White Sox

Yet another coaching change in the NHL

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Yet another coaching change in the NHL

From Comcast SportsNet
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Randy Carlyle appeared relieved after his Anaheim Ducks snapped a seven-game skid Wednesday night, figuring his talented club had turned a corner. If only the winningest coach in franchise history had known what was waiting for him around that corner. Fed up with the Ducks' inexplicably slow start, the club fired the Stanley Cup-winning coach and his staff late Wednesday night. Anaheim swiftly replaced Carlyle with former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who was dismissed by the Capitals just two days earlier. The Ducks made the abrupt moves after beating Montreal 4-1 on Wednesday night for just their third victory in 19 games. Despite the presence of league MVP Corey Perry, captain Ryan Getzlaf, 41-year-old scorer Teemu Selanne and All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller, the Ducks are off to a 7-13-4 start, ahead of only Columbus in the 15-team Western Conference. "Randy is a terrific head coach, and did a tremendous job for us for six-plus seasons," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. "We thank him greatly for his hard work and dedication to our franchise, not the least of which was a Stanley Cup championship. At this time, we simply felt a new voice was needed. Bruce is a proven winner with a great track record, and we are optimistic we can turn this season around under his leadership." Carlyle coached the Ducks to the franchise's only Stanley Cup title and Pacific Division championship in 2007, but the longtime NHL defenseman struggled to get his talented club's attention this fall after agreeing in August to a three-year contract extension through the 2013-14 season. After Anaheim's seventh straight defeat last Sunday night, a dispassionate 5-2 loss to Toronto, Carlyle lamented that his players sometimes seemed to be "dead between the ears." He was in a better mood after the Ducks handled the Canadiens, praising their tenacity and his stars' leadership through a tough stretch. A few minutes later, Carlyle was dismissed from the job he had held since August 2005. Anaheim cleaned house Wednesday night, also firing assistant coaches Dave Farrish and Mike Foligno and video coordinator Joe Trotta. The Ducks hired Brad Lauer as an assistant coach to Boudreau, and will add another assistant soon. Carlyle is the fourth coach to be fired in the always-impatient NHL's young season, and the third this week. Paul Maurice was also dismissed on Monday by the Carolina Hurricanes, while Davis Payne was let go by the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 6. Boudreau, after doing a round of interviews Wednesday morning in which he said the Capitals made the right move by firing him, took a new job less than 72 hours after leaving a remarkably similar situation in Washington, which dropped him Monday after a slow start with a talented roster that's had little recent playoff success. Boudreau will run the Ducks' practice on Thursday before his formal introduction, and his new players will be in for a major change from the sometimes-crusty Carlyle to the personable Boudreau, nicknamed "Gabby" for his garrulous style. Anaheim hosts Philadelphia on Friday night for Boudreau's debut. Carlyle was behind Anaheim's bench for many of the 1993 expansion franchise's biggest moments. He had compiled a 273-182-6 record after taking over for Mike Babcock as the seventh head coach in club history. Carlyle led Anaheim to the postseason in five of his first six seasons, winning more playoff games during that stretch than any coach except Babcock in Detroit. But Anaheim won just one playoff round in the past four years since winning the Cup, losing to fifth-seeded Nashville in the first round last season. Boudreau led Washington to the last four Southeast Division titles and the 2010 Presidents' Trophy while winning 201 games in just four years on the job, but the Caps' lack of playoff success helped to seal his fate when they slumped following a 7-0 start to this season. He won the Jack Adams award as the NHL's best coach in 2008, but never got past the second round of the playoffs despite a roster featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and talented supporting casts. Boudreau favors an attacking offensive style that should suit the Ducks' talented forwards, although Carlyle also gave his players plenty of freedom for offensive creativity. Lauer was promoted from the Ducks' AHL affiliate in Syracuse, where he had been an assistant since July. He spent the previous two seasons on the Ottawa Senators' staff.

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

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AP

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

SAN DIEGO — At the GM meetings last month in Arizona, White Sox vice president Kenny Williams teased that the team was going to do more business than usual.

We found out later that the White Sox met with Yasmani Grandal while out in the desert. And when the free-agent catcher got the richest deal in club history the following week, it was a sign the White Sox were serious about their intent to be aggressive and make some big splashes this winter ahead of a possible transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020.

The Grandal signing earned nothing short of rave reviews, but there’s still an awful lot on the to-do list for general manager Rick Hahn and his front office as the Winter Meetings get going here in Southern California. The White Sox have designs on adding a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation and landing an everyday right fielder. An everyday-type DH could also be in the cards, though Grandal’s arrival has at least provided a more realistic internal option in the form of a multi-player rotation. Bullpen help is never turned away.

Much of that could be addressed this week, with ample opportunities to cross those items off the list, even if in less headline-grabbing style. You’ll remember back to last year’s Winter Meetings, when the White Sox filled a hole in their rotation by trading for Ivan Nova.

But with no disrespect to Mr. Nova, most fans are waiting for a much bigger splash.

It’s what the White Sox tried to get done before they flew out to the West Coast. Just last week they reportedly made the highest bid in the Zack Wheeler sweepstakes, only for the 29-year-old free agent to take less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cries of “here we go again” from the fan base — still stinging from the way things played out with Manny Machado a winter ago — were quickly quelled by the financial details, and it sure seems there aren’t any more excuses for anyone to stick to the old talking point that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend. Wheeler’s deal, had he accepted it, would have broken Grandal’s weeks-old record for the most expensive contract in club history.

So will someone else actually take the White Sox money this week?

Certainly the possibilities are out there. Still searching for starting pitching, the White Sox could turn to Madison Bumgarner, who they’ve been connected to since Wheeler’s decision. The 30-year-old three-time World Series champ could play a Jon Lester type role in a different Chicago rebuild. Though plenty have expressed concerns over what effect his 1,948.1 combined regular-season and postseason innings will have moving forward. There are reasons to be skeptical, just as there are reasons to be optimistic.

If the White Sox don’t want to play at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market — they haven’t been heavily linked to either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — then Bumgarner is the biggest free-agent pitching splash out there. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are in a similar strata of this free-agent market, but perhaps neither would generate quite as much buzz as arguably the greatest pitcher in World Series history.

The White Sox could also get splashy in their quest to fill the vacancy in right field. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are the two biggest names on the free-agent outfield market, and either would slot into the middle of the White Sox order. Neither would make for an ideal defensive selection, considering Castellanos’ ugly defensive stats in right field (which might exaggerate that reputation) and the fact that Ozuna is a left fielder who didn’t play a lick of right during his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both, however, could make a big offensive impact. Ozuna had a ludicrously good season playing for the Miami Marlins in 2017, while the White Sox are plenty familiar with what Castellanos can do after he bludgeoned them in recent seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox could potentially go off the board and chase someone outside of their stated positional needs, Hahn leaving everything on the table when he discussed his offseason approach at length last month. But neither paying a huge sum for Anthony Rendon nor coughing up prospects for Mookie Betts seems too likely at the moment. The fun thing about the Winter Meetings, though, is what seems likely or unlikely can change in an instant.

Speaking of trades, while Hahn signaled the White Sox have little interest in dealing their prized prospects for short-term gain, that market could provide opportunities for heretofore unmentioned splashes. Who knows if the White Sox have any interest in the biggest names being speculated about — Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, etc. — but they’ve reportedly been chatting with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Joc Pederson. After supposedly trying and failing to get him in a trade last winter, his arrival on the South Side would probably be splashy enough, considering he had a career year at the dish in 2019 that included 36 home runs.

After last year’s Machado and Bryce Harper bonanzas, expectations have been raised. After the collective breakout of so many of the White Sox core players in 2019, expectations have been raised. The White Sox seem to have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020. Money allocated for free agents is one of those ingredients. While there’s more than one way to build a championship roster, including leaning heavily on the wealth of young talent already in the White Sox possession, those raised expectations have fans craving a splash.

So will the White Sox cannonball into the Pacific Ocean this week? Stay tuned.

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Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

The Bears did their part to keep hope alive for a playoff berth in Week 14, defeating the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night and moving to 7-6 on the season. Unfortunately, they didn't get the help they needed around the league to enter Week 15's game against the Green Bay Packers with legitimate post-season juice.

The Minnesota Vikings, who currently hold the final NFC wild card that the Bears are chasing, handled their business against the Detroit Lions with their 20-7 victory in a game that was never close. Now 9-4, the Vikings' have a two-game lead over the Bears with one head-to-head matchup remaining in Week 17. Chicago needs to defeat Minnesota in the season finale and hope the Vikings lose one of their other two remaining games against the Chargers and Packers. Otherwise, it's on to 2020.

The bigger blow to the Bears' playoff hopes came in Los Angeles, where the Rams moved to 8-5 with their 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. This was a game Chicago needed the Rams to lose, considering they hold the head-to-head tie-breaker and play only one more game on their schedule that seems like a likely loss (49ers in Week 16). Los Angeles' other two games are against the struggling Cowboys and lowly Cardinals, and if they win both and end the year with the same record as the Bears, they'll have the advantage because of Chicago's loss in Week 11.

So what does all this mean? Week 14's results have the Bears' chances to make the playoffs at just 2%, according to FiveThirtyEight.  Essentially, nothing's changed, even after a win. Football Insiders is a little more optimistic; they have Chicago's chances at 4.4%.

Sunday's game against the Packers has meaning. The Bears are still alive, and a victory in Green Bay coupled with some upset losses by the Vikings and Rams could change the playoff picture quite a bit. If both Minnesota and Los Angeles lose, Chicago's playoff chances jump to 14%, per the New York Times' playoff predictor.

One game at a time. It's a mantra that's worked for the Bears over the last month of the season, and one they'll continue to preach until there's nothing left to play for.

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