So I know I said next week, but I just couldn’t wait any longer. It’s been so much fun to write about hockey again that I just want to dive in head first, put my face in and blow. It’s fucking taco night around these parts!
This year, with our compressed time-frame, instead of going player by player, we’re going to go unit-by-unit (cue adolescent snickering…which is kind of the official theme of this blog). So all four lines, the extra forwards, all the defensive pairs, goaltending, special teams (wait til McClure lets loose on these). Or at least what we project these units will look like. But we’ll get around to everyone.
The theme this year is just an excuse to post that picture of Ted Knight and think about the wheelbarrow of coke he had with him at all times. I think we’re all ok with that.
Usually we go from the net out on these things, but I’m tired of that. So let’s start with the BIG GUNS! (Number #1)
So this is the part where I have to guess what the top line will be. Well, I’m not going to. I’m going to preview the players that should be on it. Because I’m a righteous son of a bitch, that’s why. In a shortened season where you don’t have time to find chemistry or try things, occam’s razor should be applied to any lineup decisions or system implementation. For those in the dark or have not seen Contact, that means the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.
In this case, that would mean your top line should be Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane (well, actually it would probably mean that Patrick Sharp is your #2 center, but I’ve wasted what was left on my youth screaming about that). But these guys have played together for parts of five seasons now, and have had a dominating stretch in all of them. Toss them out together, and it won’t be long before you’re rolling in it.
So let’s go left to right, and start with the man who rhymes with “moistening”, and that’s Patrick Sharp. Oh right, stats! Let’s hit those up from last year.
Patrick Sharp: 74GP – 33G – 36A – 69P – +28 – 11.7 SH% – 1.98 Behind The Net Rating
Ok, my first trip this season to Behind The Net.ca is in the books. Anyway, you may have forgotten that Patrick Sharp was fucking awesome last year. That Good Time Boys act from the previous season was wiped away, and he was the two-way stud that all men want to be again. That +/- was the second-best non-Bruin in the league. Second highest point total of his career, all while shooting below his career average in shooting-percentage.
So the only question about Sharp is whether that season signals a peak. At 31, you wouldn’t think so too much, but he is running out of prime years let’s say. Another question with Sharp is how not playing during the lockout affected him, and he won’t be the only one. Being over 30, you wonder how long it’ll take the legs to fully fire again after being dormant, and the Hawks can’t wait around that much. On the other side, Sharp only scored 7 power play goals last year. Even a barely competent PP should see that total jump up to around 10 or so (his career high is 12). If that happens, we can probably expect another 30-goal, 60-point season from Shooter. If he can hit the ground running, that is.
To the pivot, and Captain Marvel (aka Jonny Revelator aka Tazer aka Judge Dredd aka Jonathan Toews)
Jonathan Toews: 59GP – 28G – 29A – 57P – +17 – 15.7 SH% – 0.77 Behind The Net Rating
There are obviously much bigger questions around Toews. While everyone’s saying the right things about Tazer’s concussion, with his style of play is it ever too far around the corner? Maybe it’ll be like Patrice Bergeron, who has only missed a handful of games since his much more frightening injury. That’s the hope, anyway. Toews has the same question as Sharp, as he wasn’t playing anywhere during the lockout. But this is Jonathan Toews we’re talking about. If health isn’t an issue, is anyone really worried?
What I will say about Toews, and I have to whisper this because people get angry, but in his last 23 playoff games Toews only has three goals. Yes, one was to send Game 7 to OT and another was an OT winner. But 3 in 24 is 3 in 24. Injuries probably played a part, but that’s still a concern. I’m not suggesting that Toews shies from the spotlight, but what I am saying is that if the Hawks are going to go anywhere this season or any other, their best players have to carry the torch more than they have recently. Toews would tell you that himself.
Ok, now to Humpty Hump (aka Patrick Kane).
Patrick Kane: 82GP – 23G – 43A - 66P – +7 – 9.1 SH% – 0.48 Behind The Net Rating
Know what’s weird? In all the things that are said about Kaner, his durability never gets mentioned. He’s missed 11 games in five years. And some of that through injuries that probably should have kept him out. Did you know that? I think I had forgotten. Anyway, it was a weird season for Kaner, the first in which some fans turned on him because of what was going down on the ice (instead of him going down in an alley somwhere). And there were disappointing aspects. 23 goals just isn’t enough. But that came from a season that saw him shift in and out of an unfamiliar center position, which he’s probably going to have to do again this season. He also was a no-show in the playoffs, hounded out of existence by the contingent of large on the Yotes blue line.
I think people do ignore what Kane did when Toews went out. 17 points in 22 games doesn’t sound like much, but it sounds better when you consider not only did he do it from center but as the only offensive center the Hawks had then. Teams sent their best out at Kane while he was out of position, and he produced just enough to keep the Hawks afloat. Really shouldn’t be ignored.
This year? I’d love to say Kane won’t have to worry about playing center. But we all know he will at some point. He’s also been playing, and apparently pretty well, so he should have a sharpness advantage. If Jamie Kompon has any brains (which he doesn’t), he’d realize the PP has to run through Kane at the half-wall instead of Seabrook at the point. Get the puck in the hands of your best playmaker by any means. If the staff can figure that much out, the power play should improve and so should Kane’s numbers. I expect another kickass season from The Crazy 88, and one that sadly won’t be appreciated by enough people.