Welcome to another packed edition of “This Week in Sports.” The NHL trade deadline has now passed, and the Blackhawks are confused about their identity. The Vancouver Canucks received the green light to get back to work after a COVID-19 outbreak. The NHL is now contemplating on bringing back the playoff bubble. In the MLB, the Cubs and Sox are both bad and need help early in the season. In the NBA, Nikola Vucevic is struggling to adjust after being traded to the Bulls and the team is slowly watching playoff hopes vanish.
Who are the Blackhawks?
After trading away three regular players in the Blackhawks lineup, the team is just four points out of a playoff spot. The Blackhawks traded Matthew Highmore, Mattias Janmark, and Carl Söderberg at the deadline, receiving a handful of draft picks. The team brought in Adam Gaudette from Vancouver. With just over ten games left in the season, the Blackhawks sit just four points out of a playoff spot.
Although GM Stan Bowman announced this year would be the start of a rebuild at the beginning of the season, the rebuild has been taking place faster than most fans have expected. Kevin Lankinen has proven to be the Blackhawks number one goal for the foreseeable future, and the young guns look exciting with Pius Suter, Dominik Kubalík, and Philipp Kurashev shining. Making the playoffs would help the young players with experience and develop quicker, but with how inconsistent the team has been, going 5-5 in their last ten games, they would likely be eliminated in the first round.
The identity of the team to start the season was seen as a young, inexperienced team that has a below average defense. They have surprised many but have come back down to earth and are slowly looking like a team that will be great in a couple years when they get everyone back healthy. This team is looking like the 2007-08 Blackhawks who were exciting and young, but missed the playoffs by one point.
Return to Play: Vancouver Canucks returning to play after getting greenlight.
The Vancouver Canucks suffered a massive COVID-19 outbreak within their organization on March 30. Over 25 players and staff tested positive, with some players experiencing symptoms as severe as vomiting and dehydration. The outbreak came as a surprise as COVID-19 was being handled especially well by the Canadian teams. Since being shut down, the Canucks have returned to play and have had one more player test positive, but returned to play regardless of the isolated player. The Canucks are expected to finish their season on time despite the setback. The Canucks are now scheduled to cram in 19 games in 31 days to finish their regular season.
The situation turned scary after players went home to self-isolate with their families and family members started to test positive. Members in the organization within close contact of the players were required to self-isolate as well. Newly acquired Blackhawk, Adam Gaudette, was the first player to test positive before it spread within the team.
The recent outbreak has encouraged the NHL to contemplate creating another bubble scenario for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The playoffs are scheduled to begin May 11, but the league has until August to complete the season.
Time to Panic? White Sox struggling out of the gate.
Fresh into the 2021 season, the White Sox have been struggling mightily. The White Sox, who were picked to run away with the AL Central division this season, have been severely underperforming with cold bats and a bullpen that is already starting to crumble. Yoan Moncada has taken a step backward in his development and is striking out on an above average basis. Matt Foster has been abysmal in late-inning relief for the White Sox, blowing the first two games of the season against the Los Angeles Angels.
Yermin Mercedes has been by far the biggest story of the White Sox season, getting eight straight hits, including a home run to start his MLB career. That has not been done since 1900. Adam Eaton has provided clutch offense with game-tying home runs, but the rest of the lineup looks lost. Lucas Giolito has looked Cy Young Award-worthy in all of his starts so far. Center fielder Luis Robert has struck out third-most on the team, and reigning MVP, while Jose Abreu has been hitting just .209. Costly errors on defense have hurt the White Sox consistently and have continued to happen on a game-by-game basis.
Is it time to panic so early into the season? The White Sox are currently in fourth place in the AL Central division behind the Indians, Royals, and Twins.
Winds Blowing South: Cubs historically bad to start the 2021 season.
Heading into the season, the Cubs were looking like a third-place team behind St. Louis and Milwaukee, but have been far worse than that. The Cubs have the fewest number of hits by any team in 120 years. Javier Báez has continued to slump since hitting .203 last season and leads the Cubs in strikeouts. The Cubs dropped their opening series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were believed to be terrible this year yet are just one game behind the Cubs in the standings.
The rotation was deemed to be the slowest in the league with Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies reaching 89 mph on their fast balls. Jake Arrieta has been the sole bright spot in the Cubs rotation since returning to Wrigley Field this season with an ERA under 3.00. Adbert Alzolay has struggled as the fourth man in the Cubs rotation and has posted an ERA of over 10.00.
Newly acquired left fielder Joc Pederson has hit just .118 after having a monstrous spring training. Bench player Jake Marisnick has the highest batting average on the team hitting .273 and Kris Bryant has the highest average of the starting core players with a measly .243. Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo have both been invisible hitting with just 12 hits between the two of them and only two combined home runs. While the season is very early, things are looking very grim on the north side.
Bulls, Vucevic looking like himself.
It has been just under a month since the NBA trade deadline, and the Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic, since being traded from Orlando to Chicago, has meshed well with his new team. Vucevic has been the all-star center the Bulls knew they acquired. The centerman has averaged just over 20 points a game with the Bulls and is playing 30 minutes a night. Adjusting to Chicago was difficult for Vucevic in the first handful of games. Teammates were missing him down low and were reluctant to give him the ball. The massive upgrade at center for the Bulls has been a success and has set the Bulls up at center for the foreseeable future.