Blackhawks feeling the pressure of shortened season


Blackhawks feeling the pressure of shortened season

Its been a quiet, too quiet, four months. For hockey players who didnt go overseas, its been a lot of skating, drills and just-stay-in-shape work.

But the quiet is about to be shattered. Because starting Jan. 19 most likely the NHL is back in business. And itll be a fast, frenzied, 48-game schedule business. With this brief post-lockout schedule, there is no time to adjust and no time to work out wrinkles. The action is going to be intense, as will the competition to get into the postseason.

Im pretty sure now you cant take a night off. You have to be steady every game, Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland said Monday. Its going to be the team that gets out of the gates quick thatll be on top.

Indeed, theres no room for a rough start. If the season was an hourglass, its already half empty. If a team lags behind early, its not going to be easy catching up to the pack.

Its a long playoff run for everybody. Its going to be right from the get-go, Brian Campbell said. The playoff picture after 48 games last year would probably look a lot different than it does at the end of the season. Its definitely important to get off to a good start.

On the bright side, its not very often players enter the January part of the schedule rested and energized. Theyll be dying to play again. But theres a flip side: a shorter training camp means greater potential for injuries. Players have said theyre fine with the shortened schedule, although its still going to take time to get up and running.

Timings important, Marian Hossa said. Weve had some pretty good skates, good workouts. I dont think itll be a huge issue but timings going to take a little bit.

From a fans perspective, the intrigue will start early. Think of it as catching hockey in mid-season, because thats basically what its going to be. Pressure will be there immediately, but so will the energy. Yes, it may not be the prettiest product in those first few games. But it wont take long before its back to good hockey.

And soon after that, the race is on.

Its going to be a sprint to get to the playoffs, Jamal Mayers said. Its going to produce better hockey and its going to be intense and exciting.

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga


Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

We may have seen the last of Derrick Rose on a basketball court. 

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski, the point guard, who's currently recovering from ankle injury, is away from the Cavaliers organization and contemplating his future in basketball: 

The news may come as a shock considering Rose is still only 29 years old, but the Chicago native has experienced triumphant highs and depressing lows like few others in league history. Undoubtedly, that's taken a toll. 

From youngest MVP in league history to injury-prone backup, the former No. 1 pick of the Bulls has seen it all in his nine-year career. And just last season in New York, his passion for the game was called into question after missing a game without informing coaches, players or staff to attend to a family issue. 

He decided to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland last offseason -- a move that nobody could have predicted five years ago -- on a veteran's minimum contract, and averaged 14.3 points before, you guessed it, being forced to sit with injury. 

Fred Hoiberg, who coached Rose for one season in Chicago, weighed in before Friday's Bulls-Warriors game: 

If Rose ultimately decides to step away for good, eerie parallels can be drawn to Doug Collins' NBA stint. Collins didn't have quite the upside Rose had, but he was a three-time All-Star before foot and knee injuries cut his career short at, yes, also 29. 

It's another sad twist in the Derrick Rose Story. He may be the greatest 'What if' in NBA history.