Cubs

Blackhawks breakdown: Dylan Olsen

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Blackhawks breakdown: Dylan Olsen

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.

When the Blackhawks defensive corps was ravaged by injuries when the calendar turned to 2012, they gave 21-year-old Dylan Olsen his first shot at NHL hockey when he made his debut on Jan. 5 in Philadelphia. He would go on to average just over 13 minutes of ice time in 28 games. Olsen is still in search of his first goal, and finished with one assist and a minus-5 rating. He was credited with 43 hits and 23 blocked shots. Olsen only played in one playoff game -- the Game 3 overtime loss -- and logged less than five minutes of ice time.

Boden's take: Olsen at 6-foot-2, 214 pounds might have the size the Hawks so sorely need to add to Brent Seabrook on the blue line, but does he have the experience? The answer is no, but if Stan Bowman does indeed want to shop around for another big body for the back and cant find one, Olsen would seem to be Plan B. If that's the case, theyd need him to gradually develop and blossom over the course of next season, when the former 28th overall pick of the 2009 draft turns 22. Joel Quenneville liked what he offered when he was given a chance during his stint late in the regular season, but wasnt quite confident enough to use him in any more than one playoff game. Olsens game has definitely grown over the past year, the question is whether its enough to make a consistent impression.

Myers' take: The Blackhawks had a lot of defensemen depth ahead of Olsen last season, so he didnt get a chance until the second half. That, and he was dealing with a lower-body injury at the start of camp, which also put him behind. When he did get the call-up, Olsen was decent in his 28 games with the Blackhawks, having the on-and-off outings befitting of a rookie. Still, it was no surprise when Olsen sat for all but one playoff game. He was still too young and too green to be thrown into the postseason.
2012-13 Expectations
Boden: Olsen made huge strides last offseason and hung around through camp before being sent to Rockford just as the regular season began. Is he capable of taking a comparable step this summer? Those strides were physical, now it's a matter of finding a positive consistency in his game to push Montador and Hjalmarsson. The guy has got a booming slapshot which he doesn't use enough. If there's an area of his game that he could be focusing on, that might be it. The Hawks could certainly use a big, reliable shot on the power play, but he has to get in that mindset and comfort zone first. There's bang-for-their-buck potential there with Olsen, as he has two years and 1.75 million remaining on his original deal before being eligible for restricted free agency.

Myers: Considering the money the Blackhawks have already thrown toward defensemen, including Johnny Oduyas new contract, you would have to wonder how many internal guys will get a shot at the lineup next season. That should include Olsen, who has decent size on a defense that doesnt have much of it. Olsen went through a grueling offseason training program last summer and it would benefit him to do the same entering this training camp. If he can come in healthy, he could find a spot here out of camp.

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 Olsen above.

Up next: Dave Bolland

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

No, the Cubs are not currently talking to the Baltimore Orioles about bringing Manny Machado to the North Side of Chicago.

So says Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations who met with the media at Wrigley Field ahead of Friday's series opener with the San Francisco Giants.

Epstein vehemently shot down the notion of trade talks and specified the major diffence between trade rumors and trade talks, while refusing to comment on Machado in particular.

"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player with another team," Epstein said. "I would never talk about that in a million years. The simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs.

"There's a real disparity between the noise and the reality and unfortunately, sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. And that's my job to clarify there's nothing going on right now.

"We have more than enough ability to win the division, win the World Series and we really need to focus on our roster and getting the most out of our ability and finding some consistency. Constant focus outside the organization doesn't do us any good, especially when it's not based in reality right now."

The Cubs have presented a united front publicly in support of Addison Russell, whose name has been the one bandied about most as a potential leading piece in any move for Machado.

After all, the Cubs have won a World Series and never finished worse than an NLCS berth with Russell as their shortstop and he's only 24 with positive signs of progression offensively.

Trading away 3.5 years of control of Russell for 3-4 months of Machado is the type of bold, go-for-it move the Cubs did in 2016 when their championship drought was well over 100 years.

Now, the championship drought is only one season old and the window of contention is expected to remain open until through at least the 2021 season.

Epstein likes to point out that every season is sacred, but at what cost? The Cubs front office is still very much focused on the future beyond 2018.

"Everybody's talking about making trades in May — the first part of the season is trying to figure out who you are," Epstein said. "What are the strengths of the club? What are the weaknesses of the club? What's the character of the club? What position is the club gonna be in as we get deeper in the season? What's our short-term outlook? What's our long-term outlook? What's the chemistry in the clubhouse?

"All those things. It's a process to get there and figure it out. If you rush to those kinds of judgments, you can oftentimes make things worse. I think it's important to figure out exactly who you are and give guys a chance to play and find their level and see how all the pieces fit together before you make your adjustments."

So there's no chance we could see the Cubs once again jump the market and make an early deal like they did last year for Jose Quintana or five years ago for Jake Arrieta? Will they definitely wait another five weeks until July to make a move?

"It's just the natural order of things," Epstein said. "We wouldn't be opposed to doing something, but that's not the case right now. It's not happening."

New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

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247 Sports

New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

New Trier junior three-star ranked athlete Duke Olges (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) gave Northwestern his verbal commitment last Sunday yet waited until Friday morning to make his decision public via his Twitter page.

Olges, who was recruited by the Wildcats as a defensive tackle, felt pressure to make a decision since the Wildcats already had one defensive tackle verbal commitment in Clear Springs Texas Jason Gold while another defensive tackle with an offer was making an on campus visit later that day.

“I didn’t know if it was the right decision, to be honest. It was impulse more than anything,” Olges told WildcatsReport.com's publisher Louis Vaccher. “But what comforted me is after having a couple days to think about it, I felt a sigh of relief. It would have hurt me too much to let that scholarship go. As much as I wanted to go and visit other schools, losing that scholarship would have hurt more than anything else.”

Olges is now the 10th known verbal commitment in the Wildcats Class of 2019  and the second in state pledge along with Bolingbrook junior DB Cameron Mitchell. 

Olges, who was holding 26 scholarship offers this spring, was planning to make summer visits to Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia and Duke before giving the Wildcats his verbal commitment.