Blackhawks Confidential

Media rankings play fast-and-loose with Blackhawks while Hossa preaches passing fancy on power play

hossapowerplay.jpgNot only was Marian Hossa direct and to the point with his much-replayed goal from Sunday's 4-0 win over Tampa Bay, starting with his center fielder's catch/drop of the puck followed by the power hitter's clean homer clout in midair, all while skating onward and upward.

The succinct Slovak was equally as candid and enlightening with his penetrating review of the Blackhawks' herky-jerky power play. Hopefully his teammates are listening and will act accordingly for Wednesday night's game against St. Louis at United Center.

Follow the leader when he speaks. Please. You, too, might become a miracle worker by being more still, deadly and focused on the attack.

"We just have to be more patient," the experienced Hossa observed in Chris Kuc's notebook for The Tribune. "Instead of moving just the puck, we try to move ourselves too much."

Tic, tac, duh!

Hossa remembers those fluid Detroit Red Wings' power plays of yesteryear. He realizes his Hawks teammates have to understand a pass moves faster than the skates and positioning is one of the culprits in identifying why the Hawks are stoned too much when they have extra skaters clogging rather than cooperating.

Youth engenders needless movement. The young Hawks have to learn to settle into their set power plays patterns and move the pucks through the defenses rather than attempt to crash through bodily and unnecessarily by themselves.

Even for an old flea-bitten dog like me, patience can be elusive. The quality escapes the yammering, screaming, knee-jerk, ever reactionary general media on a frequent basis, you might have noticed.

That explains why the Hawks can be demoted from 1st in NHL power rankings at ESPN and CBS Sportsline to 6th without suffering a comparable collapse on the ice.

Their fall was even lower at The Hockey News, tumbling from 4th to 7th. Only TSN (perhaps the internet gets to Canada late with the winter weather and all) finds reason to upgrade the Blackhawks at this moment, lifting them from 3d to 1st.

Now, we can all agree expert rankings are every bit as worthless as my cogent analysis. I know what I don't know, which could fill three big libraries and a small saloon.

I do know this. One of the underlying influences of major media is controversy and change and confusion. Never stop shifting the pea in the shell game.

Just like the Hawks' power play, sitting still is considered a death knell. Gotta keep moving the furniture is the motto of media, whether it makes sense or not to your own decorator's sense of fashion and taste.

That's why the rankings change, seeking only to stir opinion rather than state a blatant fact. A ranking system that remains static is as useless as a Porsche without a motor or sputtering salesman Tiger without a pristine image to seal the deal.

There is no logical reason to drop the Hawks from 1st to 6th other than the sheer pleasure of being obstinate and a pain in the ass, a quality of which I was often accused (sometimes quite accurately) when I was a member of that august group of lummoxes.

For instance, ESPN's Scott Burnside (who undoubtedly must be related to Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who bungled a few Civil War battles) decides to rank Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Colorado ahead of the 6th-rated Hawks.

Even though Chicago slapped the Penguins 2-1 in overtime, tipped the Avalanche 2-1 in three shootouts and split home-and-home with L. A. in November, including a 2-1 loss in L. A. at the end of a taxing trip west when the Kings had a physical advantage if nothing else.

Explain to me how the Kings are better than the Hawks? Bet you can't.

The Kings have allowed 55 goals in 19 road games so far, while the Hawks have given up 24 goals in 14 road games. The Kings have been knocked back by 16 power play goals against in 16 home games, just a wee bit different than the 6 power-play scores against the Hawks for their 17 home games.

ESPN can take the Kings. Please, take them. I'll settle for the Hawks, thank you.

Sports Illustrated was less severe in their Blackhawks downgrade, although it also saw fit to drop them from 1st rank to 3d.

SI's Allan Muir apparently didn't dump the Hawks lower because he stated that it is now or never for Chicago to win a Stanley Cup. He believes this seriousness of purpose makes the Hawks worth taking seriously this season only.

To him, their contending status has an expiration date. Everything goes sour next season.

But does Muir even have a point? His contention is that salary cap restrictions will force GM Stan Bowman into such severe cutbacks in talent for 2010-11 that the Hawks won't be as formidable a contender as they are this season.

"If they fail (this season), cap restrictions ensure it'll be a different and less talented group next year," he wrote.

I beg to differ, even with my history as a lummox. While the Hawks will have to blend in some young talent from their system to make the dollars fit, I see that inclusion of young blood as a positive. Teams should be made to rely on their pipeline or else the draft really is an act of futility.

The losses won't be extensive enough for next season to strip the Hawks of the core base of their talent. With the proper additions and minor twitches to the roster, the Hawks will be contenders for years to come.

Of course, the burden will be on Bowman to become his own man in an important position and act like he knows what he's doing. The jury is out on that until he begins to put his own stamp on this organization.

What he did as an assistant to former GM Dale Tallon is beside the point. Advising an action be made and taking that action with your imprimatur are far different responsibilities.

As long as Bowman is as smart as everybody tells us he is, the Hawks have no need to worry about their short-term future as a yearly contender, even if there will be challenging and tricky decisions ahead.

I'm sure the Hawks will be thrust up-and-down the rankings ladder enough in the short-term future by the fickle media to require trainer Mike Gapski to treat them all for knee burns and shin stings.

Or maybe those knee burns will come from an active off-ice life with ladies of decorum and divine deportment, who rank 'em certainly as they see 'em.

As the black-eyed bravado of Patrick Kane put it, let us pray the girls still enjoy their battered, rugged looks in all their glory: bruises, cuts and aspersions included.

No matter what, the Hawks should always be among the top 5 in any rankings, both NHL and ladies choice.

That's good enough to keep them in perennial striking distance of the top and the topless.

I'll take that any day.

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11 Comments

iplagitr said:

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I was glad to see you address the power rankings, Mike. I was equally as appalled at the ESPN drop from 1-to-6 (as well as surprised at the rise to 1st at TSN).

I do think ESPN has a strong case for the Devils. They've been the most surprisingly consistent and overlooked team all year. Half their starters have been injured and they still find a way to keep winning. It will be an interesting match-up when they visit the UC in a couple weeks....

Mike Kiley said:

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Fireworks between the Devils-Hawks on New Year's Eve. Happy Fourth of July!

FearlessFreep said:

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Maybe it's time to break out "Kiley's Korner Power Rankings".

Generally speaking, I think these rankings are simply a "flavor of the week" type thing - with the exception of the Sharks, who somehow are always rated higher than Chicago on THN. Burnside is an east coast guy, so his rankings are always about Pittsburgh, NJ, Washington, Boston, etc. BTW, TSN's rankings are based on actual stats, so there is no writer bias other than how the stats are computed.

Chicago does not have an Ovechkin, Crosby, or Heatley to highlight this team (they have a guy named Hossa, but he's just gotten started). This team wins with depth, so good luck finding one their players on any league leader stat boards. It's scary that the Hawks are (or were) one of the top teams in scoring, but had no individual smelling the lead anywhere. They're ALL dangerous - and I like that just fine, thank you.

If it were up to me, I'd rank NJ, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and SJ as my top five - I like Calgary as well, but they are too inconsistent for my liking. They can play like world beaters at times, then as a totally disinterested team at other times.

What do you say Mike? Who's on your top five list?

Mike Kiley said:

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I'm not stealing Kukla's Korner. No way. I got spell check and I've been sitting in the corner my whole life. I'll go Blackhawks, Devils, Penguins, Sharks, Sabres (tighter play than the wide-open Kings) with the Red Wings coming on out of the pack. As bad as they are suppose to be, how the hell can the Wings still be 6-3-1 in their last 10? Sooner or later, they will make a run at Chicago. The Hawks offense isn't as bad as it looks at times. The defense can't be matched.
Washington obviously is right there on the fringes with Calgary and Vancouver. But to hell with Ovechkin. The Caps might be sheep in wolves' clothing.

FearlessFreep said:

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The next CHI-DET game will be big for both teams. As good as Nashville has been playing and as much respect as I have for Barry Trotz, I agree that the Wings are still the biggest threat to the Hawks in the division.

SouthSideHawkMan said:

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The "Dead" Wings? Didn't they just lose Erickson the other night, they are really banged up and I'm not solid on Jimmy Howard. Neither is my Yahoo fantasy hockey league, he's still available. I'm more concerned with Nashville as laughable as that sounds.

FearlessFreep said:

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The Hawks still have to beat Detroit - no matter how depleted they are. I think it would be a psychological boost to put a beat down on the Wings down to establish that they are now "rule the roost" in the division. And if they lose, how much confidence will that give Detroit? The mentality must be to put these guys away now.

Mike Kiley said:

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The Wings will always be in the Hawks' head. It can be no different with all the years of Detroit dominance. But a reversal is possible. I'm watching Pittsburgh-Philly on Versus right now and Philly is a pale imitation of what they were once were. The Hawks need to get to that point--when the Wings are a pale imitation of what they once were.

FearlessFreep said:

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Versus? What's that?

Dave Morris said:

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C'mon Mike, just say it ferkryinowtlowd. Most of the jerks who do these 'rankings' are, well, jerks.

There are so-called 'hockey writers'. And there are the pungent perspectives of The Kiley Man.

It's like the difference between Martell XO and Olde English 800 Malt Liquor.

Some people know the difference. Some don't.

Jerry Kayne said:

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The Hawks are the Rodney Dangerfield of the media. Even after a win the NHL channel's "On the Fly" talks about the woes of the opponent. But then they give the Hawks 2 slots in the plays of the week.

I don't give the power rankings any significance. Under the radar is fine with me, it's an advantage in any war. Stay the course and stay stealth. Win on the ice, not in the media. Let them talk positively about the Hawks in June.

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