Blackhawks Confidential

In a perverse way, Campbell's loss can be Blackhawks' gain

campbellhurt.jpgIn a perverse way, and I majored in perversion at Loyola and later got a doctorate, losing Brian Campbell for the season can help to refocus the Blackhawks.

Now, I'm not saying they are better off without the defenseman. They surely would be better off without his $7.14 million a year salary, but no good reason to mix money and perversion or else the Madhouse On Madison would be just another whorehouse along the boulevard.

I'm saying it has been pretty obvious for a short time now that the Hawks needed a wakeup to reassess their priorities as they prepare for the playoffs. There have been letdowns in some aspects of their game that they have constantly decried and yet not repaired. Time to quit talking and start applying what players have cited as necessary to be whole again.

So how better to convince them to take some personal, overdue inventory and admit to these persistent shortages that require an immediate fix than to rip out the fixture of Campbell being there game-in, game-out. His presence will be missed more than his numbers. Comfort factors are nice, but many teams have learned to adjust when cushions turn to stone.

And let's look at what we are losing, both hard fact and emotional influence.

In the last 19 games, dating back to Jan. 19, Campbell has 1 goal, 5 assists and is simply dead even in plus-minus. Numerically, his loss is a blip on the radar. Inspirationally, he could serve as a beacon to get his teammates back on track and trained on improvements. He was significant, but not irreplaceable, some people calling for him to get the heave-ho at the trade deadline so the Hawks could open salary cap space.

For some time now, he has been considered a bad bargain, but a halfway good player much of the time with the capability of being real good for short stints.

Take his last four games, even his abbreviated four minutes Sunday before Washington's Alex Ovechkin picked a dangerous part of the ice to shove a guy from behind and see how hard his head and body could bounce off the boards. It wasn't what Ovechkin did as much as where and how he chose to ignore the possibility of an opponent being unable to bounce like rubber if he turned hockey into handball.

But, hey, Alex had that strong excuse. That's hockey, he said. Just the way presidents and generals like to justify their body counts by saying: hey, that's war. Whatsyagonnado? I mean, a 2-game suspension is like sending him to his room without supper, where he can nontheless order all the borscht and Stoli he wants from room service to kill time.

There is no appropriate punishment as long as Ovechkin knows he can be reckless whenever he chooses and run the risk of simply being fined a dime. The system rather than the player is much the bigger problem and who's going to fix the system? Yep. Nobody's the right answer.

And, I'm wondering, if the Hawks meet Washington in the Stanley Cup finals, will Adam Burish be banned from hockey for life for poking out Ovechkin's dirty eyes in the first few minutes of play? Or will he wait for Game 7? And will the nation enjoy that kind of hockey more than the Olympic experience, a little blood on the windshield being attractive to gawkers?

Anyway, Campbell was a plus-1 for his short stay Sunday, cancelling out his minus-1 against Philadelphia Saturday. Just as his plus-2 against the Los Angeles Kings was cancelled by a minus-2 against Detroit the game before that, Just as his plus-1 against Edmonton March 3 was rubbed out by being a minus-1 against the New York Islanders March 2.

You get the picture. Campbell can ride the see-saw. We can get dizzy watching it.

And it's not as if that overwhelming Hawks power play is now going to miss him. He is not Scott Niedermayer, a defenseman the Hawks will face Wednesday night with his 5 power-play goals and 17 assists. He is not Drew Doughty, a Kings defenseman the Hawks will soon face during this trip with 7 power-play goals and 20 assists.

He is not even Duncan Keith, who has 3 power-play goals, 12 assists. He is Brian Campbell with 3 power-play goals, 8 assists, way down the list in the big picture. Especially when you consider that he spends an average 2 minutes, 54 seconds a game on the ice with power plays, a lot less than Niedermayer and Doughty, but enough to do more damage than he has.

He did have 2 power-play goals in 17 playoff games last year, and that will be missed. He had 10 points (2 goals), and that will be missed. But it is not as if someone isn't quite capable of stepping up and filling in, and even if that guy doesn't pass as well or press the play as well, there are ways to plug the Campbell gap.

It's so Chicago to bitch and moan and say, woe is we, the season is lost, our Stanley Cup dream vanquished by Ovechkin. Some would have preferred an Ovechkin hat trick (NBC being one) and just a game lost rather than an important man down in such needless fashion.

Stop the crying. If it helps, remember all those games you wanted to carry Campbell out of town on a rail. Remember when you wanted him and his salary gone in the worst way.

Luckily, the Hawks have been--and are still now--a team that can win in more ways than one. They would have preferred it be with Campbell, but if that's not possible, then we plaster and patch and pursue the dream even harder, with more focus, with players banding together to do more.

It's not just possible. It's likely to happen just that way. This is a team that can always re-invent itself into a different kind of monster. The faces may change. As they do, unity should increase.

Hopefully, Brent Seabrook uses it as impetus to reorganize and retool and quit his recent impressions of a windmill. Hopefully, Keith can continue to be the anchor and not pulled down bit by bit by the long season of ice time and Olympics.

Hopefully, Nik Hjalmarsson and Kim Johnsson turn their SS into super-sized finishes. And hopefully Brent Sopel, Jordan Hendry and Nick Boynton seize the moment.

And, hopefully, general manager Stan/Scotty Bowman isn't kicking himself/themselves for not adding to his/their defense more significantly, like many thought he/they would at the trade deadline.

Then again, the Bowmans were probably too busy laughing at all the trade rumors, even the defenseman as well as a goalie.

Nice when you have a keen sense of humor. Ovechkin is probably too busy laughing right now at his suspension to be persuaded he was in the wrong, what with the Capitals front office saying he has nothing to apologize for.

Let's all just pray Burish and Ovechkin meet again in the championship. Gunfight at the UC Corral. That would qualify as must-see TV.

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17 Comments

Reggie Dunlop said:

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Dumb. Dumb article. No, no good will come from losing Campbell - he will be missed. And the Burish vs. Ovechkin comment? What are you 12? First of all, Ovi would destroy him, and second of all that's just a dumb comment to make. "Oooh, our guy is gonna beat up your guy now, woo hoo!" Dumb. Please stop writing Mike.

Dave Morris said:

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1350 ET, from Blackhawks.com...

The following statement was issued today by Chicago Blackhawks Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry:

“Brian Campbell suffered a clavicle fracture and a rib fracture on Sunday. He will likely avoid surgery and we anticipate a full recovery. He should be ready to play in approximately seven to eight weeks.”

Should be an interesting eight weeks, Mr. Kiley...

Hostile Hawk said:

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People might not like to hear what you have said here, but it has to said. Many don't have the arsenal of words that you choose to say it, but it sure is entertaining. It sure is not politically correct to bring up the words that Burish will (surely) have with Ovechkin, hey, thats his job, and talking about how a guy who makes 7+ a year is not going to really hurt the team badly while out for injuries is a hard sale.
But sell you have.
Besides Huet, Campbell has been the focus of most unkind complaints. It sucks that the guy had to get hurt and the team will definitely miss him. But, realistically he put many teammates in dangerous situations time and time again from trying to avoid hits. Ovechkin's hit was dirty and showed no respect for the game of hockey, contrary to his own words. That doesn't change the fact that Campbell's talents far outshine his actual contribution to the team. When the team is struggling with defensive strength and bad turn-overs, Campbell will be the first to make a bad pass, or skate past almost of his opponents into the offensive zone only to make a bad pass or let the puck role deeper into to zone where he is caught having to chase on the back check. I wish he would earn his paycheck, but realistically he is not worth more than 3 mil.
On that note, I hope he has a quick recovery and pays Ovechkin back with a clean hit in the future.

iplagitr said:

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As HawksRule said in the other post, good teams find a way to adapt and still win. And it's not like Campbell's going to be replaced by a rec-league player.

The way people are talking, if you plug a healthy Campbell into any other decent team, do they instantly become cup contenders? I like Campbell - I've never made a negative comment about him on this blog or elsewhere, but he is not the end-all key to the Hawks ability to win. Let's have some faith in this team's strength. They have a great roster with or without Campbell, and this is where Q makes-it or breaks-it as as coach.

I believe the Hawks went 3-2-1 in the 6 games that Toews was out with his concussion earlier this season, and that was before Hossa's season started as well. What would we be saying now if we still had Campbell but lost Toews and Hossa?

The NJ Devils were one of the league's hottest teams in the first portion of the season when half their starters were out with injuries. They're actually doing worse right now with their top players as well as the addition of Kovalchuk. Same deal last year when Brodeur was out for months with a torn bicep. They went 25-13-1 without their all-star goalie. Go figure. I think Mike's comments about team unity and reinvention make a lot of sense.

blkhawk11 said:

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I agree with you for the most part, iplagitr, but would prefer that Denis Savard was the head coach at this stage of the game as he was truly an inspiration to this talented young Hawk team and showed by his loyalty/determination the dedication to the team as a whole as well as what it takes to never say "QUIT"!!!

Hopefully, Q can deliver this same theme to the Hawks.

borg said:

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The Hawks aren't going to change their style of play. They are what they are; a pressing, puck-controlling team that carries into the zone and tries to recover defensively with speed.

If Campbell's out 8 weeks, that would put a return timetable of right around the start of the Conference Finals. That assumes a full recovery and reconditioning.

borg said:

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Byfuglien skated as a defensemen in practice today. Not sure that'll improve the defense.

OneTeam said:

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Mike- Perverse indeed. Having a rally cry or an incident to charge from is one thing, but the Hawks losing a D-man at this point of the season is a bigger loss than just those regular season stats you pointed to...considering he could very well have been a series MVP.

I understand the larger point your making but let me focus on one part I disagreed with and add some thought to it: Losing Campbell cannot be a gain anyway you slice it!

We have all watched players with the exact type of stats that you just noted above have amazing performances in past post seasons. These players become key in the playoffs or a series because of the lowered expectations by other teams coaching and scouts and the match ups thus created free up that player against lesser counterparts. For example, Tomas Holmstrom in 1997-98 had 5G, 17A and was +6 thru 82 games. In that years post season, he scored 7G, 12A and was +9. Claude Lemieux had 6G and 13A during regular season play in 1994-95 and end the playoffs that year with 13G, 3A and a Conn Smythe trophy!

Ok fine, Claude had already had his years of previous outbreaks but Holmstrom had just made his name in those 1997 amonst Hall of Fame teammates. A notable player just last year would be Jussi Jokinen - 6G and 16pts in TB before he was put on waivers-Carolina grabbed him at the trade deadline and from there he put up 7G and 11pts in the playoffs. Three of those goals were game winners- one was most famously the goal against Broduer with 0.2 seconds left! (a series MVP wouldn't you agree?) There are plenty of other cases over the decades but let me leave it at those examples for now. (feel free to add your own folks!)

I guess my opinion is, one can only see the loss of a player, one that has fought for his teammates all season, for the same goals and purpose, a guy that has been part of the positive gelling of the team and that could have done who-knows-what in the playoffs as anything other than detrimental. Not to say you must now throw your sweater in the wash and wait till next year to be excited again, but I think its to bad that you are marginalizing this player for his stats and their impact on the team as nothing more than "blip on the radar". There is a lot more that goes on out on the ice that they don't have a stat for and those things have contributed greatly to the success the Hawks have had this season. Besides, he didn't hurt the team being there did he? (and the salary isn't his fault BTW- I mean how can you blame someone for taking what their willing to give away?)

I realize we will never know if he was going to be a breakout player in the playoffs or not but I'm just sayin..... Who knows what may have been lost?


HawksRule said:

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All valid points to a certain extent, but to me your last statement sums it all up... you never know. Essentially you're saying any unsung player can become the MVP in the playoffs. True. So maybe Campbell's replacement will be the breakout player? You can't refute that possibility at this point. Or maybe Campbell would have been the goat of the the playoffs putting it in his own net like Steve Smith did in '86 as an Oiler. You never know. Point is, it's fairly useless to argue what could possibly take place when in reality the player won't ever be there. What's done is done. The Hawks have to build off this, not find excuses. If you spend your time mourning the loss of any player, you'll lose every time.

OneTeam said:

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I realize its a bunch of "who knows" in my remarks and we will never know if he were to be a goat or hero. My point was more or less- based on Mike's writings... "In the last 19 games, dating back to Jan. 19, Campbell has 1 goal, 5 assists and is simply dead even in plus-minus. Numerically, his loss is a blip on the radar.".... that you cannot discount this injury to Campbell as insignificant or even something to gain from for the teams playoff hopes. When he is pointing to stats to say he was insignificant numerically, I thought I should mention that stats like those have often been linked to players that break out in the playoffs and to not be so quick to dismiss.

Certainly I am not suggesting that ALL players with low regular season stats come up big in the playoffs.. but I am saying that there is a trend and you just never know.

I agree with you. Whats done is done and the Hawks will have to play through this regardless. I guess I just dont see any silver lining in the loss of this player for the Hawks.

HawksRule said:

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Agreed, there is no literal silver lining to losing Campbell, but a good coaching staff will manufacture something positive out of the situation to motivate the team and build upon. I hope Q & company is up to the task.

Hostile Hawk said:

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Good points OneTeam.
Im not totally sure Mike is marginalizing Campbell, rather looking for the good in an unfortunate situation. Plus with regards to Campbell, his stats make him look better than he is my opinion. When his play is watched more closely one see's more issues than pluses. He did however have a strong playoff performance last year. But Huet had a great last game against the Wings in that playoffs too.
But like I said, you make good points. Points that will hopefully be true for the Hawks with so many possible breakout performances possible from such a talented roster.

Mike Kiley said:

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PuckPuck, how can you know me better than you do? When everything goes to shit, look for the good side. I've had some pracice. More than any Blackhawk. We move on. And we get it up (well, in my case, hopefully).

Mike Kiley said:

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As I would hope most people believe, as I have suspect Jerry knows, I'm playing here, no matter what I say. Disagreement is welcome. Ask my wife. That's no joke. I understand people are "up, up, up." OK, I get it. Anyone wants a piece of me will have to understand they are about 1 millioneth in line. I'll get to ya. As soon as I kick the ass out of the first 999,999,999, Is that enough? I'm not good at math. I'll be happy to have a Guinness with you.

borg said:

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Forget Mike. Someone please kick the crap out of these abominable NHL officials. I don't know how Quennville keeps from going on the ice.

iplagitr said:

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Absolutely. The league should review this game and hand out suspensions -- to the officials!

Jerry Kayne said:

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Good article Mike. You write for the twisted Hawk masses and not only your comment-ors. This is why we read your blog everyday. We can get the biased, watered down, know-nothing-about-hockey from Comcast, Trib, and the local news channels. If you wrote any other way you'd be Ann Landers. No preaching to the choir. Anyone who doesn't like it probably should move along.

Adversity is the best team-building event they could have right now. It's all about the coaching, more than ever this season. A good coach uses these events as fodder.

Campbell going down is a loss to the team. But the other guys should have no problem filling in. The coaches absolutely need to juggle their ice time correctly. Hjammer was totally out of gas in the 3rd period at a critical time. And NHL channel pointed out (more like pointed and laughed at) the same thing we all saw. Buff huffing and puffing as he "backchecked" the winning goal in OT. Sad.

If Buff plays D I can't watch. I still don't see what the coaches see about him playing the point on the PP.

Huet has the flu so we may actually see Crawford. The Brass and the coaching could end up being the weakest link this season. Yikes. Who besides Havlat saw that coming?

One thing is for sure, we were ready to pull the plug on several Hawks early on. I'm still ready to pull Buff's chain. But we have to watch together as this team gels the last weeks of the season (fingers crossed). They did it last year when Sharpie went down.

Maybe it was Cam Barker that was the glue on this team?

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