Blackhawks Confidential

Coach Q or C? The choice is yours...

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Two games have come and gone, 1 point has been collected.  Last place in the Central Division is where they stand.  Some say the Blackhawks are exactly where they expected them to be, others would probably disagree.  Personally I can't express much disappointment with what I've seen thus far.  In my mind a large portion of the Blackhawks struggles have been a direct result of Coach Q's line combos to start the season.  The Q-Stache has its opinions and probably around 10,000 more it trusts ahead of mine (Yes I'm referring to his mustache as its own entity).  But it can't stop me from blogging (at least I don't think) so I'm going to offer my own two cents on what needs to change.

I think it's fairly obvious that Kane and Toews need to be reunited.  Kane needs someone to do his dirty work for him and as much I love him, Patrick Sharp isn't the guy.  Kane and Sharp have amazing chemistry when there's open ice and room for Dr. Kane to operate.  Toews is amongst the best along the boards and only his work there can make up for the offensive mindset of #88.  Going along with that, I think the only productive place for Troy Brouwer is next to the 6 million dollar twins.  Bickell would probably be a better fit but he appears to be much more capable of producing further down the lineup than Brouwer.  Troy has been pretty invisible on the 3rd line and I don't see that changing much if he remains there.

Moving on, Hossa and Sharp are shoe-ins for the 2nd line.  Hossa has been the Hawks best forward thus far and I don't think his linemates will play a major factor in his performance.  Bickell is the obvious choice for me here, providing a physical presence and new found knack for finding twine.

With the top 6 now in place we enter the land of Dave Bolland.  With every passing game I become more sure that Bolland is destined to be a third line center for life.  He is too effective at what he does (more so in the playoffs than regular season) to be asked to be a top 6 forward.  Considering only what we've seen thus far, the thought of Skille and Stalberg paired with Bolland creates a hard working checking line with a ton of potential to score.

That leaves us with Dowell to center Kopecky and Pisani.   I have been mum on Tommy Boy thus far but he's a sure 4th liner for me.  Brouwer and Bickell probably aren't top 6 forwards either but they fit the required role exponentially better than Kopecky.  If Kopecky has the top 6 skill set some say he does then he should have no problem producing on the 4th line.  Pisani is demoted to the 4th line on my depth chart but I can't see anyone making a strong case against that.

So here's what it looks like:

Brouwer-Toews-Kane
Bickell-Sharp-Hossa
Skille-Bolland-Stalberg
Pisani-Dowell-Kopecky

We haven't seen this lineup yet but I just have to keep praying that Coach Q will accidentally stumble upon Blackhawks Confidential sometime in the next 18 hours.

The defense is a whole different animal and until Campbell returns I don't dare go there.  All I can say is that Boynton and Scott appear to be a huge liability thus far.  Not only did Scott blow a tire to give up the game winner (although Marty should have made the save), but he also constantly got beaten to pucks.  Against Detroit he had a 2 stride lead on two Red Wings from the blue line in and was beaten by both of them to the puck.  Boynton hasn't been awful but being paired with Scott has made all his mistakes that much more apparent.  Hopefully once Campbell returns to play with the Hammer Leddy can steal a 5th or 6th spot.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Monday night in Buffalo will provide the Hawks and Coach Q a chance to notch that first victory.  As far as I'm concerned all of the pieces are there, it's just a matter of building the right puzzle.  


   
 


  

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14 Comments

iplagitr said:

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I almost wrote in the last column that Kane and Toews absolutely needed to be put together again. I also agree with you and 'CRB' from the previous blog that Scott has done nothing on the ice other than help out the opposition. Sheesh, and we thought Sopel was slow?!

CRB said:

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I would have to say the same thing, Kane needs Toews to feed him the puck, and it was very funny that iplagitr mentioned Sopel in his comment because i was thinking about Sopel during the last game. I can not recall from the last two games that we had one player go down to block a shot. All of a sudden a team that use to block shots, mix it up, score and win games forgot how to play a simple but be a very effective game. If we had Sopel in that last game we would have won. Sopel would have been our second goaltender on the ice and from what i can see Turco needs help with blocking shots.

Hostile Hawk said:

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I disagree about the Kane and Toews thing. I feel that Sharp and Kane have shown much more chemistry than 19 and 88. However, I like where you are going with this. There definitely has to be some changes, and I am not a huge supporter of Q, but lets wait to have Sharp back in the line-up and until Kane wakes up. I was actually thinking Sharp, Kane, Brouwer myself. Pisani is nowhere in that combo, he looks lost with Kane. This could also lead to an improved Brouwer. I also feel like giving the Hossa line some time as well. These things can take time to start jelling, and I don't see much issue there to start on the road to new lines every game. As far as I am concerned, Kopecky had a good game and a bad one, he makes sense with Hossa because it makes Kopecky stronger. Lines are about getting the most out of each player.
I agree about Bolland, and I like what you have done to that line, but I also like how strong our 4th line was the other night. It could be a huge asset to have a line that deep on the bench producing in that way. Maybe there is a way to keep it all. If Brouwer is with Kane and Sharp instead of Bickell, then he can play with Bolland instead. Then it is just a matter of Stalberg or Skille, who both show great potential. Skille seems able to create more on his own, but Stalberg's hands have been quite impressive. This is a tough one for me. Skille makes both lines stronger wherever he gets placed.

I still think the biggest mistake so far was not signing Morrin. His playmaking skills were top-notch and it could be helpful right now.

Im not following on the Boynton thing either. I thought he looked damn good. Blocked shots, played with grit and made some nice passes throughout the game. Scott looked terrible, but Boynton will be an asset. On that note, Leddy continues to surprise me.

VegasHawksFan said:

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I'm in agreement with Powwow about Q, it's up to the coach to make the most out of what he has to work with and Q still has an enormous amount to work with. My problem with Kane and Toews together is that good teams have learned how to deal with that and besides, we will see that combo anyway if the Hawks are having an off night. I could be off base with this, but as each player matures I think they are developing their own style and those two play a very different game. Toews and Hossa to me, have a similar game and I dont' mind seeing Kopecky being given a very specific role to play with them; crash bodies below the goal line and go to the net when Hossa or Toews is digging the puck out of the corner. When the puck comes though, he has got to shoot. I liked his thinking trying to pass to Toews the other night, but his skill is not there.

As an armchair coach, I think this year and the future lies in Q's ability to lay the foundation for a system. On a team with last year's talent level, the random line generator style of coaching works okay. When you have a skill gap like they do now from top to bottom, I think you need to start playing a team style that helps close that gap. Detroit is probably one of the better examples of Cleary level guys doing a lot of simple things that creates time and space for the skill guys; setting picks, choosing their hits wisely and getting themselves in position outside of the crease for deflection shots. That team never brings anything new but they can execute. Compared to the last two years though, I'm not unhappy at all with how the Hawks played them.

Of equal importance in all of this though has to be development of a power play. Once they get the puck moving they aren't bad but you have got to be able to convert at least one of three power plays when they come so close together. Isn't there some coach somewhere in retirement that could consult with them?

Paul said:

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Top 4 forward pairings aside, I'll never be convinced Kopecky has more upside than Brouwer or Bickell as a top 6 role playing guy.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Yeah, Kopecky's skills are never going to convince anyone to change their mind about him. If skills comparison is the chief measuring stick, he will never measure up to the top four of Kane, Toews, Hossa and Sharp. Does that mean there is no room for him a role player up there? I honestly don't know.

Hostile Hawk said:

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Its not like the team decides who their top 6 players are and make them the first 2 lines.
Bickell and Brouwer (Brouwer still needs to show up) might have more skills than Kopecky, but that also means they will play stronger on another line without the stars. Kopecky's role is so defined on the Hossa Toews line should allow him to be more productive than ever before. Give it time and hopefully Q can facilitate his abilities in the right way.

Stylin19 said:

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I keep hearing people say that the Hawks aren't as deep as last year but then go on to talk about guys like Boyton Skille, Stalberg, Morin, Dowell and the rest of the 4th line being so good. Why do we think that we aren't deep? If our fourth line is already coming together and playing great hockey, much like the 3rd line of last year, why wouldn't we think that the top 3 lines are going to figure it out and be able to play the way we know they can?

Hostile Hawk said:

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I think the depth issue comes from injuries. Last year we had guys like Bickell and Skille to back up guys like Versteeg and company. Plus, Eager didn't play every game, nor Burish. Now, injuries can really make the difference. At the moment, the fourth line is producing more than the third.

VegasHawksFan said:

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So, uh, is Hossa doing okay enough for you guys yet? That was a big game. The kids again come up big. I love the hustle and I love the pressure they are creating. With Campbell out and Hammer getting tossed, it's not surprising to see them give up 35 SOG, but at least they got 30 in themselves. I hate seeing people leave on a stretcher and I thought that was a really stupid hit on Hammer's part. Maybe the guy turned a little, but it still looked like Hammer had every intention of blasting him as hard as possible instead of just playing for the puck. Horrible start but at least they stayed in it and came back.

iplagitr said:

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As Pat and Eddie would jokingly say about Hossa, "3 goals in 3 games - he's on pace for an 82-goal season!"

Dumb play from Hammer, but I didn't see it as intentional cheap shot. It was a clean, hard hit, but just approached from a little too far behind the guy. No contact with the head, so hopefully there should be no further suspension or anything...

VegasHawksFan said:

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I just watched the replay in slow mo and you can see Hammer coming from behind and he basically comes in from the guy's five and catches him right between the numbers which spun him a little as he hit the boards. That Hammer goes flying past the guy and loses control himself makes me think the hit was really from behind and to the right. I would agree it wasn't intentionally a cheap shot, but I don't think it was clean.

iplagitr said:

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I meant 'clean' in the sense of a body-to-body hit (no elbows up and no hit to the head). It was definitely not clean in the sense of it was a blind-side hit.

OneTeam said:

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Random theory- Wanna know what do you think?

My theory on Hossa is that he only playes at one level. He plays at a sorta playoff like level of hockey throughout the regular season while the others are just at regular season speed. Then when the playoffs come, the others elevate their game but Hossa has nowhere to go. He just blends in with the crowd instead of standing far above the competition. Thats why his playoff stats are pedestrian numbers. He has no "next level".

Its not a bad thing..I mean, Hossa is a regular season KILLER! He wins games so the rest of the team doesnt have too.A lot can be said about a guy that can truly impact where you land in the playoff standings.

Just a theory. Im sure not everyone see's it that way... Thoughts?

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