Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks need Hossa, Boynton to be old hands at playing superstar and strongman

For the first time in four seasons, Marian Hossa and defenseman Nick Boynton are going to return and play for the same team with whom they finished the previous season.

There is your opening upset before training camp commences, even if "Shake Your Moneymaker" Hossa returning to collect on $62.8 million isn't much of a shocker with that kind of loving attachment always bringing a guy back home.

In a major way, how this pair of elder statemen fares in Blackhawks Boystown is going to determine if the Stanley Cup is truly defensible or not. These old men aren't old hands at laying an immovable, strong foundation and being statuesque contributors that produce steadily like clockwork with precision timing.

They both have moved around here and there, and shot up-and-down and all around too much for the sake of security and knowing what's likely to transpire in the near future for either of them.

Patrick Kane will be Patrick Kane. Jonathan Toews will be Jonathan Toews. Even at their peach-fuzz ages. Duncan Keith will be Duncan Keith. Niklas Hjalmarsson will be Niklas Hjalmarsson. Viktor Stalberg will be Viktor Stalberg (just testing you with that one and pondering if I think that's good or bad).

But Hossa and Boynton, counterweights at both ends of the Hawks spectrum, aren't known quantities in some respects. For the team to hold the fort and repel those skeptics that don't believe a Cup repeat is in the taro cards, both players must be impactful at opposite ends of the priority list in far different fashions.

Hossa has shown promise to be a scoring superstar. Year after year. And yet??? Boynton has shown promise to defend teammates and be a physical presence. And yet???

Neither has achieved the consistency of staying in one place long enough to be recognized as a force you can take for granted and expect to produce a certain output, statistical or inspirational. Hossa at a prodigious rate, Boynton at a modest rate.

Hossa is undoubtedly substantial, but he needs to learn to be dependable year after year with one overwhelming team. The same can also be said of Boynton's continually vacillating reputation and career.

Hossa has scored 40 goals three times in his NHL career: '02-'03 for Ottawa, repeating that four years later for Atlanta and '08-09 for Detroit. He has come close to 40 two others years, but Hossa hasn't lived up to superstar status and constructed a solid reputation in one town.

He has been awfully, awfully good, but what would you expect for $62.8 million except one stupendous superstar stud that scores 40 year after year after year without letup. Is he that guy? We are about to find out, as long as he scores 40 this season.

And don't tell me his defense makes up for any lost offensive numbers. It's no tradeoff. Good that he can do both, but Hossa must score, score, score.

Boynton can't match Hossa's numbers, but in own way, he can provide leadership that's equally as significant.

Born two days apart in January, 1979, they may not be as gray-beared as goalie Marty Turco, but approaching their 32d year, they must provide an unshakeable core of level-headed experience to balance that continuing maturation and mental growth for the team's youth brigade in Chicago.

I have already seen some runaway speculation that Hossa will score 50 goals. I'd prefer somebody to assure me that he will play at least 80 games. He hasn't done that since his first two years with the Atlanta Thrashers in '05-'06, '06-'07.

Even then, he scored 39 goals in 80 games and 43 goals in 82 games. I would take another 40-goal, 82-game season from Hossa and not place a 50-goal weight on his shoulders, since the surgically-repaired one might still be tender.

Hossa received deserved plaudits last season for being a two-way player and not someone who accentuates the offensive and ignores the defensive aspects. But as impressive as 24 goals, 51 points was in his 57 games, he had three goals in 22 playoff games last season--3 less than he had for 22 playoff games with Detroit the year previous when his shoulder was supposedly a hindrance.

Neither playoff could match his best playoff peformance: 12 goals, 26 points for Pittsburgh in 2008.

He had 15 points in each of the last two playoffs and that was important. But I wonder if Hossa can ever reach the expectations his contract places on him. The same as defenseman Brian Campbell, Hossa could be a victim of his excessive $$$ and chained to endless speculation he could pop for 50 or more goals.

Why chase an impossible dream?

I fell into the ready trap last season of predicting late in the campaign that Hossa was going to break through in a big way offensively based on how well he played. He just seemed primed to be in position to score, score, score.

Well, I kept waiting, waiting, waiting. Expectations can be a slippery road, a garden path that only leads to falling into the rosy thorns.

The other question is whether Patrick Sharp is the perfect center for Hossa to maximize his skills. In a perfect world, Sharp is a scoring winger himself. Is Hossa ever destined to be reunited on a line with Kane and Toews, linked on a semi-permanent basis, or do the Hawks have to forever spread the wealth?

While everyone has Dave Bolland relegated to a third-line center, because Bolly finally found himself late last season in that role, might Bolland be the better choice for Hossa's center if he is returned to what people thought he was and to what Bolland's salary says he is--a second-liner?

Not only is Hossa's ceiling a question mark, he is surrounded by question marks, including Tomas Kopecky as his possible linemate. Which Kopecky will we get, the guy that didn't come into his own last season until well into it or the guy that no one noticed positively early on?

Boynton gained admiration from the Blackhawks for doing belatedly what Ben Eager didn't last March when Anaheim's James Wisniewski smashed Brent Seabrook into LA-LA land. He fought Wisniewski, the first blow before a NHL suspension hit Wisniewski harder than Boynton did.

That immediately won him supporters.

Boynton showed up in three Hawks playoff games and was a plus-2, which is a far cry from being exiled as a Manitoba Moose, the first place Ducks GM Bob Murray sent him before dealing him to Chicago in March.

I wasn't particularly impressed with Boynton in seven regular-season appearances with the Hawks, although Edzo sang his praises repeatedly, saying he meant a lot more than you might think. Is that Edzo being truthful or a Hawks salesman? Wish I'd be able to tell the difference.

You can find a scouting report for Boynton on SB Nation in which it says his big flaw is being undisciplined on and off ice. I suppose that refers in part to his screaming match with Florida coach Peter DeBoer for being benched, which led to disciplinary action by the team in that 2009 dustup at just the wrong time--when the team was fighting for a playoff spot.

I consider hockey players screaming and yelling and bitching a positive. C'mon. I mean, it's hockey. Screaming, yelling and bitching are par for the course.

But does Boynton scream, yell and bitch for a purpose or just to hear himself? He has fallen short of every team's expectations for him, which is why he is so well traveled.

I saw where he described himself as just a little crazy. In a good way. I can get down with that. I like guys who are a little bit crazy and a lot sly as a fox and not dumb as a bunny.

So he just might take a second chance by the Hawks as a sign he has found a home and he can be an effective third-line pairing with John Scott, a defenseman who has been on the outside looking in even longer than Boynton and is even a much bigger question mark.

If Hossa can remain healthy and score at a consistent superstar clip, the Hawks should be a highly competitive factor from start to finish, with minimal slumps and slides to worry the masses. If Hossa has prolonged dry spells, and puts the pressure on Kane and Toews, problems will arise and Q will be a juggling fool.

If Boynton can stay disciplined, personally and professionally, we won't have to look back and remember Brent Sopel as an All-Star compared to Boynton. If Boynton and Scott can offer a legit physical presence, it can be an upgrade from what the club had last season.

Hopefully, both guys have found a home and a reason to excel. We are going to be in need of some wise old men to babysit the kids and show them the way.

To do that, consistency is everything. For Hossa, big and bold consistency. For Boynton, calm and steady craziness.

They may be at different ends of the spectrum. But those ends must meet.

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19 Comments

borg said:

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Hossa was on pace for 35 goals last season per 82 games played. That number is remarkable when considering he only had 2 PP goals in 57 games. The Hawks have to somehow get him more involved on the PP. If they do, Hossa could crack 40 goals and 80 points.

I have to say I'm concerned with a Hendry/Boynton pairing if that happens. Those guys are okay as 7th defensemen playing 5-7 minutes a game and being available in case of injury, but more than that is probably asking for trouble. And I certainly don't see Scott playing a whole lot. Perhaps Visnevskiy will shock in the preseason and grab a spot. Otherwise, it's hold on to your hats and hope Leddy/Lalonde develop rapidly.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Well, I sang that two way player tune all last year and I think people only grudgingly accepted that argument. This year there won't be any defense for Hossa unless he is scoring as much as Kane and Toews who both make less then he does. I'm glad we still have him, but I suspect by year's end he will be in the Campbell category which is to say most will like his skills but complain constantly that he makes too much money for what he does. I gave people a lot of sarcasm and grief last year when they brought up people's salaries, but in honesty, I really don't know why that annoys me so much so I have tried to make a pact with myself to turn over a new leaf. Wonder how long that will last, LOL

I agree with Borg about Hossa and the powerplay, but then again the power play needs an entire working over. Despite being an asset, I still felt like there really wasn't any line that Hossa really clicked with. Clearly it's not a lack of talent on his part and seemingly not from a lack of effort or lack of brains or lack of connection with teammates who seemed to like him quite a bit. I would love to see Hossa really have a good season with a shit ton of goals, but I don't think it's going to happen. Unlike Toews who I think can make anyone around him better, I think Hossa is the kind of player who inspires everyone around him to work harder even though he is not able to connect with everyone he plays with. For a team that is probably headed for a rebuild type season, I'm not sure Hossa shines.

Mike Kiley said:

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Nickel, if you are right--and you may well be--how do the Hawks have enough offense to be champions. You're scaring me.

VegasHawksFan said:

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I don't think it's a matter of having enough talent to create offense, rather it's what Q does with that talent, which was my frequent bitch last year. Hossa was a one man wrecking crew in Detroit and that's the kind of team I think he needs to be on. the Hawks last year frequently made me think they were content to sit back and just wait for one of the many talented forwards they have to light the lamp. They simply cannot do that this year. If the entire team is pressing and checking in both directions when Hossa is out there, I think he will do very well. If they continue to try and be the team that lives on stretch passes and fancy drop passes, I see less output from Hossa.

The knukleheads view is the same, If Q begins to instill two way play into the heads of the youngsters, I think the the team will be just fine.

Jerry Kayne said:

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Hey Mike, Either the greatest form of flattery or a virtual lawsuit coming. The Blackhawks have lifted your blog name. And within that blog is the entry "Blackhawk Camp Confidential: Forwards" they list: Sure Bets (8): Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Tomas Kopecky, Patrick Sharp, Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews.

Call a lawyer or call a bartender.

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, while other hockey honchos sip their drinks through straws in the summertime, you just write, write, write. And you're right.

The Hoss Man and Nick The Quick (along with Smarty Marty) need to be the rock(s) upon which the Hawks roll. (Did I say that?)

Here's two cents from the very handsome Patrick Sharp, who made all the prognosticators look like masticators by staying right there in Chicago, and not being traded to (team name here):

"I think you can look at our team compared to a lot of teams in our conference and we still have to be considered the favorites."

Hey, if it works for Sharpie, works for me.

Mike Kiley said:

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David, I just drink, drink, drink. Works for me, too. Cheers.

OneTeam said:

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(Squeak, squeak!) Do I believe my eyes??? Am I reading this correctly? Hossa's two way play was a bit over stated in defense of his lack of scoring in the playoffs??

Hmmm... I believe I heard this somewhere before.... Oh yeah.. I said it! I guess you are the better mailman Mike!

Mike Kiley said:

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Now that you have Chelios again, I guess we're finished.

OneTeam said:

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You are right... but not for the reason you just mentioned.

Ps- Looking forward to spoiling the banner raising in a couple weeks. Of course we'll be good guest during the ceremony as we have seen several dozen raised in our own building over the years, but after the puck drops, you're gonna find out who REALLY owns Marty Turco! I have coupons that save more than Turco does!

becquer said:

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I don't believe I have ever read a posting querying what Kopecky does to warrant being a second-liner...21 points in 74 games...yea, that must be it.

Can you hear Hossa before he signed his 64 million contract insisting:

I MUST HAVE CZECH NEXT TO ME...A REAL CZECH!

borg said:

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I don't get the Kopecky thing either. It's one thing to put him on a top line for a game or two in the Finals to shake things up. It's another to put him on a scoring line regularly during the season.

That being said, every time I saw Hossa post Cup win, Kopecky was with him; posing for pictures, in the locker room, on the plane. They seem close to inseparable. Which sucks because I was really looking forward to having Kopecky's 1.2M off the books next year.

Jerry Kayne said:

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I'm a bit more relaxed these days. It's way more fun to be at the top and look down. I can't say I'd do things much different than the Bowmans did to the team this offseason so I'm in wait-and-see mode.

I like all your comments and I'm ready to drop the puck. The bloom is off the rose.

My only prediction is a career year for the top 6 forwards, all of them.

Mike Kiley said:

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Jerry, who are the top 6 forwards? Bolland should be one.

Hostile Hawk said:

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You said it Mike,
Hossa is a huge question mark with so many exclamation mark possibilities. Could it be that holding Lord Stanley's Cup helps him settle down and find his mark more often on net. My feeling is that it will. Hossa misses many, many chances by taking the bad shot and not pushing the envelope offensively. A few more seconds here, a brilliant move over there and we have more than a 40 goal scorer. His speed, strength and overall skills are enough to get him there, but how many times did we all see him take a wrist shot into the goalie's gut looking for the 5-hole? Way too many times for me.
Not only am I looking for Hossa to have an explosive season, but I am also looking at Kane to produce much more. To be honest, I thought Kane was off his mark too much last year.
If Kaner and Sharpie are paired together, I expect fireworks from both guys. Sharpie is the 60 goal scorer who never was and he is due for a goal heavy season. I am telling you guys, Kane and Sharp on a line equals goals a-plenty.
Also, yes, Hossa and Kopecky should be on a line together, it makes perfect sense. You guys underrate Kopecky, I can see why, but he is better than that. Line chemistry is the most important factor. Kopecky and Hossa have it, Kane and Sharp have it.
Hendry has got something special, I am telling you. He needs some time, but he skates like Keith. Give him a chance and I think everyone will be pleased.
If these "core" guys can give what they have in them, then they can make up for the talent we lost and then some.

becquer said:

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puckster: I ToTAlLy agree with your comments re Kane & Sharp feeding off each other - when - they are on the same line.

Two years ago, when they got to play together with Toews, Sharpie, for example had his best season.

For some reason Q has persisted in a mindset of having a heavier forward (a la Buff or Broewer) who can dig in the corners...etc...etc...break up the chemistry.

Don't hold your breath...

beaverwarrior said:

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Let's start the season already!

In my humble opinion,
No matter what kind of numbers Hossa posts this year,it wont enough for some fans. You're going to hear a lot of "we're paying how much for a 2nd line winger?"and the like. I'll be happy with anything north of 30 goals and solid two way play. As long as Kane is a Hawk, Hossa's home is on the second line. The Hawks need Kane to be the scoring machine/superstar this season not Hossa.

Cheers

borg said:

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Hossa revealed that he's still recovering from the sprained MCL in his right knee that he hurt in the Finals. He says it's getting stronger, but if it hasn't healed in three months....

flash1 said:

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Might be wrong, but I don't think Hossa had much if any training camp with the team last season. This season should be an improvement since he'll have more practice with the team. I'd like to see Hossa teamed up with Towes, and have Sharp centering a line with PK. Hossa and Toews would go up against the top scoring lines, and Sharp and Kane together would just drive the other team batty. Still, with the offensive talent this team has, the PP needs to start clicking. They should be in the top 3 for the power play.

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