Reflections on Lovie Smith, playoffs and who the Bears have played

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Reflections on Lovie Smith, playoffs and who the Bears have played

Whether the Bears make the playoffs actually doesnt belong high in the discussion. The Seattle Seahawks won a division and a wild-card game with a 7-9 record in 2010. Tampa Bay and the New York Giants missed that year with 10-6 marks (the Packers went in via tiebreak and won the Super Bowl, the second wild-card winner in five years). The Patriots missed in 2008 with an 11-5 record.
Clearly no one was firing Belichick the year after a Super Bowl loss, although Tom Coughlin won a Super Bowl in 2007 and spent last season in job jeopardy until he and the Giants mucked into the playoffs and won a second Super Bowl.
The point is, making postseasons is a measuring device for coaches but its regularly not within their total control. It can be; Lovie Smith is in relatively good standing if he gets his team past the mediocre 2008 Houston Texans in Game 16 instead of losing the game and the playoffs through a rash of stupid plays. That loss, perhaps more than anything, other than his recent Green Bay troubles stands out as a definer on the negative side of Smiths ledger.
With that what-if, Smith would be on a cadence of playoffs slightly better than every other year: 2005, 2006, (2008), 2010 and this season possibly. With last years injury induced fall from 7-3 to 8-8.

The Bears havent just lost five of the last six games. They lost the five games to teams with records among the top eight in the NFL: Houston (12-2), San Francisco (10-3-1), Green Bay (10-4), Seattle (9-5) and Minnesota (8-6). The only leaders off the Bears list through this stretch have been Atlanta (12-2), Denver (11-3) and New England (10-4).
Those records obviously include the win over the Bears.
But if the Smith detractors want to dismiss the 7-1 start because of the high incidence of cream puffs, then the troubles of the last six weeks rightly should be dismissed because of whom the Bears have played.
Actually, the second half has been considerably more difficult than the first half was easy.
The eight in the first half included Indianapolis, Green Bay and Dallas and was made up with teams totaling 49 wins to this point.
The six in the second half already have 57 wins.
Id suggested a while ago that for Smith ultimately to go down, there would need to be a bad loss in the second half of the season. The Bears havent really had that.
If they lose to 5-9 Arizona or 4-10 Detroit, thatll take care of the bad requirement.

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Yanni Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night.

Victor Hedman set up the winner with his third assist of the game.

Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by a point for the second Eastern Conference wild card, also got two goals from Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got pulled 14 minutes into the first after allowing three goals on eight shots, returned to the start the second and finished with 25 saves.

Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Tomas Jurco and Richard Panik scored for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, who were coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday night at Florida. Scott Darling stopped 25 shots.

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

MESA, Ariz. – After an impressive camp where he looked like the next homegrown Cubs hitter to roll off the assembly line, Ian Happ will go to Triple-A Iowa and get ready to make his big-league debut, or perhaps build his value for a trade-deadline deal.

Along with Happ, the Cubs assigned outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis to minor-league camp on Monday while optioning pitchers Eddie Butler and Rob Zastryzny to Iowa, cutting their roster to 31 as the Opening Night picture comes into focus.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – batted .417 with five homers, four doubles and 17 RBI in 24 Cactus League games.

"Offensively, what was there not to like?" general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I feel like he hit the ball hard every at-bat for six weeks. It's always fun to see a young guy like that come in and open a lot of eyes."

Happ, 22, is a switch-hitter who can play second base and the outfield, skills that could help him escape from Des Moines once the need arises on the major-league level.

[MORE CUBS: How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber]

Though there are questions about Happ's defense, Theo Epstein's front office and Joe Maddon's coaching staff clearly value versatility and trust young talent, moving Addison Russell to shortstop in 2015 and elevating rookie catcher Willson Contreras last season.

Stay tuned to see when/if the Cubs will have a spot at Wrigley Field, but Happ looks like he will be on a fast track.

"Whenever you're in Triple-A, you're always a call away," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it happens quicker than you think. We never expected Addie would be up in April of that year, and he was. I feel like with Willson last year, if you had asked me in spring training – would he be up in June? – I probably would have thought it would be more like a September call-up or something like that.

"You never know. Things happen. When you have good players in the minor leagues, sometimes it speeds up on you a little bit."