Well, We’re Waiting – 2013 Season Preview – Special Teams

Moving on from the spotty goaltending, we now meander into the real minefield, the Blackhawks’ special teams. Feel free to interpret the word “special” however you deem fit. In a shortened season with minimal lead in time, special teams figure to loom large over every team’s proceedings, and the Hawks will be no exception. So shield your eyes, and let us gaze at the macabre.

Power Play

42 PPG 277 Opp 3 SHGA 15.2%

At Joel Quenneville’s press conference when he was hired, he plainly stated that the Hawks’ power play would be their enforcer. Not only has that statement been flat out untrue as evidenced by the continued presence of the likes of Matt Walker, John Scott, and Brandon Bollig on gameday rosters throughout his tenure, but the actual execution of the power play has only served to enforce that Quenneville and his deputies don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.

To have the kind of talent the Hawks have and to post those types of numbers on the advantage is unacceptable by any standard, and if the unit fails to hum in this shortened campaign in the same way it failed to do so last year, it could very well cost Quenneville his job. Last year, the Hawks took the second fewest penalties in the league, and had the second largest differential in power play chances versus penalty kill chances, so those opportunities have to matter. And they will be magnified in this 48 game sprint.

To rectify this problem, Q has enlisted the help of another one of his butt puppets from his days in St. Louis, Jamie Kompon, who steered the equally rudderless and underachieving King’s power play unit, to the dismay of exactly no Kings fans. There have been personnel changes on the ice as well, with reports coming out that both Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg will see time on the power play, both as net front presences. While that’s all well and good, that would seem to indicate that the scheme of the units will remain the same, in an umbrella configuration with a single defenseman at the point, where the Hawks have only one person both capable and willing to get a shot through. That is, of course, assuming they can enter the zone properly on the first or second or third try.

A complete overhaul of scheme and personnel is needed, preferably with Toews, Kane, and Sharp up front and Seabrook and Leddy at the points on the first unit, and running a modified overload scheme, with the entire play running through Kane at the right half wall. But rather than have Patrick Sharp wait for a backdoor pass that everyone knows is coming, have him float in the high slot near the top of the rings, which opens up more options for having a defenseman over-commit in one direction while a two-man isolation game is worked, or allows for a double-screen on any point shot coming through. It’s the same system that Vancouver runs and places themselves at that top of the power play statistics perennially with equivalent talent. If nothing else, a change would be worth a try rather than doubling down on what hasn’t worked, but that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it?

Penalty Kill

51 PPGA 233 TSH 7 SHG 78.1%

The hits keep coming, don’t they?

The penalty kill was equally terrible last season, thanks in no small part to Corey Crawford’s constant struggles with either being too aggressive or too deep in his net. Exacerbating that aspect is the Hawks’ continued insistence on rolling out a red carpet for opposing forwards to park their asses at the top of Crawford’s crease unmolested. The thought process had been that the Hawks’ blue line simply lacked the physicality aside from Brent Seabrook to make those forwards pay, but with the additions of Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank, that shouldn’t be the case this year. Additionally, forwards were far too passive at their points, rarely sprinting out to force opposing point men to make a hasty decision, despite having the speed up and down the unit to do so.

Of the two special teams, the power play is clearly the more important unit in this shortened year, as it will not lack for opportuntities. Under Quenneville’s tenure the Hawks have routinely been near the top of the league in their special teams chance differentials. What was not routine was being underwater in the differentials in actual conversions as the Hawks were ((42PPGF -3SHGA)-(51 PPGA -7SHG))= -5. That’s the difference between having home ice advantage and not having it, which we’ve seen doesn’t end well for the Hawks recently, and could ultimately be this coaching staff’s undoing.


  • Accipiter

    I’m guessing that shot Duncs is taking goes of a shin pad ….

    • justforkicks

      that is all in the past!!!

      • BodomSlayer

        But I see it in the near future…

        • justforkicks


          • guest

            Hope that he’s aiming for the future, but it hits the past’s shinpads and richochets off

  • It’s this aspect of the game that truly makes me feel the pit in my stomach. I mean, it kills me.

    • … so much that I erased everything that I write (on purpose) … because I just can’t talk about it sanely. It makes me grind my fucking teeth, the stubbornness, inexplicability of the thing.

      • ahnfire

        aww !Chico. 🙁

        We all feel the same way.

        • Perhaps the old adage applies here: You can’t fix stupid.

          McClure said it. We’ve all said it but I’ll say it again anyway – With the depth and type of talent that the Hawks have up front, there is no excuse for the PP’s beloved title around here – “Clown Shoes.”
          They should absolutely dominate. If you can put FIVE All-Star Players on the ice at one time with a man advantage, there should be something FAR more imaginative and effective than Duncs shooting into shin guards, and Sharpie sneaking in for the backdoor pass. Absolutely intolerable.

          Oh, fuck it… I’ll just be repeating the oft-repeated by saying the same things… “Kane at the half boards, too much talent, rest Duncs on the PP….”

          Can we be hired (collectively) to run the Special Teams?

          We CAN’T do worse.

  • TMFF

    Hawks simply stop letting the other team on the PP with dumbshit PIM, and when they do happen just not let them shoot the puck and problem solved!

    • Joe Banks


  • Joe Banks

    Jamie: Joel, do these shoes make my ass look big?

    • Toews still makes funny faces!

      Fucking Clown shoes need to get fucking retired!

      • BodomSlayer

        We have plenty of time or a shit storm this year though!

  • mightymikeD

    Rattlehead on the Kill plz

    • Z-man19

      A guy with the nickname Rattlehead and you want him on the PK? I understand the interest in his speed and putting some fear into the other team, but I am concerned that Rattlehead has a little too much space in that head of his that isn’t occupied by grey matter.

  • AirTrafficAJ

    The lockout redirected all of my “Q Rage” to a different area. Now it’s back where it belongs. Right in the sweet spot.

  • Joe Banks

    The Hawks are in LA, the start is only a day away…

  • Paul the Fossil

    Regarding the PP:

    a) Honestly guys there’s not a lot of actual evidence that powerplay success should be a top priority for an NHL team. Not that scoring more on the PP isn’t more fun than scoring less, duh, but…last season the Kings went all the way despite a PP which ranked 17th in the league. In the Finals they faced the Devils who had ranked 14th. In the conference finals they’d faced the Coyotes who had ranked 29th (!); the Devils were meanwhile beating the Rangers who had ranked 23rd. (In other words _none_ of the 13 best powerplays in the league even reached the conference finals.) For the regular season the Oilers had the 3rd-best PP in the whole league and didn’t sniff a playoff spot; meanwhile the Blues just missed the Presidents’ Trophy (tied with the Rangers) despite ranking 19th in PP pct. Look at 2011 or 2010 and it’s the same. Powerplay success is just not a meaningful variable in which teams go deep in the NHL. Whether that’s always been true or is a recent trend I dunno, but it is the reality today.
    Now as I posted a few days ago PP pct did have more relevance during the shortened 1995 season. On the other hand of course this season will be played under the NHL rules and with the NHL talent of today not those of 1995, so…maybe on balance the powerplay for this shortened season should be a medium priority. At _most_.

    (b) “To have the kind of talent the Hawks have and to post those types of numbers on the advantage is unacceptable by any standard.” It sure seems that way intuitively but I wonder…which teams in the league right now would seem to have the most and least proven high-skill top-6 talent? Well in the “least” category surely we’d place Nashville, Edmonton, Florida, the Islanders, Colorado, Toronto and Ottawa yes? Those were the 1st (!), 3rd, and 7th thru 11th highest PP percentages of last season. Meanwhile teams that are used to sending top-skill players to the All-Star Game and which nonetheless were in the league’s bottom half on the PP last season included the Hawks, the Caps and the Wings…maybe it’s time to update our notions of what a team which “should be better on the powerplay” at the NHL level looks like.

    • Points well taken, but having the net goal differential of the special teams in the red is unacceptable regardless, and the Hawks simply have more opportunities to improve upon that differential via the power play, making it the more important of the two units in this shortened season.