Blackhawks Confidential

Microscrope probes take their toll on the Blackhawks, especially Huet

toewsblues.jpgEverybody hates the media. And why not? It may be the world's only true common bond.

No segment I know of has a larger group of second-guessing, third-rate assholes who would never sanction the efficacy of an onside kick to start the second half (until after knowing it worked). I'm proud (sort of) to be a vagabond alumnus of the group of constantly scorned scribes and scurrilous screechers, just another awardless, scum-breeding bottom feeder that sucks on like a prized doofus.

There, I feel better coming clean like that, confessing my lifelong affinity for playing in the dirt like a 4-year-old. Even assholes have feelings. As long as you probe deep enough.

Whether you're an elephant, a donkey or an unaffiliated animal, the media provides an equal opportunity for insulting all and makes itself quite hateable by often telling you what you already knew. That's the result of media being equipped with pea brains from God's one size fits all assembly line, where hopefully neither layoffs nor recalls are pending--although personally my accelerator has been stuck in third gear for years.

From what I can discern, Fox News ranks No. 1 in the universe in viewership as the voice of the people, yet you have to ask why after their "serious" Sunday scoop that Sarah Palin is considering running for president in 2012.

Are ya kidding? You could have knocked me down with a Colin Fraser. Really? Who would have thought? Nice work uncovering the hidden nugget. Pea brains win again.

In terms of revelatory material, this breaking news is as stunning as I'm thinking that a martini or three is well deserved about 5 p. m., there is a good chance Patrick Kane will have to tell us he needs to grow up another 200 times or so during his career, Jay Cutler will be sliced, diced and peeled more than a Dusty Baker Vegomatic over his Bears career, and the Blackhawks are going to the playoffs.

Yes, we have known they'd be back in clover since last season came up short in the Western Conference finals. Many past Hawks seasons have only raised the single question of whether they could inch themselves toward the postseason in the final weeks like an invalid on all fours and then stagger in like a drunk at 3 a. m., party crashers who knew the celebration would end prematurely and everybody was happy they got a D-plus rather than a F.

That left no time for penetrating analysis and constant vigilance during the season.

To have known for the past eight months the playoffs were a lock puts these Hawks and their fans in an awkward spot. This team has been, and is now, being judged under a microscope of daily critiques that can either serve as motivation or sometimes hammer at their confidence and internal egos until small chips and fissures begin to show in their invincible armor.

That provides a pressure more wearisome than an 8-game trip. To be held to a high standard every day saps the strength even of a superior club such as the Hawks. To sustain greatness without a single letdown over the course of weeks in a demanding profession is the toughest challenge of all.

Colts fans can tell all the Blackhawks fans whether a tremendous season makes up in the end for a bitter finish.

I do know it plays hell with a One Goal marketing campaign. Blame the Hawks' brass if you want for setting themselves up to settle for nothing less than the top, and for egging on daily arguments from the loyalists about whether such anticipation is justified Feb. 8.

Are the Hawks the Saints or the Colts? Since they haven't attained the championship level, as Indy has, I have to say the Hawks are the Saints, respected underdogs in the big picture who are going to have to convince a majority of doubters before anyone thinks they are more than intensely entertaining and immensely full of potential. Down the road. Ah, three quite dreaded words, meaning not now, honey, I'm tired.

OK, so do the Hawks have, or need, a problem solver such as Sean Payton, who bested Drew Brees with the greatest throw of all Sunday? Payton threw caution to the wind with that onside kick, a spot in which most would have stayed conservative and not risked their reputation in the most glaring spotlight of all.

That brings me to general manager Stan Bowman. He is being told by one satisfied side to stand pat, don't even ponder a trade with a strong group primed to go all the way. He is being told by another side to throw caution to the wind and pull a Payton, figure out an inventive way to jettison Cristobal Huet, and if not elevate Andy Niemi to starter, then trade at least for some goalie that will provide peace of mind.

As if that's attainable in any fashion. Others simply want an upgrade to the defense with hopes Huet can be saved by a tighter defense from ruining the season singlehandedly. They favor calling in the plasterers to hide the crack in the wall.

"The Blackhawks are an outstanding team, but I don't see them winning the Stanley Cup this season," wrote the St. Louis Globe-Democrat's George Csolak. "Why? Huet is their ace, but he's shown signs of being quite ordinary lately.

"Niemi may end up winning the job by season's end, but he lacks the experience to take the Hawks on a long playoff run."

For eight months we have heard from hither and yon that the Hawks can't win a Stanley Cup with Huet as starting goalie. I have to believe there are some doubters about that on the team, guys that won't confess so as not to be called scum-sucking bottom feeders. But the players who doubt Huet know who they are and don't tell me there are none or I will be as amazed as Palin running for the White House.

Just the constant pounding of negatives about Huet has to take its toll, whether true or not. On us, on his teammates. Most of all on Huet, who can't be helped by the blizzard of catcalls and denunciations. He's a fragile vase, in danger of falling and cracking at the worst possible moment.

So is Bowman going to attempt an onside kick with the trade deadline beckoning? Well, I never like a too-many-cooks organization where the GM has to get his dad and his boss to sign off on any onside kick.

If Payton had held a meeting with the erudite Scotty Bowman and John McDonough at halftime, I believe he'd have been counseled to take the safe route rather than the unexpected path. Don't spit into the wind.

Sometimes, genius out-thinks itself. Sometimes, a spit in the face fires your guys up.

Who knows, maybe the conservatives who want no changes are right. The Hawks have given no good reason to seriously tinker with a team that is showing flaws, but isn't exhibiting a fatal weakness right now as long as you believe the defense and Huet can succeed at their best and the offense only needs to grind out enough goals to win 2-1, 3-2 and sometimes a blowout at 4-1.

Maybe if Bowman matches San Jose GM Doug Wilson, who added to his defense by getting defenseman Niclas Wallin from Carolina Monday for a second-round 2010 draft pick, all will be well in Hawk land. That seems the safe and likely move for Bowman, adding a defenseman, as long as he can get his dad and Happy Meal Mickey D to sign off.

Even the captain can be tough on the troops, not just the blowhards and bloggers blasting shortcomings.

"We can get back on track and start improving again as a team," Jonathan Toews said in The Tribune. "We had a bit of a lapse as far as development goes in the last week."

A three-game losing streak is no more than a scratch based on the big rips and tears we've seen from Blackhawk seasons past.

Toews often is more damning of his team than media and no one says he should shut up, so I anoint Toews as official spokesman from here on and we should take our cues from him.

The Hawks need to be much better, he says. I believe him.

The question now is whether the Hawks require a trick play or a miracle trade or renewed muscle memory to pump more iron into their championship credentials.

Can we just go on as composed and not worry? Well, maybe I shouldn't say not worry.

While some have preached patience and relaxation and forebearance and reason right on this very site, all qualities never attributted to scum-sucking bottom feeders like me, worries abound that the Hawks aren't quite there yet as championship material.

They are an Olympic hockey injury away from seeing their championship chance obliterated. That's a slender thread to live on.

You only needed to watch Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals Sunday to see that if a championship berth is there for them, the Hawks could find out quickly, like Dorothy, that they can get caught in a whirlwind of negativity like none other and swept away.

The 1992 Hawks didn't have the negativity, and they were swept away by Pittsburgh. People loved Fast Eddie Belfour then, just as much as they distrust Huet now. In some ways we're really in a weaker position than '92, when everyone thought Eddie was up to it.

Huet could win the next 14 straight like the Caps, and not shake off one of his doubters, who stick like maggots and barnacles.

And if there's one thing I never want to hear again it's McDonough saying, well, we're not satisfied. I'd rather hear Kane tell us he still needs to grow up, because there will be a good story and maybe some nifty pictures to go with that one.

The Hawks might benefit from some Olympic-sized time away from the daily microscope, loosen up their tightening sphincter muscles a bit. The media will still be up-tight assholes, while most Hawks fly away for sun and fun and time away from Mt. Olympus.

Wherever Huet goes from now on, he takes our worries with him. Those are going to be heavy suitcases. I hope he can handle all that baggage that comes with being HUET THE HATED, MAN OF MYSTERY.

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12 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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"...scorned scribes and scurrilous screechers".

Mister Kiley, no words can match the pungent prose and scintillating skewers you have served up today.

Kudos.

SDSTAN said:

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ESPN reporting Niemi to start vs Dallas, let's see how he does at home in a back to back situation. I wish Q would stop constantly changing line combinations. I know he was trying to find a spark during this mini-slump, but it has got to effect the players when they have no idea from shift to shift who they will be playing with. Stick with a set combination and let the players develop some chemistry; Mike what is your take on this?

Hostile Hawk said:

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I second that note to stop changing lines.

FearlessFreep said:

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If Q has learned anything, it's that Huet has had a horrible time with Dallas this year. Starting Niemi is a no-brainer - we'll see how he reacts to this.

Also reading the rumors about the availability of Rolo from the Islanders. I'm wondering if the Hawks brass are pondering acquiring or Turco. Not really thinking it's necessary, but you wonder...

fattybeef said:

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Reminds me of a Dennis Leary song...

Hostile Hawk said:

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In the end, any team can win the Cup. If the hockey gods give good fortune to a team that was struggling through the year, they add to that some spunk and hard play, it's anyones game.
There is obviously no perfect equation, too many variables.
This Hawks team is good enough to do it as it stands. If they come into the playoffs with their best game, it will be hard to beat them. Will a trade help, maybe, or maybe it will hurt some kind of chemistry. It is the boys upstairs job to find the best situations they can to make it happen. Maybe someone needs to go, but I feel that some of the slumping players as of late find a spark in the playoffs. Buf, Versteeg, and even Barker might all end up playing some of their best hockey by then. Plus, Bolland will be back in shape and maybe even Burish. Huet isn't slumping, it's just his game.
Not too many problems as I see it.

But Huet is a grown adult, one who gets payed extremely well. If he can't handle the critics then he should take his 5 mil a year and go cry somewhere else. Or get better. I still don't think he is a half bad back-up, but a starter he will never be. Not that I don't like the guy, Im sure he is a pleasure to be around.

Nick Berinti said:

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Great article....one problem some of these guys make $3,000.00 for a minute of ice time, rough, exhausting road trip? I have a feeling they found some time to have some fun too! I say bullshit, get over it and live up to your professional billing.

Forklift said:

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Roloson isn't even as good as Huet, and Turco is lousy.

Here's the problem - Chicago fans don't know how to enjoy a special team...unlike in New York, where they think an ordinary team is a bunch of world beaters, here we all just look at a damn good hockey team and wonder when the bottom is going to fall out. Hell, we've already seen the narrative written: Huet loses the Cup, or Hawks win Cup despite Huet.

As far as Niemi, I'm sure even Sean Payton would agree that it would be lunacy to put this much pressure on Niemi - take a guy who couldn't beat out Corey Crawford in Rockford last year, hand him the keys and ask him to go out and get a Stanley Cup?

Everyone needs to relax. This is a pretty damn special team. Enjoy it.

Hostile Hawk said:

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I read in the Sun today that the Hawks are looking for another goaltender. Specifically Tim Thomas who is having a difficult season. If Thomas is willing to wave his no trade agreement the Bruins would be happy to let him go right now for some cap space. Bowman said that he was not above sending Huet down to the minors to free up the cap space here for Thomas.
Hear that! Send Huet down to the minors. Yes, he is that bad.
Plus the article went on about a possible trade with the Ducks that would send Barker away and bring a certain D man back to the Hawks who was so sadly traded around this time last year.
Interesting.
Im for both of these moves. In the end we have a better goalie and a more aggressive defensemen and all at a lower cap.

Jerry Kayne said:

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How serious can we take a newspaper that calls Sports "Athletics?"

nick61 said:

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Bwahahahahahaha!!! Kiley, you are grrrrrreat!!!! Your take on "journalists" is TOO ACCURATE!!! Too funny,also! The KoolAid drinkers on the Hawks Message Boards still beLIEve POOet can do the job!!! Kids nowadays,eh?!? Since last year, having watched every game, it does not take a rocket scientist to figger out POOet sux! All this year I have been wondering when Coach Q is going to ride Nieme? He looked outstanding against the Blues, and strong again against the Stars, esp. in the S/O! All Nieme does is WIN,and all POOet does is LOSE! lol As far as the Canuck debacle, Q should have left Nieme in to show some confidence in him! As far as the players not having confidence in POOet, when they come on TV and "re-assure" the fans there is nothing to worry about with the goaltending, that is my cue to START WORRYING! lol The POOet Putzes who say "everything" is FINE, and to "RELAX" need to lay off the meds !!! I have seen more than a few rookie goalies excel in the P/Os, starting with Tony O, Dryden, Vachon, and a few others.

Mike Kiley said:

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Hey, you got the same keyboard I got, where the keys get stuck every so often and it doesn't always look like English.

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