Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks need to bond during 3 day break...

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Finally a break for the Blackhawks.  After playing 10 game in 17 days the Hawks are getting some much needed rest (hopefully) as they prepare for LA on Wednesday.  I'm still not convinced that 10 games is a large enough sample to make lasting judgements so I want to focus on something other than the on ice play of Blackhawks. 

Brent Seabrook hosted his 3rd Annual Ice Bowl Sunday to raise money for inner city school kids.  Being an avid bowler myself, combining one of my favorite sports (yes, bowling is a sport) with my favorite team seemed like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Cost of admission aside, my desire to attend the event was severely dampened when Mr. Mike Kiley handed me the expected guest list.  No Kane, no Hossa, maybe Sharp, but don't worry because Viktor Stalberg, Nick Boynton, and John Scott will be in attendance.  It was at that moment it struck me.  The Blackhawks aren't nearly as "cool" as they used to be.

Even though unavoidable, the losses of Byfuglien, Versteeg, Ladd, Eager, and Burish took away all of the flash and pizzazz the Hawks had away from the ice.  Yea yea, the core was left in place,  but Batman is never the same without Robin.  I doubt any videos of Patrick Kane will be popping up on YouTube singing karaoke at Chicago bars without Kris Versteeg by his side. Likewise, Patrick Sharp's role as the prankster will be severlely impaired without his roomate Adam Burish constantly egging him on.  Don't look for Toews to be in the luxury box dressed in a Dumb and Dumber suit without Burish.  Don't forget about the childish innocence of Buff either.  Everytime he had a postgame interview it seemed he was trying to rush through it without laughing so that he could get back to goofing off with his teammates in the locker room.  Ladd and Eager also never failed to chime in with witty insight referring to the play of the team.  If you're still wondering where I'm heading with this let me make it a little clearer.  The Hawk's chemistry is nowhere near as good as it was last year.  The charisma and tightness of the team that left me glued to Blackhawks TV watcing videos of the guys interacting is nowhere to be found this year (I've actually spent time on the Stars and Thrashers respective websites watching the former Hawks take on the same role in their new uniforms).   

I'm one of those guys that believes a whole lot more than just raw talent goes in to playing sports.  The mental grind it takes to perform as a star athlete is not far behind the physical workload.  Guys like Kane, Toews, Bolland, Keith, etc. need sidekicks to help them put things in perspective.  Patrick Kane would have dwelled on poor performances last year if he was given a chance, but with close friends like Eager and Versteeg to beat him up a little bit and remind him that tomorrow is another day, it had to be easier for Kane to put a bad game behind him and focus on the next. 

Where is that coming from this year?  Without Buff and Burish keeping the mood light who is going to stop Keith from dwelling over his countless turnovers, or stop Toews from pressing over his lack of scoring?  The guys who played that role last year have been replaced by guys focused solely on keeping their roster spot.  Skille, Dowell, Pisani, Stalberg, etc. enter the locker room every night focused on doing what it takes to remain a Blackhawk, not what they can do to help Patrick Kane relax and play his game.  And I'm not saying the guys from last year knew it was their responsibility to do those things, it's just something that came naturally from being good friends both on and off the ice.  

This may all seem like trivial nonsense to some readers out there, but to me it's the underlying issue with this Hawks team.  The salary cap truly ruined a dynasty.  If it was financially possible to keep together last year's team I truly don't see how the Hawks wouldn't have won at least 3 out of the next 5 Stanley Cups.  The character and friendship shown on that team is something that will never be recreated.  Last year's role players left holes that will take more than just a shortened offseason to fill.  

I still believe the Blackhawks will win a few more Cups in the not so distant future, but I can't see any of them being as sweet as last year's.  When we all look back years from now and rewatch the videos of Burish sabotaging Toews' bag or Versteeg making sarcastic commments about who's the best looking guy on the team, it will remind us of how special the 2009-2010 Blackhawks were.  

Maybe over the course of this season friendships will develop that will benefit the squad.  Until that happens though it's up to the superstars to be mentally tough and carry this team.  Sharp, Hossa, and Seabrook seem up to the challenge.  It's time for Kane, Toews, and Keith to step up to the plate.           

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9 Comments

Jerry Kayne said:

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You're right Paul. The Hawks need a romantic night out. It's time to grow the intangibles. But, as fun as those stories are, it's up to the verterans to "haze" the newbies.

Kane, for example, shouldn't need someone else to motivate him at this stage, even at his tender age. Time to mature as a hockey player and not burn out after getting to the top.

My son is 16 and needs a mentor and life experiences to help him mature. Kane is 21 and should know what it takes to be a professional hockey player by now. Sure, a shaving cream pie in the face during an interview is hilarious & a team building exercise, but the veterans shouldn't need it. I'm not sure the goofiness is a requirement at this stage. Get down to business and do your job. I am. After I click the "Post Comment" button of course.

iplagitr said:

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Good insights, Paul.

As a musician, it's a no-brainer that my band plays its best when we're loose and having fun together. Subbing in a different musician on occasion when necessary is a total drag.

I think you see the same example you talk about with the '85 Bears. One of the most dominate teams in history, yet they were a bunch of goofballs at the same time. McMahon was crazy, and the whole defense barked like dogs... then they do that Superbowl shuffle video...etc. The list of antics goes on and on. Can't take things too seriously or people start getting on each others nerves and blaming each other for poor performances.

BTW, I'll bet there was a bigger line to get autographs from the Ice Crew girls than John Scott.

Hostile Hawk said:

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Hey iplagitr,
Take a look at my site, PuckPowWow.com and let me know what you think. We are often on the same page and NKLHD is going to be posting there too.

VegasHawksFan said:

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It was a great story that the team of the last two years got along so well and was having fun together, but it was also a great story in 1985 when a fun loving Bears team looked the same way and we know how that turned out. And what about Sammy Sosa's boom box? By my own admission, I"m just some dude who watches hockey so it's not like I'm any authority on this. But I think that if you want to have long term success, you need to create a "culture" from top to bottom that is dedicated to that goal. Individual player hunger is one thing, but look at Ovechkin, has he won the hardware he really wants?

Looking at those 85 Bears and then looking at the Bulls, I think we have a decent contrast in what it takes to win and keep winning. Even Hossa when he came over from Detroit commented on how serious it is the Wings locker room and how much looser it was here. Right now we have one cup and they have several and are basically a perennial contender. It's food for thought anyway.

pilote3 said:

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Wonderful words Paul,never thought of that but after your wrting.man! Are there any new guys you think might fit into that mold? I know that newbies are sometimes not themselves in order to fit in.Mayb a Scott or Dowell etc will become a merry prankster? You can defintly see lack of chemestry sometimes on the ice.
Thanks Paul great writing!!

Stylin19 said:

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I completely agree that the Hawks lost a lot of what made them interesting off the ice this past season, from Versteeg's raps at the parade to Buff giving Kane the heavy weight belt. These are all little things that can help a team succeed. But they are little things. I am sure they are getting used to each other and figuring out personalities. But I think that has little to do with success on the ice. Yes when you mesh well off the ice you tend to mesh better on the ice but these are professional athletes that play the game for a living, whether or not you play pranks on each other in the hotel nights before games should have little effect on whether or not you hoist the cup at the end of the year. Like you said 10 games isn't a large enough sample size

Dan L said:

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Because of my location I haven't been able to watch every game, but from what I have seen I could tell there was something "off" with this 2010-2011 team. I feel that you absolutely hit it on the head Paul. I believe some of these new guys (especially Dowell) have the personalities to fill the void, but their focus on keeping their job makes them, dare I say, too serious and focused on the game. Camaraderie in hockey is easily the second most important thing for any hockey team to have (behind skill, duh), and I'm not sure if these hawks have what it takes in the room to repeat what they did last year. I'm sorry if that last sentence hurt your feelings Paul. You know I'm cheering for them and I hope it happens again

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