Bears

How will the Kings' Cup affect the Blackhawks?

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How will the Kings' Cup affect the Blackhawks?

And so the bar has been set for the Blackhawks. And 28 other teams.

The Los Angeles Kings became the third straight Stanley Cup winner to end a long drought (in their case, their first in their 44-year existence), and the first to win at home since their crosstown rivals won it five years ago.

Since the Blackhawks won two years ago, the trends have changed to dominant goaltending (Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick) and lesser importance towards home ice. Depth and toughness mean more than speed and open ice once the post-season begins, since top defensive pairs are glued to the superstars. Recent history shows that happens through four rounds more times than not. Matchups matter. So does momentum, even if you sneak in as an eighth seed.

The Hawks actually had pretty decent momentum heading into the playoffs. But they got a bad matchup. And as humiliating as a first-round exit was, it was still a very close series.

But sometimes things just "line up," as the timing did for these new champs who were a mystery and a disappointment for most of the season. Two moves were made - and their impact really didn't kick in until the perfect time. Darryl Sutter and Jeff Carter. Personally, I wasn't sure Sutter was the right fit at the time he was hired. Turns out the general manager had a history with, and faith in, the head coach he brought aboard. He could press the right buttons and stir the ingredients he had on his roster.

Sutter finally smiled Monday night. REALLY smiled. Finally. In his fourth head coaching stint. Colin Fraser smiled a lot, too, being on the ice at the end of the game, when he officially became a Cup winner for the second time in three years. And now with the team's makeup, expectations will be high, having as many as the returning parts that made Boston a favorite to repeat this year. So what happened? The Bruins got knocked out in the first round, just like the Hawks. The magic and the mojo is tough to maintain these days. So the Kings had better enjoy it.

So now that this bar has been set, we'll be watching how things develop in our own backyard. How much Stan Bowman is influenced by what made the Kings (and Devils) successful. Does the defensive corps and goaltending he has now have the makeup or the upside to play at that kind of level? Is the depth and toughness he has - or will assemble - capable of making a night-in, night-out impact through four rounds if the stars are bottled-up? And is his belief in this 'core' as steadfast - and if not, can sentimentality be set aside to make the right moves that'll get his team playing in June once again?

Whenever next season commences after labor issues are worked out, the pressure to run deep in the playoffs after two straight first-round eliminations will be extremely high at 1901 West Madison. The fans' belief in the organization that gave them so much joy two years ago will be tested. Players will feel it. So will coaches and management. Because, after all, it's about that catch-phrase from awhile back that still applies: One Goal.

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

It didn't take Thomas Jones long to become a fan-favorite during his tenure with the Bears, which spanned three seasons from 2004-2006.  Jones, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, resurrected his career in Chicago with back-to-back seasons over 1,200 rushing yards in 2005 and 2006.

So, when he speaks about how to improve the offense through the running game, coach Matt Nagy and the rest of Chicago's offensive staff should at least give it a listen.

Technically, Jones tweeted his plan to repair the Bears' struggling offense. But, the point remains.

"Nagy should learn the history of the Bears," Jones tweeted. "When they've won in the past it's because they ran the ball 1st! The fans & the makeup of the Bears is blue-collar. Hard-nosed, physical fundamental football. Limit turnovers, chew up the clock & let the defense get you the ball back.

"And where is their fullback? How can you run the ball in Chicago without a fullback in the game? When u have a fullback in the game the linebackers know they have to strap up their helmets. It's going to be a physical game & some of them don't want that. Can't make it easy for them."

To be fair, fullback is a nearly extinct position in the NFL. But Jones' suggestion runs deeper than that; the Bears need to at least appear like they want to run the ball in order to make the defense respect the threat of a running game.

"They NEVER try to establish the run which puts all of the pressure on a young QB who is still learning & trying to figure out who he's going to be in this league," Jones said. "The O line won't get into any rhythm if they don't run block enough & the defense can only hold up for so long."

According to Jones, Mitch Trubisky isn't ready to be the centerpiece of Chicago's offense just yet.

"Mitch is too young to have all of that pressure on him at once. He's talented but he's not ready yet. You have talented backs & an incredible defense. The O Line just needs to gain confidence run blocking in real-time. They have to establish a running game or things won't change."

Jones drew on some experience from the 2005 season when the Bears kept things pretty basic for then-rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, who enjoyed some moderate success that year. He also chimed in on the Trubisky vs. Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson debate.

"Everyone matures at different times in the NFL. He's not those other guys so comparing him to them isn't going to help them win games right now. Establish a run game & take pressure off of him. Simplify the offense by giving him basic pass plays like we did with Orton in 05."

So how do the Bears get their offense back on a winning track? You guessed it: run the ball!

"It's not a old times sake thing. It's football. Every winning team establishes some sort of running game. Even if it's running back by committee or a running QB. The more tired a defense is from having to chase & tackle the more mental mistakes they're going to make.

"Which gives you a higher chance to win the game. When you run the ball you can take more chances throwing the ball downfield, running specialty plays such as screens and reverses. The defense can't just lay their ears back because they know they can get gashed at any time."

Head over to Jones' Twitter page to follow along with his complete Bears breakdown. It's pretty epic and is a great reminder of just how passionate he is about this team, this city, and winning.

Blackhawks make minor league trade with Panthers, acquire defenseman Ian McCoshen

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USA Today

Blackhawks make minor league trade with Panthers, acquire defenseman Ian McCoshen

The Blackhawks have acquired defenseman Ian McCoshen from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward prospect Aleksi Saarela, the team announced Tuesday. He will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

McCoshen is on a one-year contract that runs through the end of the 2019-20 season. His cap hit is $700,000 and he's set to become a restricted free agent.

Originally drafted by the Panthers in the second round (No. 31 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, McCoshen has appeared in 60 career NHL games and has seven points (four goals, three assists) and an ice time average of 14:26 per game. He has four assists in seven games with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL this season.

The motive behind the move appears to be giving each player a fresh start elsewhere, although Saarela's time with the Blackhawks was short-lived. He was acquired by the Blackhawks in June, along with Calvin de Haan, for goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling and had one assist in five games with the Rockford IceHogs.

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