Sunday thoughts on 'The Lovie Puzzle'

972415.png

Sunday thoughts on 'The Lovie Puzzle'

DETROIT Coaches universally will say that they dont cut players; players cut players. To a certain extent, the same can be said about head coaches.

They, like the players, make the decisions for their bosses.

So a dismal Bears performance against the feckless Detroit Lions theoretically puts Lovie Smith squarely over the trap door with ownership and management. Missing the playoffs five of six years running makes a compelling case against his return for 2013.

But heres a better, sounder resolution:

Regardless of outcome in Detroit, Lovie Smith should be the Bears coach for 2013.

Consider:

After his opening year in 2004, Smith has never had a season with fewer than seven wins and only two of those in the past eight. That is a run not to be dismissed lightly. Mike Ditka had two of those (1989, 1992) in his final four.

Smith has one year remaining on his contract. There is NFL precedent for a coach, just like a player, going through his so-called lame duck year without an extension. Players wont play for him? Does anyone seriously think this team and its veterans would ever go that route with Smith?

Jay Cutler also is in a contract year for 2013. Cutler has shown less than Smith to spur the Bears toward a contract extension. Brian Urlacher played without a 2013 deal this season. So did Nick Roach. So did Henry Melton. And how did Matt Forte perform last season without an extension?

The overall is that the soundest strategy for GM Phil Emery, President Ted Phillips and Chairman George McCaskey is to let the 2013 season play out with the head coach, quarterback and even offensive coordinator (Mike Tice) in place.

If the group fails to effect a satisfactory turnaround, they wont have to blow the whole thing up. It blows itself up.

And a new head coach comes in with the prospect of picking his own quarterback. If the Bears have a terrible 2013, that draft choice will be high enough to make a move.

But to throw the franchise into freefall after a winning season, with a coach who has had just two losing seasons in the past eight just doesnt make real sense.

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games

 

 

 

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling found out at 8 o'clock this morning that he was starting for an ailing Corey Crawford. Considering he did this back in December for a few weeks, adjusting quick for one game was fine.

"It's kind of my job," Darling said.

And Darling, once again, did his job.

Darling stopped 30 of 32 shots and Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games. They're one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who made their splashy trade-deadline move in acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday. But the Blackhawks, thanks to veterans regaining their form, a top line finding its rhythm and youth consistently improving, are just rolling right along.

"We had a great start to the game. I thought Darls was excellent all night, great stretch there in the last 10 minutes where we fight through some tough shifts, particularly in the last couple of minutes in our end. But good win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the nice plays on the goals, it was kind of a comparable ending to the outdoor game: tied and about the same time they scored, we scored (tonight). Big two points for us."

Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winning goal with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks already knew they'd be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for at least a day or two when they found out Crawford couldn't go this morning. As Quenneville said Darling was strong once again, denying the Blues all but twice (a 2-on-1 goal from Magnus Paajarvi and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo).

Toews and Kane (power-play goal) staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early before the Blues tied it in the second. But late in the third period Anisimov took the feed from Artemi Panarin to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.

"I saw the puck all the way. It was easy to pick up," Anisimov said. "When you don't see the puck at the last moment and it comes, it's hard to receive and prepare for the next move. But I saw it all the way. Easy to prepare for the next move."

Speaking of next moves, do the Blackhawks make any more before the trade deadline. General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, following the acquisition of Tomas Jurco, that he'll keep talking and listening but likes the group he has right now. If Bowman's made moves it's for what the Blackhawks have needed, not because of another team's trades. The Blackhawks like what they have right now. Winning nine of 10 and continuing to trend in the right direction, they should be careful not to disrupt what they've got going.

"I think we're, as we've said lately, trending the right way. We're playing solid. I think all four lines are contributing in every which way," Toews said. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing right now. We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better too."