White Sox

Blackhawks breakdown:Niklas Hjalmarsson

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Blackhawks breakdown:Niklas Hjalmarsson

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.

Niklas Hjalmarsson played in 69 games in 2011-12, scoring one goal with 14 assists for 15 points and finishing with a plus-9 rating. He averaged 20 minutes and 11 seconds per game, had 14 penalty minutes, 42 hits and 142 blocked sots. In six playoff games against the Coyotes his playing time dipped to 18 minutes and 10 seconds per game. He had one assist, five hits and seven blocked shots while finishing minus-3.

Boden's take: Hjalmarsson will turn just 25 years old in June, but as he enters his fourth full season, we probably have a pretty good idea who he is and what he provides. He sacrifices his body to block shots. At 6-foot-3, maybe we'd like to see him play a little more consistently physical against opponents, like he showed in glimpses against Shane Doan in the playoffs. But if he's considered a second-pair defenseman, would it be fair to expect a little more offensive bang for the 14 million the team invested in him to match San Jose's RFA offer sheet two years ago? He's halfway through that four-year deal now, and he has yet to top the 17 points he delivered in the 2009-10 Cup season, the three goals he posted the following season, or higher than a plus-13 rating.

Myers' take: One of the biggest questions regarding Hjalmarsson this season was, who was going to be his new partner and how would he adjust to him? Hjalmarsson had built up a great rapport with Brian Campbell the previous two seasons but had to get used to playing with someone else in 2011-12. He and Nick Leddy formed a good pair early. But as the season went on the defensive pairings changed -- as they and the forward lines usually do. Hjalmarsson had a few different partners, including Brent Seabrook during Duncan Keith's suspension. But he was sidetracked when he suffered a concussion in early February that cost him 13 games. Despite that, Hjalmarsson had a pretty steady, if not eye-catching, season.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Likely, more of the same. Hjalmarsson himself admits he'd like to provide more offense, and spent most of the first year of that deal pressing to do just that. I'm not sure how realistic that is. He's a regular on the penalty-killing units. He blocks shots, and somewhat overlooked is the fact that's he's also been paired for most of the past two seasons with a talented, but very "green" Leddy. Barring the addition of more veteran help on the blue line, he might very well have to help "coach up" Dylan Olsen next season.

If he can't supply any more offense, the Hawks need him to be more consistent and reliable in his own end, help the PK improve and look to play more physical with a body that goes through a lot of sacrifice as it is. This defense needs to be better next season -- whether it's in front of Corey Crawford in goal, or someone else. Others need to pitch in and take some minutes away from Keith and Seabrook. If it comes strictly from within the current defensive crop in place, Hjalmarsson will be among those who have to make it happen.

Tracey: Two seasons ago Hjalmarsson said he wanted to bring more offense to his game. It took him quite a while to get his first point last season and he finished with 15. Whatever offense Hjalmarsson adds, fine. But his defense is what he's getting paid for and he's still the best shot blocker on the team. If Hjalmarsson keeps focusing on that, and gets a steady blue-line partner this coming season, he should be fine.

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 Hjalmarsson's highlights above.

Previously: Duncan Keith

Up next: Steve Montador

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

If you were paying really close attention during Game 2 of the ALCS, you saw it.

One fan in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field was hoisting a sign that perfectly summed up how the White Sox scored their runs during a 99-win regular season and during a march to the World Series.

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Small ball was rebranded “Ozzie ball” by these White Sox, who reaped the rewards of Kenny Williams’ bold offseason trade. The general manager shipped away a productive slugger, Carlos Lee, for a speed demon on the base paths, Scott Podsednik. Lee was pretty darn good at swinging the stick. But the White Sox craved balance in their lineup, and with Podsednik’s base-stealing ability causing chaos at the top of the order, they got it and scored more runs in the first inning than any other during the 2005 season.

Paul ball, well that’s obvious. Paul Konerko was the team’s MVP in 2005. He smashed 40 homers for the second straight season and hit triple digits in RBIs for the third time in his career. He was particularly potent during the second half, helping to prevent a complete free fall out of first place with the Cleveland Indians charging in September.

And over-the-wall ball? Well, as balanced as the White Sox lineup was thanks to Podsednik’s arrival, the South Siders still hit a lot of home runs. Seven different hitters launched at least 15 dingers. Even Podsednik, who had zero of them during the regular season, got in on the power display in the playoffs, hitting one in the ALDS and a walk-off homer in the World Series.

Fast forward two nights from when that sign was lifted up on the South Side, and you saw the White Sox follow that script to a “T” in Southern California.

In the first 17.2 innings of the ALCS, the White Sox scored three measly runs. A tip of the cap to the Angels’ pitching staff, but this was not the same production from a lineup that mauled the Red Sox during the first round of the playoffs. Then A.J. Pierzynski swung, missed and ran to first base and the White Sox offense woke up. Over the course of the next five White Sox hitters to step to the plate — Joe Crede’s walk-off double to finish Game 2 and the first four batters of Game 3 — the White Sox scored four runs.

How’d they do it against John Lackey in Game 3? How do you think?

Podsednik did his thing at the top of the lineup and got on base with a leadoff hit. Then Tadahito Iguchi bunted him into scoring position ahead of Jermaine Dye’s RBI double. Paul Konerko followed with a solo homer slammed into the left-field seats — the beginning of a three-hit, three-RBI night for him — and the White Sox had a crooked number on the board. Just like that.

Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.


Of course, this all leaves out the most important ingredient in the White Sox success that season and in this series, in particular: starting pitching. While the offense took a while to wake up in the ALCS, the pitching was on point from “go.” Jose Contreras threw 8.1 innings in Game 1. Mark Buehrle allowed just one run in nine innings in Game 2. And Jon Garland followed with the second of what would be four straight complete-game efforts by White Sox starters in this series.


Though there was more to come, with Freddy Garcia and Contreras going the distance in Games 4 and 5, through three games, White Sox starters had already turned in an impressive string of games, allowing just six runs in 26.1 innings for a 2.05 ERA.

But as good as the pitching was — and it was out-of-this-world good — the White Sox needed to get back to their run-scoring ways following the quiet offensive performances in Games 1 and 2. They did just that, and not until Game 4 of the World Series did they score fewer than five runs.

When it came to how they scored those runs moving forward, the sign didn’t lie.

Small ball? Podsednik wrecked havoc the very next night in Game 4 of the ALCS, reaching base four times (thrice via the walk), stole a pair of bases and scored two runs.

Paul ball? Konerko had more damage to do, with at least one hit in each of the next five playoff games, including an unforgettable grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series.

Over-the-wall ball? The White Sox hit three homers in the final two games of the ALCS, then six more in the World Series, including iconic shots from Konerko, Podsednik and Geoff Blum.

So there are a few hundred words on the subject. But did I really do any better with all those words than that fan did with eight?

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 4 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Friday on NBC Sports Chicago.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Report: ‘About 75 percent’ of NBA GMs voted for play-in tournament in survey

Report: ‘About 75 percent’ of NBA GMs voted for play-in tournament in survey

The NBA recently issued a survey to general managers to measure the league’s temperature on various formats for the season to restart in, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic. 

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has obtained the results of said survey. The findings are as follows:

  • Half of the league’s general managers voted to skip straight to a 16-team postseason (bye, Bulls)

  • “Just over half” of the league’s general managers voted to reseed a hypothetical 16-team postseason by record, independent of conference

  • “About 75 percent” of the league’s general managers voted for a play-in tournament that would pit fringe playoff teams against each other to decide the final seeds of a playoff (O’Connor reported the Lakers and Bucks to favor this format)

  • The remaining 25 percent of the league’s general managers voted for a playoff featuring World Cup-esque group stage first round

Of note: The Bulls currently own the 24th-best record (22-43) in the NBA. It's not specified how many teams each of the above models would involve, but if that answer ends up being less than 24 (and the remainder of the regular season ends up being skipped), the Bulls would not be going to Disney World.

What does this mean for the NBA’s larger decision on how to format a relaunch of its season? Evidently, not much. Early Thursday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Friday’s Board of Governors call will not include a vote on a plan to return to play. O’Connor echoed that sentiment in his reporting, including a quote from an unnamed GM that read: “Adam isn’t taking the results seriously… Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Instead, O’Connor posited that Silver might be using this opportunity to gauge league-wide interest in various schedule innovations moving forward. This would fit Silver’s MO. Even before the coronavirus pandemic halted the sports world, the NBA had long pondered and pushed for the idea of an in-season tournament as a way to drum up interest. In a time of financial strife for the league, interest has never been more at a premium than it is now, or will be next season.

Still, Silver and company have more immediate fish to fry, in terms of hammering down a format for finishing the 2019-20 campaign. Potential formats, timelines and so on will reportedly be discussed Friday. As of this writing, 22 of 30 teams have opened their practice facilities for limited, voluntary, individual workouts (a trend the Bulls may follow suit in come Friday), but all of them are awaiting direction on what’s to come — the players reportedly as anxiously as anyone.

 

For now, that’s all any of us can do.

RELATED: Where the Bulls stand in each of the NBA’s reported resumption plans

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