Looking towards the future, Part 2: Keeping goals out of the net.

Looking towards the future, Part 2: Keeping goals out of the net.

Carrying on from where my thought pattern left off in the last post, I am trying, as many of you most likely are, to assimilate this year's squad and pinpoint certain actions that I would like to see in the future. When doing this, I am no longer interested in what the Cup winning team resembled, or even the year after anymore. I am focused on the holes that I saw this year and then filling them as efficiently as possible. As I left off in Part 1, a large focus of that intent can be directed at the defense and consequently, the goaltending.

There is just no way around it, the goaltending was below average. With just an average performance I think we see a different path played out. So, it is not always completely fair to bash on Patrick Kane, or the lack of size up front (however important) when trying to justify the shorter season than anticipated. Nor is it fair to only point the finger at Crawford. My personal opinion is that something has to happen within the defensive core to have lasting results, but nor does it relieve Crow from the firing range so to speak.

My take on the goaltending:

It runs hot and cold. This is a simple truth of the NHL throughout the 30 years of my personal experience watching. You can just about bet on having a different goaltender at the top of their game every season, and we often see drops in performance, followed by stellar years. There is a new trend in the NHL however. Goalies are getting larger and faster by the second, and it has the expectations shifting a tad. The plethora of 60 goal scorers is no longer, as we have new expectations of our forwards as opposed to just 10 years ago.

With that said, Crawford does not have a lengthy NHL career to look back on. In fact, my only experience watching his career tells me that he was not ready for this league time after time, and no matter how much the Hawks tried to fight it, he was beat out by other names for the job. But, he worked hard and eventually broke through that barrier, putting together one really strong season. His inconsistent performance this year has essentially wiped his strong season away, and Crawford is now standing on a clean slate. A new NHL goaltender with a lot of questions to address. I have no expectations of him, but also feel that the administration should be looking for alternatives.

Crawford is not the quickest or biggest goaltender in the league. He does not have excellent puck control, nor a strong glove. He is adequate in all of these areas. His strength has come from his anticipation of the shot, positioning against scoring chances, poise in net, and ability to hold rebounds within reason. These were all concerns during the regular season. Furthermore, his temper seemed to get the best of him on too many occasions. While I respect passion and energy towards the game, a goaltender must remain calm, especially when they lack overwhelming skill. He showed us exactly how good he can be during the Yotes series, but he also failed to make textbook saves at the time it was needed. This, more than any other factor has me questioning his place as the Hawks starter next season.

It was without question that I thought Emery had won the starting role this year. I can appreciate going to Crawford and it almost paid off, but if we were deciding on performance alone, Emery was the rightful winner, even if his performance was not at the level we would have hoped for as well. It was a nagging concern of mine that Crawford somehow found himself in the starting role late in the season. Just another reason for me to doubt this coaching staff, but I don't think it would have mattered in the end.

Stan Bowman is definitely keeping his options open in this department.

A strong attack begins with a stable defense:

I have said it a million times over, the Hawks strength is their neutral zone play, and this starts with the defensive system of movement. Many have pointed to the loss of Campbell for destroying their power here, but it wasn't exactly amazing the year before when he was still here, and lets start looking ahead rather than behind. IMO, the Hawks must assert their position on what role Leddy will play for the team. He was god awful  in the Yotes series and not much better throughout the regular season. I was once a believer, but have serious doubts now. I felt that it was downright negligent to have him on the ice at times. Lepisto is a batter option moving forward, but I think the administration has larger ideas.

There will be a few names that the Hawks should be interested in, and some of them might be at a high cost. Maybe not this coming year, but by next one, the administration might be thinking heavily about breaking up the so called "core." Where Hjalmer and Oduya fit next year is a big question. Oduya showed promise, and I am personally not ready to give up on Hjalmer. Seabrook was the best player on the ice for the Hawks as the season came to a close, both offensively and defensively. Keith was inconsistent, but showing a progression back to old form makes him a key player for next year.

My guess, is that Olsen finds himself in the 6th spot. I personally believe that Lepisto is worth a more consistent look, and also see a few other prospects as hopefuls. I think Leddy needs some time away from the NHL. He was most likely plucked too early and needs to gain some weight. This is harder with the NHL schedule. Then, we will see. I saw too much promise in Oduya to say goodbye, but he did not earn a raise. We will see what kind of deal can be worked out. If the right name comes along and for the right price, Oduya is most likely gone. Between Oduya and Hjalmer, it would all come down to the specifics of the move and what we would be getting.

A change in forward momentum:

No matter what happens, coach Q needs to start relying less on his star pupils. A more balanced approach is necessary, and this stems from the line composition on down to the positioning on the ice. Roles must be defined before the season takes off, and it all needs to form around staying deeper in their own zone and building more unified breakouts. After dealing with the defensive concerns, this area will cause the most improvement.

The names of the players within the forward make-up does not warrant extreme change. I am up for the debate about whether or not Kane is a 2nd line center, but am more against it than for. We won a Cup with Sharp at center if it came down to it, but I think an actual center is the better path. Finding one, or moving Brandon Pirri up is the best scenario. Kane should be the second line winger. This is an area I disagree with SB on.

Who stays and who goes? More on that in the final chapter, Part 3.

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  • Woo, a new chalkboard! The only thing I feel is worth saying about Campbell is that he is a puck mover. When he left and Montador came, the defense became an unbalanced load of clothes in the washer. It shook, rattled and eventually stopped working altogether. When Oduya came late in the season, he helped bring back something that was familiar to the D core. I agree it's time to move on from old players. Right now, my take is they need to decide what their D scheme will be. To me, Leddy's problem is not his approach to the game or the way he sees the game. Instead, it's that he is one year removed from being a teenager and he is getting mauled by veteran players who outsize him considerably. I gotta say one thing about Lepisto. I don't think he's a bad player at all, but I think there's a reason why no other GM in the league jumped at the chance to make him a second pair guy.

    A lot of Crow's season, to me, has to do with how shitty the D was early season. Considering how bad they were in front of him, I'm kind of surprised he finished with any confidence or strength. Do they throw him away without attempting to first fix the D in front of him? I don't think it's a good idea. It's already been fantasized that the Hawks will somehow land Suter. I think that could do a lot for this team. If a big signing like that doesn't happen, I really don't think it makes much difference who they put on second line because it's not going to be strong.

    I tend to agree their best play was in the neutral zone. But, as I watched the Preds frustrate the living shit out of the Yotes tonight, it was another reminder of what working hard in all three zones does for you and the Haws are not and have not been a hard working three zone team. But, they aren't built to be one and I think that's part of what needs to change. Right now, I think they are probably going to bring most of the same players, likely the same coach, and perhaps they make one big signing. I don't see how that makes things better. Looking at what they did when a guy like Sharp or Toews was out only makes me believe even more it's time to trade a core forward and see what you can bring back to shore up your D or add some size and ability to grind when needed.

  • I am not a Crawford hater but those two goals he let in during overtime are inexcusable, how can you trust him going forward in crunch time? In my opinion he is a solid backup and he is not a kid anymore. I would propose a trade along these lines: Crawford Frolik and Morin to LA for Bernier and Matt Greene. Bernier has a lot of potential but is stuck behind Quick and is only 23. Greene is a physical/ shot-blocking D-man which the Hawks sorely need. If Stan can't pull off a trade for a second line centerman, try moving Bolland up to that spot, he has chemistry with Hossa (with Sharp on the other side) and put Kruger on the third line with Bickell and Shaw. Kane needs to be on the wing with Toews and Stalberg. Carcillo to the fourth line with Mayers/Hayes. Then leave the lines alone! Rebuttals and comments?

  • That's not a bad trade idea. Frolik probably fits the LA system much better, IE he is good defensively and doesn't score a lot. If I'm LA, I don't think that's enough value in return. You are basically telling them you think your goalie is on his way down and that you want a goalie on his way up in return. Plus, you want a large body, shot blocking D. If you could pull this trade, it's got merit. I just don't think LA would go for it.

    Moving Bolland up to second line center, to me, is sort of like putting Sharp there. It's a job he can probably do, but it's also probably not the best use of his talents. Bolland is very good at getting people's heads, counterpunching top talent with breakaways and depending on who is on his wing, he is very good at shutdown. At the start of this past season, I made a suggestion to try Hossa on the third line rather then the second which I thought made more sense then moving Bolland UP to Hossa's line. Sooner or later, if Hossa keeps playing, he will be a third line shut down guy.

    All that said, if you do move Bolland up, I totally agree with Kruger as third line C. He may not yet (or ever) have the size, but he has the grit and attitude to be in that spot.

  • Hi guys,
    While I recognize the thread is about defense, I think there's more important things to discuss.

    Last night, on HNIC, Marc Bergevin was interviewed at length between periods. The questions posed were cogent and his answers I thought—given he was on his first day of the job—were incisive.

    He was asked whether he thought there was a move away from speed and skill—as evidenced by the early exits of SJ, Vancouver, Chicago and Detroit—to a more defensive-oriented physical game. He said he thought that it was all about goaltending and team defense with emphasis on good goaltending and that a skiled team would win with good goaltending.

    Then he was asked about what kind of team he thought he would craft in Montreal—finesse and skill or physical. He said you needed to have both on the roster in order to win and something to the effect of players knowing their roles.

    His last comment for me was the key. He said if you had all the right ingredients for a successful team it would not succeed if it had no character. I got the distinct impression (partially because it's what I believe) he was referencing the 'hawks loss in the first round again.

    OK, now for a brief (busy guy) comment on the 'hawks. Crawford will not win in this league. As SDStan point out he is no spring chicken and has had ample opportunity to assume the job. His form was off more than it was on this year, and he is just not agile enough to be a successful drop'n stop goaltender IMO. How many goalie wins were there this year. Hawks should be shopping.

    The defense. Here's to Bryan Campbell being nominated for the Lady Bing trophy. Of note, as well, he played more minutes than any other player in the league this year. Not saying much, I know, but where were those minutes in Chicago? Q couldn't trust him, I suppose, as is the case with so many other players on this roster … anyone remember his "walking on eggshells" comment. Anyway, not the answer as far as physical play goes but his loss accentuated Hammers problems all year and elevated Leddy to a role he was not ready to assume.

    Anyway, I could go on but I think this organization is heading down that slippery slope. The loss of Bergevin, Dudley, Chevaldayeff (sp), and of course Tallon, has left this team with a dirth of ability to judge talent. It now falls on a man who has his position by birthright so-to-speak, and his father. Oh yes, there may be Barry Smith too. I'm not likng the direction this team is going and so shrewd hires will need to be made to replace these management losses. Promoting from within? I dunno. This organization is weaker now than it was with Tallon at the helm.

    HH, I'm hoping for a Part 3 where we look at what really ails this team. Coaching, management and probably hierarchical structure along with the complacency that has set in because of the cup win. Tinkering this summer isn't going to get it done. There needs to be some statement-type changes made or we're in for more of the same.

    I love the LA trade proposal Stan, they might wanna go after Stoll as a UFA too.

    HH,Kane as a center—no matter what the stats say—is not right and a cop-out by SB. They need to address that with size and skill.

    Vegas, 'hawks forecheck is non-existent. Not part of the coaching strategy as near as I can tell. If it is then the players obviously don't know how, or won't do it.

    Anyone watching the Caps 3rd and fourth lines dominate the Rangers with a strong forecheck?

  • Painful year to watch as most of us knew we weren't going past the first round. When the team plays best when Toews is out something is off. The rest of the year was wildly inconsistent.

    Keep Crawford as I have seen too many sophomore jinx goalies
    rebound. Get Salak some games, regardless.

    Acquire one large physical defenseman . If Seabrook wasn't on the ice the opposition were putting up lawn chairs in front of our net.

    Acquire PK,face-off guy a la Pahlsson or John Madden and start using players other than the top four to kill penalties. Keep Mayers.

    Acquire defensive forward whose forecheck is his calling card, speed required.

    Be prepared to cough up Keith or Sharp to get what you want and balance payroll.

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