Well, in spite of the fact we have a new reader seeking serious commentary (big stick tap for your service Ray), HH has said I could have a big keg bash right here on the site. Well, actually he didn't say that at all, but when he said he was going out of town, it briefly reminded me of my misspent youth and the parties I used to have when my parents went away. Ahh, the good old days. Anyway, you guys are stuck with my bloviating after the game and since it will be a pretty late post for me, (in central time anyway), I thought I'd start the diatribe a little early with some random thoughts. Not a lot of coherent thought, but some general stuff that gives me some optimism I will keep my winter beard until at least mid May. Please feel free to add yours.
Coming into the end of the season, the Hawks appear to have something that resembles a cohesive game plan. In spite of some big injuries, this team has managed to pull out some pretty big wins by overwhelming other teams with speed. On some nights, they have put together speed with a solid forecheck and relentless backcheck from guys like Hossa. When they put it together like that, I believe they can compete with any team in the west. It's not a finished product that is likely to be what we see for years on out from here, but for this year, I think it is something that will give them and edge.
Related to a developing game plan, I believe that with the additions of Frolik and Campoli, the team finally has a enough new faces to put some hunger back into the effort seen on ice. I've complained many times here that last year, they frequently got away with a half effort because they had such ridiculous depth. Though injuries hurt, and losing players to trades hurt this year, I still felt that more then a few veterans looked satiated. I don't think Toews ever got there, but I really think it took the addition of the last few guys at the deadline (as well as dismissal of Skille who didn't wan't to play fourth line) who were excited to be heading to a team that will be serious for years to come. Most guys here right now seem willing to do what it takes to be on the ice and win.
Speaking of doing what it takes, the defensive effort across the board has gotten much better. Kane still disappears once in awhile on the backcheck, but it's still an improvement over last year. A big thing I have been happy to see is that in the last few weeks, Hawks players have been swarming their own crease after whistles and dishing out some stiff arms. This kind of goes back to hunger for me, but after letting people camp in the crease for the first half of the season, it's good to see. On top of that, guys are blocking shots again like last year. However, I still wish we had the services of Sexybeast Brent Sopel.
Trade wise, I am happy with what SB has done. Whether it's all him, nothing to do with him or somewhere in between, I think he has done okay so far with the hand he was dealt. There's only so much you can do in one year when you have to reload and it's a bummer we had to let guys like Buff and Ladd go. Still, Versteeg is already on his second team, Skille is still Skille and the guys he brought back in return have given us something to look forward to. It's still going to take a lot of work from the organization to not let the development of guys like Leddy and Morin get screwed up, but they definitely have something to work with.
As a final bit, I think the Hawks have thus far done pretty well against WC teams and I think this is going to be a very important thing. There have been a couple of dingers in there, but by the same token, the Hawks dished out some beatdowns themselves. In short, the Hawks have not been PWN'd by anyone in the west, but have had some rough run ins with the Stars and the Sharks. No matter who they face, the Hawks are not going to be an easy team to face in the first round. Without a doubt, they need to pick it up at least two notches to be serious playoff contenders and where my optimism may fall right on it's ass is at the point I believe the veterans from last year will suddenly snap into destroy mode. It took several games and near elimination from the Preds last year to finally bring it out. Once it was active though, well we know how that turned out.
Anyway, that's what keeps me watching games. Well that and the fact that I paid for a full season of center ice whether I watch it or not. I'll hang up and listen to your thoughts.