Cutler 'sorry' he couldn't help Smith more


Cutler 'sorry' he couldn't help Smith more

Jay Cutler found himself in an awkward situation Monday morning, as news of Lovie Smith's firing went public while Cutler was on air for his weekly radio show onWMVP-AM.
Cutler did not seem too surprised by the news -- perhaps he was informed of his former head coach's fate in advance -- but he did give his initial thoughts on the public news.
"It's a sad day at Halas Hall," he said. "I have a lot of respect for the guy, he's made friends with a lot of the players; he was a player's coach and I've been very lucky in my seven years to have two great coaches."
When asked if he had any personal words for Smith, Cutler expressed an apologetic tone for the Bears' inconsistent offense, surely a factor in Smith's fate.
"Sorry offensively we couldn't do better for you," he said. "I blame a lot of this on the offense and our inability to perform week in and week out. Defensively they've been carrying us for a while."
A couple of names have been thrown out for consideration to replace Smith, but Cutler wouldn't bite on showing any preference to an offensive-minded coach coming in.
"I trust management. They're gonna make best call. You just have to trust them."
Cutler also said yesterday was stressful for the team, listening to the Packers-Vikings game on the team flight home and then watching it on the team bus. Blair Walsh's last-second field goal knocked the Bears out of the final playoff spot, but Cutler said he doesn't blame anyone but himself and the team for having to rely on another team.
"We shouldn't have been in that position. It's tough when things are taken out of your own hands and you rely on other teams," Cutler said. "Win 11, 12 games and you won't have to worry about this.
Cutler said he and the offense could have been better limiting turnovers and performing in the red zone, and that there's little room for err when trying to win games in the NFL. He praised wide receiver Brandon Marshall for a solid year, but noted there was not enough consistency to form any kind of rhythm.
"We had 1 guy that had a great season and other than that it was kind of a rocky road, up and down, never really any consistency," he said, "and in the NFL to be good, great, you have to be consistent week in and week out and we only got it from 1 player.
"You always can build, find the good and try to weed out the bad and fix the problems. I'm sure we'll get some new additions offensively to help us out. We have talent, just have to figure it out."

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic


It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason


Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.