Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks' Kopecky needs more naked aggression on circus trip

kopecky-hossa.jpgMaybe Tomas Kopecky just needs to get away. Perhaps six games outside of Chicago will be just what the doctor ordered to cure that worrisome choking sound in his throat.

Grinders frequently go unnoticed. They are supposed to blend in, sticking their beige necks out often enough that we only see a hint of red color in their cheeks as they huff and puff and try to blow their opponents down simply by hard work and unmatchable effort.

The underappreciated Kopecky, on the other hand, has been noticeable in his first season as a Blackhawk by seeming to be in perpetual hesitation mode. Sometimes it looks as if someone is yanking his chain, directing his actions by remote control and hitting that pause button by mistake before he starts up again.

If so, the puppet master has to let go. We need to see Kopecky unharnessed. Grinders Gone Wild beckons. They need some highlight reels of naked aggression.

Kopecky has 18 hits in 19 games in Chicago. That's a long way from finishing second on last season's Detroit Red Wings with 109 hits. Hard to see Kopecky equalling those flourishes if he doesn't pick up the pace and play with more physical abandon.

He also is a minus-7 so far, just as he was a minus-7 for the '08-09 Wings. The 27-year-old center/winger has been used by coach Joel Quenneville in a range of situations, and while a scoring touch isn't really among his expected contributions, anticipations were high that a player with playoff experience in Detroit would have a more noticeable impact all-around.

Except in brief fits and starts, he hasn't. Again, delineating what Kopecky does is hard to do because it's not often neatly defined by statistics. But you know it when you see it, as we have seen Jumpin' John Madden excel in the nitty-gritty and stand out simply by sticking that woodpecker nose in every crevice available and getting scoring chances out of plugging along.

Kopecky, however, is still searching to find his best form. He needs to be better to help this team surivive some potholes that always await during a long season. Naked aggression with a purpose has to carry the day sometimes and Kopecky has to provide his share.

He did have 6 goals, 13 assists last season for a career-best 19 points. You imagined with the Hawks' offensive talents, he could stumble into numbers similar or slightly better. But right now I think the Hawks would be content if Kopecky started to assert himself in a more productive manner game after game without getting any offensive credit.

It nice, though, to imagine Kopecky could center in a couple weeks for Marian Hossa when his fellow Slovakian debuts for Chicago with the need to find someone to get him the puck. With Dave Bolland surgically removed for months, Kopecky might be an alternative forced into a higher-profile role if he had the talent to pull it off.

But does he? Right now there are serious questions about what Kopecky is going to bring to this club. Expecting him to rise to the level of a second-line center might be stretching it.

He seems to be uncertain himself about what he can add. When you can actually see a hockey player thinking on the ice about what he should do next, that's a bad omen. Quite a bit needs to be instinctive in a game that moves and grooves this quickly.

Maybe he and we can still get lucky and Hossa can pull him out of his doldrums if they get enough ice time together. Maybe his best is yet to come.

Before the next TV broadcaster shares with you this expert tip, let me rush to assure you that it's not how you start, but how you finish that matters most.

Sammy Sosa used to peddle that line to me all the time. I just never knew he was going to finish with a white face, his own birthday present to himself, I guess. He could write a fresh memoir with the retro title of Black (And White) Like Me.

I still hold out some strong hope that Kopecky will have more of a steady hand in the ebb and flow of these upcoming games and take the high road in the Hawks' upcoming travels. A successful transition from one team to another sometimes takes longer for a few players.

Grinding is what wins a lot of these road games. The time is right for him and Hossa to emerge on the stage together. Maybe as a tag team. Slovakians Unite.

We just don't need to see Kopecky's current minus-7 grow into a fat-chance-I'll-be-any-good double digits. Kopecky must come back to us in December with a much slimmer profile in his plus/minus and a broader understanding of what he brings to the team.

It won't be strictly about numbers. It'll be...well, we'll all know when we see it. Keep your eyes open Thursday night in Calgary for a streaking Slovak.

Naked aggression is always noticeable.



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SouthSideHawkMan said:


Kopecky's play has been very interesting. I love his front of the net presence, outside of that I haven't seen alot out of his game. I got to admit I wasn't familar with him as a Wing and I'm not really sure what Tallon/Bowman saw in him. Let me bring up another Hawks whose play has been less than spectacular...Campbell. He's not even playing like a top 4 defenceman on this roster. Dare I say Sopel has outplayed him. Talk about a FA miss. WGN was reporting 13 years for Keith? 8 for Toews and Kane? I'll check back tomorrow

iplagitr said:


I've been confused by Kopecky's role and play all year, and I haven't gotten the feeling that he's meshing with the team all that well. Hopefully that will change soon, but I can't ever see him as a 2nd line center for this club. His minus-7 is a glaring blemish on the Hawk stat sheet.

Campbell may not be playing up to his overblown salary, but I think he's been solid. Even if he's not leading the team on the score sheet, he does present yet another speedy skilled player the opposition has to consider. He moves the puck beautifully. His 9 points and plus-3 are respectable. He's not a big physical presence out there, but he doesn't take a lot of penalties either.

Sopel has surprised me this year with some better defensive moments than last season. His stats don't speak as well for him though.

Mike Kiley said:


Campbell has been OK. Problem is, his contract demands more than OK. At his money, he is expected to be big, bigger and biggest. Campbell is doomed to never match what the money says he should do. He's a good player most of the time. He's almost never a superstar, as his money claims he is. Wish I had his problems.

iplagitr said:


Well said on all levels, Mike!!!

Dave Morris said:


Mike, you're right again. This winning streak of yours is impressive.

And you've clearly defined what naked aggression is all about.

Long Tall Tomek (that's Slovak slang for Tommy) is still figuring out how to use his hockey schtick...sorta like Truck Brouwer was doing last year.

Yes, one can argue he should be less Tentative Tom and more Tommy Gun, but the naked truth is well, what you said.

Perhaps Kopecky can get full frontal in the opposition goalie's face as he has on occasion, and strip away the unnecessary elements covering up his talent.

The stark reality is that 'hockey in the raw' gets results. Or at the very least, gets one's attention.

Alligator Derski said:


Morris, I think it's safe to assume at this point that you agree with everything Mike says...

Mike Kiley said:


Gator, my fan club is somewhat limited. Good seats are still available.

Dave Morris said:


Derski, you would do well to follow suit. Swami Kileynanda will be pleased to welcome you to the ashram. Namaste.

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