Capitals

Tuesday's Sports in Brief

Tuesday's Sports in Brief

NEW YORK (AP) Mark Sanchez is no longer the New York Jets' franchise quarterback.

He might not even be the backup.

Rex Ryan decided to bench Sanchez on Tuesday in favor of Greg McElroy after the fourth-year quarterback had another miserable performance in a 14-10 loss at Tennessee on Monday night that eliminated New York from playoff contention.

``I think it's best for our team, and for this game,'' Ryan said during a conference call.

So, it'll be McElroy under center for his first NFL start when the Jets (6-8) play the San Diego Chargers at home Sunday. Ryan hasn't decided whether Sanchez or Tim Tebow - listed as the No. 2 quarterback - will be the backup.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher was apparently worried he would lose his baby and money to his longtime girlfriend before fatally shooting her and killing himself, according to newly released police reports.

Belcher also complained about Kasandra Perkins, the mother of the couple's 3-month-old daughter, in conversations and text messages sent to a woman he was dating on the side, the reports show.

In one text message sent in late October or early November, Belcher wrote he ``would shoot'' Perkins ``if she didn't leave him alone.'' The girlfriend told police that Belcher said ``his child's mother threatened to take all his money and his child if they split up'' and ``knew exactly how to press his buttons and make him angry.''

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz visited the home of the 6-year-old Connecticut shooting victim who was buried in a replica Cruz jersey.

Jack Pinto was among 20 children shot to death Friday in Newtown. Several elementary school-age children played touch football in the front yard of his family's home Tuesday. Many wore Giants jerseys or Newtown football or wrestling shirts as they laughed, smiled and hugged.

The children and their families left after several hours. Kids carried autographed Giants footballs and jerseys.

About 45 minutes later, Cruz left the home in an SUV and an escort of five police cruisers, sirens blaring. He later tweeted that he has ``much love to the entire Pinto family. Great people with huge hearts.''

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - New Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his CEO, Joe Banner, have several personnel decisions to make once the season ends.

You can scratch president off their list after they hired Alec Scheiner to be the team's new president.

Scheiner, 39, will join Cleveland after eight years with the Cowboys. He was senior vice president and general counsel with Dallas the last five years.

NEW YORK (AP) - A nine-game winning streak has Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on top of the AP Pro32 NFL power rankings for the first time.

The latest win came on the road, 34-17 at Baltimore, and was impressive enough to lift the Broncos to No. 1 by three points over the San Francisco 49ers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Wisconsin will hire Utah State's Gary Andersen as head football coach to replace Bret Bielema, according to multiple media reports.

The Wisconsin State Journal was first to report that Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez had offered Andersen the job. Andersen is in his fourth year at Utah State and is coming off his best season yet.

The 18th-ranked Aggies won the Western Athletic Conference and finished 11-2, with a school record for victories after beating Toledo 41-15 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday.

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Chalk up another major award for Johnny Manziel.

The Texas A&M quarterback became the first freshman to be voted The Associated Press Player of the Year in college football on Tuesday. He also won the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award.

Manziel collected 31 votes to 15 for Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker, who finished second.

The 6-foot-1 Manziel threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 1,181 yards and 19 more scores to help the Aggies to 10 wins for the first time since 1998.

BATH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license and remains eligible to play in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.

Wolverines spokesman David Ablauf said that Robinson paid a fine and faces no additional punishment from the school.

BASEBALL

BOSTON (AP) - The Boston Red Sox moved forward with their strategy of giving free agents short-term contracts by reaching a $9.5 million, one-year agreement with shortstop Stephen Drew.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that Drew will take a physical before the deal can be completed. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not complete.

Boston also finalized a $4.25 million, one-year contract with 37-year-old reliever Koji Uehara, a deal agreed to two weeks ago at the winter meetings

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland Athletics agreed to terms of a two-year contract with shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima of Japan's Seibu Lions.

The deal runs through the 2014 season and includes a club option for 2015.

Nakajima, a seven-time Pacific League All-Star, has a .302 batting average with 149 home runs, 664 RBIs and 134 stolen bases over 11 seasons with Seibu.

SAN DIEGO (AP) - All that happy talk about Phil Mickelson becoming part owner of his hometown San Diego Padres was just that - talk.

Mickelson will not be involved with the group that bought the Padres in August, his spokesman, T.R. Reinman, told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

Reinman said the pro golfer told friends of his decision before a meeting at Torrey Pines Golf Course to discuss renovation of the North Course.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - The Tampa Bay Rays signed right-hander Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

The one-year deal is worth $3.25 million.

The 32-year-old Hernandez has pitched seven years in the majors, all with Cleveland. He was 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA last season.

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Yankees' luxury tax bill for this year has gone up by nearly $400,000.

Major League Baseball sent a revised accounting to the team, raising New York's payment to $19,311,642 from $18,917,994. The change reflected how one player's salary was accounted for.

New York is the only team to pay the luxury tax this year. The Yankees' final payroll for luxury tax purposes climbed from $222.5 million to $223.4 million.

The Yankees pay at a 42.5 percent rate on the amount over the $178 million threshold.

New York's regular payroll increased from $223.3 million to a record $224.2 million.

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey told The Associated Press the players' association is ready and willing to get back to the bargaining table with the NHL.

Talks broke down again last week after two days of negotiations involving a federal mediator, and the hockey season is in jeopardy.

The sides haven't been in touch with each other for several days since the NHL filed a class action suit Friday in U.S. District Court in New York, seeking to establish that its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the NHL filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the players' association has bargained in bad faith.

PRO BASKETBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - Amare Stoudemire practiced for the first time this season Tuesday, though the Knicks forward isn't sure when he can return.

Stoudemire scrimmaged with Erie, the Knicks' NBA Development League affiliate, which was practicing at the Knicks' training center.

SKIING

MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (AP) - Lindsey Vonn doesn't plan to do any serious training on skis during her midseason break from the World Cup.

Rainer Salzgeber, racing director of Vonn's equipment supplier Head, told The Associated Press that the four-time overall winner hasn't asked for her ski technician Heinz Haemmerle to follow her to the United States.

``No, she won't ski. She said she needs to rest and get her fitness, and I think also her mind,'' Salzgeber said at a men's slalom race. ``She wants to do some dry-land training, and that's it.''

MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (AP) - Defending overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria was fastest in both runs, winning a night slalom marred by the death of a gatekeeper.

Hirscher moved past American rival Ted Ligety into second place in the overall standings. Ligety, who has dominated in giant slalom this season, finished ninth.

The race was delayed for about 15 minutes during the first run. After the first eight starters, a 70-year-old gatekeeper became ill. Organizers say he had a history of heart problems and medical personnel attempted to resuscitate him for about an hour.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Gary Gaines, the 63-year-old high school coach at the center of the ``Friday Night Lights'' book and film, has left the Odessa Permian sideline for the last time.

Gaines said he resigned from the West Texas football program he helped make famous. He said he doubts he'll coach again but wasn't sure what's next for him.

He leaves with a 69-28-1 record in eight years as Permian's head coach, including a 23-21 mark in his last four years. In all, he coached Permian from 1986-89 and 2009-12, and was an assistant there for three years in the early 1980s.

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Bruce Cassidy’s chaotic time as Capitals coach began a winding path to Stanley Cup Final with Boston.

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USATSI

Bruce Cassidy’s chaotic time as Capitals coach began a winding path to Stanley Cup Final with Boston.

BOSTON --The Stanley Cup Final begins Monday and while the Capitals did not make it back to defend their title, two former members of the organization, Bruce Cassidy and Craig Berube, are coaching the two teams that did. 

 Cassidy, now the head coach of the Boston Bruins, held that position in Washington for two seasons early last decade and failed spectacularly before a long, slow rise back to the NHL. 

 Berube is now the head coach of the St. Louis Blues, dead last in the entire league on Jan. 3 and now four wins away from their first Stanley Cup. A fan favorite with the Capitals for seven years over two stints, Berube was a no-nonsense tough guy and key role player on the 1998 Eastern Conference championship team. The seeds of both men’s success were planted a long time ago in Washington. 

 The Bruins and Blues play Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC. 

 Cassidy, just 37 when he was hired in 2002 by former Capitals general manager George McPhee, battled personal issues off the ice and too often lacked the professionalism and organization expected of an NHL head coach, according to several of his former players. At least twice during road trips in his first season, he was the last to arrive for the team bus.  

 Cassidy, now 54, knew the game, according to those same players, but struggled to connect with a roster laden with big-name players and healthy egos. He led Washington to the playoffs in 2002-03 but was fired 28 games into his second season thanks to a terrible start and internal fissures. Many of his players just didn’t respect him. 

 It’s hard to square that image with the Cassidy of today, who gets high marks from his Bruins players and plaudits around the league for juggling a talented roster comprised of veterans and rising young stars to reach the Cup Final. It’s a pretty good comeback story.

“[Cassidy] took his demons head on and built himself back up to a point now where he’s four wins away from winning a Stanley Cup,” said former Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig, who played for Cassidy along with stars Jaromir Jagr and Peter Bondra, among others. “You’ve got to take your hat off to him. Despite what he did in the past he’s become the opposite of what he was.”

 Cassidy does appear a different man than he was in Washington. Married again now, he was dealing with multiple personal issues then, including a nasty, complicated divorce, while coaching the Capitals. The road back included one year as an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks, a two-year stop as head coach of a junior hockey team in Kingston, Ontario, and an eight-year apprenticeship with AHL Providence, Boston’s top minor-league affiliate. 

 The final five seasons there Cassidy was Providence’s head coach, developing some of the same players who have helped get him to the Cup Final with the Bruins. In 2016 Cassidy earned an NHL promotion of his own as an assistant coach under Boston’s Claude Julien and then took over on an interim basis when his boss was fired.

 “All I’ve learned is I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I was [in Washington],” Cassidy said. “I was young. I had really no NHL experience. I was in Chicago for bits and pieces. So you walk into an NHL locker room and there’s still a little bit of awe in that, ‘Oh, there’s (Jaromir) Jagr,’ there’s so many of these guys that have been around. So, it probably took me a while to just walk in there and say ‘This is what we’re doing’…and be a good communicator when you’re doing that.”

 A lot of those problems were of Cassidy’s own making, however. According to reporting by the Washington Post at the time - and confirmed by several of his old players this week - Cassidy showed up to his first meeting with his new team at training camp in 2002 and pulled a napkin out of his pocket with notes scribbled on it. It was not a good first impression. 

 Cassidy was a first-round draft pick in 1983 by the Chicago Blackhawks, No. 18 overall, but his NHL playing career consisted of 36 games. He had never been an NHL assistant when hired by McPhee. He spent two years as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, first in the IHL and then, when that league folded, in the AHL, which absorbed the franchise. 

 “The thing that I think would probably be the bigger challenge for Bruce when he first arrived was that he hadn't played that long as a player,” said NBC analyst Keith Jones, another former Capitals player, but not one who played for Cassidy. “You wouldn't have the same cache when you first walked into the locker room as you would, say, if you were a Craig Berube or a Dale Hunter.” 

 The Capitals had reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1998 and were still a competitive, if aging, team. They finished second in the Southeast Division in Cassidy’s first season and went up 2-0 on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But they lost the next four games, including a triple-overtime crusher on an Easter Sunday that ended their season and arguably began what became the Alex Ovechkin era.

“You could tell Butch was a smart hockey guy. He was a smart hockey guy,” Kolzig said using Cassidy’s nickname. “He understood the game. Maybe too much so that he took for granted that other guys understood the same thing. He’d get frustrated if Joe Schmo didn’t know a certain breakout or a certain play. What came easy to him didn’t come easy to other players.”   

Tired of paying big money for an old team that couldn’t get out of the first round, owner Ted Leonsis green-lit moves the following season that gutted the roster. Long-time forward and team captain Steve Konowalchuk was traded in October after a slow start. 

Later, Jagr, Robert Lang, Michael Nylander, defenseman Sergei Gonchar and Bondra, a franchise icon, were dealt, too. The team finished with the third-worst record in the NHL but won the draft lottery that got them the No. 1 pick and Ovechkin. Cassidy was long gone by then, but his failure led to the rebuild that ultimately brought Washington its greatest player, a Stanley Cup and, eventually, his own redemption. 

“Butch was I don’t want to say in an impossible situation, but he was in a very tough situation,” said Capitals defenseman Ken Klee, who played nine seasons for the team, including Cassidy’s first. “We had so much success before he got there. We had some big stars on our team. You look at Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Calle Johansson, Olie. You figure out quick that coaching in the NHL is not just coaching, it’s management of players and personalities.”

The Capitals lost six games in a row in October of 2003 during Cassidy’s second season and things only got worse from there. After a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 4 left them 8-16-1-1, Cassidy ripped into his team during a closed-door meeting. He’d given them rest. He allowed them to be home with their sick kids - or even pregnant wives when necessary. 

But, according to players in the room, he told them issues at home shouldn’t have any impact on their play. They were no excuse. That message, born of legitimate frustration, but tone deaf to what his players had gone through, spelled Cassidy’s doom. 

Capitals defenseman Brendan Witt’s wife, Salima, had almost died after a difficult childbirth in 2002, according to Kolzig. The room froze. Veteran players were appalled. Cassidy later apologized, but the damage was done. Washington was outscored 11-4 its next two games and Cassidy was fired on Dec. 10, 2003. His next chance to be an NHL head coach wouldn’t come for another 13 years. 

 “I know Brendan wasn’t very quiet about it. That was probably the nail in the coffin. It was a tumultuous time.” Kolzig said. “But having said all that you see how [Cassidy has] gone back to square one. His personal life is in order. He did a fantastic job in Providence for a number of years, continued being a good soldier in the Bruins organization. And then the opportunity was there for him and he took advantage of it. He’s done a fantastic job. There’s no other way to put it.”

Cassidy took over a Boston team that had lost its way under longtime coach Claude Julien. The Bruins had missed the playoffs two years in a row and were scuffling at 26-23-6 when Julien was fired on Feb. 7, 2017. Cassidy paid immediate dividends as an interim coach leading Boston to an 18-8-1 record to finish that season. 

It lost in the first round of the playoffs, but he earned the job full time. Last year the Bruins were 50-20-12 and reached the second round. This year they were second in the Atlantic Division at 49-24-9. It is Boston’s third Cup Final in nine seasons, but first since 2013. Many of those hard lessons Cassidy learned with the Capitals have served him well in his long-awaited second act.

 “If you’re around the game for an extra 15 years you’re going to learn stuff,” Cassidy said. “Different ways to communicate. Different ways to see the game. How you delegate, how you use your staff. How do you talk to the players to help you find that common goal? I think that was the biggest difference. A lot of newness back then. This time around it was a little more experience at this level.”

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Dmitrij Jaskin's year goes from bad to worse as his former team prepares to play in Stanley Cup Final

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Dmitrij Jaskin's year goes from bad to worse as his former team prepares to play in Stanley Cup Final

Dmitrij Jaskin had a tough year. He played in only 37 games for the Capitals and scored only two goals and six assists. He seemed to struggle to earn the trust of head coach Todd Reirden and did not play a single game in the playoffs.

A tough year just got a little bit worse for Jaskin as now he will watch his former team, the St. Louis Blues, play in the Stanley Cup Final starting Monday.

Jaskin was a member of the Blues through training camp, but was a surprise addition to the Caps’ roster just one day before the start of the regular season. Frustrated with his lack of opportunities in St. Louis, Jaskin requested a trade and the Blues placed him on waivers. With Tom Wilson still awaiting word on how long his suspension would be for his hit to Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason, Washington claimed Jaskin off waivers for more forward depth.

Though Jaskin was an established NHL player with over 250 games of experience and 25 goals, he was used sparingly by Reirden. Jaskin seemed to play well when given the opportunity, but showed a lack of finish offensively that earned him the ire of the coaches. Any mistakes would see him taken out of the lineup completely.

“Obviously it was disappointing,” Jaskin said of his season. “I thought it would be better, but you always gain some experience from another season. It's over with and there's nothing I can do about it, just can get ready for next season and look forward to it.”

Though his individual situation was challenging, Jaskin looked like he was in a much better position for a deep playoff run than his former squad. The Caps were the defending Stanley Cup champions and would go on to win the Metropolitan Division while the Blues were in last place in the entire NHL as late in the season as Jan. 3. The two teams suffered a reversal in fortune in the postseason as Washington was bounced out of the first round by the Carolina Hurricanes. St. Louis eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in six games, won a Game 7 thriller in double overtime against the Dallas Stars and closed out the San Jose Sharks with three straight wins in the conference finals.

“I wish them all the best,” Jaskin said following the first round. “I think it's pretty impressive that they won against Winnipeg. Now, as you see, everybody's got the same chances. A lot of upsets this year and I think they have a pretty good chance to go far.”

Luckily for Jaskin, he did manage to find some playing time this summer in the World Championship tournament playing with the Czech Republic.  He has scored two goals and two assists in nine games and will play for the bronze medal on Sunday.

After that, his future remains unclear. Jaskin is a restricted free agent meaning the Caps will have a chance to retain his rights and his playing in Worlds seems to indicate he is secure in his position. At the same time, he was used sparingly enough throughout the season that whether the team will offer him a qualifying offer remains a question.

“I'll love to stay,” Jaskin said. “I love it here, guys are great and the organization and the city, everything's good. I would like to stay, but we'll see.”

For now, however, Jaskin will have to sit and watch to see whether his old team, the team he requested a trade from, will hoist the Stanley Cup.

“Obviously it's frustrating to not keep on playing and watch them play,” Jaskin said, “But as I said I wish them all the best and I think they have a pretty good chance.”

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