Blackhawks preseason Archives
Finland's Andrew Niemi seems to have a head lock on winning the backup position in goal for the Blackhawks. You might know him as Antti, but I'm more comfortable with Huckleberry Finn or Mickey Finn, the Chicago bartender who invented knockout drops and likely was one of the Blackhawks' first feisty fans in the Roaring Twenties.
And I'm certainly more familiar with Andy Hardy, Andy Griffith and Andy Devine. So in plain English, Antti breaks down to Andrew in Finnish and we naturally will be sticking with Andy the rest of the year here to avoid me having to take a Berlitz course. Actually, since it's Greek originally, Antti derives directly from Andreas.
But, at the risk of being an ugly American (see my photo for details), let's try limiting the United Nations to a precious few, because we already have a Frenchman starting in goal in Cristobal Huet and a Finn in support in Andy and might be in negotiations with visiting Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi to be the sixth defenseman. Gaddy is the kind of crackdown nutcase for whom the defense is searching to replace Matt Walker.
After Corey Crawford took it on the chin in Wednesday night's 6-2 loss in Washington, Niemi seems to have won the backup goalie derby by default. No matter what goes down Friday night at United Center when Cristobal Huet is expected to start against Minnesota, the stage will move to Finland Oct. 2-3 when the Hawks open the season against Florida and that puts Niemi in the driver's seat to be No. 2.
TSN ranks Blackhawks a lowly 10th best in NHL, spits on Cup chances before knowing Burish is out 6-8 months
Since it's raining Tuesday in Chicago, your mood might be appropriately dark and stormy as well. Good. Perfect timing.
Here's some opportune dark-and-stormy news for a soggy and sullen day.
The Blackhawks aren't all that exceptional, according to The Sports Network. They like them. Don't get me wrong. They just don't love them. Big difference, if you ask me. Kinda snobby like.
The highly-respected website TSN, where hockey is treated as a real sport, is out with their very real preseason prediction that the Blackhawks are primed for a fall from grace.
Well, not totally, you understand. The TSN staff whose byline fronts the piece assures all Blackhawk fans it will still be an entertaining season at times. You'll have your moments, just not your treasured mementoes with trophy in hand.
As far as a Stanley Cup championship in Chicago? Ha! That's not great expectations in their view. According to TSN's breakdown, it seems downright delusional.
Not only does TSN rate the Hawks a rather mediocre 10th in their preseason power rankings, but the analysis written by the TSN staff (how many guys and gals you figure had a hand in the pie) is decidedly downbeat and dismissive of any idea that the Blackhawks are ready to break through to be a title contender, let alone winner.
The latest news Tuesday afternoon that Adam Burish tore his anterior cruciate ligament Sunday in a game at Minnesota when checked into the boards and will miss 6 to 8 months after right knee surgery further downgrades the Hawks' chances. Burish wasn't technically a star, but is an important defensive forward who will be missed.Rather than all the pieces being in place, are the Hawks in a position now to go to pieces bit by bit?
I do know Boomer Byfuglien, whose commanding cannon shots deserve that nickname, has started the Blackhawks preseason by getting mostly positive comments so far. Maybe the boom times are here to stay for him at last.
He has come a long way from the lard ass kid who scared off scouts because he was grossly out of shape at 275 pounds and drafted as purely a longshot eighth-round risk in 2003 when the Hawks specialized in crazy gambles and lost causes.
But I can't yet forget how wildly the compass on his performance meter swung last season from totally lost without a clue to being proclaimed as the "Next American Star" in the National Hockey League.
On the other hand, learning how to live without Hossa and having more puck time to start this season could be ultimately beneficial to some developing players that need to build confidence. Kris Versteeg should be one.
The good news seems to be that there will be quite a few scoring alternatives on the club without Hossa. At least that's how it sets up from a safe distance, when everything looks possible and rosy weeks before someone has to step into the hot spots on the ice and fill the difficult offensive gap consistently.
Let's be honest. Looking and peforming are acts often proven conflicting. That's why all those glowing season previews can become no more than the ravings of madmen and madwomen virtually overnight. We said what? How could we?
Liking the look of the Blackhawks as champions is fantasy. Looking like champions must be reality. That can often be a bridge too far.
But the immediate offensive alternative to Hossa that I consider the most likely right now is the aggressive Versteeg, and I'm hoping that he doesn't take my prediction to the trash and throw me out with my Belvedere and Ketel One bottles.
Maybe he even deserved such a full frontal smooch. The Minneapolis Star Tribune painted a flattering portrait of this forward, who was often sensational as a Blackhawks mover and shaker and definitely a major influence on last season's team success in Chicago.
"Off the ice, he's special there, too," reporter Michael Russo gushed early on.
The story went so far as to exult him for his charitable works through the years and his propensity in catering to his fans to block Blackhawks teammates from exiting the United Center parking lot while he jumped from his car to take pictures, even in frigid weather.
I don't know about Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and all the rest, but that would bug the hell out of me. How can you be a team player doing dumb things like that?
All the Blackhawks had to do Monday in their first week of training camp to remember exactly how high expectations are for them is to see how quickly Jay Cutler transitioned from savior to suspect. From sharp and savvy to smug and smart-ass can be a short trip.
Uh, oh. So that's how quickly the applause and affirmations can turn.
Read the internet. Watch TV. Turn on the radio. The sirens blaring now for the Bears could be screaming in the Hawks' ears before too many more weeks have come and gone. The caution flags are out. Train wreck ahead.
Let's hope this isn't a drill for a winter of weirdness. The Farmer's Almanac predicts it will be numbing. I hope they mean the temp, not the teams.
They aren't the Cubs. They have to be damn happy about that. Who wouldn't be? I'm alive! I'm alive! No wonder they had a parade to mark the occasion.
Hooray! We're Not The Cubs. Those are words that have real meaning as the Sox hand off the "We're Not The Cubs" marketing message as baseball exits the stage and hockey begins.
Not being the Cubs is important. It means you have a chance.
Being the Cubs means you still have to explain what went wrong in the 1945 World Series against Detroit, the last time you had a shot at the big prize. Being the Cubs means still playing in a ball park that smells and looks like 1945.
I believe you can still buy some vintage 1945 hot dogs at Wrigley Field concessions. I know I've eaten a few.
While perpetually dazed Chicagoans figure out what in the world happened to the Cubs and White Sox, and eventually what in the world were the Bears thinking with Jay Cutler, their hockey team travels the world in search of a flaming start that reignites their promise.
The Blackhawks are returning to play a game on European ice for the first time in 17 years. Who can possibly have forgotten those two exciting exhibition games in September, 1992, in London at a decrepit Wembley Stadium against the Montreal Canadiens?
Oh, sorry, you've forgotten. Well, I sure haven't. And neither has Mike Keenan, who almost was killed on the trip in a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.
But, like they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Ha! Just kidding around there, Mike.
Although I have to admit, his death would have been a great story just months after he took the Blackhawks to the 1992 Stanley Cup finals and lost to Pittsburgh, and The Tribune would have been much happier about paying my expense account.