NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Vancouver Canucks

And So It Begins — ’13-’14 Hawks Preview: Who Will Be Missed Most?

With actual blades hitting actual ice today, and the temperature dropping below Bikram yoga in hell, it actually feels just a little bit like hockey is pretty close. Not so you could reach out and touch it, but soon enough.

Today I’m going to make up my own question to answer, because that’s just the guy I am. And it addresses who the Hawks will miss most that is gone from last year’s team.

Essentially, this question boils down to Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, (update: And Viktor Stalberg) or Ray Emery. Jamal Mayers had become barely a bit player, Dan Carcillo was only good for coming up with a pretty amazing nickname for a completely useless player, and the entire defense returns.

No one was harder on Dave Bolland than this blog. And last year, that was easy to do. It wasn’t hard to highlight the possession numbers and metrics to show that he was a complete black hole. The faceoff numbers were a career-long slog. Even that checking center weasel we had come to love faded into the background as he took either more scoring line shifts or lost that duty to Shaw and/or Kruger.

However, it’s easy to forget that in the three of the previous four years, Bolland put up 15+ goals from a third line role (mostly). The one year he didn’t was when he missed half the year due to back surgery. A lot of teams would love to have a 3rd center chipping in that much scoring.

And it’s hard to picture Marcus Kruger being able to replicate that scoring rate. While Kruger does have hands around the net and a willingness to get there, as well as a knack for scoring big goals, he just hasn’t exhibited enough dented twine to think he’ll tickle 20 goals or that he’ll be a significantly better playmaker than Bolland. Remember, when on, Bolland might have been the Hawks best passer from around the goal line behind Kane. He really could open up the game there.

As for his defensive game, it’s up for debate how much he benefited from taking most of his shifts in front of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Unquestionably, he did get some of their gloss to rub off on him. Kruger doesn’t have the snarl, but does have the positional IQ. There may be some drop-off here, but not a whole lot.

When Q finally stopped jerking around Michael Frolik and gave him a role to play last year, he became quite the weapon on the 4th line. Sure, he still has no finish to speak of (unless it’s a penalty shot in the playoffs), but his motor that never stopped and fearlessness is going to be hard to replicate. Fro spent a lot of time playing against 3rd and 4th liners that were much bigger than him, but it never stopped him from going into corners and behind the net to disrupt. He also could give you spot duty on the top six when injuries struck.

I feel like Jeremy Morin has the best chance of being this guy, but it’s not a role he’s accustomed to (though neither was Frolik really until he did it). Morin has more bite to his game now, but obviously that comes with a concussion risk. He also does have actual finish, and might convert more chances if he can create anywhere near the same amount that Frolik did.

On the kill where Fro did his most yeoman work, that’s harder to project. While I think Ben Smith will get a full-time role on that unit, I think it’s Brandon Saad who will be first called upon with Kruger. Saad has the better wheels and the valentine cards from Q, and it’ll lessen Smith’s burden on what should be his first full year in the NHL. But matching what Frolik and Kruger were able to do together is a tall order (though Saad won’t win any more draws than Kruger).

Oh right, I should probably talk about Viktor Stalberg too, huh? Y’know, because I was probably his biggest fan? Let’s do that:

In a sense, Stalberg was a faster version of Frolik with more finish. When he finally found a role, it was as a harassing forechecker who swallowed up the gap between he and retreating defensemen faster than they could make a decision and then creating off of that. When he kept his game straight-line, he was pretty destructive.

Again, this might be something Jeremy Morin could do, but would seem better fitted for Brandon Saad when this whole stupid center experiment ends. Saad already has the defensive IQ to play on a 3rd line, and maybe it would be a good way to lessen expectations and burden in what can be a tough sophomore year (and first full one in the NHL).

As for Emery, while he was excellent in his role, we’re still talking about a backup goalie that shouldn’t be needed for more than 25 games. 17-1 and a 1.94 GAA look pretty awesome admittedly, Emery saw barely 24 shots per game. If Khabibulin sees the same amount of flung rubber, one would imagine he could do enough to keep the Hawks in most every game if not better. Assuming he can see straight.

–Oh hey, look, our Training Camp Preview Issue is out! You can have it!

  • Best Predators Forward

    Stalberg?

    • Ian S Carr

      Who?

      • SamFels

        Jesus, I must be more hungover than I thought and totally forgot Stals.

        • Ian S Carr

          That’s okay. The only people who didn’t are the ladies at PoleKatz

        • Why

          I actually consider that the definitive answer on the Stalberg era. He left and no one could remember him without being prompted.

        • Best Predators Forward

          Are you going to write some sort of supplement paragraph about why we will miss (or not miss) Stalberg? Or does it just not matter at this point.

  • SuperHawk27

    I’ll miss Frolik’s 25′ wrister from the half boards….

  • Bobby Otter

    I think the Hawks might miss Stalberg more than the ’13 versions of Bolland or Fro. His speed and size caused problems, even if they didn’t always lead to goals. And 20 goals with almost no power play time is fairly impressive. Now Stalberg’s also a guy that’s either overrated (because of his skill set but lack of finishing) or underrated like a early 00s Billy Bean A’s type player (his size and speed caused enough disruption that him ‘only’ scoring 20 goals a year was okay because it lead to breakdowns in other areas). I don’t know the answer (however, I am an admitted Stalberg apologist).

    Anyway, 2009-2012 Dave Bolland will be sorely missed. But that guy didn’t show up in 2013 and who knows if he was this year.

    • 10thMountainFire

      I don’t think we’ll miss Stalberg much at all.

      I do believe Bolland will be missed quite a bit, as will Frolik.

      • Bobby Otter

        In the Fro vs Stals question… is it easier to replace 20 goals on the 3rd line or 8 goals and a penalty killer? My thinking it’s easier to replace Fro, or rather, there are more guys like Fro than Stals in the AHL/Europe/UFA etc.

        Bolland’s the best player of the bunch, I don’t disagree and he’s the answer to this question. I *could* see Stals being missed more than Dave “I’m going to take the entire year off, let me know if you make the SCF, cus then I’ll show up!” Bolland.

        • 10thMountainFire

          To be blunt, Frolik impressed the shit out of me on the PK. At times he was a one-man killing crew.

          I think if given the opportunity, Morin could pot 20 a year.

          • mightymikeD

            My brain would likely explode from joy if that happened

          • Z-man19

            Can we call that modern art?

          • mightymikeD

            outsider art at best, I think

          • 10thMountainFire

            Not before mine. Mine would explode first.

        • Why

          My answer on Stals v. Fro is that when the Stanley Cup winning coach of the Blackhawks coached the playoffs, one of those two guys sat out. It wasn’t Stalberg.

          I’m still amazed that Frolik hardly ever scored. I keep giving him kudos for finding other ways to contribute rather than hanging his head but it still feels like he could be so much more as a player (I suppose you could say that about virtually any solid player who isn’t a star).

          In comparison, Stalberg can skate.

    • Why

      He showed up. Game 7 of the Detroit series through game 6 of the finals.

  • ballyb11

    What’s the answer?

    • 1benmenno

      42?

      • ballyb11

        No.

  • ballyb11

    Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik Frolik .

    I’m worried without him.

    • birdhead

      I was watching one of the Detroit games last night and the bitrate dropped really low during one penalty kill so it was too blurry to read numbers. I saw a really aggressive forecheck and I was all Oh, Frofro, I miss you, and then it cleared up and turned out to be Saad.

      tl;dr I think Saad can do what he did on the PK (i.e. be fabulous and ensure that Toews and Hossa don’t have to skate heavy PK minutes) and he can certainly fill in for Frolik on the 3rd or 4th line sooooo maybe it won’t be the end of the world?

      (Lies. I miss him already.)

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Biggest loss may turn out to be the play of Frolik. Timely goals, great on the kill. But the person who will be missed most is Rat. He’s the sort of player you love if he’s on your team, and hate if you’re playing against him, and he reveled in that.

    • AirTrafficAJ

      He’s the AJ Pierzynski of hockey.

  • mightymikeD

    I’ll miss all of the above for purely sentimental reasons: Bolland for being his wonderfully, hideously strange self; Stals for that blinding turn of pace that would leave opponents clutching at shadows (although usually finished off with a shot over the glass or straight at the Goalie); Frolik for the guts and the grit and the groin-exploding and Razor for being a Crazy Person. But on the ice… they’re all replaceable (and likely replaced) by the kids. Which is exciting in itself. I can’t wait to see Saad, Morin, Pirri, LeBlanc, Smith fitting into the big team (not that all of them will). These are Great Days, my friends

    • DesertHawk

      RE Stals: Or him plowing into the goalie. He wasn’t as bad as Skille was about it though.

      • mightymikeD

        this is true. And (obviously) if it was against the Beej, then it became a goal

        • DesertHawk

          Stalls was so good at scoring Beej, er on the Beej.

  • rkeign

    Bolland seemed to be able to draw a lot of penalties. That probably sounds strange considering his reputation for “feisty” play. Yeah, he took his fair share of them too. But opponents really seemed to take every joyous opportunity in exacting payback, some retaliations resulting in penalties.
    Shaw, I’m afraid, can be counted on to fulfill this portion of Bolland’s contribution sufficiently. I really liked Dave Bolland, especially for all the great play and storylines he provided us, but I won’t question the foresight of Stanbo in moving him along.

    • Why

      Nothing to be afraid about. If Shaw can replace some of what the team lost when Bolland left, that’s good for the team.

  • cliffkoroll

    I remember an interview with Sharp this summer. He said that, unlike 2010, the team is basically intact, and he’s optimistic about the upcoming season.

    Also, Kaner, on the ice, right after game 6, with kind of a “thanks for showing up finally Dave” comment.

    If that’s how the core feels, that’s A-OK with me.

    If Bolland will be missed, it won’t be until the playoffs.

    Fro and Stals are guys with borderline top-6 skills who got a chance to bumslay with the Hawks. I reckon there’s more where that came from.

    • Why

      It’s that fourth paragraph that scares me. I know the playoffs are a long time away right now but, in the NHL the playoffs are the exact time you don’t want to find out you’re missing a necessary something. Consider these two sentences:

      The Penguins didn’t miss NHL level goaltending until the playoffs.

      The Canucks didn’t miss clutch scoring and TWTW until the playoffs.

      It’s the fifth paragraph that gives me more hope.

  • 07GreyDigger

    Patrick Sharp. When he played second line center. Sigh.

  • ballyb11

    Worried about losing……. Frolic.

  • rkeign

    Wow! Stalberg references in italics! Seems like the challenge has been extended. Expecting any dissension in the ranks?

  • Fleshrifle

    I’m going to miss that blonde ice crew girl who moved on.

  • rkeign

    I’m dying to know. Let’s cut to the chase! Someone go out on the limb and predict the five new forwards making the roster. (Think how brilliant you’ll feel if you get it right!)

    • lizmcneill

      isn’t it 4? Zus has already taken Mayers’ old slot.

      Smith, Morin, Pirri, and Winchester to keep Bollig/Zus company in the press box.

      • rkeign

        I didn’t have Bollig inked in. I figured, looking at all the seasoned talent knocking on the door, he was going to have to be thrown back into the mix, that his hold on a spot is tenuous. In other words then, you’ve got Smith, Morin, Pirri, Winchester. and Bollig.

        • lizmcneill

          Bollig is 1) really cheap 2) inexplicably beloved by Q 3) a known quantity at the NHL level (a very small quantity, but still), so I think he’s back. I really hope he and Winchester aren’t on the roster simultaneously, I’m being pessimistic.

          • Why

            What’s inexplicable? Bollig’s a guy who has only played parts of two NHL seasons and didn’t look out of place in the Stanley Cup finals. There’s not a whole lot of guys you could say that about.

            Would it be better if he was that size but a better skater that contributed more offensively? Well, yes, but apparently guys that do that get paid around 4 million. At a discount.

        • Z-man19

          I’ll be shocked and thrilled if Bollig doesn’t dress half the games this year

          • 10thMountainFire

            So for about half the games this year they’ll have me in a straight jacket and I’ll be mumbling and shouting.

  • putmeinthemadhouse

    in memorandum

    http://stream1.gifsoup.com/webroot/animatedgifs5/2599035_o.gif

    pretty sure someone here made this gif, its from the sch days.

    • http://www.lotsofbutterplease.com/ I am not Chico Maki

      There were days way back when I wondered why Canucks fans hated him so much. Holy though, he would have been easy to hate. Rat, ever a Blackhawk, I guess.

      Love the way Richards gets up from that. It’s like he’s almost just too tired of Bolland’s shit to even care anymore.

      • putmeinthemadhouse

        “*sigh* god damnit…”

      • Hawkeytalk

        This was from game 1 I believe, after Richards had given a cheap shot to Toews. Payback Bolly style and Richards knew it.

        Anyway, I’m going to miss the visible Bolland, but not the invisible one. He was the latter too many nights, and played himself right out of The Core (R) and off the team.

        Oh and the bow tie. I’m going to miss that too.

        • http://www.lotsofbutterplease.com/ I am not Chico Maki

          I only think of him now as the visible one. It’s how I’m honoring him. Why try to remember things that weren’t there?

          (And yes on the tie.)

          • Hawkeytalk

            We should make a Bolly’s Greatest Hits GIF package highlighting his rattiest moments and tweet the URL to Shaw. He needs to see the shoes he’s filling.

    • justforkicks

      i always loved when you’d see someone’s stick go flying, and then see bolly nonchalantly skate by, and you just knew it was because of him. also him using broken sticks to block lanes during the pk. and his wackadoo smile while going to the box.

  • ChicagoNativeSon

    “Viktor Stalberg. More finish than Frolik.”

    Might want to keep that one off his resume.

    • Z-man19

      Heh

      • 1benmenno

        Heh heh

    • putmeinthemadhouse

      thats a backhanded compliment if i’ve ever seen one.

      • bizarrohairhelmet

        Frolik had a pretty nice backhand (if only on penalty shots in the playoffs).

    • Preacher

      Y’all just watch: Stalberg will light it up for the offensive juggernaut that is the Nashville Predators.

  • MattC86

    Khabibulin has a lot to live up to in the “troll Barret Jackman from the bench” category.

    Then again, he gets a few in him, and he may hit him with his car on his way home from the UC, which wouldn’t be all bad.

    • 10thMountainFire

      Not drunk
      Drunk
      Bulin’d

  • Toews still makes funny faces!

    I still want to know. Are we going to be required to wear pants this year?

    • 10thMountainFire

      When were we ever required, or even allowed, to wear pants?

      • DesertHawk

        I wear pants… :ducks:

        • 1benmenno

          Arizonans wear ducks for pants?

  • 1benmenno

    I understand that we have to slough these guys off like so many skin cells but I will miss them all. Bolland and Frolik for reasons already stated. But Stalberg too, despite the lack of finishing skills. I will always remember that moment when the Hawks’ undefeated streak was about to come to an end against Detroit and, in the waning moments of the third, Stals simply outhustled a defenseman in front of the net and with his speed managed to backhand a pass to Kane. Who finished with his usual panache. It was the most exciting regular season game of the season, up to that point.

  • raditzzzz

    i have to go with fro, mostly because i am not sure if we are going to plug the PK hole he will leave behind at the level he was at. and that pk was dominant the entire season and into the post season. bolly was a shell of his former self although his last goal made his final statement.

    i think we will miss stalberg more than most are willing to believe, not for his scoring, but for his forecheck (as mentioned by fels). he was a key reason the third line was so successful last year. but to his detriment, he was a regular season player who just could not raise his level of performance during the post season during his tenure here.

  • Croaker

    Is Kruger the new Kopecky? Defensive depth guy, good motor, but can’t quite produce the points?