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Airbags

Bears in Five

Spellbound
by Bearscast.com Staff

FIVE
Forget the pain, for a moment. Instead, think about the season, and the welling pride in our team that defied expectations almost every single week. Vindicating their talent, dedication, and superior game planning week in and week out, making all the pundits look like damn fools. Even though we lost the Big Game at the End, that's something we can feel good about.

FOUR
Feeling anger, however, makes sense given that we at BEARSCast stuck up for Rex all year, sure that he was a Performer When It Counted, that great sports conventional wisdom myth. Oh, were we wrong. Under pressure from the Colts all day, Rex failed to stay calm and in the pocket, choosing to roll out and repeatedly making bad decisions, missing the open man, forcing passes where they didn't belong, and otherwise not responding the way a quarterback has to respond when the team needs them. Rex, BEARSCast declares your era over.

THREE
The Bears' defensive performance is a problem for our whole mindset. Heroic, given the rancid offensive performance (and play calling), or dismal, allowing the Colts to completely define the tone of the game. Really, you can't say the Bears defense broke down; against the most potent offense in the league, they were going to get scored on — they needed the offense to hold onto the ball. Eventually, if the offense couldn't convert on third down, there were going to be problems — the defense would get tired, and you can only stop Peyton Manning for so long. Executing on third down, even occasionally, would've sufficed, but the offense couldn't even deliver that.

TWO
The Bears coaching staff takes part of the blame, too, and in particular Chico Rivera's refusal to blitz. When Peyton Manning is not even getting touched — he's almost impossible to sack, but hitting and hurrying him is very doable — you have to send in blitzes to change up his timing. Our defense tried to rely on the front four to get that pressure, and with the solid Colts offensive line and a soggy, wet field that just wasn't going to happen consistently enough.

ONE
One is the knowledge, and we're doing the knowledge at BEARSCast and here at GB: that means we're going to stick with the boys in Orange and Navy Blue in the off-season — we believe Lovie has his best years of coaching ahead of him. Now we feel the hurt, but we're confident we have great things to look forward to next year. Especially the quarterback controversy.

Pucks in Five

Back from the All-Star Break
by Jeremy Piniak

One: Fortnight Follow-up
The Blackhawks entered the All-Star Break in the throes of a nine-game losing streak that sealed their lack of a playoff berth. After reaching a season-high 10 straight losses following a 3-1 defeat by Nashville, the Hawks managed to pick up two overtime wins against Calgary and bottom-dwelling Los Angeles, before falling the Sharks Saturday in San Jose. With the Disney ice show here in town through Valentine's Day, the team continues its West Coast swing in a return match tonight against the Flames, followed by games against Vancouver, Edmonton and Columbus. Earlier in the season, the team bottomed out on a similar West Coast trip which led to the firing of former coach Trent Yawney. While coach Denis Savard won't have to worry about his job security at this juncture, he has to find a way to make sure the same lethargic play from that trip doesn't creep its way back into the team's psyche, and find a way to build from the depths of the last month's losing streak.

Two: Bochenski's a Bruin
With the NHL trade deadline less than three weeks away, some activity is beginning to bubble. The Blackhawks, 17 points out of the eighth spot, are definitely sellers in the market, and made one of the first moves this weekend, shipping out minor-leaguer Brandon Bochenski to Boston. In return, the team gets minor-league forward Kris Versteeg and a conditional draft pick. Versteeg was leading Providence with 49 points in 43 games. Bochenski came to the Hawks in last year's Tyler Arnason trade, and while he was always putting up points at Norfolk, he was never given a true chance to contribute to the Blackhawks. Given their offensive struggles this season, it's hard to say why Bochenski didn't get a fair shake, and Boston will look for him to contribute to their own struggling offense. Hopefully Versteeg has some untapped potential, but at this point, I don't see this trade benefiting the team either short- or long-term.

Three: Schedule Snafus
After having spent All-Star weekend in Pittsburgh to see NHL posterboys Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin in action, the league's current schedule system, which was discussed during last week's All-Star meetings, is a topic at the forefront of my mind. In the current format, a premium is placed on divisional rivalries, letting teams like the Blackhawks and Red Wings battle eight times a year. However, teams from the opposite conference are played only 10 times, meaning some teams don't meet for multiple years. Case in point, the Washington Capitals. While the Blackhawks played in the nation's capital last year, Washington isn't on the schedule this year at all, depriving Hawks fans from seeing last year's rookie of the year in Ovechkin in person for the past two years. Likewise, while the Penguins were at the United Center last year, and the Hawks visit the Igloo next week, there's no guarantee Chicago will see Crosby next year.

The scheduling system needs to be tweaked to fix this. Last year's Penguins game was one of the few the Blackhawks sold out, as people came out to see Sid the Kid. As it stands, he may not be back in Chicago for two years. While attempting to foster rivalries is understandable, the emotions and intensity that goes into a true rivalry can't be forced, and the NHL is going to cut off the chance to build its fan base by not showcasing its most marketable stars.

Four: All-Star Stats
Both the major and minor leagues held their All-Star Game festivities the past two weeks. Blackhawk star Martin Havlat was the team's lone representative, and he accommodated himself well, notching two goals and an assist in the West's 12-9 win. Havlat has been one of the few bright spots for the Hawks this season, and if healthy, would most likely be among the league leaders in scoring, so the recognition is a bright spot on a struggling team. Brent Seabrook played in the Youngstars game as well, but bears no mention.

Meanwhile, on the AHL front, the All-Star MVP was Chicago Wolves star Brent Sterling, who had two goals and an assist for the PlanetUSA team in a 7-6 win. Sterling has been the league's leading goal scorer, and along with Darren Haydar, who scored a goal in the All-Star game as well, has led the Wolves to the top of the Western Conference. Admiral player Martin St. Pierre, who has been a call-up for a few games this season with the Hawks, recorded a goal and two assists for the Canadian side in the losing effort. Also making noise for the Ads was defenseman Dustin Byfulgien, who recorded the hardest shot in the AHL's skill competition. Byfulgien participated after spending the past two weeks with the Blackhawks as defenseman Jassen Cullimore and Adrian Aucoin nursed injuries, and is a near-lock to join the team's other young defensemen next season.

Five: Trade Talk
With the Blackhawks in obvious selling mode, there are a few players who will be focused on in the next few weeks. There's no guarantees the Hawks will make a deal, but expect the following players to be moved if so.

First, defensemen Jassen Cullimore and captain Adrian Aucoin. Both have struggled with injuries and poor play this year, but both will be a hit to the salary cap. With the Hawks stable of young D-men, both vets are expendable for anything the team can receive, but don't hold out too much hope. Also, veteran forwards like Bryan Smolinski may gain interest as well, as a proven player with postseason experience. It'd be a shame to see him depart, but there's nothing to do in Chicago but play out the string as it is. While the Hawks are loaded in the young player with potential department, there's always the chance that a prospect can morph into a Hall of Fame player. Smolinski has had a solid career, and it'd be sad to see a leader go, but the return needs to benefit the Hawks today and tomorrow, not in an ambiguous future role.

Bulls in Five

...is in mourning for the Bears. Back next week.
by Jason Maslanka

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Comments

P / February 6, 2007 4:17 PM

You know, all the talk about Rivera becoming a head coach? Let him go. That's two playoff games out of four that he's been outted as a system guy, not the brilliant tactician the media makes him out to be. I think under Lovie's system, the defensive coordinator is replaceable.

i don't know how many times Indy's running backs were open in the flat because our secondary was half way to Ft. Myers. We got nickel and dimed to death all day long. That contributed to the lack of run support in general.

Ron, ever hear of an adjustment?!?

Steve / February 7, 2007 12:04 PM

Ah, what's to say? The Bears' offensive and defensive lines showed up without their asses and got pushed around all day. Why, one could say they got their asses handed to them.

Next season will be interesting -- Open competition for the QB job as they Griese up the old Wheel of Orton? Thomas Jones, traded away? Cedric Benson, more injury prone than people know? Young talented offensive linemen brought in? Lance Briggs worth a top-five linebacker's salary?

Brace yourselves for disappointment, 2006 White Sox style. :(

 

About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon, Craig Aichele and Fitz are the hosts of Bearscast.com, the best and brightest Bears podcasts, part of the Chicago Sportscast Network. Now with 60 percent more non-football talk, bringing the football talk to 10 percent. Go listen. Send comments to hosts@bearscast.com.

Jeremy Piniak grew up watching hockey on all levels and is a lifelong Blackhawks fan who, inexplicably, still has hope that Bill Wirtz will once again provide Chicago with a championship hockey team and broadcast home games on TV, though he still mourns the destruction of Chicago Stadium. Every week he'll bring you five talking points on the state of hockey in Chicago (including, when possible, the minor-league Wolves and Hounds). Send comments to pucks@gapersblock.com

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