Blackhawks Confidential

Good news is the Blackhawks are starring without 'a star' in sight

kaneminnesota.jpgThe Blackhawks don't have "A STAR."

And that's the good news.

They have a few excellent talents. They have a youthful flame of energy that burns red hot. They have some good, solid pluggers. They have an amazing depth to fall back on when injuries impede the team.

But no young Michael Jordan. And that's the good news. One guy isn't trying to hog the ice and be the main show at the expense of the team.

I remember former Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman, a baseball expert, used to like to moonlight a couple times a winter on the Bulls just to point out early in Jordan's career for his buddy, owner Jerry Reinsdorf, that the Bulls would never win a championship as a one-man band, no matter how many ridiculous points Jordan racked up in a single night.

That, of course, changed eventually with Jordan maturing and the team improving. And perhaps one day Patrick Kane will be a modern-day Bobby Hull and carry a well-rounded Hawks team on his back with some silly-high numbers.

Until that happens, as Kane said, his teammates just consider him the Miley Cyrus of this diverse group. That is without Annie Leibovitz taking some risque photos of Kane with his pants down and his Blackhawks jersey at half-mast, like she did with Cyrus.

Kane is damn good and all, singled out by media sometimes as the voice of the Hawks. But even coming off his Annie Oakley shot for a goal Monday against Minnesota, he isn't "THE STAR."

As long as everybody remembers that, especially him, the team will be just fine. We don't want any smart-ass writer to have to make money by penning "The Kane Rules" and copy Sam Smith's "The Jordan Rules."

Most importantly, the Hawks have a 7-3-1 record without "A STAR" lifting them there.

Go to NHL.com and see for yourself. Among the individual leaders, not one Hawk picture prominently in sight.

And that's the good news, because the team is front and center where it should be.

The Hawks' 15 points puts all of them among the team leaders as a group. In contrast, the teams right there reaching for the top with them all feature some star individuals with standout accomplishments early this season.

Anze Kopitar's 21 points and 10 goals for the Los Angeles Kings. Marian Gaborik's 18 points and 10 goals for the New York Rangers. Goalie Craig Anderson's 9 wins for Colorado.

Joe Thornton's 17 points and Patrick Marleau's 16 points for San Jose. Evgeni Malkin's 4 goals, 9 assists for Pittsburgh. Alex Ovechkin's 19 points for Washington.

Scroll down the list of point leaders and you won't see a Hawk flying high until Patrick Sharp ranks 42d with his 5 goals, 5 assists. Next comes Kane at 46th with his 4 goals, 6 assists. Then the Hawks drop all the way to 75th with defenseman Duncan Keith's 8 points.

Sharp's offense has fallen off in recent games after a torrid beginning. That hasn't kept his team from winning without him scoring. That's a balanced attack.

Like Chicago, Washington and Pittsburgh are still doing OK this season without their best power plays. That needs to change for all of them to remain competitive, but it also says something about their units as a whole.

Maybe the irrepressible Kane will be singled out and glamorized as a star once the Hawks sign the restricted free agent before next July. In our society, money often defines us. Simply ask Brian Campbell.

Kane may deserve a contract that pays him as much as $6-7 million a year for five years or more. Whether the Hawks try to hold him down to $5-6 million a year will be the rub. There will be hell to pay squeezing him, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith under the salary cap.

The only pitfall in the process is if Kane decides the money makes him "THE STAR." He must let performance dictate whether he becomes the next Bobby Hull in Chicago, not paydays.

But the hallmark of this club isn't Kane. For now, it's determination and depth. The Hawks also are among the NHL leaders in penalty killing, which is a different group than the NHL leaders in points.

Except for the Rangers and Avalanche, none of the other teams battling for the points lead reside among this gritty group, ready to risk life and limb and hustle.

To me, it represents what the Hawks are about to be sitting pretty in points and pugnacious penalty kills.

Martin Havlat suggested that his absence would kill the chemistry on the Hawks. Not true at all. Havlat had that reality slapped in his face Monday on a return to United Center.

Having stars is nice, often necessary. Having a lot of really, really good players can be better.

When one guy slumps, another guy takes over. When one team area sags, another element steps in and produces.

I hate to get all hokey and mushy on you and do my best John McDonough impression. I surely don't want Marty to claim I'm a phony, too. But this team plays as if it truly has one goal rather than one or two stars to lean on. It is living up to the marketing baloney.

That makes them an intriguing set of characters, where the team picture will be real, not simply a bunch of individuals standing still with each other for a few minutes.

In this day and age, that's worth more than if Leibovitz can convince Kane to take it all off. Although that would get him more publicity than a video game cover any day.

And make hellraiser Hull jealous as hell. Let's see if the Hawks marketing department can get Annie on the phone.

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6 Comments

TOM COTNER said:

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HEY..........IF THE HAWKS CAN MAKE A STRONG PERFORMANCE AND SNEAK OUT OF NASHVILLE TOMMORROW WITH A VICTORY, AS OPPOSED TO THINKING IT'S GONNA BE EASY, THEN THEY'RE ALL STARS TO ME. BUT WHO WILL BE IN GOAL ??? HUET HAS GOTTEN THE JOB DONE IN THE LAST 2 GAMES, BUT I'M STILL HOLDING MY BREATHE. I HOPE Q DOESN'T LET NIEMI GET RUSTY BECAUSE OF THE SOFT VANCOUVER GOAL. THOSE DAMN WINGS GOT LUCKY LAST NIGHT; THEY'RE CHOMPING AT OUR TAILS; WE GOTTA KEEP MOVING FORWARD WITH MORE WINS.

Mike Kiley said:

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No word quite yet from Hawks practice on the goalie scheduling, but Q is almost certain to split the two goalies--one Thursday at Nashville, one Friday at home against Montreal. It was reported that Brent Seabrook returned to practice while Toews didn't, which means Johnny Boy will get to sit out again against the Preds.

SkaterRich said:

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Bravo, reminds me a lot of the 2005 White Sox. No stars there, just a good balance. Power play goals would help too! Keep up the good work Mike!

John Jaeckel said:

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Nice blog, Mike, excellent points. This team is really deep upfront. Wait 'til #81 starts playing. Which leads me to the other part of your blog: re-signing the RFAs. I'm pretty sure the Hawks are going to shed some salary before the trade deadline. It's the time to do it as a lot of teams wil be in buying mode and if they wait til after the season, they'll lose a lot of bargaining power because other teams will know they're over a barrel. But the depth is there to make a deal. I think Barker and Versteeg are the chips. They could go a couple of ways: rent-a-stud (Kovalchuk?) with no intention of re-signing him, and use the cap space next year. Or just dump salary for picks/prospects this year and use the cap money to get extensions done starting against THIS year's cap.

Dave Morris said:

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Uncle Mike, you're becoming far too reasonable these days. Waaazaaaap??

OK, we all know--well, some of us anyway--that the last time the Hawkey Flock snarfed the silver, Hull and Mikita were mere sprigs. Sprogs. Striplings.

Just happy to be Hawks.

Young pup Patrick is a rock star already.

Times change, but the basics do not.

Even Symphony Sid Crosby knows humility, at least the public perception of it, is a key element in leading your team to the top.

Da Boyz have talent. So do a lot of other teams.

If this tough stretch teaches them how to leave their egos in the locker room and become skating samurai when they hit the ice, the Blackhawks have a chance to find out what it is to be a Champion...instead of just reading about it.

Yeah, the money is nice.

But being a Blackhawk isn't about the money. Is it?

VegasHawksFan said:

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I think Kane has answered critics on the ice, which is exactly how it should be. At his age, I think the next couple of years will be very decisive in terms of what kind of player he will be for the majority of his career. If Q can keep that ONE GOAL mentality infused in everything the Hawks do,and if management can keep finding guys like Madden to have in the locker room, I think Kane will be fine.

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