Bulls

Blackhawks breakdown: Bryan Bickell

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Blackhawks breakdown: Bryan Bickell

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Coming off his first full season in which he scored 17 goals with 20 assists in 78 games, Bryan Bickell's numbers dropped considerably. In 71 games during the 2011-12 season, Bickell managed just nine goals and 15 assists and finished minus-3 with 128 hits (down from 178 the prior season). Bickell scored two goals in the playoff series vs. Phoenix, with both coming in Game 2 -- including the game-winning goal in overtime.
Boden's take: The 6-foot-4 winger had an encouraging start from where hed left off in his 17-goal season of a year ago: two goals and two assists in the first five games.Then, Bickells game completely disappeared. And not only was he unproductive, he wasnt using his size and he was taking bad penalties. But in the middle of that nine-game nightmare in February, his game started coming back again and was very effective with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw on that third line down the stretch and into the Phoenix series.But he cant deliver another nine-goal campaign as he did this year when you examine his full body of work.It almost seemed like Stan Bowman chose between Bickell and Troy Brouwer (18 goals, 15 assists, 247 hits with the Capitals in 2011-12) a year ago after the latter underachieved.He chose Bickell on what he saw, and the two players made it look like a mistake.

Myers' take: Let's look at the end of the regular-season and playoffs when it comes to Bickell, shall we? Hey, we're just saving you time. Because there wasn't much to talk about with Bickell through the start and middle of last season. Bickell had the chance to be that big body up front, that physical presence that the Blackhawks have lost so much of the past two offseasons. And he was -- late in the season.

For most of it, however, Bickell was invisible; and the several healthy scratches he got didn't seem to stoke the fire much. If Bickell had been playing at the beginning as he did at the end, he would've been a much more noticeable presence.

2012-13 Expectations
Boden: Bickells 541,000 salary played into that Bowman decision, too.This coming season, Bickell has money at stake becoming an unrestricted free agent a year from now.He knows what hes counted on for, and admitted during his three-month absence he wasnt doing his job. Hes a real nice guy, but one wonders if hes capable of finding that nasty switch to turn on when he hits the ice.He has to carry over his finish and keep it consistent.And by the way, the Hawks need net-front presence and youd think Bickell is tailor-made for that.On top of that, there should be other big bodies pushing him for ice time in Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Saad.His finish may have worked him back into Joel Quennevilles good graces, but based on this past season, figure his leash to be a lot shorter.

Myers: Bickell's entering the final year of his current contract, and if there's anyone who could use the ol' contract-year type of season, it's Bickell. He needs to come out of the gate physical and strong. He and Bolland have formed good chemistry on the checking line the past two seasons and Bickell needs to build off that. When he wants to be good, Bickell can be just that. But he can't spend the first four months of the season playing mediocre hockey.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Bickell above.

Up next: Ray Emery

With revamped roster, Bulls begin quest for playoffs on road vs. Hornets

With revamped roster, Bulls begin quest for playoffs on road vs. Hornets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- On April 28, 2017, the Celtics ended the Bulls’ lone season of what Rajon Rondo brilliantly called “The Three Alphas,” closing out the first-round playoff series in six games.

As the Bulls begin their 54th season in franchise history Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., only Denzel Valentine and Cristiano Felicio remain from that roster.

When John Paxson first succeeded Jerry Krause in April 2003, he took two years to similarly flip the roster, keeping only Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry.

This makeover was Paxson’s doing, beginning with the June 2017 trade of Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves. His last complete overhaul produced 10 playoff appearances in 11 seasons, albeit with only five series victories in that span.

Wednesday night begins the quest for sustained success.

“We have revamped this roster in a big way and a way in that we can look at this team and we see real talent,” Paxson said back on the team’s media day in late September. “We see a versatile roster. We see depth on this roster. We see some leadership on this roster which we haven’t had.

“And because of that our goals this year are really simple. First and foremost, we want to compete at a high, high level. And when you compete at a high level, you have an ability to be a playoff-caliber team. And we set that as a goal. (Coach) Jim (Boylen) talks about it. He’s not afraid of it. And our guys through their work have shown us that they want to make that commitment. So we feel good about that.”

There’s plenty to feel good about during a preseason. That’s when each team’s regular-season record is unblemished. The tests start for real against the Hornets, followed by Friday’s visit to Memphis.

Four of the Bulls’ first five games are on the road but all are against teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs last season. Saturday’s home opener is against the defending NBA champion Raptors, who defeated the Pelicans in overtime Tuesday night in their first game since Kawhi Leonard left for the Clippers.

Plenty has to go right for the Bulls to make the jump from 22 victories to the playoffs. Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen need to step towards stardom. Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young need to continue being the low-maintenance complementary pieces they've shown to be during their careers. Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. need to stay healthy. Coby White and Kris Dunn need to contribute off the bench.

Still, the bottom portion of the Eastern Conference playoff picture is wide open. The Bulls know this. It’s why Boylen indeed gave voice to the goal on that same September media day.

“Our goals for the season are to make the playoffs,” Boylen said then. “And every day to prepare like we’re a playoff team. Every day to work like we’re a playoff-bound team. I’m excited for that. I think that’s the only way to do it. There’s no way that we were going to stand up here and say, ‘Hey, I hope we can win 10 more games or we hope we can be better.’ We want to get to the mountain top.’’

The games count for real starting Wednesday. It’s time to start climbing.

Source: Cubs set to hire David Ross as new manager

Source: Cubs set to hire David Ross as new manager

According to David Kaplan, the Cubs have made their decision on a new manager. And to no surprise, they've landed on David Ross.

Ross was widely speculated as the heir apparent to Joe Maddon and that's exactly how the situation has played out. The team also interviewed current bench coach Mark Loretta, first-base coach Will Venable, Astros bench coach Joe Espada, and former Cubs player and Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Ross retired after the 2016 season and has spent the last three seasons working in a special assistant role in Theo Epstein's front office while also serving as an MLB analyst/broadcaster for ESPN. He has not coached or managed at any level. 

During his two years as a player with the Cubs, Ross was an integral part of changing the culture inside the clubhouse and is revered as a legendary leader to all the young players that came up and helped end the 108-year championship drought. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant affectionately dubbed him "Grandpa Rossy" and he rode that popularity on the shoulders of his teammates in a Rudy-esque celebration after Game 7 and then a stint on "Dancing with the Stars." Every time he is shown on the video board at Wrigley Field, it elicits a deafening cheer from Cubs fans.

Even three years since he last donned the uniform, Ross' impact remains and the Cubs have been searching for the type of clubhouse leadership he provided. Earlier this season, Javy Baez brought up Ross unprompted, mentioning advice from his former teammate that he still thinks about on a daily basis.

The question was never really if and more about when Ross was going to get a chance to manage the Cubs in the future. Just last fall, he was brought up as a potential option to replace Brandon Hyde as Maddon's bench coach, but Ross still wanted to spend time with family in retirement and wasn't yet ready to commit to the grind of a long season. 

Still, Epstein mentioned at the GM Meetings last November that he and the front office were pushing Ross to be around the team more in 2019. GM Jed Hoyer followed that up at the Winter Meetings in December talking about how much of an impact Ross has on these players and the level of trust that's already inherent within this group.

Apparently, Ross is now willing and able to put in the 7-to-8 month time commitment to step in as the Cubs' new manager. When it was officially announced Maddon would not be returning, Ross was on ESPN's Baseball Tonight and expressed interest in the job and Epstein confirmed the next day Ross was on the team's list of managerial candidates.

Epstein mentioned he would prefer hiring a manager with big-league experience and the main theme of his end-of-season press conference was all about change, not hanging their hats on 2016 and climbing out of the "winner's trap." But they still opted for Ross as the organization's new field general.

"I always have greater comfort level hiring for roles in which the person has done the role before, especially with manager," Epstein said on the final day of September. "I think there are ways for that to be overcome. There’s a lot of different ways to get experience in this game. Beliefs, skills, personal attributes, those can outweigh a lack of experience, but experience certainly helps.

“David Ross has a lot of great things going for him, I would say. His connection to the players on this team, and especially his connection to the 2016 team, are not necessarily assets that distinguish him. Those are not necessarily things that are gonna be important to us.

“I think Rossy is a really attractive candidate, and he’s gonna be evaluated on the merits, what he can bring to the table as a major league manager given his skills, given his experiences, given his world-view, given what he knows about winning, all those things.”

We now know how that evaluation process has played out.

The question now becomes — how would the Cubs players handle Ross as a manager, moving from friend and teammate to boss? 

We'll find out in the coming months.