Yet another coaching change in the NHL


Yet another coaching change in the NHL

From Comcast SportsNet
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Randy Carlyle appeared relieved after his Anaheim Ducks snapped a seven-game skid Wednesday night, figuring his talented club had turned a corner. If only the winningest coach in franchise history had known what was waiting for him around that corner. Fed up with the Ducks' inexplicably slow start, the club fired the Stanley Cup-winning coach and his staff late Wednesday night. Anaheim swiftly replaced Carlyle with former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who was dismissed by the Capitals just two days earlier. The Ducks made the abrupt moves after beating Montreal 4-1 on Wednesday night for just their third victory in 19 games. Despite the presence of league MVP Corey Perry, captain Ryan Getzlaf, 41-year-old scorer Teemu Selanne and All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller, the Ducks are off to a 7-13-4 start, ahead of only Columbus in the 15-team Western Conference. "Randy is a terrific head coach, and did a tremendous job for us for six-plus seasons," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. "We thank him greatly for his hard work and dedication to our franchise, not the least of which was a Stanley Cup championship. At this time, we simply felt a new voice was needed. Bruce is a proven winner with a great track record, and we are optimistic we can turn this season around under his leadership." Carlyle coached the Ducks to the franchise's only Stanley Cup title and Pacific Division championship in 2007, but the longtime NHL defenseman struggled to get his talented club's attention this fall after agreeing in August to a three-year contract extension through the 2013-14 season. After Anaheim's seventh straight defeat last Sunday night, a dispassionate 5-2 loss to Toronto, Carlyle lamented that his players sometimes seemed to be "dead between the ears." He was in a better mood after the Ducks handled the Canadiens, praising their tenacity and his stars' leadership through a tough stretch. A few minutes later, Carlyle was dismissed from the job he had held since August 2005. Anaheim cleaned house Wednesday night, also firing assistant coaches Dave Farrish and Mike Foligno and video coordinator Joe Trotta. The Ducks hired Brad Lauer as an assistant coach to Boudreau, and will add another assistant soon. Carlyle is the fourth coach to be fired in the always-impatient NHL's young season, and the third this week. Paul Maurice was also dismissed on Monday by the Carolina Hurricanes, while Davis Payne was let go by the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 6. Boudreau, after doing a round of interviews Wednesday morning in which he said the Capitals made the right move by firing him, took a new job less than 72 hours after leaving a remarkably similar situation in Washington, which dropped him Monday after a slow start with a talented roster that's had little recent playoff success. Boudreau will run the Ducks' practice on Thursday before his formal introduction, and his new players will be in for a major change from the sometimes-crusty Carlyle to the personable Boudreau, nicknamed "Gabby" for his garrulous style. Anaheim hosts Philadelphia on Friday night for Boudreau's debut. Carlyle was behind Anaheim's bench for many of the 1993 expansion franchise's biggest moments. He had compiled a 273-182-6 record after taking over for Mike Babcock as the seventh head coach in club history. Carlyle led Anaheim to the postseason in five of his first six seasons, winning more playoff games during that stretch than any coach except Babcock in Detroit. But Anaheim won just one playoff round in the past four years since winning the Cup, losing to fifth-seeded Nashville in the first round last season. Boudreau led Washington to the last four Southeast Division titles and the 2010 Presidents' Trophy while winning 201 games in just four years on the job, but the Caps' lack of playoff success helped to seal his fate when they slumped following a 7-0 start to this season. He won the Jack Adams award as the NHL's best coach in 2008, but never got past the second round of the playoffs despite a roster featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and talented supporting casts. Boudreau favors an attacking offensive style that should suit the Ducks' talented forwards, although Carlyle also gave his players plenty of freedom for offensive creativity. Lauer was promoted from the Ducks' AHL affiliate in Syracuse, where he had been an assistant since July. He spent the previous two seasons on the Ottawa Senators' staff.

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The Cubs felt so nervous just before a 7:09 first pitch on Saturday night that Javier Baez found the camera looking into the home dugout, waved with a big smile and started pumping his fist, hamming it up for the video board as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” blasted through the Wrigley Field sound system.

The Cubs then ran out onto the field and systematically destroyed the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending this National League Championship Series in six games with a 5-0 win that featured almost no tension or suspense, obliterating for now the narrative around this franchise.

The old stadium still kept shaking, from Kris Bryant’s RBI single in the first inning to the clapping to Anthony Rizzo’s “Intoxicated” walk-up music to a standing ovation for Kyle Hendricks, who outpitched the supposed best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw.

“We don’t care about history,” Bryant said. “This is a completely different team, different people all around. It doesn’t matter. This is a new Chicago Cubs team. And we are certainly a very confident group.”

Sure, 1908 will hover over the entire World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. But this is the new normal for Bryant, who within two years has won 200 games, four playoff rounds, a Rookie of the Year award and probably MVP hardware.

This team isn’t going away, either. With a chance to win the pennant for the first time since the Truman administration, the Cubs started two rookies who began this season at Triple-A Iowa – catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Albert Almora Jr. – in a lineup that featured Bryant (24), Rizzo (27), Baez (23), Addison Russell (22) and Hendricks (26).

Contreras caught a shutout and posed for a moment at home plate watching his line-drive homer off Kershaw fly into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning. Rizzo – who had looked overmatched earlier in the playoffs – became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw during this calendar year.

And when Rizzo tried to wave off Baez for the ball Josh Reddick popped up to the right side of the infield in the fifth inning, Baez cut right in front of Rizzo to catch it, continuing a long-running gag among the Cubs infielders.

“I don’t think they’re oblivious, because that’s sort of insulting in some ways,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “They know the history. I just don’t think they care. They think they’re a good team and they love to play. And we have some guys that definitely shine on the big stage.”

Baez – a September call-up last year who couldn’t get an everyday spot during the regular season – showed off his bat speed and unbelievable defensive instincts and emerged as the NLCS co-MVP along with big-game pitcher Jon Lester. Sold on the idea of all this young talent someday coming together, Lester joined a last-place team after the 2014 season, taking a leap of faith, even at $155 million.

“I don’t feel like there’s pressure at all in our clubhouse,” said Almora, the first player Theo Epstein’s front office drafted here in 2012. “There’s just hunger and excitement and desire to win.

“None of us were around in 1945…so we just got to write our own history.”

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This is what the Cubs have been talking about since the New York Mets swept them out of last year’s NLCS, since the Ricketts family invested almost $290 million more in free agents, since unconventional manager Joe Maddon made “Embrace The Target” the theme of spring training.

Whatever your preconceived notions of the old Cubs are, know that this group has an amazing sense of balance. They are youthful and experienced. They play as a team and with individual flair. They have style and get dirty. They are analytical and sort of oblivious. They are loose and intense. And the ending hasn’t been written yet.

“We still got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “We’ll enjoy tonight – don’t get me wrong – we’ll have a celebration. We’ll have a good time. We’ll smile, we’ll hug each other, probably get drunk a little bit…but we got some work to do.”

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities] 

The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”