The sun came out, the snow started to melt and the Sox and Cubs were playing real live baseball games in Arizona. Spring was so close this weekend you could almost smell it.
So it only makes sense that a monster snowstorm is rolling into town this week.
February, you have rallied late to defeat us again.
Anyway, let’s have ourselves a week. Thank you for being here.
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The Hawks rebuild should begin today
So I’m rolling the dice a bit with today’s newsletter.
By the time you open this email, the Hawks might have already shipped off goalie Robin Lehner to Carolina and found new homes for Brandon Saad and Erik Gustafsson. Those three players have been listed among the most likely to be moved before today’s NHL trading deadline at 2 pm CT.
But it’s also more likely that Hawks GM Stan Bowman will be skipping both breakfast and lunch as he works to extract as much value as he can for any or all members of that trio. It’s going to be a busy day and Bowman might need every last minute he can get.
It seems like this should be an easy day for Bowman because he knows exactly where his team is headed. That wasn’t always the case. If we go back a few weeks, it seemed as if he’d need to make a choice between pushing all the chips in the middle of the table for one more valiant run with the championship core or pulling his own version of the White Sox’s infamous White Flag Trade. (“Anyone who thinks this team can catch the Coyotes is crazy.”)
But the team wilted over its last 10 games, posting a 2-6-2 record that included a 2-1 loss in Dallas on Sunday. And so the choice should be an easy one. Fixing the team on the fly has failed yet again so it would seem time for Bowman to throw in the towel and start a more serious rebuild.
But will that really happen today?
Gustafsson, who was an overcautious healthy scratch the last two games, will almost certainly be wearing a different sweater by the end of the day. D-men are always at a premium, so I’m not too worried about that.
The Lehner situation is a catch-22. If they don’t trade him, the Hawks would have a longer window to try and work out a deal with a 28-year-old goalie who could dominate for years to come. But they could also be stuck with nothing to show for this year’s bargain signing if they do keep him and he walks in July’s free agency. This is probably the hardest decision the Hawks have had to make since Artemi Panarin and don’t his continued success isn’t factoring into Bowman’s thought process.
The problem is that opposing GMs can see Bowman’s position and they’re already averse to parting with draft capital anyway. The goalie-starved Hurricanes would seem a perfect match for Lehner, but as Laz and Powers reported on Sunday night, Carolina isn’t interested in trading away one or both of its first-round picks for just a few months of Lehner’s services.
As for Saad, he’s a nice player and a member of two Cup teams, but he’s expendable and should bring plenty of value as a power forward. It’d be a tough goodbye, but they already had one with him when they originally traded him to Columbus for Artem Anisimov and the immortal Marko “Don’t Call Me Paul” Dano in 2015.
Hawks fans should support Bowman in tearing down as much as he can. Maybe I just speak for myself, but I’m tired of walking into a season hoping the team can get to 93 points and a wild card spot if 12 different things end up falling exactly their way.
At the end of the day, this is a franchise that should be competing to win the division, not getting decidedly outkicked each year for a wild card spot. I’m so tired of the Hawks being effectively eliminated from the race before playoff invoices can even be sent out that I’d probably even be in favor of getting really crazy. Trade both Lehner and Corey Crawford? Sure, as long as the return is good. (I heard there’s a decent 42-year-old Zamboni driver who could take some starts in the mean time.)
We’ll have plenty of other time in the months ahead to litigate Bowman’s overall performance and whether he and Jeremy Colliton deserve to lead the franchise into its next chapter.
But for today, the focus needs to be on one thing and one thing only: Getting the most in return for the players that could help another team win the Cup.
That’s sadly where the Hawks franchise is right now.
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Bulls 126, Wizards 117
Coby White scored 33 points in Saturday’s loss to Phoenix, then he did it again in a Sunday night victory that snapped the team’s eight-game losing streak. He’s the first Bulls rookie since Michael Jordan to score 30+ points in back-to-back games.
Dodgers 4, Cubs 2
Caratini 2-2 with a HR
Sox 7, Reds 2
Cease strikes out 3 over 2 innings
Minnesota 83, Northwestern 57
’Cats fall to 1-15 in the Big Ten
Nebraska at Illinois (7 pm, BTN)
Sox at Dodgers (2:05, NBC Sports Chicago)
Cubs at Mariners (2:10 pm, Marquee)
Here’s where the Bulls are at right now: Apart from White’s performances, the biggest story of the weekend was Jim Boylen and Zach LaVine needing to meet over Boylen’s continued and strange insistence on calling meaningless timeouts in the final minute with the team down big. The now-viral GIF of LaVine asking “why we calling a timeout down 10?” on Saturday night is a perfect avatar for the entire season.
The Cubs weekend included a familiar storyline. Brandon Morrow is hurt again. The reliever, who’s with the team on a minor-league deal, experienced a “mild right upper chest strain.” There is no timeline for his return.
Also on the DL is new manager David Ross, who missed the first two games of his tenure with the flu.
The White Sox signed left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer to a five-year, $16 million contract extension that also involves two option years. Bummer is a groundball artist who had a great 2019 and the Sox obviously see him as an important part of their bullpen for years to come.
The team also exercised Leury Garcia’s 2021 option over the weekend.
It’s been a quiet few weeks for the Bears, but that will change quickly as we’re heading into combine/free agency/draft season. First up is this week’s combine in Indy. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy will meet the media on Tuesday.
Have a good link to share on Midway Minute? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
• I’m a YouTubeTV subscriber so I didn’t see the Marquee Network’s debut game on Saturday. Chances are, many of you didn’t either. Phil Rosenthal has all the winners and losers from the first broadcast and thinks Mark Grace was a big winner. (Tribune)
• Sara Sanchez did the same exercise. She loved the on-screen graphics, disliked the amount of in-game interviews. (Bleed Cubbie Blue)
• Andy Dolan did Phil and Sara one better, reviewing the first 29 hours of Marquee Network programming. They really named the Bartman game the second best in franchise history? (Desipio)
• Mark Lazerus on what happens when a NHL homeowner gets traded. (The Athletic)
• Will Leitch and Mike Petriello ranked all 30 MLB teams in order of the likelihood they’ll win the World Series. Try and guess the spots for the Cubs and Sox before you click. (I got pretty close for both, no big.) (MLB.com)
• Tomorrow is packzi day! Here’s 20 of the best spots to get them. (Eater Chicago)
• Missed this last week but worth a revisit: Patrick Beverly returns to Humboldt Park. (Forbes)
• Chicago’s thoughts are with Los Angeles today on the day of the Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial. Here’s my friend Jeff Eisenberg with a great piece on 10 everyday encounters that Kobe had with Los Angelenos. (Yahoo Sports)
• Thanks to Ian Casselberry of Awful Announcing for taking an interest in Midway Minute and writing a nice article. And thanks to the many of you who read the article and decided to join us! I’m glad you’re here. (AA)
That’s it for today. Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter. Have a great Monday.