Blackhawks Confidential

Hossa Hex could be real deal if it curses Blackhawks in Stanley Cup finals

Marian Hossa knows how to pick 'em. To a point, and that point has stuck him in the end like hemorrhoids.

For the third straight year, Hossa will be playing in the Stanley Cup finals. A worthy history, and yet not one with the proper ring to it.

We can only fervently hope this Blackhawks winger fares better with his fantasy selections than he did on the first two occasions that he picked his poison.

Hossa has been left looking at the back end of the hoss, a runnerup in 2008 with Pittsburgh when he lost to Detroit, and again for 2009 when the newly-minted Red Wing lost his minty-freshness against the Penguins.

He gave broader meaning to flip-flop. Now that he has flipped to Chicago, we can simply pray the flop has not followed him to town.

Hossa contributed just three assists in the Cup finals last year for Detroit. He scored three goals for Pittsburgh's losing cause the year before. Dare we expect an impressive hero's turn this time around, or has Hossa decided there is no way to compete on the same stage as Mister May: Dustin Byfuglien?

A view from the rear end of this hoss is not what we want to see, since paradise lost is Chicago's life story in sports. I hope the Hawks' selective PR staff can stay on the alert and not credential anyone named John Milton for the finals.

If he goes 0-for-3 this year in this big-picture perspective, Hossa surely could have become a legtimate curse.

Since we have Hossa moneyballed into the fold while I'm suppose to be enjoying a few championship years on golden pond in my golden years, it could presage that a failure to grab this championship is just the beginning with a Hossa Hex destined for infamy.

That might put the Billy Goat to shame and forever stymie the fresh promises of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and Antti Niemi from fully flowering. It can be some old men's last call, as well, before the lights go out and the only Cup to sip from draws elixir from the River Styx.

While The Omen's magic number is 666, I'm not convinced we can trust 81 to be a savior rather than a demonic dobbin, otherwise known as a workhorse. Hossa does plod along nicely at both ends, working hard at various tasks, but can he party like 1961?

So we have a lot at stake here with some old scores to settle, especially those ancient mariners who have watched the Hawks grow on TVs from fly specks to high def.

I read where Stan Mikita is bemused and bewildered by the young and the restless telling him they were not even living the last time the Hawks won the Cup in '61. I feel Stan's pain.

I was a pain-in-the-ass 11-year-old then, a few months from my terrible twelves and content in being odd in odd years as well as even, still working my way along to being a pain-in-the-ass 60 year-old. I have always applauded consistency.

Watching hockey on the simplistic TVs of that era was about the same as hanging out with Garfield Goose and Kukla, Fran and Ollie, varied puppets on a string shuffling obliquely through their own black-and-white stage play.

Forget seeing the puck. The players were a little blurry. The sharpest-looking Indian head was on the test tube patterns.

By 1971, when the Hawks lost the Cup finals to Montreal in seven games--a loss repeated in six games in 1973 between the pair--color television was pervasive across America.

Not 1961, though, a black-and-white year in which we had monkeys rocketing into space and the Soviets put the first man into orbit.

No wonder we had some catching up to do before 1980's Miracle On Ice. Maybe our time has finally come again 49 years down a long, winding road that the Beatles began singing about in 1970, their last No. 1 song in the U. S. and a tune that spoke to Hawks' fans through the 70s, 80s, 90s and into a new century.

Many of us still kicking can chart the Hawks' championship path forward from black-and-white to color to high definition.

Those are not big stepping stones you leap across. Those are ugly generational stretch marks.

The Hawks are moving at warp speed compared to the past. For those slackers, now hearty Hawks fans, who didn't start watching Stars Wars until that Empire struck back or the Jedi returned, let me update you on Hossa's so far ill-fated journey toward a championship this year.

The prevailing opinion has been that despite scoring just two goals in the first three rounds of this postseason, Hossa has been a positive influence on maturing talent such as Kane. He has rated more plaudits than criticisms.

And while hockey obviously involves much more than scoring, the Hawks didn't put almost $63 million in Hossa's pocket for the next 12 years so he could look good as a mentor for Kane and others.

Role models are everywhere. Toothless young skaters such as Duncan Keith, who has become the Alfred E. Neuman face of this postseason by having seven teeth knocked out in Game 4 against San Jose Sunday, reinforce hockey stereotypes.

You might start out looking like an altar boy. You end up as Mr. Potato Head with removable parts that plug in where you need them to bridge any gaps.

Just like that WGN radio caller, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, took exception with me decribing hockey as a ballet a couple weeks ago, it is true as far as I know that Mikhail Baryshnikov retired with all his teeth intact.

Even some hockey broadcasters know Keith's pain. That's how far the history of crushed chiclets and dentistry drillers spans in the NHL.

I remember the night of November, 1990, in Vancouver when WGN color analyst Troy Murray had his bridge knocked down his throat and couldn't stop choking for the longest time. His teeth were in his stomach. In hockey, gut-wrenching victories can be literal.

As rugged as an individual needs to be to play pro hockey and deal with all its physical challenges, I propose that one reason Hossa hasn't scored more goals during these playoffs is that he is suffering Brian Campbell Thrombosis.

For all you laymen out there unfamiliar with that BCT illness, permit Dr. Kiley the chance to define the debilitating disease more clearly.

Mental blood clots. It can induce paralysis. You see a puck laying there by the crease, but you are unable to get your motor skills started in time to punch it into the net, as you normally would.

why? Because with your contract, you think you should be doing more. You really know you should.

But just as Campbell sagged last season under the weight of his financial burden and got nowhere fast for a while, Hossa seems to be reacting now to the pressure to be the man to end the long wait between NHL titles in Chicago. That's what he was paid to do.

Hossa rolled with the punches in an injury-shortened regular season and did well overall, scoring some masterful goals. But you can see him in freeze-frame mode now, herky-jerky for those split-second moments when he needs to let his motor skills run freely.

Perhaps, BCT will not be fatal for Hossa. Campbell has learned to live again once he has found the right antidote for being too rich for his own conscience.

A strong finals would have Hossa, the stricken Slovak, a healthy, happy dynamo once more, worth every penny if his first season brings a Cup to Chicago and a future on golden ponds that promise a few more in our lifetimes.

But should Hossa's slip turn into a messy slide, and he once more is left at the altar like a bridesmaid rather than a June bride, we must pause and consider the Hossa Hex.

No hiding on today's TV sets. Both celebrations and mournings available in 3D.

It is time for Hossa to seal his own fate by knocking that unmovable Byfuglien aside and grabbing a lion's share of the credit, live action in living color.

Only then will the Hossa Hex be history.



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VegasHawksFan said:


Really? You run a great site here Mike, but I'm just never going to understand the perpetual need of people to bring a players contract size into discussions. Ironically, I have to admit I took considerable pleasure in seeing Hossa fail again last year after the Wings took care of the Hawks and when the Hawks signed him last summer, I was not happy at all. Like I said in my long winded comment several pages back, I just don't think there is any way to deny this is a better team with him on it. This discussion has reached the brick wall though. Hossa's not scoring and he's racking up penalties and we are probably just a case a beer away from all of Chicago's village idiots coming together to brand him the new Huet and cheer every time he leaves the ice without taking a penalty.

Glad to see we are so cheery one day after making it to the finals.

Mike Kiley said:


Just killing time. I think it's interesting that most people think Hossa is playing great with two goals.

madara said:


Arrrgh! Don't say it! You'll jinx us. Remember the third time is the charm.

Actually I don't like the current Hossa line. He played much better with Kopecky. Sharp is also stuck on that line. There's just no room at the top with Big Buff.

William said:

Hossa was not brought to Chicago to score goals, he was brought here to help the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and he is doing everything right now EXCEPT for scoring. Get a grip on something besides your groin region and realize that Hossa is playing well on the PK, the PP and even handed situations and is constantly creating chances on the net.


Mike Kiley said:


You try typing with one hand. I tell you, it's an art. Not that many professional one-handed typists.

Jerry Kayne said:


Mike I'll see your Campbell 2008-2009 and raise you a Campbell 2009-2010. Like nuck I don't equate a contract with the player. I expect them to play at the top of their game almost every game.

Hossa may have the 1st Hawks Season Blues like Soupy did. Now it's a different story. Square peg in a square hole.

Hossa's tangables are evident every game. He gives 100%, 100% of the time as I see it. I loved watching him in his 2nd losing handshake line last year but he was expected to be a star among stars. But with the Hawks he's needed to be a team player and make those around him play at their best. He's remarkable at puck possession, checking, keeping the opposition on their toes (Towes), and being a role model. I bet he gets a few more points against the East team they face. But if not, I bet he tears it up next year with his 1st cup under his belt.

You can see how much Hossa and Madden have raised this teams mental level and hockey sense in every game.

Mike Kiley said:


I used to make a living on people not agreeing with me and being a shit disturber. Now it's just a hobby. I, of course, believe Hossa and the Hawks will win. But it's interesting to look at the other side and how Hossa will be perceived as a three-time loser in the finals if I happen to be wrong.

mikeyo said:

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Hey Mike, first Samuel Johnson, now John Milton? So lemme ask you this, how many Brits are playing in the NHL? None I'm guessing, especially not classic dead guys that nobody reads any more. Although I bet one could clog up the crease on defense...
I love you and the way you can raise (and type one-handed) paranoia to an art form.
I like Hossa, but I'm not going to defend his recent 'production'. Next you're going to be ragging Niemi for his lack of scoring punch...
A third time loss (God forbid) for Hoss would be _EPIC_, and just because you're first out of the gate with a thinkpiece, you've got to expect a little blowback.
What if Hoss had been injured on the last rush on the Conference clincher? We'd still be deep enough to make a run. Every other hack (and I say this with love) is going to ride this horse if it happens.

Mike Kiley said:


Now that you mention it, I think Niemi has to raise his assist totals. Or at least quit stepping on the puck now that he has fallen in love with playing it behind the net to varying degrees of success. And what do you mean paranoid? Everybody has been out to get me since I turned 5. You can look it up.

VegasHawksFan said:


I guess it's a professional writers training to look for the nail standing up and pound it down before someone else does. By the end of the week, I have no doubt this issue is going to be raised quite a bit and you are right Mike, the screeching is going to reach gail force if the Hawks don't win and if Hossa doesn't score more goals. Though some people are never going stop bitching about Campbell's money, he has proven himself to be very valuable to this team. I think Hossa has already proven his worth to this team, but because of his history of jumping teams and tendency to not score in the cup rounds I would agree he needs to win a cup and score some goals to bed the monkey to bed.

Since we're just killing time here, I thought this was interesting, for this year's playoff's, Hossa has 2 goals, 9 assists and is a plus 8. Buff has 8 goals, 2 assists and is a minus 3. I have my own spin on what I think that means, but I'm curious to see what other people think.

Northernhawk said:


My spin is simple: the plus-minus is the most meaningless and deceptive statistic in hockey. Not unlike the save percentage stat for goalies. These stats were created by hockey analysts that, like Mike at times, needed to kill some time between games and puck drops. The bottom line for a player is putting the puck into the net. The great ones from the past knew this, as did the great analysts of the past. What was Hull's plus-minus? The TV experience is much better in 2010 than it was 49 years ago, but our understanding of what it takes to win games (heart, blood and goals) has not improved much

blkhawk11 said:

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Agree with you Northernhawk, and too many NHL player contracts are far out of whack and player dedication is definitely a thing of the past for most of today's players in my opinion. I guess big business speaks for itself as with most sports. I find this truly sad as I feel that it takes away from the roots of the game as we had cherished it with pride and guts.

Jerry Kayne said:


Really Northern? Your comparing Hossa to Buff? On this blog?

I think the plus/minus stat has significance and has value for what it says. It simply separates forwards the are 2 way from those that are offensive minded (or are sucky at defense). For defensemen it's a bigger stat showing team defense and the ability to move the puck ahead to score. See Bobby Orr's record +124 for a season. It's not the end-all stat but it certainly calls out the one-way skater.

Jerry''s rant: Buff's minus rating is based on his standing in front of the net while the highest skilled shooters bounce the puck off his stick. Buff does nothing on defense. His neutral zone work is either threatening to hit or chipping the puck in the zone for a line change. And virtually invisible in the defensive zone. To be exact, he actually does no work past the offensive faceoff circles. To me the Hawks are down a man defensively unless in the offensive zone. Giving him minuses.

Hossa plays hard in all 3 zones. Controls the puck and if he loses it, he gets it back and makes a play, giving him zero or a plus when Sharp scores.

If you look at the Hawks website there are only 6 of the 21 available forwards for the playoffs with minus ratings. Ladd, Brouwer, Madden, Burish, & Hendry.

blkhawk11 said:

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Jerry, you can rant all you desire here in regards to Hossa's play but I, for one disagree with you in so many ways. Buff, at least has been a real factor in the true sense as to the fact that the Hawks are now proceeding to the Cup finals and as far as Hossa giving 100% effort I do question that fact totally...sorry, I will take Buff and the rest of the Hawks but for Hossa? No thanks!

Jerry Kayne said:


It's fun talking hockey. Especially Blackhawks hockey. I'm not enjoying the articles I'm reading for bandwagon jumpers.

I respect your opinion and I'm only debating. Sounds like you have an axe to grind with Hossa? To me Buff is a gigantic orange pylon. Probably the luckiest SOB in sports. Maybe I'm a little jealous too. But, he's our giant orange pylon that can slide side to side in the playoffs.

VegasHawksFan said:


Well that did get interesting. Plus/minus is not an end all stat but I absolutely believe it has value to show that players are able to contribute even when they aren't scoring. The Capitals this year are an excellent case study in the limits of pure offense; they were completely shut down by a team willing to play a solid defense against them. But, we've probably exhausted the Hossa thing here. Judging from some of the comments I've seen about him, even if he scores goals people will still be annoyed at how much money he makes.

Mike Kiley said:


Jerry, let's watch our language, as I always do. Not sure you can call a Conn Smythe winner a SOB. I'm thumbing through the Kiley Etiquette Guide right now to see if that's appropriate. Not even sure that's how you spell etiquette. Not a word I often use.

Dave Morris said:


Hey Mike, thanks for the trip through time.

Being just six when the Golden Jet, Stosh, Jack Evans and Company snagged Stanley's Punch Bowl, I can visualize you as that 'big Irish kid' ready to hammer anybody who looked at you sideways.

I remember those fuzzy postage stamp-sized images on our RCA Victor, complete with the decal of the little doggie looking at the gramophone on the front. Pierre Pilote was my favorite player in those days. So was Reggie Fleming...Rest In Peace.

Bobby Hull's already said he's ready to jump through the rim of his own posterior to get another chance to drink champagne from the Cup...which would quite a feat.

Can the Blackhawks make a dream come true? Madame Zara knows, and she ain't sayin'.

Back in September, the boys at Bodog had the betting line at 8-1 for the Hawks and 16-1 for the Flyers to take the prize. Looks like the bookies in Vegas have the Hawks as favorites in this series, but who the heck knows.

As far as The Hoss Man my humble view, all he has to do is help his team get it done, whether he scores, shoots, checks, blocks, bashes, or simply gives Chris Pronger terminal agita by breathing slivovice fumes up his tailpipe.

And don't forget, Jerry Kayne is always right.

Jerry Kayne said:


Thanks Dave, my blogging linemate. But I'm more left winger than right. Hossa has taken into the system as a role player. No more or less than anyone else. If he performs the same or a little better, the match-ups against him will be toast. Let Sharp & Kopecky (fingers crossed) tap it in.

I'm hoping to see the over-rated, dinosaur Pronger spinning like a top as Hawks fly past him. All they'll have to watch out for is Pronger shrapnel on their outside-in routes to the net.

madara said:


Right on brother. My sentiments exactly. Shark, Kopey, and Hoss. Much better combo for Hossa.

TheOutlaw said:

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Hossa is not a jinx. Crosby lifted the Eastern Conf. trophy last year and they won The Cup. Why do you think the Pens offered him so much money to stay? He is a horse. He will be a factor. I wish he was still with the Pens. Chicago made the steal of the year. You will be a contender for a long time having this guy. Ask the players on the team. If he was still with Pittsburgh they would be representing the Eastern Conf. Be thankful and shut up. Go watch those losers on the North side!

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