Stay optimistic about the Cubs’ future

While this has not been a good year for the Cubs in terms of their record, there is no reason to believe that things won’t change in the next few years or so. Just look at Anthony Rizzo.

Prior to being called up to the big leagues this season, Anthony Rizzo was being called “the next Babe Ruth,” “a future Hall of Famer,” “the second coming,” and so on. I’m not saying that he didn’t deserve those praises, but those are some tough expectations to try and live up to. As tough as it is to succeed at the Major League level, Anthony Rizzo is doing just that. In the 29 games since being called up, Rizzo is hitting .321, with 8 home runs and 20 RBI, including this past Sunday’s walk-off home run against the Cardinals. Not many players could have lived up to the hype that surrounded Anthony Rizzo prior to his Cubs debut, but Rizzo has done that and more.

Aside from Rizzo, the Cubs have guys like Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney already producing at the Major League level. In the minor leagues they have players such as Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Jorge Soler (a recently signed Cuban outfielder), and Albert Almora (their number 1 pick in this year’s draft). While those guys still have yet to prove themselves at the Major League level, their futures look pretty bright.

Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein went into this season’s trade deadline with a sole purpose of acquiring young talent, especially in the form of pitchers. Monday night, Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm were dealt to the Atlanta Braves for 2 minor league pitchers, one of which was rated the Braves number 3 prospect last season. Also on Monday night, they traded Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for another young pitcher. Today, Ryan Dempster was traded to the Rangers as well, but the details involving the trade have not fully come out yet.

As I have stated before in previous blogs, I have total confidence in Epstein and Hoyer. They know what they are doing when they trade for, sign, and develop young prospects. Just look at what they did in Boston if you need proof. Odds are that the Cubs will not be too good next season, or the next season, or maybe even the next season. But if you give Epstein and Hoyer time, there is no reason to believe that they won’t fulfill their promise of putting a winning team on the field. In the mean time, we can all sit back and watch the whole future develop right before our eyes in players such as Rizzo and Castro.

Stay optimistic Cubs fans.

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Now what for the Blackhawks?

Today was a huge day in the hockey world. Both Ryan Suter AND Zach Parise signed huge contacts with the Minnesota Wild. Each contract is for 13 years at approximately $98 million apiece. Prior to today, the Blackhawks had been linked to both Suter and Parise as a potential destination. Unfortunately for us Hawks fans, that obviously didn’t happen. So the question now becomes, what should the Hawks do next?

It was no secret that the Hawks wanted to improve their defense this offseason. They made a strong push for Ryan Suter, but that did not pan out. The next best available free agent defenseman is Matt Carle, who played his last 4 seasons in Philadelphia. It would be huge if the Hawks could bring him into the organization, however it does not appear that will happen. After Carle, the caliber of free agent defenseman remaining really weakens. My guess is that if the Hawks do add another defenseman, it will be through a trade.

Aside from defenseman, the two biggest free agent forwards remaining are Shane Doan and Alex Semin. Shane Doan has been the captain of the Phoenix Coyotes for a number of years now (I don’t know the exact number). He has averaged in the mid 50’s for points throughout his 16-year career, tallying 50 last season. Despite his age (35), he still has a lot to offer. He is a born leader and a positive influence on and off the ice. Aside from his ability to lead and tally points, Doan is a physical presence on the ice. Last season, he registered 205 hits. The hit leader for the Blackhawks, Brent Seabrook, had 198. If the Hawks can sign Doan, they will be adding both an offensive and physical player to their lineup, both of which would really strengthen their team.

Alex Semin is one of the most talented players in the NHL. He has the ability to score 40 goals in a season, as he did just a couple of years ago. The drawback with Semin is his attitude/personality. Apparently, he is not the greatest teammate in the league, nor is he the best player to coach. With the Hawks having had some friction in the locker room and amongst the coaching staff the past couple of years, they really don’t want to bring in a possible problem-maker in Semin. However, if they could find a way to make it work with Semin, he would be a huge addition to the Hawks’ roster.

Unfortunately, neither Doan nor Semin are centers. Arguably the Hawks biggest need is a number 2 center. There are a handful of free agent centers still available, but none of them are standouts. If the Hawks are going to add a good center to their roster, it will most likely be through a trade. I don’t know who they might try and trade for, but my guess is that they will attempt to trade for a number 2 center.

As for Rick Nash, the only way the Hawks will get him is by trading Kane, and I doubt that will happen. They are more likely to sign Doan or Semin than they are to acquire Rick Nash.

According to hockeybuzz.com, the Hawks have shown some interest in goaltender Jonathan Bernier of the L.A. Kings. This is something to keep your eye on moving forward. Although it is unlikely, the Hawks would like to upgrade at goalie.

Clearly, it is not easy to predict what might happen in the near future for the Hawks, but there is nothing wrong with speculating.

Thanks for reading.

Interesting Rumor day for the Blackhawks

When I went to bed last night (Sunday), I was under the impression that it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Zach Parise would be signing with the Penguins today. I also thought that the Hawks were no longer in contention to sign Ryan Suter, and that they had a much better chance of inking Martin Brodeur. Well today flipped my world, and I am sure many others’, upside down.

I woke up this morning only to find out that Brodeur had re-signed with the Devils for 2 years. At this point, I had lost all hope that the Hawks would be making any big moves this summer.

Later in the morning, Hockeybuzz.com began reporting that the Blackhawks had emerged as major contenders to sign Zach Parise. This seemingly came out of NOWHERE to me. A little while after that, the same website reported that the Blackhawks were again definitely “in” on Ryan Suter. So now, in just a few short hours, all of my thoughts and opinions on this whole free agent situation had completely changed.

As of this moment, according to many sources on Twitter and Hockeybuzz.com, the Blackhawks are still in the running for both Suter and Parise. Parise came out earlier this evening and said he wants to talk with his family before making a decision as to where he will sign. It sounds like we won’t know that decision until sometime tomorrow, but who knows…

Ryan Suter’s decision could come at any moment it would appear. I wouldn’t be surprised if he waited until tomorrow, at the earliest, to make his decision based on the way things have been going the past 36 hours.

Odds are that the Hawks won’t sign both players. That would require way more money than they have to offer. If they are able to sign one of the two, it would greatly improve their team. Parise would add yet another lethal, offensive threat to their lineup, while Suter would provide some much needed defense and offense to their blue line.

I would recommend checking out Hockeybuzz.com to get the latest information regarding Parise, Suter, and other free agents in the NHL.

I’ll be crossing my fingers that Parise and/or Suter will be a Blackhawk by the time this is all said and done with.