And So It Begins – 2013-2014 Hawks Season Preview Q & A

Last week when solicited, you, the loyal Committed Indian Juggalo for the important questions that you need answered regarding this upcoming season, you certainly did not disappoint. Despite a maximum four-banner winning season from our Men of Four Feathers and minimal (by comparison) post-championship roster turnover, there are still some pressing issues facing the club as camp is about to break.

So without further ado, we begin.

Will we all be so spoiled now that anything short of an appearance in the SCF will be considered a failure?Sparky

Short answer: Yes.

Given the culture that has been established around these parts being the only two-time Cup champions in the Salary Cap Era, anything less than that would be considered a disappointment, assuming a median-to-high degree of health from The Core ™, which has now been identified, established, and made a clear statement on its ability to win with a different supporting cast. Multiplying these expectations are the new playoff format, which pits the Hawks (in theory) against divisional opponents for the first two rounds. The new Central division isn’t exactly a powerhouse at present, even though Minnesota might eventually get interesting if their young talent develops, and despite what anyone says about the Blues, who have basically only swapped Derek Roy and Magnus Pajaarvi for Andy McDonald and David Perron, and haven’t gotten past LA in the past two years. And though Jon Quick still has the ability to steal a series on his own, the Hawks showed that the Kings can be brutalized with speed, and that’s with Robyn Regehr having a smaller role than he’ll have this year.

So when the dust settles, there’s no realistic reason at the outset of the campaign that an SCF appearance shouldn’t be the expectation.

Also, Crawford. Good or bad?Laarmer

Good, but not $6 mildo over six years good.

I like Corey Crawford, I think he’s a fine goalie. And by all accounts, he seems like a pretty decent guy who waited his turn and in turn earned his pay day with a two-trophy season that should have had a third in the form of a Conn Smythe. But RoboStan has very rarely been in the business of paying for past performances, jettisoning accomplished players ruthlessly (Campbell, Brouwer, Bolland, Stalberg, Frolik) despite having earned their respective paydays in favor of a longer-term vision that keeps the Championship Window(tm) open as wide and as long as possible. And it has long been the hallmark of any Bowman run franchise to not spend on goaltending when resources can be allocated to the 18 skaters in front of them to succeed with ordinary goaltending (see: Osgood, Chris). So this signing is certainly a paradigm shift.

Corey Crawford has shown both the ability and demeanor necessary to backstop a juggernaut, making the saves he needs to make (for the most part), and stealing a game if not a series when asked, as well as showing a calm confidence about his game during the numerous times his head was called for. Crawford has deficiencies in his game as all goalies do, but at this point they’re “known-knowns” and can be accounted for. But the concern is that in a cap era almost no goalie is worth $6 million dollars, sentiment be damned. So either Stan knows something about the Cap moving into the future, or he is that confident in his ability to maximize draft picks on cheap entry level contracts, or a combination of both. Either way, this is Stan cashing in on some capital he’s earned with the second Cup, but in doing so he’s turned the pressure back up on his goalie who probably thought he was finally out of the woods from Meatball Goalie Bloodlust.

How many Rockford Piggies can we seriously expect to be here come Oct 1?Matt (not Killion or me or MattC86 or…)

Looking at the depth chart right now, the givens on the roster at forward are Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Bickell, Kruger, Handzus, Shaw and Saad. Every spot on the blue line (7 of them) and in the crease is spoken for by an adult (and Nikolai Khabibulin). So by my math (I went to an engineering school), that’s 18 spots spoken for with a maximum of 5 forward slots for the Swine.

Despite our protestations, Brandon Bollig doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, and Q will keep him around as the resident knuckle dragger for the regular season now that Gorilla Salad is off to get his tips frosted in LA with buddy Jeff Carter. Hopefully Quenneville has learned his lesson regarding dressing Bollig in the playoffs after Game 2’s boner against the Bruins.

And speaking of some burn in the finals, look for Optimus Grind Ben Smith to get every opportunity to replace some of the energy and PK aplomb that Michael Frolik displayed, but for about a quarter of the cap cost. Naturally, every goal he scores will lead to Jesse and his army of idiot Twitter followers to call for him to get some top 6 time, which isn’t the worst idea for a game or two, but should not be attempted at length.

Jeremy Morin’s time is also nigh, with the Hawks now looking for bum slaying scoring depth on the third and fourth lines now that Viktor Stalberg is overpaid in Nashville. Much like Smith, Morin hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but he’s shown a knack for the net whenever he has been.

Past these three is where things start to get interesting, as the prime candidates are centers (or at least plays one on TV in the case of Jimmy Hayes), including but not limited to AHL scoring champ Brandon Pirri, giant faced Hobey Baker winner Drew LeBlanc, and former first round picks Mark McNeill and Philip Danault. But the center position is an entirely different bag of kittens that we’ll empty further down the road.

  • justforkicks

    i feel like hayes is going to come up early and i’m not going to like it

    • Black JEM

      They are going to want to see Hayes early and see if he can play center – if not, he will be shipped out for draft picks – there is no other room for him on the Hawks.

      • Preacher

        Does the 10-game thing still stand under the new CBA? If so, my guess is that we’ll see a revolving door of players “trying out” with the big club unless and until someone absolutely takes the open spots. Smith, Morin and Pirri will probably get the longest looks. For some reason (maybe because of his giant face) I think LeBlaaahh could be a pleasant surprise and stick for a significant amount of time.

        • Only coming from junior, and because McNeill and Danault got some time at the Rock at the end of last year, they’re not even eligible for that.

          With the Teuvo signing, there’s no one in the organization who matters yet who isn’t on the contract clock, as the Stephen Johns situation still has a deadline too.

          • lizmcneill

            If TT spends the whole year in Finland/doesn’t play more than 9 NHL game doesn’t that mean his contract slides?

          • I think he only gets that through this year, still being south of 20 when the season starts.

          • lizmcneill

            Yeah, this is his age-19 season so after this he’s on the clock no matter where he plays, right? I imagine the Hawks would be glad enough to get him out of Jokerit and safely tucked up with the Pigs before the KHL get in there.

          • Why

            If it was strictly about what’s best for the team long-term (notwithstanding player development), they’d want him in the Rock right now. This year is going to eat up one of his 7 “RFA years” because he’s likely going to play more than 9 games in a European professional league while under a NHL contract. If he played in Rockford, that probably wouldn’t happen.

            Still though, 7 years from now is a long time and it’s not a huge difference to just give up one of those years. And the Hawks get a chance to scout him while freeing up an extra spot in Rockford.

          • lizmcneill

            Don’t the ELC and RFA clocks start running at the same time? So at the 20-year-old season unless he’s playing the NHL at 18 or 19.

          • Why

            No and yes. Unfortunately for me I was looking at the wrong category in the CBA. He’s got to be on the active roster for 40 games for it to count as one the accrued seasons (one of the 7 RFA years). For ELC/slide rule, it’s ten games.

          • Why

            If you’re only talking about the ELC rules, that’s one thing.

            It’s actually young punks from anywhere that get caught in this rule, not just junior guys. If you’re over 20 that rule doesn’t apply anymore (it gets more complicated if you’re born after September 15, but Teuvo wasn’t, so let’s just ignore that). Page 23 of the CBA. Liz is right on Teuvo. He’s 19 on September 15 of the year he signed his first SPC and doesn’t turn 20 until the next year. Hawks can slide Teuvo if he doesn’t play 10 in the league.

            The amount of games you play also matters for when you go UFA (don’t forget, it’s seven seasons or 27 years old). European Professional games count for that list and once a guy hits twenty, you only need to play one game in Europe or the league for the year to count. See page 28 of the CBA.

            EDIT: Hope that answers the question and I’ve made a few clarity adjustments.

      • lizmcneill

        Unless his skating has improved I don’t see him sticking – watching him play on Kaner’s line was painful at times.

        • Waylon

          watching him play on any line was painful, IMHO. No thank you, I’m hoping they try to showcase him for an early or mid – season trade.

          • Joe Banks

            He seems kinda soft for a big guy…

          • lizmcneill

            I think they’re probably hoping he’s Bicks 2.0. I’m fine with him getting half a million to play in the Rock for a couple more years to see if he ever puts it together, but I don’t want to see him attempting to put it together in Chicago.

    • 10thMountainFire

      I am also not a fan of Hayes. He’s like Troy Brouwer without the Troy Brouwer.

  • Waylon

    “So either Stan knows something about the Cap moving into the future, or
    he is that confident in his ability to maximize draft picks on cheap
    entry level contracts, or a combination of both.”

    I’m hoping it’s more of the former, because the latter option is too dicey for the long – term. While it’s an obvious point that some of the prospects have to step up, putting that much leverage on that factor makes me nervous. Ah well, we trust in Stan.

    • nextgame

      I have a feeling that latter option is going to be the M.O. for most of the league moving forward. Even with cap increases the cost of keeping the top half of a roster is getting to be such that teams will have to rely heavily on shrewd drafting and excellent player development in order to fill in the bottom half of their roster with quality players that they can have for 3-5 years at EL & RFA level cost.

  • Joe Banks

    “But the center position is an entirely different bag of kittens”…
    So true, alas, so true.

  • 10thMountainFire

    Jeremy. Morin.

  • Alex

    I had trouble sleeping last week. I went to flip on the tube late at night and saw The Core. Horrible movie. I went to sleep, but had nightmares about Swank and Eckhart’s horrible acting. In the future, please don’t Wiki link the The Core when referencing the Hawks Core.

  • GoldenJet

    Are Hawks fans well on their way to becoming like the Braves fans of the ’90s. Spoiled to the point of not selling out the early playoff games?