Hoyer: Dont rule out Dempster return in 2013


Hoyer: Dont rule out Dempster return in 2013

ST. LOUIS Ryan Dempster showed up for work and went through his day-after routine, preparing for his next start, wherever that might be.

Across Twitter and cyberspace on Saturday what Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer jokingly called a little bit of a parallel universe the buzz centered around where Dempster might be traded.

Dempsters start on Friday night had helped draw the scouts to Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals ended his scoreless-innings streak at 33. Multiple national reports had the Los Angeles Dodgers backing off their pursuit, with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the mix, and the Cardinals mentioned, though its difficult to see a deal getting done there.

This much is clear about Dempsters position: He would only go somewhere he could win a World Series ring, and the final decision will be his, because he has the hammer of 10-and-5 no-trade rights.

Dempster is 35 years old and positioned to become a free agent at seasons end. There were doubts after a 2011 season that was bookended by a slow start (9.08 ERA through six starts) and a bad finish (0-6 with a 5.44 ERA).

Dempster woke up on Saturday with a 2.11 ERA that was tied for the major-league lead with White Sox phenom Chris Sale. Could Dempster have a future in Chicago beyond 2012?

I would never close the door on that at all, Hoyer said. Hes had a great year for us. Look at his track record as a starter with the Cubs. He had a hiccup last year, but he still threw 200 innings. Prior to that, he had three consecutive good years, including a great year in 08.

Hes a leader in the clubhouse and a terrific guy to have around, and its fun to see a guy like him bounce back after that kind of year. People were questioning him, and I think hes proven a lot of people wrong.

We would never close the door on that at all, no matter what happens here at the end of July. Hes a guy thats always welcome in a Cubs uniform, for sure.

Dempster builds bridges in the clubhouse, invites young players to train with him in the offseason and sets a tone for the entire pitching staff. Manager Dale Sveum knows how much harder his job would be without Dempsters presence.

You cant deny that (a trade) wouldnt help the clubhouse, Sveum said. Its only going to take away from the clubhouse, the atmosphere. The leadership role (and) the work ethic and all that you dont replace the whole package.

Dempster is making 14 million this season. The Cubs wont value him that much at that price. He could have the chance to showcase himself in the postseason and cash in for one last big contract.

A new front office went back and forth with Kerry Wood last winter before finally announcing a one-year, 3 million deal at the Cubs Convention. By the middle of May, Wood realized he couldnt be counted on out of the bullpen and decided to retire.

Its not easy negotiating with fan favorites and putting a value on intangibles.

You dont want to do it for sentimental reasons, Hoyer said. You want it to be for baseball reasons. Maybe some of that stuff creeps in the leadership, the experience in the market. I think Kerry had a really good year in (2011). It didnt work out. Sometimes the end comes when you dont expect it.

But you want it to be about baseball first, and I think the players want it to be about baseball first, because they dont want to be hanging around for the wrong reasons. They want to be here because theyre good players and still wanted.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut


Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?


Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.