Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks avoid a back-breaker of a season with Khabby now Edmonton's misery

khabbyhurt.jpgLuckily, there is no such animal as loyalty in professional sports. That's as mythological as the unicorn.

Otherwise, the news Wednesday that goalie Nikolai Khabibulin will be out indefinitely after back surgery to fix a herniated disk would really mean something to the Blackhawks. It still leaves us with a lesson of be-careful-what-you-wish-for that we should study just a little.

From our lofty perch, we can rub out chins and debate the true meaning of this injury that isn't hurting us. So what the hell do we care how long he misses.

The fact Khabibulin's absence will impact the Edmonton Oilers is meaningless. They can't be deader than they are already and will simply have to argue the next $16,000 team restaurant tab, as they did recently in Calgary for their most feisty efforts of the season, without a few extra Stolis on the check for Khabby.

OK, I'm just assuming he supports his national brand of vodka. I support them all, but I'm that kind of United Nations type. Maybe he drinks water strictly from the Volga river for all I know.

Let's flip back to last offseason, when the early consensus was that Khabibulin didn't have a chance to be re-signed due to the tight Chicago salary-cap room. But come the final hours of free agent signings, there were reports in Chicago that then-GM Dale Tallon continued to be in hot pursuit of Khabibulin and we were warned not to be surprised if he came back.

Thank goodness there is an Edmonton, willing to cut through any nonsense that Khabby would settle for less in Chicago so he could have another shot at a Stanley Cup title. Once the Oilers offered 4 years, $15 million, Khabby couldn't limp away from the Blackhawks fast enough. In fact, I bet he ran like a 20-year-old in heat.

Money is almost always the driving force, not rah-rah let's-win-one-for-the-Gipper. Really, a title never bought anything but general happiness. Try buying a $10 million mortgage with that.

Many skeptics, including myself, doubted if Cristobal Huet was up to the task of stepping out of Khabby's shadow and basking in the spotlight as a guy who could be depended on to return the Hawks to the Western Conference finals and this time take one more big step forward and win the Cup.

While Huet has mostly earned the benefit of the doubt to this point of the season, he also has his own passionate fan club of haters, too, who will never stop believing the man from France will kick us in the ass and lay us out like escargot before this is said-and-done.

Anyway, would you rather have kept Khabby? I guess you know the answer to that. Khabby had long been a medical concern in Chicago and couldn't hold up in the postseason, either, for the Blackhawks' final push against Detroit in the conference finals.

What would have been the fallout if Tallon actually had managed to convince Khabby to stay this season?

Khabibulin obviously did play well at times in the postseason, though, and had a big role advancing the Hawks as far as they got. Same as winger Marty Havlat, also bid adieu in the free-agent scramble and replaced by a superior pickup in Marian Hossa.

Hossa and Huet are both expected to play Thursday night against Columbus at United Center and be principal players. What if it was Havlat and Khabby, instead, who were in those roles? Would we be the No. 1-ranked team in the NHL in most estimations?

It's debatable, but probably not. We would be in one hell of a bad spot right now.

Whether Tallon intended to try and trade Huet if he brought back Khabby, or just co-exist again with that tandem, it's clear that throwing the burden of proof on Huet and promoting Andy Niemi as the backup was the right call all along.

Sometimes teams don't make the correct decision as much as being forced into settling for what the market and their resources will bear.

Maybe signing Huet in the first place was a mistake. Maybe the idea of holding onto an injury-prone, inconsistent Khabby would have compounded that mistake.

Maybe sometimes you just get lucky after all the meetings and intense discussions and far-flung scouting and what-should-we-dos.

Maybe this is the Blackhawks season to be lucky-and-good.

We'll send Khabby get-well wishes with a championship team picture fronting the card.

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8 Comments

Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler said:

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Khabby was incredibly mediocre in the playoffs last year. I never got the angst some people had over him leaving.

iplagitr said:

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I agree for the most part. Khabby had some good games last year but I never thought he was a stand-out. Not to mention he was ridiculously undependable with the constant bad back and other issues. I actually thought Huet had a lot of better games than him, but unluckily seemed play in many games when the Hawks didn't help him much offensively, so his record looked worse than it should have. The Hawks obviously still haven't quite figured out their goalie situation, but I was very glad to see Khabby go. IMO, he was never the answer, and now Edmonton knows it too.

Havlat could be offensively magical, but as we all know, he was also so prone to injury. I would cringe every time he took any contact. He also didn't show up every night either, and he's proving that with less-than-stellar numbers in Minnesota. Even so, I liked Marty and he redeemed himself somewhat with big goals in the playoffs... but I was absolutely thrilled with Hossa taking his place.

Dave Morris said:

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Mister Kiley, your observations give rise to some burning questions.

Should the evident prescience of The Hawkey Honchos quiet the queasiness of perturbed partisans?

Should the fans finally have faith in the decisions taken by those paid to make them?

In the absence of angst, could loyalists actually permit themselves to enjoy the heights to which their heroes are aspiring?

The mind boggles, sir.

Hostile Hawk said:

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This is a hard question. Would the Hawks still be in the same place if they had kept Havlat and Khabby? I will probably get some shit for a saying it, but I actually bet we are a few points higher in the standings at this point. Hossa has been out most of the season, so having Havlat the whole season would have added points, regardless of how he is playing for the Wild he has a lot of talent.
Plus, injuries or not, Khabby is a better goalie than Huet and his numbers would probably be the best in the league playing in front of this Hawks team. would he get injured this year indefinitely with the Hawks, who knows, but probably, which would put us back where we are anyway, but with a few more wins I'm guessing. The reason Tallon tried to keep Khabby is because he was worried about having Huet as a starter for a Stanley Cup run and Huet has shown that this was right reaction to have.
Should we have faith in the decisions taken by those paid to make them? Sure, but we should always question to keep people on their feet. Hawks games have only recently been televised again, was it the right choice to keep them blacked out? It is kind of like asking if the choices Bush made were the right ones, because we was paid to make them.
Ultimately, Tallon had a huge part in building this team and I am obviously happy with it. But should we have paid Huet so much or Campbell for that matter?
Loosing Khabby was the obvious choice and Havlat was given an offer that he didn't want, so he had to go too. In the long run, I would take Hossa too.

VegasHawksFan said:

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No shit slinging, but respectful disagreement. We lose Khabbi and Havlat and gain Madden and Hossa. I don't see any way we are a better team by not going down that path. A few extra points right now would be no consolation at all for losing your top goalie. Late to the table or not, Hossa has already done more for his team than Havlat has for his. Neither player was worth to Chicago what they got other teams to pay them. Now Khabbi is out for the season, and Havlat is struggling without the pool of talent around him he had in Chicago. Tallon absolutely made the right moves with both players.


Jerry Kayne said:

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IMHO Dale kept Khabby because there was no one better available at the time and no one would take him either, so he gambled the competition would be good for Huet and he'd take over the day-to-day role.

I've said it before, this is Dale's team for a long time down the road. His draft picks and building from the ground up was masterful for today's NHL. Dale Talon is the king of GMs. Long live the king. I pet his bobblehead everyday.

PS. I wouldn't mind seeing Dale back in the booth with Pat. I'm getting a little board with Pat's Harry Caray impressions now. I'd like to see the booth like this: Pat doing play-by-play and staying on task, Dale throwing in his emotional fan's perspective, and Eddie O's stop-it-right-here's. I'd like to see that IMMEDIATELY.

FearlessFreep said:

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Ah yes, the days of Pat and Dale...I fondly remember the hilarious Wee-Knee call of Dale during an Ottawa Senators game that had these guys giggling like a couple of schoolgirls as dead air continued to be broadcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwuUzSZfQ4k

And also the call from the infamous line brawl on St. Patricks Day, when Dale called out Scott Stevens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY4q4S0_AlE

VegasHawksFan said:

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I can't even remember where they were for this one, but during the game, the camera had focused in on some skinny lady wearing a ridiculous glitter wig. Tallon says to Foley, "And after the game, they're gonna tape her ankles together and use her as a mop".

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