Random News of the Day: Byfuglien, Thibodeau

Random News of the Day: Byfuglien, Thibodeau

Thursday, June 24, 2010
4:24 PM

By Joe Collins

Random Thoughts And Observations

I HOPE THEY LIKE WAFFLE HOUSE: Talk about a reality check for Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel. Just two weeks ago, they were hoisting the Stanley Cup, sipping champagne and floating along in a victory parade with two million revelers. Now? Off to Atlanta-- a city with as much hockey buzz as the "one flag" segment of the "Six Flags" commercials. The Atlanta Thrashers ranked 28th out of 30 teams in attendance last year and have yet to win a playoff game in franchise history (dating back to 2005-06). Yikes.

JUST DON'T CALL HIM TIM TEBOW: New Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said all the right things at Wednesday's introductory press conference. What he said best though, and alluded to often, was his diligent work ethic: "I'm a serious-minded coach. I'm not going to apologize for it." And that's exactly what I would expect from a guy who has a Bachelor of Science degree and a master's degree in counseling. And good for the Bulls, you know? They get a tireless, defensive-minded Bill Nye the Science Guy-type who doesn't mess around and knows a thing or two about accountability. People have wondered about his offensive schematics, but will that really matter if (gulp) King James comes 'a calling?

GAME ON: What actual Milton Bradley game best represents the games that Milton Bradley played with the Cubs? I hate reopening the 'ol Milton Bradley wound but I couldn't resist this week, given that the Cubs are in Bradley's new stomping grounds-- Seattle. Here's my list:

Jenga (you know it's going to implode, it's just a matter of when)
Scattergories (emphasis on the "scatter" part)
Axis & Allies (Appropriate, as it was part of the "Gamemaster" series)
Splat! (A game of fallen expectations)

AND FINALLY: I like how the NHL Awards were in Las Vegas. In fact, shouldn't each of the "Big 4" (baseball, basketball, football and hockey) have a Vegas-based awards show? Think of the possibilities! Lady Gaga and Jerry Seinfeld could co-host the MLB Awards, with umpire Joe West serving as some kind of red carpet bouncer. Jack Nicholson presenting a lifetime achievement trophy at the NBA awards is a no-brainer. And heck, there's all this talk about how the Pro Bowl is lame and poorly attended by the star players themselves. Why not combine the Pro Bowl and an awards show in Vegas?'d have a line of NFL'ers stretching all the way to Henderson to get in on the action. Somebody get Wayne Newton on the phone...

Or something like that.

Coming Monday: Yellow Cards, Red Cards & Man Cards

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?


Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.