Bears

Blackhawks have options with 18th pick

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Blackhawks have options with 18th pick

This year there's no Steven Stamkos or Patrick Kane.

The 2012 draft class has been criticized as being weaker than others in the past, and debates still continue around the rankings of top prospects.

As we approach the start of the draft, Russia's Nail Yakupov is expected to come out on top as the first pick. The 18-year-old right winger from the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League has recorded 80 goals and 90 assists throughout his three-season stint in the MHL and OHL. He's expected to be signed by the Edmonton Oilers.

With the 18th overall pick, the Blackhawks will likely be looking at defensemen to boost the team's roster as they prepare for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Some prospects Chicago may be keeping an eye on are defensemen Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks, Matthew Finn of the Guelph Storm, Hampus Lindholm of Rogle U20, Dalton Thrower of the Saskatoon Blades, and Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes.

Lindholm would provide the greatest size for the team at 6'2, 196 pounds. He has great speed on the ice and isn't afraid to stand up for his teammates when necessary, possessing a physical presence that could work well alongside Brandon Bollig. Finn is known around the league for his strong work ethic and his ability to rush the puck down the ice.

Some scouts and writers have compared Pouliot to former Blackhawk Brian Campbell, known for his high-quality skating and passing abilities. Thrower proved to the Blades that he can deliver on the power play, something that could be a great asset to the Blackhawks' squad.

Although this draft class hasn't been as highly anticipated as others in the past, each of the prospects have strong qualities they could bring to the table in Chicago. Even though they'd likely spend some time in Rockford before seeing NHL playing time, these defensemen could add impressive skills to the team.

The first round of the NHL Draft will take place Friday night in Pittsburgh. The remainder of rounds will take place on Saturday. Make sure to follow @TramyersCSN and @HawksTalkCSN on Twitter for full updates on the Blackhawks.

Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record

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USA TODAY

Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record

When John Fox succeeded Marc Trestman in 2015, neither he nor the Bears were looking at the situation and Fox as any sort of “bridge” hire – a de facto interim coach tasked with winning, but just as importantly, developing and getting a team turned around and headed in a right direction.

The heart of the matter is always winning, but in the overall, the mission statement also includes leaving the place better than you found it. Fox did that, which is very clearly the sentiment upstairs at Halas Hall as the Bears move on from Fox to Matt Nagy.

“It would’ve been nice to see it through,” Fox said to NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s kind of a bitter pill but you sort things out and move forward.

“I do think it’s closer than people think. We inherited a mess... but I felt we were on the brink at the end. I think that [Halas Hall] building is definitely different; they feel it. I do think that it was a positive.”

(Fox is probably not done coaching at some point, but that’s for another time, another story, and anyway, it’s his tale to tell when he feels like it. Or doesn’t.)

One measure of the Bears change effected: Virtually the entire Trestman staff, with the exceptions of receivers coach Mike Groh and linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, was jettisoned along with Trestman. By contrast, Nagy has retained not only virtually the entire Fox defensive staff under coordinator Vic Fangio, but also arguably the single most important non-coordinator offensive coach by virtue of position responsibility – Dave Ragone, the hands-on mentor of quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Obvious but extremely difficult decisions are coming, as to shedding personnel and contracts – Josh Sitton, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young being among the most difficult because of tangible intangibles that no organization wants to lose.

“Bridge” results

Fox was never intended as a bridge coach but the results point to that function having been served. To exactly what end remains to play out under Nagy and the quarterback whom Ragone and Fox’s handling began developing.

Rick Renteria was one of those “bridge” guys for the Cubs, intended to be part of pulling out of or at least arresting the slide into the Mike Quade-Dale Sveum abyss, and leaving something for Joe Maddon. The late Vince Lombardi effectively served as that, at age 56 and for an unforeseen one-year for a Washington Redskins organization that’d gone 13 years without a winning season before Lombardi’s 1969 and needed a radical reversal. The culture change was realized over the next decade under George Allen and Jack Pardee, much of the success coming with the same players with whom Washington had languished before the culture change.

The Bears were in that state after the two years of Trestman and the three years of GM Phil Emery, certain of whose character-lite veteran player acquisitions (Martellus Bennett, Brandon Marshall) and high-character launchings (Brian Urlacher) had left a palpable pall over Halas Hall. A Fox goal was to eradicate that, which insiders in Lake Forest say privately was accomplished even amid the catastrophic crush of three straight seasons of 10 or more losses, and with injuries at historic levels.

What happens next is in the hands of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, after a third John Fox franchise turnaround failed to materialize. Or did it? Because much of the core, from Trubisky through the defensive makeover, came on Fox’s watch, like him or not.

“You wish some things would’ve happened differently obviously,” Fox said, “but there was a lot positive that happened.”

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

The Blackhawks have banned the four fans — who were ejected from Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals for their racist remarks towards Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly — from future home games.

On Monday, a Blackhawks spokesperson released this statement:

We have contacted the select individuals involved in the incident on Saturday to notify them that they are no longer welcome at our home games. Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks also wanted to remind fans that they can alert security at the United Center by texting the following to 69050: UCASSIST <SPACE> followed by the seating section, row and a brief description of the issue.