Grading all of Stan Bowman's 2011-12 trades


Grading all of Stan Bowman's 2011-12 trades

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has a relatively active year of wheeling and dealing both before the 2011-12 season and during it. But quantity doesn't necessarily translate into quality. Tab Bamford at analyzed and graded each of Bowman's trades. So, how did he perform?

Trade No. 1: Blackhawks trade Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for a 1st-round pick (No. 26 - Philip Danault). Bamford's grade: C

Trade No. 2: While a few days lapsed in between the deals, Bamford combines them as the Blackhawks sent Tomas Kopecky to the Florida Panthers after obtaining the rights to defenseman Steve Montador from the Buffalo Sabres. Bamford's grade: B

Trade No. 3: Blackhawks deal Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers for Rostislav Olesz. Bamford's grade: F

Trade No. 4: Blackhawks acquire center Brendan Morrison from the Calgary Flames in exchange for defenseman Brian Connelly. Bamford's grade: B

Trade No. 5: At the trade deadline, the Blackhawks send a 2nd and 3rd-round draft pick in 2013 to the Winnipeg Jets for defenseman Johnny Oduya. Bamford's grade: B

You can check out Bamford's complete, in-depth analysis of each trade and the reasoning for each grade by clicking here.

Bears Week 7 Injury Report: Mitch Trubisky, Taylor Gabriel and Bilal Nichols all full participants in Wednesday's practice

Bears Week 7 Injury Report: Mitch Trubisky, Taylor Gabriel and Bilal Nichols all full participants in Wednesday's practice

It’s safe to say the Bears’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Coming off a harrowing Week 5 loss to the Raiders, and a generally tumultuous opening to the season, the off-week represented a chance to reset both physically and mentally. 

This week’s matchup with the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints will be a barometer of the Bears’ ability to put the past behind them entering an exceedingly difficult stretch of their schedule. The news earlier this week that Akiem Hicks likely won’t return until Week 15 was obviously a blow to the team’s hope of a second-half surge, but Wednesday’s injury report offered a couple reasons for optimism:

Most notably, quarterback Mitch Trubisky was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, which is a good sign after head coach Matt Nagy said today he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that Trubsiky would be able to go on Sunday. 

Also of note were Bilal Nichols (hand) and Taylor Gabriel (concussion) being full participants. Nichols has been sidelined for the past month with a broken hand, while Gabirel hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in Week 3 against Washington. 

The Saints’ report also contained a few notable names, including superstar RB Alvin Kamara, who didn’t practice Wednesday (knee, ankle). Kamara had an ankle issue flare up in practice two weeks ago, but was able to suit up for last week’s win against the Jaguars. He wasn’t his usual self in that game, though, registering only 11 carries for 31 yards and seven catches for 35 yards in the contest. Coach Sean Payton said afterwards that he tweaked his knee during the game. 

It’s probably not far enough into the week to read too much into this just yet, but stay tuned on Kamara’s status. If he’s unable to go, or continues to be hampered by these injuries, it could mean trouble for the Saints’ offense.

Saints tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith were both unable to practice Wednesday, as well.

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Cinderella stories live on in IHSA football

NBC Sports Chicago

Cinderella stories live on in IHSA football

For the past 24-plus seasons I've been blessed to cover IHSA football from one end of the state to the other. Every year I am able to see some amazing games and programs led by incredible coaches. But for some reason, the underdog/Cinderella stories always seem to stick with me.

One of my favorites stories over the years goes back to the 2016 season. 

I was getting ready to select a Week 9 game to go cover. I've always approached the regular season finale as a bonus playoff football week since so many teams seem to be on the postseason bubble-- a "must-win" to get in. If anything, these win-to-get-in games can either go one way or the other...they are either great, intense games or the opposing team just decided to not show up. 

I struggled to find a Week 9 game to attend. Joe Collins --my editor at NBC Sports Chicago-- suggested, "Hey, what about Larkin at Elgin?"  My initial thought: "So...what about it?" Larkin, under then-head coach Dragan Teonic was 4-4 and needed a win in the regular season finale to have a shot at a state playoff berth. All the Royals needed was a win over then-lowly Elgin (0-8). Why even bother covering this game? I assumed that Larkin would just roll over the Maroons and lock up a state playoff spot and I would be stuck covering a blowout. 

I gave Joe a lot of grief for "highly encouraging" me to check out Larkin at Elgin, with heavy emphasis on "a lot" of grief, yet off I went to Elgin's Memorial Stadium.

Well, turned out that the Maroons, led by head coach Anthony Mason, decided to show up and play. And did they ever. They stunned longtime rival Larkin 26-20 for their first win of the season, got the Town Jug trophy in the process and go the additional bonus of knocking the Royals out of state playoff contention. The game was an intense, hard hitting affaor. It was easily one of the biggest and best crowds I saw all season long. Remember, Elgin hadn't won a game all season long and was outscored 302-92 that season. But for (at least) one night Elgin, was the best team in Elgin. Heck, the way the Maroons played that night they might of been the best team in all of Chicago's western suburbs that Friday evening.

I will always remember the look on then-Larkin head coach Dragan Teonic's face after the loss to Elgin, a combination of shock and sadness. I'm sure the loss bothers Teonic-- even after three years. Teonic, who's since moved onto South Elgin (7-0) and is building the Storm into a power in the Upstate Eight, has had much better days since that fateful night. But it's always the hard losses you'll remember than any of the accomplishments. 

Covering Elgin's win over Larkin taught me a lot that night. Never assume a win. Never underestimate the power of what a group of highly-motivated kids and coaches can do on any given Friday night. And in some cases, you truly can throw out the records between two teams because, at least for one night, the records don't matter. 

So when you see teams like Elgin, East Aurora, Proviso East and LaSalle-Peru just having their own Cinderella moments in 2019, learn to appreciate them whether you're a fan of those schools or not. 

The many people involved from these schools deserve credit with sticking with it and never giving up. The personal struggles that several of these coaches have faced, both personally and professionally, can be overwhelming. In some cases many, many years have come and gone and finally after those years of struggle and sacrifice, they finally have a few minutes in the sun.