NHLPA concludes meetings, awaits negotiations


NHLPA concludes meetings, awaits negotiations

The sea of hockey players faces standing behind NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was a blend of veterans and youth, plenty of youth.

Most of the players taking part in the NHLPA meetings this week in Chicago werent part of the NHL when it was locked out for the 2004-05 season. The Jonathan Toews, the Troy Brouwers, the John Tavares.

But that doesnt mean they cant learn from history.

The players understand what happened last time. A bunch lived through it, and those who didnt have been told by the guys who did, Fehr said as the NHLPA meetings wrapped up on Wednesday. They understand what took place.

Players, obviously, dont want it to happen again. And while theres a long way to go in the new collective bargaining agreement talks, its in everyones best interest to avoid the 2004-05 mess.

The NHLPA named its negotiating committee, a 31-player group representing a cross-section of the league, on Wednesday. The group will be closely involved in the collective bargaining process between the players association and the league. Various members will attend bargaining sessions and regular correspondence will be conducted throughout the process, as a means of keeping the entire committee updated. The Blackhawks Steve Montador and Brendan Morrison are part of the committee.

And top priority is getting resolution as quickly as possible to keep this now successful NHL machine running.

When we approach negotiations, the object is to get a deal done which can continue that momentum, and continue it uninterrupted, Fehr said Wednesday. Other individuals have said they hope and expect well have quick and painless negotiation. From our standpoint, nothing would make us happier.

The NHL has continued to grow in its post-lockout years. Everything is up: Interest, TV ratings, revenue. Stopping all of that would be a grave mistake because who knows how long it would take to build all of that back up again?

Remember that the league had two very prized reasons to watch when they returned in 2005-06. Crosby and Ovechkin. If this season goes bye-bye, there probably isnt anyone with the dynamics those two have to draw fans in again. Maybe the NFL can go into a work stoppage or two (or more) and not lose steam. The NHL cant.

If the players and owners cant come to an agreement by the time the current CBA expires on Sept. 15, Fehr said they could still start training camp and the season as long as the parties are willing to keep negotiating. In that scenario, the league would just continue to work under the current CBA. But, as Fehr said, we hope we dont have to worry about that.

Many are hoping that never comes to fruition. Its just not worth the price they could pay if hockey goes away again.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7


Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.