SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Midway through the NHL season, the West looks all Canadian, eh? Three weeks from spring training, a couple of championship clubs don't have managers. And a 15-year-old dazzles in the Australian Open.
We're joined now by ESPN's Howard Bryant. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: It is All-Star Weekend in the NHL, my friend...
BRYANT: It is.
SIMON: ...Midway point. Usual suspects, if I might put it this way, leading the point - leading the pack in the East - Boston, Washington, D.C. But in the West, you've got Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary - one, two, three - in the Pacific Division. I also don't want to forget the Blues. But it's looking all Maple Leaf, isn't it?
BRYANT: Well, in the East, it wasn't supposed to be that way. It was supposed to be all Boston. This was supposed to be the Bruins' revenge tour after losing the Stanley Cup at home in game seven to the Blues. And they came out of the gates, and they looked like the best team in the world. And they went up to Montreal in November and shut them out 8-0.
And then they haven't been the same team ever since. They came out, and they blow leads. And they're not as tough. The Big, Bad Bruins just aren't - believe it or not, a Boston team is considered a little soft. And Washington is a very, very good team. And you've got the Islanders, who are really good. And don't forget Pittsburgh.
And then, of course, you go to the West, and obviously, I think the best team in hockey is the Blues. They're the defending champions. They skate. They defend. They score. And they'll punch you in the mouth as well, which the Bruins found out last year and everyone's finding out this year as well. They're terrific. But in the...
SIMON: That's not nice, Howard. Go ahead.
BRYANT: It's not nice. It's hockey. You're supposed to bang somebody once in a while. They got it coming. And so - but the great thing is that the Pacific, you've got Calgary and Edmonton and Vancouver. But for me, Scott, the most fun team in hockey is the Edmonton Oilers. And I really hope they make a run in the postseason so everyone gets to see them. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, they are just terrific.
SIMON: I have to ask this week, can you find Edmonton on a map?
BRYANT: I can. Absolutely.
SIMON: (Laughter) All right. Just asking. Listen...
BRYANT: I'm an American who knows his geography.
SIMON: The Red Sox and the Houston Astros don't have managers just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report in the spring. How do you sign a manager for two teams who will be probably booed all year for stealing signs in maybe the World Series?
BRYANT: Even though that's not - the incoming manager's not going to have much to do with that. It really is interesting how baseball can't seem to get out of its own way. You've got the last two pennant winners in the American League, Boston and Houston, both not having managers due to the sign stealing scandal. And the Red Sox coming out, the new GM, Chaim Bloom, saying he's not even really that concerned about starting spring training without a manager. So I guess they're going to take a very deliberate approach.
But this is bad for baseball. And even worse going forward is the fact that now you've got this sort of internal blue wall battle between whether or not the Oakland pitcher, Mike Fiers, should have said anything or not said anything. It's obvious this is starting to sound a lot like steroids, where nobody wants to talk, but it's better for the game that it all come out. I think baseball could use a little bit more transparency.
And it is a very, very bad look that you've got these two great teams that don't have managers right now. But maybe a guy like Dusty Baker will get a shot with Houston. And we'll see, but it's not a good look as spring training starts a couple weeks from now.
SIMON: Australian Open continuing this weekend - big upset on the women's side. Coco Goff, who is 15 - yes, 15...
BRYANT: Yes, 15.
SIMON: ...Defeated Naomi Osaka, the defending champion - 15 years old, she is.
BRYANT: Fifteen years old - well, we did this last year, Scott, when she went out and she beat Venus Williams in Wimbledon and made a run there before losing to Simona Halep. And then you go back out, and she makes another great run at the U.S. Open. She loses to Osaka in that wonderful moment at the net last year. And then this year, she comes out, and she beats Venus Williams again. And now - and then ends up beating Osaka, the defending champion, in her revenge. So she's not just a fun little story. She's a really good player, and everybody out there - although on the women's side, they're saying you can't lose to a 15-year-old. Well, a lot of people are losing to this 15-year-old. And by the way, she turns 16 in March.
SIMON: Well, that makes all the difference. It's a - that's a song from "Sound of Music." ESPN's Howard Music - (laughter).
BRYANT: Woah, good one.
SIMON: Howard Bryant, who - you are the sound of music, my friend. Thanks so much for being with us.
BRYANT: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF RAY BARBEE'S "TAKING LIBERTIES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.