Category Archives: Writers

The Future For The Chicago Blackhawks

Whenever a team would win three cups in seven years, you would think that their franchise is set for a long while, right? Well, the future for players and coaches of the Chicago Blackhawks could be in jeopardy.

On April 20th, the Blackhawks were shockingly swept by 2nd Wild Card Nashville Predators for another first round exit. Last year, Chicago lost in seven games to their rival St. Louis Blues in the first round, who made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the San Jose Sharks. The Blues were an impressive team last year, dominating the physicality, speed, and playmaking of every game. Although the Hawks took the series to seven games, no one expected the then-defending Champs to be ousted in the first round. While last year’s elimination was disappointing, that doesn’t compare to this year’s embarrassment.

On March 19th, the Blackhawks clinched yet another playoff spot, and would later clinch the Western Conference. Looking back on it, we clinched it too early, in my opinion. With around a week left of the regular season, we decided to rest/limit their star players for the playoffs. While Kane, Toews, and Panarin were getting some playing time, stars like goaltender Corey Crawford and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson were absent from the ice. In the last four games of the regular season, the Blackhawks went 0-3-1, losing to three teams that were not in playoff contention. That worried me. Why? Because their eventual first-round opponent was still fighting for a playoff spot.

Yes, we clinched the Western Conference. But while we were taking it easy leading into the playoffs, the Nashville Predators were fighting with the Los Angeles Kings for the last playoff spot. They never took their foot off the gas pedal, while Chicago had been in cruise control for an entire week. Then the playoffs started, and their first round was against the Preds. The majority of NHL analysts were picking Chicago to move on to the next round, citing their previous playoff experiences. But everyone, including myself, underestimated Nashville’s grit and determination to get revenge on the Blackhawks, who eliminated them in the 2015 playoffs. Goaltender Pekka Rinne shut out Chicago in the first two games to take an early 2-0 series lead. With Chicago having home-ice advantage in the playoffs, one never would expect the Blackhawks to lose two games at the United Center, one of the loudest arenas in the league. Heading into Nashville, the fans were rowdy and the atmosphere is electric. Chicago has been down in series before against some of the toughest teams in the league. But there was something about this Nashville Predators team this year that the Hawks couldn’t solve.

The shot-blocking abilities from essentially every player on the roster frustrated players like Toews, Kane, Panarin, and Marian Hossa. Looking at the stats after every period, the shots on goal were extremely lopsided. Secondly, the defensive pressure of Nashville prevented Chicago from generating any scoring chances, especially in the middle zone. The Blackhawks would end up dumping and chasing the puck, only to, in the end, turn the puck over. Lastly, the Predators’ speed killed Chicago. The aging defensemen on the Hawks couldn’t keep up with the young defensive pairings that the Predators had to offer. The odd-man rushes became natural to them, and the Blackhawks were getting outplayed in every aspect. After such an amazing regular season, they flop in the playoffs and get swept, ending their season short yet again.

Not only were the fans upset and frustrated by another sudden exit, but so was general manager Stan Bowman. He called their postseason efforts a “complete failure” and was “frustrated and angry” after getting swept in the first round. Chicago was one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. A few days later, Bowman fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, who was teammates with coach Joel Quenneville from 1979-1983 and was also an assistant under Quenneville with the Blues from 1998-2003. Next up was backup goaltender and 2015 first-round hero Scott Darling, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. As of May 20th, no other trades or cuts have been made. As far as extensions, winger Richard Panik has agreed to a two-year deal, having career-high numbers last season on the same line as Toews.

What will the future hold for the Chicago Blackhawks? Will any key stars be in danger of getting traded? How will this year’s expansion draft change the roster? How will Bowman approach the rest of the offseason? As the days, weeks, and months go on, we shall see.

Matt Hrncar

Dan Rooney: The True Meaning of a Champion

Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933, and the “Steel City” began its quest to become a football town. Little did we know at that time, the Rooneys would not only transform the city of Pittsburgh, but they would change the way that football organizations were run forever.

Dan Rooney, Art’s son, began working for the Steelers in 1955 after graduating from Duquesne University. Dan’s professionalism, intelligence and ability to lead allowed his father to pass off control to him in the 1960’s. As President of the Steelers, Dan quickly turned the franchise into a perennial playoff contender.

In 1974, he helped assemble one of the best draft classes in NFL history including Hall-of-Famers Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann and Mike Webster. The very next year, Pittsburgh won its first of four Super Bowls in six years (1975, 1976, 1979, 1980). Quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the “Steel Curtain” defense are still widely regarded as one of the best teams in NFL history.

Rooney, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2000, had an impact that stretched far beyond the 110 yards from end zone to end zone. He was a man who cared more about his community than the trophies in his trophy case, and that made him stand out among professional owners in his era. ESPN analyst and former Steelers running back, Merril Hoge talked about his former boss on Mike and Jamele’s The Six this afternoon. He mentioned that in 1989, when the city of Pittsburgh fell under some hardship and many of the steel mills began to close, Dan Rooney asked Hoge and another player to represent the team in an organization that he helped form. The organization is now known as the Highmark Caring Foundation, and it helps provide health insurance to the less fortunate youth of Pittsburgh. That was just one of the many philanthropic ventures that Rooney was a part of in an effort to better the Pittsburgh community off the field.

Arguably, the most important initiative that Rooney helped push forward is the Rooney Rule, an effort to bring equal opportunity to the NFL. This rule was implemented in 2003, while Rooney served as chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee. Under the Rooney Rule, NFL organizations needed to begin interviewing minority candidates for both coaching and front office positions. We saw this monumental initiative take an immediate effect on the league, as Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith became the first African Americans to face off in Super Bowl history in 2007. The Colts won, and Dungy became the first African American coach to win a Super Bowl.

Rooney passed of the presidency to his son, Art Rooney II, in 2003 and assumed the role of chairman of the Steelers. Of course, Pittsburgh went on to win two more Super Bowls in 2006 and 2009 to give them six total, which is still the most among NFL franchises.

Pittsburgh’s current head coach, Mike Tomlin, became the second African American coach to win a Super Bowl when the Steelers defeated the Cardinals in an instant classic in 2009.

Rooney was later appointed the United States Ambassador to Ireland in 2009 by President Barack Obama.

Dan Rooney passed away at the age of 84, but his legacy has been cemented in NFL history, in the Pittsburgh community and in the hearts and minds of football fans everywhere.

He was a true champion in every sense of the word.

Rest in Peace.

2017 MLB Preseason Position Rankings

Tomorrow is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. It’s one of the greatest times of the year to be a sports fan. The Final Four will be played in Phoenix this weekend, the NBA and NHL playoffs are right around the corner, the Masters are next week and the NFL Draft is just a few weeks away. Those are all iconic sporting events, but there is only one America’s pastime. The Chicago Cubs finally broke the longest “curse” in professional sports history in 2016.

So what is in store for 2017?

Baseball is back, so we decided to rank the best of the best entering the 2017 season. Three of my colleagues and I ranked our top MLB players by position. The point system goes as follows:

1st Place = 6 points

2nd Place = 5 points

3rd Place = 4 points

4th place = 3 points

5th Place = 2 points

Honorable Mention = 1 point

*  = Unanimous

Starting Pitchers are ranked from 10 to 1 beginning with 11 points for the top position and ending with 2 points for the 10th spot. The total from our four lists were added together to come up with our final preseason rankings.

Top 10 Starting Pitchers

Honorable Mention: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (6 points)

Honorable Mention: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (8 points)

No. 10: David Price, Boston Red Sox (9 points)

No. 9: Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants (11 points)

No. 8: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets (19 points)

No. 7: Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs (20 points)

T-No. 5: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (21 points)

T-No. 5: Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs (21 points)

No. 4: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (29 points)

No. 3: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (34 points)

No. 2: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (35 points)

No. 1: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (44 points)*

 

Top 5 Catchers

Honorable Mention: Evan Gattis, Houston Astros (2 points)

Honorable Mention: Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays (4 points)

No. 5: Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (7 points)

No. 4: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (8 points)

No. 3: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (16 points)

No. 2: Jonathan Lucroy, Texas Rangers (20 points)

No. 1: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (24 points)*

 

Top 5 First Basemen

Honorable Mention: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (3 points)

Honorable Mention: Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians (6 points)

No. 5: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (8 points)

No. 4: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (9 points)

No. 3: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (14 points)

No. 2: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (20 points)

No. 1: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (23 points)

 

Top 5 Second Basemen

Honorable Mention: Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (4 points)

Honorable Mention: Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers (5 points)

No. 5: Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (8 points)

No. 4: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (10 points)

No. 3: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals (12 points)

No. 2: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (20 points)

No. 1: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (24 points)*

 

Top 5 Shortstops

Honorable Mentions: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (5 points)

T-No. 5: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (6 points)

T-No. 5: Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays (6 points)

No. 4: Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs (7 points)

No. 3: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (13 points)

No. 2: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (16 points)

No. 1: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (23 points)

 

Top 5 Third Basemen

Honorable Mention: Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (3 points)

Honorable Mention: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (4 points)

No. 5: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (5 points)

No. 4: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (12 points)

No. 3: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (17 points)

No. 2: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (20 points)

No. 1: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (22 points)

 

Top 5 Right Fielders

Honorable Mention: Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (4 points)

T-No. 5: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (6 points)

T-No. 5: Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants (6 points)

No. 4: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (7 points)

No. 3: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (16 points)

No. 2: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (19 points)

No. 1: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (22 points)

 

Top 5 Left Fielders

Honorable Mention: Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics (4 points)

Honorable Mention: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (5 points)

T-No. 4: Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs (7 points)

T-No. 4: Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers (7 points)

No. 3: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (16 points)

No. 2: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates (17 points)

No. 1: Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (23 points)

 

Top 5 Center Fielders

Honorable Mention: George Springer, Houston Astros (4 points)

T-No. 4: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers (5 points)

T-No. 4: Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals (5 points)

T-No. 4: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (5 points)

No. 3: Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals (9 points)

No. 2: Christian Yelich, Atlanta Braves (19 points)

No. 1: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (24 points)*

 

Top 5 Designated Hitters

Honorable Mention: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2 points)

Honorable Mention: Kendrys Morales, Kansas City Royals (4 points)

No. 5: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (5 points)

No. 4: Carlos Beltran, Houston Astros (8 points)

No. 3: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers (9 points)

No. 2: Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles (15 points)

No. 1: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (18 points)

 

Top 5 Closers/Relief Pitchers

Honorable Mention: Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians (1 point)

Honorable Mention: Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs (4 points)

No. 5: Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres (5 points)

No. 4: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers (10 points)

No. 3: Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (11 points)

No. 2: Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (12 points)

No. 1: Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians (18 points)

 

      

Paul Schaum        Alex Richter         Matt Hrncar         Ethan Buss