There have been a bevy of newcomers to appear on the New York sports scene this fall that have made a big impact on their respective franchises. They're not all players, though. One is an executive, one is an assistant coach, and the others are a smattering of veterans making their debuts in the Big City (and accompanying surroundings). Without further ado, here is an unofficial Top Five of the fresh-faced arrivals who are making the most impact on our New York teams this autumn.
1. Perry Fewell: The Giants defense has become a beast. Sure, some of the players have changed from last season, with the new safeties making the biggest difference, personnel-wise. But Bill Sheridan just didn't have what it takes. Fewell, on the other hand, is a difference-maker. While, scheming and X's and O's surely are important, you count discount the leadership factor along with a passion to get your point across. Here's what Barry Cofield recently had to say about his new boss regarding the Seattle game: "He was foaming at the mouth. I guess the best thing I can say, he looked like he wanted to go out there and hit somebody." Who wouldn't want to play for someone like that? (Note: I wrote this before yesterday's debacle, but the team is still in first place and their D is a big reason why.)
2. Sandy Alderson: The Mets haven't even played one game under Alderson's stewardship yet, but he's already energizing the team's fan base, and bringing legitimacy to the franchise. His first order of business in his attempt to turn around the Mets was to get the old band back together, bringing in the Moneyball gang for a reunion. Just the fact that none of his front office cronies are crazy Tony Bernazard types is worth a round of applause. If anything, Alderson's hiring was a public relations coupe. And there's a trust factor with Alderson that he'll make sound, rational decisions. The Mets have hope now, and that counts for a lot.
3. LaDainian Tomlinson: Taken off the scrapheap from San Diego, the seemingly washed up Tomlinson has found new life with the Jets. He gives the team another dimension outside the basic ground and pound. He ranks sixth in the AFC in yards per carry (4.7) and ninth in yards gained (656), and he's also the Jets' leading receiver, with 36 catches. Coming into the season, there was some concern that there might be a little unhappiness if his workload was too light for his liking, but he's been so productive he's supplanted Shonn Greene as the starter and maybe has gotten too many carries. But yesterday, the two split the load, which makes sense, not wanting to wear down Tomlinson.
4. Raymond Felton: Okay, the Knicks stink right now, but Felton's been the best of the new bunch on this year's team. As Walt Frazier would say, Felton's the "orchestrator," so everything flows through the Knicks' new point guard. After a slow start, he's finding his rhythm, and with Landry Fields and Toney Douglas, they're forming a nice, little backcourt group. He's tough as nails, but is still looking for that chemistry with Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire was the big name brought in, but it's Felton who has been the biggest asset so far in the young season. Of course, there's still plenty of time for Stoudemire to live up to his billing. Felton is dishing out assists at a 7.4-per-game rate, and is scoring 15.5 points per game. Both are career highs.
5. Martin Biron: It looks like the Rangers finally have that reliable backup goalie they've been looking for since, well, the days of Glenn Healy. Besides that five-goals-against clunker against Atlanta, Biron has done his job remarkably well. He filled in for Henrik Lundqvist the last two games, and won them both, and only allowed one goal in two other games vs. Toronto and St. Louis. Lundqvist can't play 74 games a year anymore and still expect to be fresh in April and May. Glen Sather made the right move in signing the veteran backstop.