The Q memorandum sent us all a concise message we can decipher in a million different ways.
What did coach Joel Quenneville actually say without saying it by choosing Monday to start Cristobal Huet over Andy Niemi in goal Tuesday night in Edmonton?
At least I'm assuming that's true, since The Tribune's Chris Kuc had that juicy item confirming Huet's start down lower in a breaking news post on the Andrew Ladd-Ryan Kesler squabble about reading "The Red Badge of Courage" and the literary implications it may have on the NHL..
Huet is back in the saddle. In fact, Kuc has Huet quoted saying he felt good about getting a chance to start again.
Myself, I think Q let us know once more for emphasis that Huet will be their guy this season, win or lose, and Niemi is just a good stopgap to be used sparingly.
Actions are known to speak louder than words. So while Q will have the appropriate excuses and trite explanations ready, the guy he didn't pick will be as important as the guy he did and this decision will resound for months to come..
Game, set, matchless madness. Perhaps Q just flips a coin in the back room to see who goes in net, although he would need to be waterboarded to admit such an easy solution.
He indicated before Niemi beat Calgary that the backup deserved to see what he could do for a while as a starter. That lasted one win and a whole period, when Vancouver drove out Niemi with three goals on 12 shots Saturday night. Huet played the last two periods, allowing two goals from 16 shots.
These guys can't quit competing, even if it's the very same game, and it always comes out a close call. Problem is, what's the right call?
For a guy who only knows about last call and wrong calls, I bow to my superiors and ask you to inform the Hawks' brass what Q should do to quell any growing disquiet and unease about the Blackhawks' goaltending.
Niemi, after all, has already built a small legion of followers who see him as the answer to an inevitable defeat long short of a title if Huet gets the call in the postseason.
Q follows his past patterns in sticking with Huet. He isn't deviating from form. The Hawks have gone back to Huet all season when push came to shove, seemingly trying to convince him and us that he is the No. 1 goalie that some critics contend he never will be.
Plus, Q might have been tracking the latest Tribune poll on the question, where 204 respondents as of Monday morning had split the vote almost down the middle: 109 for Huet, 95 for Niemi. String out the vote and the division may come down the same way.
I trust no one is stuffing the ballot box, but then again it is Chicago, where money always talks loudest and bullshit always walks, leaving a trail of green shit behind, the ultimate Irish parade.
Bypassing Niemi will be interpreted in some precincts as a sign the Hawks aren't ready to believe their future is now by elevating Niemi to starting status. The backup apparently will still be treated as a backup, a good alternative the next time Huet sucks.
Based on last season and this season in Chicago, that time will come again for Huet, in spite of a normally stellar defense around him.
In some ways, Q can't win with either decision. But what does this say about his statement just days ago that Niemi had won a hard look in net? Does it raise the accusation of waffling from words uttered just a short while back? If you begin to waffle, you'll soon land in sticky syrup.
On the other hand, Huet might have wondered if he was passed over that maybe the club doesn't deep down view him as the guy to carry it to the frozen promised land this spring. Huet's fragile psyche might be shattering under the premise of an unspoken demotion such as this, and Huet can ill afford to be fighting a mental war when his entire body of work is so thin.
Then again, it's the Oilers. Maybe Colin Fraser or Dustin Byfuglien or trainer Mike Gapski or the venerable Jacques Cloutier could have started in goal and stymied egregious Edmonton, where the vibrant memories of Gretzky and Messier are nothing but cold soup these days.
The Blackhawks have scored 22 power-play goals in 25 road games, fifth best in the NHL. In contrast, the Oilers have given up 24 power-play goals in 27 home games, more than anybody else in the league except for Philadelphia. Sounds like a clue for victory to me.
The Hawks kill penalties at a success rate of 85.6, the Oilers at 74.1. Looks like a hole you could drive your vintange 1960 Zamboni through.
Pull out the stats, look 'em over and there is no way the Hawks don't win 25-1 Tuesday. So the expectation is the 8-game trip will be rolling right along with a 4-2 record that at least insures it won't be a losing trek. and the goalie controversy will die down again.
I can't see a way the Hawks don't get back on the track at Edmonton, where thousands were said to show up Sunday at Rexall Place to watch the Oilers' skills competition.
That's quite a few more than have bothered to vote in the Trib over whether Huet or Niemi should start Tuesday. But what's at stake? Just an eventual championship chance that comes around in Chicago every few decades. Small potatoes.
While an Oilers' skills competition is a laughable irony all in itself, how many devoted Hawks fans would show up if their team was bottom of the barrel and also going up against two NFL semifinal games on TV for the Super Bowl pairing?
You just can't take egregious Edmonton and its disgraced squad for granted, because they both know a little something about hockey there, be it good and bad. So let's lower our estimation to a 15-2 victory Tuesday.
Either Niemi or Huet should beat Edmonton. But the bigger point is what statement Q has made. I think it's the same one. Huet or Bust? If Huet is no good, the Hawks won't win the championship, because it appears Niemi will never get their full trust this season.
Maybe it's true the Hawks are blessed to have two dependable goalies. Maybe it's also true a team without a clear-cut No. 1 goalie is cursed not to win the Stanley Cup, as Jeremy Roenick contended recently.
Maybe the Huet supporters and Niemi backers should meet at United Center and have it out. Bring brass knuckles, switchblades and vodka.
At least we can get hockey on Chicago TV at the top of the hour. Sometimes progress means you have to draw blood.