Blackhawks

Barring fourth-quarter meltdown, franchise history says Lovie stays

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Barring fourth-quarter meltdown, franchise history says Lovie stays

The key to the future often lies in the past and barring a near epic collapse in multiple bad losses, franchise history points to Lovie Smith remaining Bears head coach through the 2013 end of his current contract.
 
More than missing the playoffs will be required for the Bears to jettison a well-liked coach who began this season 14 games over .500 for his career.
 
Some sentiment did exist in high places at the end of last season to sever ties with Smith along with general manager Jerry Angelo. The 11 million remaining on the coachs contract was a tipping point for giving him another year. But it was not the sole reason.
 
Consider: Dave Wannstedt made the 1994 playoffs, then missed by increasing margins for the next three years. He was then brought back for the 1998 season and when that 4-12 record pushed the playoff-less streak to four, he was dismissed.
 
Dick Jauron bought himself an extension with a 13-3 mark in 2001. His team collapsed to 4-12 the following years amid a blizzard of injuries (sound familiar?) and Angelo, who had designs on Nick Saban for Jaurons job, had to wait through a second dismal season before Jauron was out.
 
Smith missed the playoffs the three years after his 2006 Super Bowl season but managed a near-miss 9-7 season in 2008. The NFC Championship appearance in 2010 was followed by a 7-3 start last season before an injury fest that destroyed that playoff run.
 
If the Bears happen to miss again, it will in all likelihood still be a winning season, unless the Bears somehow bumble away games with Green Bay, Arizona and Detroit. Even then it would be two seasons without playoffs.
 
Would the equivalent of playoffs every three years be grounds for firing? Not likely, for an organization that in fact does value character in its field bosses. Michael McCaskey did fire Mike Ditka after one miserable year (1992) following consecutive playoff appearances but that coach-GM relationship was toxic for years.
 
Smiths with Phil Emery is not. And Smith has a year on his contract. If Smith can stanch the hemorrhaging vs. Green Bay, or even win the final two, teams seldom fire 10-6 coaches.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Bold predictions about the Blackhawks' post-All-Star schedule

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Bold predictions about the Blackhawks' post-All-Star schedule

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jamal Mayers and Pat Boyle discuss whether the Blackhawks can get back in the Wild Card race. They tell us which Blackhawks player has been the biggest surprise so far and have they figured out their defensive zone issues?

Jammer weighs in on what he would like to see from this team after the All-Star break, how they can improve their penalty kill and will they be a buyer or seller at the NHL trade deadline?

The guys close out the podcast with their bold predictions for the final 31 games of the regular season.

0:15 Teasing us or can they get into WC race?

2:00 Why is the power play clicking?

3:45 Biggest surprise between Kane, Toews and DeBrincat

6:00 Toews finds confidence

7:30 Biggest surprise from players not named Toews, Kane and Debrincat

10:00 Strome factor

11:30 Have Blackhawks figured out defensive zone issues?

13:30 Jokiharju after the World Juniors

16:00 What would you like to see post All-Star break?

17:00 How do they improve penalty kill?

19:00 Buyer or seller at trade deadline?

21:00 Bold Predictions

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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NBA Power Rankings: Certain franchises at a crossroads

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USA TODAY

NBA Power Rankings: Certain franchises at a crossroads

The NBA trade season is heating up (again) as the February 7 trade deadline nears, and certain franchises have major decisions to make.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Memphis Grizzlies have started to take trade offers for franchise cornerstones Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Any trade involving those two would be the end of an era for the Grizzlies, who are currently second-to-last in the Western Conference. Last season the Grizz missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, netting them young talent Jaren Jackson Jr. Now Memphis is almost sure to go into full rebuilding mode.

The Warriors are at the other end of the spectrum, finding a way to extend their dynasty. DeMarcus Cousins has looked surprisingly athletic in his return to action. Cousins is putting up 11 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 4 APG in just 18 minutes per game this season. His passing from the post has been great and his perimeter shooting from the center position adds a new dimension to the already dangerous Warriors offense.

Chicago, not wanting to be left out of the action, recently made a trade with the Houston Rockets to rid them of the Carmelo Anthony salary. It is another cash-influenced move by the Bulls, but one that could help lend flexibility moving forward.

The Bulls will still look to unload the contracts of Jabari Parker and Robin Lopez in the meantime, but just like other rebuilding teams, giving big minutes to the younger players om the roster will be more important than anything else. 

See where the rebuilding squads, title contenders and everyone in between ranks in our latest power rankings here