The Chicago Blackhawks: Just a little bit about a lot of stuff that means little.

The Chicago Blackhawks: Just a little bit about a lot of stuff that means little.

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.

Comments

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  • Regarding Crawford, my one and only complaint is that SB did not finish what he started. I wasn't sold on the idea of trading him, but, I think that if you are SB and you are considering it, then you need to get it done rather then come back and profess how content you are with CC. I really have no idea how serious this stuff still is with Luongo and quite honestly, I don't think the upgrade is worth the cap hit. We've suffered through SB trying to ice a team while getting rid of contracts and developing players, and I just don't think spending that kind of cap hit on Luongo is more productive then spending it on a second line center. Lastly, I sure as shit don't want to send anything of value to that douchebag team.

    At this point, we pretty much know what to expect from each of the core players. What is going to be important this year is what Q does with them. I absolutely agree on the neutral zone stuff and they flat out must be better at helping out in their own zone. But, if Keith is again playing 30 minutes a night by December, I will fully be on board with firing Q mid season.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    You will never get an argument from me on any of that, especially that last part.

    Hearing the rumors about a Bolland trade in order to bring Luongo over here makes me ill in the stomach. It would be a terrible, terrible move, and I don't even care if it could possibly make the team better. If that were to take place, I would start questioning my appreciation for the Hawks as a team and organization. Just hearing the rumor makes it stink like garbage.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Until the Hawks truly solve the second line center deal, I don't think anything involving Bolland happens. Once they do solve it, however, I believe they will have someone in house who makes the idea of trading Bolland something to at least consider. Just to be clear, I'm not saying I would like it or that I recommend it, but just trying to look at it objectively.

    If it's true that most of the scouts who were around to build the cup team are still around, I have some optimism that in the pile of prospects that SB has built up are a couple of nice gems. Whether they will finally be deep down the middle remains to be seen, but I tend to believe at some point that there is going to be a kid coming up who is going to make a guy like Bolland a guy that you can live without if the return is right. Right now, I don't think that time is here so I don't worry as much about seeing him leave.

    I tend to think Stalberg is going to stay, but I would be looking all year for an uptick in Bickell's stock to sell.

  • Luongo makes this team way better. End of story. You guys are so worried about the cap hit you'd think it was your money. He's not going to stick for the duration—6 years would be his max and then it disappears. At 5.3 M that's not such a bad price for an elite goaltender. See; Quick, Jamie. See also; Kiprusoff, Mikka.

    Luongo has his share of meltdowns but he shoulders far too much of the blame for Canuck failures. If he's not mentally strong after living in the line of fire in Vancouver, I dunno. Crawford acts like a doofus too. I doubt they deal with the 'hawks anyway, but if there was a chance to get him, I'd be all over that. Compare to the rumor that they are now pursuing Hasek on a tryout. OOOOOOO the 47 year old dominator. LOL!

    The future of this organization is currently in jeopardy if you ask me. I can't believe you guys just la di da di da like the 'hawks actually have a chance this year. If you're fine with the mirage of 101 points so be it, but I'm not. With Q hiring one of his old video guys to be an assistant today—whose contract, by the way, was not renewed by the cup winners— I now see two distinct factions in this organization. There's the Bowmans and there's the Qbees. It ain't gonna work and the sooner SB gets the ok to axe this guy and his cronies the sooner this ship may get righted. You think tinkering with the lines is gonna change the make-up of this team? I don't.

    Bottom line— and there's still time— this management group has done diddly squat to address any of the issues which resulted in a first round exit. I can't wait to read the press after the convention this weekend.
    "injuries pulled us down last year", "Corey had a sophmore slump," "we've got some good players in the pipeline", "if we didn't have the slump", blah, blah blah ad nauseum … oh yeah, this beauty too, "we ran into a hot goaltender" …

    This organization is getting worse by the day, and it is time that somebody there sacked up and cleaned this mess up. We've got Q running his old boys network, SB doing nothing to improve the on-ice product, great personnel leaving for greener pastures or getting fired, and Wirtz or McDonaugh calling the shots. Not going to work gentlemen, not going to work at all.

    You want a rebuild, you're about to get one I think. What a waste of Toews and Kane and Seabrook, what a waste.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    Your off season work outs appear to have you back in mid season cranky form already FF. LOL. It was inevitable that Q was going to hire a known crony, I'm not going to lose my mind over that. Without firing the whole staff, one bench coach isn't going to make the difference either way. On the rest, meh, we all say the same stuff over and over.

    Just for discussion sake, what would you be willing to send back to the Nucks that you think would be enough to make this deal happen? Luongo IS a good goalie, we aren't going to get him for spare parts and my only other question is, would Luongo improve this team so much that we would be better then the Nucks, because that is who we'd have to face eventually. If you're not happy with how many prospects Stan is icing now, and if you agree there wasn't a whole hell of a lot worth paying up for in free agency this year, is it worth sending away somewhat established players to get Luongo if that's what it takes? By itself, his cap hit is not the worst thing in the world. Whether he is better then Crawford is not my most important question, he is better.

    In a world where everything sucks, I'll try to keep my optimism to myself. LOL

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    LOL, yeah, 95-100 F temps and two-a-days have a tendency to "noodle" your brain. However, looks like that Vegas heat is noodling your's too. Stay hydrated my friend.
    Either that, or the AC has given you brain freeze. (I'm kidding now.)

    Sure, Q was going to hire one if his staunch buddies and you're right, that one bench jockey isn't going to make that much difference. The question I have is why did it take so long? I get the sense that this organization is beginning to smell to potential players/coaches who could make an impact. Why is that?

    This from Adam Jahns article:
    "During the draft in June, Quenneville said there was “a long list” of “outstanding candidates” he was considering. But a league source indicated that some candidates were wary of joining the Hawks because of the uncertainty surrounding Quenneville’s future in Chicago."

    This is what I'm on about. Who is calling the shots and why isn't something done to set-up the hierarchy so there's a definitive reporting structure so that good hockey people want to come here? There's no certainty.

    I'm all for change and will underline that every chance I get so long as Q is at the helm here. I can't wait for him to be removed from this team. We all knew that Haviland was the wrong choice to get dismissed, probably because he was such a good communicator. Can't have that now, can we, in an organization that clearly has warring factions? Oh wait, we still have Q, the great mentor of new talent, the players' coach, beloved by all his players—so long as they see more than 2 minutes of ice time.

    All I see is, yes, the same ol' same ol'. The team will be fired up for 20 games because of the new season and then they'll tune Q out and we'll be back to scrambling to make the playoffs. There's too much complacency here. Too much. I really believe Stan would love to show Q the door but his hands are tied.

    On Luongo, there's no doubt you'll have to give up a roster player as part of any deal. Based on what I believe Vancouver's needs to be I'd be fine with either of Leddy or Bolland. Bolland will eventually be supplanted by Kruger on the third line, if not this year, then next, when his contract expires (I think). Leddy, really does need a new coach who knows how to teach, but I'd hate to see him get traded just now. One of those two guys and maybe a 2nd round pick and I do that deal. However, SB will want some salary going back the other way so Frolik or Olesz may have to be part of that deal.

    Lastly, the world is a good place, Vegas—so long as there are bees, fresh water, and clean air—so stay positive. We all (the three of us anyway) have jobs we enjoy, and we all serve the people. That's what life is about. This, well, it's only hockey. Remember, "attachment is the root of all suffering". Let it go …

    You need to take a trip up to Canada and experience the vast wilderness. Good soul food.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    I do need a trip to see Canadia wilderness, and you are right about the bees. Not a given these days unfortunately. Strangely, with this weather whacking everyone else, Vegas has been pretty reasonable. I mean, it's 100+ this time of year anyway and this past week has actually been really nice. But, I was just ball busting anyway. All in good fun.

    Your thoughts on Bolland are what I'm thinking. Kruger ultimately strikes me as the guy who will sorta play like Bolland. He isn't going to get into anyone's head the way Bolland does, but I think his skill set is going to develop in a way that makes him a good checking line guy and I love the way he rushes back to his crease after whistles to push guys away. That is desperately needed on this team. Cap wise, Bolland may be a bit pricey for what he does but right now, he is OUR pest which is great. Yeah, next year is the end of his contract and provided he stays, selling high in a "contract year" might make more sense then this year.

    I also agree on Leddy and that it takes one of those two and a pick. I just hate the thought of giving anything valuable to those douchebags. In context, I thought Leddy did well last year. He got muscled off pucks a lot and the shell shock had him make a bad decision here and there. Still, after a really shaky start, I thought he did start to pull it together down the road. He is still small and likely did not add a massive amount of size this year. Still, with a good coach who knows how to teach a more mobile player, I think he will develop very well.

    I saw the Jhans thing and it concerned me as well he waited so long. It does tend to make the explanation that other coaches were afraid to come look plausible. Ultimately, that may not be a bad thing in that some guys may be holding out to be a part of the organ-I-zation when Q gets sacked. The only thing that is going to save Q's job is a strong season. He may have won a border skirmish this summer but I don't think he's going to win the war if the Hawks are not performing well from the get go. Culture is tough to change and all I hope for is that behind the scenes Rocky is figuring out for himself that winning, more then anything, is what gets asses in the seats. Ultimately, I tend to believe that the Bowman faction is waiting to have their players together before making a change at coach. Hopefully, that will not lead to another dead year here.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    I am not saying Luongo isn't good, in fact, I agree that he has elite talent. What I do not want to see is the Hawks give up a guy who to me, embodies the character traits that the Hawks need more, and someone who has battled through the good and bad. It is not an option to give up Bolland for Luongo, and to do so would possibly destroy whatever was left of team character.

    No question, Luongo would be an upgrade.

    And, you will never get an argument from me about coaching needing big changes. I truly believe that we will not see meaningful change until Q is gone, and better team system is built. But, I am also a fan of what Stan has built in the system. I think Stan played it safe last year,and has hit a tough market this year. He has added some great prospects both years, which might be his saving grace. We will just have to wait and see.

    What do you think about this Saad as the #2 center stuff? I wouldn't say he is what the doctor ordered in that position, but he is a step forward from last year.

    If Stan can pul out a new goaltender and one of the prospects gives a decent performance in the #2 center spot, I think the Hawks are looking pretty good next season.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    As for Saad at #2, I honestly don't know. Hawks are listing him as 6'1 202 which is okay considering the kid is 19. But is now the best time to move him up into that spot? What I had hoped would happen and may still happen, is that the Hawks make a trade for a #2 C who has experience. Something about the troika of Oduya, Leddy and Hammer doesn't make sense to me. And I would probably look in that group to take one of them and package something else for a legit #2 who doesn't have a freaking ten year contract.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    Yeah, I just don't see that happening though. I do however, like Saad's eagerness to please. The organization has to be careful not to put too much on his plate too early though. Even if he was tearing up camp, which he did, and at center for most of it.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    Exactly, but these #2 guys don't just hang around every street corner. So, yes, it would have to be a hockey trade and likely one of those D men would be the one to go, if they don't go in a trade for a goaltender, first.

    I, like many others, believe the 'hawks have a window of opportunity with Toews, Kane, Seabrook and other moving into the primes of their careers. This is not the time for a major rebuild. Too many rookies, and with Q in command of them, this team regresses again.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    HH, I think Bolland is a trade option because of Kruger. Not likely to happen though, as Q has him in his "smart student books".

    I agree with you about the tough FA market this year and I was one who thought he did just fine last year with his signings. Where I take issue is that you can't sit idly by while you know your team needs to be better. So his hands are tied and he can't remove the coach. In fact, he gives him more autonomy to ruin the team.

    There needs to be a culture change. That's just my opinion. Too much complacency, too many Q mind games, and too many players who are more confused as hockey players now, than they were before they arrived in Chicago. The culture may not change with Q here but a wake-up call would serve some notice, in my books, and hey, it might also improve the make-up of the team.

    As for Saad at #2. I don't know anything about the guy, really, and placing him there would be a big mistake because he does not have the experience over Kruger, or Sharp or Kane or Bolland. I think back to how Boston handled Tyler Sequin. He spent the entire regular season in his first year as a fourth line centre. The Bruins eased him in. Saad could come in and play that #4 role until the organization knows he can do it at this level. He'd have to be something ultra-special, or the 'hawks would have to be ultra-desperate, to give him the #2 job outright, I think.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    How do you feel about the theory of more ice time at lower level like the AHL versus less time as a fourth line guy in the NHL? I see merit in both. In general, I'm not a big fan of playing a guy in a spot you don't project him just so he can learn the ropes. In Saad's case though, I would also look at the fact that having him around gives him a chance to challenge for more ice time and also has him more familiar in the event of injuries. My vote would be either the A or fourth line before putting him a rough spot at #2.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    I like the more ice time theory. Let the kid play with men before he makes the leap to the NHL. Like I said, the only time I've seen him play was because of injuries, so I really have no idea what abilities he has. It's not that I have anything against rookies in the lineup, I just feel that to have a shot at another cup these positions should be filled by an experienced player. #2 center is definitely a large role to assume for 19 year old.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    I am for more time in the AHL. For one big reason: physical growth.

    The NHL has too intense of a schedule for younger players. The constant physical exertion makes it hard for them to grow muscle mass. This is one reason I fear Leddy ever getting to the place he needs to be. The physical pressures in the NHL are just too much for the younger players who's bodies are still maturing, and this makes injury even more possible. Some injuries never quite heal the way they should.

    Saad is in the middle this year. I agree, 4th line or AHL would probably be best, unless he is dominating.

  • Well guys, I just spent 45 minutes in response and I get the dreaded "you're posting responses too quickly" window. I need to get the dogs out for a run before the heat is too much for them, but I'll be back once I can re-gather my train of thought. Lots to say now …

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    That's weird, I've never seen that message before. It might do this site some good to handcuff me once in awhile. I try to save before I post, nothing is worse then spending the time to type and see the site choke.

  • Ha, Jesse Rogers reads here. See his article about Q and Kompon this afternoon. The struggle is worse than I thought because it is true that Bergevin was a Q supporter. Darn, I wish the 'hawks would have let Q walk with him.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/blackhawks/post/_/id/4671332/a-lot-riding-on-kompon-hiring-for-q

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