Fire

Blackhawks breakdown:Brent Seabrook

759892.png

Blackhawks breakdown:Brent Seabrook

Over the next five weeks, 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.

Brent Seabrook might have completed the finest season of his career. In 2011-12, Seabrook played 24 minutes and 43 seconds per game in 78 games. He matched his career-high with nine goals -- two on the power play -- and had 25 assists for 34 points. He led the team with 198 hits and 165 blocked shots and ranked No. 9 in the NHL with a plus-21 rating. In six games against the Coyotes, he registered one goal, two assists and a plus-1. He also delivered 26 hits and 12 blocked shots in the six games.

Boden's take: Its probably unanimous, Brent Seabrook was the Blackhawks best defenseman this past season. He led them all with his nine goals, led the team in hits and blocked shots, had the second-highest plusminus of his career -- and, like a lot of the core guys -- did his best work down the stretch when the team needed a push to get into the playoffs without its captain (four goals, six assists in the last 14 games).

He was just as effective against Phoenix, and he did it all in the first year of the five-year, 29 million contract extension he signed a little more than a year ago. Hes kept his hunger even though hes already eaten. Its not like Seabrook has never had bad games, but I cant remember a time where hes lacked effort. While you can even get Jonathan Toews to crack a smile once in a while, Seabrooks really the most serious guy in that locker room. Hes not from the Windy City, but he epitomizes the Blackhawk version of Chicago tough.

Myers' take: On a defensemen group that had its highs and lows, Seabrook was very steady last season. He was solid on the power play because he wasnt afraid to shoot, and reliable in front of his own net because he wasnt afraid to go down and block a shot. And his offense in the late regular seasonearly postseason was vital to the Blackhawks.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Is it possible to clone him and put the clone on the second defensive pair with Nick Leddy? Im not sure how much more can be reasonably asked of Seabrook if we just keep asking for more of the same. Without someone else like him, Id hate to see where this defense would be, as currently constituted, if they were to be without him for any stretch of time. Maybe the thing that needs to be asked is whether - as in the case with defensive partner Duncan Keith - the Hawks can shave a minute or two of ice time per game off his workload by the rest of the blueline corps building more trust.

Top pair. Power play point man. Penalty killer. Physical presence. Beast. Hes in his prime, entering his eighth season, turning 28. Lets see if they pull out every stop to keep him around at this level as long as they can, before wear and tear kicks in.

Tracey: Seabrook rewarded the Blackhawks in the first year of his contract extension in 2011-12, and hes likely to do the same next season. He should also be a big presence on the power play to start the season, too.

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

Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Steve Montador, Sean O'Donnell
Up next: Nick Leddy

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

city-trophy-epl.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”


Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.

But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.

That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.

Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.

Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.

But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.

He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:

So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?

"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."

Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic. 

With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot. 

But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)

"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.

For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.