Good morning, frents …
Your TL;DR version of today’s newsletter:
Hockey situation good. Baseball situation bad.
But I have just a few more thoughts on both if you’ll join me.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Let’s Do That Hockey
Has anyone ever been so happy to hear from Gary Bettman?
The NHL commissioner got on a conference call Tuesday to confirm the league’s plans for a 24-team playoff once the NHL can safely resume its season. We don’t know an exact date or location, but we do know the Hawks will be playing the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-five series for the right to advance to the round of 16. The two teams haven’t played each other in a postseason series since 1992.
Five thoughts on the news …
This Cup is going to mean a lot to whoever wins it
There is undoubtedly going to be a faction of hockey fans who will cast aspersions on whichever team captures this Stanley Cup. And I’ll be honest: If the Hawks somehow win this, it’d be tough to place it in proper context with the other three from this era.
At the same time, talk about a nice problem to have. Taking home this title will require the same 16 wins as every other year plus an extra three playoff wins if the winner comes from the pool of 16 squads that are playing the best-of-five “play-in.” Throw in playing on the road for a couple of months in front of an empty arena —more than three months after the abrupt end of the regular season — and there’s an argument to be made this might be the most impressive hockey title ever won.
Don’t set your sights that high with the Hawks
These playoffs aren’t expected to start until late July or early August. That means we still have at least 50 days to talk ourselves into all sorts of scenarios where the Hawks somehow stage a deep run. I already saw some of this on Twitter last night with Corey Crawford being fitted for a Superman cape and this graph that I think I’m supposed to just nod along with happily and pretend to understand.
But let’s be honest: The Edmonton series is a coinflip at best; anything past it will be be gravy with a d-corps that didn’t get any better the last three months and a coach who still hasn’t impressed anyone. Considering the Hawks haven’t won a playoff series since beating Tampa Bay for the Cup in 2015, I’ll take whatever we can get.
Is it too late to rescind the Robin Lehner trade?
I like Crawford as much as the next guy, but it’d be great to have both goalies still in the fold. The Hawks sent Lehner to Vegas on February 24 in a move that acknowledged the playoffs were a long shot. Three weeks later, the season was suspended and now here we are. Would the Hawks have made the same move had they known what lied ahead? Presumably not, especially given the meager return that Lehner brought — and that the Hawks could run into him if they get past Edmonton.
Free Ian Mitchell!
Bad news for those hoping to see the University of Denver d-man make his debut for the Hawks this summer. NHL deputy commish Bill Daly said players who have signed since the end of the season won’t be eligible, BUT — and here’s where I get hopeful — that’s a point that still needs to be negotiated with the NHLPA. Adding Mitchell to the Hawks blueline would obviously help a lot and seeing his debut would be a nice cherry on top of being able to see the Hawks again this year.
Chicago won’t be a hub city
It’s not hard to see why Bettman listed Chicago among eight others (full list here) to be one of two hub cities for this entire venture. With the United Center, Fifth Third Arena and the two Johnny’s facilities, the league would never have to stray from Madison for available ice. Throw in O’Hare’s status as a transportation hub, a wealth of nearby hotels and Lori Lightfoot’s promise to keep the Playpen closed and it would make a lot of sense. But Chicago has the most COVID-19 cases of any of the candidate cities and the stadium floor is still serving as a foodbank.
Plus, anyone think the Wirtzes really want the headache without any of the gate receipts? Didn’t think so.
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Tuesday was another wasted day in the ongoing saga between Major League Baseball and the players union. Out is the revenue split. In is a sliding payscale proposed by the owners that would keep the salaries for lower-paid players close to their previously-agreed upon prorated amounts while the higher-paid players take a massive pay cut.
If the league’s aim was to get the players to turn the two classes of players against each other … well, well, it didn’t work. The most powerful union in professional sports is sticking to its contention that the league owes it the full prorated salaries it agreed to in March. The league still insists that wasn’t the deal if there’s no one in the stands.
So basically we’re at where we were two weeks ago when I wrote this and told both sides to wake me when they’ve figured things out. They’ve since wasted two weeks.
Am I a little more concerned we won’t be seeing the Cubs and Sox this year than I was back then? Uh, yes, just a little.
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• JJ Stankevitz caught up with Kevin White to talk about his star-crossed time with the Bears. Really good stuff here. (NBC Sports Chicago)
• Nick Wright has the Bears going 12-4 and clinching the top seed in the NFC. Once again proving that there’s no better clickbait than selling the Bears either way too high or way too low. (Bears Wire)
• It’s official: Former Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey has transferred to Northwestern. Ramsey started 23 games for the Hoosiers over three seasons and Pat Fitzgerald says he’ll be in the mix for the starting QB job. (CBS Sports)
• “Daddy’s got a bedtime story … ”
That’s it for today. Have a fantastic Wednesday. As always, thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.