Blackhawks breakdown: Sami Lepisto

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Blackhawks breakdown: Sami Lepisto

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.

Sami Lepisto, 27, only played in 26 games and averaged just 10 minutes and 34 seconds per contest. He scored one goal, had two assists and finished plus-3. He delivered 24 hits and blocked nine shots. Lepisto played in three of the six playoff games vs. Phoenix, failing to record a single point and finishing minus-3.

Boden's take: The day the Blackhawks Convention opened last summer, the team severed its relationship with free agent Chris Campoli and signed Sami Lepisto. The thinking was the Hawks needed more puck-movement from the blueline with the departure of Brian Campbell. That never panned out. Lepisto was stuck in the sixth-defenseman numbers game, trying to rotate in playing time with Sean O'Donnell, Dylan Olsen, John Scott and later by the acquisition of Johnny Oduya rearranging the pecking order. Then he missed 13 of the last 14 regular season games with a leg injury.
Myers' take: The Blackhawks signed Lepisto right as they opened their convention last summer, and it was a sign of two things: No. 1, Campoli wasnt coming back and No. 2, the Blackhawks wanted more depth at defenseman. But whether he didnt fit into the system or coach Joel Quenneville preferred to play others, Lepisto didnt make much of an impact. He played in just 26 games; and just as he was finding a niche in the lineup in early March he suffered a leg injury against the St. Louis Blues. Lepisto did come back from that, but played in just four more games.
2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Lepisto will only be 28 on Oct. 17 and has played just three full seasons in the NHL, so you'd think he'd be entering his prime. He probably thinks that way too, and will try to find a new home on the UFA market where he can at least be in the lineup every night. He was a good soldier and didn't rock the boat with all the healthy scratches, but this doesn't seem to be the place where he'll get his opportunity.

Tracey: Lepisto signed a one-year deal when he came here, and itll be a surprise if hes back here. The Blackhawks will probably look elsewhere for defensive depth this coming season.

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 Lepisto above.

Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Steve Montador, Sean O'Donnell, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp, Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Brunette, Marcus Kruger, Brendan Morrison, Jonathan Toews
Up next: Jamal Mayers

Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

The Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery vs. Jeff Samardzija

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ will headline the group of seven Cubs prospects ticketed for the Arizona Fall League.

As the Cubs project their next wave of talent, Jimenez is thought to be close to untouchable after a breakout performance at the All-Star Futures Game and a Midwest League MVP season at Class-A South Bend.

Jimenez – who originally signed out of the Dominican Republic and got a $2.8 million bonus in the summer of 2013 – is hitting .331 with 14 homers and 81 RBI through 111 games with the South Bend Cubs. At the age of 19, the dynamic outfielder reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman year at the University of San Diego with that 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and powerful right-handed swing.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – is a switch-hitter (.717 OPS at Double-A Tennessee) who has tried to increase his versatility by moving between second base and the outfield and become a Joe Maddon-type player.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Mesa Solar Sox roster unveiled Wednesday also includes Victor Caratini, an advanced defensive catcher who drew interest around the trade deadline and could be packaged in a bigger deal for pitching if Willson Contreras continues to develop behind the plate and Kyle Schwarber comes back healthy next season.

Cubs officials trying to build a pitching pipeline for Wrigley Field will also get a look at right-handers James Farris, Ryan McNeil, Stephen Perakslis and Duane Underwood Jr. in the showcase league.

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates out of Wrigley

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates out of Wrigley

Another quick hook left Jason Hammel seething over the weekend at Dodger Stadium, bringing back uncomfortable questions about how much manager Joe Maddon trusts him, and whether or not the Cubs would find a spot for him on a playoff roster.  

Four days later, Pearl Jam’s “Alive” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system as Hammel warmed up before facing the Pittsburgh Pirates – with no guarantees about October or next season.     

Hammel responded with another quality start in Wednesday’s 6-5 win, completing a three-game sweep that left the Pirates staggering in the wild-card race and helped the Cubs cut their magic number to win the division down to 16.   

Outside of a few extreme lows that distorted the perception of his overall season – 10-run outings against the New York Mets and at Coors Field and the 39 pitches he called a side day at Dodger Stadium – Hammel has been an integral part of the elite rotation that pushed the Cubs to an 85-47 record and such a huge lead in the National League Central (now 15 games up on the St. Louis Cardinals). 

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Hammel (14-7, 3.14 ERA) shut down the Pirates for six innings, allowing only one run on three hits and showing the confidence that made him an All-Star-level performer in the first half. With the bases loaded, Hammel screamed and flexed his muscles after striking out Andrew McCutchen swinging to end the fifth inning.       

On a night when the crowd chanted “MVP,” Kris Bryant launched his 36th homer (in the first inning off Ryan Vogelsong) and made Gold Glove-caliber plays at third base to back Hammel, diving to his left to catch a Sean Rodriguez line drive and prevent a run at the end of the second inning, and leaning over the wall and into the stands to catch a Josh Bell pop-up at the beginning of the fourth inning.        

This could become the next awkward conversation: If John Lackey (shoulder) returns to full strength – and the rest of the rotation doesn’t experience any setbacks down the stretch – what are the chances of Hammel making a playoff start?

“Stay healthy and we’ll see what happens,” Maddon said. “I don’t bet on the come. Let’s get to the playoffs first, make sure everybody’s well, and at that point then you look at the group you have. And then maybe at that point you look at the group you may be playing. And then you try to formulate the best plan of attack from your personnel versus their personnel. 

“I’ve not even thought about a playoff moment once.”