Chicago Blackhawks

A couple big changes in Jacksonville

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A couple big changes in Jacksonville

From Comcast SportsNet

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday after a 3-8 start, parting ways with the franchises second coach during his ninth season.

Del Rios job security had been tenuous since owner Wayne Weaver said the coach needed to make the playoffs to secure a 10th season in Jacksonville. The Jaguars were essentially eliminated with Sundays 20-13 loss to AFC South-leading Houston.

The timing of the move made sense since the Jaguars are struggling to sell tickets and host a Monday night game against San Diego. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was named the interim coach. The team scheduled a noon news conference to discuss the move.

Del Rio leaves with a 69-73 record, including 1-2 in two playoffs appearances. The Jaguars didnt win the AFC South in any of his nine seasons.

Weaver considered firing Del Rio after last season, but kept him partly because of the uncertainty surrounding the NFL lockout. Weaver refused to give contract extensions to any of Del Rios assistants, putting everyone on alert that this was a win-or-else season.

Del Rio refused to let offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and linebackers coach Mark Duffner interview for lateral positions. He couldnt stop quarterbacks coach Mike Shula, whose contract ended, and receivers coach Todd Monken, who returned to a college job at Oklahoma State, from bolting.

Given the situation, the pool of coaches wanting to come to Jacksonville was small, so Del Rio had few options while rebuilding his staff. Del Rio hinted this season that his hands were tied in terms of what he could to assemble the best staff.

Fans have been clamoring for his departure for years, with many calling for him to be fired following a 5-11 finish in 2008. Instead, Weaver parted ways with personnel chief James Shack Harris and selected Gene Smith the general manager.

Smith has rebuilt the roster over the last three years.

But the Jaguars have shown no progress under Del Rios leadership.

Del Rios tenure will be remembered for putting an ax and a wooden stump in the locker room in 2003, setting up a situation in which punter Chris Hanson hacked into his leg, and for repeatedly failing to properly handle quarterback situations.

He announced he was benching Mark Brunell and giving rookie Byron Leftwich the job in 2003 before talking to the players. He insisted Leftwich was his starter in 2007, and then cut him days before the season opener. He did the same thing to David Garrard this season, cutting him five days before the opener and naming Luke McCown the starter.

McCown was benched after two games.

The Jaguars have been inept most of the season with Blaine Gabbert under center. The 10th overall pick in Aprils NFL draft has been rattled under pressure, has been inaccurate on short throws and doesnt appear to be making much progress.

Del Rio said Monday he was sticking with the rookie.

It turned out to be the coachs final decision in Jacksonville.

Another new boss

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)The Jacksonville Jaguars have reached an agreement to sell the small-market franchise to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan.

Majority owner Wayne Weaver made the announcement Tuesday, hours after he fired coach Jack Del Rio and gave general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension. He said Khan will have 100 percent control of the team.

Weaver called Khan a great American success story and said the Pakistan-born entrepreneur will keep the team in Jacksonville.

Khan is the owner and CEO of the Flex-N-Gate Group based in Urbana, Ill. Khan had been a candidate to buy controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams last year.

The sale of the franchise and the firing of Del Rio are the citys most significant news since the teams inception in 1993.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”