Cubs

How did Cup champions fare in their opener?

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How did Cup champions fare in their opener?

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Chicago Blackhawks raised their own Stanley Cup championship banner just two seasons ago, so their core players already know it's tough to go back to work after a pregame party.When the Los Angeles Kings were finished raising their banner and receiving their rings Saturday, the Blackhawks reminded the champs that what happened last year won't help the Kings in this shortened NHL season.Marian Hossa had two goals and an assist, Corey Crawford made 19 saves, and Chicago crashed the Kings' Stanley Cup celebration with a 5-2 victory.Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who jumped to a 3-0 lead on Michael Frolik's goal less than 15 minutes in.With superior speed and skill, Chicago ruined the festivities shortly after the Kings hung their first championship banner in the Staples Center rafters."We wanted to have a good start, and whether they were going to be on their game or not didn't really matter to us," said Toews, the Conn Smythe Trophy-winning hero of Chicago's 2010 title run."We tried not to focus on what was going on out there before the game. We were in (the locker room), just getting ready and doing our thing. We had a great first period, and when you come out in the first 20 minutes like that, you want to keep it going, and that's what we did."With every player who touched the ice in last season's playoffs returning to defend the title, the Kings received their championship rings during a stirring pregame ceremony that included each player passing the Cup around the boards. The Blackhawks didn't watch it, but they seemed fired up from the opening faceoff."The season after you win the Cup, everyone is going to play their best game against the Cup champion, because that's the game where you want to prove yourselves and make a statement," said Kane, whose 5-on-3 goal started the rout. "So I think that's what we were kind of feeling today."Rob Scuderi and Jordan Nolan scored and Jonathan Quick stopped 17 shots for the Kings, who are definitely done celebrating last season's achievements as the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the Stanley Cup.Quick gave up five goals just once last season while making his first All-Star team, but he wasn't much better than his teammates in his first game since winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and getting a 10-year, 58 million contract extension."You have to get used to getting knocked down and getting back up," Quick said. "As the ceremony was going on, most of our guys were thinking about the game, but obviously you're going to take a moment, and it's a special moment for the team and fans."While the Kings learned they've got work to do, the Blackhawks showed why they've got a shot at repeating their 2010 championship run. Kane seemed particularly sharp after spending the lockout playing in Switzerland.Hossa was the Blackhawks' leading scorer last season, but he left his final game on a stretcher after a hit by Phoenix's Raffi Torres, who got a 25-game suspension. The lockout was a benefit to Hossa's recovery, and the 11-time 25-goal scorer is off to another big start."I haven't played in a long time because of the concussion, so I tried to keep it simple, especially at the beginning," Hossa said. "Nothing too fancy. They gave me short shifts and I tried to get into it. Obviously my timing is not there yet, but it's going to come with the more games we play. My head is clear, otherwise I wouldn't be playing if there were still some issues."Los Angeles began the season without two key players: Leading scorer Anze Kopitar, who hurt his knee while playing in Sweden, and defenseman Willie Mitchell, who had knee surgery.Both players wore their uniforms and skates while participating in the pregame ceremony, but the Kings' good pregame feelings got erased about two minutes in when Matt Greene and Trevor Lewis went to the penalty box 43 seconds apart. Los Angeles killed most of the 5-on-3, but Kane scored with 8 seconds left in the advantage.Hossa, who set up Kane's goal, then got credit for a score when his centering pass hit Drew Doughty's skate and ricocheted past Quick. Just 74 seconds after that, Frolik put a pall over the celebratory crowd with the Blackhawks' third goal on eight shots.When Toews, who spent the week ailing with a cold, alertly scored 1:16 into the second period, a few scattered boos came down from the sellout crowd. The Kings' defense appeared to miss Mitchell, while Kopitar's absence has forced coach Darryl Sutter to shuffle the lines that worked so splendidly in last season's playoffs."I think most people expected to be a little rusty, and both teams were," said Scuderi, who scored midway through the second period. "We made a few mistakes, but we're not taking it as an excuse."NOTES:Scuderi matched his entire goal total from 82 games last season. ... Chicago scratched veteran RW Jamal Mayers and new D Michal Roszival. ... Los Angeles scratched new RW Anthony Stewart after acquiring him from Carolina earlier in the week.

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

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None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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