Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks should be strengthened by not being picked to win again

I expect a large number of publications in the next few weeks will predict that the Blackhawks won't be a repeat winner of the Stanley Cup.

The forced reassembling of the roster to accommodate the salary cap will be widely viewed as a sign of weakness.

How should the team react to that preseason downgrade? With quiet defiance. With renewed determination.

We will learn much more about this team in how the players accept being undervalued as champions rather than applauded as champions.

The Blackhawks character, or lack thereof, is going to be the first thing to watch for as many people doubt their ability to win it all again.

That element of doubt from outsiders can either creep into the team's subconscious as a debiliating cancer that silently eats away the foundation or be used more for positive motivational purposes to bond this club as tightly as last season's.

For time immemorial, us against them has been a valuable sports tool. This club has to use it, as well, because the doubting Thomases and Theresas will be out in force.

The most important factor over the next few months will be for the Blackhawks and their fans to turn the page. Easily said, hard to do.

There will be moments the team and the fans will feel remorse for what could have been. Yes, I'm telling you there will be nights you wish Dustin Byfuglien was out there even in his recurring role as the Invisible Man and Kris Versteeg was going hither and yon toe-dragging and playing The Lone Ranger once again.

When you wouldn't even mind seeing Ben Eager trip someone right in front of the referee.

There will be slumps when the players are apt to feel sorry for themselves, when they may lament the changes made, and fall victim to their own inner demons that they would never publically address, but will still be a formidable opponent for them to overcome.

Erasing the Stanley Cup images, the comfort of achievement, won't be simple. But it must be done.

No better time than now to start turning the page with Antti Niemi's new digs in San Jose, which reportedly will announce soon that Niemi will play for them one season at $2 million.

We all had our opinions on whether the Hawks are better off with veteran Marty Turco for $1.3 million or in a perfect world should have found a way to commit somehow to the younger Niemi. Or have Niemi commit to them.

It's time to put the argument to bed.

I was a Niemi supporter. Now, I'm a Turco supporter. Let's leave it alone. Not continually pick at the scab, or else it'll bleed.

Of course, I'm kidding myself here. Turco and Niemi will be compared again and again as the 2010-11 season wears on. That's the nature of the beast, but not an exercise that coach Joel Quenneville can permit in his locker room. Such topics must be off-limits.

I don't even see where it's helpful for the Hawks to trot out Tony Esposito to claim Turco, 35, is entering the prime of his career. Knowing what not to say often is a lost art on West Madison Street.

While Esposito admittedly knows 20 million times more than me about goaltending, his unusual assessment flies in the face of statistics. If that's true, then why was Turco's goals-against-average 1.91 prior to 2005 and 2.53 since then? In the same period, why has his save percentage slipped from .922 to .905?

There has to be a better method for Esposito to sing Turco's praises than throwing out a silly embellishment that makes you wonder why Espo is selling Turco so hard and in such a weird way.

While Turco was well-liked in Dallas as a person and also a goalie, an important distinction, let's not forget Turco also refused to return to the bench during a late-season personal slide when he was yanked from the net and put himself in the position of not being a team player.

Turco will need a more stable and steadfast character to weather the storm that certainly will hit sooner or later in Chicago. Some believe Corey Crawford will assume the goaltending duties some time this season, but I hope that's not true because it only means Turco has faltered and the Hawks are struggling.

Turco personally has a lot to prove with his spotty playoff history. He could be the best thing for the Hawks from a mental perspective if he can add this bit of motivation to the club.

Winning consecutive Cups or having your own winning era isn't uncommon in NHL history. In the 1940s and 1950s, Montreal, Toronto and Detroit did it over and over.

During the next three decades, the Canadiens, Leafs, Philadelphia, New York Islanders and Edmonton all experienced repeated successes. Pittsburgh took its brief turn to start the '90s and the Red Wings were back in charge late '90s.

But we have had a helter-skelter championship run for the last 11 seasons. No repeat champions at all in the NHL.

Not since Scotty Bowman's Red Wings in 1996-97 and 1997-98. The New Jersey Devils had an excellent run there, but they split championship years in 2000 and 2003.

The Red Wings, of course, have been one of the most consistent franchises through the past 15 years. Their model remains the goal for the Blackhawks, whose history shows a small "era" in the early '60s.

The Hawks returned to the championship round in '62 and '65, only to lose on both occasions. They crawled back there in '71 and '73, only to lose again. Another lost chance at a championship in 1992 signalled no franchise turnaround.

History says the Blackhawks are unlikely to win two straight Cups. That's why the safe bet will be not to pick the Hawks to win and why so many won't.

This team just can't listen to history. Chances are, spending time curled up with a history book is not high on any of their agendas.

But it's imperative that they begin to treat last season as ancient history. Right now, right here.

Their minds and other people will be trying to tug them back all season long. They have to be strong enough to know a tradition is not won in one year.

They must forge a new path to earn even greater respect from the NHL and its fans. New heroes must emerge to change the storyline.

That's going to require a mental strength they must begin exercising repeatedly when training camp opens later this month. You can have all the skating drills you want, but if your mind is lagging behind, so will your body.



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ExposeChiFraud said:

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Haha! This headline is ridiculuous. I'll go ahead and predict that the Red Wings will topple Chicago's inflated-for-one-year team. Any true hockey follwer knows that. (Detroit has Turco's number. Look at some stats.) The depth is gone. I am not a virulent person, but I came across this article and have to comment on the weakness of this assessment. There are some great players under contract in Chicago, but considering that team to be a contender based on a Cup run that could be under investigation by the league because of potential circumventuons of the CBA is a little mind-boggling. I will be gratious: Congrats! It won't happen again for some time. Go Wings!

borg said:


The Cup run will be under investigation?

Just how big of a noob are you?

Hostile Hawk said:


Did somebody say something? No, I think someone just farted.

Mike Kiley said:


That was me. Sorry for the smell.

Hostile Hawk said:


Personally, I am okay with the Hawks just playing well and would like to see them go deep into the playoffs. I will be high off of last season for years to come. My prediction, if it means anything, although I have predicted the last 3 winners of the cup, is that the Sharks are the most likely to win it all. I said this before the Niemi thing, but I also had a feeling of that move coming. Since I have been a loud backer of Niemi and since I am a lover of hockey, it would please me to see Niemi and the Sharks do extremely well. I can't wait for a Sharks-Hawks matchup in the playoffs, there would be some great, emotional hockey.

VegasHawksFan said:


With a cup in the house for a year, there really shouldn't be much to complain about. Whether people are happy or not with what Stan did, he got more than a handful of magic beans in return when everyone predicted he would have to just give great players away for nothing. With a new year, hopefully we find new things to bitch about and let the complaints of last year just fade away. Saying that likely guarantees I'm the first one to bring up an old gripe LOL

Dave Morris said:


Doctor Kiley, as those hazy lazy crazy days of summer stumble to a close, and the withdrawal symptoms of hockey fans give way to the new excitement of forthcoming frozen follies, may I take a moment to applaud you for keeping us very, very entertained.

And oh yes, how many 'experts' said the Hawks wouldn't win the Cup last year because of yadda yadda yadda...

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