So I think the best way to go through this is chronologically.
Early this week, it was revealed that Marian Hossa has for some time been battling a progressive skin disorder that is an allergic reaction caused by his hockey equipment. Hossa announced that he will not be playing this season. The assumption is that the Hawks will either try to trade him and his contract (unlikely given the expense and Hossa’s age and possible retirement) or place him on Long-Term Injured Reserve, which will mean his salary won’t count. All the initial reaction suggests that it’s very possible Hossa will never play hockey again, which is terribly sad not only as a Blackhawks fan but as a fan of the game of hockey. Hossa is incredible to watch, seemingly inseparable from the puck when it’s on his stick and able to unload a rocket of a shot with pinpoint accuracy almost without warning. Furthermore, throughout his career his teammates have never had anything but phenomenal things to say about him as a person. This is not the first time this has happened to an NHL player; it was much more common back in the 70s and 80s, and one former Blackhawks was actually forced to retire because of the condition. Reading his story provides tremendous perspective on what Hossa is currently going through (http://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/skin-disorder-drove-former-hawks-defenseman-tom-reid-out-of-nhl/ )
Now to all the trades made this week. On Wednesday night, Trevor van Riemsdyk was selected in the expansion draft by the Golden Knights. The only surprising part about this was that he went alone, as it had long been speculated that Marcus Kruger would be going to Vegas as well both to create salary cap space and to ensure that Vegas would take TVR. The next morning, TVR was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes. At least he can hang out with fellow former Hawks Scott Darling and Teuvo Teravainen.
The NHL Draft began Friday night, and in any league the day of the draft is often a busy day for deals. Oh was it ever. The Blackhawks traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for two players, including defenseman Connor Murphy, who at only 24 years old captained Team USA at the World Championships earlier this year and is a very promising player. That said, Hjalmarsson has been so valuable for the Blackhawks, coming up through the Hawks system and becoming one of the most fearless defenders in the league, always near the top of the league in shot blocks. The purposes of this trade are obvious (to get cheaper and younger) but the immediate benefits are not. Hopefully Murphy excels and the Hawks won’t miss Hammer too badly. I would have rather seen the Hawks trade Brent Seabrook, but his contract is terrible (he’s getting older and is paid a lot) and I don’t blame other teams from staying away.
The bombshell of the day came less than an hour later, when Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte were sent to Columbus in exchange for Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg. First, let’s look at the bright side. Everyone was devastated when Saad was traded two years ago, so it’s awesome to have him back. Jonathan Toews has also put up the best offensive numbers of his career when he has Saad on his line, so hopefully reuniting those two ignites the captain’s game. Third, while you’re never be able to truly replace Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad isn’t all that far off. Beyond Saad, Forsberg is a young goalie considered to have a lot of potential, and the job of being Corey Crawford’s backup is currently vacant. Now to the obvious downside, Artemi Panarin leaving. He’s been a phenomenal scorer in his two seasons with the Hawks, pairing well with Patrick Kane to form maybe the best one-two offensive punch in the League. However, Panarin was on the verge of having to be paid a lot of money, which just wasn’t going to happen on a team that already has the two most expensive players in the League in Kane and Toews. Brandon Saad is younger, cheaper, and a more versatile player than Panarin (read: can help defensively and play on the PK). While the Hjalmarsson trade leaves me scratching my head, this one does not. Both teams won this trade.
Hoping to help address the issue of defensive depth, on Friday night the Hawks drafted Finish defenseman Henri Jokiharju (Henry Yo-key-har-you). He played for the Portland Winterhawks, whose jersey looks almost exactly like the Hawks. Given that I know nothing else about this guy, I approve.
No, I do not follow the Bulls all that closely; and no, I have never included them in the blog. However, one must occasionally make exceptions. It has become a running joke in Chicago sports how awful the Bulls’ front office combo of John Paxson and Gar Forman are. They have done some truly astonishing things, but none come close to the way in which they traded Jimmy Butler during this Thursday’s NBA Draft. It had been speculated for the past year that Butler may be moved, and most recently there were rumors that he was going to go join up with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. However, that fell apart when the Cavs fired their GM (who was in the process of negotiating a deal for Butler) and then players on the Cavs (assume to be LeBron because he actually runs that organization) telling Butler to stay away because the way the team is run is a mess and that they’re key players (including LeBron) are probably leaving next year.
What actually happened is that Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen. Lavine is best known for two things: being really good at the Dunk Contest and missing most of last season with a torn ACL. Kris Dunn was a lottery pick but is thought of as a primarily defensive player, and Lauri Markkanen was the ‘Wolves first round draft pick, a 7-footer with a similar sort of skillset to Dirk Nowitzki. Best case scenario? Lavine stays healthy and is productive, Dunn is a good backup for Rondo, Markkanen is the next Dirk, and the Bulls still totally suck. Sigh…. #FireGarPax
So a couple of weeks ago, the Fire played Orlando City and found themselves with two extra men after two Orlando players were (questionably) sent off. The Fire failed to score and the game ended 0-0. The Fire got their revenge on Saturday night, beating the Lions 4-0 behind a hat-trick from David Accam and a league-leading 14th goal for Nemanja Nikolic. Even more notable, this game was played in front of a sell-out crowd at Toyota Park where the Fire have now won 7 consecutive home games. That ties a record set in the Fire’s inaugural 1997/98 season when they won MLS Cup. The Fire are still second in the Eastern Conference behind Toronto who are on a similarly hot streak.
Yesterday, the White Sox retired Mark Buehrle’s #56 jersey, a well deserved honor for a man who was not only a reliable starting pitcher for over a decade, but was a key piece in the 2005 World Series team and an all-around good guy to have on the team. His career with the White Sox was highlighted not just by the 2005 Championship but by a Perfect Game, a No-Hitter, and maybe the greatest defensive play made by a pitcher in the history of baseball: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_m3qy2O7bA
That’s it for the good news with the Sox. They went 1-5 this week and are still the worst team in the American League.
Imagine Dragons, “Evolve”
If you follow the blog you known that I was skeptical in the build up to this album being released. That said, I was pleasantly surprised. As can happen, the singles (mostly) sound better in the context of the album. ‘Whatever It Takes’ has grown on me in particular. I like it better than their second album, but it’s still nowhere near “Night Visons,” which I always advise going back and listening to if you haven’t in awhile.
Fall Out Boy, “Champion” Coming to an ESPN College Football broadcast near you this fall.
Fitz and the Tantrums, “Fool” Par for the course. Fun, upbeat and would be a fun song to dance to.
HAIM, “Little of Your Love” On their way to the feat of a sophomore album better than their debut
Manchester Orchestra, “The Alien” After 4 years without music is good to hear these guys again
Mondo Cozmo, “Plastic Soul” Really looking forward to debut album, singles have all been great