The Stanley Cup Finals begin on Wednesday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks get on the ice after what seems like a month-long layoff, even though Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals was last Saturday. All eyes will be on that game since the NBA Finals don’t begin until Thursday. There’s plenty to talk about in this Hump Day edition of the Six Pack, so strap in for the ride.
Because It’s The Cup
The series begins tonight for one of the most coveted pieces of hardware in all of sports. The Stanley Cup playoffs drop the puck for Game 1 on Wednesday and you can see our game preview here.
The Blackhawks are looking for their third Stanley Cup win in six years. The Lightning are in search of their first Stanley Cup since 2004, the only one in franchise history. The Blackhawks are favored to win the series, but are lined as a Game 1 underdog. With boatloads of talent on both teams, the series may come down to the goaltending battle between Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford. Crawford certainly has more experience, but Bishop won two huge games with shutouts at Madison Square Garden last series.
Keep an eye out throughout the series for our game previews on every game.
Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Blatter
Sepp Blatter has resigned from his post as president of FIFA, which should be great for international soccer. Several key FIFA officials, past and present, have been indicted on a myriad of charges ranging from wire fraud to money laundering to corruption and Blatter is the latest big domino to fall. Blatter, and his representation, vehemently denied any knowledge or involvement in what others have been taken into custody for.
A special election will now be required, even though Blatter could have simply bowed out of the election that he just won a few days ago and FIFA would already have a new president. Michel Platini is the betting favorite to be named the new president, with election runner-up Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein is the second favorite. Platini is currently the president of UEFA. The special election won’t be held until sometime after the start of December according to FIFA officials. That means that Blatter has about six more months to get his affairs in order and, presumably, line his bank account for retirement.
Blatter did not take questions, which should not come as a surprise, since that would have no benefit to him. Blatter acknowledged that the direction of FIFA needs a change and that he didn’t have the support of enough parties involved to get the change that it needs. It will be interesting to see if the Justice Department probe finds anything about Blatter in the coming days that he tried to head off by resigning.
Hoiberg Officially Named Bulls Coach
Fred Hoiberg is officially the new coach of the Chicago Bulls. It was just a matter of finalizing some final contract things to get the former player and Iowa State head coach in the fold. It’s entirely possible that the front office wanted to cross-check with some of the Bulls veteran players. I already discussed Hoiberg as the new coach on yesterday, so I want to focus on the Iowa State Cyclones in today’s Six Pack.
For whatever reason, the Cyclones seem blindsided by this hire. They had to know that it was a strong possibility, yet hired a search firm to help them find a replacement for Hoiberg. Two names have been mentioned so far – Murray State head coach Steve Prohm and Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN via #sources.
It would be hard to argue with either hire. The Cyclones have built a pretty good program in Ames, so it should be a rather attractive job. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that names like Bryce Drew and Archie Miller are not on the list. Drew (Valparaiso) and Miller (Dayton) both signed big contract extensions and the University of Florida was unwilling to pay up what it would take to get those two to Gainesville. It’s highly unlikely that Iowa State would go that route.
The Cyclones could promote from within, but they probably want somebody with head coaching experience. Prohm turned down the head coaching job at Mississippi State, citing his loyalty to the Ohio Valley Conference member. Iowa State is a much different job and the recipe for success is already in place. Also, Murray State likes to push the tempo, similar to Iowa State.
People like Tim Floyd and Jeff Hornacek have ties to Iowa State, but the Cyclones should go with a young up-and-comer with no emotional attachment to the school. Prohm seems like the best choice, given what is currently available, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cyclones move quickly.
A Memorable Debut
The Adrian Beltre injury allowed the surging Texas Rangers to call up premier prospect Joey Gallo. Joey Gallo has prodigious power and some scouts have even slapped an 8 grade on his power, which is the best there is. On Tuesday, the baseball world saw firsthand what Gallo is capable of. He had three hits, though the single could have been an error, but drove in four runs and hit his first MLB home run.
Gallo hit 18 home runs in 43 games in rookie ball in 2012 and added four more in 16 games at Low-A. In 2013, he hit 40 home runs between rookie ball and Single-A. In 2014, he hit 42 home runs between High-A and Double-A. He is truly a “three true outcomes” guy with a high walk rate, a high strikeout rate, and a ton of power. He also has a spectacular arm at third base, even though scouts do have some lingering questions about his ability to stay at the position.
In any event, Gallo is the next in a wave of outstanding young players. Mike Trout set an impossibly high standard when he took over MLB a few years ago, but players like Gallo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Carlos Correa represent a new wave of generational superstars and they will all be in the league together for a long time.
Outside of Gallo’s big debut, there was some other news in MLB on Tuesday night. Rob Manfred told the media that the enjoyment taken from Bartolo Colon’s hitting is a reason to keep the DH out of the National League. It was probably said in jest, but if this is Manfred’s true position, I’m not impressed. Collectively, pitchers are batting .122/.145/.149 with a .134 wOBA and a -21 wRC+. In other words, pitchers are collectively 121 percent worse than league average offensively. American League pitchers have been embarrassing, as is to be expected, and National League pitchers aren’t much better.
Marlon Byrd suffered a fractured wrist for the Cincinnati Reds, removing one of their trade chips from the market. Byrd is out for an indeterminate length of time. He could be back in time for the MLB Trade Deadline on July 31, but it’s more likely that the would be a waiver claim trade in August.
David Wright spoke to New York media about his future on Tuesday night. Wright has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a condition that shortened the career of Lenny Dykstra and is expected to do the same with Wright. Wright expressed his desire to return to the league sometime this season, but it has been a depressing odyssey health-wise for the Mets third baseman. One of the best players in the league in his prime, recurring back problems have taken a major toll on his career.
PGA Tour to Ohio
The Memorial is this weekend at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. Tiger Woods will draw the most headlines as he participates in Jack Nicklaus’s event this weekend. Jordan Spieth is also in action. There is no Rory McIlroy this week after he missed consecutive cuts, including a terrible showing at the Irish Open.
Jordan Spieth is the favorite at 7/1 at Bovada.lv. Dustin Johnson is next at 14/1, with Justin Rose at 16/1, Hideki Matsuyama at 18/1, Rickie Fowler at 20/1, and Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar at 22/1. Kuchar has not been heard from much lately. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are both listed at 25/1.
Matsuyama was the champion with a playoff win over Kevin Na last year. Na shot a final round 64 to force the playoff. Bubba Watson was a shot back at 12-under after a final round 72. Chris Kirk and Adam Scott had good showings at 10-under, while Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis tied for sixth at 9-under.
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