With things a little slow in Blackhawks land right now, I thought I'd take some time and answer a few email / facebook questions. I'll try to do a few of these before the season begins, and one every month during the season. If you'd like to submit a question for the next edition, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
John S. - How many games do you think Coach Quenneville will give Corey (Crawford) in net? I was thinking maybe 55-60.
Jay Z. - Last year, Crawford started 57 games. I would look for that number to go up to the 60-65 range. Keep in mind that the Hawks' backup goalie is Alexander Salak (acquired in the Jack Skille trade from Florida). He has zero NHL experience. If he proves to be a solid backup, I think 55 would be ideal, but look for Crawford to get the majority of the work load, especially early.
Jake K. - I love what the Hawks are doing thus far. Getting solid role players on short contracts and bargain prices, but who is gonna be the 2nd line center? I feel like the hawks are just one piece short yet. Also, anyway to unload Hossas contract? Great player, but horrible contract.
Jay Z. - Let me answer your last question first. Hossa is going nowhere. His contract is extremely fair and manageable. The length of the deal (12 years) makes his cap hit relatively low ($5.275 million) for a player of his caliber. As for the 2nd line center, it certainly looks like Patrick Sharp will be the man, at least for the time being. Stan Bowman said this week that he's done tinkering with the roster for now. Look for Andrew Brunette to flank Toews and Kane on the top line, with a 2nd line featuring Sharp at center, and Hossa on the wing. The Hawks have many options for the other winger, including Ben Smith, Michael Frolik, and Bryan Bickell. Also keep in mind that Dan Carcillo has played a top 6 role at times in his career. You could see him on the top line with Toews and Kane, while Brunette slips to the second line with Sharp and Hossa. Bowman is wisely leaving himself cap space. If something is missing, he can fill it with a star quality player at the trade deadline.
Brian M. - With all the changes on defense and the Hawks trying to build a tougher team have they become a better team on paper from last year? Are they gambling a little too much that the new veterans/ tough guys will allow the skilled players more flexibility on the ice this year?
Jay Z. - I do truly believe the Hawks are better this season. Yes, you lost Brian Campbell, and now Chris Campoli. That will certainly hurt you in defensive scoring, but Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy should provide plenty of offense. Steve Montador is a very good defenseman. He blocks shots, plays physically, can move the puck and loves to shoot. Sean O'Donnell and Sami Lepisto really help the defensive depth. Remember, last season, the Hawks 6th/7th d-man was John Scott. Now he's 8th. Scott will now be a reserve forward / emergency defenseman. As for the offense, Brunette is a legit top 6 forward, and he brings an element that the Hawks have lacked since Dustin Byfuglien dominated the 2010 playoffs...net presence. Brunette will go to the tough areas and shovel the garbage into the net. He's done it his whole career. Yes, he's old, but he's missed 3 games in his last 9 seasons. That is not a typo. Jamal Mayers brings veteran leadership, speed, and "sandpaper" to a lineup that was really missing it. I already mentioned Carcillo's on ice impact, but off the ice, he's going to bring a little energy to a locker room that was truly lacking a loose voice last season.
Tip - What is the main focus of the prospect camps? Do the Hawks primarily use it as a way to fill out their farm system or is it a better way to pick out your trade bait? Does it depend on how deep the team is and salary cap restraints? I assume that there are many, many different ways it is used but I was just wondering if you could give me a little more insight. Thanks man!
Jay Z. - You pretty much nailed it. It all depends on the team's situation. Last season, the Hawks needed to fill roster spots with cheap prospects. This season, they're looking for one or two prospects to fight for a spot, but don't necessarily need them. To be totally honest, I think Stan Bowman and his staff have identified those players. They are Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri. These are the favorites for NHL spots this season.
Jim C. - Jim jokingly asks, "Why are there no competent or credible hockey media types in Chicago?"
Jay Z. - I felt compelled to answer this question anyway, because it's something I hear a lot, and it's not true. Fans have to keep in mind the difference between a blogger like me, and a beat reporter like Chris Kuc, Tim Sassone, Jesse Rogers, Adam Jahns, or Tracey Myers. We all hear things...be it a trade rumor or an off the ice story. The difference is simple. Bloggers have the freedom to speculate wildly about what might happen or might have happened, while the beat reporters have to maintain some semblance of journalistic integrity. They can't be wrong. They can't guess. It would cost them their jobs. They also have to maintain relationships with the players, coaches, and team management they see every day of their lives. If Johnny Hockey Player says, "I was sick, not hungover," the reporters have to print that. They may not believe it, but it is not their job to speculate. If FACTS come their way that they can prove, they will print it and follow up the story accordingly. I don't have to do that. On this particular blog, I take pride in my journalistic integrity. My opinions are based on facts I've gathered or observed. I don't know if every blog can say that. Just keep these things in mind the next time you feel like blasting a beat reporter for being 10 minutes later on a story than a blogger.
Scott - Hey Jay, I was wondering if you think a guy like Kyle Beach could finally come up this season and make any sort of impact.
Jay Z. - I really doubt it. I really hope I'm wrong, but the more time that goes by, the more Beach looks like a bust. What's frustrating is the fact that he's supposed to be the exact type of player the Blackhawks need...a big, nasty, strong winger who can score and play with an edge. Unfortunately, he's such a head case, he wasn't even called up for the postseason roster expansion. Hopefully, he uses that as motivation, and not another reason to pout.
Thanks for all of your questions. I hope you enjoyed the first edition of my Blackhawks Mail Bag. Again, if you want to submit a question for next time, email it to email@example.com
Filed under: ben smith, Blackhawks, blackhawks trade, brent seabrook, brian campbell, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sports, chris campoli, Corey Crawford, danny mac show, duncan keith, dustin byfuglien, florida panthers, hockey, Jack Skille, jay zawaski, jeremy morin, joel quenneville, john scott, jonathan toews, kyle beach, Marcus Kruger, marian hossa, michael frolik, NHL, nick leddy, Patrick Kane, patrick sharp, sami lepisto, sports, stan bowman, wscr