We missed a week, caught up in March Madness and what little time we had for non sports-related real life. So we present out Double Issue to look back on the last two weeks in Chicago sports. These last two weeks saw a some great highs and potentially devastating lows for our Chicago teams.
Somewhere in the middle, today is Opening Day in baseball for the Cubs and White Sox, and while Opening Day always comes with a sense of excitement, there is still the sobering reality that both teams are re-building and expectations remain rock bottom on the North and South sides. There has been excitement for the Cubs in spring training with their young stars and future core, but most of them won’t see a Major League field for at least another year. So for now we hope to see steps forward from Castro, Rizzo and Wood and hope Mike Olt can continue his great spring and pan out to be one of the team’s biggest steals. But for both teams there won’t be much motivation to go to the ballpark outside of the general enjoyment of taking in a ballgame. And honestly, I’m still going to enjoy that, especially since ticket prices on stubhub will likely drop with the quality of the baseball leading to some cheap tickets for me.
The Bears made another big splash in free agency last week, signing veteran DE Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings. This was a really unexpected move by the Bears who didn’t seem to be seriously perusing Allen. But he adds depth to a defensive line that has undergone a complete overhaul in free agency after an awful season. It will also allow the Bears more flexibility in the draft to address a secondary still in dire need of help. Allen fills the veteran Julius Peppers role, but hopefully has more in the tank than the older Peppers did last year. He is not going to be the 22 sack player he was a couple years ago, but if he can get to the quarterback as part of a tandem with Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, it will be a major upgrade for the Bears at a much better price. I also love how much the Bears have been hanging out this off-season, eveything from pottery to go-cart races. This is Marc Trestman’s philosophy at work, and hope a team that plays together grows together it’ll find its way onto the field come the fall.
Chicago Blackhawks (3/17-3/30) – 3-4-1
The big low has been the Blackhawks. After losing Patrick Kane for the remainder of the regular season last week, Jonathan Toews suffered an injury in Sunday night’s game and will be out for a yet unknown amount of time. This coming during a span where the Blackhawks have lost 4 of their last 5 games, with only 6 games left in the regular season. They have not looked like champions all season but have shown up in big games when they needed to. But with Kane and now Toews out, their chance at defending their title seems to be dwindling. Hopefully the two will be back and full strength by playoff team, otherwise it may be an early exit in a greatly improved Western Conference.
Chicago Bulls (3/17-3/30) – 4-3
The Bulls are still fighting along, 1 game out of the 3 seed in the East. Last night DJ Augustin went for 33 points off the bench and Joakim Noah flirted with another triple-double in a winning effort against the Celtics. Derrick Rose is practicing again, but the Bulls have not budged on their stance that Rose will not be returning this year. Only 9 games left in the regular season and the Bulls look to be on pace for another second round exit in another exciting but still lost season.
Will the Cubs and Sox enjoy winning records, even if just for a day or two early in the season? Will injuries to Kane and Toews keep the Blackhawks from chasing the title again this year? Do the Bulls have enough to make a longer run in the playoffs and can they stay healthy enough to do so? Are the Bears done making moves?