Really quick, before I get to the subject of the title for this post; Toews and Bolland are not playing Thursday night against the Wild. Bruno is probably out as well, and I do not want Hawks fans overlooking his recent contributions to the top line. I might be 1 of only a few who are happy to see Toews sit another game, but the Bolland thing does bring up some fears within my brain. The Hawks are without their top 2 centers 2 games before the playoffs and that creates a fair amount of anxiety.
However, the Wild were jerks the other day, I don't want to see further injury to key players at this point in the season, and I really don't want the Hawks to play the Preds in round 1. So, losing is alright in my book.
Thats not what I am here to talk about at the moment though. I want to suggest a few items that have been on my mind as of late, and that is how I might be starting to see Stan Bowman as a freaking genius. The pieces seem to be coming together, no thanks to the coaching staff, but still coming together in a very specific way. I mean, winning without Toews is a big deal, and it is how that has me anticipating a brilliant future for the Hawks organization.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Stalberg is coming into his own, which I knew was only a matter of time. I just don't think that there is a single player in the NHL who can match his speed. Yes, I am saying that he just might be the fastest thing on ice, well, ever. I expect unbelievable things from him next year as it seems his comfort and confidence are on the rise. The Hawks are also in a pretty good situation in terms of contract with him for next year. Lets see what he does in the post-season. We might get a bargain for the next few years.
What does that mean for next year's forward line-up?
- Lets start with Kruger, who has grown in his abilities in many ways, enabling him to handle the 2nd line center role rather well. This is very promising, but I see him more as depth in the future and more of a back-up plan to other options. More on that in a sec.
- One can not overlook Shaw's ability to cause problems and score goals, and while I wonder about injuries given his style and smallish frame, he somehow seems immune. It will be difficult for him to bulk up given the extended season and lack of off time, but I see him as a sign for good things.
- And then there are the prospects. Brandon Pirri looks very promising in the center position. He plays that position the way it was meant to, has shown very well in his few bouts in the NHL and has much room for growth. Phillip Danault was just recently assigned to Rockford, and the verdict is still out, but he has made a good impression. Mark Mcneill will most likely get some looks next year, and he is also promising. Jimmy Hayes is without question a future presence in the administration. And then there is Saad whom we already know has much to offer. The list goes on as well. Olesz and Morin are still in the system, along with a few other names that have shown well in the past.
- With the huge pick-up in the form of Johnny Oduya, the defensive end has started to look like a future strength, rather than achilles heel.
It is with the addition of Oduya that I really began to get giddy about the future of this team. This guy is good, and I soon realized that the Hawks were a cuncussion away from having Montador and Hjalmer making up their 5th and 6th spots on the D. The importance of that can not be overlooked, as it was SB who moved the pieces to make that happen. Unfortunately, it is not the case, but Hjalmer is still our 5th D-man and Olsen has shown a great deal of strength (however, I question his ability to handle the playoff minutes).
The Hawks are very close to having a dream team, and with the depth to back it up. Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, and believe me when I say that Stalberg will post big numbers next year. Plug in a prospect here and there, or Brunette, Kruger, Shaw, and Hayes. Brunette is a tested 20 goal scorer, Shaw would have posted 30 this year with a full season, and Hayes seems primed for something in that area as well. The options are becoming bountiful and really promising.
The topper is that this team is starting to figure out their game-plan. Call it the emergence of a system in the past month or so. The Hawks have realized that they can demand control of the neutral zone, and that when they have it other teams fall out of their system. For the first time since the Cup year, the Hawks have the power to control other team's play.
I honestly think that the Hawks represent a serious threat to go very deep this year, and they aren't even at their full potential yet. We have seen a team that can dominate with a roster full of talent. You might have noticed my ignorance of the goaltending situation, as I find it the only missing piece at the moment. Crow might find his groove again, but I have my doubts.
Pieces will be moved next year. Hayes seems like the likely candidate for Bickell's spot, and Fro is way too expensive for the 4th line. Hjalmer's salary is a bit high for his current place, but I also expect him to be better next year. With or without him, I anticipate a very strong Hawks line-up in a year's time, and Stan Bowman is the man behind that happening.