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The Chicago Blackhawks Are Now Scotty Bowman’s Team

Posted by sportsmaven on September 16, 2009

At the beginning of the week, the Chicago Blackhawks opened their fall training camp with some new faces in key places.  The most prominent new face is that of newly installed General Manager Stan Bowman.  Behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows is the true architect and face of the organization, the stature of William Scott Bowman, or “Scotty” as he’s affectionately known.  The senior Bowman was hired in July, 2008 as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations for the Chicago Blackhawks.  Since that day, owner Rocky Wirtz and team president John McDonough have wisely, but not always smoothly, turned the reins of the hockey operations over to the 9-time Stanley Cup champion coach.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

The first big move was a somewhat awkward firing of then-Coach Denis Savard and subsequential hiring of current Coach Joel Quenneville just four games into the 2008-2009 season.  It was a move that had to be made, but it certainly wasn’t made with grace nor good timing.  The last move?  The “re-assignment” of former GM Dale Tallon coupled with the promotion of  Stan to General Manager on July 14th, another move that was a correct move to make, but another  plagued with awkwardness and questionable timing.  Bowman has molded this young Blackhawks team much in the same mold as his Stanley Cup winning teams in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Montreal.  In his brief tenure in Chicago, the elder Bowman has displayed his biggest asset — being able to adapt to the needs of the game today and fit personnel and coaching to those needs.

With his replacement of Tallon with his son, Stan, Bowman has again brought in new wave thinking to an organization that is desperately trying to escape it’s tractor beam-like grip of the glory days of it’s past.  The younger Bowman ushers in a new, modern era in Blackhawks lore, a man whose off-ice managmement, negotiating, and analytic skills more than make up for lack of hockey playing experience. Tallon’s apparent administrative miscues were the final nails in his coffin, closing his tenure as Blackhawks GM.

The elder Bowman has filled in the hockey part of the equation, engineering the signing of  RW Marian Hossa to a 12-year free agent deal, as well as the signings of C Tomas Kopecky from the Detroit Red Wings and C John Madden from the New Jersey Devils.  Bowman has worked to install his winning philosophy of big, skilled two-way players that can stretch the ice and play his aggressive, pounding style of play and infusing the talent base with Stanley Cup winning players to round out the up and coming Blackhawks team.

As the Blackhawks finish day 3 of training camp, the team carries the stamp and personal marks of Scotty Bowman, from top to bottom.  Wirtz, McDonough and Bowman have shown that throughout the awkwardness of their moves, they are indeed dedicated and focused on bringing a Stanley Cup Championship to Chicago as soon as humanly possible.  By hiring a 9-time Stanley Cup winning coach to architect that championship, the Blackhawks mean business.  If Bowman is half as good an architect as he is a coach, the Chicago Blackhawks are in for a Stanley Cup type treat.

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2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Picks

Posted by sportsmaven on March 19, 2009

Three hours until tip off of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Today launches two of the most unproductive work days of the year.  I’ve already completed and posted my women’s picks yesterday.  The men’s bracket is more of a challenge.  In the women’s game, the difference between the best and worst teams is much greater than in the men’s game. That fact makes the men’s brackets more difficult to choose, as more teams have a chance to upset higher seeded teams.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There are really four strategies you can follow in doing your brackets.  The first strategy is just to pick the higher seed and let the lesser teams get washed out and separated.  There are always going to be upsets, but how do you decided which high seed is vulnerable?  You don’t.  Let the law of averages rule overrule luck.

The second strategy is to pick which teams will be upset in which rounds.  Play the hot hand, requires some working knowledge of which teams are peaking going into the tournament and which teams are upstart enough to engineer an upset.

The third strategy is to find an expert’s brackets and choose those picks.  The ESPN experts picks.  Leverage their knowledge and exposure to the game to make your picks.  You might even do well with this strategy if you want to win the office basketball pool.  It’s not sexy, nor a challenge, but it seems better than the last strategy – what I call the women’s pick.  Pick by favorite team, mascot names, colors, and allegiances.  This is the most random of all methods, but one that seems to produce a winner on rare occasion.  Even resourceful women ask their men to make their picks, but those who opt to make their own, good luck!

So, for those who exercise the choose the experts picks, here are my picks.  Good luck if you decide to use these picks.  If you win anything, I want my cut of the payout:

First round winners:

Midwest Region: Louisville, Ohio State, Arizona, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Kansas, USC, Michigan State

West Region: Connecticut, Texas A&M, Purdue, Washington, Marquette, Missouri, Maryland, Memphis

East Region: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Florida State, Xavier, UCLA, Villanova, Texas, Duke

South Region: North Carolina, LSU, Illinois, Gonzaga, Arizona State, Syracuse, Clemson, Oklahoma

Sweet 16: Louisville, Wake Forest, Kansas, Michigan State, Connecticut, Washington, Marquette, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Florida State, UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Oklahoma

Final 4: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina

National Championship Game: Louisville vs. North Carolina

National Championship: Louisville

I wrestled back and forth between Louisville and North Carolina before choosing Louisville.  This is, perhaps, Rick Pitino’s best team at Louisville and they look poised for a run all the way.  I thought going into the tournament that the two teams that the biggest chips on their shoulders would be Louisville and Memphis.  The arguments against Memphis always starts and ends with their soft conference schedule.  I think Memphis is one of the 4 best teams in the country.  I just hope they prove me correct in this tournament.

There are the picks, and with more than an hour to spare.  Check back often, as I will update my progress after each round.

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2009 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Picks

Posted by sportsmaven on March 18, 2009

College tournament basketball.  Women’s basketball.  While all the hype is focused on the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the women are also playing their tournament, and I have picks for that tournament to share.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The decision to start with the women’s bracket was easy. Women’s college basketball is easier to make picks, due to the fact that there are a few dominant teams and upsets seemed less likely than in the men’s bracket.  Thus, the picks came much quicker and easier.  Without hesitation, the picks are:

Trenton Bracket: Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, California, Arizona State, Florida State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M

Berkley Bracket: Duke, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee, Iowa State, Texas, Ohio State, DePaul, Stanford

Raleigh Bracket: Maryland, Utah, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, LSU, Louisville, TCU, Baylor

Oklahoma City Bracket: Oklahoma, Iowa, Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, Purdue, North Carolina, Rutgers, Auburn

Sweet 16: Connecticut, California, Florida State, Texas A&M, Duke, Tennessee, Ohio State, Stanford, Maryland, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Baylor, Oklahoma, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Auburn

Elite 8: Connecticut, Texas A&M, Duke, Stanford, Maryland, Baylor, Oklahoma, North Carolina

Final 4: Connecticut, Stanford, Maryland, Oklahoma

Finals: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma

National Champion: Connecticut

The Connecticut team is undefeated entering the tournament and will remain undefeated as National Champion.  I like Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris’ “guarantee” that if Oklahoma doesn’t win the National Championship, she will refund her scholarship to University of Oklahoma.  As I remarked on Twitter yesterday, Courtney, you better get your checkbook ready.  My men’s picks will follow shortly and the games will begin tomorrow at high noon (well, 12:20p EST).

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