It’s hockey time once again Chicago fans. While not necessarily in the bloodstream of the city like the Bears, or carrying a fan base the size of the Cubs, nor shining the star power of the Bulls, the Chicago Blackhawks have easily been the best athletic club our fair city has to offer for the past five years.
I love hockey season. It’s my sport of choice. It revs my engine and scratches me where I itch. I love the free flowing creativity within the plexiglass and particle board. It requires skill, dexterity, agility, toughness, individual skill, teamwork, discipline, and reckless abandon. There’s no other sport like it. It’s like jazz fused with rock laid over a hip-hop base line.
Usually I’m all over the Blackhawks as soon as their prospects head up to Ontario for the Rookie Tournament before training camp gets under way. This year for whatever reason the draft, free agency, training camp and the pre-season have all passed without so much as a second glance. I can write off a lot of it to everything going on in my world of late but I think it’s more than that.
The Blackhawks have risen from the ashes of the first ten years of the century, the burned empire that once glowed bright in the early to mid nineties has been rebuilt. There are no more missing pieces or one last addition that will take them to the next level. They are living in “the window” that every organization strives to attain. Their stars are locked up and in their prime, there are young players looking for their shot and veterans see Chicago as a destination to add to their jewelry collection. They’ve won two of the past five Cups and have been to the Western Conference Finals in four of the past six.
This year is no different. Excellence is expected after coming off of perhaps the greatest Conference Finals series of our lifetime against what promises to be a legitimate rival for the next half decade. Anything less than the Cup Finals will be considered a failure. That’s the standard that has been set. In so many ways the preseason and the regular season itself don’t really matter. We’ve been spoiled to the point that one could argue hockey season doesn’t really start in Chicago until April now. Such is the view from the top of the hill.
With all that said, here are a few quick thoughts as the puck drops on the 2015/16 season:
- I was sad to see Nicky Leddy go. I like what I’ve heard about the young defensive prospect Ville Pokka they received in return for him but I’m not a fan of being in the business of giving up 23 year old puck moving defensemen that you’ve gone to war with. Leddy’s best days are still ahead of him in this league and I’m sorry that they won’t be lived with an Indianhead on his chest.
- Don’t get me started on the resigning of Daniel Carcillo. Just don’t even start. He can’t skate, score, or pass. He’s more a nuisance for his own team than a pest for the opposition at this time. Instead of protecting his teammates or getting under the skin of the opposition he now just takes dumb penalties that make him a liability. I’m not sure what pictures he has of Coach Q but they must be spectacular.
- I’m really hoping Brad Richards is more Brett Hull In Detroit than he is Doug Gilmour In Chicago at this point in his career. Being demoted to the third line before the season begins is not quite the endorsement I was looking for.
- In that vein, Andrew Shaw is an absolutely perfect third line center. He’s tough and gritty and can shutdown another team’s top threat. A second line center he is not. Quenneville and I will agree to disagree on this subject.
- Remember a year ago when the Blackhawks were hard pressed to make a decision on whether to keep Michael Kostka or Ryan Stanton as their seventh defenseman. What’s that you say? Neither of those names ring a bell? (eventually they cut Stanton at the end of camp and he signed with Vancouver and Kostka was cut in February after playing in a total of nine games). I have a feeling history is repeating itself this year only it’s going by the name of Kyle Cuminsky.
- Buckle your seat belts as I think Brandon Saad is about to take off.
- I think Kris Versteeg should take as much time as he needs to make sure his lower body injury is as healed as it can be. Seriously Kris, when you think it feels better take another few weeks or even a few months to make sure you’re 100% back before you return. There’s no shame in sitting this whole season out if it’s what you feel is best.
- I’m alright with Teuvo learning the ropes of North American hockey in Rockford over the next few months. If he’s as food as advertised (and I think he is) then he’ll show us down there and he’ll be ready for the call to the Show when the opportunity presents itself.
It’s time for the Bears to step up. Every year they blow a game or two that they should have won and every year they miss the playoffs by a game or two and we can all look back at the schedule and identify “the one that got away.” They’ve fired those bullets a little early this year. It’s time to hit their stride and this week is the gut check to see if they can.
If you can believe it Atlanta’s defense is worse than the Bears and they too have a high powered offense built around two big wide receivers. Much like the Green Bay game this may come down to a combination of who has a higher total of turnovers + punts. The Bears have the better offensive line, tight end and running back. Atlanta has the better quarterback. It’s up to Cutler to show he’s learned from his mistakes and prove to us that he can evolve because if he can’t now he never will.
My guess is he does.
Prediction: Bears 35 – Falcons 30 It won’t be pretty but the result will be what the doctor ordered
Bears Record: 2-3
Chi-Guy Record: 2-3
Aside: I’m happy Devin Hester has found a soft landing in Atlanta but the narrative this week that the Bears should have never let him go is just foolish. Could you imagine the vitriol in sports radio today if Devin Hester was resigned for anything more than the veteran minimum and if he were to be counted on for any degree of responsibility in the offense in this city? It would have been served up at the same fever pitch as the talk that the Bears should have spent Cutler’s money on Josh McCown last spring. Where are those McCown supporters now? This weekend the Bears should pay Hester the respect he deserves and kick to him when given the opportunity and then both parties can go in their respective ways until perhaps reuniting in Canton some day.