Blackhawks

Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

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Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

The 2012 Bears overall is excellent, as good as could be expected: 6-1. But as coordinator Mike Tice said on Wednesday, the performance against the Panthers obviously was not resume material.

It wouldnt be a whole heck of a lot of clinic coming out of that performance in the first half last week, Tice said.

Why that matters is that where some wins or losses provide positives to build on, that game didnt. A team that has stated it wants to build from a base of balance and running the ball did neither very well.

Indeed, the offensive coordinator is likening the Bears' offense to one in another sport that no one really should be aspiring to be like.

Forte analyzed

The questions have focused on whether or not Matt Forte is getting the ball enough of Brandon Marshall is getting it too much, or rather other receivers too little.

Fortes problem is actually simple. The franchise back missed one game, vs. St. Louis. In three of the six games he played, the Bears ran 57, 54 and 53 plays. Not enough enough to go around.

For purposes of loose comparison: Through the first six games last season, Forte handled the ball on 139 of the Bears 354 snaps (38.1 percent). Of those, 99 were runs.

Through the six games hes played this season, the Bears have run 376 snaps. Of those, the ball has gone to Forte on 113 (30 percent).

One difference is that through the first six last season, other backs (Marion Barber, Kalil Bell) had 28 total carries. Michael Bush has 49 carries in the 2012 Forte games, plus 18 vs. St. Louis.

The falloff in receiving for Forte also is no surprise, to him above all.

Im not the only one out there catching balls, Forte told CSNChicago.com. It just so happens we havent had to use me as much in the passing game.

Passing thoughts

The personality of the passing is incomplete. Marshall is in place but the loss of Alshon Jeffery cannot be ignored. The rookie had moved into the starting lineup and was second on the team with 14 catches when he broke his hand three games ago.

He is still No. 2 among wide receivers in catches. Losing speed receiver Johnny Knox, who had 37 catches all last season, was a setback but Jay Cutlers confidence level in Knox was nowhere near what it was becoming with the 6-foot-3 Jeffery.

But while the Bears spoke throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason about the multiple weapons on offense, the deployment of those weapons still has a tilt.

Marshall was acquired to catch a lot of passes. He is on pace to catch 110-112. That would be more than the top three Bears wide receivers combined last season.

Bad model

If that happens, what does that suggest about the effectiveness of those other so-called weapons.

Were like the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves when I was there and Kevin Garnett was playing, Tice said. All their offensive plays went through Kevin Garnett. In our passing game, were going to obviously go through Brandon, so hes going to be the first read or an early read a lot of the times.

Tice may want to find another template to use. In Garnetts years with the Timberwolves (1995-2007), Minnesota finished first in the Midwest Division and reached the Western Conference finals once.

With Garnett they never finished higher than third in the division, and they lost in the first round all six other times they managed to make the playoffs.

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Probably not the way the Blackhawks wanted to start their second half of the season.

After a five-day break, the Blackhawks suffered a brutal 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the United Center. This coming after a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice last Sunday.

"It was a game we had to win," Quenneville said after Saturday's loss. "Disappointing in a lot of ways."

The Blackhawks needed both goaltenders to get through 60 minutes. Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass combined for 39 saves on 46 shots.

On the offensive side of things, Patrick Kane hit a milestone.

The 29-year-old had two goals and an assist and recorded his 800th career point, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to reach 800 points.

The Blackhawks are now 22-18-6 on the season with 50 points and rank last in the Central Division, five points behind the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks' schedule doesn't get any easier when the Tampa Bay Lightning — the league-leader in points — come to town on Monday.

See what Quenneville and Kane had to say about Saturday's loss in the video above.

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

When the 2017 season ended, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber looked in the mirror and didn't like what he saw.

He was stocky, slower than he wanted to be and he had just finished a very difficult season that saw him spend time back in the minor leagues at Triple-A after he struggled mightily through the first three months of the season.

Schwarber still put up solid power numbers despite his overall struggles. He slammed 30 home runs, putting him among the Top 15 hitters in the National League and among the Top 35 in all of baseball. But, Schwarber was honest with himself. He knew he could achieve so much more if he was in better shape and improved his mobility, his overall approach at the plate and his defense.

Schwarber was drafted by the Cubs out of Indiana University as a catcher. However, many scouts around baseball had serious doubts about his ability to catch at the big league level. The Cubs were in love with Schwarber the person and Schwarber the overall hitter and felt they would give him a chance to prove he could catch for them. If he couldn't, then they believed he could play left field adequately enough to keep his powerful bat in the lineup.

However, a serious knee injury early in the 2016 season knocked Schwarber out of action for six months and his return to the Cubs in time to assist in their World Series run raised expectations for a tremendous 2017 season. In fact, the expectations for Schwarber were wildly unrealistic when the team broke camp last spring. Manager Joe Maddon had Schwarber in the everyday lineup batting leadoff and playing left field.

But Schwarber's offseason after the World Series consisted of more rehab on his still-healing injured left knee. That kept him from working on his outfield play, his approach at the plate and his overall baseball training. 

Add in all of the opportunities and commitments that come with winning a World Series and it doesn't take much detective work to understand why Schwarber struggled so much when the 2017 season began. This offseason, though, has been radically different. A season-ending meeting with Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer led to a decision to take weight off of Schwarber's frame. It also included a decision to change his training program so that he improved his quickness, lateral movement and his overall baseball skills.

"I took two weeks off after the season ended and then I went to work," Schwarber said. "We put a plan together to take weight off and to improve my quickness. I have my meals delivered and I feel great. My baseball work combined with a lot of strength and conditioning has me in the best shape that I have ever been in."

Schwarber disagrees with the pundits who felt manager Maddon's decision to put him in the leadoff spot in the Cubs' loaded lineup contributed to his struggles.

"I have no problem hitting wherever Joe wants to put me," Schwarber said. "I didn't feel any more pressure because I was batting leadoff. I just needed to get back to training for a baseball season as opposed to rehabbing from my knee injury. I'm probably 20-25 pounds lighter and I'm ready to get back to Arizona with the boys and to get ready for the season."

Many around the game were shocked when the Cubs drafted Schwarber with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, but a rival executive who was not surprised by the pick believes that Schwarber can indeed return to the form that made him such a feared hitter during his rookie season as well as his excellent postseason resume.

"Everyone who doubted this kid may end up way off on their evaluation because he is a great hitter and now that he is almost two years removed from his knee injury," the executive said. "He knows what playing at the major-league level is all about I expect him to be a real force in the Cubs lineup.

"Theo and Jed do not want to trade this kid and they are going to give him every opportunity to succeed. I think he has a chance to be as good a hitter as they have in their order."

Watch the full 1-on-1 interview with Kyle Schwarber Sunday night on NBC Sports Chicago.