Cubs

Bowman: Hawks have areas for improvement

684556.png

Bowman: Hawks have areas for improvement

NEWARK, N.J. Stan Bowman talked with a few of his fellow NHL general managers on Wednesday, including Tampa Bays Steve Yzerman and the Florida Panthers Dale Tallon. No, it wasnt tradebarter talk. But theres no time like the present to start the friendly banter.

Bowman was one of many GMs participating in a brief meeting in New York on Wednesday. The meeting was to talk about some potential rule changes as well; but it also lays some light groundwork for trade chatter.

A couple guys I spoke to said well talk over the next couple of weeks, but there was nothing of substance, really, said Bowman, who added hes not looking for anything specific for this Blackhawks team this offseason.

We have a lot of good components in place already. Were just looking to get better and that can be shown in a couple of different ways, he said. We have some ideas but we havent decided, definitively, where were going with it yet.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks coaching staff is still minus an assistant after Mike Haviland was fired earlier this month. Bowman said its a focus, but the team is not in a tremendous hurry to hire a new assistant.

The important thing is to get it right; its not about doing it fast, said Bowman. Weve got some ideas on how to handle it, and were going to dive back into that in a few weeks.

It was ultimately coach Joel Quennevilles decision to fire Haviland; Quenneville spoke of dysfunction that had to be addressed at the time, but didnt elaborate on it much. Bowman didnt expand upon it much more, either, on Wednesday.

I dont want to live in the past, he said. Joel addressed it, put it succinctly that were trying to improve, ad thats what it comes down to. He agreed with me that we could be better, and thats a big part of it as well.

So now it comes down to that improvement aspect. The Blackhawks stars have continued to be just that these past two seasons, for the most part. The supporting cast is where the team has struggled, as attempts to conjure up the same magical group that won the Cup in 2010 has faltered. One way or another, the Blackhawks need to find that chemistry again, top to bottom.

Well look at adding, be it new faces or substantial players from other teams. Thats one way to improve. The other way is from within, Bowman said. Your own players can step their games up and coaches can get more out of them. You add all those up, theyre areas for improvement.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

1117_kris_bryant.jpg
USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.