Blackhawks

For Lovie Smith, accountability looms

959947.png

For Lovie Smith, accountability looms

The light at the end of the tunnel may indeed be an oncoming freight for Lovie Smith.

The Bears are playing Smith into job jeopardy, with obvious complicity of Smith and his staff. Coaches do matter; how much is another discussion.

None of this may matter if the Bears beat the Green Bay Packers, make the playoffs, win the last three games, pick your scenario. And even a 9-7 finish out of the playoffs may not be fatal.

But the problem bearing down on Smith is that he simply has no wiggle room if the 2012 season continues its death spiral. Less than zero wiggle room, actually.

Heres why:

Throughout this offseason, GM Phil Emery has emphasized that the coaching and personnel staffs have worked in a close relationship. That means that Smith carries significant accountability for the talent level as well as the performances of that talent.

Jerry Angelo was fired chiefly for failing to develop a talent base competitive with the Green Bay Packers. Ironically, Smith will be held to some of the same standard now. Not that he would expect any, but he has no excuses open to him.

Smith and his staff always have borne a share of responsibility for the roster stocking. The past year has ramped that up, however.

It was Smith who strongly endorsed JMarcus Webb last offseason. It was Smith who declared that Kellen Davis was an answer at tight end. When the Bears completely passed on investing a draft choice on the offensive line, it was not Emery shoving the existing group (plus Chilo Rachal) down the coaching staffs throat.

The team needed an elite wide receiver? A top-shelf No. 2 quarterback and running back? They were all supplied. Now whats the problem?

The contract catch

Smith has one year remaining on his contract at about 5.5 million. The fact that the organization would have owed the better portion of two years at that price if it had fired Smith along with Angelo worked in Smiths short-term favor; no business likes eating 11 million (minus whatever Smiths new employer would have paid him).

But the Bears dont have to do anything contract-wise with Smith after this season, regardless of outcome.

The Carolina Panthers gave John Fox a five-year extension in 2006, in the 5 million range. As fortunes in Carolina faded, the Panthers simply let Fox coach out the 2010 season, the last under his contract, and then just moved on to Ron Rivera.

Fox went to Denver and had the Broncos in the playoffs last year with Tim Tebow as his rescue quarterback.

No coach or player likes being a lame duck, and they arent, if they rebound and win. Smith comes back in 2013 and winsnew paper happens.

Business-wise, why would the Bears be pressured into anything?

Sunk by offense

No two seasons are identical but the current one has begun to carry ominous echoes of 2011. That one was 7-3 and the Bears collapsed with injuries at quarterback and running back.

Now there has been a collapse from 7-1 to 8-5 and that is largely with the quarterback and running back healthy, just not playing very well. The offense had very little to do with the Bears reaching 7-1 this year.

The problem for Smith is that he simply cannot make a change at the top of the offense. He went one year with Terry Shea, five with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz and now one with Mike Tice. Youre only allowed so many tries.

How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system

jeremy_colliton_home_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system

It's been a challenging week for Jeremy Colliton. He's winless in his first three games (0-2-1) as an NHL head coach, but has taken over behind the bench for a Blackhawks team that hasn't won since Oct. 25.

There hasn't been a winning feeling in the locker room in almost three weeks, which has certainly been difficult for a rookie coach as he tries to reestablish a winning culture while implementing details of his system on the fly. But they're seeing some progress.

"I had a really good feeling after the game," Colliton said on Tuesday regarding the 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "I thought we played pretty well. Of course, disappointed we didn't get rewarded. This team needs some positive reinforcement with points. We can tell them, 'Hey, we're getting better guys,' and showing them the positive progression, but in the end, it's about results and we want to get them. That's going to be the final reminder that we're on the right track.

"When you're in a losing streak, it's hard to get out of it. You need to play really, really well. You need a couple breaks, but you often don't get them. You've got to make your own breaks. And we're close. Once we break through, that tide will turn and we can go on a run."

It's easy to squeeze the sticks a little harder when a losing streak is nearing the double digits, but the Blackhawks haven't shown any signs of that. There isn't any boiling frustration because they know they're close and can give more.

"I know we've got a couple losses, but just trying to get better every day," Brandon Saad said. "He's our new coach. We want to commit to his system and buy into his play. Once we get that going, we're going to have some success. Early on we had a few losses, but it's about keeping that confidence and staying positive. We've got good things going forward.

"It's fun coming to the rink learning every day, talking with him. He's got his knacks and every coach wants you to play a certain way and play within a certain system. For us it's just getting familiarized with that and buying into the system. It's always more fun winning. I think everyone has that hunger and compete level every day, trying to get back on the winning side of things."

A week into Colliton's tenure in Chicago, the Blackhawks are getting more and more comfortable with how he wants them to play the more reps they get. But it's still an adjustment.

"There's definitely some differences and some things we're trying to change and you're trying to do it on the fly," Patrick Kane said. "It's not the easiest thing when you're doing it in the NHL, but we played pretty well [on Monday] and probably could've had a better result, could've had some more goals, had some chances that we didn't really capitalize on. Hopefully it's all coming together here.

"I know we're in a little bit of a skid, but it's one of those things where we want to end it, we want to get some momentum on our side and then I think everyone will start feeling comfortable with where we're at. But he's implemented some things that I think are really going to help us."

It's difficult to make up ground in the Central Division and Western Conference as a whole, but there's still more than 75 percent of the season to go. That doesn't mean they can afford to take their time in snapping out of this eight-game losing streak (0-6-2), but there is time to get it right and go on a run to climb back into the playoff race.

They're not focused on the bigger picture right now though. It starts with winning one game, and as long as the Blackhawks continue to have the right mindset, it will get turned around sooner than later.

"We've got to keep the belief," Colliton said. "In my view, the only thing that gets in the way from us turning the ship around and having a lot of success is if there's doubt in what we're doing, if guys stop believing we're on the right track. So that's our job of the staff and leadership group to make sure we continue to believe we're on the right path. All we've got to do is show them the clips, show them the video. It's pretty clear. We will get it going here."

Cubs Talk Podcast: What would it take for the Cubs to trade Kris Bryant?

bryant_thumb.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: What would it take for the Cubs to trade Kris Bryant?

Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki break down the Kris Bryant trade rumors.

01:00 - How much truth is there to the "Will Kris Bryant be traded" story?

04:25 - Is there any package a team could offer that would give the Cubs what they value Kris Bryant at?

05:35 - Who is the most untouchable player on the Cubs roster?

08:55 - Will Kris Bryant be in Chicago long enough to wear a Cubs hat if he makes it to Cooperstown?

--

12:00 - Is Nolan Aranado a match in a possible trade for Bryant

16:00 - If MVP is Bryant's ceiling, what is his floor?

17:00 - Any players who had a shoulder issue like Bryant had who never bounced back?

19:00 - Would a Noah Syndergard for Kris Bryant trade make sense?

20:20 - Could Josh Donaldson be a target for the Cubs?

21:00 - Is all this Bryant talk much ado about nothing

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe: