Bears

Martin Brodeur will be a Devil for life

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Martin Brodeur will be a Devil for life

From Comcast SportsNet
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Martin Brodeur is going to remain the face of the New Jersey Devils. The 40-year-old goaltender who has led the team to three Stanley Cups, signed a two-year, 9 million contract Monday to stay with the only NHL club he's ever known. "At the end of the day, this is what I wanted all along," Brodeur said in a conference call. "Circumstances happen sometimes in life that I can't control, and I can't say it won't happen again, but I am happy, and two years seems appropriate for me maybe to leave the game at that time. But I am not 100 percent sure. Again, we'll how I feel and how well I am able to play." The key to the new deal was the Devils' eventual willingness to give him the extra year, Brodeur said. Adding the length of the contract was more important than the money because of the potential of a lockout this upcoming season. Two years provides stability and the assurance that he will have somewhere to play. Brodeur would not identify the teams that contacted him, though Chicago and Toronto expressed interest. When asked if he gave the Devils a discount, he noted there were offers from other teams that were much different than the one he signed. Hours after word of Brodeur's deal leaked, the Devils also announced that backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, 39, also signed a two-year deal worth 1.4 million per season. Both deals feature no-trade clauses. "We'll definitely bring stability to the back end," said Brodeur, the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender. "We've done that for the last year and a half, two years. It's nice to be able to count on somebody to be able to play well and that helped me to be fresh on the back end of the season. It's a nice setup." Brodeur posted a 31-21-4 record in the regular season with three shutouts and a .908 save percentage in helping the Devils make the playoffs after missing out the previous year for the first time since 1996. He was better in the postseason, recording a 14-9 mark with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in leading sixth-seeded New Jersey to its first Eastern Conference title since 2003. New Jersey defeated the Panthers, Flyers and Rangers to advance to the finals before losing the Cup to the Los Angeles Kings in six games. Brodeur has posted a 656-371-105 career record with the Devils, winning Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003, and has been a fixture for a franchise that had never been to a Cup final before he arrived. Admittedly, free agency was a new experience for him, as contract negotiations haven't often been a sticking point in his career. In fact, before he hired Pat Brisson last week, Brodeur used to represent himself at the bargaining table with Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello. "We talked to the Devils all along and the line of communication was always open," Brodeur said, adding he did entertain some offers before the Devils came through with the all-important extra year. "The Devils weren't ready for a little while to do that," he said. "When they were able to get it done, that made the decision pretty easy." Hedberg, a 1994 draft choice of Philadelphia, has a career mark of 155-133-33 with 21 shutouts and a 2.83 goals-against average in 354 games over ten NHL seasons. He played for Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Dallas and Atlanta before truly finding his way in New Jersey. He played in 27 games last season, posting a 17-7-2 mark with four shutouts and a 2.23 goals-against, and is quite comfortable as a reserve player at this point in his career. With the goaltending situation settled, the Devils now turn their focus left wing Zach Parise. The Devils captain is the top free agent on the market, and he told reporters Sunday that he may make a decision Monday. Parise was named captain before last season by new coach Peter DeBoer, and delivered 31 goals and 69 points in that role. Brodeur spoke with Parise several times on Sunday, and then again on Monday morning. He even planned a couple more calls if necessary. He also talked to Lamoriello about Parise while working on his own deal. "Zach is a priority of the Devils," Brodeur said. "You have to put pieces together to form a team, and he is a piece of it, like Hedberg is a piece of it. Zach is a franchise player at this stage of his career. We are definitely waiting impatiently for his decision and hopefully he is coming back with us." Parise deserves everything he can get in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Brodeur said. "I wasn't that much biased yesterday afternoon, but now I am a lot more for him to come back," Brodeur quipped, adding that Parise has indicated that the Devils are right in the mix on his short list. "By no means," Brodeur said, "is he not considering coming back."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.