Cubs

Time for Blackhawks to make some noise in free agency

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Time for Blackhawks to make some noise in free agency

As the first week of free agency draws to a close, the Chicago Blackhawks went into the weekend much as they began this period: quietly.

The Zach PariseRyan Suter blockbuster was finally completed on July 4, with the Blackhawks coming up empty on their attempt to land, at least, Parise. It was worth a shot, certainly, but the Blackhawks need to address needs like defense, center and perhaps even goaltending still exists.

General manager Stan Bowman talked with the media on Wednesday night, but wouldnt say whether hed go through free agency or trades to find what the Blackhawks need.

I dont want to handicap it. Its possible we could pursue players. But one thing Ive tried to convey is weve got a really good nucleus of our team here, he said. Unlike some teams who have had players who left or (teams that have) holes in the roster, were not in that position. Weve got a full roster and were confident with our group right now.

The only mention of Blackhawks today was by Roberto Luongo on the Jeff ONeil Show, when he said he kinda wouldnt mindmaybe would consider playing for the Blackhawks. Heres what he said about potentially playing for them:

There are a lot of cities that are great to play in and Chicagos definitely one of them. But you have to realize it works both ways, said Luongo, who has nine years remaining on the 12-year, 64 million deal he signed in 2009. Its not only me involved. It would also be a question if the hawks would be interested in me and if (Vancouver) would be interested in trading me and if Id be willing to go there.

Meanwhile, heres what he told ONeil about playing for the Florida Panthers again:

Floridas definitely one of the spots Id be willing to go to, said Luongo, who lives there in the offseason and added that a trade there makes sense.

Yes, it seems very likely Luongos wearing a red jersey next season. But its very unlikely the one in Chicago.

So back to the Blackhawks and their quiet week. Bowman acknowledged that one thing hes learned though this whole process is that drafting and developing players, and building a team that way, is better in the long run. Any doubters, please see the Detroit Red Wings.

There are a lot of free agents and you have to overpay to get them; it drives home the significance of drafting well and developing well. Thats been our strength, Bowman said. The last two (summers) weve drafted very well. This one is no different. We intend to bring these players to the Blackhawks in short order. Thats whats become apparent to me. If youre trying to build a team through the July free-agent market, thats tough to do. Were trying to add a piece or two, as opposed to ones desperately trying to get their team going.

No, the Blackhawks arent in desperate mode. But they are in determined mode; determined not to have another first-round exit. And if they want to avoid that, theyll have to make some noise eventually.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: