I can hear the chant in the distance, "He will do better next year, He will do better next year, He will do better next year."
I have personally never been a fan of Hossa's signing, but more for reasons involving the loss of Havlat than because of Hossa himself. I made jokes about how Hossa was cursed to never win the Cup and had a deep respect for Havlat as a Hawk. When I heard the Hawks were going with Hossa, and over Havlat as an alternative, I cringed at the thought. After all, Havlat was a loved Hawk, a great player, already had established chemistry with the team (something Hossa is still waiting on), and he wanted to stay in Chicago with a team who wanted him to stay.
With that said, Hossa has the talent, the strength, and drive to be the top player in the league. He is a back-checking marvel, can power through the best of the D-Men, and has the speed to match anyone. When on his game, he seems to be an unstoppable force capable of holding onto the puck for years without threat and his defensive presence is enough reason to argue his hefty paycheck even when he isn't scoring.
He began last season as the hottest player in the league, even hotter than the streaking Patrick Sharp (not in the handsome, GQ sense) who was scoring goals left and right. If it weren't for these two guys early on, the Hawks might have gone scoreless for a month. In the end, Sharp would finish 8th in scoring, while Hosaa couldn't even make it into the top 50. Injury might tell a big part of this story, but it doesn't tell the whole thing, and the fact that injuries is a concern is even more reason to argue against his signing in the first place.
Hossa is an accomplished hockey player. He was in the Finals 3 years in a row and on 3 different teams. Has anyone else even done that? He now has a Cup to his name. But, on a game to game basis, what does Hossa accomplish? In my opinion, he does the things he is comfortable with extremely well, but constantly falls short to step up his game in the areas we might need him to, such as scoring. Hossa has hit that 40 goal mark a couple of times (he did it with the Wings), though not as a Hawk. This is an obtainable and maybe even expected goal with a guy who has this level of talent.
Honestly, I question his hockey sense sometimes when with the puck. It seems out of his comfort zone to be that goal scorer the Hawk fans have expected. I have seen too many bad passes, weak shots right at the goalie's chest even when on a breakaway (I found myself counting the amount of times he lets a wrister go right into the middle of the goalies chest) basically, he just too often comes up short when with the puck. And this is what we need out of him. Hell, if he just hit the 30 marker I would be happy. Maybe he would have if he played more than 60 games a year. If the goal of the game was to hold onto the puck, then he would be the best at it, and maybe Toews would be second best.
Don't even get me started on the playoffs. Sure, he is a defensive force, but the man has produced a whole lot of nothing on the stats sheet during the all important extended season.
Vegas made a comment in the last post about Hossa becoming a "third line center," and also commented on how Hossa's skill set matched Bollands. I feel like I could even argue that Bolland has more of that offensive killer instinct, but the statement offers something completely different to ponder. Could we see a Bolland/Hossa line combo? Or better yet, should we? Think about it for a sec. Hossa and Havlat used to play together and had great success in doing so. Bolland and Havlat had the same success together. Since Hossa and Havlat resemble each other in some of their game strengths, why not give a Bolland/Hossa line a shot? I think we might see fireworks.
But this also affects the whole scheme of things in the Hawk's playbook. What then, is Bolland's label? First line center maybe? This simple little move might carry along with it the possibility of having 3 full lines that are interchangeable in their equality as top lines. The Hawks might be able to roll 3 lines equally which could produce interesting results. It might look something like this:
- Sharp - Kane - (Brunette or Olesz)
- Toews - Frolik - Bickell
- Bolland - Hossa - (Smith, Brunett, or Olesz) I like the idea of Smith here though.
Getting back to Hossa now. I feel pretty good about handing down a final grade of C+ to the Hoss. He started orf hot, even scoring a goal a game for a few weeks. I began to wonder if the magic ingredient was winning a Cup for Hossa. No more burden on his shoulders anymore. But, even before his eventual injury, Hossa started to lose whatever goal- scoring, killer- instinct was fueling his success. We saw highs and lows through the rest of the season. Hot streaks and then droughts. Hossa has yet to become the full package. Something, that given his abundance of talent, has to be expected. You start getting the feeling, when looking at those line combos above, that if the players we expect to perform well this year actually do it, we could be in for one hell of a good season.
The verdict is still out about whether Hossa was the better choice over Havlat. Although I still lean towards having kept Havlat. The concern was with injury, and we signed Hossa when he was in fact injured.