By: Thomas Gibbons
A lot is going on in Chicago sports on this cold Monday in Chicago. So I’ll take a look at the news and my thoughts on the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and Blackhawks.
The Chicago Bears are already busy into a very important offseason. Both head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace were down at the Senior Bowl last week. Where was the rest of the staff? It was reported that the other coaches were back in Lake Forest watching tape and evaluating the roster. Smart.
The Senior Bowl allows for teams to talk with prospects, watch them in drills, and in the game on Saturday. Nick Kwiatkoski, Adrian Amos, Cody Whitehair, Jordan Morgan, and Deiondre’ Hall are a few names that are on the Bears roster that participated down in Moblie, Alabama the past few years. Pace has taken advantage of the week and some of these players have turned into starters in Chicago.
One player that stood out to everyone at the Senior Bowl was University of Texas San-Antonio’s Marcus Davenport. Standing at 6′ 7, 255lb, Davenport is a legit prospect with speed off the edge, unreal strength, and will fit a 3-4 system in the NFL. While many criticized his technique, the potential is existent. Davenport could end up being a first round pick because his ability and talent is something teams will fall in love with.
The biggest question in Chicago has to be who will the Bears select come April 26th? The Bears hold the eighth overall pick in the draft and can go a variety of different routes. Calvin Ridley would address their need at wide receiver but everyone wants to say eight is too high for the 24 year old. But is it? The Bears have yet to replace Alshon Jeffery and they need a WR1 and a go-to target for Mitch Trubisky. Ridley seems like he wants to come to the Bears after replying to a Bears fan page on Instagram this past weekend:
The Bears could also trade back and acquire more picks. They currently do not have a third round pick. Does it make sense to trade out of the top 10 and get Ridley then? Sure but is a big risk if that is your guy. As we have seen in the past, Pace drafts the best player on the board, not on need of the roster. Ridley makes a lot of sense but Bears could go another route. Other names include OG Quenton Nelson, and CB Denzel Ward. April cannot come soon enough.
The Chicago Bulls have lost four straight, and the absence of Kris Dunn is a major reason for that.
Dunn, who has been out since suffering dislocated teeth and a concussion on January 17th in a loss to the Warriors, remains out indefinetly but will travel with the team on their upcoming trip. Head coach Fred Hoiberg told the media today that Dunn “has started to turn the corner” in recovery but could still be out awhile. The Bulls play in Portland on Wednesday followed by the Clippers on Saturday and will finish the trip in Sacramento on Monday.
No Dunn has led to a stall in the offense. Jerian Grant has not played well of late and continues to show he is no more than a backup, third point guard in the league. Dunn does a great job running the offense and creating open shots for his teammates with his want to attack the rim. Grant dribbles…a lot leading to barely any movement.
Denzel Valentine has seen time being the primary ball-handler over the past few games with the reserves and has done pretty well. Valentine had 18 points in 30 minutes Sunday vs. Bucks on Sunday to go along with 4 assists.
After being benched in favor of Lavine’s return, Valentine has become a leader and a main player on the second unit. It was tough to see the former lottery pick taken out of the starting lineup because he was playing with a lot of confidence and shooting well from beyond the arc. But overall, it is good to see Valentine playing well and working to guarantee a spot on the Bulls roster as they build around Dunn, Lavine, and Lauri Markkanen.
LaVine has struggled over the past few games and its understandable. After coming out of the gate strong, he has struggled to find a rhythm and his shot. You have to remember LaVine had been out of the game for 11 months until his return a few weeks ago. His conditioning is not fully there yet and not having Dunn out there hurts his chances of getting open looks. The explosion and athleticism is there, we have already witnessed it. It comes down to getting his conditioning where it needs to be and playing within the offense.
It is still pretty quite on the Yu Darvish front. The Cubs and Twins are reportedly the front-runners for the highly prized free agent.
With spring training on the horizon, teams are anxious to get deals done to fill their voids on the roster. For the Cubs, we know Theo Esptien and Jed Hoyer want to add another starting pitcher to the mix. Four guys are in place: Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood. If I had to guess a fifth starter if the season started tomorrow if would probably be Eddie Butler or Mike Montgomery. I, as well as the Cubs, want neither of those at the back end of the rotation. Montgomery has been a key player for the Cubs the past few years but is statistically better in relief. Butler, the once highly sought after prospect, did not show enough to lock in a spot in the rotation.
Darvish is the biggest free agent left. The rumors keep swirling and beat writer are running out things to report. The so called “cold stove” is real for the Cubs and fans are dying for information and a deal to be resolved soon.
If Darvish does not chose the Cubs, Alex Cobb will probably be the next guy the Cubs look to. But what if he is already off the market? The Cubs have done their work on Cobb and an offer is on the table but the market has been really tough this offseason. There is no timetable for these guys or anyone to sign. Writers and and reporters have been saying a decision may come “this week” for quite some time now.
One thing is certain, baseball is almost back.
As the Blackhawks enter a fight for the playoffs, Corey Crawford is still not on the ice. After an initial report from Mark Lazurus from the Chicago Sun-Times that Crawford was suffering from vertigo and may miss the season, Stan Bowman went on the radio to say it was “post concussion symptoms.”
Crawford, who has been on injured reserve since December 27th, was schedule to take the ice this past weekend but it did not happen. Crawford was working out and attending games this past week at the United Center but until he gets back on the ice is when the Blackhawks can judge when he will be able to return to the lineup.
The Blackhawks are back in action Tuesday night in Nashville after the All-star festivities in Tampa Bay this past weekend. Patrick Kane represented the Blackhawks, making his seventh all-star appearance and one of the oldest players there at age 29. Crazy right? Now, the focus turns to the playoff push, something the Blackhawks have not been used to over the past years in chasing a playoff spot. The Blackhawks sit four points out of the last wild card spot in the Western Conference.
I’m here to tell you that it is not time to panic yet. Does it look like the Blackhawks are Stanley Cup contenders right now? Far from it. There is plenty of talent and experience on this roster to make a run and put themselves in the playoff picture. It is tough to see a team that has won three cups in the past eight years to be struggling but that’s reality.
The Blackhawks will have a good amount of cap space to use prior to the February 26th deadline. Do they add a top four defenseman? That seems to be the most logical move but may have to give up quite a bit to get that. The deadline comes quick and who knows by then if the Blackhawks will be in the mix or the season will be lost. We really do not know because of the inconsistencies this season. The focus is on Crawford to return and hopefully end the goalie woes for coach Joel Quenneville.