Tag Archives: Marian Hossa

Chicago Blackhawks – Stan Bowman what did you do?


Chicago, IL — Hot time, summer in the city. Yes it is time for block parties, beach volleyball, outdoor concerts, sailing with the smell of tanning lotions and barbecue in the air. Should be a fun time right?

Well not necessarily if you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan. This past few days have been a whirlwind of changes.

It took me until now to process everything that happened and that is not even counting we had a draft here as well.

Several things you can say about the GM of the Chicago Blackhawks Stan Bowman:

1) He is a man of his word

2) He’s all business first

3) He has the audacity of youth.

Stan Bowman vowed changes would come at his post season presser and boy he was not joking.

I think as fans we all knew changes would come down the pike just maybe not these moves which are either suicidal or genius. Only time will tell on this but I am leaning toward the latter.

Bowman I believe has said in the past he doesn’t get attached to players and he was not lying here either.

Stan reminds me of a professional assassin think Daniel Craig James Bond.

He is vigilantly ready if needed to swing his sword despite the cold breeze it may generate afterwards and the finality that ensues with potential repercussions.

I mean this as a compliment it takes a great deal of strength to do this for the greater good of team to put head before heart.

Us fans usually put heart before head but if there is any fan base that has had to get used to losing beloved players it’s Blackhawks fans.

I slowly am becoming detached not sure that is good or not. I try now to look at the business of hockey but I hate it.

He made moves which are bold and yet at the end of the day because of these changes we are still not sure and either is he how the results will be and that is what is scary – the unknown.

The team definitely got younger, faster, bigger and more like the direction the NHL is going in and for that you have to applaud him.

To lose three key players like Marian Hossa, Nik Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin is gut wrenching but when I take my heart (believe me that is difficult I love these guys) and look logically and on paper all of these moves make sense for a cap strapped team.

Let’s look at the forward situation first.

The first tumble down the rabbit hole of change came with the Marian Hossa announcement that he would not be playing this year due to medical reasons and I have to say I still have not wrapped my head around the fact we may have seen Hossa play hockey in a Blackhawks uni for the last time already.

With Hossa’s departure that leaves a huge void for a two-way playing winger and also someone who can play on the PK too which no doubt factored into the trade of Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad 2.0 excursion.

Believe me Hossa brings so much more than that and again not sure Saad or anyone can fill those skates or if it’s even fair to ask them to.

I adore Artemi Panarin but Saad brings a different look to the team.

He is more a two -way player w blazing speed as we have all seen and in this new NHL everything is about speed and North/South play inside the dots and getting to the net.

There is no question in my mind the Hawks will miss Panarin’s offensive brilliance and I wish him the best of everything, that boy was thrill for sure both on and off the ice.

Someone or a committee of someones need to fill this offence void and it’s a big one points wise and the chemistry that 2nd line had.

If I look logically Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad and whoever is with them will have a lot of pressure on them to help fill this void.

All eyes right now are on Toews who for two years has let’s be honest not been good for the contract he has. Yes I’m putting that out there as a challenge to 19 and his line because I know they can step up and will.

You have to think also part of dealing Panarin was the hope that Schmaltz, Hayden, Hartman, Jurco, Panik and I will throw in Alex DeBrincat and Graham Knott can come in and help fill the points production deficit when Hossa & Panarin left.

DeBrincat and Knott may need time in the AHL but don’t be surprised if they make the team straight out.

DeBrincat is small but that boy has grit in him and so much skill offensively.

Knott is just huge and fast and skilled if he can get to the net with his big frame goals will be scored I guarantee.

Now will they need time to ripen and grow of course that is also why the Hawks wisely hired Asst. Coach Don Granato. Boy he is going to be one busy man with all the youth and schooling them up.

I have no doubts whoever plays with Patrick Kane will be all the better for it.

It sounds like it will be Schmaltz who gets first crack all I can say is get Kane the puck and get to the net or open ice and just follow his lead and you’ll be fine. If you have a shot don’t think take it especially if it’s open to the net.

The other forward gotten in trades was Laurent Dauphin from AZ. Dauphin think Kruger/Danault like which one has to think will be Kruger’s replacement and see him gone as well for cap reasons.

Dauphin is a projected 3rd line Center with good speed and two – way play and a lot cheaper than Kruger. He will be a RFA next year and I believe his cap hit is only in the 750K range this year and he is only 22 yrs old and also plays on the PK.

The Hawks definitely got younger, bigger and faster and I see them doing even more moves with moving Kruger out and maybe bringing in another winger depending on how the kids above do or possibly another contract gets moved out so brace yourselves for more possible sword swings Hawks fans.

Now onto the Defense and boy this one is difficult.

Losing a warrior like Hammer is going to be hard to replace.

The Hawks some what started earlier with signing Kempny and Rutta from Czech Republic which I already said in another blog I really like these two guys but they will need to get NHL ready with the speed and skill that NHL shooters have again this is where Granato and Samuelsson will have a big impact.

The big factor will be Connor Murphy that was exchanged in the Hammer trade from Arizona.

His contract goes to 2022 so that was a big consideration here along with he is only 24 yrs old. He brings physicality and great skating ability also he has a great first pass out of the dzone.

What you lose though is a warrior who was a shot blocker, team player and tough physically. Murphy I believe has already had some health issues so we shall see how that plays out.

The Hawks are placing a lot on young Dmen but they have Keith and Seabrook to look to for guidance and I can’t think of two guys any better to learn from and get coached up from.

So the Hawks have lost in 72 hrs a HOF All Star Winger, a Gagarin Cup Champion/Calder Trophy Winger and a 3X Stanley Cup Defenseman yeah Chicago it is ok to cry, throw things or just get sick to your stomach.

What the Hawks gained remains to be seen and how it will all come together and the moves that are yet to be made.

One thing we know for sure is this team will certainly be a lot different from the one last year come October.

The good thing is they don’t need to really come together immediately its 2018 they need to but stay close in 2017 til they figure it all out.

Coaching up these young players will be the key this year for sure. Coach Quenneville and his staff are certainly going to earn their pay checks this year.

Change is a difficult thing for everyone and again it only reinforces to me one day what’s left of this core 2,7,19 & 88 will no longer be on the Hawks and will retire.

What we are seeing now is a slow transition and if you hated like me seeing 81, 72 & 4 gone it could be worse at least some of the core is still here and there is still a small window the next 2-3 years to get another Cup here at least that is what I am telling myself.

Did Stan Bowman make this team better in the long run?

Hard to say there is a lot of work still to be done by all but I do think in the long run these were the right moves no matter how much my heart hates them and probably needed to be made with a new youth infused NHL if you want to compete.

It took guts to make these moves for sure.

Still Bowman will be looked at and questioned if the Hawks don’t even make the playoffs this year or are bounced again early which is a good possibility with all the young players on the team.

It is now on the shoulders of the coaches and the players to step up and in whether the Hawks succeed or fall this year Hawks fans will support we may fuss and question but only because we are fans and want the team to do well.

I will close with these from those far more eloquent than I:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hockey, NHL

Chicago Blackhawks – reflection time


Chicago, IL — With a new year we are all compelled to look back at the past year and what we accomplished or what is still on our to do lists.

The Chicago Blackhawks are no different. Last year saw plenty of injuries but also there were career milestones achieved by Marian Hossa reaching 500 career goals and Patrick Kane reaching 700 points. Congrats guys those are truly remarkable numbers.

It saw the Hawks re-sign what has to be the most unexpected and exceptional talents in Artemi Panarin which will keep him sticking around Chicago for a little while longer thankfully.

It saw so far the best year statistically from Artem Anisimov and insane goaltending from both Corey Crawford and Scott Darling.

It also saw for probably the first time in a long time the beginning of so many’s NHL careers in Vinny Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny, Nick Schmaltz and some how they have all managed to fit in and play their roles without the team skipping a beat.

So here we sit a day before the Winter Classic where the Hawks will take on their divisional rival the St. Louis Blues and they are sitting tops in the West and their division with the Minnesota Wild nipping at their heels with games in hand.

Still considering all they had to overcome and what they have accomplished it is impressive they are 5th in the entire league in points with only Eastern Conference teams ahead of them which is strange to say the least that it appears the tables flipped in 2016 from West to East being the dominant conference.

Now however it is time to look forward and improve as the NHL schedule is hurling towards the second half and that will determine not only who will make the playoff but who opponents will be.

So if I could request a gift from the hockey Gods for the Blackhawks it would be several things as we all can improve. I have a very long list for myself as well.

These are some from my observations and I’m giving them to help if they don’t already know themselves not to cast blame.

If I could give the Hawks anything I would give them wake up juice. Remember from Back to the Future III  the saloon scene well here it is.1

I know I am not a morning person myself but the Hawks have to somehow find a way to start on time. It is not a formula for success that can be sustained especially against good teams to always be chasing the game from behind.

When the Hawks play a full 60 minutes they are almost unbeatable. If it means shorter shifts so every one is fresh and ready to go or maybe they do need wake up juice.

The only problem is shorter shifts require more line changes and that is another area that could be improved upon. Need to work on that as well.

There have been several times the Hawks have gotten burned on this or caught on 2 on 1’s. Better decisions for those coming off the ice please. So I would ask for improved line changes.

Both sides of the special teams could use some work. This is a problem the Hawks continually seem to have but I think I will address this in a separate blog at the end of the year to get a full picture as this is still an ongoing work in progress.

The one thing I would desperately like improved is the Hawks in their own zone are a disaster sometimes. They can not get the puck out and are pinned in for too long. The Defensive zone clears need improvement.

Forwards you may need to come back and either help or be better options for outlets. The Hawks are giving up way too many shots against which is putting undue stress on the goalies.

Part also of this is not winning faceoffs in their own zone or in the neutral zone which is an area again the Hawks have struggled with over the years.

Outside of Jonathan Toews the team as a whole needs to get better including the wingers. If you start off losing possession in your own zone then you are running around.

Overall I would say though the Hawks as a team need to improve in their battles along the boards and their positioning in their own zone and not giving away the puck so much in your own zone.

Don’t believe me both their Corsi and Fenwick against is not great. If your going to give up that many shots then you at least need to take more shots than but that really isn’t the issue.

I believe the Hawks are like 23rd in the NHL in shots against per game so need to shore that up and help both the defense and goalies out.

Turning to the offense I’ve not seen enough net front presence and I would suggest all the Hawks practice tips, deflections and batting the puck out of the air around the net more. Sidney Crosby is racking up a career year with just getting to the net and batting pucks.

Also Goalies now are too good you need more deception like using backhanders, snap shots, tips, deflections, wrap-arounds these all take less time to get off and in today’s game speed is paramount not only in skating but in shooting as well.

I believe the Hawks are close to the bottom of the league in all of these types of shots so vary it up and keep the goalies guessing.

Artem Anisimov is so successful because he is becoming a master around the net. More please from everyone. Remember too your opponents study you and your tendencies so mix it up.

Overall though the Chicago Blackhawks have put themselves in an excellent position. Just clean up these things and then the rest of the league needs to look out.

Happy New Year to all go get them in 2017. Here is to starting the New Year off good with a win in the Winter Classic against the Blues. GO HAWKS!

  1. Back to the Future III – released 1990 through Universal Pictures produced by Neal Canton and Bob Gale, directed by Robert Zemeckis.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Chicago Blackhawks – Road conquered on the way to the Classic


Chicago, IL — The Blackhawks are back in Chicago after a perfect road trip that saw them take a huge bite out of New York’s professional hockey teams and then finished with a thrilling offensive slugfest against an ole Central Division adversary the St. Louis Blues.

The trip east started with an Original Six re- match against the highly touted NY Rangers for the second time in five days. 

The Hawks come away from a tight, almost playoff like game with a 2-1 regulation win after dropping the 1-0 in OT meeting vs these same Rangers.

It was good to see the Hawks get three out of four possible points against a very good team.

The next tour of NY saw them take on the Isles in a dramatically different style of play from the Rangers games. Stop the presses this game the power play actually was perfect and went 3 for 3 thanks to two Artemi Panarin blasts perfectly set up by Brent Seabrook.

The Hawks actually had to come back after not a great start going down 2-0 to the Islanders.

Props to Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa with the other goals. Hossa has never looked so good and Anisimov just does his thing, which is not easy but somehow he manages to compliment two magicians perfectly.

Speaking of magicians I truly hope Stan Bowman is. Artemi Panarin needs to stay right where he is here in Chicago next to Anisimov and Kane.

Stan please find some magic dust. Believe it or not with how great Panarin was coming in I actually see him getting better and he is just so smart and like Kane with great on ice vision.

So the Hawks left New York with a perfect record and then it was onto St. Louis with a preview of the Winter Classic.

The debut of Epix Road to the outdoor Classics which spotlighted four teams that will be playing in outdoor games – The Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks was premiered.

Let me just say to someone the NHL or the Chicago Blackhawks need to figure out a way like the NFL did with NFL films to document cinematically games because they are just brilliant.

Everyone knows how special hockey players are and coaches but this just solidifies our thoughts as we get to see the personalities of these players and coaches up close.

The on ice mic’d up conversations are just priceless. Yes there are profanities but it is a rare view that we get to see and actually feel what the players, coaches and refs see and go through in a game.

I’ve said for some time somehow the NHL needs to get mics and camera’s on the benches and on refs for games.

I don’t know either have an option with ratings warnings to just listen to the on ice and behind bench stuff editing out of course game strategies in addition to traditional broadcasts or somehow have these shown in a weekly highlights reel.

So perhaps the most important game on the road trip was the game in the Blackhawks own back yard of St. Louis.

The Blues being a divisional foe and just six points behind the game represented a four point swing if won in regulation and that the Blackhawks were able to accomplish.

Was it easy NO. They lost Artem Anisimov and had to keep overcoming deficits which they did four times. I saw on twitter they had only accomplished that three times in the entire history of the team.

So for those that keep saying the Hawks are not for real you may want to rethink that.

I think even Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was impressed by the Blackhawks resiliency and determination in his post game presser. 

Two of the Hawks six goals came from young  players Rassmussen and Hinostroza due to their grinding forchecking and resolve at the net and it was impressive. Below is link to NHL – St. Louis Blues site for Hitchcock post game presser.

https://www.nhl.com/blues/video/dec-17-postgame-interviews/t-277437432/c-47514403

If the Hawks young guys keep doing that only good things will happen.

Also Ryan Hartman you are a treasure for sure. This guy is so intelligent he knows how to agitate and go to the edge yet not over. That takes tremendous self control. That smirk is priceless. You keep being you Hartzy.

Hear coach Joel Quenneville talk about the young guys and the Chicago Blackhawks impressive team game on this road trip. When you get your head coach giving you the thumbs up you are doing something right.

https://www.nhl.com/blackhawks/video/coach-q-on-win-over-stl/t-277512494/c-47514603

So in an uncharacteristically high scoring game between two usually stingy teams this was a wild one and if it is any indication of how the Winter Classic will go it should be a great one.

The Hawks are now home for the next three games before the Christmas break and are looking good with being currently tops in the NHL, West and six points ahead of the Wild and eight points ahead of the Blues.

The Hawks just need to keep it rolling and not let down now that they are home.

Thanks for the thrills you truly have been fun to watch and Happy Holidays one and all.

Videos taken from the teams websites www.nhl.com/blues & www.nhl.com/blackhawks

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Chicago Blackhawks – Quarter grade (The Blackhawks are still the Blackhawks)


Chicago, IL — We are just about a quarter of the way through the NHL regular season. The Chicago Blackhawks record is an impressive 13-4-2 which is good enough for not only tops in the Central but tops in the West and second overall in the NHL only behind the Montreal Canadiens.

While the above record and stats is very impressive what is truly impressive is this year the Hawks had to integrate a bunch of young unproven talent into the mix. Considering that, it makes what the Blackhawks have done even more impressive.

The biggest takeaway for me so far is that the Blackhawks are still the Blackhawks. I’m not sure if it’s the coaching, that core or there really is magic in that Indianhead sweater as depicted in The Orchard video.

The Hawks have proven time and time again they are never out of a game and the belief they have in each other and their game is really a testament to the players, coaches & organization and I will throw in the fans as well.

If there is one thing I’ve learned never count this team out. If you notice be it at the United Center or on the road you rarely see Blackhawks fans leave early even when the team is losing why?  We believe in you Hawks that you will find a way to win.

The champion’s pedigree is still in that locker room and behind the bench and it seems no matter who comes in, that core and coaches gets everyone’s buy in.

Belief is half of being I once wrote that I heard and it is so true. Now they still have to execute on ice but I still don’t think there is a team that once they put their minds to it turns it up to a level other teams just can not. Maybe the LA Kings had that once but I’m not sure they still do.

The Hawks last two games in Calgary and Vancouver were just WOW especially Vancouver. Three on Three hockey OMG love, love, love. To be able to come back in games is not something you want to make a habit of but boy is it thrilling and sometimes I think the Hawks prefer these challenges but guys it gives us fans ulcers.

The problem is you may encounter teams that are too good that won’t let you come back or bounces don’t go your way. Hockey is a strange game in that sometimes things are out of your control so you don’t want to tempt the hockey Gods too much. That said if there is any team that can do it still it’s the Chicago Blackhawks.

Marian Hossa are you a Demi-God?  Did you come down from Mount Olympus? Was Kris Versteeg right you are a Greek God, are you Zeus?

This guy is unreal and is playing lights out right now with two GWG in Calgary and Vancouver he has not lost a step in fact he may have gained some and not lost any of his two way play. Mr. Hossa you are an inspiration for us all.

The youth infused on the team are gaining invaluable experience that will pay dividends come spring. You can see their confidence grow and they are making good decisions. My only suggestion to the young guys take your shot if you are in a good position shoot ask questions later.

People ask me who is  Schmaltz, Hartman, Hinostroza, Forsling, Panik & Motte? My response — They are Chicago Blackhawks watch them grow and shine and that is exactly what they are doing.

Maybe even more kudos to the boys, you somehow have the coaches trust which is huge. If they feel they can put you out there is tough or bad situations and you shine that will only help the development process speed up. Thumbs up guys you’ve earned wearing that sweater whether it’s first line or fourth or in between do your things.

The other takeaways so far has been stellar Goalkeeping from both Corey Crawford and Scott Darling. Honestly without these guys the Hawks may not have the record they do. So many of the 19 games the Hawks did not get rolling until later in the game which means the goalies had to keep the team in the game til the offense got going.

We all know in Chicago how great Crawford is and the guy just keep proving it over and over and Darling having to come in with just practice under his belt and do what he does 4-0 he is amazing.

And let me just say despite not playing together regularly Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin are just extraordinary. They are just magic together and so much fun to watch.

I really am starting to think they must have been brothers in another life due to  their innate abilities to know where each other are at all times and more remarkably, where they will be is just a level of telepathy rarely seen especially on a hockey rink. I also would not be shocked if they both can use telekinesis to move hockey pucks as well.

Finally my last take away came in the most recent game against the Canucks. The Hawks had to over come a call, this one was correct, that they thought had ended the game only to be overturned and they had to regroup themselves mentally and still go out there and try and win a game which they did.

This just shows the Hawks still have that nail tough mentality and determination. They can put aside obstacles and still focus enough to overcome them in game which is huge. It is a quality that is needed to be a Stanley Cup contender and champion and I’m happy to see they have not lost this.

This year the Western Conference so far appears weaker than it ever has been in recent memory which if the Blackhawks can keep up this pace bodes well for them. They do have some areas that need cleaning up (special teams) but they have 63 more games to get this stuff straightened out.

They have all the tools and then some inexplicable ones (I.e. magic, telepathy, manifestation ect) as well to go far not only in the regular season but into the spring.

My Quarter Grade is an A- they have exceed my projected start and overcome obstacles. I can’t give a flat out A as they aren’t perfect due to the horrid special teams, at least not yet.

Chicago was fortunate enough to see one of their baseball teams play well into the fall.

I have a feeling if things continue like this for the Hawks the cosmos may see another Chicago sports team play into a season beyond their normal ones.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Chicago Blackhawks – Part V playing GM with the forward positions and taking center stage


Chicago, IL — I said I would look at the Hawks if Patrick Kane were their 2nd line center. In this installment I will. Now while it is unknown as to the health status of Marian Hossa, it is  Hossa on the right-wing who would fit in best on this line in my opinion. I’m going to make the assumption that Marian Hossa return from injury because quit frankly that is what I want. Let’s take a look at options currently outside of the Hawks’ system.

UFA’s

LW – big name UFA’s Zach Parise, Alex Semin, Ray Whitney, Andrei Kostitsyn,

More likely –

  • Dustin Penner- LAK cap 4.250 solid two-way player who had pedestrian numbers in the regular season but really stepped up his game in the playoffs. Penners regular season numbers were lower than Bryan Bickells. His price tag maybe too high now that the Kings have gone this deep in the playoffs.
  • Travis Moen –mtl cp 1.5, same as Penner number were worse than Bickell during regular season
  • Ruslan Fedotenko NYR cap 1.4 ditto

RW – big names UFA’s Shane Doan, Ales Hemsky, Brad  Boyes

  • P.A. Parentau NyI cap 1.250, interesting 20 goal scorer would add offensive punch but the defensive part of his game is lacking but for the right terms and price he could be an interesting option.
  • Davey Jones avs cap 2.5 good numbers with 20/17 37 point totals. High s% of 14.7 so he could finish. Could be an interesting choice. He has size and is only 27 yrs old. Defensive part of game is the ? but then again Avs are not a good team. He is a consideration but is not better than Stalberg.

RFA – Jaime Benn LW Dal, Kris Versteeg RW FLA, S Kostitsyn LW NAS, James Neal LW PIT & David  Perron, LW STL; None of these will be leaving their teams maybe Kostitsyn but look for the rest to sign back with their current teams and with Kostitsyn being with Nashville they are not likely to want to deal with the Hawks.

Rick Nash wants out of Columbus 7.8 cap hit and Blue Jackets would want more than the Hawks would be willing to give in return. So enjoy all the Nash talk over the summer I do not see him coming to Chicago because the Hawks would probably have to give up a player from the core to get him and that’s not going to happen.

If I were Stan I would take a pass on all of these UFA’s/RFA’s and look either to my own bench or the youth that I had previously drafted as a solution. I think the Hawks have enough talent at wing to balance a line with Kane and Hossa. So who are these winged flyers that the Hawks could plug-in on that line with those two superstars? Let’s take a look

Blackhawks Prospects

Left Wingers

  • Brandon Saad – is probably going to make the Hawks and most likely going to see top 6 or even 1st line minutes. He has the potential to be a power forward. He had a monster year with the Saginaw Spirits where he logged 76 p – 34G/42A +35 in regular season then added 8G & 9A in the playoffs. He has a salary cap hit of 897k and is on a two-way contract. The Hawks will give him as serious look and every opportunity to make the team. I would put him as the front-runner of all the LW prospects unless there was a surprise in training camp.
  • Jeremy Morin – 4th overall in scoring on the Rockford IceHogs with 40P 18G/22A +9.  He is on a two-way contract for 886K til 2014. He is a hard-nosed scraper like Shaw.  He missed out last year’s camp and beginning of IceHogs season due to a concussion which had him sidelined for 9 months. It is Morins’ time to shine but he will need to really work to make the Hawks keep him. He was drafted in the 2nd rd by Atlanta in 2009 as part of Byfuglien, Eager, Sopel trade from the Thrashers. He has a good chance to make the team but there is a lot of competition and he has to really shine.
  • Kyle Beach – This could be Beach’s last stand to make the big club or be traded. Beach is a big body at 6”3” 208 lbs but has yet to crack the team with his inconsistency. Taken in the 2008 draft 1rd 11th overall Beach is on verge of being a bust unless he can impress in training camp this year. He is currently on a two-way contract for 1.170 and will be a RFA next year so the time is now to move him and try to get something for him if the Hawks feel he can not make the team.  Out for 5 months with shoulder injury but there is no denying his offensive potential whether it will ever be reached is the question. Beach’s size is a plus but in order to make the Hawks he will have to really play and impress the coaches like his hockey life depended on it. Because it does.

Saad , Morin and Beach will all be given a shot to make the team at LW. Out of the three I believe Saad has the best shot at making the team. He was not sidelined with injuries like Morin and Beach. Saad paired on a line with Hossa at RW and Kane at Center could provide enough power on that 2nd line. He has a solid two-way game. I know it is hard not to look over and see those two stars and just be in awe. Saad has to play like he owns that left-wing and not worry about who he is playing with. Play your game kid, be solid defensively and don’t turn the puck over in your end or in the neutral zone and the rest will come. Don’t worry about the offence. After all,  say what you want about Kane he is still one of the best set up men in the game and with him on your line you will get plenty of offensive chances.

Right Wingers

  • Ben Smith is the most likely to make the Hawks. Hampered by injuries, he only played in 38 games with 31p 15/16 +2. Still he had very good numbers considering his time. He has a great shooting percentage, highest on the team with 18%. If he is to make the Hawks he will probably be on the 4th line with Kruger centering. If any one should wear an Indianhead jersey this year it should be Smitty after he beat Sedin to bag that goal past Bobby Lou to send the Hawks to a game seven in 2011. Work your tail off boy because every fan in Chicago wants to see you wear that jersey next year.
  • Rustislav Olesz,   What to do with Olesz who has a huge salary 3.125 mil contract signed until 2014. The Hawks would love to unload this salary but can’t.  I don’t see any team taking him on. Remember he was part of the Brian Campbell deal with Florida Panthers. When the Panthers took on Campbell’s big contract the Hawks had to take Olesz’s contract which was still smaller than Campbells.  He was third on IceHogs last year in points with 41 points 17 G/24A  +7 in 50 games.  Good shooting % at 11 which speaks to his accuracy and finish. He has tons of talent and potential but seems to wither on NHL ice whether in Chicago or Florida.  He was drafted 1rd 7th overall in 2004 but has never reached that potential. Olesz is an offensive threat from anywhere on the ice, but he is streaky and his consistency could use work. I’m sure he will be brought into camp again this year. Now whether or not he stays that’s the question & whether or not the Hawks can move him that’s the bigger question. I think the Hawks will be stuck with Olesz so they need to try to get everything out of him they can. If he could come in & replace Kane at RW it could be a huge push for the Hawks but everything depends on Olesz.
  • Jimmy Hayes, 6’6 220 lbs out of Boston College is the big forward the Hawks need. He was taken in the 2008 2nd rd draft. He along with Andrew Shaw sparked the Hawks when they needed it most in 2011. The problem with Hayes was that he sort of dropped off towards the end of the season and in the playoffs was on the bench. Still Hayes has the size and good offensive instincts. He could be that big net front presence that has been missing from the Hawks.  He has the potential to be a 20+ goal scorer but has to work on overall consistency and come to every game focused and ready to drill the opponents. His size makes him very attractive and if he can’t make the Hawks he could be used in a trade.  He will have to come to camp prepared to battle.

While I think Olesz has more natural skill than Smith, I also think Smith will work harder and take advantage of every moment he has to impress the Hawks coaching staff. Out of these two I look for Smith to make the team but I wouldn’t discount Olesz’s skills. Jimmy Hayes’ size and offensive abilities could make him the most likely to make the team. Not all three of these will make the team so someone will be used in a trade with Olesz contract either Smith or Hayes will likely be used as trade bait or spend most of the year in Rockford. I see the options being  if Smith can’t make the club I would say he will be traded because of his RFA contract being up or Hayes seeing most of 2012-13 in Rockford. It all depends on who steps up in training camp and who wants it more.

The Blackhawks had a couple of UFA’s that are likely not to be returning. Andrew Brunette LW, 2mil salary cap hit showed last year he was too slow for this team and might retire. Brandon Morrison C 1.25 salary cap was virtually silent most of the time so don’t look for him to be returning to the Hawks. Just this week they signed Jamal Mayers RW for 600K which is pretty cheap. It was a little surprising given it is taking a roster spot and his sitting on the bench during the majority of the playoffs. It also could signal the Hawks are really looking to beef up on the forward lines. I’m not sure where this leaves Brandon Bollig  LW who is a RFA this year and as of yet is not signed. I personally would have went the Bollig route because of the age factor and I think Bollig has more offensive potential. I don’t see the Hawks keeping both. So maybe they will package Bollig in a trade.

Blackhawks wingers returning no matter what

Patrick Sharp is going nowhere except to Johnnys’ ice house for practices and the UC for games. While 2011-12 was not his best he was battling injury all year. Sharp is too valuable to give up and he is part of the core and signed through 2017.

So far I have not mentioned rookie sensation Andrew Shaw RW or Daniel Carcillo LW because these two will be dawning the red, black and white in Chicago for 2012. Daniel Carcillo was resigned by Stan Bowman to the surprise of many. Really it is not too surprising and he was signed pretty cheap. When the carbomb was in the Hawks lineup they were winning handily. It was when Carcillo went out on a suspension and eventual injury that the Hawks had problems. Carcillo is a gamble no question but, he can open up the ice for Kane or Toews and has some skill of his own especially if he is on a line with that kind of talent. Carcillo has a deceiving backhand and don’t discount his presence around the net. He also is solid defensively. In only 28 games he was a +10. He seems to have good chemistry with Kane on the ice.

He needs to just reign himself in and push his game to the edge but not over. If he can do that he may yet be Stan Bowman’s biggest coo. I’m a Carcillo fan, I want him to do well and I think he has the talent to shine but he must adapt his style of play to the new NHL rules with sheriff Brendan Shanahan if he is to really thrive. If he can’t he may find the NHL moving on without him. Carcillo is being given a golden opportunity here in Chicago. Can you image being on a line with Kane and Hossa or Toews and Sharp?  I just hope he can check himself and take advantage of this chance.  If he can it could pay huge dividends for both him and the Blackhawks.

Andrew Shaw what is there to say. This kid was like a dream come true for the Hawks last year. He is hungry, skilled and has the hockey IQ to again be an impact with this team. He is fearless and has the grit and the grind that this team needs. Look for him to spend time on the Bolland line in 2012. Look for him in the dirty areas around the net and in the corners. Shaw is a bargain with his entry-level contract of only 565K and the best part is he is signed until 2014. Welcome to the big leagues Shawzer you wear that warriors head well.

Blackhawks wingers that likely will not return or used for trade bait

Viktor Stalberg RW – cap 875K will be UFA in 2013, trade value could not be higher than it is right now. Half of Stalbergs’ goals were against CBJ but he has shown improvement. The question for Stan is was 2011-12 the tip of the Stalberg potential iceberg or did he just have an unusually good year? There is no question he has world-class speed but he does need to work on defensive parts of his game and he is still developing. He was 5th in point leaders on team but disappeared in PO’s 43 points 22G/21A +6. PO – 2 assists. Stalberg last year was like found money for the Hawks. I bet the Toronto Maple Leafs are kicking themselves now with the Versteeg trade. No Versteeg and no Stalberg. The 26ys old has good size and needs to use his speed and physicality more. In time with coaching and development on the defensive side of the puck, he could become a very solid two-way power forward. This makes him a valuable trading chip. I would listen to all offers since Stalberg will be a UFA next year and will probably be getting a hefty increase but I would not let go of him easily or without a lot in return if I was GM. His potential is limitless and I like him paired with Kruger on a line or possibly with Toews and Sharp on the first line which could bring his numbers even higher.

Michael Frolik RW– cap 2.33 hit is very very high for a 4th line winger. He was drafted in first round 10th overall as Jonathan Toews 1st rd 3rd overall in 2006. While it is not fair to compare the two it is human nature. To say Frolik has not reached his potential would be an understatement. Frolik was picked ahead of Claude Giroux can you imagine that. What I guess I’m saying is people saw something in Frolik but he has yet to deliver. Frolik was part of the Jack Skille trade with the Florida Panthers. He had 15 points 5/10 -10 during the regular season in 63 games played.  He stepped up in the playoffs with 2 goals and 1 assist and at the IIHF worlds. Maybe Frolik is on the verge of becoming an impact player and maybe not.  Frolik needs confidence & coaching on the defensive side of his game. He is only 24 yrs old decent size but needs to bulk up to be a power forward. Frolik’s contract could make him difficult if not downright impossible to move. The Hawks I think believed he would one day bust out into that 1st rd 10th overall pick player but it has yet to happen. I’m not sure what the problem is with Frolik but if I could move him I would. He may get a better opportunity elsewhere.

Byran Bickell LW – cap 541K will be UFA in 2013 needs to play more physical but is a steal and can still develop on the Bolland line. He ended the regular season with 24 points 9/15 -3 rating. He really stepped up in the playoffs with 2 goals and took his game to another level. He too is still developing and took a step back from the 2010 – 11 season where he had double the points with 43. The Hawks need to figure out why that happened. He is only 26 yrs old and with good size but must learn to use his size effectively. Look at Dustin Brown of the LA Kings. If Bickell could learn to use his size to finish checks and deliver legal big hits he could be a monster. He has a wicked wrist shot that is deceiving as well. I would keep him around especially on the Bolland line with Andrew Shaw. That line last year worked well together. I want more from Bickell, more goals, more assists, more hits, more takeaways because I know he can do it.

So if the Hawks go with Kane at center look for him to have Hossa on his right side to provide stability and a good two-way game. That leaves the left-wing open on that line. If this line is to succeed it needs a solid defensive player or some muscle in my opinion. Kane has to work on the defensive side of the puck and improve his skills here otherwise this line will be in trouble.

Saad, Morin, Beach, Carcillo, Bickell and Bollig are the options.  I don’t think they would put Sharp here because that would weaken the Toews line too much. Bickell will be on the Bolland line period. In my opinion out of all of these the most likely candidate is Carcillo because of his chemistry with Kane and he is NHL ready. He also could open up the ice for Hossa and Kane and get filthy in front of the net. The other alternative would be to have Saad on this line, which could make for a monster line if the kid can step up and not be star struck. There is no question Saad has more offensive potential than Carcillo but he also does not have the bite. It was that bite that the Hawks missed and have missed up front. My first option would be Carcillo then Saad unless in camp someone really shines.

Not all of these forwards will make the Hawks squad some will be sent back to Rockford and some traded. Finding the right balance and chemistry is elusive.  If there is one thing though that the Hawks should have learned since 2010 is how important the surrounding cast is and the balance among all four lines. If the Hawks are to regain their 2010 Stanley Cup winning form it is essential that all forward lines are equally capable of scoring as they are of stopping an opponent’s top lines.  There is no question the strength of this team is in its skilled forwards up front. This makes getting the lines right with the correct personnel I think imperative on them getting another cup.

In the next segment I will be taking a look at the defense and who is staying who is potentially going and who the trade partners could be and what we could get in return. Til then happy puck drops.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hockey, sports

Blackhawks – Chicago’s Untouchables should they be?


Chicago, IL — With the 2011/2012 season in the books for the Chicago Blackhawks, the season ended with more questions than answers. GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville met the media this week to answer questions but it seems they were left with as many questions to answer in the off-season as us Blackhawks fans were.

The one thing fans and media have proposed is trades of some big core players like Kane, Keith & Sharp to add size and physicality to this team. This notion was almost immediately squelched when Stan Bowman emphatically stated Patrick Kane would be the team’s second line center going forward. I’m not sure I agree with this but I do agree Patrick Kane should stay in Chicago.

Over the summer I will be playing GM and take a look at the shortfalls on this team from Centers, Defensemen, Goalies. I will look at the horrible special teams this year and how to fix them. I will look at prospects, trades that I think should be made & the coaching and GM. For now though I will address the vaunted core that I think even they would agree fell short this year.

For those that do not know the core is Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith & Brent Seabrook. I’m also going to throw Dave Bolland in here to for several reasons. He is a true center man which, despite what Stan Bowman thinks I feel is not their strongest position on ice. Bolland also is a gritty forechecker which again I think this team needs more of. For those reasons alone Bolland is part of the core and going nowhere.

Those seven players constitute 60% of the salary cap of the Blackhawks’ 64.3 million cap limit. That puts an awful lot of trust in seven players. It also leaves few spaces and dollars left to spend to fill the holes. Each remaining position and salary must be filled wisely to complement this group but, is this the right group? Or should some of these players be traded to fill more needs?

I will start with the Captain Jonathan Toews. It’s hard for me to be objective about this guy because I love everything about him as a leader and his game. He is a valuable center and two-way player. He can play at a high level both on offense and defense. He can play a skilled game but can grind it out as well. This year he was hampered by injury and sidelined for much of the later part of the season with a concussion. There is no question he would have led this team in stats had he have played the entire year. No one means more to this team than Toews. He is the rock this team is built upon and I have no problems with that. I still think he is the best captain in the NHL. In the offseason he needs to focus on getting healthy as there are no weaknesses in his game.

Patrick Kane’s name always comes up as trade fodder but I disagree. I’m not sure what people are looking at. He is a QB on the ice and a playmaker the likes of which the Blackhawks even with all their skill do not have anyone like him. I have no problem with Kane. He did everything he was asked he moved from RW to C to LW and back again so it is not surprising he had an off-year statistically. He also took this team in his hands when Toews went down with injury going into the playoffs. What I disagree with is keeping him at Center which I will discuss in another blog but if they insist on keeping him there Kane will have work to do in the offseason. He has stated he will forgo the IIHF Worlds and I think that is smart. In my opinion he needs to get physically stronger and stay well. He needs to work on his faceoff skills and the defensive part of his game. If Kane can forecheck and backcheck with as much easy as he stick handles with the puck he will be a monster. To trade him would be a huge mistake and one that would come back to bite the Hawks in my opinion. He is too skilled to give up and he is maturing and showing leadership skills. Stan is right to keep him in Chicago at center I’m not so sure.

Patrick Sharp did not have one of his better years. Plagued all year by a wrist injury, it is surprising that he will be going to Worlds. He ended up second on the team in points but I’m sure he is disappointed with his point production in the playoffs. This year he playing back in his normal LW position but not having a big 2nd line center could have hindered his production along with his wrist injury. Sharp is a very good two-way player and ended the regular season leading the team in +/-. In the offseason I want Sharp to practice elevating his shots. Sharp is one of this teams leaders and if he was traded you would be missed a lot in the locker room. Sharp needs to stay in the Indianhead jersey just practice honing that sharpshooting and enjoy that new baby in the offseason.

Marian Hossa, this one makes me sad as we are not sure how Hossa will recover from that dirty Torres hit. I’m thinking Hossa is so big and strong he will have a full recovery and be back as big as ever. One of the best two-way players on this team, Hossa just needs to focus on getting better in the offseason. His game is solid so feel better Marian and enjoy your new baby too.

Duncan Keith, a lot of people look at Duncan Keith and where he is at compared to his Norris trophy winning form of two years ago. There is no denying he is not the same Duncan Keith. In his defense he logs way too many minutes on the ice. He plays nearly half the game on the ice so it is no wonder if he makes some mistakes. He is probably tired. He has been paired with so many young dmen like Dylan Olsen and Nick Leddy which has to affect his game. I still think he is at his best when paired with Seabrook. Next year I want to see this duo intact barring injuries. I think though Keith needs to work on his shot from the point. A lot of his shots were blocked. He needs to find away to get to open lanes in the offensive zone. For those suggesting trade him, that is just silly. This team struggled with the D so why would you get rid of a top two D man. He led all defensemen with points-Keith stays.

Brent Seabrook – I think Seabs had his best year yet. I see him steadily improving every year and that is saying a lot. He brings a big physical presence and physicality to the ice. He always leads the team in hits yet has one of the lowest PIM how he accomplishes that is with hard, clean legal hits.  In fact I wish the Hawks had a cloning machine and could duplicate him. I believe they need another defenseman just like him. Every game you know what you’re getting with Seabrook. He is going nowhere. Why would the Blackhawks get rid of exactly what they still need another of? Seabrook led all the D-men in +/- which speaks to his consistency as a defenseman. I would like to Seabrook jump in more on offense and keep working on that booming slapshot from the point. And is there anyone better at the stretch pass? Seabrook is worth every penny he gets.

I agree with Stan Bowman on keeping this core intact. It is who is around them and who can complement them that will make the difference going forward. The Hawks are skilled but they still lack size and physicality which showed up in both the 2011 & 2012 playoffs as glaring weakness and something that Bowman will need to address this off-season. It won’t be easy as a lack of a CBA  will make it hard to determine if the cap will stay the same or lower and how much can be spent.

Of the non-core players, I can guarantee that Daniel Carcillo, Ray Emery, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell will all be back for obvious reasons. Carcillo and Emery were given contract extensions in the regular season so they are staying. Carcillo was cited by several on the Blackhawks including Bowman as an ingredient that was missing this year so we will see more of him in 2012. He provides an attitude and snarl like no other. Look for him to open the ice up for Kane & Hossa again next year. Let’s hope he stays on the ice and only goes to the penalty box when necessary.

Andrew Shaw is exactly what the Hawks were missing grit and grind Shaw’s a keeper for sure. The fans love this guy so he is the marketing department’s dream. He played much larger than anyone expected. Look for him to continue on the Bolland line. Bryan Bickell was on the Bolland line with Shaw and I don’t think this line will be split up going forward. I just want Bickell to play large and be more physical. He also can provide good size with net presence.

The Hawks have a number of UFA’s and Ben Smith who will be a RFA this off-season do any of these come back?  There is Stalberg, Frolik, Kruger & Hayes could these be used as trade bait or kept on to be developed further? What about the Centerman position? Stan Bowman admitted Goaltending was a weakness this year so what happens next year? Who are the Hawks best options? I will be addressing all of these questions in future blogs.

Question upon question that is what happens when you do not reach your goals. On a team with so many expectations the bar they raised is very high.  In 2011 the Hawks could blame the cap space and having to dismantle a Stanley Cup winning roster. In 2012 it is more difficult to pin point what went wrong. Everyone wants to blame who the Hawks had on the ice but maybe it was not a question of who but what. Afterall, the Penguins, Bruins, Canucks & Red Wings are all out as well. I doubt anyone is saying trade Crosby, Malkin, Chara, Bergeron, Sedins either of them or Lidstrom and Datsyuk.

The core will remain untouchable for now, yes. Another year with a first round playoff exit then something will need to change. As fans you must have faith that this core who got it done once just needs a few pieces around them. Stan Bowman is on the clock and the time is ticking the moment game six ended against the Coyotes. Let’s hope he picks up the right players to put around this talented core.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane– making the big stage small.


Chicago, IL — When you look at Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane you don’t necessarily see an intimidating, imposing threatening presence yet that is exactly what he has become on the ice.  As we all should know looks can be deceiving and one should never judge a book by its cover.  NHL players are beginning to learn this truth every time they face number 88 with the Indianhead jersey. When he is on the ice, now he seems to command the attention of the opposition’s players.

It is not just the NHL who is finding this out. Patrick Kane from a young age was told by others he was too small or not tough enough to play hockey. He was told he would not survive against bigger children or if they were allowed to check him he would be exposed by his lack of size. Thank heavens young Kane and his parents didn’t listen to the detractors.

Didn’t Mark Twain say it best “It’s not the size of the dog in a fight but the size of the fight inside the dog” or something like that. Patrick Kane is a model for every kid out there who is told everything they are not and why they won’t make it. What people failed to see was everything Patrick Kane is and could be. Never once do you hear equated with Kane grit and tenacity but those qualities are exactly what have gotten him to the NHL and atop the NHL. Every step of the way Kane has gone against the odds and come out not only winning but hitting the jackpot.

From a young age Kane possessed a talent and a skill very few even dream about. He is so skilled with the puck and puck movement that it doesn’t matter what his size and strength is he can finesse the puck away from opponents without having to overpower them or use his muscle. He uses his magic hands and wrists instead of brawn. Even I’m awed as a Blackhawks fan when watching the games, how he will go into a corner or be along the boards with two sometimes three opposing much bigger players all checking him and yet he is the one who comes away with the puck more times than not.

I remember reading something in an article that Kane’s dad said when he was playing youth hockey in Buffalo young Kane was so far ahead of the other children their parents complained and Kane was forced into playing with older boys. This probably prepared young Patrick for the NHL because in the long run he learned to play against others bigger than him in size. Now it seems it is no obstacle for him at all instead I think he likes the challenge.

There has been plenty of criticism of Kane not being serious or partying too much off the ice. Let me just say this if Patrick Kane didn’t take hockey seriously he would not have been spending all those hours in rinks practicing and leaving the security and comforts of home at age 14. While he has god give talent he also I’m sure honed it. He did not one day magically have the ability to stick handle and have the vision he has without long hours of practice and working on his hockey I.Q.

Kanes’ demeanor is no different from any other child who plays on a playground. The only difference is his playground is in the NHL and most of the time in Chicago’s United Center but that is another thing that makes Kane so endearing. You can tell he loves the game and enjoys playing every time he steps on the ice. He plays hockey as though he was still a child playing in a small rink in a small town. It’s as though the opposing NHL’s talent, 21,000 fans, camera’s, media, bright lights and big city don’t matter to Patrick it’s all the same – Hockey.

Most young 18 year olds would probably shrivel up in a big market like Chicago with all of the media scrutiny and pressures of reviving a once proud original six organization like the Chicago Blackhawks but not Kane. For Kane though it always seems like the spotlight and center stage is never big enough for him or for his talents to be showcased. In fact they diminish is size while he becomes larger. I have not even mentioned he was the one who scored the game winning goal in OT to bring the Stanley Cup to Chicago after a 49 year drought. Talk about big stages and pressures but Kane knows he has an advantage.

His moves are so masterful with the puck that he is like a Picasso only with a hockey stick instead of a paint brush. Kane has great vision on the ice. There are so many times he sees things others simply do not and we are talking NHL talents here that he is facing who are all gifted in their own rights. This vision gives Kane a unique skill along with his stick handling magical hands that few have. All you have to do is watch the Blackhawks game versus the Anaheim Ducks on 10/25/11 when he did a spin-o-rama pass to Marian Hossa that was just sick. I don’t even know how he saw Hossa, but that is Patrick Kane night in and night out.

The other night I was watching as was most hockey fans in Chicago when Kane came up with another brilliant move in the shoot out against poor Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstom. He put so many moves on him I think he is still looking for which way Kane was going to go. If you have not seen this, go youtube it. While we all marvel at these moves he just looks at it I’m sure like – ok that was fun but let me see what else I can come up with which makes him an artist on ice. In a post game interview he said he didn’t even think it was that difficult.

Entertainer, artist, visionary, playmaker or hockey player extraordinaire whatever you want to call him, Kane is anything but small as there is no stage seemingly large enough for him. Chicago is a city that has been very fortunate to witness great athletes. Payton, Jordan, Hull to name a few but maybe even luckier because with Kane only being 23 years old we may be seeing  one of the greatest artists to ever put on a pair of skates.

Personally I’m enjoying the show he puts on every night and can’t wait for him to come up with another creative masterpiece on ice. Will it be of a classical style like Rembrandt, modernism movement like Picasso, surreal like Dali, impressionist like Monet or expressionism like a Kandinski?  So just go ahead tell Patrick Kane he can’t do something – I dare you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized