Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blackhawks sign Michael Leighton to a 1-year deal

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they have agreed to terms with goaltender Michael Leighton on a one-year contract.

Leighton, 33, has posted 35 wins (35-41-14), a 2.97 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 105 career regular-season games over parts of eight seasons with the Blackhawks (2002-2004), Nashville (2006-07), Philadelphia (2006-07; 2009-13) and Carolina (2007-09). He has notched an 8-4 record in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games and currently holds the NHL record for most shutouts in a postseason series (3 vs. MTL in 2010 Eastern Conference Final).

Leighton, originally drafted by the Blackhawks in the sixth round (165th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, appeared in 42 contests over two seasons with the club during his NHL debut, collecting eight wins (8-21-10), a 2.81 GAA and a .901 SV%. He was the franchise’s first goaltender to post a shutout in his NHL debut after doing so on Jan. 8, 2003 vs. ARI.

The Petrolia, Ontario, native spent last season with the KHL’s Donbass Donetsk, where he was part of a goaltending tandem that set a team record for fewest goals allowed during the regular season. Leighton, who helped the club reach the second round of the playoffs, shared third in the league with 20 regular-season wins, ranked seventh with a 1.74 GAA and ninth with a .934 SV%.

Leighton has also notched 171 victories (171-144-29) in 354 career American Hockey League tilts spanning 10 seasons with the Norfolk Admirals (2001-05), Rochester Americans (2005-06), Portland Pirates (2006-07), Philadelphia Phantoms (2006-07), Albany River Rats (2007-08) and Adirondack Phantoms (2010-2013). He was named to the 2001-02 All-Rookie Team. During the 2007-08 season, Leighton was honored with the "Baz Bastien Memorial Award" as the league’s best goaltender and named to the First All-Star Team.
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Bears sign Santonio Holmes

In a move that wasn't that shocking, the Chicago Bears decided to bring in outside help for the #3 WR position after the injury to Marquess Wilson.  Wilson looking to be really growing into that position, but will be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from surgery for a broken clavicle.  A hopeful to step-up into Wilson's vacant #3 spot was Chris Williams, however, injuries him sidelined.  Josh Bellamy, Josh Morgan, Michael Spurlock, Eric Weems, and Armonti Edwards have done nothing to impress the fans and the coaches.  So it was logical to bring in veteran help.  The only shock is that it's Santonio Holmes.  

I've heard fan rumblings that Holmes isn't the same WR he was in the superbowl for Pittsburgh.  I've also heard the rumblings he's not a team player.  First of all, he is going to be the #3 option behind two pro-bowl wide receivers and will move to the #4 WR option before the bye week.  So realistically, how much do you want from him?  Second, if you judge solely by statistics, he didn't have a great year last year.  But the Jets passing attack as a whole was anemic.  They ranked 31 of 32 teams in passing and Holmes accounted for about 1/6th of those yards.  Finally, Brandon Marshall is the captain and sheriff in the WR camp.  If you're Santonio Holmes, you can't just come in and turn over the apple cart.  There's a lot of veteran leadership 
to prevent that.

One last bit is that the Bears also parted ways with Eric Weems.  I mentioned on the show that he had 5 bad/sub-par returns, missed a tackle on special teams coverage, and didn't help himself as a #3 WR option.  So it's not surprising that the team is going to part ways with his salary and his poor play.  This will make it interesting in the kick return game.  Look for this to be Michael Ford's "get out of jail free" card potentially.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bill Swerski's Sports Talk Chicago episode 024

Bears look mundane vs the Jaguars, Javy Baez comes up, Sox bullpen keeps stinking, Kevin Hayes spurns the Blackhawks.  All of this and more on one of the two/three best podcasts on the web...

Cubs/Sox until minute 37
Bears minute 37 to minute 108.5
Blackhawks minute 108.5 to minute 112.5
Bulls minute 112.5 to end

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Martellus Bennett reinstated and back to practice

It seems that he has learned his lesson and despite good TE production in preseason game 1, Bennett has been reinstated...hopefully more humble. 

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bill Swerski's Sports Talk Chicago episode 023

The best damn Chicago sports podcast around.  In episode 23, I fly solo on the show.  We focus almost solely on the Bears (sorry Sox, Bulls, and Hawks fans) and thoughts on the training camp practices I've gone to and the game against the Eagles. 

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thoughts on the Bears first preseason game versus the Eagles

You have to take what you see in the preseason with a grain of salt.  Great performances in the exhibition games don't always translate well into the regular season.  Case in point, Jon Bostic looked like a phenom last preseason.  All of my friends that are casual Bears fans were talking him up as if he were the new Butkus or Urlacher.  When it was announced that DJ Williams would start over Bostic once healthy, they all lost their minds.  But I assured them that you have to start the season with a veteran presence at MLB.  And when Williams went down again, Bostic came in and looked like a rookie.  So really, we are just using everything we are seeing to help shape the roster.

With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the first preseason game:

The Good:
-The starting offense, even sans Marquess Wilson, Kyle Long, and Jordan Mills looked great.  They moved the ball well and looked quite polished for how early in the season they are.
-The defense was back to gang tackling, unlike last year.
-Jay Cutler looked quite comfortable...good touch on the ball (not everything was a missile), confidence in th pocket.
-The TE position as a whole surprised me, especially considering Martellus Bennett is suspended.
-The D-line was getting consistent pressure on Nick Foles.
-The starting D seemed to have gap discipline on the run plays.
-Jimmy Clausen really surprised me in a good way.  Comfortable in the pocket, nice throws, good decisions.  I owe him an apology.

The Bad:
-The run blocking was pretty bad.  This wouldn't worry me except that they didn't run block that well last year.  It's looking like a bit of a carryover problem that needs to be addressed.
-Eric Weems has a rough game.  A couple of fair catches, a dropped pass followed by being blown up buy Cary Williams, a bad return.  Not a good showcase.
-The special teams looked pretty spotty: fumbled punt, blocked kick, opposing team scored a touchdown off a kickoff.
-Garza got blown up a few times, which makes me nervous because the Eagles D isn't great.
-Bostic and McClellin missed WAAAY too many tackles.
-Brian de la Puenta and Chris Williams got injured (no updates yet).

The Ugly:
-The broadcast during the first quarter looked like we were watching a bootleg VHS tape.
-Cody Booth and Joe Long, the o-line hopefuls) were absolutely abysmal.  The only block Cody Booth made in the whole game was during a screen when he was SUPPOSED to let the man go.  He can't pull on pulling plays.  Played ole` too much.  Joe Long was no better.  Too many holding penalties, not enough blocking anyone.
-Jordan Palmer had poor pocket presence, off target on throws, poor decisions.  Not a good game.

There are more thoughts coming...but check out the podcast which will go live Sunday night.
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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cubs claim Cole Hamels off waivers

The Cubs have been reported by multiple outlets to be the team that claimed Cole Hamels off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the next couple of days, the two clubs need to come to a trade agreement, or the Phillies can choose to let him go for no compensation (with the Cubs assuming his whole remaining contract) or they can bring him back to the active roster.

2014 stats: 6-5, 2.55 ERA, 19 starts, 133 Ks in 130.1 IP.
Contract: 6 years, $144 million. Owed prorated $7.5M (of $22.5M) in 2014, plus $22.5 million from 2016-18. $20M club option or $6 million buyout for 2019. Option vests at $24M with both 200 IP in 2017 and 400 IP in 2017-18 , plus no season-ending shoulder/elbow injury in 2018. Limited no-trade.

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