USATSI_7720116_160885884_lowres

Back To The Matter At Hand

Now that we can stop talking about the bigger ice and lineups and other coaches, perhaps it’s time to reset where we are with the Hawks and where it’s going.

The Hawks have a few days here to get the legs back under them, though the seven Olympians who went the route through the weekend probably won’t rejoin practice until Wednesday or maybe even Thursday’s morning skate. Obviously, for a little while the Hawks are going to need the non-Olympians to carry them a bit (a Brandon Saad binge would be most welcome, as well as Andrew Shaw coming in from the cold). I’d also look for Bryan Bickell to be more effective (not that he’s been as bad as everyone wants us to believe) as he really needed more time for his deteriorating knees to heal. Hell, maybe he’ll even crack 10 minutes per game.

What can we expect the Hawks to look like post-break? For comparison’s sake, the last time we did this wasn’t especially pretty nor terribly ugly. The Hawks came out of the last Olympic Break with a 5-4-2 record, losing to the Islanders first out before ripping off three in a row and then entering something of a ho-hum period. You may remember this as Cristobal Huet’s Last Stand, with a complete spit-up in Columbus handing the job to Antti Niemi. Whether that was break-induced or just normal March doldrums, I leave to you. The Hawks closed out March then losing three of four, before crashing through April winning five of six but losing at home on the final day to not get the top seed over San Jose (which ended up totally mattering, right?)

Where we stand now is the Hawks are tied with the Blues on the Central throne but have played three games more. Depending on how the Blues come out of the break, winning the division is going to be tricky. As we all know, even a three- or four-point lead gets really hard to make up when so many games become three-pointers. Basically, the Blues only have to win one and get a point in another of their games in hand to make it highly difficult for the Hawks. Those two games between the two at the United Center in March and April are going to be huge, if winning the division is something you value (our official blog position is that we don’t, but it’d be kinda nice).

The Hawks have some lineup juggling to do, and that’s even if they don’t make one more move before the deadline which no one is anticipating. While after the deadline you can carry as many players as the cap will allow, A) the Hawks don’t have a lot of space and B) the Hogs are actually poised to make the playoffs for once and I’m sure the organization thinks it’s more valuable for some players to be participating in a playoff chase in the AHL than sitting in the pressbox up here. Also, keep in mind last year that due to the delayed season the NHL season ended way after the AHL one did, which is not the case this year.

The Hawks will have an extra forward for these games, which they haven’t basically all season (and no, skating Brookbank or Kostka up there doesn’t count). Michael Kostka was launched yesterday on waivers and claimed by Tampa. Some have bemoaned the loss of Ryan Stanton instead of Kostka at the beginning of the year, but you shouldn’t. Stanton likely wouldn’t have played much more if any more games than Kostka did, and there are better defensive prospects that would have seen him gone next year anyway (Johns, Clendening, Dahlbeck, etc.)

It appears that Q is already taking a liking to one Peter Regin. He will probably be the latest to be shoe-horned into Patrick Kane’s line, though he really isn’t that type of player. But other than Toews, that type of player isn’t on the roster. If Q didn’t want to kill Brandon Pirri’s spirit however, this would be the perfect time for him to really go for the “Three scoring lines and one checking line” model he’s been using most of the year, but more effectively. Handzus would be in a suit of course, with Shaw replacing Bollig to join Kruger and Smith. I guess what I see is Versteeg/Saad-Pirri-Kane, Versteeg/Saad-Regin-Bickell, and that other line. But we won’t get there and likely Regin goes between Kane and Versteeg with Handzus centering Saad and Bickell/Shaw. Of course, Handzus, Bickell, and maybe Regin are going to rotate being the healthy scratch. Though when I close my eyes and concentrate it’s Bollig who occasionally takes his turn in the pressbox. Then I open my eyes and only see a cold, cold, senseless world.

The schedule doesn’t do too many favors. The only team out of it the Hawks will see this month is Buffalo in a couple Sunday, and arguably Carolina (but is anyone out of it in the Metrosexual Division?). Remember that the entire Central is in the playoff hunt, and the Hawks will see the Predators three times the rest of the season and no matter where the Preds are they’re always a threat to be annoying. They’ll see the Jackets twice, the Penguins twice (though they don’t have much to play for anymore), the Blues twice, the Avalanche twice, and there’s a tricky three-game trip at the end of March that will take them to Ottawa, Boston, and then Pittsburgh.

All right everyone, get your stretching in and make sure you’re warmed up properly. Before you blink, Game 1 is going to be upon us, no matter who it is against. It’s quite the sprint.

  • Fleshrifle

    I’m starting to really love our Antii2. Belfour throwback! Hell ya!

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=706192&navid=nhl:topheads

  • Mosy9

    oh my god oh my god oh my god…im so excited

    but seriously, this is going to be crazy

  • ChicagoNativeSon

    An embarrassment of defensive riches…

    I’m not crying over the loss of Kostka, and this has nothing to do with Sam’s limited commentary (which is really all the attention this move deserves – on this team), but I find it interesting how the Hawks can seemingly afford to let NHL talent walk away, and also how some fans are glad to see him go.

    THE 2010 STANLEY CUP CHAMPION Blackhawks (sorry, I still love writing that) had Jordan Hendry (currently playing in the DEL (Deutsche Eishockey Liga)), slotted higher than Kostka was this season. In fact, Hendry played 43 regular season and 15 playoff games for the Hawks that year.

    Other defensive members of arguably the most talented team of the cap era: Nick Boynton (retired), Cam Barker (woof!), Brent Sopel (KHL), and the oft disappearing, posthumously retired, and purported pervert Kim Johnsson.

    Personally, I’d take Thor over Hendry, Boynton or Barker (woof!), and those guys were regulars. Kostka was 2 injuries away from seeing regular ice time.

    Kostka will be a starter for the Isles. Hawks lost Ryan Stanton to waivers earlier this year and he’s playing well for the Nyucks. They’re literally (yes *literally*, cliff) giving away starters to other teams, when half of the Hawks’ defensive corps from 2010 couldn’t find jobs elsewhere in the NHL.

    To me, the Hawks releasing Thor was much less a reflection of his playing ability and more based on the current cap situation and the incredible depth of this team’s defense…

    …even with Seabass on it.

    • AMR

      You forgot to mention that they traded Olsen & Hayes and they both are seeing regular ice time for the Panthers. Also, Kostka was claimed by the lightning. Not sure if you meant that he would be a starter on a team like the Isles.

      • ChicagoNativeSon

        Good points. And edited. I meant Lightning.

      • 10thMountainFire

        Ice time with the Panthers does not necessarily follow an assessment of talent. Hayes had multiple chances to stick here. Q gave him several opportunities. His skating wasn’t that great and he looked lost much of the time. A flash or two of getting to the slot and ‘looking big’ but for the most part, he did himself in with poor play on the big club.

        • AMR

          He may not have had the talent to stick with the Hawks but that is a pretty high standard to achieve. How many players in the NHL could stay with them? 10%-30% of NHLers?

          • 10thMountainFire

            I don’t think it’s a talent issue with Hayes, though that in and of itself is ‘squishy’ to me in hockey talk. I shouldn’t have used the word ‘talent’. My apologies.

            He simply didn’t seem to understand his role. Clearly, his size is a natural attraction but similar to Troy Brouwer he had tendency to flash and then disappear. It wasn’t until Brouwer had a regular role that he sort of blossomed. Then he traveled eastward.

            I don’t doubt that Hayes could be a very good top six player on many teams. I just don’t know that he finds consistency at the NHL level in time to ensure a future for himself.

          • AMR

            That is the trick but no ones knows until the player is put into that situation. Some may soar in a regular spot and some may sink. But its an unknown until the player has that chance

          • 10thMountainFire

            Hayes was given multiple opportunities. Q gave him tons of rope. He hung himself.

          • AMR

            I would disagree with that assessment. I don’t think Q gave him good opportunities. Just like I don’t think Q has given Pirri or Morin good opportunities

          • 10thMountainFire

            Skated him on several lines with multiple partners. Hayes got much more rope than Morin has gotten.

          • Korab22

            The Jimmy even got playoff shifts in 2012.

          • AMR

            So Q switched his linemates multiple times. How is he suppose to find his niche if he is asked to do something different on each line. if he is on the second with kane the main focus is offense. The third and fourth line the emphasis on defense and chipping a goal here and there. So what role was he suppose to adopt?

          • 10thMountainFire

            Hayes essentially had a roster spot to lose this season. He lost it through inconsistency and generally speaking a lack of effective scoring opportunities. I recall one goal where he muscled Kronwall(?) out from in front of the Scum net to push in a rebound. It was beautiful. But it was the exception. He simply did not produce. Q gave him several opportunities to do so. Much more rope than other prospects.

          • AMR

            I think with Q is that he gets comfortable with certain players and styles and if you do not fit either one then you do not get played. But ultimately we will have to agree to disagree.

          • 10thMountainFire

            Several people (here at TCI, at least) have made the case that Hayes was one of Q’s favorites. On several occasions, however, he seemed lost. He didn’t skate very well at the outset of the season, either.

          • AMR

            Really Hayes as a Q favorite I wouldn’t have made that assessment. Hayes may have played a lot because he was the closest to NHL ready and cheap. Just like Olsen. Olsen had a 34 game tryout in 2010-11 season I believe and after that season never really sniffed the NHl again until he was traded

          • 10thMountainFire

            Q gave Hayes quality opportunities on several occasions, specifically in this year’s pre-season. Olsen and Hendry were ostensibly filler candidates for the role of Sopel when he departed via trade in 2010. Neither was very impressive. Hendry was later moved to forward and skated on the wing for a good portion of his final period with the Hawks.

          • AMR

            Didn’t most of the beat writers say that Hayes had a good camp but Nordstrom for whatever reason beat him out? Again I think we will just have to agree to disagree.

          • 10thMountainFire

            I don’t think Hayes was assessed at having impressed this past camp, no.

          • AMR

            Well my recollection was that he was impressive but it has been about 6 months so who the hell knows

          • 10thMountainFire

            I don’t doubt his talent. He has good hands and a big body. He’s going to find work. I always saw him as a clone of Brouwer but then again, my mental capacity is limited by my stupidity.

          • bizarrohairhelmet

            Don’t be so modest. There are other things limiting it, too. Your drinking, for instance.

          • 10thMountainFire

            I can stop any time I want to. Drinking, that is. Not being stupid.

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

            The other thing with Hayes, if I can interject, is that we traded him, we didn’t lose him on waivers like the others who were discussed. So whatever the chances he did or didn’t get, it’s not as though it resulted in a net negative, we did get NHL-rosterman Versteeg in return.

          • 10thMountainFire

            Great point. It certainly reflects a wider assessment (beyond the Hawks franchise) of Hayes’ value.

          • Bob Lanz

            I would agree with that assessment for Pirri and morin, but Hayes got a shot same exact time as shaw. Shaw succeeded. Hayes didn’t. Morin would but doesn’t look like he will be given a shot. Smith did eventually fighting into a starting spot. Hayes not good enough for this club.

          • ChicagoNativeSon

            Yeah, that’s my point. These guys are good enough (so far) to play in the NHL, but not good enough for the Hawks. Which is expected, but the Hawks are letting go quite a few young players. Not sure they’re getting good returns though.

            I guess I’m questioning Stan’s moves this season and his cap management. IMO, some of these are aftershocks from the ill-advised signing of Khabi.

          • Waylon

            Not sure I agree with this conclusion, primarily because at some point the Hawks have to start finding out what they have in the minors. Either play them or trade them, but the players they’ve let go so far are not likely to come back to haunt them (and yeah, I was not pleased about the Stanton decision). And I still don’t understand the Khabi decision, given that Boston’s back up netminder was on the market and was a better player.

    • Paul the Fossil

      An excellent point. I’ve thought for a while that we’ve gotten spoiled around here as far as how we perceive the Hawks’ d-men. We seem to take turns becoming eye-test-obsessed, forgetting that even the greatest defenseman playing at the NHL level will sometimes get pantsed by the great forwards who play at the NHL level. Orr got burned sometimes, Chelios coughed up pucks sometimes, Lidstrom got caught sometimes, pick your favorite. A couple of seasons ago Hammer was the primary local target of this myopia (I was particularly guilty of that one); we’ve gone through phases of collectively aiming it at Keith; right now Seabrook is the target of it; no doubt next season it will be somebody else.

      And it’s really easy to fall into, been there/done that. But in reality as you rightly note the depth and quality of defense core that the Hawks have built is pretty remarkable. (I’d actually forgotten that Jordan Hendry played 15 _playoff_ games in 2010!)

      • VerStig

        Let’s not also forget Byfuglien skating at D too

      • 10thMountainFire

        Hendry was Brookbank in 2011-2012 before Brookbank was Brookbank if my memory isn’t completed eroded.

    • Accipiter

      Seabrook was traded for Girardi and then Girardi was traded for Carlson.

      • ChicagoNativeSon

        Hey, only a loony would mention trading Seabrook.

    • 10thMountainFire

      Hendry went to part-time forward in 2011, right? In 2010 he was limited and a 7th defenseman… correct?

      • ChicagoNativeSon

        Hendry played a few games at forward, but not sure of the seasons.

        But he played quite a bit in 2010. The D was thin. It was Hjammer’s 1st full season. Wiz and Walker were gone. Barker got traded for a dead guy. Soupy went down. As mentioned, the situation was so desperate, Buff moved back to D.

        Boynton was a trade deadline “upgrade.” Crap, he was even on the ice when Kane scored THE GOAL.

        • cliffkoroll

          Sopel was the butt of many a joke in 2009-10, until his playoff shot-blocking heroics.

  • ChicagoNativeSon

    Hawks have the toughest schedule in the league from here on out.

    • Fleshrifle

      Hawks are the toughest ‘out’ in the league from here on out

    • DesertHawk

      That’s par for the course though.

    • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

      Not after the Hawks get done with them!!!!

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      So don’t worry about the PC or the division, just get ready for the Playoffs, baby.

    • cliffkoroll

      Really? How many times do they play Chicago?

    • 10thMountainFire

      /RealityCheck’d

  • Paul the Fossil

    Today’s Sun-Times notes that Toews and Keith each now have two Olympic gold medals and two Stanley Cup rings. Made me wonder if any other hockey players have yet reached that (2 and 2)…Brodeur has 2 (gold) and 3 (rings) and so did Igor Larionov; Peter Forsburg got 2 and 2. Not coming up with any others.

    • birdhead

      Toews also has two WJC golds, a World gold and a World silver. He really has had just a disgusting career.

      Another addition to your list is Fetisov, according to the Wiki page on the triple gold club.

      • Paul the Fossil

        Ah, good call. Yes Fetisov had two of each (Olympic golds and Cup rings).

        • birdhead

          Can’t really take any credit for it as a call – just from reading the Wikipedia page.

          And actually I notice Scott Niedermayer also qualifies with 2 golds and 4 (!) cups.

          • Paul the Fossil

            Wow. And a Norris Trophy, and a Conn Smythe, and a Memorial Cup, and a World Championship, and a World Junior Championship, and a World Cup.

            “the only player in history [to date] to win every major North American and international championship available to a Canadian player.”

          • birdhead

            Too late for Toews to get a Mem Cup and match him :( Still, add on a World Cup and Toews’ resume looks not dissimilar. Again I say: disgustingly good. In fact I read this today about a “golden generation” of Canadian talent: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/team-canadas-golden-generation-not-going-anywhere/article17062885/

  • VanDorp’sMullet

    OHMYGODHOCKEYISCOMINGBACKSOONANDI’MSOEXCITEDINEEDTOCHANGEMYDEPENDS!!!!

  • Country_Bumpkin

    I am almost sick with excitement over NHL hockey starting again. Part of me is /worry’d and part of me just wants to wait until the playoffs to worry.

  • Bullitt315

    Considering the Hawks are 7-0 against teams seeded lower than them and 1-2 against teams seeded higher than them over the last 4 years(8-0, 2-3 over 5), I’ll take the division please

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      Well, we did sweep the Sharks.

    • cliffkoroll

      This is because the better team is usually the higher-seeded team- it has little to do with home ice advantage.

      In 2012, the Hawks were 0-3 against Phoenix at the United Center. Good times.

      Also, against Phoenix in 2012 and Vancouver in 2009, the Hawks were lower-seed but had outpointed the (division-winning) opposition, so they actually were the better team. And the Sharks series was basically a toss-up going in (as was Boston IMO.)

      By my ‘better team’ theory, the Hawks are 8-1 in series where they were the better team going in, 2-0 in toss-up series (SJ and Bos), and 0-2 when the opposition going in was better (Detroit in 2009, Vancouver in 2011.)

      I only care about standings to the extent they reveal the better team. If the Hawks are healthy and in synch when the playoffs roll around, they’ll be the better team than most or all.

      • Bullitt315

        Yes, I’d like to go into the playoffs with the Hawks being the better team without our eye test bias.

        • cliffkoroll

          Well, if they’re taking orders at the drive-thru, put me down for a 5-0 victory in every game from here on out.

          • Bullitt315

            No drive-thru. You have to call ahead.

  • CozBullsFan

    The one thing I’m excited for the most? Seeing Toews and Crosby finally face each other.

    • 10thMountainFire

      I’m looking forward to seeing them face each other as well. Not to be meatballish but it would have been interesting to see Bolland face Crosby with the Hawks as well.

      • CozBullsFan

        Yup. That would be a real treat too.

        • 10thMountainFire

          In other news, Bolland is practicing amidst trade speculation:

          http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=444585

          • CozBullsFan

            Glad to see he is getting healthy. Sucks about the trade rumors though.

          • 10thMountainFire

            Well, it doesn’t end up sucking if he goes to a contender…

          • CozBullsFan

            It does if we have to face said team.

    • red palace

      I just hope there’s enough lingering Canaraderie to keep Crosby from slew footing the Captain or pulling some other of his dumbass stunts.

      I am sorta curious to see how much time Q gives the Kruger line against him. I lean toward “not much”.

  • 10thMountainFire

    I’ll see your Brandon Saad binge and raise you a continuation of Hossa’s unreal play.

  • Paul the Fossil
    • 10thMountainFire

      That was excellent. Thanks for posting.

      • cliffkoroll

        Agreed. Best thing I’ve read in a while.

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

      An Atlantic article? Hockey’s made the big time.

    • 1benmenno

      Good stuff. Great stuff.

    • M7

      I haven’t read the article yet but I always find it amusing when I see the player benches in European rinks. They’ve got these nice polished, hardwood slat benches with backs! I’ve yet to see a hockey bench anywhere I’ve ever played in N.America that has a bench like those in the front picture of that article. Notice the benches in Sochi where identical. Just a weird thing.

      Carry on.

  • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

    Does Disqus no longer show downboats? Are they trying to limit the number of these they get?

    • Bob Lanz

      I tried downing you it just turned red

      • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

        I imagine I received a Metric Fuck-ton of them yesterday, but will never know. I got no flags though so, there is that.

        • Bob Lanz

          Ya I was pretty hard on ya too. Nothing sexual intended. But you clarified your position later. I still wanted to down boat the shit outta ya. Sorry

          • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

            All good in Blackhawks Land

        • 10thMountainFire

          Amateur.

          • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

            You are a “Top Contributor” but have more flags than I do! lol

          • 10thMountainFire

            How many? Am I in the thousands yet?

          • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

            Almost! only 989 to go!

          • 10thMountainFire

            I’ll step it out. I can do this. I’m confident.

            Also, I’m willing to bet they’re all from the same person.

          • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

            My 6 too!

          • 10thMountainFire

            That guy must fly a red flag outside his house.

          • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

            Red=Fire, I am okay with this! lol

          • 10thMountainFire

            Oh, he’s a commie, too. I’m calling it, time now.

      • bizarrohairhelmet

        Everybody gets a “Participation Trophy”!

        • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

          Except Kane, he got nothing. Kane is pissed now! I am so excited!!!!!

          • bizarrohairhelmet

            Didn’t # also get a bit of a facewash in the final by not seeing much ice time? That should make him angry.

        • Bob Lanz

          You were right yesterday my sarcasm sensor was fouled, I think it may have got interference from my gaydar. It’s been off too lately!

          Now that’s humor

          • bizarrohairhelmet

            I’m sure most people needs some serious system re-calibration after having to root for Backes, Oshie, Brown etc. or Perry, Duchene, Marleau, etc…

    • Retired MSgt USAF

      They just changed the rules last week on down votes, they will no longer show the names of those who down vote.. They will only show the names of the up votes.

      • http://www.our-founding.com/ Toews makes funny faces

        They take all the fun out of pointing out trolls to laugh at!

    • 10thMountainFire
      • bizarrohairhelmet

        No more downboats to piss people off :(

        • 10thMountainFire

          Disqus managed to suck more. Impressive.

    • 10thMountainFire

      God, the ‘Hurt Feelings Report’. Such an extraordinary document. I actually gave that to someone once, filled out the name, and was in a bit of trouble afterward.

      • Bob Lanz

        I find that hard to believe… Your so accommodating to morons

        • 10thMountainFire

          I may have used a few inappropriate four-letter words.

          • Bob Lanz

            I don’t believe I could comment without them. How else do you communicate without fuck

  • CozBullsFan

    Right in the feels. :(

    http://i.imgur.com/ZtVNrs2.jpg

    • 10thMountainFire

      I’m gonna kill you, damn you! Where’s the great pay? Where’s the travel? Where’s the Winnebago, damnit!

      • VanDorp’sMullet

        I has a sad.

      • Country_Bumpkin

        Son of beetch, shit

  • ballyb11

    I highly value winning our division and all home ice advantages.

  • 334Rules

    I’m guessing the Blues are having the same conversation about how tired their Olympians might be, and what it’s going to mean coming out of the gate. They had quite a few in the games, and I don’t think they have the depth that we do to pick up the slack.

  • Country_Bumpkin

    I hate every team that opposes the Hawks. I hope all of them come down with chronic diarrhea so the Hawks can retain what is rightfully theirs.
    /I don’t know what I’m saying