Blackhawks

Drew Brees has some critical words for Saints

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Drew Brees has some critical words for Saints

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Drew Brees said in a radio interview Wednesday night that he is frustrated by what he views as a lack of communication with the New Orleans Saints in his ongoing contract negotiations, adding the club should have shown more urgency to get a long-term deal done. "It's been extremely frustrating for me. I don't think the negotiations should have been this difficult," Brees said on WWL radio in New Orleans. "What's been a little frustrating on my end, or disappointing, is the lack of communication. We've reached out on quite a few occasions and at times I know I've been frustrated with the lack of response." While Brees said he wants to return to the team as soon as possible, he raised the possibility of missing minicamp and even training camp if he does not reach a long-term extension that he believes is appropriate. Brees has missed several weeks of voluntary offseason training with the club, and New Orleans holds its first offseason practices, called organized team activities, next week. Brees said the Saints cannot pretend that the NFL's bounty investigation and resulting punishment -- including the suspension of head coach Sean Payton for the whole 2012 season -- has not been a huge distraction that makes the remainder of the Saints' offseason work "very important." "This is a big time for our team, especially when you look at what has happened this offseason," he said. Given his leadership role and his performance during his past six seasons, Brees said he would hope the Saints would make his next contract a top priority. "There should be a sense of urgency and it just seems like there's not," Brees said. The Saints did not immediately respond to Brees' comments. However, general manager Mickey Loomis said last month he understands that he has never worked on a more important deal than Brees' extension, and he wants to come up with a deal that makes his star quarterback happy. The Saints this season will attempt to make the playoffs for a fourth straight time. If they do so, they'll be in the running to become the first team to play the Super Bowl on its home field next February in the Superdome. New Orleans has most of the top players back from an offense that set numerous NFL records last season, when Brees passed for an NFL single-season record 5,474 yards, smashing Dan Marino's mark of 5,084, which had stood since 1984. The Saints have placed the exclusive franchise tag on Brees, meaning he won't be playing anywhere else next season. However, Brees does not have to report and has said he has no intention of playing under a one-year franchise tag that does not give him any long-term security. "I feel like our position is very reasonable and certainly appropriate for the situation that I'm in, which is having played the full extent of my (previous) six-year contract," Brees said. "I knew exactly what I was signing up for and over the last few years I have not said a peep about wanting a new contract or not being happy with my current contract. ... Certainly, I took on a lot of risk last year by playing the last year of my contract without anything guaranteed for the future." Brees said he still wants to finish his career in New Orleans and has a plan to be as prepared as possible when he does eventually report. "If that means missing OTAs, minicamp, training camp, I will be as ready as can possibly be," Brees said. "There's no way you can simulate those things anywhere else other than being on the field with your team, but I have a plan, so I'll execute that plan as I need to."

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks’ first tripping came barely a minute into the game. Then came another one. And another. And another. And another. Despite welcoming one of their fastest players back into the lineup, the Blackhawks were overall flat-footed and playing catch-up all night, be it on the ice or on the scoreboard, to the St. Louis Blues.

Nick Schmaltz returned but the effect on the second line and the Blackhawks overall wasn’t immediate. Instead the Blackhawks looked sluggish. Their offensive opportunities were few – a one and done here and there but no sustained zone time or pressure on Blues goaltender Jake Allen – their passing was off and they were on the defensive all night.

And then there were the tripping penalties. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held up through it, nullifying all five Blues power-play opportunities. But the Blues found other ways to inflict their damage.

“They played well and we were brutal,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a bad start, a bad middle and even [though] it was a little excited at the end it wasn’t very good. That’s as close to brutal as you can get.”

The Blackhawks’ last three games have common themes: they’re outshot for a good part of the game, they’re giving up a good amount of quality shots and then the urgency hits them midway through the third period. For the third consecutive contest the Blackhawks scored two goals late and in two of those three games it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough for two periods. If you take any positives out of this game, it’s the way we played in the third,” Patrick Kane said. “At least we know we can do it. Just gotta do it before our backs are against the wall.”

Why it’s taking the Blackhawks so long to get going, however, is the question. Obviously the Blackhawks’ late third-period pushes show how capable they are of producing when necessary. Said Alex DeBrincat, who assisted on Ryan Hartman’s goal late in regulation, “If we’re would’ve been crashing the net like that all game it may have been a different story.”

But they didn’t. The Blackhawks welcomed back a teammate that’s injected speed into their lineup but the team was once again stumbling out of the gate.

“We’re supposed to be out there, giving our all every minute we’re out there and every shift, go out there and take it a shift at a time and give it all you got every shift,” Hartman said. “We have four lines that can roll so there’s no excuse for not going out there and putting all your energy out there for a shift and getting ready for the next one.”

Joe Maddon not expecting a shake-up of Cubs coaching staff

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon not expecting a shake-up of Cubs coaching staff

Unless Joe Maddon gets blindsided by top-down changes or a personal decision, it sounds like the Cubs manager expects his entire coaching staff to return for the 2018 season, keeping together the group that has made three consecutive trips to the National League Championship Series.

“Of course,” Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field, where the defending World Series champs were facing an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, on the verge of getting swept out of the NLCS. “Listen, the staff’s done a great job. Our staff’s been awesome. It’s a tightly-knit group. Really, there’s a lot of synergy involved.

“Nobody knows everything. Everybody helps everybody. There’s a lot of cross-pollination. Nobody’s on their own little island. I really like that.”

Pitching coach Chris Bosio – who would be an in-demand candidate after helping develop Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and turn Kyle Hendricks into last year’s major-league ERA leader – also told WSCR-AM 670 that he believes the staff will remain intact.

Maddon – who only brought bench coach Dave Martinez over from the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2014 season – is a hands-off boss and a baseball lifer who did a lot of grunt work before becoming rich and famous.

“I don’t think any of them ever withhold saying something to me that they have on their mind, which I really appreciate,” Maddon said. “They don’t feel like they can’t say it. That’s the one thing I always wanted to build, that kind of a method where: ‘If you got something, say it. Don’t hold it back. Just say it. You know you can.’

“There’s nothing held against you for doing it. I think in some places that isn’t the case, so there’s a lot of positive messaging going on.”

This would be a connect-the-dots scenario, but Maddon ruled out the idea of hiring Jim Hickey, the longtime pitching coach who has roots in Chicago and parted ways with the Rays this month. Hickey’s influence helped turn the Rays into a viable small-market contender, coaching up young pitchers like David Price and Chris Archer.

“I called him to console a friend,” Maddon said. “We have not discussed (anything else). I just wanted to know how he was doing, purely because it kind of surprised me, and it surprised a lot of us. So I did talk to ‘Hick,’ but we talk all the time.

“He sends me texts when he’s driving over the causeways down there, because he knows how much I love looking for dolphins driving over the Howard Franklin or the Gandy Bridge. So he (texts): ‘I saw a couple dolphins this morning.’ And I try to get him to come to our parties – he’s a funny guy.

“We had a great relationship and he’s going to turn out just fine. He’s going to be well-sought-after.”