Blackhawks Confidential

Happy anniversary! It's been one year since a Blackhawks' slump

I love these hard times with the Blackhawks. Reminds me of when a Rockefeller was forced to skip lunch for a day, because his Rolls Royce went flat in the country and he had to settle for some leftover foie gras and warm chardonnay in the backseat picnic basket while waiting for his limo to show up and save him from the mosquitoes.

For all you young hockey players out there that think the Blackhawks are struggling, please pick up a history book. Going 2-2 since Olympic break, 6-2 for their last 8 games and 8-4-1 over their last 13 isn't exactly a sign this talented squad is going broke and soon will be destitute and down on their luck when the postseason arrives.

I figure it's an opportune moment to take an overdue detour from adding to the plethora of doom-and-gloom and point out what we like about these Blackhawks now and for the playoffs. But that's just me, always accused of being too cheery and optimistic and just downright Pollyanna far too often. Sorry for the constant sunshine.

Speaking of Pollyanna, I suppose you can blame my upbeat mood for at least one day on our newest addition to this Kiley clan. Mark and his wife, Amy, welcomed Cailin Elizabeth--who weighed in at 8 pounds and 1 ounce on Tuesday morning--to the scrum. Last month it was our youngest son Jeff and his wife, Jill, who contributed to our burgeoning ranks now of seven grandchildren (six granddaughters) by introducing Georgia Helen.

I'm telling you, at Blackhawks Confidential, we go to any lengths to swell our readership and line our pockets and we damn well know women are taking over the world, so we're ahead of the curve on that one. I still got their dads' old hockey sticks in my garage, so it is good to know the girls' Christmas presents are ready and waiting for them as soon as I get the spiderwebs off them.

Old softie I am, I may even throw in that 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks t-shirt for the new additions, because by the time they grow up, Patrick Kane will be running his own restaurant in Buffalo and competing with Tim Horton's donuts for the most famous hockey foodie.

I imagine that Kane will still be hell on wheels rather than skates, but maybe we'll have returned to the Dark Ages in hockey in Chicago. Times change.

I'll be holding a computer class later this afternoon for Cailin and Georgia about internet site traffic and how they are suppose to pound their little paws on Blackhawks Confidential morning, noon and night with a few small breaks thrown in to adhere to a Kiley tradition of sucking down a nipple of Guinness and a Jameson, just to maintain your positive attitude on the path forward.

And there is no reason not to remain real positive that the Hawks have as good a chance as any team out there to win a Stanley Cup. Go back to last March if you want to see the last time this franchise truly struggled. From March 7-20, 2009, the Hawks were 1-5-2.

That didn't stop them from finishing 9-2-1 after that in their final 12 games before going into the playoffs and making a name for themselves as legitimate Cup contenders by bulling their way to the Western Conference finals before losing to Detroit.

We should be celebrating this March instead of lamenting. It's officially been one year in between slumps. The Hawks lost 5 out of 6 games last March. This year, there hasn't been a slump, simply a couple regulation losses back-to-back on two occasions. Will such travails never cease?

I guess you can consider it progress that enough people are now paying attention to what transpires with the Blackhawks that a small dip in fortunes of late excites interest. Not long ago, Trent Yawney could have dropped his shorts at Michigan and Wacker and drawn not one glance, but then the multi-talented Yawns (a Kiley favorite) always did fly under the radar.

So what's there to like about the Hawks?

Duncan Keith will still win the Norris Trophy. Jonathan Toews should still be a Selke Trophy contender. Brent Seabrook will still be a physical force with big hits. Nik Hjalmarsson will still rebound from a spell of inexperience and be a solid defensive addition.

Brian Campbell will still be effective three-quarters of the time and we'll have to settle for better than average. Kim Johnsson will still be a better choice on defense short-term than Cam Barker, a plus-5 with two assists since the Olympic break, even if Barker does blossom long-term in Minnesota.

Toews will soon remember he's Toews and play like it. Kane will soon remember he is not one of the Jonas Brothers and play like it. Patrick Sharp will soon remember he'd be recognized as great rather than good if he was good more consistently.

Marian Hossa is bound to recall that he must win a Cup in Chicago after picking his spots in the last three seasons, and roaming to Pittsburgh at the wrong time and Detroit at the wrong time, because he's going nowhere else for a while.

Troy Brouwer's goals are changing by the minute, from 20 goals to 25 goals and soon back to one goal: a championship. Adam Burish's goals are to play Wednesday night, not miss a game the rest of the way and pick up where he left off as a physical pain in the ass.

John Madden might have turned the corner back toward Jump Street with two assists and being a plus-2 against Detroit. Dustin Byfuglien will soon turn the corner with three points from his last four games leaving him three points from equalling last season's 31 points and the longshot bettors are laying odds on whether Buff can surpass his NHL best of 36 points.

How much does it matter to you if coach Joel Quenneville chooses either Cristobal Huet or Antti Niemi to start Wednesday against Los Angeles? Winning as a team sounds better to me right now than whether Huet or Niemi win the game.

Does it matter to you more if the Hawks had a chance to trade Huet at the deadline and refused?

Elliotte Friedman of CBC.sports and a Hockey Night in Canada commentator swears that his reliable sources tell him the Hawks could have traded Huet if they wanted, but it didn't jive with adviser Scotty Bowman's philosophy.

" Strongly believe there was one, possibly two teams who were willing to take Huet from Chicago," Friedman wrote. "(Should clarify: I'm more certain about one than the other.) But the Blackhawks decided to stand pat, much to the surprise of other GMs.

"Unloading Huet's contract (two years remaining, $5.625 million cap hit) would have cost at least a first-rounder and an established player. (I know you're going to ask, but I'd be guessing on whom. The source wouldn't tell me.)"

OK. I'll guess instead. I would suspect it was Patrick Sharp.

"Why did Chicago decline?" Friedman continued. "Scotty Bowman believes strongly in the Detroit model: If you don't have a top-three goalie, you protect him with great team defence and puck possession. The Blackhawks - disciplined and talented - have a shot.

"But, to duplicate the Red Wings' success, they will have to show two things: their forwards are as committed to back pressure as Detroit's and their defensive corps is as good. As great as the Blackhawks look, we're talking Lidstrom/Rafalski/Kronwall/Stuart here. What a tough, tough call to make."

Gee, and I thought Stan Bowman was Hawks' GM. Guess Scotty is calling the shots. Maybe I missed that press conference.

The Kings come to town Wednesday night fresh off their 6-0 spanking of Columbus at Staples Center Monday night. Not only did the Kings offense score four in the first period, but the Kings defense held the Blue Jackets to 11 shots all game.

Time for the Hawks to pay attention to all the details. I wouldn't want the Hawks to fall to 2-3 in their last five and scare the hell out of everybody and strip away my usual Pollyanna temperament.

Because, as far as I know, no new granddaughter is expected Wednesday. But you never know. Maybe with eight in the house, we can get our very own reality show.

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24 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, you may hate the admit it, but you're the best and funniest Hawkey writer there is. Thanks.

Mike Kiley said:

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Hell, you forced me into it. I admit it. I gave up modesty for Lent.

OneTeam said:

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Good article Mike!

I had said before- the Brass (Bowmans) know this likely wont be the year the Hawks capture a Cup due to the goalie situation. Had Huet played better this season, he may have been easier to move considering he has such a bloated contract. I think the idea was Vokoun but I think the experienced player would have been Versteeg more so than Sharp.

People in Chicago just need to be patient. Its been SO many years since they have had a contender and all of a sudden the expectations are through the roof after one decent showing in the playoffs last year!

The Hawks still have a ways to go and a few pieces of the puzzle to fit. I would say it'll be two more years until they are a REAL contender for the Cup.

SouthSideHawkMan said:

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The fact that we could have moved Huet and did not is completely disappointing. I hope we have seen the LAST of Huet this season, He's been given chance after chance to win the number 1 goalie seat. He is not a number 1 goalie and he'll never be a number one goalie. So it time to give a bulk of the starts in Niemi and see what we have in him. Because we all know what we have in Rex Huet

The Dugs said:

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I think both guys are right around average (Huet definitely slightly below Niemi).

The decent goals against figures for both is more reflective of the amazing defenders that we have more so than the goalies' skill. It also doesn't hurt that our offense forces the play to be very heavily based on the opponents' side of the ice. I only see 1 or 2 goals getting past Huet on clearing attempts...

Northernhawk said:

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Congratulations on the birth of your granddaughter Mike. That's great news!

VegasHawksFan said:

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Congratulations indeed! And thanks for an article that was primarily something other than what we have been talking about lately. Interesting comments about Bowman there. If our third and fourth liners are lighting it up down the stretch while our top lines are stymied but tenacious back checking of other teams, I will be glad we did not give away the farm to get rid of Huet.

Dave Morris said:

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Meanwhile, as they lose to the Flames tonight, Wings fans are melting down...this from their favorite lovefest website:

"We aren’t going to make the playoffs. We just simply don’t want to. Can’t argue with that - - not based on what we just saw.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 19 on 03/09/10 at 09:26 PM ET"

By their own words, shall ye know thine enemies.

As for Cristobal Camembert, no more excuses. As we say in my country, "grouille-toé le cul, calisse de tabarnak".

Either Monsieur Huet gets off his white Napoleonic high horse and plays like a five point six million dollar goalie, or he gets out of the way and lets The Nieminator take over.

For better or for worse.

The Blackhawks are a team of warriors. Time to go to war.

OneTeam said:

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You'll have to forgive my Wingnut friend you quoted- He has been under a tremendous amount of pressure at work and his wife is very ill! I think when you combined those elements together with something as forgein to him as the Wings limping into the playoffs... well... you just get crazy talk!

Im not worried about the Wings in the slightest- I understand that you cant go to the Finals EVERY year and after being there the past two seasons, this is shaping up to be one of those times we miss. Oh well! But on the brightside, its good to know that we have earned a better record than half of the league with virtually our AHL team and will have our all-star cast of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom, Rafalski, Holmstrom..(well you get the picture) back again next year! Just curious- Do you think the Hawks could have accomplished that feat with your players from Rockford? How long do you think it takes to build a farm system that puts out players like we grow year after year?

What if Kane or Toews blew out a knee this week- How would you like your chances then? Do you think your deep enough to handle that or both? I submit... it would be unlikely.

This season has already been an accidental success for the Wings- We got to see what we have on our Farm and how big our role players can be when called on to be the primary stars- All things considered and with both hands tied behind our backs, the Wings have made more of a success out of this season than half the teams in the league!

Any early predictions on the Hawks playoff success? I have not heard anyone say what they think the Hawks will do.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Yep. Iginla busts a looooooong no scoring slump at the Joe and Rene gets the game winner. Wings in 9th and as of right now, Luooooooooooooooo has given up three in the first to the Avs. This is a near perfect night. I remember discoursing with you Mr. Morris about my not being able to conceive of the Wings not making the playoffs. Though I still find it highly doubtful they don't get in, I have to admit I'm becoming able to visualize this and it's a good picture. Red shirts, sad panda faces all around and silence in the Joe as the final ten seconds tick off without that ultra stupid snippet of Journey playing. You know what's missing in that vision to make it a spiritual experience, I don't even need to say it.

OneTeam said:

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You pray we dont make it to the playoffs because your scared! Scared of the Red Wings! I have noticed that a lot of Hawkies dont want to play the Wings in the playoffs because they know what will happen- If Im wrong about that, then why wouldnt you WANT to take us on if your hate us so much and think your team is that good? If you were gonna win the Cup this year, wouldnt you have wanted to beat the Mighty Red Wings enroute?

Ill bet you were one of those guys that hoped the USA would have to play Canada a second time for the gold. Ill bet you hoped someone else would do the "dirty" work for them... I think thats weak!

I have always said, you cant get around the better teams in the playoffs, you have to go right through them. If the Sharks are the best in the West... Then I want to play them! If the Pens were the best in the East again... I would want to play them!

You Hawkies dont have the intestinal fortitude for this game-- Go back to baseball where its safer--

PS- Didnt the Sox ride a certain Journey song to the World Series one year?? Hmmm it does sound familiar-

OneTeam said:

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*wouldnt have to play Canada....

VegasHawksFan said:

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You're like an insufferable 85 Bears fan who believes they are somehow great for simply having lived close to such greatness. People with a brain have conversations, cocks like you just come and spew. Whatever.

As of right now, no road to the cup goes through Detroit. Let that sink in for a minute. As of right now, I'm sure you do want to play the Sharks and the Pens in a meaningful because they, along with the Hawks, are where they mighty wings are not. Not a one of those teams even needs to put NHL players on the ice against you right now because it doesn't change their future in the slightest. Regardless of how bad ass your team HAS been, the harsh reality is that it is fighting just to get in the playoffs.

Are you really gonna keep coming here to endlessly clog our blog with your cut and paste history lessons and macho bullshit? Guys like Norris and Ahtrap from the Yahoo blog aren't assclowns, why are you such asshole?

OneTeam said:

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Clog your blog? No thanks! (plus I didnt realize there was limited room)

I guess I must have ruffled some Blackhawk feathers! Easy big boy! Its gonna be alright- No need for name calling... try to use your big persons words!

As for cut and paste- HARDLY! The reason I keep posting and what I find so insufferable is the lack of any hockey knowledge or appreciation for the history of the game on Hawk blogs! I know most of you are new to this but com'on!

Id love to have a better conversation and will tone down my retoric a bit in effort to do so-

VegasHawksFan said:

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Good to know there is a such a righteous and knowledgeable person like you out there selflessly giving of yourself to ensure that opposing hockey blogs are elevated to your high standards. When the wings won last year, there was no shortage of complete morons who did nothing but come and screech on Hawks blogs with caps locked. Seriously, drop the bullshit about lack of hockey knowledge. Especially on this particular site, there is no one who screams HAWKS RULE! There is plenty of dialogue about the teams shortcomings.

As for me, no I don't have an exhaustive history of the wings, and more importantly, why should I care? I was going to Blackhawks games when I was in my teens, and that was well over 20 years ago. We have suffered through horrible ownership that has only recently changed and then a clown like you shows up to spraypaint WINGS RULE on the wall. Really?!

Spare us the lectures and history lessons, until your team climbs back into a playoff spot, they are truly nothing more then two points earned or missed.

Jerry Kayne said:

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Congratulations Mike & Mark. Great article today.

Hey nuk, don't let the poser get to you. Sadly in this world, there's always one like him/her. Usually when when a guest comes into your home they have better manners.

Hey 1T11: You made your point, we all read it a number of times now. Please be a contributor rather than hater. I bet you can deliver something positive to this blog.

Sincerely, one of the posters that uses his real name.

mikeyo said:

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Congrats to Mike and Mark on the new addition. Do they make diapers with a Redwings logo on the inside bottom? 'Cause I'd send you a box of those...
I've been trying to lay off the whole goalie dead horse, but I do want to mention that every goalie can slump. Look at Luongo during and since the Olympics. I can only imagine the outpouring of grief if we traded Huet for somebody, and Huet got hot and the somebody was only average.
Other points:
Are there other hockey blogs as entertaining as this one? 'Cause this one is the best I've found...
+1 for Jerry Kayne's post above, even if I don't post under my full real name.

SDSTAN said:

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Let's not worry about the Redwings or their fans, they are going to have to bust their tails to get in, and if they do, bring them on! The Hawks need to focus on their overall team play right now. Simple north-south plays out of their end and safer plays at the opponent's blue line are needed. Also, too many extra passes, shoot the puck from all angles and crash the net for rebounds! I really liked Ladd's game Sunday, we need more play like that. Let's get back to basics and at a minimum nail down the 2nd seed so we have home ice for at least two rounds.

Hostile Hawk said:

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OneTeam-11Cups.
A great rivalry the Hawks and Wings have. Like with some of my friends who are Wings fans, it becomes hard to have an intelligent conversation due to all of the great pride each has in their team. To be honest, I love when the Hawks play the Wings because of all that rides on it. The Wings have had a long and great ride and I am sure it is not over. They have a damn strong coaching staff with a smart administration. But, Chicago has a long standing tradition as well and a ton of hockey fans who have been dormant because of bad administration. I loved playing hockey against Detroit teams in my day just because of their self proclaimed "Hockey Town" label. Nothing felt better than beating teams that thought they were better than you. Truthfully, Minnesota has the best hockey players in the U.S.
As for playing Detroit, I welcome it. Especially this year. Times have changed and this Hawks team is better than this Detroit team. If Detroit makes it into the playoffs, no team will take them for granted, but they will be beaten.
And don't come onto a Hawks blog raving about the Wings and not expect to get shit for it. I would expect no less from a Wings blog.

OneTeam said:

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Puck- I very much appreciate your comments and agree with your assessments.

The reason that I dont like to go on "Wing friendly" blogs because everyone has the same opinion- I much prefer a good back and forth and look for insightful comments such as this author of the blog as well as your own on other teams sites.

I guess in the past few posts I have lowered the bar and I will be more aware of that moving forward. I guess after living in this town for the last ten years and being exposed to some of the over the top harrassment I have received as a Wings fan has made me a bit spiteful and aggressive in my writings. I have many examples to describe what I mean by "over the top" but I suppose there is someone in Detroit that experienced the same treatment. Since idiocy isnt exclusive to Hawks fans, I should respect those that are not... like yourself and several of the other persons commenting on this blog.

I should have just left my opinion to the issue the author raised. Ill do so in the future.

For what its worth, I think the Hawks will have a beter chance at a deep post season run with Niemi in net over Huet.

VegasHawksFan said:

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If either the wings or the pens get eliminated early, the Stanley Cup will be no less worthy; anyone who thinks different needs to get over themselves and their team. In my early 20's, I was much more a fan of hated rivalries though I have to say Detroit never got me quite as fired up as the old North Stars rivalry. After such a long run of misery, I honestly don't care who the Hawks beat as long as they play the best game that they are capable of. Unfortunately, they don't do this very often. With the current roster, I really don't believe there is any team in the league that is their equal, WHEN they play a sixty minute game of disciplined hockey. All season long though, they have frequently put up a stunningly good game against a really good team only to then lose to a talent challenged roster playing a trap game.

Last year, the series with the wings could have gone either way at several points. I give the wings full credit for making the Hawks pay for damn near every single mistake they made. However, I stop short of buying into the story that the wings somehow dominated them them into submission. The wings were already getting old last year, and through no fault of their own, almost nothing has gone right for them this year. This takes nothing away from their farm system or their coaching. Fear and respect are two different things though. From a rivalry perspective I couldn't care less if the Hawks play the wings in the playoffs. Strategically though, I honestly believe the Hawks chances against the wings this year are probably better then they have been in a long time. Babs can probably still outcoach Q, but with the raw amount of talent that Q has this year, I don't think the wings have enough bullets to take them down in a seven game serious. That's my take of the PRESENT 11 cup. It's 2010 and we aren't playing the wings of 2008, that history is not relevant today.

OneTeam said:

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The Cup winner is always respected by me as I pride myself on being a hockey fan first and a Wings fan second. (I realize I have not displayed that as well as I should have over the last few posts, but it is true.) Its the hardest trophy to win in all of sports- That is why the finals are so interesting to me as well as why I applaud the winner every year (even if its not my team hoisting the Cup in the end)

That being said; Ill take your advice and stick with the present state of things. For the Wings in 2010: The first 60 games, we hung around the race, but we had a lot of injuries. Obviously we'd like to have more wins. But I guess the worse-case scenario is, there are 16 games to go and we're right there. There have been lots of examples since we've come out of work stoppage of teams finishing in the 6-7-8 hole and going for long playoff runs. Pittsburgh would be an example from last year and Anaheim and Edmonton are also great examples in the past. We're only going to get in if we play our way in, we can't back door it now. We have 16 to go and we're going to have to win a lot more than we lose. If we play our way in, it's anyone's game!

As for the Hawks, its just ready set playoff time, right? They have played excellent games all season and we all have seen what they are capable of doing. As you well know, any team that gets a hot goalie or a 4th line that lights the lamp every other night can do very well in this tournement.

I dont think the Wings have enough to compete for the top prize this year but they could be good spoilers. I think the Hawks have enough to make a legit Cup run but I think the goalie and 4th line players would have to catch fire to do so.

I just wish the playoffs would start already! (oh wait.. we're in 9th... better make that next week!)

VegasHawksFan said:

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The Pens and the Wings can both wreck a lot of dreams this year. Both of them know what it takes to win, and I can admit I do worry about that with this Hawks team. Bad goalie or not, when they play a disciplined game, they can overcome quite a bit and really take other teams apart.

I don't watch a ton of wings games, but when I do, I am always jealous of their start to finish effort. They play, they wait, they bury you. In part it's the players, but it's also the ownership and the coaching. Right now, I think the Hawks are headed in that direction, but it takes years of solid scouting as well as good coaching to create a near self sustaining system.

Despite the talent, this team has shown some exploitable weakness. If we do win this year, I believe it will be very much because of depth and ability to overpower other teams third and fourth lines. Our D can be near the best, and also make you want to tear your eyes out. Consistency from them must also be very high. As for the goaltending, it is what it is. I don't believe they will cost us the chance, but neither will they steal games for us.

This is a better dialogue.

Goon Squad said:

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Don't start kissing ass now that the Wangs post season is in trouble!
I'll be looking for you at the UC on the 11th!

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