Tag Archives: Patrick Sharp

Chicago Blackhawks – Deconstruction to a Picasso?

Image result for picasso cubism paintings

Chicago, IL — Pablo Picasso is one of the foremost twentieth century creative minds. His visionary art pushed the artistic envelope more than any other.

Not only did Picasso explore more different types of styles with his periods of Blue, Rose, African, Cubism, Classism & Surrealism but he employed different mediums as well.

Picasso used not only painting but sculpting, collage and ceramics this also illustrates an ingenuity with flexibility to change.

The Chicago Blackhawks can only hope to achieve some of this type of creativity and success with their recent changes.

Think the Picasso Bull deconstruction when thinking of the Blackhawks right now and Stan Bowman may only be on plate 4 in his abstract deconstruction.

What the final picture will be who knows. One can only hope it ends with a silver Cup.

Part of the deconstruction was the trading of Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad which will definitely give the Hawks a much different look.

There is no question part of what will be leaving with Panarin is 20 offensive points but what the Hawks will gain is more of a two way play with Saad which hopefully leads to better possession numbers.

The other benefit to Saad’s game is he also had more D-zone starts as opposed to Panarin which gives the Hawks more flexibility as well with lines and players.

The other thing losing Panarin his points coming from the power play.

This leaves a spot there as well along the left half wall which will most likely be filled by Patrick Sharp.

Welcome back Patrick Sharp. I have no question about Sharp’s hip injury and his ability to be ready come day one.

I am a little more concerned with his concussions and I hope this is not an issue going forward as no one really understands what goes on with this.

For this reason I would prefer to see Sharp on the third line rather than the second line with more exposure being with Patrick Kane.

There is the possiblity of getting more hits with more visibility but we shall see how this plays out.

I’ve got to say Sharp has a great attitude any young player should watch him and learn. Sharp also brings more speed up front.

What will be missed is Hossa in a lot of different areas. He had 26 G and 19 A last year.

The Hawks are looking for Nick Schmaltz, Tomas Jurco  and maybe some youth in Alex DeBrincat or Graham Knott or Alex Fortin to step up and surprise. All of this will have to be sorted through come training camp.

With the Hossa departure it should not be forgotten his work on the power play and penalty kill which both Saad and Sharp should help with these.

Speaking of special teams in particular the penalty kill had a rough start and really never recovered due to the poor start.

With the departure of Kruger, Hossa, Rasmussen and probably Desi an entirely different look for Pk will be forthcoming. Sharp, Saad and newcomer Tommy Wingels can all fill in on the PK.

Speaking of which Stan Bowman really has changed the bottom six look with bringing in Tommy Wingels from Ottawa and Lance Bouma from Calgary both bring more physicality and direct straight line play. Hopefully more net front presence than what the Hawks have had as well.

How the bottom six shakes out will be interesting Bouma, Jurco, Hinostroza, Dauphin, Hayden will all be vying for spots in camp which again should be interesting to watch how this develops.

My concern is at the face off dot because outside of Jonathan Toews there is no one even now at center that is over 50%.

Coaching here will be the key. Wingels, Sharp and Bouma can all play center so we shall see who can improve here.

Perhaps though the scariest part of this deconstruction is the defense.

Outside of Keith and Seabrook there is a tremendous leap of faith that younger unproven guys can step up and in without giving up too much.

Eyes will be on Connor Murphy who will have to fill in for a great dman in Hjalmarsson leaving fair or not.

Murphy is more physical and younger but it remains to be seen what and how all the changes on the back end will affect the overall team defense.

Murphy, Rutta, Kempny, Forsling, Gustafsson and Jordan Oesterle like the forwards will all get their shot to show what they can bring and make the Hawks see they can’t do without them.

Toss in the Hawks also have new assistant coaches and you really aren’t sure if we have the next Picasso masterpiece or dogs playing poker poster.

To go from a known substance in how it looks and how it feels to an unknown new look that makes the surreal esthetically pleasing takes guts and skilled craftsmanship.

Unlike art tho sports depends on elements outside the artists control, making this endeavor extremely bold.

Only time will tell but one has to have faith and believe these decisions will work out the best maybe not this year but in the long run.

Question is can the critics (fans) see the vision or end game if there is no initial success to their standards?

If the Hawks make another first round exit or heaven forbid don’t even make the playoffs what changes will then be made and where? To the front office, coaching, players?

It’s scary to deconstruct for everyone but it is probably the least scary for the fans because they know they’ll be back the following year regardless of how the team does.

The others can’t say the same which should provide plenty of motivation this year.

So Hawks fans if your feeling scared or unsure remember, to forge into greatness risks always need to be taken especially if they’re not initially understood.

In season changes and finer brush strokes also can be applied as well. Another thing you can never say the Chicago Blackhawks are dull or uninventive that’s for sure.

image is Picasso Cubism period


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Chicago Blackhawks – Record setters, Cover boys and Controversy

Hawksbench3JPGChicago, IL – This past week twitter and social media almost exploded because of the Chicago Blackhawks donning the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine’s current issue. Whether you root for the Blackhawks or are against them you definitely can’t ignore them. It seems whether you were a Chicago Blackhawks fan or not there was controversy over the SI cover.

Fans from other NHL franchises were complaining that the Blackhawks were receiving too much attention and were offended by the perhaps inaccurate phraseology of “the franchise that brought hockey back”. Their feeling was that their own franchises were being diminished or disrespected somehow and that their fan bases came back regardless of the Blackhawks and the streak.

That may all be true but when was the last time any hockey team was on the cover of SI? When was the last time Lebron James talked hockey if ever? When was the last time hockey was being shown on ESPN sports center? ESPN probably reaches close to 15-20 million people in the United States.

While hockey fans may loathe ESPN and it’s lack of coverage of hockey you have to admit exposure from them doesn’t hurt. It just so happened it was the Chicago Blackhawks and their streak that got ESPN to notice hockey. Commissioner Bettman could not have planned this better himself. In fact the Chicago Blackhawks as a side benefit accomplished something the NHL has been unable to do – make peace with ESPN.

Surprisingly some of the Chicago Blackhawks fan basis were equally offended but by different terminology. Specifically it was the sub paragraph that they felt fostered the notion that hockey now matters because of the Hawks. Their objection was the implication that hockey did not matter prior to the Blackhawks streak.

Then there was the choice of covers that had some Hawks fan in an uproar because there were no “Franchise” players on said cover. Some fans found to be a blatant indicator that SI knew nothing of the team. Others found it a good choice either because the photo itself was great photography of a team or because that was exactly the point. The Blackhawks steak was not about one or two franchise players but an entire team effort.

To all fans I would suggest, Sports Illustrated is in the business of selling magazines and their headlines are supposed to insight some sort of feeling or interest hopefully enough so you pick up the magazine. Maybe their words were not chosen correctly but for the first time in a long time hockey and the NHL are being given some major media attention in a good way. That’s a good thing people for all NHL teams and fans. If the NHL players of other teams don’t have problems with the Blackhawks SI cover then why do their fans?

I also loved how fans dismissed SI as not a “hockey magazine” and will not pick the issue up and will not take it seriously. What is ironic is the “hockey magazine” The Hockey News has a cover of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews on it looking more like GQ and cashing in on their streak along with their good looks. I mean honestly why not show them playing hockey instead of their Armani or Hugo Boss suits? Although I enjoyed this cover as well, but surprised there was no uproar over this but I guess because it is a hockey magazine it’s alright.

After the horrendous publicity that the NHL received because of the lockout, whether NHL fans want to believe this or not their beloved sport was viewed as a joke and an amateur league. There yes I said that. Most people view the NHL on par with the KHL even though these leagues are vastly different and the NHL is a far superior league. In fact hasn’t ESPN given more coverage to the KHL then the NHL during the lockout. If the Blackhawks change that it is good folks. Anything positive to wipe out those images and beliefs is a good thing.

NHL fans complain that their sport is never taken seriously but then when it is you complain or when new fans come on board they are condescended to by being called bandwagoners. Stop it. Everyone finds hockey and the NHL in different ways the point is as long as they eventually find it and see what a wonderful game it is that is what is important.

Somehow you have to wonder why do some hockey fans have such a snobbish attitude. Do you think NFL and MLB fans care if you just started following a team or you’ve been following them all your life?

But it wasn’t just the fans that got their hockey sticks stuck up their behinds over this whole cover it was also the professional media as well. This past week TSN Toronto was so incensed with the same suggestion that the Blackhawks made hockey matter. They said maybe in the US but not in Canada where hockey always matters.

They actually had a poll who was more important to hockey – Sidney Crosby, Canadian teams or the Chicago Blackhawks. Now I wonder how many hits this poll generated considering this is in Canada. Is it not possible that in Canada, Canadian teams are important; in Pittsburgh Sidney Crosby is important and in Chicago the Blackhawks are important?

Whether it is Canadian teams, Sidney Crosby or the Chicago Blackhawks that generate fan interest the important thing is they are generating interest but I guess that is a concept that is too simple for major media to understand.

Even the NHL’s own network somehow seemed to think that the Anaheim Ducks and their unbelievable record right behind the Blackhawks were being slighted. If Anaheim is being slighted what were the Blackhawks supposed to do not try and win?

All of these objections and notions when you step back are well, silly and short sighted. If the Chicago Blackhawks or any NHL franchise brings increased media awareness of the NHL or interest in the sport that is a good thing and they should be commended for it. If they cause hockey discussions and debates that is great for the sport.

The Blackhawks streak pushed other franchises particularly in the Western Conference to keep up which, is a good thing for the league. Look Columbus now has a streak of their own which is good for the Blue Jackets and their fan base. The Blackhawks are forcing other teams to chase them not only on the ice but in their standard of play which improves the NHL product and brand overall. In the East the same could be said of Pittsburgh.

If stadiums in Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas or even Detroit are filled with Blackhawks fans new or old , this is good for the sustainability of the league. If NHL fans want the NHL to continue then they need to make money period. If that comes from the Blackhawks fan base until these teams get a large enough fan base of their own so be it.

Sports Illustrated may have been wrong touting the Chicago Blackhawks as the Franchise that brought hockey back but they were right about them being must see. Whether you like it or not the Chicago Blackhawks are sexy in the style of hockey they play and are fun to watch. Sports are entertainment, watching the Hawks are you not entertained?

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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.


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.

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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.


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Patrick Sharp – Prolific, Handsome, Humorous & Blackhawk for a while!

Chicago, IL — Now it is no secret to anyone who follows sports in Chicago, that THE best professional sports team General Manager in Chicago is Stan Bowman and he just solidified this status some more this week with the contract extension that he just inked with forward Patrick Sharp.  Bowman grabbed our attention when he signed Keith, Kane & Toews all in one fell swoop in his first attempt to solidify the Hawks Core.  He really impressed when he mid-season penned talented D-man Seabsy to a long-term deal but now he has blown us out of the stratosphere with the Sharpie signing an entire year before his contract was to expire –  applauds all around for Mr. Bowman securing a young, talented team for years to come and securing a fan base as well.  As long as the core Blackhawks are in Chicago you can rest assured that the United Center will be sold out every game.

Oh happy days are in Chicago for a while, five years more of Sharpie and his sharpshooting ways.  Blackhawks fans are ecstatic to see Sharp and that sniper shot of his on the point of a Blackhawks power play or maybe a little back door action and lets not forget he is also very lethal at the front door as well which will keep opposing defenses in puzzlement for quit some time.  Blackhawk teammates are I’m sure, equally thrilled to not only have his hockey skills but also his prankster ways and leadership as well.  While last year the Hawks did not have the results at the end of the day that they would have liked it demonstrates all the more why a little humor paired with leadership was much-needed for this young team.  I mean who else can referee hockey bros Tazer and Kaner and keep the boys on track.

Patrick Sharp came to Chicago in 2005 from Philadelphia Flyers with not much fan fare.  He came at one of the lowest points in Blackhawk franchise history to a dead organization and stadium that no hockey player would want to go to and no fan in Chicago wanted to go see.  Ah but the times have certainly changed now I doubt Mr. Sharp can step out his front door without media & fans stalking him and he is a big part of the transformation.  It is always nice to see someone reap the rewards of all of their labors.  Sharp is coming off his best year statistically with 34 goals 37 assists 71 points and not only being an All Star but the All Star MVP as well.  Sharps numbers have improved almost every year since coming to the Blackhawks and was well above the leagues averages for forwards this past year.

 1 League Averages Sharpie Numbers differential
Goals 9 34 3.77% higher than avg
Assists 13 37 Amost 3 x’s higher than avg
Points 22 71 Over 3X’s higher than avg
+/- -1 -1 0

Loyalty counts for a lot not only to the Chicago Blackhawks but to the fan base as well.  Patrick Sharp in his own words recently told Cris Kuk of the Chicago Tribune “It’s nice to know that core has won a Stanley Cup,” Sharp said. “You look at players like Toews, Kane, Hossa, (Dave) Bolland (signed through ’14), Seabrook (and) Keith, you know that’s a heck of a start. It’s another one of the reasons I wanted to stay.”2  As a Blackhawks fan I for one am very happy that we will see those one timer sledgehammer shots, newly towelled off disheveled hair, one knee windmill fist swing celebrations, fabled mischievous pranks, devilish smirks continue in Chicago.  As a city we have lots of tourist attractions like the Hancock, Buckingham fountain, Wrigley field, Willis tower, Oak Street Beach, Magnificent Mile but some of the best sights in the entire city can be found on United Center ice and it is reassuring to know that #10-handsome will be on that ice for years to come.

1- stats taken from internet @yahoo sports

2 taken from August 03, 2011|By Chris Kuc, Tribune reporter – article entitled Blackhawks Sharp signs 5-year contract extension – http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/ct-spt-0804-blackhawks-sharp–20110804,0,6376349.story

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