My life has been busy lately. I feel like I am being pulled in a hundred different directions at the same time, but nothing is really that significant. Just a lot of busy work making life seem crazier than it really is. My guess is that Stan Bowman feels much of the same way. The man has been everywhere lately, but nothing significant has really happened, or from our perspective, changed in significant ways.
This post will try to touch on some of the many things making news, when not much great news is available with regards to the Blackhawks. Let's talk prospects old and new, goaltenders, Free Agents and trades, positions, and system of play for a bit.
Goaltenders and Contradictions:
Joel Quenneville has this to say, "I'm very comfortable and confident with Corey, We're expecting Corey to bounce back and recapture that consistency in his game and be a top goalie. We believe he can do that."
I'm not so sure this pairs very well with the actions coming from the administration. Not only does this contradict what actions would suggest, but it also is not something I would feel comfortable saying either. The Hawks are trying as hard as anyone in the league to find a new goaltender to start the 2012-13 season, and justifiably so.
While Crawford showed us some good stuff in 2010-11, I personally feel it was the best he could ever offer, given the positioned, odds-playing style he had. Crow does not react, he anticipates well. Last year, he did none of the above very well. He left his crease, over-committed, produced rebounds and was just overall bad. With the long path that Crow fought through to get here, there is a long line of examples when he wasn't good enough for the starting position. How does one strong year convince anyone otherwise? I want to believe in him, but it goes against my better judgment.
I believe he needs a huge adjustment in style, and a lot of confidence to be successful this year. I doubt either can happen. Because, the Hawks are very actively shopping for his replacement. They are not committing to him like Q might suggest, and that will not produce the results we all want to see, even if Crow could do it.
After trying for Brodeur, and missing, the Hawks are still involved in talks with Luongo whom has talked about this fairly actively in the media. Luongo jokes about it, remarking on the irony of such a thought, but the possibility grows with every day he is not grabbed by another team. Luo seems open to the idea and is putting aside his feelings for the team, but should we do the same?
IMO, Luongo has fantastic skills, something that Crawford does not, but I heavily question Luo's mindset, and ability to stay focused in tough situations. It could very well be that coming here, would be facing his demons and produce the results he has been looking for. I can't help but feel off about it all. It would just be too wierd. But, I also felt that way about the Hossa signing.
Most importantly, he could be very costly, and I am against signing a big contract, especially with Luongo.
Free Agents, Trades and More Money:
Staying with the common theme on this blog, I do not want to see the Hawks commit to too large of a contract. Most of the current FA's worth pursuing would involve such contracts. Among the most talked about since the Parise/Suter deals is that of Shane Doan.
Even Toews has gotten into the mix of selling Chicago to players around the league. He has personally stated his interest in bringing Doan over, and for that reason alone I kind of back it. Doan has also mentioned Chicago as a likely candidate, along with Vancouver and the idea of staying put. Can this deal make the Hawks better? Absolutely. Doan is exactly the kind of player the Hawks need. It is just that we already have our "core," so bringing him here would most likely mean getting rid of another big paycheck.
In the end, I personally support this move as long as the deal is right. I also see this leading to the loss of another "core" player and causing salary cap issues in 2 years.
Of players being tossed around as trade bait are Hjalmer, Montador, Stalberg, and Bolland. Hjalmer is the most likely to go as everyone pretty much knows by now. I cannot comment enough on how big of a mistake losing Bolland would be, or how dumb it would be to let Stalberg go right now. Bolland is maybe the most underrated player on the team. I would love to see them put him in more of a scoring roll and see what he did with it, just to prove to those who miss the elements he brings day in and day out to the team. Bolland can score goals, he just isn't put out there to do that.
Many could argue that SB is too quiet in his dealings, but one could also celebrate his "build from within" mentality.
Just adding a big contract doesn't make much sense right now, unless it is a goaltender. As much as I would have been excited about Parise, it was also a dream and not reality.
Prospects, Old and New:
The talent pool fighting for a position this year is very high, and I feel it is often overlooked in the wake of big FA signings. Beyond even this, there are a number of potential centers in the mix.
Among the centers fighting it out in camp are McNeill, Danault, Kevin hayes, Pirri, and now Teuvo Teravainen whom expressed his comfort in that position. McNeill and Danault have been playing great lately, improving much on last year's performance. Hayes has shown a new vigor after watching his brother make the grade, and I thought Pirri looked ready last year.
Either way, with the #2 center position having such focus this off-season, SB might be content to watch his prospects battle it out.
One of the new prospects making quite the splash has been Teravainen, who seems poised and skilled well beyond his 17 years on this planet. In fact, he has been showing so well that the idea of him playing in the NHL by 2014 seems almost probable. What you see when watching him play, is another Patrick Kane with the possibility of more size and grit.
Not many would argue with the idea of seeing Jimmy Hayes play the large majority of regular season games next year. His size is much needed, and his scoring sense looked pretty strong during his brief stints in the NHL last season.
Also showing much improvement and drive to join Hayes as a common face is Brandon Saad, who seems in control of his destiny these days. With much more experience and the skill to back it, Saad is also looking like a likely candidate to play regularly. He has been the most exciting player to watch in camp.
We already know that Shaw will be a staple, as long as he can keep up his amazing play. We also know that Carcillo will be back. Adam Clendening on defense looks to be following in Dylan Olsen's footsteps and we will most likely be seeing a bit of him this year.
When you look at the talent playing within the Hawks organization, it starts to seem like a fair response to avoid a large contract and build from within right now. Again, besides a goaltender change, bringing in a big name might be a bad idea for the future of this organization, unless it was by trading another big name for it.
System of Play, Puck-possession:
I have often argued that the Hawks win games in the neutral zone. Many have remarked about their system being a puck-possession system which kind of feels like a duh moment. Most teams, with the exception of maybe Phoenix want the puck more than there opponent. I feel that the trick is in how a team moves through the neutral zone, which leads to shots on net, and the Hawks have great promise here.
I recently stumbled upon an article that brings statistics to back up my assertions, and you can read it here NHL Number.com. The data proves that success is rooted in the transition game. The reason I feel the Hawks have struggled is because of their issues here. It seems like a cohesive breakout, and transition has been destroyed by bad coaching, bad positioning, and inconsistent approaches.
In the end, I believe that the Hawks have the talent to compete at the top, with the exception of goaltending and maybe a bit of grit. We either believe in the core of talent we have, or we start trading names. I believe in it. I do not believe in the coaching though (obviously). But, if the current coaching staff took a long look at how badly the Hawks transition out of their own zone is sometimes, and find a better route, I think the Hawks win their division and maybe the conference, even with Crawford in net.
Many have pointed to defense alone as being the cause for so many goals against. No one argues about their goals for, because the Hawks have the right pieces to enter the offensive zone with control. This is where Kaner can and has really earned his keep. There are issues once they enter, but I digress. The reasons for so many goals against is defensive positioning by the team, and a weak breakout that relies way too heavily on a stretch pass.
Fix this area, and the Hawks will be much more successful, with or without a big contract signed this off-season.