Bears

Draft may not be only way Blackhawks roster changes

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Draft may not be only way Blackhawks roster changes

When the Blackhawks brass arrive in Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, part of their job is grabbing the best players for the future. But the other, more critical part, is what the Blackhawks can do to improve their team now. The draft is as much a trading ground as it is a prospect gathering one, and the Blackhawks will be one of many teams exploring the former options as well as the latter.

General manager Stan Bowman broke down every potential scenario during a conference call on Tuesday. They could make a big move if its the right fit. They could get a few pieces. Or, since they have a full roster already in place, they could just tweak.

Its hard to say at this point, if our team going to be the same as it stands, if well make additions or switch out players. Were always talking and considering different opportunities, Bowman said. If something makes us a better team well pursue it. I guess to answer, its possible well make moves, but we dont have to.

Well, that last sentence is true. And its not so true. Yes, as far as having enough bodies on the roster, enough players to fill each spot, the Blackhawks have that. But as it stands, they would enter 2012-13 regular season with the same team that fell in the first round of the 2011-12 postseason. And for a team thats determined to get back to Stanley Cup contention, status quo is a no-no.

The Blackhawks dont need a major overhaul - lets remember this team is on a four-season playoff roll. But they do need to make changes to bolster what has become a predictable team. They need a stronger supporting cast. They need size on defense. That may mean giving up a player or two -- a source indicated that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who have a combined 6 million cap hit this coming season, could be possibilities. That may mean giving up a prized prospect and draft picks. Its the price of winning - and attaining impact players.

And, no, by impact were not talking about acquiring every break-the-bank superstar player out there. While the cap could increase to as much as 70 million, the Blackhawks have plenty of star status and big-money contracts. Its more about finding those great characters, those great role players who have more than one year left in their NHL career. And its about finding them now.

From this weekend until late July, the Blackhawks need to be proactive and more aggressive than last season. For an organization that was going up, up, up en route to claiming the Cup, the first-round exits wont be tolerated much longer.

Bowman said on Tuesday that he loves this time of year, from drafting those prospects to finding the right pieces for the team now. The Blackhawks need to be proactive. If they are, theyre the ones who will be having fun again during the season.

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.