The Booth Review Vol. 6

1) Today is a Saad, Saad Day for Hawks Fans Everywhere

Brandon Saad was traded today in a seven player deal to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Hawks received forwards Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, former Blackhawk Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, and a 2016 fourth-round pick. Along with Saad, the Blue Jackets received prospects Michael Paliotta and Adam Broadhurst.

Overall, I believe this is a terrible trade for the Hawks. Saad was only 22 tears old and coming off a 50 point season. If it’s true he received a 5 year deal with an average of 6.5 million dollars a year, then you clear the cap space to sign him. Or at least trade him for a bigger package than what the team got from Columbus. Anisimov is a 3rd line center, and Morin and Tropp are organizational depth at this point. Dano is only 20 years old, but Saad was a proven commodity at 22. You need to bring back more high upside prospects if you plan on trading a young, franchise cornerstone. If I’m in that Hawks locker room, I’m nervous that management may have to trim some more fat before the season starts.

(Editor’s Note: I’ll miss you Saadfather.)

2) I Choose You

This past Thursday the Chicago Bulls and 29 other NBA teams participated in the NBA Draft. The Bulls drafted Arkansas power forward Bobby Portis with the 22nd overall pick. My thoughts on the draft as a whole are right here: https://sportsfromthecheapseats.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/melo-has-no-zen-and-other-thoughts-from-the-2015-nba-draft/.

On Friday and Saturday, the Chicago Blackhawks also participated in the NHL’s amateur draft. They selected forward Graham Knott with the 54th pick overall (2nd round) from the OHL. He’s a solid two-way forward, but not someone who moves the needle.

3) Silly Season Begins

At midnight tonight both NBA and NHL free agency begin. Both are sure to have a lot of moving and shaking going on, particularly on the NBA side. The cap sits a 67 million dollars this year, but it jumps to 90 million in 2016, and 108 (ish) million in 2017. That means that long term deals signed under this cap will be nothing compared to what can be signed in the years that follow.

Currently, a typical max money contract a player can sign is 5 years 90 million dollars. That’s about 30 percent of a teams total cap. The cap percentage is constant, which means when the cap go up, so does the value of a max contract. A max contract in 2016 would be around 135 million for 5 years, and in 2017 it would be around 162 million for the same length of time. That’s a ridiculous two year jump. Because of these facts, players and GMs a like are trying to jockey for leverage in negotiations. It will be interesting to see who goes where and for what price. Stay tuned, both the NBA and NHL offseasons should be exciting.

Now That They Have the Cup, How Do the Hawks Stay Champions?

The Blackhawks are currently 4.95 million dollars under the cap going into next year. Unfortunately, they have 10 free agents (6 unrestricted, 4 restricted) going into this offseason including key players like Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya. If the Hawks truly want to compete for a championship next season, tough decisions must be made. It’s far from impossible for the Hawks to field a better team than they did last year, but specific things must be done in order to achieve that goal.

1) Trade Sharp and Bickell without hesitation.

Patrick Sharp is an alternate captain, but he’s also the fourth highest cap hit on the roster. Bryan Bickell is a player who has gotten more penalty minutes (186 minutes) than points scored (133 pts), yet he is making four million dollars a year for the next two years. Both players have been vital to the Blackhawks during their championship runs, but both players have seemed to over stay their welcome. At 34 and a three-time champion, Patrick Sharp should be in demand this summer. He is only one year removed from a 78-point season. Bryan Bickell may not be as potent and effective as Sharp during the regular season, but he has 39 playoff points to his name. Most teams would die for that kind of playoff production. Both players must be traded this summer in order for the Hawks to survive this tumultuous offseason.

2) Possibly trade Corey Crawford.

Now I know what you’re thinking: why trade the best goalie Chicago has had since Ed Belfour? Well, because a) he would net a hefty return, and b) he makes six million dollars a year until 2020. That means his contract doesn’t end until he turns 36 years old. The Hawks should strike while the iron is hot. Unless he’s Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur, Crawford is sure to decline rather than improve or plateau. Crawford could net the team some lost draft picks or cheap, young players to help bolster Chicago’s flanks. Either way, I believe that defending champs need to part ways with their world-class goal tender.

3) Effectively use draft picks, and don’t trade anymore.

This year, the Hawks have the 54th overall pick in the NHL draft. Going forward, the team must hold onto their draft picks, unless they want to become 100 percent dependent on free agency. That doesn’t mean the team can’t find a productive player at the 54th pick this year. Here is a list of players the Hawks have found in the 2nd round or later since 2002:

  • Brandon Saad: 2nd round pick (43), 2011
  • Andrew Shaw: 5th round pick (139), 2011
  • Marcus Kruger: 5th round pick (149), 2010
  • Niklas Hjalmarsson: 4th round pick (108), 2005
  • Corey Crawford: 2nd round pick (52), 2003
  • Duncan Keith: 2nd round pick (54), 2002
  • This looks like a pretty solid list. This year, the Hawks have a great shot of adding a playmaker, but they increase their odds by keeping and developing their 1st round picks. If the team truly wants to establish a dynasty, then they need to keep, develop, and succeed with their own draft picks. All in all, the Hawks are in bad shape this off-season, but if they can make some risky moves, and reestablish their commitment to the amateur draft, than the Chicago Blackhawks can continue to be a modern day dynasty.

The Booth Review: Vol. 5

1) Six Like Jordan

The Chicago Blackhawks are your new Stanley Cup champions. On Monday night, the Hawks finished off the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0. Duncan Keith won the Conn Smythe Trophy after becoming the first defensmen in eight years to score at least 20 points in the playoffs, all while averaging a ridiculous 31 minutes per game. To put that into perspective, Keith played a total of 715 playoffs minutes. He is one of only four players to do that in the entire history of the NHL. He’s also the first defensemen since the legendary Bobby Orr to score the game-winning goal in a clinching game in the Stanley Cup finals. Keith deserves every hockey award ever created and the Hawks would not be champions without him. Three cups in six years; the Chicago Blackhawks are truly a modern day dynasty.

2) Dub City: Home of the New NBA Champions

The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers last night 105-97 to win the NBA Championship. This is Golden State’s first since 1975. Steve Kerr became the first rookie head coach to win a championship since the Lakers’ Pat Riley in 1982. Andre Iguodala became the first finals MVP that didn’t start every game, and was the first MVP since Dennis Johnson in 1979 to win the award without averaging at least 10 ppg in the playoffs. Iguodala’s defensive abilites and point guard-like skillset helped give the Warriors the edge it needed to defeat James and the rest of the Cavs.

3) LeBron’s Back Must be Sore

After last night’s crushing defeat at the hands Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game becoming the first players in Final’s history to lead all players in those categories. Although Andre Iguodala won the MVP award, it was James who was truly the best player on the court. The Cavaliers were, to put it simply, outmatched talent-wise by the Warriors. That is not to take away from the anything Golden State has done in the finals, but the series would have looked much differently if Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Love were healthy.

4) “ [K]hris Sale: Can the Man Get Some Help, Please?!

Chris Sale became the first pitcher since 2001 to strike out 12 batters or more in four straight games. How is he repaid for his all-star efforts: with a late-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday night. A two-run home run from Asdrubal Cabrera in the 7th inning sealed it for the South Siders. Sale is 6-3 on the season and leads the team in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. If the Pale Hoses don’t find a way to turn this season around, then one has to wonder if the lefty from Florida is willing to take his services elsewhere. At 26, Sale is in the prime of his career and with the Sox currently in last place in their division, one has to wonder if the Sox are willing to rebuild. Only 8 games behind the division leading Royals, if that lead grows then the Sox should have no choice. But, until that point, Sale and the rest of the Sox elite like Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia don’t have to worry about enduring a rebuilding campaign.

The Booth Review Vol. 4

1) An Overactive Blatter

After the arrests of several FIFA officials, Sepp Blatter stepped down amid corruption allegations and in possible involvement in these criminal cases. Now it is being reported that Blatter accepted a 10 million dollars bribe from then-South African President Thabo Mbeki. Investigators are looking into Russia’s and Qatar’s Wolrd Cup bids to see if there was any bribery involved

2) So Nice, They Crowned Him Thrice

For the 1st time since 1978, a new Triple Crown winner has been named. American Pharoah is the 12th recipient of the prestigious award after winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. His margin of victory was the 4th largest margin of victory in Belmont history. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 37 years to witness around Triple Crown victor.

3) Can Lighting Strike Twice?

Game 3 is tonight at the Mad House on Madison, and the Hawks are trying to regain their momentum from Game 1. Ben Bishop is still questionable for tonight. If that’s the case, the Lighting will turn to 20-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal. Chicago needs to capitalize on his inexperience and start off strong. It will be hard for Tampa Bay to win two games on the road, but if they can split on this road trip then they have a great shot of putting the Hawks away at home. Game 3 starts tonight at 7 pm.

4) The King Defends his Kingdom

39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists: that was LeBron James’ stat line at the end of last night’s overtime thriller at Golden State. The Cavaliers won the game 95-93. Stephen Curry easily had his worst game in the playoffs, and Matthew Dellavedova continues to cement his status as a NBA cult hero and Australian living legend. The most impressive part of this game has to be LeBron James. Minus Kyrie Irving, with only 12 healthy bodies on a 13-man roster, and forced into using a 7-man rotation, James and the Cavaliers gutted out a gritty road victory. If the Cavs can win these next two games in Cleveland, the team has a great shot of winning the series in six games. LeBron James is three more Superman-like performances away from bring Cleveland its first professional championship in 60 plus years.

5) Can a Cyclone Leave its Mark on Chicago?

On Tuesday, Fred Hoiberg was named the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls. “The Mayor” represents a departure from Tom Thibodeau’s defense first, “my way or the highway” coaching style. Hoiberg is an offensive guru and player’s coach. If he can help boost the Bulls offensive, and if the front offensive can diversify and strength the roster, the Bulls should be on a short list of front runners for the Eastern Conference Championship.

6) Is Something Burning?

The White Sox currently sit in last place in the division at 25-30, 7.5 games behind the 1st place Minnesota Twins. The Sox still have a chance to make up some ground, but they need better play from some of their offseason acquisitions such as Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, and Adam LaRoche. If the Sox can get some more production from so keys positions, they can turn this season around. If not, Robin Ventura should pack his bags because he won’t be around to manage next year.

The Booth Review Vol. 2

1) Take a Walk on the Wild Side:

On Saturday night, the Blackhawks finished off their series with the Nashville Predators, winning the game 4-3. Duncan Keith netted the game winning score 16 minutes into the third period to put the Preds away. Jonathan Toews and Keith finished the game with a goal and two assists each. The Patricks, Kane and Sharp, each tallied a goal and an assist. Next up for the Hawks is the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference semi-finals.

2) MLB’s Royal Rumble:

On Thursday night, the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox exchanged blows in what turned out to be a very interesting scuffle. Multiple suspensions resulted from the melee including Royal’s pitchers Yordano Ventura (7 games), Edinson Volquez (5 games) Kelvin Herrera (2 games), centerfielder Lorenzo Cain (2 games), and White Sox’s pitchers Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija (5 games). The most notable person involved in the altercation is Ventura, who is just weeks off of instigating another incident with the Oakland Athletics. Ventura and the Royals have always been considered a feisty, fiery bunch. However, this angst seems to be spilling over onto the field.

3) Jimmy Butler: Serving His Opponents Up One Tasty Bucket at a Time:

As the Bulls strive to win their ongoing series against the Milwaukee Bucks, one thing becomes readily apparent: Jimmy Butler is the man. Butler, who is a free agent at the end of the season, is averaging career highs points per game (28.3), assists per game (3.0), steals per game (1.8), field goal percentage (.543), and three point percentage (.393). Regardless of what happens during the rest of the playoffs, Butler has cemented his place as the Bulls’ new franchise cornerstone.

4) The People v. Scott Darling: The Case Exonerating Corey Crawford:

After giving up three goals in the first period during Saturday’s Game 6 win, Joel Quenneville opted to pull playoff hero Scott Darling for embattled former-starter Corey Crawford. The results were instantaneous: Crawford shut-out the Predators the rest of the game, and the Hawks won because of it. No starter has been named for Game 1, but in my opinion, Quenneville should stick with the hot hand in Crawford, but Darling should be ready to play at a moment’s notice. It’s better to have two solid goalies than one terrible one.

5) And With the First Pick of the 2015 NFL Draft…:

This Thursday marks the beginning of the NFL Draft. For the first time since 1965, the draft will be held in the city of Chicago. This draft proves to be equal parts exciting and mystifying. Aside from Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston going first overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the rest of the draft is unknown. Where will Marcus Mariota be selected? Will there be any blockbuster trades? The only thing that is for sure, is that Thursday night will be one hell of a night.

The Booth Review Vol. 1

The Booth Review is an article recapping what was in Chicago Sports over the weekend of April 17-19. Here are the top stories:

The People v. Corey Crawford

The biggest sporting news this weekend comes at the hand of the Chicago Blackhawks. After giving up 3 goals in the 1st period of Game 1, Corey Crawford had been on thin ice with coaches and fans alike. Crawford may have fallen through after the Hawks beat the Predators Sunday, 4-2. Darling finished the day with 35 saves, adding on to his league leading save percentage (.975) and goals against average (0.94). This leaves many to wonder if this is the end of Crawford. Darling starts Game 4 tonight and in my opinion, until he falters, he should remain the starter for the remainder of the playoffs.

“I have a Venti Latte for Kris.”

Getting his first (and hopefully only) cup of coffee with the Cubs this past weekend, super-rookie Kris Bryant made his major league debut. Going 3 for 10, with a double and 4 strikeouts, Bryant did disappoint. However, he is too talented not to succeed. Cubs’ fans must be patient with the Phenom; he’s no Mike Trout. There will be growing pains along the way, but they will be well worth it.

Every Rose Has its Thorn(s)…Still

The Bulls also played their first playoff game this year against the Milwaukee Bucks, and an old friend came out of hiding to steal the show. Derrick Rose finished the game with 23 points and 7 assists. But it was more than what appeared in the box score for Rose, who played in his first playoff game since 2012. He dunked, nailed pull-up three pointers, and got the crowd hyped up. If he can maintain this level of play for the rest of the playoffs, Chicago may be able to topple the mighty Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this June.

Welcome Back, Kaner

Very rarely does a super-star returning from an 8-week injury get bumped down to fourth on a list of hot sports topics, but it was that type of weekend in Chicago sports. Patrick Kane is back with a vengeance, scoring 3 points in his first three games back from a broken collarbone. Now 3 points may not seem like a lot, but he is currently tied for third on the team in total points. The Hawks are getting it done as a team, and Kane has served as a catalyst for the second line. As he goes, the team goes, so it is great to see him getting back into his comfort zone.

That’s all for the weekend recap. This time next week I will be covering the NFL Draft, and hopefully a handful of Bulls and Blackhawks victories. See red and let’s go Hawks!

Why it Will be the Blackhawks and the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals.

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With the Conference Finals already underway, the playoff picture has become clearer. Everyone is now placing their bets on who will make the Stanley Cup Finals, myself included. After an exciting first and second round of playoff hockey, I believe that the Blackhawks and the Rangers will be battling it out for hockey’s most precious prize. Here are a few reasons on why…

First we have the New York Rangers, who finished second in the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. They have one of the best goalies in the NHL playoffs, Henrik Lundqvist, between the pipes. This postseason he has a 1.99 GAA and a .931 save percent. Those are good enough for second and tied for first among playoff goalies.The Rangers have also been stellar on special teams. During the Pittsburgh series, the Penguins were one for twenty on powerplays. Great defense and special teams are the recipe for any team trying to make a deep playoff run, but the Rangers also possess a very well balanced and potent offensive attack. The Rangers second line (Richards, St.Louis, and Hagelin) and third line (Brassard, Zuccarello, and Pouliot) have scored twenty-four and twenty-three points, respectively. That is great offensive production for a team playing such good defense. If they can shut down the Canadiens and P.K. Subban, who is playing like a man possessed, like they shut down the Penguins, then Rangers’ fans can start buying their finals tickets ASAP.

Then there are the Chicago Blackhawks. They finished third in the Central Divison in the Western Conference. If the Rangers have one of best goalies in the playoffs, then the Blawkhawks have the other. Corey Crawford has a .197 GAA and a .931 save percentage, which ranks first and tied for first among goalies still in the playoffs. But that’s not all – the Blackhawks lead the league with a +/- 6 and a 91.7 percent on the penalty kill in this years playoffs. The hawks are just as stingy as the Rangers when it comes to defense and special-teams. The Blackhawks are also great in close games, they have a 5-2 record in games decided by one goal. With grit, tough defense, and a potent offense attack lead by their first line and first defensive paring (46pts by Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, and Seabrook) the Blackhawks have a chance to make their second straight trip to the Stanley Cup finals.

Both these teams excel in the facets of hockey that lead teams to the finals: Defense and Special Teams. They also have veteran players who have been there before. The Blackhawks are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and the Rangers have two players (Richards and St.Louis) that won with the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2003. With all these facts working for the Blackhawks and Rangers, how can you think they won’t make it to the Stanley Cup finals?