Blackhawks

Peyton Manning is introduced in Denver

645100.jpg

Peyton Manning is introduced in Denver

From Comcast SportsNet
DENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning got John Elway's seal of approval and Elway got the quarterback he thinks will bring the Denver Broncos their next Super Bowl title. Now, everybody gets to see if Manning's surgically repaired neck goes along with the plan. Manning was introduced as the new quarterback of the Denver Broncos on Tuesday, the four-time MVP taking the spot once held by Elway, who as Broncos vice president engineered the deal to bring the NFL's most sought-after free agent to town. After holding up his new, orange No. 18 jersey in a photo op with Elway and owner Pat Bowlen, Manning answered many of the questions that have been bouncing around since March 7, when his old team, the Colts, released the quarterback and set in motion one of the most frenetic free-agent pursuits in history. On the neck injury that kept him off the field through 2011: "I'm not where I want to be. I want to be where I was before I was injured. There's a lot of work to do to get where we want to be from a health standpoint." On his potential role in being the man who could bring about the end of Tim Tebow's popular stay in Denver: "I know what kind of player Tim Tebow is, what kind of person he is, what an awesome year it was. If Tim Tebow is here, I'm going to be the best teammate. If other opportunities are presented to him, I'm going to wish him the best." On Elway's role in leading him to choose Denver over other suitors, the most serious of which were the Titans and 49ers: "I'm seeing him as the leader of a franchise. I really liked what he had to say. Everyone knows what kind of competitor he is as a player. I can tell he's just as competitive in this new role. That got me excited." And so, the deal was sealed. Manning has a five-year, 96 million contract and plans to retire in Denver. The Broncos, meanwhile, have some protection in the way the contract was formulated. There's no signing bonus. Manning will get 18 million guaranteed for next season, but must pass a physical before each season, starting in 2013, to get paid. "I don't consider it much of a risk, knowing Peyton Manning," Elway said. "I asked him, Is there any doubt in your mind that you can't get back to the Peyton Manning we know of?' And he said, There's no doubt in my mind.'" It was 14 years ago that Bowlen stood on the podium in San Diego, lifted the franchise's first Super Bowl trophy and proclaimed: "This one's for John." But this franchise hasn't been anywhere near what it was since Elway retired a year later with a second title in tow. His return to the front office last year and set off a whirlwind of activity that landed the Broncos in the playoffs. But Elway is in this to win Super Bowls and he's throwing his hat in with Manning, the 50,000-yard passer who redefined the quarterback position through the 2000s, not Tebow -- who seems most comfortable carrying and not throwing the ball. "Tim Tebow's a great kid. If I want someone to marry my daughter, it's him," Elway said. "Tim is a great football player, but with the opportunity that presented itself here, we had to take advantage of that." He said no decision has been made on Tebow's future, but he seemed to be preparing the quarterback's fans to say goodbye. "That's the tough part of this business," Elway said. Manning, who turns 36 on Saturday, said he made a quick connection with Elway, who won his two Super Bowls in Denver after his 37th birthday. Since No. 7's retirement, a long string of quarterbacks have come to Denver, trying in vain to replace the unreplaceable. If anyone can get out of that shadow, Manning could be the man. He's got two trips to the Super Bowl and one title, 11 Pro Bowls and was the fastest player to reach 50,000 yards and 4,000 completions. Long known as a master student of the game, there are hours of highlights available that begin with Manning standing at the line of scrimmage, surveying a defense, checking out of a play -- or two -- then calling the right one and getting the Colts to the end zone. It's expected he'll be able to run his kind of offense in Denver, which reverted to an option-style system to maximize Tebow's potential last year. One other factor in Manning's decision to play outdoors in the Mile High City: The nearly 40 million in salary cap room the Broncos have, putting them in the mix for quality free agents, possibly including Manning's former teammates Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark. The status of Manning's neck, however, will be an ongoing issue. It's one thing to throw through the entire route tree on a practice field, which he did to pretty much everyone's satisfaction, quite another to take a blindside hit from a 300-pound defender, which hasn't happened since he was surgically repaired. Does Elway have a Plan B? "Plan B? I don't have a Plan B. We're going with Plan A," he said.

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.

The Cubs are in a way better spot than they were a year ago

The Cubs are in a way better spot than they were a year ago

ST. LOUIS — It's night and day watching the 2018 Cubs compared to the 2017 version.

Even with the injury to Javy Baez Sunday night, the Cubs are in a way better spot now than they were a year ago.

On June 17 of last season, the Cubs sat at 33-34 with a run differential of just +6.

They looked flat more often than not. "Hangover" was the word thrown around most and it was true — the Cubs really did have a World Series hangover.

They admit that freely and it's also totally understandable. Not only did they win one of the most mentally and physically draining World Series in history, but they also ended a 108-year championship drought and the weight of that accomplishment was simply staggering. 

The 2018 iteration of the Cubs are completely different. 

Even though they didn't finish off the sweep of their division rivals in St. Louis Sunday night, they're still only a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and for the best record in the league. A +95 run differential paced the NL and sat behind only the Houston Astros (+157), Boston Red Sox (+102) and New York Yankees (+98) in the AL.

Through 67 games, the Cubs sat at 40-27, 13 games above .500 compared to a game below .500 at the same point last summer.

What's been the main difference?

"Energy," Joe Maddon said simply. "Coming off the World Series, it was really hard to get us kickstarted. It was just different. I thought the fatigue generated from the previous two years, playing that deeply into the year. A lot of young guys on the team last year.

"We just could not get it kickstarted. This year, came out of camp with a fresher attitude. Not like we've been killing it to this point; we've been doing a lot better, but I didn't even realize that's the difference between last year and this year.

"If anything, I would just pinpoint it on energy."

Of course the physical component is easy to see. The Cubs played past Halloweeen in 2016 and then had so many demands for street namings and talk shows and TV appearances and Disney World and on and on. That would leave anybody exhausted with such a shortened offseason.

There's also the mental component. The Cubs came into 2018 with a chip on their shoulder after running into a wall in the NLCS last fall against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a renewed focus and intensity.

But there's still plenty of room for more. The Cubs aren't happy with the best record and run differential in the NL. They know they still haven't fully hit their stride yet, even amidst a 24-13 stretch over the last five weeks.

"I think we've been pretty consistent," Jon Lester said. "We've had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball as far as pitching and hitting. But the biggest thing is our bullpen and our defense has been pretty solid all year.

"That's kept us in those games. When we do lose — you're gonna have the anomalies every once in a while and get blown out — we're in every single game. It's all we can do. Keep grinding it out.

"Our offense will be fine. Our defense and the back end of our bullpen has done an unbelievable job of keeping us in these games. And if we contribute as a starting five, even better. 

"You have the games where our guys get feeling sexy about themselves and score some runs. That's where the snowball effect and we get on that little bit of a run. I feel like we've been on a few runs, it just hasn't been an extended period of time. I don't have any concerns as far as inside this clubhouse."

Lester hit the nail on the head. The Cubs sit at this point with only 1 win from Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood struggling with command and low power numbers from several guys including Kris Bryant.

Throw in the fact that Joe Maddon's Cubs teams always seem to get into a groove in August and September when they're fresher and "friskier" than the rest of the league and this team is currently in very good shape for the remainder of the year. 

If they can get 3 wins away from the World Series after going 33-34, the sky should be the limit for a 2018 squad that's in a much better position 67 games in.