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Blackhawks Fri Oct 24 2014

Carcillo, Versteeg Looking to Prove They Belong

Chicago BlackhawksThere are times when Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman looks like a genius, mostly for his ability to trade away minimal or expiring talent in return for draft picks or relatively unknown prospects. There was the time in 2010 when he traded Cam Barker to the Wild for Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy, or even something as exciting as when he was able to land Teuvo Teravainen on a three-year contract at entry-level pricing.

But with the good come a few head-scratchers along the way. Most notably, the re-signing of Dan Carcillo prior to this season and re-acquiring, via trade, Kris Versteeg last November. It's been a roll of the dice for sure, especially the Vertseeg move last year. But can both actually provide enough service on the ice for another run at the Cup instead of time spent on the bench or penalty box?

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bulls Fri Oct 24 2014

Jimmy Butler Questionable for Bulls Season Opener

Chicago BullsJimmy Butler suffered a sprained left thumb against the Charlotte Hornets last Monday and will miss the last preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight. Butler underwent an MRI exam and doesn't need surgery for the thumb. The Bulls will reevaluate his status for the season opener against the New York Knicks Oct. 29.

Before suffering the thumb injury, Butler was having a great preseason, leading the Bulls in scoring multiple games and showing off his improved offensive play. He averaged 15.8 points on 58.8 percent shooting and 8.8 rebounds. This strong preseason start will surely pay off as Butler and the Bulls are in negotiations for an extension. The deadline will be Oct. 31. Butler will be entering his fourth season and the deadline is important so the Bulls can wrap him up and not take the risk of him becoming a restricted free agent next summer.

The Bulls could let Butler become a restricted free agent and just match the best offer from another team. This comes with a lot of risk though, as the price for Butler could reach a near-max level if he has a great season and the "wait-and-see approach" could cost the Bulls tens of millions of dollars. Butler is considered an elite perimeter defender by most scouts and was named to the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team last season.

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Josh Williams / Comments (0)

Bears Thu Oct 23 2014

Bears Need to Win Before Returning to Soldier Field

Chicago BearsTom Brady in New England, bye week, and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay -- that's what the Bears are staring at on the schedule over the next three weeks.

Losing both games would end any hope of a successful season. Though the Bears play five of their final seven games at Soldier Field, ripping off seven straight wins in the NFL is wildly improbable. It's especially difficult when considering the Bears don't have much of a home field advantage.

Grass gremlins and turf monsters keep popping up all over the place at Soldier Field, leaving piles of players lying on the field with massive globs of mud within arms reach. From the high cameras, the field looks to be in great shape, but it's nowhere close when NFL players plant and change direction at full speed.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Fri Oct 17 2014

Should the Bears Consider Some New Starters?

Chicago BearsIt's very difficult for a starter to get supplanted in-season. There typically has to be an injury involved, lack of improvement, solid play by replacements or some combination of all three.

The Bears have dealt with each of those this year. A season-ending injury to Charles Tillman forced rookie Kyle Fuller into playing every down instead of just the nickel packages. The nickel corner is essentially a starter in today's three-receiver NFL, which meant that Isaiah Frey was the next man up. Frey didn't play well in the three games he subbed in, and showed no improvement from his full season of play last year. The Bears had depth behind him in Sherrick McManis, Demontre Hurst, and Al Louis-Jean, so Frey got cut and Hurst stepped in. McManis might end up as the nickel once he's healthy, but it was one of the rare occurrences where the starter got the axe.

That's not the only spot where there's been injuries, starter struggles, and successful backups though. Some folks have called for new blood at a few positions, and there are a few legitimate arguments to be made. Here's a breakdown of those debates, and what the Bears should consider doing.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (1)

Blackhawks Thu Oct 16 2014

Breaking Down the Blackhawks' Fire Power

Chicago Blackhawks If you watched the Hawks' 2-1 overtime loss against the Calgary Flames last night, you saw 50 shots aimed at Jonas Hiller with only one of them hitting the back of the net. Fifty shots total in one game with only one getting through -- a deflection, mind you, from Andrew Shaw via a Patrick Sharp blast from near the blue line.

When reading that stat line the next day, all one can do is shake their head and tip their cap to Hiller, who stood on his head. What Joel Quenneville and staff need to preach after such a frustrating performance is not to change a single thing, at least in terms of putting the puck on net.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bears Wed Oct 15 2014

Trestman Costs Bears Points With Time Mismanagement

Chicago BearsNFL head coaches don't always evolve. Sometimes they're too stubborn, or too stupid, or simply get fired before they ever get the opportunity to grow.

Marc Trestman has evolved in a few ways. He's learned that you can't stop Brandon Marshall from doing what he wants, so your best course of action is to encourage him and don't direct any blame his direction. Trestman has learned that if a player isn't catching on after months of practice, that it's time to cut bait; they wouldn't have released Isaiah Frey a year ago because that's not what Phil Emery and Trestman did with a struggling player -- but they do now. The Bears stuck Willie Young on the field for 71 percent of the plays last Sunday, a stark increase from his breakout season average.

Then there was an event that happened just before the opening kickoff on Sunday that spoke volumes: the Bears won the toss and elected to receive. It's the first time that's happened in the Trestman era. He's said it many times, and he's right, that by deferring when you win the toss, you're far more likely to get an extra possession during the course of the game because of the way you can control the clock before halftime. But many have questioned why the Bears don't elect to receive, especially last season, when the defense was horrid. The idea around taking the ball is that you have a chance to score twice while the opponent can only score once in the first three possessions, and if everything breaks right, you could go up 14-0 while easing the pressure off your bloodied defense. Electing to receive against the Falcons was a great way to try and minimize the strain on three new starting linebackers. Though it didn't end up working, the decision was sound.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Mon Oct 13 2014

Marshall & Jeffery Prove They're the Premier Receiving Duo

Chicago BearsPrior to the season, the Bears ranked ninth in Bleacher Report's wide receiver depth chart list, primarily because they were ultra-thin, with unknown Marquess Wilson playing the slot, and a line of nobodies behind him. It was a legitimate concern that was magnified by Wilson's long-term injury, along with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery playing hurt in a few games this season.

When you're talking about the best receiving duos in football, however, the discussion typically comes down to Chicago and Atlanta. Julio Jones is probably the best out of the four, and Roddy White is easily fourth in the group. So would you rather have the Falcons tandem, or the Bears? The two guys from the Windy City answered that question with an exclamation point during yesterday's victory.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bulls Mon Oct 13 2014

Why Doug McDermott Should Start for the Bulls

Chicago BullsIt's just preseason and only the first NBA start for Bulls rookie Doug McDermott, but after putting together a seven point, eight rebound performance Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, you have to wonder if starting McDermott is best for the Bulls. Mike Dunleavy missed that game with a left calf injury but it's nothing too serious. The small forward position for the Bulls isn't that deep with Tony Snell struggling and looking like he's going to be at the end of the bench.

The starting lineup with McDermott in it looked different and had a much better pace to it, giving a wing who he can catch and shoot, but also put it on the floor and create his own shot. The Bulls bench could use the veteran presence of Dunleavy to go along side Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson. Against the Bucks, the Bulls reserves struggled to produce points and adding a veteran like Dunleavy could help improve the depth of the second unit.

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Josh Williams / Comments (0)

Bears Fri Oct 10 2014

The Bears Are Missing the Deep Ball

Chicago BearsWith all 11 starters returning, a former Pro Bowl quarterback in his second year under someone nicknamed "The Quarterback Whisperer," two Pro Bowl receivers, a Pro Bowl running back and a dynamic tight end, the biggest question for the 2-3 Bears revolves around why the offense is struggling. The second-highest scoring unit in the NFL from 2013 has slipped all the way to 16th this year.

Sure, injuries have played more of a role this season, with Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson missing significant time, but that doesn't totally explain it because their backups have performed just as well as the starters. Brandon Marshall, who said he was supposed to miss four weeks with his leg injury, and Alshon Jeffery have been nicked up, but neither has missed more than a few series of snaps here and there. Jay Cutler missed significant time last year, and the team didn't miss a beat.

The answer may lie 20 or more yards down the field.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Tue Oct 07 2014

Where in the World is Willie Young?

Chicago BearsThirty-seven plays. Of the 66 times the Bears defense lined up against Cam Newton, Willie Young was on the field for just 37 of them, or 56 percent of the time. Pro Football Focus has him rated as third worst Bears defender when it comes to pass rushing, but he has five sacks, while the rest of the team combines for six more. He forced a fumble on Sunday and blocked a field goal against the Packers, yet he ranks ninth on the defense in snaps played.

Few can argue against the fact that he's been one of the best free agency bargains in the NFL. At three years and $9 million, Young's production is far exceeding his contract through the first five games. Though PFF has him graded quite low in his pass rushing, he leads the Bears when it comes to his run defense. Five sacks and the best run stopping defensive linemen sounds exactly like a stat line the team was hoping to get out of Lamarr Houston (five years, $35 million) or Jared Allen (four years, $32 million).

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Mon Oct 06 2014

What the Nick Leddy Trade Means for the Blackhawks

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png It only was a matter of time -- at least by Tuesday, October 7, to be exact -- when GM Stan Bowman was going to pull the trigger on trading away a member of the Hawks so that he could trim $2.2 million against the payroll. That victim was Nick Leddy this weekend, to the New York Islanders, for a handful of players in return.

Regardless of how you felt about Leddy and his contributions to the team, in the salary-cap age in the NHL, players come and go, and sometimes the deals may or may not make sense. It's true Leddy was in coach Joel Quenneville's dog house for much of last season, and he did have the Western Conference-clinching puck go off of his backside from an Alec Martinez shot, but that doesn't mean Leddy's worth was anything less than recently acquired threat to humanity Dan Carcillo. Again, sometimes things may or may not make sense.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bears Fri Oct 03 2014

Bears Catching Panthers at Just the Right Time

Chicago BearsInjuries happen all the time in the NFL. It would be wonderful if every team could run their best players out on the field on a weekly basis, but it's just not feasible in a game predicated on collisions. Playing teams at the right time during the year can have a drastic effect on the standings.

Last night's game between the Packers and the Vikings is a perfect example (of my point, and also that football on Thursday night after both teams played the previous Sunday is abhorrent). With Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater both sidelined with injuries, the Vikings were forced to go with third-stringer Christian Ponder, who doesn't belong on a professional football field any longer. The Packers took advantage of Ponder's plentiful mistakes, and left the Vikings in the dust before the first half was over. If Bridgewater were starting at quarterback, the game could've played out completely different.

The Bears are a team on the mend, for the most part. With the exceptions of Jermon Bushrod (injured knee in practice) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion setback), the team saw a lot of guys recover enough to practice this week. Brandon Marshall was a full participant, while Jared Allen, Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson and Sherrick McManis all returned on a limited basis. Slauson or Garza being able to play Sunday becomes even more important for the Bears with Bushrod's mysterious injury that could force Michael Ola to start at left tackle.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bulls Thu Oct 02 2014

Bulls' Depth a Formula for Success

Chicago BullsTraining camp is underway as the Chicago Bulls get ready for their first preseason game Monday, Oct 6th. There's much anticipation and high hopes for this Bulls team coming off a successful off-season with the additions of Pau Gasol, Aaron Brooks, and rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, not to mentioned the return of former league MVP Derrick Rose.

There's a new element to this 2014-2015 version of the Bulls, and that's depth. When you look at a potential starting lineup of Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Gasol and Joakim Noah, and a bench of Kirk Hinrich, Brooks, Tony Snell, McDermott, Mirotic and Taj Gibson, you can see the amount of depth and improved scoring that this Bulls team is capable of displaying. But the big question is, how will Tom Thibodeau utilize this depth and who will be the players on the short end of the stick? You can expect Hinrich, Gibson, and Mirotic in the rotation, but who will the others be?

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Josh Williams / Comments (0)

Bears Wed Oct 01 2014

Bears Battling Inconsistency Where They Shouldn't Be

Chicago BearsIn the second season of the Marc Trestman era, we expected the offense to make a leap forward. The second-highest scoring team in the NFL from last year finally had an offensive genius that would be with the team for consecutive seasons, and all 11 starters were returning. But the growth is nowhere to be found four weeks into 2014.

Brandon Marshall hasn't talked to the media after his victim blaming, 40-plus minute tirade took place a few weeks back. Since then, he's been nearly invisible against the Jets and Packers, and was the reason why the second interception happened last Sunday. Trestman backtracked on Monday saying there was miscommunication between Jay Cutler and Marshall, but that's an even worse problem than just Marshall going rogue. These guys have played together seven years, and in the second year of having the same offensive coordinator, shouldn't be making these silly mistakes.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Mon Sep 29 2014

Blackhawks Look to Trim Roster/Cap as Preseason Rolls On

Chicago BlackhawksMeasuring quality talent can be a tough test for any coaching staff, especially with as much of it that has come through the Blackhawks' organization in recent years. A mixture of key draft picks and trades have rebuilt a franchise, which captured two of the last five Stanley Cups and the imagination of a city.

With a nice balance of youth, speed and hockey awareness, it becomes a difficult situation -- a good problem to have, mind you -- to decide who makes the final 23-man roster and who heads to Rockford. The roster currently sits at 40, after a few young hopefuls were given the IceHogs assignment last Friday. That leaves 17 more tough decisions to make before opening night, Thursday, Oct. 9, when the Hawks begin the season in Dallas.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)


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