Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks try upstaging Calgary again in a burning ring of fire

brentsutter.jpgSounds like the Blackhawks are in for a rough ride Thursday night at the Saddledome and we can expect to witness a barn burner. Emotions figure to be at a fever pitch, so keep those fire extinguishers handy by the flat screens for any flareups as the Hawks seek what would be their sixth straight win in Calgary.

Does that mean the odds are stacked against them? Or are the gods playing for Chicago once again this year? The situation is primed for some explosive action.

Not only are the Calgary Flames still sore about being butt-kicked and embarrassed Oct. 12 in Chicago, when the Blackhawks erased a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5, but the Sutters are being the Sutters, challenging all comers to a fight--both internal and external--in their usual and patented version of Family Feud, Alberta style.

According to the Calgary media, Flames coach Brent Sutter peppered some of his players in his office with some salty language after Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to Colorado. Since Dion Phaneuf was seen exiting the ring of fire and he's a star, the focus has fallen on him and Sutter being the featured grudge match of that post-game pasting.

Neither Sutter nor Phaneuf denied being involved in a verbal joust. They both fell back on the well-known chestnut that What Happens in Calgary Stays in Calgary, which is really the Las Vegas of Canada with all that roll-the-dice cowboy culture still riding herd on this rope-a-dope city.

I always imagined the Sutters grew up on that Alberta farm watching a lot of John Wayne. A comedic fight was a staple scene in many of his movies and the Sutters have a long history of inserting fight scenes into their repertoire, which can be pretty funny when you take a long view at how their passion boils over like clockwork every season.

Oh, it's November and the Flames are just 12-5-2. Time for a Sutter to go nuts. But stick with me. I'll tell you why that's better than being spoon-fed an environment by president John McDonough in which the Blackhawks have to know how to play to the camera, which is definitely not in some NHL playbooks and probably shouldn't be.

What people love about hockey and always have is its bare-bones honesty and down-to-earth people. Putting pancake makeup on them, as McDonough likes to do, doesn't seem right. If McDonough tried to stage manage the film "Slap Shot", the Hanson Brothers wouldn't have acted eccentric and Reggie Dunlop wouldn't have been trying to get laid so much.

We know hockey when we see it.

Thanks to the age of Google and You Tube, Sutter fights are readily available when a need for bloodlust strikes you and the new teen-vampire craze leaves you wanting a traditional red-meat diet. The trail of Duane, Darryl and Brian is littered with punches, bruises and bravado.

There was a time I used the F word every 5 to 10 seconds. I was no match, however, for a cursing champion like Brian Sutter. He beat me hands down, although there were so many F words flying around in our friendly conversation at Chicago Stadium the air turned blue between us. I liked Brian best of all. He told you straight-out what he thought.

The Sutters are nothing if not earnest and well-meaning. I can disagree with what I have witnessed of some of their histrionics and show-off displays of temper and pouting.

But I can't help but respect people such as Brian and Darryl, who is Brent's boss as the Flames GM and raises the famous Sutter impatience levels ever higher. Brent was the most successful brother with 1111 games and 829 points, plus the two championships won as an Islander back when New York actually had two teams worth the price of admission.

Sutters are never satisfied. Blackhawks president John McDonough is trying to co-op that stance now, as being the guy who just won't settle for anything less, although to me he comes off too often as manipulative, staged rather than sincere. Look at me. I'm tough.

I mean, c'mon, to tell The Tribune's David Haugh for his story Thursday that defenseman Brent Seabrook should have been turned more to the camera for his post-game interview at rinkside after his overtime winner last Sunday against San Jose, GIVE ME A BREAK, CUT ME SOME SLACK.

Let the players be themselves. Don't try to be a director that orders all the players to stand here, smile now, cry, bend over, act like it matters now, tell the judge you didn't mean it. Less micro-managing and allowing the Hawks to act any ol' way they want would be more appealing to fans who treasure reality and not artifice.

I'm sure coach Joel Quenneville has had his bitching sessions with players and voices have gotten as heated and blue as what happened Tuesday in Sutter's office. But these Hawks are much better in sanitizing the scene of a messy blowup, making sure no one sees the truth.

Don't want anyone to think we aren't all on the same page and going after one goal. Don't want any stark, tell-it-the-way-it is, Howard Cosell, in-your-face bluntness.

You have to go to other teams to read the real honest stuff, such as Anaheim GM Bob Murray pulling no punches when he recently told the L. A. Times that Scott Niedermayer might as well shut up and play better rather than speculate about being traded to the New Jersey Devils, because he's going absolutely nowhere.

"There's going to be a lot of players going out the door before coaches go out the door," Murray also said about rumors coach Randy Carlyle could be fired. "Our players better get that through their thick skulls."

Those are words you will never hear uttered in Chicago. McDonough wouldn't permit them in the stage act. They wouldn't get through rewrite. A plain-spoken guy like Murray couldn't survive here, not willing to act his part in the puppet show.

McDonough has helped to stage manage a welcome turnaround, with the liberal use of Rocky Wirtz's money. All Chicago applauds a better product. He deserves credit for some of that improvement.

But unless he learns to let his team be themselves and quit trying to control every camera shot, every quote, every reaction, we will be robbed from seeing the down-to-earth players who are able to speak and act on their own.

Until then, I have to believe the whole team is getting the script of the day delivered to their doors every morning and everybody is told to play their roles and not ad lib.

Or else somebody is going to get called to the office and lectured about camera angles and their best profiles.

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2 Comments

Alligator Derski said:

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Yeah I read that article about McDonaugh, and while it's true he's done a phenomenal job bringing the Hawks back to the limelight, he needs to realize that micromanaging Seabrook's camera angle is something NO ONE should worry about.

The guy had the game winning goal in OT...McD's not impressing anyone by demanding ridiculous things of his players. I wouldn't mind seeing a Hawk goon (Eager, Buf?) involved in a Theo Fleury type barfight or something just to make the Hawk suits squirm a bit.

Just win hockey games.

Mike Kiley said:

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Gator, as long as Kane doesn't slug an old cabbie, I'm all for him whooping it up and downing a few too many. These are not choir boys. To hell with the ad campaigns. Let's get real. Why do you think Havlat called McDonough a phony and said other Hawks knew it, too? Marty never spoke a truer thing in his life.

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