Chicago Blackhawks – 5 out of 6 ain’t bad


Chicago, IL — Meatloaf was right two out of three ain’t bad so I guess five out of six ain’t bad either. Are the Chicago Blackhawks in 2018-2019 season perfect? No but that’s ok they don’t need to be. Yes they are eking out wins and points but that is ok.

There are so many positives I see. Starting with a believe and a swagger that won this core three Cups. It all starts with the captain who so far has figured out what I think maybe Brandon Saad needs to do and in fact the entire team.

GET TO THE NET! You can fly by hang out to the sides and if they let you park you booties in front of the opposition goalies. It you can deflect or tip at least you will screen so hopefully something gets past. I mean you have to occupy real estate on ice why not there.

Henri Jokiharju I love this kid and I think Coach Quenneville does too with good reason. He is already playing years ahead of his young age. When I saw him shut down Tarasenko over the weekend, I was like this kid is ready for prime time and will only get better. Welcome to the UC Hank.

Keith and Seabrook look faster and fresher which is a good thing. Brandon Manning will only get better as he gets used to the Hawks defensive systems and his partners.

The good things from last year’s team haven’t changed. Patrick Kane is still Patrick Kane. Alex Debrincat is still learning but that shot of his is lethal.  Keep blasting kid please from anywhere, everywhere.

Dominik Kahun is still feeling his way on North American ice. He has fit on that first line surprisingly well.

Nick Schmaltz is still developing and will only get better. I still would like to see more shooting Nick because no one is expecting it. Keep em guessing.

If the Blackhawks can survive and work on their coverage in their own end they will have a chance. That has to be cleaned up and they know it.

As does the special teams. That power play is ugly. Guys the passing needs to be crisper and there needs to be more movement it is too stagnant and easy to defend. It is sucking the life out of the offense. Keep working.

In general forecheck and puck retrieval could be better and yes sometimes you have to dump in and go get it. It you are getting jammed in the neutral zone pass to areas and use the bloody boards please.

All in all though so far I see a huge difference in what matters most, attitude and belief. The Kane-Matthews exchange probably exemplified this best. Last year after Matthew scored the first time everyone would have just said oh well not our night. This year different story.

Last years team gave up to easily and had no resiliency. This year it is a different story which is good. The Hawks are no longer feared as they once were but that’s ok have them fear you in new ways.

Maybe even champions need to see adversity doesn’t kill you. It only makes you stronger. Yes you are older but with age comes wisdom use it. You know how to use those boards, the glass and goalie pads. Everyone knows the scouting reports on goalies as the opposition knows your goalie’s weakness. The core is still a core that knows how to win if they can just keep believing that who knows what can happen.

There have only been three games and yes adversity will come that is a certainty, but I believe this years Hawks are better prepared to deal with the rough ride.

If Crawford is able to come back and play. I think the entire team owes that guy another Stanley Cup maybe not this year but soon. Then again why not this year? GO HAWKS!

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Serving Apple Pie at IIHF World Championships


Chicago, Il –Yesterday was the start of the IIHF Men’s World Championships and anyone who follows me knows I absolutely love International hockey and all the events from Jrs levels to Men’s to Women’s.

Let me just say that yesterday’s game between old rivals of USA vs Canada did not disappoint. What a way to open going to a shootout.

For those of you that don’t know Team USA is captianed by our own Patty Kane and he is not alone he has with him the Cat, Connor Murphy and Jordan Oesterle from the Blackhawks.

In looking over Team USA’s roster I initially really really liked it, after yesterday I love it. It is what I imagined it would be with a sprinkling of very young players, NHL young players and veterans. It has skill and speed mixed with size.

The only area I was concerned was the defense and the Goaltending. After yesterday my apologies Keith Kinkaid I was wrong you were fabulous.

The USA did not have their legs in the first period and were slow to pucks and spent almost the entire game in their own zone.

If not for Kinkaid the game could have been over after the first. Instead they came out only down 2-1 which was a miracle in itself with how badly they were dominated in the first.

Anders Lee got things rolling with Alex DeBrincat with the secondary assist to end the first.

The second period the USA found their legs and their battle levels. They not only tied they at one point took the lead on goals by Dylan Larkin and Johnny Gaudreau.

The Larkin Goal saw Jordan Oesterle with an apple and the Johnny Gaudreau goal was set up by a gorgeous cross ice pass from Patrick Kane. I mean seeing these two together on a line wow, just wow.

After the Game Kane said he thought the team could play better and I agree they will with more familiarity.

I liked that Coach Jeff Blashill had Murphy paired with Oesterle on defense so there was some commonality there with the Blackhawks.

Kane and Gaudreau you can see just think the game the same way so there was sort of instant chemistry there. Alex DeBrincat can just flat-out play and shoot that puck regardless.

The game went to OT and both the USA and Canada took penalties but it was Canada that suffered the most from the infraction when Connor McDavid tripped Gaudreau with .16 seconds left.

In IIHF the rule is even if the game ends the player who commits the penalty can not shoot in the shoot out so McDavid could not shoot for Canada which might have made the difference.

Personally I love this rule and the NHL should adopt although I’m not sure how many games this year went to shoot out in the NHL still I would love to see this implemented.

Canadian shooters were Barzal, Eberle, Shenn, RNH, Horvat with Eberle going twice as you can repeat shooters in IIHF. Eberle connected once and that was it.

USA shooters were Atkinson, Kane, Gaudreau, Hughes and Larkin. It was Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets that connected twice on absolutely sick moves that sealed the win for the USA along with Kinkaid stopping almost everyone and everything.

I think Kane is right they need to get better acquainted with each other as a team.

The defense needs to tighten up a bit and keep the pace up and transition quickly. Kane was backchecking and that will be needed from everyone especially against teams like Canada and Russia and Sweden.

All in all what a way to kick things off as Canada is in Group B with the USA so getting the extra point was huge.

Other Blackhawks that played yesterday was Artem Anisimov for Team Russia and he had a goal and looked his typical Arty Party self in the opposition’s house area in front of the goal.

Also playing for Russia was Hawks Prospect Maxim Shalunov who had a goal himself on an absolute snipe. Shalunov was drafted by the Blackhawks in the 4th round in 2011.  Shalunov is under contract in the KHL for another couple of years I believe to the Sibir Novosibirsk. Hey bud please come over to the Hawks OK?

Anyhow Russia trounced France 7-0

Erik Gustafsson was playing for Sweden no points but Sweden won handily 5-0 over Belarus.

Recently signed Dominik Kahun was playing for Germany but no points. Kahun was playing from the Munich Red Bull before the Blackhawks signed him to an ELC after his great performance at the Olympics.

The USA takes on home country Denmark today at 1:00 PM CT and should be fun with the Denmark winning yesterday.

Highlights of the USA game are linked below and all stats can be gotten from the https://www.new-iihf.com/en/events/2018/wm/

USA keep improving and Good Luck to all the Blackhawks.

GO USA!

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Chicago Blackhawks – Casting Central Minnesota Wild


Chicago, IL — Next up I am looking at the Minnesota Wild who Hawks fans are probably very familiar with from not only being a Central Division rival but a post season foe for several years.

While the Hawks have had their way with the Wild in the post season in the recent past, this year the Wild had the upper hand in the regular season winning the series with the Hawks 3-2 and making the post season.

Again we see the Hawks only got 4 point out of a potential of 10 so not even 50% which won’t land you in the playoffs.

If there is any consolation the Wild are now out in five games having run into a very talented, young Winnipeg Jets team.

Like the Hawks I look for the Wild to making changes this offseason if they want to compete in the Central. I would also say they are one of the oldest teams in the NHL certainly in the Central.1

All the previous teams I looked at even including the Hawks are all younger than the Wild with the Avs being the youngest in the NHL.

But like the Hawks the Wild have contracts that are pretty much not movable and also involve their core players like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu who are all this side of 30.

Matt Cullen who is in his 40’s will most likely retire.

The Wild is one team I considered last summer as one that really got hurt by the Las Vegas expansion draft. They moved Erik Haula and prospect Alex Tuch  and lost a lot of speed and youth in the process.

Both players have done well with the Golden Knights and have played key roles this year in Vegas and contributed to that team’s success. So we see all teams have what I would call moments where they want a “do-over”.

The lesson to be learned for all teams is before you give up on young talents you better be truly sure they can not help your team, but I will move on because all teams make mistakes in judgements and assessments of players that is easy to see in hindsight.

The Wild also have to think of their future with 9 UFA/RFA coming up in 2018. They are : 5 Forwards incl Jason Zucker and Matt Cullen; 3D Dumba being one & 1 G Niklas Svedberg. In 2018 both Zucker and Dumba each had 2mil contracts and are both in for raises.

Nick Seeler D coming off ELC so if the Wild want to keep him which I’m sure they do they will have to ante up for him as well. Ah got to love that Cap.

.The Wild are already cap strapped depending on where the Cap rises to someone on the team may need to be moved so they may not have been able to afford Haula anyway.

A couple of years back the Wild moved on from Mike Yeo who is now coaching the St. Louis Blues which I will look at later in this series and went with Bruce Boudreau so the Wild style has changed a bit.

I also heard what I thought was an interesting comment on NHL Network sorry I don’t recall who said it but it was essentially the Wild have been so consumed with focusing on the Chicago Blackhawks rightfully so, they dispatched them three years in a row in the playoffs, that they did forget to focus on the other Central Divisions teams like the Jets, Predators ect.. valuable lessons learned for all here.

So Lets look at the Wild from Offense to Defense.

Nine players on the team had above 10% shooting percentage.2 Overall as a team they were 10% in team shooting.  35% of their shots were missed and missed wide so they were probably shooting for posts.

What I found interesting was the largest % of goals came from wristers 55%.

The rest of the shots like snap shots, tipped, deflections, slap shots and backhanders were all evenly pretty evenly used.

Snapshots and backhands were 10% of their goals with Slap shots and tips @9% and finally deflections were 6%.

So again in summary so far the Avs use deceptive shots and Dallas uses a variety of shots which the Wild are more like the Stars in using variety with more of an emphasis on wrist shots.

The Wild ended the regular season ranked 11th in goals for and 27th in Shot per game and  16th in Face offs. So they are pretty accurate overall as a team in shooting so you probably don’t want to give them too much room or get the stick in their way.

Special Teams middling 18th PP  – 13th PK. The Wild were also one of the worse Corsi teams so again they are not a puck possession team.

Defensively The Wild ended the regular season ranked 11 th in GA and in SAG last year so pretty consistent here. I would say they have changed a bit from a trapping team to a more of a block and collapsing team to the house like the Avs.

The Wild were last overall in hits so they are not going to muscle you and 5th overall in block shots. Overall they are pretty balanced between offense and defense

Now lets look at their future.

The Wild did not have any first round picks in 2017 or 2013 and I already said their 2014 pick in now in Vegas. Their 2012 pick was their only top ten first round pick so you can bet they will be holding on to Dumba. The bolded picks are playing on the Wild currently.

None Kunin-F Eriksson-EK-F Tuch-F None Dumba-D

Prospects Kirill Kaprizov is currently in KHL with CSKA down in series 1-3 going for the Gagrin Cup.  He is a highly skilled offensive talent that is probably NHL ready but he’s under contract with CSKA til 2020 so luckily we will not be seeing him in Central any time soon. He has Panarin potential so lets hope he stays in the KHL.

Mike Reilly – the UFA they signed remember him? The Hawks wanted him too but the Wild won him and have since flipped him to the Montreal Canadians for a 5th rd draft pick in 2019 so there you go. He was signed by the Wild as a free agent after his junior season at the University of Minnesota. He had been previously drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 4th round of the 2011 draft.  Columbus tried to sign him, but Reilly exercised his draft rights to expire to declare free agency.

Luke, Kunin –  has tremendous upside up the middle if he can return to form after suffering an ACL injury which sidelined him half the year. He spent time in the AHL Wild to get conditioning and back up to speed. He is a scorer so look out.

Jordan Greenway – Is just a physical beast & true power forward and something the Wild lack and could sorely use. He will help them with possession and board battles for sure.  He elected to leave NCAA Boston Univ and turn pro this year.

Louis Delpedio – Offensive defenseman with tons of skill to power plays. Probably needs work on the defensive side as most rookies do. Scouting reports say he has a very good shot and could assist the wild on special teams.

Eriksson-EK – a big Swedish center who may need time in the NHL to get used to the North American game and style. He is still young, and his skillset is very desirable and hopefully he will only get better for the Wild.

So the Wild have some decisions to make as to what will get them over the hump because now it isn’t just the Hawks they have to worry about but the entire central and how does their style translate let alone transcend which they so far have not been successful in figuring out.

Next up will be taking a look at the Nashville Predators.

  1. Taken from The Athletic article by James Mirtle entitled Sizing up the NHL: 2017-2018 NHL teams by age, height and weight.
  2. taken from http://www.foxsports.com/nhl/Minnesota-Wild-team-stats

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Casting Central Dallas Stars


Chicago, IL — Moving on in this series of taking a look at all of the teams in the Central Division of the Western Conference of the NHL, this week it is the Dallas Stars.

The Hawks have not done well against the Stars and this past year their record was 0-2-2 so to only get two points out of a potential of eight explains why the Hawks are now golfing.

The Hawks have to figure out the teams they face the most in order to have any chances of returning to the post season.

The Stars are a difficult team to assess as recently coach Hitchcock said he would not be returning but retiring.

This means whoever will be behind the Stars bench will bring their own philosophies and game plans. So for right now this is based on the past but everything could change.

In fact in 2017 the Stars did change dramatically from the run and gun style under Lindy Ruff to a more defensive team under Hitchcock.

Will we see a return to the run & gun or stay with the defense first mentality or a more balanced approach since this team like the Hawks didn’t make the playoff either.

It is Hard to say at this point without know who will be staging this rodeo but what we can look at is the Stars current make-up and their future along with what their style was this past year.

They are a fast team as well like the Avs not as fast but fast which again lately has given the Hawks problems because you have to be able to skate with these teams for 60 minutes.

Their core is Tyler Seguin, Jaime Benn, Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg, Ben Bishop.

43 mil is tied up next year in those players and also including Jason Spezza and Mark Methot . The contracts of Spezza and Methot will be up in 2019 as will Seguins which he is due to a big pay day so that is something to keep in mind.

On the contracts front  the next couple of years 2018 & 2019 they have 8 UFA/RFA – 4 F incl Antoine Roussel 3 D Hamhuis, Johns & Pateryn 1 G Lethonen with a 5.9 mil cap hit.

For a Cap strapped team like the Stars if that comes off they will have significant money to make roster changes.

So this should be watched going forward. I would be surprised if they did not keep Roussel he really is the only agitator this team has so they probably will resign him. The others I can’t be sure what they will do on.

OK lets look at the current Stars from Forward to Defense and their current playing style.

When you think of the Stars you do think of that run and gun style that is best not to try to keep up with however this year that was not the case under Hitchcock.

They were surprisingly ranked 18th in Goals for at year end and 21th in shots per game. What is not surprising is they finished 4th overall in Face offs but this team is very strong up middle.

So if you want to play the possession game like the Hawks do, know you are probably not going to start off with the puck with this team unless you drastically improve your Face offs but that is not likely. At season end the Hawks finished 20th in FO.

Now as a team one of their strengths is their shooting percentage as a team which is around 9% over as a team. 7 players on their team were above 10% shooting percentage. I’m sure you can guess who but if you can’t see the link below taken from Fox Sports. 1

The Stars shooting 9% overall but, the interesting thing is their goals came from wrist shots by a heavy margin – wristers accounted for  49%of their total goals scored, 14%  snap shots, 15% were tipped, 7% slap and 13% were backhands so as I said the Stars use all the crayons in the box.

What this tells me is they get their shots off quickly and to a certain degree closer to the net. Surprisingly they only had two goals that were deflected in.

So I would say whereas the Avs use deceptive shots the Stars use variation so you are never really sure what they will hit you with as a goalie or defense which makes them hard to defend against because shots could be coming in many different fashions and speeds and from almost anywhere.

You literally have to be prepared for everything and have very quick reactions and active sticks and proper lane positioning to have a prayer with this team.

Now defense which has historically been their no pun intended burr in their side became their strength this year under Hitchcock but that isn’t too much of a shock.

They ended the year 7th overall in Goals allowed and what is what I would say so unStars like  they had Hits 10th overall more than the Winnepeg Jets. Yeah go figure who was this team Ha. They also ranked 8th overall in blocked shots.

So we can see there was a concerted effort this year to focus on the defensive side. Now if they can put all of these things together with their offensive studs look out. Plus they have some really good prospects in the wings coming up.

Like the Avs D they are blocking a ton of shots so it is really hard to get shots through to their goalie and while Ben Bishop has not been a thorn in the Hawks side like Varlamov it is because they have not faced him as much.

As with the Avs, you probably have to fake shots or do a lot of shot passes to get past them. Possibly plays initiated from behind their net may work or double deflections and tips if you can get them through all the bodies.

Their special teams is what I would call middling and is their Corsi. For special teams they were ranked 18th on the PP and  14th PK – middle at best.

Now onto the future and their prospects.

Below is their first round selections from 2017 – 2012 the names in green were selected in the top 10 in the first round. The Red means the player is currently playing in their AHL affiliate team the Dallas Stars during the regular season and the bolded names mean they were regulars in the Dallas Stars lineup.

Heiskanen-D Tufte-F Guryanov-F Honka-D Nichushkin-D Faksa-D

 

Val Nichushkin is currently in the KHL’s CSKA Moscow and are going for the Gregarin Cup. He is expected to come back to the Stars for the 2018-19 season. Where he will fit who can say.

Ryan Tufte is a MN Duluth Jr. I have no idea if he will be coming to the Stars this year but his NCAA team just won the National Championship. The scouting report on him is he is a big power forward with great speed, good shot and even better hands. Great just what the Stars need another skilled forward.

And if you think that is bad news their 2017 first round pick Miro Heiskanen is an elite skater a two-way Dman who  played in FEL Liiga vs men already. The Scouting report on him is he makes good decision-making never puts team at risk and puck mover which sounds exactly like a perfect fit for todays NHL bluelines.

Also selected in the first round in 2017 was Goalie Jake Oettinger currently with Boston U in his jr. year. He played this year in the Bean Pot and did really well.

Denis Guryanov  was playing with their AHL affiliate Texas Stars but originally comes from KHL/ MHL. The scouting report on him is a  highly skilled forward with speed and good puck handling needs D work which means he may need some more time in the AHL.

Again though we see through the Stars show how important getting high slotted first round players are and how they impact a team’s overall success and future.

these are just some of the gems that the Central can look forward to seeing from the Stars in the future.

It will be interesting to see if their style of play changes at all with a new coach and the directions they are headed. So next year the Dallas Stars will be somewhat of a mystery going in.

Next look will be at the Minnesota Wild.

All the scouting reports were taken mostly from Elite Prospects. www.eliteprospects.com

  1. taken from https://www.foxsports.com/nhl/dallas-stars-team-stats

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Chicago Blackhawks – Casting Central Colorado Avalanche


Chicago, IL — I said in my earlier look at the Blackhawks future I would be taking a look at all of the teams in the Central Division of the Western Conference of the NHL.

The Hawks have not in recent years done very well against any of the Central teams and that could be just seeing them so often.

I think in order for the Hawks to be successful in the future they have to figure out the Central teams to have any hopes of playoffs and in playoffs since the NHL went to this divisional thing which I hate but I regress.

I think you need to understand your opponents as well as yourself to make the right course decisions or as right as you can as there are always variables. Plus I wanted to do this myself to get a better understanding of what the Hawks face not only now but in the future.

This year the Avalanche could be a model for the Blackhawks in their turnaround from cellar to playoffs. It can be done with tweaking.

This year the Avalanche took the series from the Hawks 3-1 so they are a team to be reckoned with and not taken lightly. Last night they clinched a playoff berth against the Blues in what was not really a close game.

They are a fast young team and I do mean fast which lately has given the Hawks problems and will give the Central problems as a whole.

Their core is Goalie Semyon Varlamov and Forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and their D is anchored by Tyson Barrie and Eric Johnson. These players are all under contracts for quit a bit of time.

Speaking of contracts the next couple of years 2018 & 2019 they have a lot and I do mean a lot of UFA/RFA contracts coming due which could impact the complexion of the supporting cast.

2018 there are 10 contracts up mostly Defensemen and goalies Bernier and Hammond. The Forwards probably not returning are Nail Yakapov remember him? Yeah he’s been a healthy scratch and his contract is up this year so I doubt he will be returning.

Matt Nieto is due but I think they will be re-signing him. I could be wrong but I bet we see him back in Denver.

Ok lets look at the current Avs from Forward to Defense and their playing style.

I would say the Avs are like an Avalanche offensively. They are quick strike and crash the net. They use speed to get through the neutral zone along with what I’d like to see the Hawks do more of bank passing to get away from pressure in their own zone.

The Avs don’t want to be in their zone much which I agree get out quickly they also hoist the puck out just so it is out of their zone which is opposite to the Hawks possession play.

The Avs are horrible Corsi in fact they are a nightmare so they are definitely not a puck possession team like I said quick strike and they have the skating speed to get to the opposition net quickly.

Now as a team one of their strengths is their shooting percentage as a team which is around 10%, I think playoff teams need to be at that level to compete but that’s just my philosophy.

They have nine players with 10% shooting avg or over.1 I didn’t count Matt Duchene since he is now in Ottawa. The players with the high percentages are the usual suspects see link below for specifics.

Also it is interesting from NHL stats page the shots they take mostly are wristers and backhands, sneaky sneaky sneaky which could explain their high percentages. The art of deception coupled with where they are shooting from right by the net leads to success for them.

Offense is the Avs calling card they are ranked 10th overall in the league on GF while 30th in shots taken the Hawks could learn some from them on making your opportunities count. They definitely are not a perimeter offense.

Now defense is entirely different story they are ranked 14th which isn’t bad considering but their D is in transition I would say. they do give up a lot of shots against they are 27th in the NHL how they survive this is they are basically what I would call block and collapse.

Meaning they block a ton of shots both forwards and Dmen so it is really hard to get shots through to their goalies and they also collapse to the house to defend so it is really hard to get shots through.

You probably have to fake shots or do a lot of shot passes to get past them. Possibly plays initiated from behind their net may work or double deflections and tips if you can get them through all the bodies.

To stop them offensively you need to slow them down and if they bank pass try to anticipate where the bounces will go. I know not easy but with practice it can be done.

They are also a very good special teams team. In fact that is where they thrive both sides so taking penalties against them not a good idea and getting penalties don’t be surprised if you don’t score.

Hawks fans all know their Goalie Semyon Varlamov has been a pain in the side and seems to have the Hawks number historically so film work on him maybe a lot of film work not sure who is good against him I leave that to the Hawks to figure out.

Now onto the future and their prospects.

If any team illustrates the importance of getting your first round draft picks right, the impact they can have and utilizing them it is the Avalanche.

They have drafted the following from 2017 – 2013 in the first round. All of those bolded are playing for them now and were draft top 10 with MacKinnon drafted first overall in 2013 and we all see what impact he has and will for years to come.

Makar-D Jost-F Rantanen-F Bleckley-F MacKinnon-F

Now Makar is going back to school at UMass and Bleckley is gone in Boedker deal to Coyotes.

Where they came from Jost is from NCAA Univ of North Dakota, Rantanen is from FEL Liiga TPS and MacKinnon is from the Q Halifax Mooseheads.

Now I would be remiss to not also mention Gabriel Landeskog was drafted 2nd overall 2011 from OHL and SHL Djugardens. So we see the Avs like their Canadaians, Swedes and Finns too.

I spent more time on the Defenseman since that is where their weakness is and where they probably will look to improve in the future.

They recently signed Connor Timmons out of Canadian OHL Saulte Saint Marie Greyhounds to an ELC. He was drafted 2nd round in 2017. He could join the team he was a point per game player despite being considered a defensive D man.

Samuel Girard was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2nd rd 47th overall in 2016 draft and we see from last night’s game he is already paying dividends. He came in that Duchene, Turris deal and he is someone to watch he could make a real impact on their blue line. Highly skilled offensive D man with great vision.

The Avs could be even more ahead of the curve had Will Butcher not opted for FA and went to the NJ Devils.

See Hawks fans it’s not just us this happens to although the Avs got Alex Kerfoot in return which I explain below.

Butcher played at the U of Denver with Blackhawks prospect Blake Hillman hmm can we recruit him?  Just kidding Devils no really HA.

The Avs also have some prospects in the ECHL Nicolas Meloche and Mason Geertsen in the AHL Rampage so the Avs maybe improving significantly on D we will have to see.

I should also mention that two forwards on their current roster making an impact are J. T. Compher who was drafted in 2013 by the Sabres in the 2nd rd 25th overall as part of the Ryan O’Reilly, Jaime McGinn trade along with D Nikita Zodorov coming back to Colorado.

They also got Alex Kerfoot who was drafted in 2012 by the Devils and like Butcher exercised his FA option so basically the Avs and Devils swapped their picks.

So as we see the Avalanche are an evolving and changing team that the Blackhawks and the rest of the Central will have to keep an eye on.

It will be interesting to see if their style of play changes at all on the defensive side which could be determined with how they do against the Nashville Predators in the first round of this years playoffs.

Next look will be at the Dallas Stars.

  1. taken from https://www.foxsports.com/nhl/colorado-avalanche-team-stats

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Chicago Blackhawks – Future Central


Chicago, IL — A lot has gone wrong with the Chicago Blackhawks this year and when that happens one is usually compelled to look back to try to find what exactly went wrong.

Well I have never been usual I am looking forward because honestly I need time to digest everything that went wrong and come up with some solutions.

So for now I will be looking ahead and not just for the Blackhawks but for their competition in the Central as well.

I will be looking at all the teams currently in the Central but wanted to start for now with the Hawks and it just so happens they are first up alphabetically by City as well. So my next look will be at the Colorado Avalanche.

I think it is important to not only know they self but to understand your opponents and their strengths especially in the hardest division in the NHL. This division will only be getting harder with an influx of new skilled talents for all the teams.

Below is a chart showing for the past five years who the Hawks have drafted and where. The Bolded names means those players have or currently are playing with the Chicago Blackhawks and the rounds in which they were selected.

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
1 Jokiharju-D None None Schmaltz-F Hartman-F
2 Mitchell-D DeBrincat-F Knott – F None Dahlstrom-D
Krys – D
Kayumov-F
3 Altybarmakyan-F Peeters- G Gilbert – D Iacopelli-F Hayden-F
Barrett – F Starrett -F
4 Soderlund – F Carlsson-D Shea – D Olofsson-F Norell-D
Laavainen – D Noel – F Motte-F
5 Foo – F From-F Bondra – F Snuggerud-D Johnson-F
Galvas-D Soderberg-D
6 none Hillman-D Radke- F Sikura-F Louis – F
Tuulola-D Nalimov – G
7 Ess- D Ryczek – D Dahlstrom-F Ramsey-F Press-D

 

We can see the importance of first round draft picks as all of them have played for the Hawks. I did not go back to 2012 but there was one Teuvo Teravainen (long sigh) who is currently a force with the Carolina Hurricanes.

He actually helped the Hawks win a Cup in 2015. Also in that year Vinny Hinostroza was drafted in the sixth round and he has been a spark plug this year for the team and will be a part of not only their future but their rise again to the top of the division.

It is the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz, Vinny Hinostroza, David Kampf and others that will lead the charge.

Not that the core of this team is washed up but long-term it will be the kids that will determine the Hawks future that’s just the reality of it.

Even ones who are not on the team yet like Henri Jokiharju and recent sign ups like Denver U’s Blake Hillman and Northeastern’s Dylan Sikura. I did not highlight them above as five games is not enough games they are just getting their skates wet.

The other interesting thing is where the Hawks have drafted from in the first rounds namely Finnish teams Jokerit for Teravainen before the team went to the KHL or US NCAA University North Dakota for Schmaltz and the OHL Plymouth Whalers  for Ryan Hartman.

The Hawks certainly like their Finns, Swedes, Canadians and Americans there is no denying that.

The Hawks have also taken players from Denmark, Russia and Czech Republic so the Hawks will find you if you have the potential no matter where you are.

Keep in mind also the Blackhawks were drafting very late in the first rounds that is the tradeoff for success. Hartman was indeed drafted dead last in the first round.

Speaking of Hartman we will have to see how Victor Ejdsell works out as basically he should be substituted in that Hartman slot since the trade.

Keep in mind he is coming from SHL and big ice so give the guy some time esp on the D side.

The Hawks though put him right on the first line of fire with Kane and Saad centering them no less and I think that is a great move. They need to determine how these new players will fit in the current roster and how their games translate or where they need coaching.

I look for Sikura to get a baptism under fire as well which is great for the team and these players development. But fans patience please they will make mistakes, I would be shocked if they didn’t and that is ok do it now in meaningless games and learn and move on.

It is also obvious a lack of number 1 in 2016 & 2015 could be impactful set back to the Hawks if not for the gift from the hockey Gods in 2016 landing Alex DeBrincat in the 2nd round. Thanks to the rest of the teams being afraid of lack of size Chicago will be glad for years to come.

This year with the team having a horrendous year one of the bright spots is having a high draft round pick in 2018 and possibly a draft lottery bonanza, not that that is what the Hawks or their fans wanted but hey at this point take any positives.

As we will see more from viewing other teams in the Central high draft picks can turn an organization around you just need to look at the Avs, Jets and Stars and in a way it was inevitable that the Hawks would take a back step considering where they were drafting from as opposed to the rest of the division.

No excuses that is how it is for all the teams but the Hawks have to their credit realized what has happened and are taking steps in the right direction to address this.

This past weekend I watched a lot of NCAA Hockey while others were watching basketball, I said I was unusual and I did see Sikura, Hillman, Mitchell, Shea, Krys, Gilbert and Starrett.

Believe it or not also got a chance to catch a SHL game and caught forward Tim Söderlund of Skellefteå AIK , Oh my not sure how his game translates to NHL but I liked what I saw what a dynamo. If he turns out to be another Arvidsson look out.

But back to the NCAA prospects Sikura has a ton of skill and could turn out to be a difference maker. Like all young players the Dzone is where the kids need to work and improve.

Remember even DeBrincat had to work on that and still could improve even with how great he is in O zone. No one said NHL was easy if it was it wouldn’t be as great a game.

Hillman, Shea, Krys and Gilbert are all D man and Hawks fans have patience help is coming but remember defense takes a while to develop you don’t want to rush it. Forwards you can push quicker but D takes time to bake. I liked what I did see though they all are puck moving and pretty solid in their own end.

Let’s face past years the Hawks biggest struggles were defensive leaving the goalie on an island. I’m not saying this is all defenseman’s fault forwards are guility as well but I do think the Hawks defense needed to get younger, faster and more mobile and better skating abilities to keep up with the likes of the Laines, McKinnons, Seguins ect..

Also on the defensive side  Finnish defensive prospect Joni Tuulola on Monday was signed by the Hawks.  22-year-old Tuulola will report to AHL Rockford so he can get acclimated to the smaller ice.

I have a feeling that next year Jokiharju will be joining the Hawks and yes I know I said D men take longer but I love this kids attitude he left his native Finland to come to the WHL Portland WinterHawks to learn North American hockey. Now if that doesn’t say I want to be an NHLer I don’t know what does. If he spends time in the AHL I doubt it will be for long.

The scouting report of Jokiharju is he has been described as “the new age defenseman who has good feet, stick, and high skill in playing the game at the fastest pace.” Sounds perfect to me.

Now again the jump to the NHL is huge they have never faced players this fast or skilled so give them time and again they will make mistakes. Hillman is signed on with the Hawks so we will get to see him along with Sikura and Ejdsell and I would suggest if you are interested at all in the Hawks future to take in  these games if you can.

I also think for the forwards getting a chance to work with Patrick Kane invaluable so I hope they can take advantage and as Dylan Sikura said in an interview just be a sponge – smart guy.

Now back to the European circuit I have to admit I have not seen any of the players there too much. I would say the Russian players need more seasoning and not even sure if they are wanting to come here which is why the hesitation with drafting Russian players so we will have to see on them.

Mathis From from Denmark is playing the SHL and I am really anxious to see what he can do here. He is a solid two-way player that pays as much attention to back checking and transitioning to the offense from defense but not sure if he will be coming over either. He is what I would call a true power forward in the making but he needs time probably in AHL to adjust to small ice.

I think another blessing is that these last games are great since they are better than a training camp these younglings are getting to play in real NHL games against divisional foes who have everything to play for as they are all in playoff hunts or need to keep getting points.

So the kids will see the competitive side and how strong you have to be. I say get as many youths in now and so they see what this NHL is all about and also to coach them up if need.

So see Blackhawks nation it is not all doom and gloom. There is exciting times ahead but there is a lot of work on the youths part and the coaches will have to be patient and positively guide.

Fans patience, patience and more patience.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Snap, pass and pop it’s all in the wrist


Chicago, IL — Ok glad to see the boys found Annette FrontPrensence last night now the challenge will be to marry that Constance Allgamelong I blogged about yesterday.

Ok once you guys prove to me that you consistently found Annette and are committed to Constance I have a few more items I would like to see added on the To Do list.

It starts with the back-end. The Hawks spend entirely too much time in their own zone and lately they have problems getting out which also slows the entire offense down.

The team should not be spending more than a few seconds in their own zone if they have puck possession. Don’t dally in your end get the puck and move it up quickly. If you don’t have possession forwards you need to get back and help like pronto. The game today is speed.

I would like to see whoever the D man is with the puck instead of going D to D just immediately pass it up to a forward. This game is so fast there is really no time any more for always going D to D plus every team knows that is what you will do so don’t do it.

Speaking of passing the entire team needs to work on this what is with all the passing to skates and off the mark now come on get this together boys. I’ve got a huge lesson for you in physics.

That is the puck can move faster than you can skate. Yes so to add speed into the offense it requires passing more in fact pin point passing would be preferable. And I know you like to hold onto pucks – DON’T. Pass the puck as fast as you can until you can get to the net or slot areas.

Right now the hottest line in the NHL is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s  Stamkos, Kucherov and Nemestikov you know why? Two things.

One their passing is pin point perfection and their movement without the puck is damn near flawless until someone gets open. It also doesn’t hurt these are all highly skilled players.

The passing needs to be better more accurate and faster puck movement starting with the back-end I want to see passes up ice not east west.

Once a forward has taken one two strides, pass and the next forward do the same and the next til you’re at the net or slot area then don’t think just shoot and if you’re not shooting I want to see movement to the net or more open positions.

The good news the Hawks shooting accuracy is actually pretty good. When they miss it is usually wide which tells me they are going for posts which is good but it also tells me they are probably a bit too far out get closer boys.

Shots need to come off the sticks quicker now a days. Slap shots are probably not going to work with all the sticks in the lanes you need snap shots and wristers or backhands because it takes defenders by surprise ask your own Dmen what and who they have a problem with.

What makes someone a good scorers is not how hard their shot is but the release and how quickly it is released and from high percentage areas on the ice. It is no secret where those areas are it just takes work getting there.

Movement, Movement, Movement of the puck or your skates. That puck should be whipping around that ice faster than the eye can follow if you do that defenders will not be able to keep up.

Forwards and D should be moving to quiet ice space or high percentage ice space or get in front of the net.

This is also the same problem with the power play. There is NO repeat NO movement of puck or players so it is too predictable and easy to get bodies or sticks in lanes especially if there is no Annette around.

Also don’t be afraid to use the boards or passing to an area. I think the Hawks need to spend some time at the pool hall there are several good ones in Chicago and learn the art of the bank. Trust me you do this no one will know where you are sending to the puck or what you are trying to do.

Don’t just use the end boards either if you bank pucks hard enough I bet you can get them into good shooting spots where they can be one timed but this is only after normal passing quickly is perfected.

Another thing every team in the NHL knows the Hawks hate to chip and chase so that is what they are going to make you do until you prove them wrong. Banking passes through the neutral zone or area passing may assist with this.

Or if you do chip and chase you dictate where the puck is going just make sure you get there first or in numbers. You all know this.

The goalies today on all the teams are too good it takes a lot to get goals past them. If you look at the shots taken to goals the percentage is really low. Even the best teams like Tampa and Toronto are running at 12%, the Hawks are down at 8% which is too low.

The majority of Toronto’s shots are quick release shots snaps and wristers.

Now Tampa surprisingly is getting their Slap shots through I’m betting that could be a Mr. Steven Stamkos but how many players have his shot? He is the exception to what I said earlier regarding slap shots but most players don’t have that tool in their arsenal.

The Hawks need to be around 10% Goals to shot percentage if you want to win in this league. Don’t believe me look at the teams who have 10% or more they are all winning teams.

Now it is not that the Hawks are not shooting enough they are it is where they are shooting from and the quality. Hawks you’ve got to snap shot more and get quicker releases please and don’t hold onto the pucks too long, I know that is hard for some. I bet if you snap more you’ll also crackle and ultimately pop.

And remember get to Annette she misses you guys.

Tonight will be another tough task against the Metro leading Devils so this game won’t be easy. It’ll be a good test if the Hawks can’t get up for this I give up.  I want to see more snapping shots off from around the net slot area and quicker passing but more importantly accurate passing and please keep the skates moving.

 

 

 

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