Ryan Suter to the Blackhawks?

I’ve been wondering about the possibility of this happening ever since the beginning of this season. Could Ryan Suter really sign with the Blackhawks this summer?

Believe it or not, there is a chance that the unrestricted free agent could be a Hawk next season. After reading up on this topic online multiple times, and watching NHL analysts on TV talk about where Suter might land, here is what I have learned about the Hawks’ possibility of signing him:

  • One of the big factors that will play into Suter’s decision as to where he will sign this summer is his family. He wants to play for an NHL team that is close to his hometown of Madison, WI, so that he can be near his family. Well, guess what? The closest NHL arena to Madison is located on West Madison Street in Chicago (irony?).
  • His uncle, Gary Suter, spent a number of seasons with the Blackhawks and still has a good relationship with the team. Ryan Suter grew up a Hawks fan because of this as well.
  • The Blackhawks have a solid, core group of young players (that have already won a Cup), which is appealing to any free agent. With the addition of Suter, they would have 3 defenseman who could be considered a number 1 defenseman on most teams. While this might seem like a turnoff to a star player like Suter who most likely wants to be “the guy” wherever he goes, it could also increase his desire to come to Chicago. His minutes would be slightly decreased, but that would help to prolong his career. The amount of pressure on Suter to perform at a Norris Trophy-type level would be reduced as well. Also, with 3 top defenseman of Keith, Seabrook, and Suter, the Hawks would instantly become a better team.
  • Suter will be demanding a large amount of money with his new contract. Most likely, he’ll end up getting anywhere from 6-8 million wherever he signs. A lot of teams have the money to sign him, but only a couple of them are on his “list.” If Nicklas Lidstrom decides to hang up the skates this summer, Detroit will be looking to fill his place with a top end defenseman. Were this to happen, the Wings would have that much more money to go out and spend since they would no longer have Lidstrom’s contract. They could spend it on Suter, or they can use it to resign key players such as Datsyuk, Franzen, and Zetterberg in the future. That’s a tough decision for them to have to make. As for the Hawks, if they do not resign Oduya and decide to trade away someone like Bolland or Hjalmarsson, they would have more than enough money to sign Suter.

It definitely seems possible that Ryan Suter could be calling Chicago his new home come training camp. While I still wouldn’t give it the best odds, this is something that Blackhawks fans should pay attention to. The Hawks have a lot of decisions to make this off-season. Will they trade some key players to free up cap space, which they would then use on free agents? Will they stay put and try to get better by developing their prospects? These are questions that only time will answer. Hopefully, time will provide us with an answer that pleases us all. But that’s a lot to ask for, right?

They don’t do the “Wave” at Wrigley Field

Over the years, Cubs fans have taken pride in the fact that they don’t do the wave during Cubs games. It’s a senseless, distracting, and annoying disturbance to a ballgame when fans do try and start the Wave.

I have been to a countless number of Cubs games at Wrigley Field, and not once have I ever seen anyone try and start the Wave. Cubs fans go to games to watch baseball, not to amuse themselves by creating their own source of entertainment. When at Wrigley Field, people should respect the park and its rich history and tradition of baseball by paying attention to the game. Why do you think Wrigley is the only park without a jumbo-ton? It’s because Wrigley Field is an old-time, traditional baseball stadium where people go to watch baseball.

I have been to 17 different MLB stadiums, and I can tell you that in over half of those stadiums, I have seen fans try and start the Wave. Last summer, I took in a game at Fenway Park. I went into Fenway expecting to see some of the greatest baseball and sports fans in the world who respect the game and its integrity as much as any other group of fans on the planet. Well, guess what? They did the Wave that night, and I have seen them do it again on TV since then. I lost a lot of respect for those fans that night. Just this past weekend I was in St. Louis to check out the new Busch Stadium. Cardinals fans are often referred to as some of the “best baseball fans in America.” Can you guess what I’m about to say next? Yep, they started the wave in just the second inning, and continued to try and start it all the way through the end of the game! In crucial parts of the game, fans were actually trying to start the Wave. I couldn’t believe it.

With the Cubs not being such a great team this year, less fans have been showing up at their home games.  A few nights ago, I was talking to someone who was recently at a Cubs game at Wrigley, and they said that a small group of fans in right field actually tried starting the wave. They were never able to get it going (because the rest of the fans actually had heads on their shoulders), but this still disturbed me, and it prompted me to write this blog post.

To all Cubs fans who may read this at one point or another:

Please, stay respectful to the game, the Cubs, and Wrigley Field by never starting the Wave. It has been an unwritten rule ever since the Wave was invented that it shall never be seen inside the walls of the Friendly Confines. Regardless of how good or bad the Cubs might be, starting the Wave at Wrigley Field is always a bad option.

I would give anything for the Cubs management to put signs up around the park that read, “Wave Not Allowed.” If anyone tries to start it, they should instantly be ejected from the game. It’s a complete and total distraction and annoyance to everyone in the park and on the field when fans begin doing the wave.

So again, be smart Cubs fans. Be proud of the fact that your team plays at Wrigley Field, and NEVER do the Wave.

Busch Stadium Review

I had been wanting to go and see a game at this park ever since the day it opened its gates. Well, Friday night I got the chance to see my first game at the new Busch Stadium, and I loved every second of it. What a park! It all starts with the exterior of Busch Stadium. When walking up to the park, I could not help myself from becoming mesmerized by the incredible, brown brick exterior of the stadium. Now I know that when some one says “The brown bricks on that building were amazing,” that doesn’t seem all that exciting. But really, the exterior of this stadium is my favorite of any park I have been too, and that’s saying something.  While still outside the stadium, make sure to go and check out the different statues located along the west side of the park. There is a small area with statues of players such as Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and many more. The interesting part about these statues is that they are all smaller than the normal statue that you are used to seeing outside of most pro sports stadiums. If you continue walking toward the home plate entrance along the outside of the west side of the park, you will come across a full-sized statue of Stan Musial, which is really cool. After seeing the whole exterior of the stadium, I could not wait to get inside. The concourses here are fairly wide and allow for people to walk around the park comfortably. However, they could be a bit wider. Also, the playing field is not visible while in the concourse, which I was not too happy about. I like to be able to walk around the park in the concourse and still be able to see the game/field. The concourse opens up into an open air walkway behind the left field bleachers where you can get some pretty cool views of the park looking towards home plate. Once in your seat, you can really start to take in the scenery. One of the first things I noticed was just how massive the place is. Other parks like Camden Yards or AT&T Park are more compact and not so huge. I personally don’t have much of a preference, but I thought the size of Busch Stadium was pretty amazing. While in your seat, especially if you are sitting along the first base line or behind home plate, you get an amazing view of the St. Louis skyline beyond the left/center field stands. It is quite the sight. All of the seats at Busch Stadium are Cardinal red, for obvious reasons. The reason I am mentioning this is because sometimes stadiums with red seats don’t look so great. Bush Stadium, however, was able to pull it off and make the red seats a part of the overall attractiveness of the park. In right field, there are two scoreboards that provide you with statistics on the batter, pitcher, and  both teams, as well as other game scores from around the league. The scoreboard on the left also shows replays and video clips. As for the atmosphere at Busch Stadium, I would give it a “B.” St. Louis has always been said to have possibly the best baseball fans in the MLB. They draw over 3 million fans pretty much every year, and on most nights almost the entire stadium is full. The reason I am not giving its atmosphere an “A” is because the fans were not always paying much attention to the game, even during some of the most important times. On numerous occasions, including the 8th inning with the score tied, people were trying to start “the wave,” which I cannot stand. This was by far the biggest flaw that I witnessed throughout the game. Pushing that aside, Busch Stadium very much impressed me. I had high expectations heading into my trip to see the park, and it definitely lived up to those expectations. I would HIGHLY recommend seeing a game here if you are a baseball fan.

To see my reviews of the other 16 stadiums I have been to, click here.

NHL Western Conference Finals Preview

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Honestly, who would have thought that THIS would be our Western Conference Finals matchup heading into the playoffs? After the first round of play, I think everyone’s original predictions had been pretty torn apart, but even then, I don’t think many people would have predicted that these two teams would meet in the Conference Final. I had L.A. beating St. Louis in 7 games, so I partially got that one right. The Kings didn’t waste any time in ousting the Blues. As for the other series in the Western Conference, I said that Nashville would prevail in 6 games. Obviously I mis-fired on that one. Either way, here we are with the Coyotes and Kings ready to square off with the chance at playing for the Stanley Cup on the line. Let’s start with Phoenix.

After their first round victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, I get the feeling that many people felt that was as much damage as this team was capable of doing. I felt that same way. Well, I, and some of you, were proven wrong. In their series with Nashville, the Coyotes played phenomenal defense and held the Predators to just 9 goals in the series. A lot of that is due to the play of Mike Smith in net, but I’ll get to him in a little bit. We saw it in the first round against Chicago, and we saw it again against Nashville. The Coyotes are one of the hardest working teams in the NHL. Because of the fact that they do not have a ton of fire power or superstars, each and every player on that roster is forced to give 110% effort every second that they are on the ice to make up for their lack of fire power, as previously mentioned. Their defense has really stepped it up in the playoffs as well. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is turning into a superstar on the blue line. The kid is just 20 years old, but he is playing like a 10 year veteran. On more than one occasion, he has been referred to by hockey analysts as a “future Norris Trophy winner.” That’s how good he has been for the Coyotes in these playoffs. Him, along with Keith Yandle and Rostislav Klesla, have been playing some of the best defense that we have seen this year, which has led to 2 straight playoff series victories. Now, how about the play of Mike Smith in net for the Coyotes? He is third among active goalies still in the playoffs in goals against average, and leads all playoffs goalies this year with 2 shutouts. Without him, Phoenix would not be where they are right now. If they want to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they need to keep on doing what they have been doing. Their defense needs to stay strong (currently second in goals against per game), and Mike Smith has to continue his hot play in net. Offensively, they cannot rely on getting many “pretty” goals against Jonathan Quick. They will have to find a way to score some ugly goals against L.A. if they want to advance.

The Kings have pretty much rolled through the playoffs thus far, knocking out the number 1 seed Canucks in 5 games, and now the number 2 seed Blues in just 4 games. Jonathan Quick is 8-1 in net for L.A., and ranks first in goals against average. Heading into the playoffs, many people questioned whether the Kings’ offense would be strong enough to beat Vancouver in the first round. Well, it was. Heading into the second round, the same question was asked: “Will their offense continue to produce enough goals against St. Louis’ defense to beat them in a 7 game series?” Again, the Kings proved that their offense is good enough to beat one of the best defensive teams in hockey. Through all of this, no one has really questioned whether or not Jonathan Quick is good enough to beat these teams, and rightfully so. He is a Vezina Trophy finalist, and most people expected him to play that way in the playoffs, which he has more than done. Offensively for the Kings, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar have led the way, with 11 and 10 points respectively in these playoffs. Brown also leads the team in hits, with 39. The L.A. captain has really stepped up his game through the first two rounds, and they will need him to continue doing so moving forward. If the Kings want to continue their winning ways and eliminate the Coyotes, they need to out-work and wear down Phoenix. Right now, the Coyotes have a ton of confidence heading into this series coming off of their first 2 playoff series victories since moving to Phoenix. The Kings need to come out in Game 1 on the road and play a great game to take away some of the Coyotes’ confidence. If L.A. can continue to produce offensively against yet another top goalie in the league in Mike Smith, they should be just fine in this series. With Jonathan Quick playing the way he has been playing lately, goals will be tough to come by for the Coyotes, who are already somewhat of an offensively challenged team. Along with Quick, the defense in front of him has been playing excellent through the first two rounds (ranked first in goals against average), making it that much tougher for the opposition to score. This team has been firing on all cylinders through the first two rounds, and I don’t expect that to change. This is going to be a very defensive series with not a lot of offense, so special teams will play a huge role in the outcome of this series.

-Los Angeles wins series, 4-2.

Bulls Game 3 Preview

Tomorrow night, the Bulls and 76ers will face off against each other in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. The Bulls took Game 1 (while losing Derrick Rose), and the 76ers won game 2.

Game 1 for the Bulls went they way that they wanted it to go for the most part. They dominated the boards and built themselves a comfortable lead in the second half that they were able to ride all the way to the final buzzer. Obviously, the down side to Game 1 was the loss of Derrick Rose to a torn, left ACL.

Game 2 was the exact opposite of what us Bulls fans have gotten used to seeing the past 2 seasons. After playing a decent first half, the Bulls came out flat in the third quarter, especially on defense, and Philadelphia ran away with the lead to tie the series at 1 apiece. This was one of the worst defensive performances of the year for the Bulls, without a doubt.

Heading into Friday night’s Game 3, the Bulls need to get back to the style of play that got them to 50 wins this season, and a share of the best record in the NBA.

The Bulls have a reasonable size advantage down low on the 76ers, and they need to make use of it. Game 2 was a rare instance where the Bulls have been out-rebounded this season. Philadelphia totaled 38 rebounds, while the Bulls only had 32. Noah, Boozer, Gibson, and Asik need to step it up in Game 3 and use their size to their advantage and win the rebounding battle. The Bulls thrive on second chance points, so getting as many rebounds as possible, especially on offense, will give them an advantage in the game.

Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng HAVE to show up for Game 3. These two combined only managed to get 17 points in Game 2, which is not the recipe for a victory. With Derrick Rose now gone for the remainder of the playoffs, Boozer and Deng are the Bulls’ best 2 offensive options in their starting lineup, and they have to step up their game from here on out.

Jrue Holiday. Someone needs to contain him. He was the heartbeat of the 76ers offense for much of Game 2, and he single-handedly kept Philadelphia in the game during the first half. Whether it is permanently placing Deng on Holiday, or double teaming Holiday when he has the ball, the Bulls need to limit his effectiveness in this series and make someone else step up for the 76ers.

Fast break points for Philadelphia KILLED the Bulls in Game 2. It seemed like after each defensive rebound by the Sixers, they had at least two guys breaking up court creating 2 on 1/3 on 1 breaks that lead to a large portion of their overall point total. The Bulls are going to have to really make an effort to get back on defense and not allow the 76ers to get too many fast break points.

I know that I have just listed a number of things that the Bulls need to improve on heading into Game 3, but they are more than capable of doing so. It’s how they ended the last 2 regular seasons as the number 1 team in the NBA. Assuming that they can get back to playing the way that they did for each of the last 2 regular seasons (yes, even without Rose), they should win Game 3, and this series.

Thanks for reading.

Cubs Assessment

Believe it or not, we are already 23 games into the Cubs’s season. Unfortunately, much like we, or at least I suspected, they are in last place in the Central Division with a record of 8-15.

I’m pretty sure that no one had high expectations for this team heading into this season, which is a good thing. The Cubs are not a very good team this year. They have very little power in their lineup, their pitching rotation is sub par (with the exception of Garza and Samardzija so far), and their bullpen is a near disaster. But, there have been some bright spots up to this point.

Bryan LaHair has been on a tear to start the season. He is hitting .390 with 5 home runs, and 14 RBI. His 5 home runs lead the team, and he is tied with Starlin Castro for the team-lead in RBI. There were a lot of questions surrounding LaHair heading into this season, with a lot of people wondering if he could perform in the MLB at the level that he had been performing at in the minors. Well, so far he is not disappointing anyone.

Starlin Castro has picked up right where he left off last year at the plate. He is hitting .333 with 14 RBI, and 10 stolen bases. One thing that I would like to see him do is hit for a little more power. Many people have compared Castro to Hanley Ramirez of the Miami Marlins in that both are built similarly from a physical standpoint, and that both have the potential to hit for power. Ramirez has proven that he can hit for power, but Castro has yet to do so. If he could end up averaging anywhere from 15-20 home runs per season as a shortstop over the length of the remainder of his career, his value would sky rocket. Another thing that Castro needs to improve on is his fielding. Last year, he ended the season with 29 errors, which is unacceptable at the major league level. This year through 23 games, he already has 7 errors. He must cut down on his mistakes in the field.

Matt Garza has pitched like an ace through is first 5 starts of the season. He is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.67, 36 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 0.89. Had he gotten some more run support, or had the bullpen not blown the lead in a couple of his 5 starts, he might have one or two more wins. A lot of teams were coming to the Cubs this off-season with trade offers for Garza, but they held onto him because of the potential that he has to pitch like the way he has been so far.

Tony Campana is back in the big leagues. Although he has only played in 9 games this year, he has had a big impact on just about each game he has played in because of his speed. In those 9 games, he is hitting .370 and is 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts. Just the other night in Philadelphia, he had an infield single, and also bunted for a hit. It has gotten to the point where any ground ball he puts into play, he has a legitimate shot at beating it out for a hit. Infielders on opposing teams literally cannot afford to bobble the ball or make any kind of mistake when trying to throw out Campana at first base. Once he is on base, he is the ultimate threat to any pitcher or catcher. Campana is one of only a few guys in the big leagues who have pitchers and catchers totally distracted while he is on base because of his incredible potential to steal any base at any time.

The Cubs are not going to go anywhere this season, and none of us fans should expect them to. Even despite the stellar play of the guys I just mentioned, this team still has way too many holes, with the biggest being their bullpen who can’t seem to hold any kind of lead. For those of you who like to take optimistic points of view on things, like me, here is a theory for you to keep in the back of your mind.

No one has any high expectations for the Cubs this year, including their management and front office, and the players are aware of this. Therefore, they are going out and playing with the “we have nothing to lose” mentality each day. When athletes go out and play relaxed with no pressure on them, they end up performing pretty well. I know this from experience. Because of this, there is a good chance that the Cubs might end up surprising a few people with their record this year. I have seen some analysts say that the Cubs might reach 120 losses this year. If they continue to go out there and play relaxed with no high expectations of them coming from the  fans or management, they might just win a few games and have a decent season considering the circumstances. That’s just my theory, and you can take it or leave it.

I am looking forward to the remaining 139 games on the Cubs’ schedule because I am very interested to see how some of their top prospects perform at the big league level once they are inevitably called up. Hopefully we are all in for a pleasant surprise.