Lehigh prepping for life without star G McCollum

Lehigh prepping for life without star G McCollum

The best-case scenario for injured Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum is for the preseason All-American to return in two-plus months, just in time for the Patriot League tournament.

But his potentially lucrative future in the NBA may take precedence over a speedy recovery.

There's more to life, after all, then helping the Mountain Hawks in the conference tourney. Several factors need to be considered.

Either way, Lehigh coach Brett Reed is preparing for life without the senior who helped the Mountain Hawks stun powerhouse Duke in the NCAA tournament last season. Reed is trying to be realistic, and said there was a distinct possibility McCollum may have played his last game at Lehigh.

``We have to progress,'' he said, ``and move on.''

McCollum suffered a broken left foot last week in a game against Virginia Commonwealth. He underwent what the school deemed ``successful surgery'' on Tuesday.

The estimated recovery time is eight to 10 weeks, but the school warned that would depend on the healing process. The timeline could make him available in early March.

McCollum, at the time of his injury, was leading the country in scoring (25.7 points). Lehigh (10-4) hosts Holy Cross to open Patriot League play on Saturday.

``It's going to be a challenge to replace him. Maybe `replace' isn't the right word,'' said McCollum's roommate and fellow team captain, Gabe Knutson. ``We have a lot of guys who are willing and able to step up.''

McCollum is considered a potential first-round pick in the NBA draft, and has averaged 21.3 points over his career at Lehigh. On March 16 of last year, McCollum scored 30 points as Lehigh, a No. 15 seed, defeated the Blue Devils, 75-70.

``The magnitude of his future - we understand that,'' Reed said. ``We approach this thing to where he's fully healed, to reduce all chance of future injury, to ensure longevity of his career.''

McCollum had been a mainstay in the Lehigh lineup until this year. He ended a streak of 109 straight games last month when he missed a contest because of an ankle injury. This absence will be much longer, though Lehigh does have other veterans to lean on.

Knutson (15.7 points) and fellow senior Holden Greiner (11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds) give Reed a savvy duo in the frontcourt, while junior Mackey McKnight (11.3 points, 5.1 assists) gives the Mountain Hawks another backcourt scoring option.

``We've got to shore up the defense and make sure we rebound as a team,'' Knutson said. ``But we'd be saying that with or without C.J.''

Reed called adjusting to the loss of McCollum one of the most difficult midseason challenges he's had to face in his six years coaching Lehigh. He said the already established emphasis on sharing the basketball will help, though he must tweak the system that primarily played through McCollum ``without totally changing who we are.''

``It would be impossible and improbable to replace C.J.,'' Reed said. ``It will require the collective effort of everybody ... to try to cover'' the tasks McCollum performed.

Winning the Patriot League just got tougher.


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Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, expected to be named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, expected to be named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz did not remain unemployed for very long.

Trotz, who led the Capitals to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup title, resigned from his post less than a week after the team's championship parade in Washington, D.C.

But the former bench boss appears to be headed to New York to become the Islanders new head coach, according to Darren Dreger of TSN.

Trotz's contract was expected to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, but upon winning the Stanley Cup, an automatic two-year extension was triggered, raising his $1.5 million yearly salary by $300,000. But Trotz wanted to be compensated as one of the top five coaches in the NHL.

While the terms of his deal have yet to be finalized, according to Elliotte Friedman, Trotz's deal could be in the 5-year, $20 million range.

With the Islanders, Trotz inherits a team that finished 35-37-10 last season under head coach Doug Weight, despite having John Tavares, one of the best centers in the NHL, and several young studs like Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Ho-Sang. But Tavares enters the offseason as a free agent, and many teams will be looking to pay top-dollar for his services. 

Trotz will report to Lou Lamoriello, who was named the Islanders' president and general manager in May after spending three seasons in the same role with the Toronto Maple Leafs.



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The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft


The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

Every year, the Stanley Cup-winning team shows the importance of building through the draft. This year, that team is the Washington Capitals.

With the NHL Draft starting on Friday, let’s break down the Capitals roster from the playoffs to see just how it was put together.

Acquired by the draft: Nicklas Backstrom, Madison Bowey, Travis Boy, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Shane Gersich, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Tom Wilson

Acquired as a free agent: Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly

Acquired by trade: Lars Eller, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, T.J. Oshie

The first thing to note is that the vast majority of Washington’s roster is made up of draft picks. Specifically, the majority of the Caps’ top six on offense, three of its top six defensemen and both goalies were drafted by the team.

Of the free agent signings, only two were big money players in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. In 2014, defense was a major question mark for the Caps and Brian MacLellan made a splash as the new general manager by signing both blue liners to big deals. The majority of the signings, however, are cheap, low risk and high reward players.

Finally, the trades include players who filled obvious needs. The Caps needed Oshie to shore up the top six, Eller was brought in to be the third line center, Kempny stepped in as a top-four defenseman and Jerabek was brought in for defensive depth.

So what does this show us?

First, the draft is absolutely critical to building a team’s core. True superstar players are hard to come by. Once a team gets one, they do everything they can to keep them. The draft is a team's first opportunity to acquire a certain player and, if they have superstar potential, sign them long-term. John Tavares this season looks headed to free agency and the buzz around him stems from the fact that he is very much the exception, not the rule. The base of the Caps’ Stanley Cup team was built by drafting star players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Carlson, Holtby, etc.

This also shows the importance of the draft for depth. In the salary cap era, teams need to find enough cap room for their stars and their depth players. Having young players is absolutely critical because their low cap hit allows for the team to sign the expensive stars and make the important addition in free agency  or by trade. This is a formula that only works if those young players are productive as well.

Players like Vrana and Burakovsky, for example, played big roles in the playoff run, but also carried low cap hits.

So the Caps built a core through the draft and filled key roles with trades and mostly cheap free agent signings.

There is no formula for how to win a Stanley Cup, if there was everyone would do it, but this is about as close as you can come to one. A team has to draft very well and then build around those draft picks to be successful. You cannot hope to build simply through trades and free agency because of the cost. Trades always require sending an asset the other way and very often that asset turns out to be prospects or draft picks. Free agency, meanwhile, requires team overpay for top targets leading to serious cap trouble down the line.

There are always trades and free agent signings that prove to be important, but those are only pieces to a much large puzzle. To win a Stanley Cup, you have to build through the draft.