Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Change We Can Believe In

On June 10th, the Blackhawks ended their 49-year championship drought, and they hoisted the Stanley Cup. The team spent the summer celebrating and partied like crazy. Now, the fall is here and so is training camp. It’s a new season, and quite a bit has changed since the Blackhawks won the cup.

The Blackhawks were able to keep their four superstars, Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa. However, many key players from the cup-winning team are gone. The list includes starting goalie Antti Niemi, playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien, key defenseman Brent Sopel, forward Kris Versteeg, and many other key role-players.

A new cast of players joins the cup-winning players to start a new season. However, there’s a different feeling around this year’s Blackhawk team. It’s a feeling of uneasiness. Now I’m just some blogger, and I’ve been wrong before, but I say calm down Blackhawk fans. Here are three reasons to get excited for change.

Young talent: Just a few short years ago, the Blackhawks welcomed up some young prospect with a lot of potential. Their names are Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. Those four players have turned into superstars.

With the many veterans departing in the offseason, the door has opened for a new breed of young talent. Former first round pick Jack Skille hopes to stick on the roster, while fellow first rounder Kyle Beach may get his big chance. Another name to remember is Igor Makarov. Makarov has turned heads early in training camp, and could make an impact.

Another prospect looking to make the team is Nick Leddy. Leddy was acquired from Minnesota in the Cam Barker trade. Leddy is just 19-years old, but has been impressive in camp. He may not make the roster for opening night, but expect Leddy to get his chance at some point this season.

Another young player who has solidified his spot on the roster is Corey Crawford. Crawford will be the backup goalie behind Marty Turco (see below on Turco). With the departure of Antti Niemi and inevitable release of Cristobal Huet, Crawford will get his shot to be on the roster. Crawford made his NHL debut in 2005, but has only played in eight games since then. Now, the 25-year old will get his chance to prove he can stay around.

Turco Time: The Blackhawks were unable to bring back cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi. After a long arbitration process, Niemi left Chicago and is now a San Jose Shark. The Hawks acted quickly by bringing in veteran goalie Marty Turco.

Turco is 35-years old, and many people may argue that his best days are behind him, but Turco is still a top-tier goalie. In the 2009-10 season, Turco finished with a .913 save percentage. Just barely more than Antti Niemi’s .912 save percentage.

More importantly, Turco gives the Blackhawks a reliable veteran between the pipes.
The Blackhawks aren’t losing anything with Antti Niemi. He will go down as a playoff hero, but now, it’s Turco time!

Key Newcomers: With all of the notable departures in the offseason, most people forgot that the Blackhawks made a few signings.

The first pickup was 24-year old forward Viktor Stalberg, who was acquired by trade. Stalberg gives the Hawks a playmaking forward, to make up for the loss of Kris Versteeg. He should fit right into the mix.

A couple days later, the Blackhawks brought in their biggest signing. He is 6’8, 258 lb. John Scott, a defenseman who came from the Minnesota Wild. Scott will undoubtedly be known as the new enforcer on the ice. In just 51 games, Scott racked up 90 penalty minutes, many of those coming from fights. It won’t take long for Scott to become a fan favorite.

Toward the end of the offseason, the Blackhawks brought in veteran winger Fernando Pisani and 26-year old center Ryan Potulny.

The names like Niemi, Byfuglien, and others will be missed, but their production will be made up for with the key newcomers.

It’s a new season with some new players, but the one goal is still the same. The Blackhawks return most of the key players of the championship team, with some new players that are hungry to hoist the cup.

It’s been a long, crazy offseason of celebrating and enjoying the victory. The Blackhawks are champions, but that’s now in the past. In the words of Troy Brouwer, "As soon as the season starts, we raise our banner and give the Stanley Cup back to the league. From then on, it's just trying to win that again."

You can follow us on Twitter: @TrueSportFans, @TSF_Blackhawks, @ChrisEmma51, and @Plinske.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breaking Down The Candidates

A sad season came to a sad ending for Lou Piniella, as real life struck. Piniella was forced to leave the Cubs to tend to his ailing mother. Nothing had gone right for the 2010 Cubs, and in July, Piniella had announced his retirement, but it came to an end sooner than originally expected.

Now, the Cubs are forced to look ahead. The Cubs have played 15 rookies in the ’10 season, and the youth movement has officially begun for the Cubs.

On Monday, the Cubs made another move by naming Mike Quade as interim manager. However, the Cubs organization has now started their search for a new man for the open skipper position. Several candidates have emerged for the job.

TSF gives a look at each candidates, listed in althebetical order by their first name.

Bob Brenly- Brenly has been a great color commentator, so it would be sad to see him leave the booth. Let’s face it; he’s ready to be a manager again. Brenly has one thing that most people at Wrigley have never seen: a World Series ring. Brenly will most likely be interviewed, but it all depends on if he wants to leave his comfortable, stress-free, high-paying job in the television booth.

Eric Wedge- the Cubs brought Wedge in for an interview on Thursday. This came as a surprise to many Cubs fans, but Wedge could be a possible fallback option. Wedge had a decent six-year run with Cleveland before being fired after the 2009 season. Wedge won the AL Manager of the Year award in 2007, but that’s basically the only thing that makes him a strong candidate. Hiring Wedge would be a fallback option at best.

Joe Giardi- The move would make sense for the Cubs. Girardi won NL Manager of the Year with the Marlins, and led the Yankees to their 27th World Series in 2009. He’s proven that he is a great skipper. Even more, Girardi is a native of Peoria, IL, and has family in the Chicagoland area. But the big factor is if Girardi would want to give up his job in New York. Girardi has players like Jeter, A-Rod and other veteran leaders. Why would he give that up to take over a messy Cubs team? Those are questions that Girardi has to answer, and he will get a phone call from the Cubs before anyone else. Will he answer the call?

Joe Torre- The man has been a success everywhere, and he may be looking for a new challenge. His contract with the Dodgers expires after this season, and it appears likely that the Dodgers won’t make the playoffs. Torre would be a great short-term option, but the Cubs aren’t looking for a short-term guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Torre changed zip codes, but don’t expect a move to Wrigley.

Mike Quade- When Lou Piniella left the Cubs on Sunday; Mike Quade was surprisingly named the interim skipper. He began his time as manager with three-straight wins. Quade was a finalist for the job in 2007, and has a great track record in the minor leagues. The Cubs are looking for a guy who can handle young players, and Quade may be the guy. If not, the Cubs wouldn’t have put him in charge of the rest of the season.

Ozzie Guillen- At first glance, it seems like a long shot. Ozzie is public enemy #1 on the north side of town; he openly hates Wrigley Field, and openly hates Cubs fans even more. But consider this. Ozzie’s White Sox are falling out of contention in the AL Central division, and he is in hot water with management. He has history of being unpredictable, so anything can happen. If Ozzie were to leave the White Sox, he would immediately be considered for the Braves and Marlins job openings, but there’s no reason to count him out of the Cubs job.

Pat Listach- Prior to the 2009 season, Listach was a successful manager in the Cubs minor league system. The former Cubs managed for two years in Double-A (West Tennessee in ’06 and Tennessee ‘07) and one year with Triple-A Iowa in 2008. After that, Listach has served as a coach with the Nationals, and is more than qualified for the job. However, the Cubs would most likely veer toward Ryne Sandberg or Mike Quade before hiring Listach, so his chances of being hired are pretty slim.

Ryne Sandberg- This move seems to make sense. Ryno is a Cubs legend has been groomed through the Cubs system. Now, it appears he is ready. He has developed young talent, and the 2011 Cubs appear as if they will be a very young team. Who better to handle the young talent than Ryno? Sandberg appears to be the favorite to get the job, but as any Cub fan will tell you, anything can happen.

You can follow us on Twitter: @ChrisEmma51, @Plinske, @TrueSportFans, and our Cubs account, @TSF_Cubs

Thursday, August 12, 2010

TSF Fantasy Football Preview

It’s mid-August. That means a few things are for certain. The weather is hot, the Cubs are far out of playoff contention, and football season is around the corner.

For those football fans, this means one special thing. It’s fantasy football time!
Fantasy football drafts are being organized, marking a special day for every football fan, because as all fantasy football players know, the draft is half of the fun.

But with football season fast approaching, one might feel overwhelmed by the changes in the NFL. Favre might retire? Well, you probably knew about that already. But there are other subtle changes that may have gone unnoticed. This could create a problem in your fantasy draft.

Fear not! TSF has your guide to a successful fantasy football draft. We’ve got your must-get players, sleepers, busts, and more for your fantasy draft. Here are ten tips to a good draft and a good fantasy football season.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New-Look Bulls Built To Win

Chicago Bulls GM Gar Forman (left) and Exec. VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson (right) 
At the beginning of July, every Bulls fan was dreaming of the next “dream team.” The Bulls cleared cap space for a “first tier” free agent like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, or Chris Bosh, and Bulls fans dreamed of another dynasty.

But things turned out a little different than most Bulls fans originally expected. Wade, the Chicago native, decided to stay put in Miami. Chris Bosh also decided to join the Heat. And as we all know, LeBron made “the decision” to take his talents to South Beach.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"The Decision" Seperates LeBron From The Legends

Times have changed in the sports world, but some things remain the same. Athletes in every sport, from baseball to handball all want to win. Every athlete is ultra-competitive. It’s in their nature. That’s what makes them the best.

But, there is one thing that’s changed greatly. We just “witnessed” it a few weeks ago, as LeBron James decided he would “take his talents to South Beach.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 MLB Second Half Predictions

The first half of the 2010 baseball season is in the books.  Some things have gone exactly as expected, other things have been shocking.  So far, we’ve seen two perfect games (almost three), the first utility infielder chosen as an All-Star, and Jose Bautista is leading the league in home runs.

As we currently sit at the All-Star break, it’s natural to look ahead at what the rest of the baseball season has to offer.

True Sport Fans’ writers Chris Emma (CE) and Ryan Plinske (RP) give their look ahead what will happen the rest of the season in our TSF Second Half Preview.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Major League Dreaming

Day after day, game after game, year after year, a minor league baseball player travels from one city to another staying in bad hotels and eating average food in a cramped clubhouse.

Minor leaguers ride buses and play in front of small crowds drawn in by unusual promotions and strange mascots making appearances.

The road to the big leagues is a long, tiring road with few rewards along the way. But this is a road that all baseball players have to travel to live the dream of becoming a major league baseball player.