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Rockies players react to Tracy's departure

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Rockies players react to Tracy's departure

From Comcast SportsNetDENVER (AP) -- Players who stood by Jim Tracy while the Colorado Rockies endured their worst season in franchise history are reiterating their support for him following the manager's resignation over the weekend.Left-hander Jeff Francis said he was surprised to hear Tracy had decided to step down, telling The Associated Press in an email: "I loved playing for him and I think everyone did. The Rockies will miss him for sure."Among the most vocal supporters was outfielder Dexter Fowler, who appreciated Tracy sticking with him through protracted slumps over the last two seasons before a breakout 2012. He tweeted, "Man I'm gonna miss Tracy, thanks for believing in me! You are a wonderful and stand up guy!"One of the few bright spots as the Rockies flirted with the dreaded 100-loss season before finishing 64-98, Fowler batted .300 with a .389 on-base percentage and 13 homers last season, all career highs.Rex Brothers, Tyler Colvin and Josh Rutledge also tweeted praise for Tracy, who informed Bill Geivett, the team's director of major league operations, on Sunday that he was forgoing the final year on his contract, which was to pay him 1.4 million."Gonna miss No. 4 sitting in that dugout at Coors! Thanks for everything skip. None better," Brothers tweeted.Colvin tweeted he was "Sad to hear the news about our skipper. It was a privilege to play for such a great manager and such a great person." He concluded with (hashtag)ClassAct"And Rutledge tweeted, "So lucky to be able to have played for a manager like Jim Tracy with the professionalism and intelligence for the game. He will be missed."Energized by the young players and the challenge of fixing things, Tracy had said repeatedly the last several weeks that he wanted to fulfill the final year on his contract and players including clubhouse leaders Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez said they were sticking by Tracy.Tracy, however, changed his mind after meeting with Geivett for several hours on Friday and then mulling those discussions over the weekend. He called him Sunday afternoon and offered his resignation.Tracy, who took over after Clint Hurdle lost the clubhouse in early 2009 and led them to the playoffs that year, finished 294-308 in three-plus seasons.The Rockies are now conducting their first managerial search since Jim Leyland resigned after the 1999 season. Geivett said he had no set time frame for hiring Tracy's replacement.Possible candidates include bench coach Tom Runnels and Stu Cole, who managed the Rockies' Triple-A farm club in Colorado Springs.

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Is it time to reunite the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie line?

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USA TODAY Sports

Is it time to reunite the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie line?

The Caps are struggling of late and the top six is a big reason why. Washington has lost three of its last four games and has been outscored in those four games 17-9, but the top six’s problems have been lingering for longer than just these past four games.

Nicklas Backstrom has only two even strength points in his last 13 games and no goals since Oct. 14. T.J. Oshie is producing well on the power play, but he is also struggling five-on-five with one goal and four assists in his past 17 games.

Likewise, the second line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Devante Smith-Pelly is also struggling. They have not scored an even-strength point in six games.

A team cannot be successful if its top players are not producing offensively. Do these recent struggles show that it is time for Washington to go back to the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie line?

RELATED: HOW DID JOHNNY GAUDREAU GET SO WIDE OPEN?

Despite their past success, the trio has not started together at any point this season. Head coach Barry Trotz denied on Tuesday that he has any hesitancy towards putting those three back together and pointed out that he did actually use that line in the team’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

“In Colorado I tried to do that,” Trotz said, “Put Ovi, Osh and Backstrom against their second line and they allowed that and they didn't get any production so I'm trying it. Their top line outplayed our top line.”

When asked why he had not used the line from the start of a game, Trotz essentially dismissed the question saying, “Just don’t feel like it.”

Despite Trotz’s denial, there does seem to be some hesitancy from him to go back to a line that has been incredibly successful in the past. Backstrom and Ovechkin have been on the ice five-on-five for a grand total of 16:46 this season. In addition to Oshie who has been his consistent linemate, Backstrom has spent more even-strength ice time with Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson and Tom Wilson than he has with Ovechkin.

Why?

One reason is Trotz remains unconcerned with Backstrom’s slump. While he may not be generating points, the chances are still there.

“Against Minnesota [Backstrom] could have had a hat trick and they're not going in easy for him,” Trotz said. “I think you have more concern when you're not getting any chances than when you are getting chances. When you're getting chances, you're obviously getting the good spots, you're doing lots of good things, they're just not going in for you. When you're not getting any chances and any looks, then it gets frustrating for you.”

Another reason is Backstrom’s defensive responsibilities. He is one of the team’s top shutdown forwards and defense is not a strong part of Ovechkin’s game. It is hard to put Backstrom in shut down situations if his line is not suited for those responsibilities.

Let’s say the Caps do unite Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie. What would the rest of the forward lines look like?

Here’s a possible projection:

Stephenson – Kuznetsov – Vrana
Connolly – Eller – Wilson
Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson

MORE CAPITALS: JAY BEAGLE GIVES THE DIRT ON WHAT BARRY TROTZ IS LIKE AS A COACH FOR THE PLAYERS

You can make your own lineup, but you can see there’s not a whole lot of depth behind that top line. This team is not nearly as deep as it has been in years past and the forward lines look even thinner when you put Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie all together on the top. This would be an incredibly top-heavy lineup and it is hard to find success that way.

Then again, they top-six is not having much success now.

Oshie admitted after practice Thursday he would like to see that line reunited, but he remains confident in Trotz’s lineup choices.

“Whatever [Trotz] thinks,” Oshie said. “My game doesn't change much from playing with one player to the next. We've played together at times this year, we've had a couple shifts together so I think he's just still trying to see what works and what he can use. I think we know that we can have success playing us three together. Whatever the lines are is just fine with me.”

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Redskins will start their No. 3 center against the Giants

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Redskins will start their No. 3 center against the Giants

Jay Gruden said during the offseason that the thing that scared him most was not having a good center and a backup available. The coach probably is terrified now.

Spencer Long, who started the season at center, is headed to injured reserve. He has been battling tendonitis in his knees for several weeks and, apparently, an injured quad muscle. Gruden said that Long will have surgery to fix the quad.

MORE REDSKINS: QUANTIFYING THE LATE-HALF DIFFICULTIES

Rookie Chase Roullier has been playing well in Long’s absence but he will be on the shelf at least this week. He broke a bone in his hand against the Saints and, according to a report, he has had surgery to repair it. While he has not been ruled out it seems likely that he will miss at least this game, if not more.

The Redskins’ third option is veteran journeyman Tony Bergstrom. It looks like he will start at center against the Giants on Thursday. The Redskins are Bergstrom’s fourth team in four seasons in the league. He has started four games, all for the Raiders in 2012 and 2015. Bergstrom signed with the Redskins about four weeks ago.

Bergstrom’s backup will be Demetrius Rhaney, who was just signed. He started one game for the Rams after they drafted him in the seventh round in 2014.

As expected, both Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor are headed to injured reserve. In addition to signing Rhaney, the team will promote LB Pete Robertson and RB LeShun Daniels from the practice squad. Earlier this week they re-signed DL A.J. Francis. They will have to drop one player from the 53-man roster before all of these moves are made official.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.