Blackhawks breakdown: Ray Emery

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Blackhawks breakdown: Ray Emery

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

After coming back from a career-threatening hip injury that would require surgery and limit him to just 10 games played in 2010-11, Ray Emery played in 34 games -- starting 27 of them -- in 2011-12 for the Blackhawks. He finished the season with a 15-9-4 record, a .900 save percentage and 2.81 goals-against average. Emery did not see any action in the playoffs.

Boden's take: Ray Emery was outplayed by Alexander Salak in the preseason in his bid to make the Blackhawks' roster on a training camp tryout, but Stan Bowman chose to sign him anyway. It didn't look like the right move at the time, but it turned out to be exactly that. Salak wound up struggling at Rockford, and Emery did exactly what he was supposed to do as a backup to Corey Crawford. As Crawford struggled with his consistency throughout the year, there were times Emery looked like he could carry the load, and others where he looked like, well, Crawford. As a backup goalie, I think just about any team would take the numbers Emery put up. By and large, he wasn't spectacular, but was more consistent than Crawford, and almost appeared to be the playoff goalie Joel Quenneville would settle on before Crawford put a hot streak together down the sretch.
Myers' take: When the veteran was signed to a tryout contract heading into training camp, it might as well have just been a regular one-year deal. Salak, who battled Emery for the No. 2 job, actually had better numbers out of camp. But it was pretty obvious the Blackhawks wanted a more veteran presence behind Crawford, who was going into his sophomore season. Emery filled that role well, guiding the Blackhawks to victories during the several slumps Crawford experienced. Emery's play was good enough at times that the dreaded "goalie controversy" once again became a topic of discussion. But the soft-spoken Emery always downplayed that talk when it came up, and just kept going about his winning business.
2012-13 Expectations

Boden: Since it doesn't appear as though there will be changes in the Hawks' goalie tandem, this team either needs Crawford to revert to his rookie form, or Emery to turn back the clock six years when he led Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Finals. Whether he's fully capable of that after his career-saving hip surgery two years ago is uncertain. There were also some questions about his being a good teammate, but that was all prior to his injury, and there have been no complaints inside the Blackhawks locker room or in his time with Anaheim. The Hawks recommitted to Emery for one more year (1.15 million) on the final weekend of the regular season. If he repeats what he does as a backup and Crawford re-emerges from his rollercoaster sophomore season, the questions in net will be fewer with the help of a better overall defensive effort in front of the two.

Myers: Emery's already signed to another one-year deal, so we know he'll be back. Considering Crawford's rough 2011-12, some may wonder if Emery's starting goaltender material. Probably not. But the veteran has a good relationship with Crawford -- Crawford said he looked at Emery's pregame preparation and changed his own afterward -- and that should continue through next season. Emery is a good safety net, there's no doubt.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Emery above.

Up next: Dylan Olsen

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

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USA TODAY

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

Michigan's March magic finally ran out.

The guy who's been so fantastic throughout his senior season, point guard Derrick Walton Jr., missed a game-winning 3-point try at the buzzer, and the Wolverines fell to the Oregon Ducks by a 69-68 final score in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was an incredibly competitive game between the Big Ten Tournament champs and the Pac-12 regular-season champs, with neither side ever leading by more than six.

But Moe Wagner, who scored a career-high 26 points in Michigan's second-round win over Louisville, was pretty much a non-factor in this one, scoring just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Still, seniors Walton and Zak Irvin kept an unusually cold-shooting group of Wolverines alive with a combined 39 points, 23 of which came after halftime. D.J. Wilson also scored in double figures with 12, all coming on 3-pointers.

But Michigan, which had been on fire offensively for much of the last month, shot just 43.1 percent from the field and missed 20 of its 31 shots from behind the arc.

The Wolverines actually shot under 40 percent over the opening 20 minutes as the two defenses did good work for these typically high-scoring squads. Michigan turned the ball over seven times before the break but trailed by just two as it went to the locker room.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued at the outset of the second half before Oregon reached its game-high six-point lead, but Michigan responded with seven straight and grabbed its first lead of the second half around the 11-minute mark. The Ducks answered that mini surge with six straight of their own, part of a larger 10-4 spurt, before Wilson and Walton hit back-to-back triples to once again give the Wolverines a narrow advantage, this time with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Oregon and Irvin traded buckets from there, and a Walton jumper was Michigan's sixth straight make from the field, putting the Wolverines up three with under two minutes to play. But Michigan didn't score again, and Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey got back-to-back layups, the latter the game-winning one ahead of Walton's missed 3-point attempt as time ran out.

Dorsey was fantastic for the Ducks, scoring 20 points, his sixth straight game with at least 20 points. Bell had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Oregon advanced to its second straight Elite Eight with the win.

Michigan's entertaining end-of-season run is over. Entering Thursday night's game in Kansas City, the Wolverines had won seven straight and 10 of their last 12. Those two losses came by a combined seven points. Add this loss in and just eight points separated Michigan from 13 consecutive wins.

Certainly this group of Wolverines will be remembered for its sensational four wins in four days at the Big Ten Tournament after that horrifying aborted takeoff, as well as for reaching the third Sweet Sixteen in the last five seasons under John Beilein.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

MESA, Ariz. – Cubs president Theo Epstein showed zero interest in playing along with Fortune magazine putting him on the cover and ranking him No. 1 on the list of "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders," or two spots ahead of Pope Francis.

"The pope didn't have as good of a year," manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday, channeling Babe Ruth.

Epstein essentially bit his tongue, responding to reporters with a copy-and-paste text message that reflected his self-awareness and PR savvy. 

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein wrote. "The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball – a pastime involving a lot of chance. If (Ben) Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. 

"And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Epstein obviously has a big ego. No one becomes the youngest general manager in baseball history and builds three World Series winners without a strong sense of confidence and conviction. But he genuinely tries to deflect credit, keep a relatively low profile and stay focused on the big picture. 

Fortune's cover art became an older image of Epstein standing at the dugout, surrounded by reporters during a Wrigley Field press gaggle. (This was not Alex Rodriguez kissing a mirror during a magazine photo shoot.) The text borrowed from Tom Verducci's upcoming "The Cubs Way" book. 
 
Fortune still hit an Internet sweet spot and generated a lot of buzz, ranking Epstein ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (No. 4), Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (No. 7) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (No. 10).

"I'm all about the pope," Maddon said. "Sorry, Pope Francis. We're buds. I'd like to meet him someday. But after all, what we did last year was pretty special. 

"Has the pope broken any 108-year-old curses lately?"

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Epstein also ended an 86-year drought for the Boston Red Sox, putting the finishing touches on the immortal 2004 team and winning another championship in 2007 with eight homegrown players. 

No matter how the Cubs try to airbrush history now, that five-year plan featured lucky breaks, unexpected twists and turns and payroll frustrations as the franchise went from 101 losses in 2012 to 103 wins last season. But even after the biggest party Chicago has ever seen, no team in baseball is better positioned for the future. And there is no doubt that Epstein is a Hall of Fame executive.  

"He's very good at setting something up and then permitting people to do their jobs," Maddon said. "That's the essence of good leadership, the ability to delegate well. But then he also has the tough conversations. 

"He sees both sides. I've talked about his empathy before. I think that sets him apart from a lot of the young groups that are leading Major League Baseball teams right now. You know if you have to talk to him about something, he's got an open ear and he's going to listen to what you say. He's not going to go in there predetermined. 

"You can keep going on and on, him just obviously being very bright, brilliant actually. He's got so many great qualities about him. But he leads well, I think, primarily because of his empathy."

That blend of scouting and analytics, open-minded nature and pure guts led to the Cubs: drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber; trading for Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell and almost their entire bullpen; and signing transformative free agents like Jon Lester and Zobrist.            

Chairman Tom Ricketts locked up Epstein before the playoffs started last October with a five-year extension believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $50 million. Arrieta didn't laugh off the Fortune rankings.

"It just shows you all the positive that's he done," Arrieta said. "Not only here, but beforehand in Boston and what he's built for himself and for the city of Boston and the city of Chicago. It's hard to understate what he means to the organization."