel offer can be combined per item. Each Cartwheel offer may be used for up to a maximum of 4 qualifying items per offer per transaction. Limit of 1 Cartwheel barcode per transaction and 6 Cartwheel barcode transactions per day.

Mobile coupons: Target offers mobile coupons regularly (inlcuding some grocery coupons!). Sign up for them by texting OFFERS to 827438. These coupons can be used with the other discounts. See their website for more information.

Coupon Policy: You can see the full Target coupon policy on their website HERE.

Red Card: If you have the Target Red Card credit card, you get another 5% off.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

NJ Transit off-peak discount for train riders to be reconsidered

A report received by state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson in response to his question of whether NJ Transit could restore off-peak discounts for rail riders has been sent to the circular file.

"I threw the report in the garbage," Simpson said Wednesday during the monthly NJ Transit board meeting.

The report from NJ Transit's rail operations noted that the discounts during weekends and other off-peak hours, which were discontinued several years ago, were not viable for "capacity reasons," said Simpson, who chairs the board.

"I could not come before this body and try to sell that, because it made no sense," he said. "I don't think the report was worth the paper it was written on, so I've asked folks to go back to the drawing board."

Kevin O'Connor, who has been forced out as NJ Transit's vice president and general manager of rail operations, was not at Wednesday's meeting - the first for new executive director Ronnie Hakim.

Coupled with a train fare hike of 25 percent in May 2010, off-peak passengers who lost their 15 percent Online Deals had to pay nearly 50 percent more - 64 percent in the most extreme cases.

Off-peak hours generally are outside of 6 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays.

David Peter Alan, who chairs the Lackawanna Coalition rail advocacy group, said outside of those hours, "there is plenty of room" on the trains.

"I am so glad to hear a commissioner take an active part in matters that really affect us as riders," Alan said after the meeting. "I didn't see that report, but I believe the commissioner said it recommended against restoring off-peak rail fares. And if it said that, he put it in exactly the right place (the garbage)."

Orrin Getz, a member of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers who rides the Pascack Valley Line, noted that Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road have greatly expanded off-peak service by offering discount fares.

Simpson said NJ Transit needs to be creative when looking at opportunities for off-peak discounts - for example, studying the feasibility of a reduced off-peak fare to Hoboken Terminal.

"The goal is - you've got the trains running, anyway - to get as many seats filled," he said. "It's the airline model - fill the seats."

Looking at off-peak discounts is part of a large to-do list for Hakim, a Simpson ally who arrives from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

On the bus side, Simpson said he would like to see more alternatives to dropping people off at the already overstuffed Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, including dropping people off on the street or bypassing the bus terminal to take riders to the East Side of Manhattan.

NJ Transit also is opening up some committee meetings to the public, beginning with the customer service committee at 10 a.m. Wednesday and the administration committee at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the NJ Transit headquarters next to Newark Penn Station.


* NJ Transit to consider bringing back off-peak discounts

* Commuters skeptical about idea to bypass Port Authority's bus terminal

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

General's defense to try for plea deal in sex case

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (AP) - Attorneys for a U.S. Army general charged with sexual assault said Tuesday that they have decided to try to renegotiate a plea bargain with a new set of military officials after the judge determined that the high-profile case may have been improperly influenced by political concerns from the Pentagon.

Judge Col. James Pohl sent the jury of generals back to their duty stations around the world after defense lawyers for Brig. Gen Jeffrey A. Sinclair announced their decision. The two sides now enter negotiations to try to resolve the case. A new general with new legal advisers would have to be brought in to approve any new On Sales.

The twist came with the Pentagon under heavy pressure from Congress and beyond to combat rape and other sex crimes in the military.

Under the military code of justice, the decision was supposed to be decided solely on the evidence, not its broader political implications.

Sinclair, believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer court-martialed on sexual assault charges, is accused of twice forcing a female captain to perform oral sex on him in Afghanistan in 2011 during a three-year extramarital affair. He has admitted to the affair but denied assaulting the woman.

The defense has portrayed the woman as a liar who concocted the allegations after she saw emails between Sinclair and another woman.

Sinclair, 51 and the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, appeared upbeat as he left the courthouse Tuesday morning, joking with the military police officers who guard the door.

Pohl had declined to dismiss the charges outright on Monday. But he reviewed newly disclosed emails in Sinclair's case and said he found the appearance of "unlawful command influence" in military officials' decision to reject a plea bargain with the general in January.

But Pohl said the emails showed that the military officials who rejected the plea bargain had discussed a letter from the accuser's lawyer. The letter warned that allowing the general to avoid trial would "send the wrong signal."

Lead defense attorney Richard Scheff said Sinclair would not agree to plead guilty to any charges involving sexual assault or any charges that would result in his being required to register as a sex offender.

"He did not sexually assault anybody," Scheff said. "He did not threaten anybody. He's not maltreated anybody. We'd love to resolve the case. But if we can't, we look forward to our day in court and his vindication."

Even though the defense team appeared optimistic it could reach a deal, Scheff said it might still be weeks before the case is resolved.

Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, the lead prosecutor, declined to comment.

In December, Sinclair had offered to plead guilty to some of the lesser charges in exchange for the Army dropping the sexual assault charges, but he was turned down.

Sinclair's plea offer was discussed in emails among a high-ranking Washington-based Army lawyer, the prosecutors and the commanding general overseeing the case.

The judge said he doesn't think the whole case was tainted, just the decision on a plea agreement. The judge also criticized prosecutors for not giving defense lawyers the emails sooner: "The only reason we are in this conundrum is because of the government's late notice."

Last week, Sinclair pleaded guilty to three lesser charges involving adultery with the captain and improper relationships with two other female Army officers. Those charges could bring 15 years in prison. A trial then began on the remaining sexual assault charges, with a potential sentence of life in prison.

Now, with Tuesday's decision, the defense may ask Pohl to withdraw Sinclair's guilty plea in favor of whatever new deal can be hashed out with the Army.

Sinclair's accuser came out against a plea bargain on the sexual assault charges in a December letter sent by her attorney, Capt. Cassie L. Fowler. Fowler suggested that the proposal deal would "have an adverse effect on my client and the Army's fight against sexual assault."

Though prosecutors deny any consideration was given to Fowler's comments about the potential fallout, the emails turned over to the defense Saturday show they did discuss her assertions.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Walmart has the cheapest iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c yet

Walmart is ready to sell buyers looking for on-contract smartphone even cheaper iPhone 5s models, as well as other smartphones, ( via 9to5Mac) reports. Purchased with a two-year contract with either AT&T or Verizon, the iPhone 5s costs only $119, down from its previous $145 price. Similarly, the iPhone 5c now costs $29 on-contract, down from $45, while Samsung's Galaxy S4 is priced at $49 instead of $99.

Furthermore, buying any Samsung smartphone between March 9th and March 22nd will net buyers a free $50 Walmart gift card, as long as the deal involves inking a new carrier contract.

Walmart isn't the only retailer ready to offer buyers a cheaper iPhone, as Price Compare Buy is currently offering the handset for $50 off the regular price, or $149.99 with new contracts. The same deal applies to the colored iPhone as well, as Best Buy sells the iPhone 5c for $49.99 with new contracts. However, Walmart appears to be ready to do anything to beat its rival when it comes to iPhone prices.

CNN Money sees the iPhone price drop more as an indication that the "smartphone market is approaching saturation, which makes it harder for new products to replicate the success of previous offerings," rather than a sign that the iPhone 5s' successor may launch much earlier than believed.

Meanwhile, iPhone 5c deals are only to be expected considering that a recent report revealed that impressive iPhone 5c stock is gathering dust in storage both with Apple's suppliers and retail partners.