Unchallenged trade rumors tell us the Blackhawks don't trust Huet, either

So I'm watching Team Canada Dry, a perfect commercial tie-in, freeze up Sunday night in the Olympics and I'm thinking the Blackhawks are next. Misery loves company and all that and no matter how far Cristobal Huet has traveled during the Olympic break, he won't be shocked to learn people still get confused easily over the Chicago goalies and think his first name is Anti, because who isn't Anti Huet and who hasn't stewed up their own favorite Hawks' goalie trade rumor in the past week just to stay fashionable?

There is an elephant in the room and this time it's not me. I don't know much, but I know a championship is not won with elephants in the room and I now have serious doubts whether we will be sipping from Cinderella's slipper in a few months in Chicago, or whether it will be business as usual and slurps straight from the bottle neck as we debate whether Stan Bowman should have dumped Huet or kept Huet or drowned Huet in the bath tub when no one was paying attention to this cat, fixated on hearing a Tiger apologize for what we all would have done if only we'd had the same damn chance to jump in the saddle and ride, baby, ride into the sunset.

I'm not sure if the persistent trade rumors, which cagey GM Bowman has seen fit not to deny loudly--oblivious to giving Huet a rest when he isn't working--mean that people trust Antti Niemi and his unproven record, really distrust Huet and his unproven record, or just desire any divorce to shake up their boredom and wonder if they can live happily ever after with a pickup to be named later and his unproven record.

So we have been subjected in recent weeks to a series of blind dates with Marty Turco and Tomas Vokoun and Ty Conklin and....hell, why not throw in Marty Brodeur, who may as well be available considering he is dragging down the loonie in Canada much faster than Huet's slow slide in some hearts and minds has seized hold of Chicago's choking salary cap and steadily throttled it faster than you can say Drew Peterson strikes again.

In case you hick, neophyte Team USA bandwagon riders don't know, the loonie is a gold-colored, broned-plated dollar coin, and at this very moment, neither gold nor bronze seem to be colors or riches attached with or attainable by those counterfeiters from Team Canada.

Here we have had the Blackhawks playing in the Stanley Cup finals for months now, the exact same way Wayne Gretzky had ticketed Team Canada for a certain gold medal, and suddenly it's gone wrong. A group of Americans who were considered not to have enough offense, and surely not enough experience and know-all, have changed the map of hockey in one bold crayon swipe like some brash preschoolers screwing around with gold, silver, bronze and some handy black crepe paper to hang on Team Canned, which appears ready for storage on a bottom shelf.

And I can see that scenario revisted in the Stanley Cup playoffs. All those visions we have in Chicago of what will be, turn out to be so much bad information. Because no one seems to trust Huet, not even Bowman, who allows the trade rumors to proceed to the March 3 deadline rather than pull the fried Frenchman out of the ring of fire and call a halt to the game of badminton that bandies Huet back-and-forth like useless fodder rather than someone entitled and able to win a title.

Huet is certainly much fresher than Vokoun, who must have a few dings in him after being subjected to 1,717 shots in 51 games this season for the Florida Panthers. Huet has faced a mere 957 shots against him in 42 games. But since Vokoun leads the league with a .931 saves percentage and Huet putters along with a .903 after being subjected to lesser punishment, a rumor on ESPN.com that Vokoun could be coming to Chicago with 1598 saves compared to Huet's 864 leaves us breathless with anticipation to see what a beat-up Vokoun could do when there really is a defense playing around him and whether his 7 shutouts could become 10 or 12.

I think it says it all when ESPN's Pierre LeBrun tempers his rumor by saying one source tells him not to discount Vokoun waiving his no-trade to accept a move to Chicago while a different source tells him to forget about any such deal. I suppose that makes it 50-50 to happen, although even the source promoting the deal only gave it passing credence as a big old "maybe, could-be, might happen...if." Those are always good sources, about the same as your aunt Mabel's tips, or Rick Tocchet and Wayne Gretzky teaming up to figure how to roll the dice in Phoenix and still coming up snake eyes every time.

Next time you need some advice, don't call on Wayne. The Great One has finally lost his touch and he should retire from the prediction business.

What toll will this so-called break take on Huet? Even if he and Niemi return to net soon as Chicago's tandem, as should be widely expected since the improbable seldom happens, is Huet still mentally tough enough to take the pounding of a stretch run? Methinks he is doubting himself, one of his specialties from last season.

There have been a run of rumors allowed to percolate long enough to let Huet know that he might not just be a backup to Niemi at present, but also a third or fourth choice if Bowman can't barter for a more capable goalie who won't cause as many sleepless nights. Hard as he tried to distance himself from Huet if the unchallenged rumors are to be believed, there is no way to buy Bowman welcoming Huet back with a hug and a denial that anything occurred.

And if Bowman doesn't tell us soon he never tried to replace Huet, then there is no reason really to believe him. And if Bowman doesn't trust Huet, why should we? Why should his team that has everything to lose if neither Huet nor Niemi is the right man for the right moment in Chicago history? These moments don't come around every season.

The thing about Niemi is that the Hawks have never given him a chance to stay in net and learn about survival during a losing streak. Coach Joel Quenneville has played him just as long as the team has won. But as soon as Niemi stumbles, Huet will get the call again. And what does that say about Niemi? What does it say about Huet?

It says to me that neither one is the Blackhawks' real first choice. It says to me if the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, it will have to be in spite of their goalies.

It says to me Chicago is in trouble. And we don't even know it, fixated by those alluring mistresses of defense and offense that the rest of the team provides most games.

Maybe you found the post-game handshake between America's Patrick Kane and Canada's Jonathan Toews quite poignant Sunday night. I found it unsettling, envisioning a premature playoff exit in Chicago would once again bring us this conga line with an ashen-faced Toews and a smirking Kane.

The unsettled goalie argument leaves us with a huge elephant bouncing around the room, one not afraid to lay a steaming dump right on your carpet and let you play in the droppings.

Team Canada is likely going to dump Brodeur soon and go next game to Roberto Luongo in net, which is a better alterntive than the Blackhawks have, but I figure it's too late in either case to make a difference.

Is it too late for the Hawks goaltending picture to be resized and reframed? Do you prefer status quo or just anybody but Huet? Do you figure Niemi is big enough and quick enough and determined enough to arrive on the scene when the Hawks most needed him? Or he is only good in brief spurts, such as shootouts?

I figure from here the picture will get fuzzier and blurrier and more unfocused as the Hawks try Niemi on the one hand and Huet on the other hand and keep juggling the balls in the air.

I figure the Hawks have their excuse ready-made if things go bad. And that's worrisome.

Anti Huet or Antti Niemi? Or Savior To Be Named within the next week? What's your pick? And does it still matter?

If Bowman isn't ready to support Huet vocally, are you? Right now, right here. Say it loud and say it proud: Huet or bust.

Any way you slice it, it might be the decision, made or unmade, that brings the Hawks down and leaves us looking to restructure for next season and another run.

Wait 'til Next One Goalie? Will people buy another One Goal campaign if it's One And Done like 1991? Two For The Road doesn't have the same ring.

I know there are a lot of new Team USA bandwagon riders at the moment. But Hawk fans should pay more attention to Team Canada.

Their collapse under intense pressures to succeed at long last in front of adoring fans may be more pertinent to what is happening in Chicago. And what is about to happen.

Say it ain't so, Stan. Just say something. Take a stand. Tell us what you believe.

And if you want Huet back in good working condition, take a stand by saying so right now, before the trade deadline is come and gone with any idea left that Chicago (or you) really trusts Huet at all.

Comments

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  • Getting Vokoun would move mountains for this team. He's been facing a preposterous amount of shots this season behind a weak Panther defense, so it would be incredible to see how good he could be facing the paltry amount of shots the Hawks allow...Unless he needs to see 50 shots a game to keep his stick sharp. Pull the trigger on this deal.

  • Good to hear from a Huet supporter. Are you able to name the other eight Huet supporters off the top of your head?

  • In reply to JMKiley:

    I am. But I'm also an Antti Niemi supporter. You know why? Because they both are wearing the Indian head sweater, they are the only two goalies the Blackhawks currently have, and because I refuse to worry about a three-day window following the Olympics when the Blackhawks MIGHT trade for another guy who doesn't have playoff experience. The whole city of Chicago is going crazy for a goalie with more experience, yet every goalie available hasn't done shit in the playoffs.

    There are more important things to worry about with this Blackhawks team. Rather than fret over the goaltending situation that very realistically CANNOT be improved, we should be practicing more so we stop turing the F-ing puck over in our own zone and leaving our goaltenders hung out to dry more than half the time.

    As you can tell, I'm sick of this debate. And I really believe if the Blackhawks win the Cup, everyone who rattled their brain over this crap all season should lineup outside the UC and be tarred and feathered by Huet and Niemi.

    Rant over.

  • In reply to BlackhawkUp:

    And people claim I can only give a good rant when drunk. See, there's nothing more sobering than a Hawks season ticket holder like Jeffrey who can rant at will, which is good practice I say for any team John McDonough is running. And you watch, by the end of next week, Jeffrey will have formed his case for how we can't lose with Anti Huet in goal. I'll bet it's persuasive, too. I hope he can convince Stan Bowman.

  • In reply to BlackhawkUp:

    Love the rant. Way to stir up the, uh pot. Maybe not answering these rumors is a motivational tool for both goalies? I say holding your cards close to your chest here until either a deal is done or the deadline passes is a decent strategy. Who knows what the team has told Huet or Niemi in private? Who really floated the trade rumors, and how credible are they? How good would Ryan Miller look in a Blackhawks jersey today?

  • In reply to mikeomando:

    Not that I'm starting a rumor or anything...

  • In reply to mikeomando:

    I'm one to believe that a big-name goalie isn't necessarily better (although I wouldn't complain if one was brought in). Around the league, there have been plenty of "no names" or rookies that have carried the load in the playoffs, and plenty of "experienced" goalies who have completely dropped the ball over the years. It's just a matter of who gets hot at the right time.

    Look at Mary Brodeur giving up those two weak goals to Carolina in the closing minute of game seven in last year's playoffs. I don't even want to think of his fate had that been Huet for the Hawks this year. How about Nabokov and the #1-seed Sharks being knocked out in the first round last year?

    In the same way, no one could have complained about Broduer starting for Team Canada last night, but truth is, he didn't play very well. As far as I heard, no one really blamed him for the loss though. He set the all-time NHL shutout record this season, but IMO, his play has been far more spotty than "Antti Huet."

    You look at some of the other big names these days: Kiprusoff, Luongo, Bryzgalov, Miller, Nabokov, Lundqvist... how many have won the cup for their teams, or even gotten them to the finals? I think Kipper is the only one to get there, and that was like 6 years ago.

  • In reply to iplagitr:

    And the goalie that played in the Cup finals for the last 2 years (and one the last one) doesn't even dress for Canada ... M.A. Fleury.

  • In reply to JerryManderings:

    oops typo ... won the last one. I bet it's not going to be "one."

  • In reply to JerryManderings:

    I agree with iplagitr. You can have the number 1 goalie but if you don't play it safe in your own zone it doesn't matter. We have to go to battle with the best goalie tandem in the league. Call it a very good bullpen. Can we win with them? It depends on our defense (including our 2 way forwards). The Hawks have proven they can win with the duo as long as they score more than 3 per game. It's going to be pretty nerve-racking to win a 1 goal game for us. Can we call it having a very good bullpen?

    McD/Bowman/Bowman have a tough choice to make. If we trade Huet, who else would have to go with him to make that happen? No way would there be a straight up trade for Vokoun. Put Huet in Rockford? I know my short list of trade-bait wouldn't be touched. I thought Barker was our best bet to get the most talent back. He's gone now and probably going to be a #1 for Minnesota in the near future. Only keepers are left.

    This Hawks team thrives on chemistry but the one player that comes up as trade discussions is my favorite player, Sharp. And if you're watching closely to Hawks TV, it's Sharp & Burish that are at the keys to the chemistry. Do you pooh pooh that statement?

    There's only one team that wins the cup each year. Do we say they have the best goalie when they win? Yes. How about the loser? Still more questions. I'll hang up and wait for my answer.

  • In reply to JerryManderings:

    "The Hawks have proven they can win with the duo as long as they score more than 3 per game."

    So all they have to do is score 4 goals a game. In the playoffs....

    Considering the leader in goals--the Caps--average 3.86 per game, that might be a tough ask.

  • In reply to JerryManderings:

    Rumors are rumors. It doesn't make sense to make a lateral move in net. This includes Turco and Conklin, and Vokoun has won as many playoff series as Huet - zero. Unless Stan can put together a deal for a real upgrade in net, such as, say, prying a Cam Ward from the Hurricanes, he'll bolster the defense with another solid addition there and go with what's working - steady offense and a defense that far and away allows the fewest shots per game.

  • In reply to Chach:

    Vokoun is no lateral move. He's eons better than Huet.

    Since the beginning of January, Huet's save percentage is .879%. If it's anywhere near that in the playoffs, the Hawks are finished, few shots or not.

  • In reply to JerryManderings:

    "Glove side, high" will be the epitaph of this season, if the Hawks sick with Huet in net.

  • In reply to mikeomando:

    I find it strange that when a team goes through a difficult stretch, that people start calling for the coaches' head on a platter. Why doesn't that happen here regarding the goalie coach? Maybe he's a tool. All we hear is Huet this and Huet that. Niemi has not exactly set the house afire by being anymore consistent than Huet. They have both struggled to put together extended runs of great games. Oh sure Niemi finished off before the break with 4 straight and Huet had a good run in November. But perhaps these guys don't get what they need from their goalie coach?! Lets face it, Khabbi never did live up to the big $$ they paid him after his Cup in Tampa. Those of you with short memories (look farther back than last year) Khabbi had more than his fair share of stinkers for 3 years. Hmmm, makes one wonder. Same goalie coach...just throwing it out there. How many goalies have Chicago developed from within lately? Hmmm...I dare you to raise one finger. Chicago signed Huet for a reason...he lit it up in Washington and played well in Montreal. Now he comes here and is inconsistent...I could be incorrect about the goalie coach though, but I would not discount it. Ask Brian Elliot in Ottawa or Chris Mason in St Louis. Is it just a coincidence that their play picked up after their goalie coaches were fired...? Hell, a bus is a big vehicle: there is always room to throw somebody else under it.

  • In reply to marty47:

    Perhaps Niemi hasn't been consistent, but he has at times been spectacular stealing several games, something that can not be said about Huet. And Niemi's a rookie. What's Huet's excuse?

  • In reply to marty47:

    I understand that having a keeper stand on their head is a fantastic thing but a lot of the reason team USA was able to put it together was quality changes where Brodeur was either screened or moving.

    Miller did make some pretty amazing saves but its pretty nuts to think he can do that 4 games in a row. Eventually he will let in some stinkers but if Team USA skates and pressures like they do, they will be helping their keeper out tremendously even though he will face 35-45 shots/game. I think thats more the difference.

    Amazing what happens when you get the puck to the net through traffic. Some days it just bounces your way.

    Team USA also has a roster full of guys who know their role and are willing to do what ever it takes to win regardless of who gets the goals or glory. I dont see that from team Canada. JT looks good, Keith is playing 25 minutes... fucking babcock... But are they really playing as a team.

    One of the guys on TSN said they were playing cute and trying to make that extra pass... trying to score the perfect goal, rather than bury an obviously weaker team USA.

    Now you have a team that was overconfident in panic mode with WAY to many egos whose going to be the guy? They will probably beat Germany but it will be a tough road for them.

    In regards to the Hawks. As long as they have 20 skaters on the same page firing on all cylinders, theyre are going to have the upper hand in a 7 game series more so than any other team regardless of the goaltender situation. Huet - Neimi Doesnt matter.

    Vokoun, whose numbers are good this year but with all the back door goals the Hawks let in and mistakes between the tape do you think that would really make a difference?

    Yes you need a good goaltender to win. You need a guy who will make the routine saves and in a 7 game series bail you out at least once. Both Huet and more so Neimi have shown that they can stand on their head at least once every 7 games be decent for 4 and only crap away one. Roll dice for the 7th.

    Its just as much on the 4 lines of skaters, to A, bury their chances and stop with the cute stuff and B, play solid team defense and not give away easy chances.

    Blaming Huet and Neimi at this point in time if their save% is above 90 is like blaming a starting pitcher for letting in 3 runs over 9 innings and losing becuase your big bad number 4 guy couldnt drive in the winning run with the bases loaded back in the 6th.

    Everyone on the team needs to click. Not just the guy between the pipes whoever that may be.

  • David, I have looked over the schedule. I can't find one game in which Huet was spectacular. If you have, I'm all ears.

    The shutouts tell little considering the defense in front of Huet most of those nights. None of his 4 (Stl, Nash, Det, Columbus) were particularly straining.

    I'd also argue Huet's had little need to come up big this year yet has flopped repeatedly.

  • In reply to borg:

    While I can't recall a particular game, Huet's made a lot of spectacular saves this season. Several times saves he's made have been on highlight reels and not just for comcast or chicago sports news, but nationally. So that doesn't seem terrible to me

  • In reply to borg:

    I'm not saying I wouldn't support a trade, but I also don't think Huet's been as awful as everyone is saying he is. I like Niemi and I'm happy with either Huet or Niemi, as they're both Hawks and I support the Hawks, but I'd still go with Huet as the number one goalie.

    But, that's just me.

  • Huet or bust, there i said it.

  • 36 goalies have GAA's under 3.00, so I don't think that translates to 3-2 wins most nights.

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