The Chicago Cubs became the first team to clinch a playoff spot when the San Francisco Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals last Thursday night. You can call it a back in or however else you want to describe it, but with the lead the Cubs had in the division it they where going to win it one way or another.
The Cubs have 15 games left and there’s some good and some bad in that. The good of course is you can get your starting rotation set up in the order you want it. Another good thing is that you can get players like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo some rest heading into the playoffs. Both Bryant and Rizzo have played in 142 games heading into this afternoon’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. These last 15 games will also give the coaching staff a chance to look at the guys they’ll want to carry on the playoff roster. There’s always that last spot or two left on the playoff roster and while it may not matter as these players may not see the field you never know. The Cubs will also have a chance to get guys healthy. Jorge Soler left yesterday’s game with an injury that was reported as not being serious, but either way he’ll have time to get back to 100%. Pedro Strop should be returning soon and he’ll have some games to get ready to go for the playoffs.
There isn’t a ton of bad that goes with clinching early, but I think there are things that you have look out for. You have to make sure you don’t get complacent while your off. There is such a thing as too much rest; so you have to make sure the regulars stay sharp. I think the biggest thing that the Cubs will have to watch out for is when you have this type of lead and you get to cruise down the stretch is turning it back on again when the games count. You can add injuries in here, but you just never know when an injury is going to come up; so you can’t count that. Again there aren’t huge negatives with clinching early; it’s just stuff that the Cubs will have to look out for down the stretch.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup starts tomorrow at the Chicagoland Speedway with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400. There are 16 drivers who either won a race or qualified on points to make at Top 16. Chase Grid Qualifying is this afternoon; so we don’t know who’s going to be on the pole, but they did have a practice session yesterday. Jimmie Johnson posted the fastest practice time, but there where four other Chase drivers right behind him. Carl Edwards was 2nd fastest with Denny Hamlin 3rd, Brad Keslowski 4th and Chase Elliott 5th. The NASCAR playoffs are starting.
We have our fantasy hockey draft coming pretty soon and while I know the top names I have a difficult time as the draft winds down finding that guy who can really help my team. It’s an auction style league; so there is some strategy on who to nominate when and try to make sure you land the guy you wanted. I found a couple of names that I think could help out a fantasy team later in the draft and I’m wondering what you think of them.
Nick Bjugstad of the Florida Panthers. Bjugstad is coming off an injury plagued season in 2015-16. He played in 67 games and put up 34 points last season. Can he get back to the player that led the Panthers in goals like he did in 2014-15.
Thomas Vanek scored 18 goals and 23 assists with the Minnesota Wild last season. In July the Detroit Red Wings signed Vanek 1-year $2.6 million dollar contract. Vanek will be looked upon to halp replace Pavel Datsyuk. Vanek has scored 40 goals twice in his NHL career and is it possible he gets close to that with the Red Wings.
Maybe I could sneak a young rookie defenseman through in the draft. How about someone like Nikita Zaitsev. Zaitsev played the last 3 season in the KHL for CSKA Moscow. He was a KHL All-Star in 2015 and 2016 as well as being named IIHF World Championship All-Star team in 2016. I know it’s tough for a rookie to make a big impact on defense, but this is a player who while considered a rookie isn’t really a rookie. Hopefully the Toronto Maple Leafs can find some ice time for him.
There’s a couple of names I’m looking at. Feel free to send me a name or two your looking at later in your draft.
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