Crisis, Opportunity or Both?

Well, I'm sure everybody has heard about Sharp by now. Three to four weeks for recovery means he is basically gone for the entirety of camp and possibly a bit of the season. Along with Kane's issues, this isn't great news for Sharp, the team or the fans. However, for the prospects, this has to have just opened the door for an extra long look at one or two kids. Granted, guys like Sharp and Kane were not going to play every game anyway and with Q as coach, you can expect that even the Zamboni driver and some kid working at a local Dominick's were going to get a few shifts just to see what it looks like. But when you know both are gone until at least the start of the season, I would think it's going to change things. So, in order to save me from writing a book review or from reviewing the skates I bought this summer, how bout a column of wild speculation until the adult leadership of this site has something more respectable to comment on?

One scenario that I think a lot of people have fantasized about is a trade for a legit, honest to God second line center and I don't think it's going to happen. Behind the scenes, we have no idea what Bowman was working on or might still be working on and I don't think you can ever think SB is "done". But, with Sharp's ability to play center and with his contract decided, it gave SB the option to stockpile some center prospects and give them a chance to bulk up and mature and that plan probably hasn't changed. I've listened to several podcasts of people talking about prospects like Kruger and I know he would absolutely tear up the Thursday night rec league here in Vegas and probably get pushed up to at least the Wednesday night league where it gets a little more competitive. Whether that means he is ready for the bigs is another question though. Right now, I still think Sharp is going to be the number two center for the year even if he starts late and one of the kids has a solid enough pre-season to start there. Though I hate that Sharp is down right now, I do actually like the situation wherein the entirety of camp will be an audition for second center.

In Kane's case, I'm not sure how much opportunity his being out for preseason actually gives to the prospects. If a guy like Smith is being looked at as a possible energy guy down on the fourth line, he might see some minutes. But with the arrival of Brunette and Olesz, along with the already present Stalberg and Frolik, there's not a lot of room up top for a prospect to break in unless they absolutely out compete the veterans and/or Olesz looks like a bust. Stalberg is a guy I could see getting traded this year if he can't nail down a top spot, sorta like Brouwer. If a kid does win the second center and Sharp returns to wing, it compounds this issue. As with Sharp, I don't think it's good that Kane is out, but with a crowd of guys trying to find a spot at wing, it gives Q a lot of opportunity to try some different things. We'll likely see some of the kids anyway, but I'd be surprised if any break camp in a top six spot.

On special teams, Q again will have opportunity and necessity to work in different guys. Last year, the Hawks improved on the PP from 16th to 4th. However, the PK went from 4th to 25th. Even with the loss of some key guys, this team was not challenged to score but with Sharp and Kane both possibly out to start the season, that's not a good and I don't think anyone is really going to replace what those guys do. Defensively, I am hoping that some of the new faces have something to offer. Guys like Keith should be a lot better with a summer of rest and recharge, but it seems the PK still needs a facelift. Can Q work some magic with the random line generator and new faces?

Though I bitch a lot, I tend to be very optimistic about this team and blinded by bias. I'm bummed Kane and Sharp could both possibly miss the open of the season, but I actually see more opportunity here then crisis, especially considering that both Sharp and Kane are expected to be back sometime early season. With the new faces, Q does have a tough gig of sorting it all out and without Kane and Sharp there, it gives him flexibility to continue evaluating until both are back. Regardless, I'm glad it's finally just one freaking week until it starts.

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  • Nicely said, Vegas but your lack of confidence is Q (Stanley Cup winning Coach) is obvious . The Q has a lot new toys to play with and it should be interesting to see how long his game of mix-and-match lasts....lots of new faces and combos. Hope that they can come out of box strong and skate into the playoffs instead of slipping in on a Wild loss. Still looks like Canucks, Wings and Sharks at the top the division in most analysts predictions, with the Hawks 4th. Columbus is stronger, Preds weaker. Can't wait for hockey to start.

  • Yeah, well said Vegas,
    I was personally looking forward to some consistency in the roster, especially when line combos are concerned, but the space at camp does allow for some tampering that could result is positive results.

    I just hope that when the season starts, that there is a clear understanding of what Sharp's role will be. Kane's is less up for debate.

    But, you nailed it with SB and choosing to groom a center rather than pay for one. We might even see some them by mid-season.

    My hope is that the Hawks are still in a place to jump out of the gates with success. RenoFinFan pointed out that analysts have the Hawks around 4th, which is fine, but they could easily trump any of those teams given their increased roster this year. What matters most is what happens in playoffs though, and 2 of those 3 teams have proven that they just can't win when they have to.

  • Not a crisis, but I would like to get out of the gate with some wins. Cheap points in the early season might be needed to prevent us from backing into the play-offs, again.

    Q might open with a more grind it out and wait for a mistake game if Sharp and Kane are out for a while at the start. Play-off stlye in October. SB has picked up the personnel to make that possible. and Crawford should keep us in any game.

    My nickel is on Morin to have a good showing in the pre-season. He is healthy...., isn't he ?

  • Yes, Morin is healthy and I am glad you brought him up. Right now, he is playing up north in that NHL Rookie Tournament with McNeill, Danault, Shaw, Hayes and a bunch of other prospects. I find it surprising that his name has not been brought up as much lately. Not sure what that means for him, but I have been doubting a spot on the roster for him lately. It seems that Smith has taken that opening for the time being.

    Also, dually noted, the Hawks have picked up the personnel to play a strong grinding game and fill in for lost players over the season.

  • I don't believe Morin played in the tournament, at least he didn't on Saturday, which was the only game I watched. I haven't read or heard anything indicating he isn't healthy yet, but that seemed a little odd.

  • Weird, he was listed on the roster before the tournament's start.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Yeah, I saw that too, so I'm not sure what the deal was. Did he have some slight symptoms and they said better safe then sorry? Did they decide to just pull him back a bit so they could get Toews some ice time? I dunno, something seems a little off there.

    To Pilote's point up above, I know I bitched a lot about games where the Hawks, in my opinion, refused to play a grind game when it was presented to them. I'm too lazy to go and really dig through stats and scores right now, but I think the Hawks lost a lot of close games they should have won and could have won (IMO) if they were willing to be patient. I thought some of that was on Q, but I also thought most of it was players either not wanting to dump chase and hit, or on players not wanting to relentlessly forecheck the shit out of a team like Nashville. When the Hawks did that, I think it worked incredibly well. But, it seemed like they just weren't in to doing it night after night.

    Even with the addition of these grinder guys, I still see this as another transition year. Most of these guys will probably not be back and SB, and the rest of us for that matter, have some pretty high hopes on the prospects. Skill wise, I don't think the Hawks got better this year, but I don't think last year was about a lack of skill. If the chemistry works between veteran grind guys and the core, I think they have a lot of upside. At the least, they now have the talent to be in games they seem disinterested in playing last year, games that they frequently lost.

  • Thanks Vegas for summing it up. Last year felt like who cares if we are down 2 or 3, we have the firepower to get it back. Balls. Too many nights we lost games that a consistent forecheck would have won.

    I wonder if Morin left something in the Hawks canoe ? Listed not played and as HH said not mentioned much...

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