Bears

Yet another coaching change in the NHL

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Yet another coaching change in the NHL

From Comcast SportsNet
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Randy Carlyle appeared relieved after his Anaheim Ducks snapped a seven-game skid Wednesday night, figuring his talented club had turned a corner. If only the winningest coach in franchise history had known what was waiting for him around that corner. Fed up with the Ducks' inexplicably slow start, the club fired the Stanley Cup-winning coach and his staff late Wednesday night. Anaheim swiftly replaced Carlyle with former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who was dismissed by the Capitals just two days earlier. The Ducks made the abrupt moves after beating Montreal 4-1 on Wednesday night for just their third victory in 19 games. Despite the presence of league MVP Corey Perry, captain Ryan Getzlaf, 41-year-old scorer Teemu Selanne and All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller, the Ducks are off to a 7-13-4 start, ahead of only Columbus in the 15-team Western Conference. "Randy is a terrific head coach, and did a tremendous job for us for six-plus seasons," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. "We thank him greatly for his hard work and dedication to our franchise, not the least of which was a Stanley Cup championship. At this time, we simply felt a new voice was needed. Bruce is a proven winner with a great track record, and we are optimistic we can turn this season around under his leadership." Carlyle coached the Ducks to the franchise's only Stanley Cup title and Pacific Division championship in 2007, but the longtime NHL defenseman struggled to get his talented club's attention this fall after agreeing in August to a three-year contract extension through the 2013-14 season. After Anaheim's seventh straight defeat last Sunday night, a dispassionate 5-2 loss to Toronto, Carlyle lamented that his players sometimes seemed to be "dead between the ears." He was in a better mood after the Ducks handled the Canadiens, praising their tenacity and his stars' leadership through a tough stretch. A few minutes later, Carlyle was dismissed from the job he had held since August 2005. Anaheim cleaned house Wednesday night, also firing assistant coaches Dave Farrish and Mike Foligno and video coordinator Joe Trotta. The Ducks hired Brad Lauer as an assistant coach to Boudreau, and will add another assistant soon. Carlyle is the fourth coach to be fired in the always-impatient NHL's young season, and the third this week. Paul Maurice was also dismissed on Monday by the Carolina Hurricanes, while Davis Payne was let go by the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 6. Boudreau, after doing a round of interviews Wednesday morning in which he said the Capitals made the right move by firing him, took a new job less than 72 hours after leaving a remarkably similar situation in Washington, which dropped him Monday after a slow start with a talented roster that's had little recent playoff success. Boudreau will run the Ducks' practice on Thursday before his formal introduction, and his new players will be in for a major change from the sometimes-crusty Carlyle to the personable Boudreau, nicknamed "Gabby" for his garrulous style. Anaheim hosts Philadelphia on Friday night for Boudreau's debut. Carlyle was behind Anaheim's bench for many of the 1993 expansion franchise's biggest moments. He had compiled a 273-182-6 record after taking over for Mike Babcock as the seventh head coach in club history. Carlyle led Anaheim to the postseason in five of his first six seasons, winning more playoff games during that stretch than any coach except Babcock in Detroit. But Anaheim won just one playoff round in the past four years since winning the Cup, losing to fifth-seeded Nashville in the first round last season. Boudreau led Washington to the last four Southeast Division titles and the 2010 Presidents' Trophy while winning 201 games in just four years on the job, but the Caps' lack of playoff success helped to seal his fate when they slumped following a 7-0 start to this season. He won the Jack Adams award as the NHL's best coach in 2008, but never got past the second round of the playoffs despite a roster featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and talented supporting casts. Boudreau favors an attacking offensive style that should suit the Ducks' talented forwards, although Carlyle also gave his players plenty of freedom for offensive creativity. Lauer was promoted from the Ducks' AHL affiliate in Syracuse, where he had been an assistant since July. He spent the previous two seasons on the Ottawa Senators' staff.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?