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Mayers' return brings about questions for Blackhawks

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Mayers' return brings about questions for Blackhawks

With our Tracey Myers confirming that Jamal Mayers will return to the Blackhawks for a second season, one question is answered, while also creating others.

The coaching staff and management loved what Mayers provided making him the best veteran acquisition from last off-season, along with Ray Emery. Thats further reason to take Joel Quenneville at his word that he was just looking to try something different after Game 3 versus Phoenix, hoping Brendan Morrison might provide a little more of some much-needed offense after getting himself in his best shape since his serious knee injury more than a year earlier. And Morrison played his best three games as a Hawk. It unfortunately came at Mayers expense, and it was evident it cut into his pride after he consistently did what was asked of him the previous six months.

Whatever hard feelings there may have been, bygones are now bygones. So if Daniel Carcillo and Andrew Shaw are lineup regulars, that pair and Mayers return to provide next years squad those edgesandpapertoughness ingredients if not overwhelming size.

Now it also leads one to wonder about where that leaves Mayers on the fourth line and Marcus Kruger on the depth chart. If Patrick Kane does, indeed, become the second-line center, and Dave Bolland remains a part of this team, Kruger either centers the fourth line with Mayers at wing, or becomes a wing himself somewhere in the lineup.

Either that, or Stan Bowman might be looking to wheel-and-deal for some roster changes. There are 13 forwards on the roster now, not including restricted free agent Brandon Bollig, or Brandon Saad, who may very well be worthy of an opening night roster spot. Include them, and thats 15 to fill 12 spots.

They dont have a lot of maneuverability, either, factoring in the money theyve already committed with about 6 million in salary cap space at the current cap, which could very well shrink whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

The unrestricted free agent list isnt particularly sexy in terms of depth or the money the Hawks could currently spend. So maybe there could be some moves or departures on the horizon as this puzzles pieced together this off-season.
Working off the Latest Template

Every sport -- and every league -- is a copycat league. Two years ago, when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, it created a philosophy that de-emphasized elite goaltending if there was enough competency in the crease and excellence around it to capture hockeys Holy Grail.

As we get ready for this Kings-Devils Stanley Cup Final, we encounter one franchise that greatly altered its philosophy with the hiring of a head coach Dale Tallon fired in Florida.

The Devils now move. They forecheck relentlessly, almost to perfection these last two rounds, and each of Peter DeBoers players are on the same page on what to do when their aggressiveness is set in motion. And that old-man goalie might not be great anymore, but hes still very, very good and allowed himself to adjust his style within this new system.

The other is a team that couldnt buy a goal for most of the season, but a coaching change, a couple of call-ups and its massive size have worked in combination with stellar goaltending to steamroll its way through three rounds. The Kings post-season began with absolutely nothing to lose as an eighth seed. Theyve evolved into a monster thats been the best team in hockey over the past six weeks.

The teams the Devils and Kings defeated the Rangers and Coyotes - each made it through two rounds by committing to their respective systems that often suffocated opponents who had some pretty good firepower.

So, looking at the conference finalists, how much will other teams around the league try to use that template and attempt to create a similar style? How far do the Blackhawks go in seeing those elements as the secret to this years post-season success? And if theyre so inclined to try to get closer to that style, how much would they need to change, personnel-wise? If not, do they have the personnel in place to overcome those styles next season?

Style and systems have trumped seedings in this years quest for the Cup.

White Sox' Luis Robert not feeling pressure of Rookie of the Year hype

White Sox' Luis Robert not feeling pressure of Rookie of the Year hype

Of all the White Sox players this season, the spotlight has shined brightest on Luis Robert, but he says that’s not the reason for his recent five-game slump. In fact, Robert doesn’t even see himself as a new face of the franchise, despite all the hype surrounding his MLB debut and hot start to the season.

“I honestly don’t feel that way,” Robert said via team interpreter Billy Russo. “I just think that I’m the new guy.”

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It’s clear the pressure didn’t affect Robert earlier in the year as he notched at least one hit in his first six games, and racked up 14 hits through 10 games. As the impressive performances at the plate mounted, so did the buzz around the young centerfielder. But Robert insists he doesn’t think about it, even though he’s slashing a lowly .158/.200/.211 over his last five games, and out of the lineup for the first time in his career on Monday.

“I know everyone’s trying to talk about me, about my option for Rookie of the Year and that kind of stuff,” Robert said via Russo. “But for me I just feel like another guy for this team. I don’t feel that pressure, that attention. I know that it’s there, but I don’t think about that.”

So is this mini-slump due to an adjustment in the way pitchers are approaching Robert at the plate? Again, Robert says no.

“Pitchers have been attacking me the same way since the season started. I didn’t have good results the last few days, but I just have to keep working. There’s nothing different that they have done against me. It’s just a matter of results.”

Robert has shown a remarkable ability to adjust to a pitcher’s approach mid-game. Now it’s time to see how he adjusts to a little major league adversity.


RELATED: White Sox at quarter pole: Injuries, starting-pitching woes cloud rest of 2020

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2020 NHL Draft: Winner of No. 1 pick revealed at Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery

2020 NHL Draft: Winner of No. 1 pick revealed at Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery

After the No. 1 pick went to a placeholder team — that would be eliminated in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the NHL's 24-team postseason under the Return to Play program — in Phase 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery in June, the top pick for the 2020 NHL Draft was awarded to an actual team in Phase 2 of the lottery on Monday. 

The New York Rangers won the No. 1 overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft on Monday during Phase 2 of the lottery.

The Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets were also in the running and all had a 12.5% chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick along with the Rangers in Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery.

The No. 1 pick of this year's draft is expected to be forward Alexis Lafrenière, who registered 35 goals and 77 assists for a league-leading 112 points in 52 games this season with the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL, where he also served as the team captain. 

No team has held the No. 1 pick finishing better than 26th in the standings since the 1995 NHL Draft, and no team made the top pick after playing in a postseason series since the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 NHL Draft.

The 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10. It was originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which paused the NHL on March 12.

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