Auburn has a new football coach...

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Auburn has a new football coach...

From Comcast SportsNetAUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Auburn has turned to Gus Malzahn to restore a program that made an unprecedented fall two years after winning the national title with Cam Newton operating the then-assistant coach's high-powered offense to perfection.Malzahn was the Tigers' offensive coordinator during their 2010 national championship run before heading to Arkansas State for his first college head coaching position. He received a five-year contract worth 2.3 million annually to try to get the team back on solid footing."I recruited a lot of them and have very good relationships," Malzahn said. "I just told them our expectations are to win championships. Whatever happened last year happened last year. It's a new day. We're going to put a good brand of football on the field and we're going to have fun doing it."He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record, a Sun Belt Conference title and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, then parlayed that into a job in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference.Several hundred fans greeted Malzahn's plane, and he rushed along the line exchanging high-fives. He promised to get Auburn "back to winning championships.""I'm just tickled to death," he said. "It's a true honor for me to be the head coach of the Auburn Tigers. I spent three years here and I can honestly say it's the best three years of my life. I feel connected forever."The 47-year-old Malzahn returns with his fast-paced, no-huddle offensive style. He replaces former boss Gene Chizik, who was fired one day after a 49-0 loss to No. 2 Alabama to complete a 3-9 season.Malzahn hasn't ruled out coaching in the bowl game for Arkansas State, which said he had a 700,000 buyout.Athletic director Jay Jacobs declined to say who else he interviewed, but said it didn't matter."The characteristics that he brought to the table were head and shoulders above everybody else," Jacobs said.Before his arrival at Auburn in 2009, Malzahn had spent two seasons as Tulsa's offensive coordinator. He was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas for one year after a successful run in the Arkansas high school ranks.Auburn had the nation's 115th-ranked offense last season, averaging 305 yards a game. The Red Wolves were ranked 19th in total yards under Malzahn."We will be a fast-paced, attacking-style offense and defense," Malzahn said. "In this day and age, I believe you have to."It's the second straight time Auburn has turned to one of its coordinators from an unbeaten team. Chizik ran the defense for the 13-0 team in 2004 but was hired by the Tigers despite a 5-19 record in two seasons at Iowa State."We are tremendously excited that Gus Malzahn will be our next head football coach," Jacobs said. "Coach Malzahn was the clear unanimous choice of our search committee, and I am pleased that Dr. Gogue has accepted our recommendation. This is a great day for Auburn football and Auburn University."The search committee was comprised of Jacobs, Auburn Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson and former Tigers player Mac Crawford.Jackson said he was confident that "we got the right man.""We talked to a lot of talented coaches, a lot of coaches that are going to be Division I coaches other places, and they're all stars in their own right," said Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner. "Gus shined a little bit brighter than those guys in the interview process."Malzahn said his first priorities will be recruiting and hiring coordinators, but didn't mention any candidates.Auburn owes more than 11 million in buyouts to Chizik and his coaching staff.The Tigers are hoping Malzahn can return them to success after a winless SEC season."Gus Malzahn is a proven winner," Jacobs said. "He is without question one of the brightest minds in college football and he has won everywhere he has been. Coach Malzahn knows what it takes to build a championship program in the Southeastern Conference. He knows our state and region and he understands what it will take to turn our program around. Coach Malzahn will also be an outstanding ambassador for Auburn University, and that was important to the committee."The NCAA has been investigating the recruitment of signee Jovon Robinson, who was ruled ineligible after a guidance counselor admitted to creating a fake transcript."I feel very confident that everything is fine, and that's my understanding," Malzahn said.The Tigers badly struggled in a transition to Scot Loeffler's pro-style last season, starting three quarterbacks.Auburn was ranked in the top seven in rushing, total and scoring offense in 2010 and Newton won the Heisman Trophy in his lone season out of the junior college ranks. It was the Tigers' first national title since 1957.Without Newton, the Tigers slipped to 100th in total offense in 2011 and then dipped even further.The defense struggled, too. Defensive end Nosa Eguae said he thinks Malzahn was the right guy."I know coach Malzahn, and he's an amazing man," Eguae said. "He's a standup guy. I'm looking forward to the future. I can't wait to get started and turn this thing around and get some wins."The hiring reunites Malzahn with the quarterback he recruited out of Arkansas. Kiehl Frazier was benched last season after struggling as the starter. He was USA Today's national offensive player of the year as a high school senior.Malzahn had been earning 1.3 million a year for the Tigers after interviewing with Vanderbilt after the national championship season. He took a substantial pay cut to join the head coaching ranks with the Sun Belt Conference team. Malzahn replaced Hugh Freeze, who also left after one season at Arkansas State to take over at Mississippi.Chizik's tenure was marred by off-the-field problems, including the arrest of four players from the championship team for armed robbery.Malzahn also made a couple of decisions with players that didn't pan out. Tailback Mike Dyer transferred from Auburn -- where he was suspended -- to Arkansas State. He was then dismissed by Arkansas State in July after a state trooper found marijuana and a gun in a car the national title game MVP was driving.Jacobs said discipline was a factor in choosing Malzahn.

Patriots could take a chance on free-falling UCLA LB Myles Jack

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Patriots could take a chance on free-falling UCLA LB Myles Jack

Myles Jack would have been better off with a gas mask than the truth. The UCLA linebacker that figured to be a top-five pick parachuted out of the first round entirely after acknowledging he’ll need microfracture surgery. 

“[The degenerative problems are] there, but it’s nothing extreme,” Jack said. “Down the line, possibly I could have microfracture surgery — potentially. Who knows what will happen? Nobody knows how long anybody is going to play in this league. To play three years in this league would be above average.”

And over the falls Jack went. This is not conjecture. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said that if it weren’t for Jack offering his take on his medical future, he wouldn’t have fallen. 

Asked if he was surprised Jack fell, Gettleman said, “Not after what he said today, very frankly. The kid came out and said he is going to need a microfracture.” 

Laremy Tunsil, he of the aforementioned gasmask, only slipped to 13. Though we’ve heard many times, you can’t fix stupid, NFL teams were willing to take a risk on a kid like Tunsil who is healthy physically but moronic enough to allow someone to fix a camera on him while he smokes weed.

But not Jack. What’s pertinent on Friday as the second and third rounds draw closer is how far will Jack drop and whether the Patriots would be willing to make a move to go up and get him.

It’s spitballing we’ve been doing with Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith all week as well. 

Indications I’ve gotten are that the Patriots would indeed be willing to take the risk with Jack but that there’s much more concern about Smith, who’s got nerve damage in the wake of his January knee blowout.

With the Patriots holding four picks on Friday, the opportunity is there for the team to roll the dice a bit. They’ll want to get one surefire contributor who figures to be a safe pick. But with the roster as well-stocked as it is, rolling the dice on first-round talent that’s slipped down the board could also be in play.

To get Jack, the Patriots may have to move up into the 30s. Conjecture has been that he won’t last long once Round 2 begins.
 
Amazing the Pandora’s Box opened by going to Vegas, leaning on integrity of the game.

 

NHL Notes: McQuaid hopes Stamkos doesn’t rush back too soon

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NHL Notes: McQuaid hopes Stamkos doesn’t rush back too soon

The Tampa Bay Lightning has been decidedly vague about any potential return to the ice for Steven Stamkos in the Stanley Cup playoffs and that’s with excellent reason.

Clearly, the Bolts could use Stamkos back as soon as possible while embroiled in a tough second-round matchup against the New York Islanders, but that doesn’t appear as if it’s going to happen with Tampa just four tantalizing wins away from a return to the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning superstar has been out since April 4 following his surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a blood clot condition that involves an area at the collarbone that requires a fairly extensive surgery to repair.

The surgery involves cutting the muscles around the clot, and permanently removing a rib. 

The original prognosis for Stamkos was a recovery time of 1-3 months. In an optimistic development, the 26-year-old has skated with his teammates for the past few days in a non-contact jersey. Stamos made it clear that he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to even get a chance to return and those that have gone through the same injury and surgery hope he does take his time.

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid had the same Thoracic Outlet Syndrome blood clot issue and surgery in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, but his took place in  the first half of the schedule wiped out by the labor dispute. He was told at the time the injury was something extremely rare for a hockey player, but now he’s hearing of other cases around the league, including Stamkos and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“Everybody told me how rare it was for me to have this as a hockey player, and now there have been at least three other cases since,” McQuaid told CSNNE.com when asked about Stamkos at Bruins breakup day a couple of weeks ago. “It’s interesting. I don’t know if there’s a reason behind it. It can be a genetic thing where the space in there is a little smaller than somebody else, so somebody that doesn’t play sports or really lift weights won’t ever have an issue with it.

“Or it can be a previous injury that’s changed the landscape of your anatomy. I’m not 100 percent sure what the case was for me, but those are the causes, I guess. It sounds like [Stamkos] had the exact same surgery I did, so we’ll see. I followed the doctor’s orders and I still feel like I pushed things a little bit, and it was two months on blood thinners. I couldn’t lift anything for a month, so it takes a while to get all of that back.”

Regardless of how it happened, it took McQuaid multiple months to get off the blood thinners, get back to working and get on the ice for the first time, so he knows that any Stamkos return is later rather than sooner. It was also very clear to anybody who watched the rugged, rangy B’s blueliner in the 2013 abbreviated schedule that the extended period of time away from working out had a negative impact: McQuaid was seriously compromised in size and strength until getting a full summer to work back into peak condition.

So, jumping onto a moving Stanley Cup playoff train is going to be awfully difficult, if not totally impossible, for even somebody as talented and gifted as Stamkos. It makes the one month end of the 1-3 month timetable released by the Lightning at time of Stamkos’ injury announcement as much wishful thinking than anything expected to be a realistic return for Tampa Bay’s captain.

McQuaid said he hopes Stamkos weighs his future when making the final decision on a possible return. Stamos’ status as an unrestricted free agent this summer really puts a different wrinkle into the unique scenario.

“I guess I was somewhat fortunate because of the lockout that I didn’t miss any time,” said McQuaid, who had the symptoms crop up while driving from Boston to Prince Edward Island in late September 2012. “I know looking back now that I really needed to take the time to get my strength back. I know I wasn’t where I had been before the surgery when I came back [to play].

“You’re a hockey player so you’re going to come back as soon as you can if you’re deep into the playoffs. You want to come back and do everything you can to help your team. But it can be a serious thing, you know? The blood clots. [Stamkos] is a great player with so many great years ahead of him. You’ve got to take the time to let your body heal and do things the right way so you won’t have issues down the road with it.”

Nobody questions Stamkos’ toughness after he returned to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Bruins in 2013 after a puck practically tore his nose off, and he’ll return if things fall into place. But here’s hoping valor doesn’t get in the way of common sense for a tough hockey player in Stamkos who should heed the words of McQuaid, who has been in the exact same difficult position.

DEFENSEMEN FOR SALE

It’s common knowledge to those that have covered the Bruins the past 10 years that Don Sweeney and the B’s previously took a run at puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk when he was traded from the Colorado Avalanche. The puck-moving defenseman was instead shipped to the St. Louis Blues, where he developed into an All-Star defenseman who’s still playing in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Dallas Stars.

But the former BU Terrier might not be sticking around in St. Louis for much longer.

According to an industry source, the Bruins “are well-positioned to take a run at Shattenkirk” because of the D-man’s desire to play in the Eastern Conference if/when he is dealt by the Blues this summer. Shattenkirk doesn’t have a no-trade clause per se, but it might sweeten the trade return for St. Louis if they move him to a new club confident he’ll sign an extension with them.

It also feels very much like something classy Blues GM Doug Armstrong would do in moving a good St. Louis soldier like Shattenkirk to a preferred NHL destination.  

With the Blues up against the salary cap with both David Backes and Jaden Schwartz up for new deals on July 1, Armstrong will be looking to deal a defenseman given the emergence of 22-year-old blueliner Colton Parayko. With Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson all holding no-trade clauses, it doesn’t leave a lot of viable options for tradable assets from the quality D-men surplus aside from the 27-year-old Shattenkirk.

The one sticking point for the Bruins will be price.

St. Louis and each of the other 28 NHL teams know that the Bruins are desperate for help on their back end, and that will be reflected in the premium price tag. Think something along the lines of the return to the Coyotes for a similar player in Keith Yandle: defenseman John Moore, top prospect Anthony Duclair, a lottery-protected first-round draft pick in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2015.

What’s the Bruins equivalent? Perhaps Zach Trotman, Ryan Spooner and a conditional first/second round pick based on whether Shattenkirk ends up signing a contract extension to stick around Boston beyond next season.

It makes perfect sense that the former BU defenseman could be one of the big blueline names moved this summer and the Bruins would register as a perfect fit given their need for a top-pairing puck-mover able to play 20-plus minutes a night with skill, production, precision and plenty of big-game poise.

Shattenkirk has all of those things, and would perhaps begin to allow Cam Neely and Sweeney to start patching together a back end that destroyed the Bruins’ playoff hopes last season.

ONE-TIMERS

*I got a kick out of the Twitter puritans that swore Jeremy Roenick let a curse word slip on the air in his Thursday night analysis of Game 1 between the Capitals and Penguins on NBCSN. Both Roenick and Mike Milbury were critical of the sloppiness and lack of defensive structure between the two teams, and JR called it basically a “shinny game” out on the ice.

A lot of people thought he said something that sounds like “shinny” and might have also aptly described the action from a defensive purist standpoint. For those outside the hockey bubble, shinny is basically a pickup hockey game with no penalties, no real hitting and just rushes up and down the ice where offense is a premium.  

So, Roenick definitely said “shinny” in this instance, and I know this because I’ve also said “shinny” on the air only to have people think I was damning the torpedoes and swearing on the air. I actually had one viewer sending me angry emails that I was swearing while he and his son watched me on TV before I explained what I had actually said.

So once and for all its “shinny,” people. Get your minds out of the gutter!

*Speaking of the Capitals, they now become the heavy favorites to win the Stanley Cup in this humble hockey writer’s opinion with Western Conference heavyweights Los Angeles, Chicago and Anaheim now all eliminated from the postseason. Barry Trotz’s boys would be the first Eastern Conference team since the Bruins in 2011 to win the Cup if they can fully accomplish the mission at hand.

*I think it’s time to officially retire the “Darth Quaider” nickname for Adam McQuaid with the Bruins signing Czech goaltender Daniel “Darth” Vladar to a three-year, entry-level contract. There can be only one Sith Lord per NHL team. Besides, McQuaid still has never even seen the Star Wars movies despite the moniker. So the Force is not strong in that one.

Remember, keep shooting pucks at the net and good things are bound to happen. 

 

Turner wants to return, but other teams will be in pursuit, too

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Turner wants to return, but other teams will be in pursuit, too

WALTHAM, Mass. – Evan Turner will have a number of teams in pursuit of him this summer, all presenting different opportunities to win along with much fatter salaries than what he was looking at two years ago.
 
But Turner is hoping for his free agency to be a short process that ends with him returning to Boston.
 
“It [free agency] starts July First, hopefully it’s over July First,” Turner said.
 
When asked about his preferences for a team next season, Turner has a couple items that stack up near the top of his list – and money wasn’t one of them.
 
 “I want to go somewhere and have an opportunity to win,” he said. “Money’s cool, but I don’t want to sit there getting our brains beaten in and doing all that. I want to go somewhere ideally where the staff and front office [are] big on winning. Hopefully it’s back here. Other than that, winning and great fit are going to be the most important things.”
 
Regardless of where Turner winds up playing next season, he has positioned himself for a significant pay raise after accepting Boston’s two-year, $6.7 million contract he signed in 2014.
 
Several teams will make a run at Turner with most likely to offer him a contract with an annual salary of at least $10 million.
 
“It’s going to be way better than it was two years ago,” Turner said of his free agency. “It should be cool. I haven’t really thought about it. I don’t know really what I think about during the day, but I know it’s not that. I’ll once again stay out of trouble until then and try to keep bettering myself and growing.”
  
It is that approach to the game that has served Turner well during his two seasons in Boston.

When the Celtics signed the former No. 2 overall pick, there were plenty of questions as to how he would fit in considering how things didn’t work out in Philadelphia or Indiana.
 
But in time, Turner proved himself to be a valuable asset for the Celtics with his ability to score off the bench as well as be a facilitator offensively.
 
His play off the bench this season was so strong that he was among the top vote-getters for the league’s Sixth Man of the year award, won by Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford.
 
And while the decision as to whether he’s back will ultimately come down to his camp and the Celtics coming to terms, there will be at least one member of the Celtics organization – coach Brad Stevens – who will be pushing for a deal to get done so that his favorite player in the fourth quarter of games remains with the team.
 
“It’s definitely huge to be out there in deciding moments,” Turner said. “Once again, you try your best to not let your team down, not let your coach down.”
 
Still, even with the Celtics having a clear interest in him returning and Turner’s desire to remain with the team, Turner knows getting a deal done won’t be an easy thing to do.
 
“It’s a lot of stuff going on now,” Turner said. “I understand it and I understand what’s going to occur with the Celtics and the draft picks and the young guys they want to develop and get a superstar, I comprehend it.”