Column: The sports gifts we want this holiday season

Charlie Wolfson

This is the last sports column for The News before the holidays, and in the holiday spirit,  we humbly present our sports holiday wishlist. This list is presented without bias toward any team; these are things we feel the sporting world as a whole would be enriched by, regardless of whose colors you wear or what holiday(s) you celebrate.

Save Connor

Is there a bigger travesty in hockey right now than the offensive unit put together to compliment Connor McDavid in Edmonton? The Oilers drafted McDavid, known from the start as a superstar and a potential heir to Sidney Crosby’s throne, in 2015 and have now had over two years to build around one of the best players in the game. What has general manager Peter Chiarelli done? He’s ruined the offense, just like he did during his time in Boston. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall were shipped out for pennies on the dollar, and now McDavid is skating alongside the likes of noted slow-moving goon Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon. And, I know what you’re thinking, but they’re not good at defense either. The Oilers are 29th in preventing goals this year. It’s a tremendous waste of McDavid’s time and greatness, and the hockey world is being robbed of Connor doing cool things in exciting moments for a good team.

Wish: Connor McDavid goes to a contender so we can see him and Crosby really duke it out for supremacy.

Anyone but New England

This may seem like a partisan bashing of the New England Patriots, but there is rationale here, so bear with me. If the Pats make it to the AFC Championship game yet again, the slow death of the NFL that we are witnessing will only be accelerated. The league has many, many problems. The most pressing one is that hits to the head — which happen approximately three times on every play, give or take — are probably causing CTE in virtually every player.

That doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact that the same teams seem to come out of each division more often than not. I’ve written about this before. The NFL has a parity problem, and it makes the league pretty boring for anyone not a fan of New England, Pittsburgh, Denver, Green Bay and maybe a couple others. Case in point: The Patriots, given all due credit for winning five Super Bowls since 2000 and winning their division 15 of the last 17 years, have played in a division with incredibly little competition. The Boston Globe’s veteran sports columnist, Dan Shaughnessy, frequently likens the Patriots’ cruises through the AFC East to “kicking the tomato can down the road.”

The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999 — they haven’t even topped nine wins since then. The Dolphins have made the playoffs just three times since Tom Brady’s first title in 2001, and they were blown out in the Wild Card round in all three appearances. The Jets are the best of the three — a whopping six playoff appearances since 2001. They’ve been putrid in the other 11 years, including each of the last seven.

Take no credit away from Brady, Belichick and the rest. They earned all of their rings (well, at least one or two of them). But think of this from a bipartisan, outsider perspective: Would you want to watch a league in which one team gets to pummel the same trio of hapless victims every year, winning games and division titles in the very same fashion every single time? It’s horrible entertainment, as is the Patriots’ no-celebration policy. This isn’t about hatred for Brady or Belichick. It’s just no fun.

Wish: The AFC playoffs are interesting this year, and every year.

Jaromir Jagr to the Penguins

Who would mind seeing this, really? The legendary, no-brainer Hall of Famer looks to be finally pulling into the last stop of his career. After having several more productive seasons than anyone thought possible, Jagr has managed to appear in just 16 games this year for Calgary, scoring one goal and six assists.

This story needs a more ceremonious end than playing out the string in Calgary. Let him finish this thing where it all started, please. Many of today’s youngsters may not even realize that he began his career way back in 1991 with Pittsburgh, balancing lighting up the NHL and being homesick for his native Czech Republic. He won back-to-back Cups with the Pens back then, fitting right in with giants like Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis and Kevin Stevens. Little did people know at the time, he’d out-perform all but one of those guys by a longshot. Since his debut at the old Civic Arena for a then-Cupless Pittsburgh franchise, he’s risen to third all-time in goals, fifth in assists and second in points.

Imagine the spectacle of him closing out his career alongside Sidney Crosby, the man who received the proverbial torch from Lemieux. Lemieux gave Jagr his start, and it’s only fitting that Crosby be the one to give him a proper ending.

Wish: Jagr gets traded to Pittsburgh this season. Nevermind it’s not making sense for the Penguins. Make it happen.

This is (not) fine

This year’s College Football Playoff field is set, and, my goodness, how can anyone think this system doesn’t need improvement? Alabama made it in over Ohio State, despite OSU beating an undefeated Wisconsin team to win the Big Ten Championship, and ‘Bama not even making it to the SEC title game. OSU’s two losses were against Oklahoma (a playoff team) and on the road at Iowa, a very tough place to play. Alabama did have only one loss, granted, but there’s something to be said for winning the conference.

Plus, how tough was Alabama’s schedule, really? Their most impressive wins were against LSU and Mississippi State — nothing to scoff at, but nothing that leaps off the page. And, again, they didn’t even make it to the title game. They lost their biggest game of the season. The sports fan in me just doesn’t buy this.

Something needs to change; either go to the oft-proposed eight-team format, or go back to the old two-team crapshoot. This isn’t working.

Wish: Somehow the College Football Playoff gets fixed.