Once again, it's time to reach into my old dusty sack for some reader questions. As we approach the beginning of the preseason, then eventually the regular season, I'll try to answer questions once or twice a month.
Let's get right to it!
The Beverly Brewmaster - Are there any quality centers who will be free agents next season that may be on Bowman's radar when the trade deadline approaches?
Jay Z - Yes, there is a good list of unrestricted free agents next offseason, but truthfully, the center position is pretty thin. One name stands out to me...Jason Arnott. Arnott signed a one year deal with the St. Louis Blues this offseason. He makes just under $3,000,000 and has a no trade clause, but if the Blues fall out of contention, he might be looking for one last run at a Stanley Cup. To me, he's a perfect fit for a 2nd / 3rd line center on a Cup contender. Another name that won't go away is Shane Doan from Phoenix. While he's not a center, he's a dynamic winger, and would make the Hawks' depth very tough to match. The opponent can't stop 3 scoring lines. Adding a player like Doan would give the Hawks three terrific scoring lines.
Tim B. - Jay, to your knowledge, is it true the Hawks "retired" their third jersey?
Jay Z. - I have heard this here and there, but I don't think it's been confirmed anywhere. While I am a fan of the 3rd, Winter Classic style sweater, I'm wouldn't be horribly upset to see it go. The Blackhawks classic sweaters are perfect, especially (in my opinion) the white sweater. The Red Wings don't have thirds because they don't need them. Neither do the Hawks.
Vince A. - Before camp really hits, how would you see the top 3 lines shaking out?
Jay Z. - I'd be shocked it the top line isn't Brunette-Toews-and Kane. Brunette, who has been far to quiet of a signing, will make a huge impact as the "go and get it" guy on this line. Far too often, Jonathan Toews had to be the guy digging the puck out of the corners and taking abuse. Brunette has made a career of it.
For the 2nd line, I'm going to go with Frolik-Sharp-Hossa. Frolik signed a new deal this offseason, and he needs to earn it. He played very well in the playoffs, but his numbers MUST go up. Putting him with proven NHL scorers will take some of that pressure off of Frolik, and give him some better scoring chances.
The 3rd line is really a crap shoot. Do Ben Smith or Jeremy Morin make the team? If they do, they have to play here right? What about Viktor Stalberg? What about Bryan Bickell? What about Rotislav Olesz? Is he even in the Hawks' plans? The 3rd line is really the mystery. If I'm the coach, give me Bickell, Bolland, and Smith.
Charles N. - Are the Hawks happy with the progress of their system? They haven't had their last 3 first rd. picks crack the lineup yet.
Jay Z. - I think the fact that the picks aren't cracking the roster is more of a reflection of NHL talent vs draft busti-ness. We can't forget that Toews, Kane, Bickell, Bolland, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook, Keith, Bolland, Kruger, Smith and Crawford are ALL Hawks draft picks. Kyle Beach was a gamble when he was picked...and I'm sure that's who you're referring to. Maturity is his issue...not skill. I think he gets a real look in camp. If he doesn't show that he's ready to be at least a first option for call up, I'd be shocked if the Hawks don't try to move him.
Heather M. - How much of a chance do you see Ray Emery having of being our back-up goalie?
Jay Z. - I LOVE the idea of bringing in Emery. It's an absolute no brainer. The guys a proven NHL goalie. I wouldn't be shocked to see him make the club out of camp. In fact, if Alex Salak and Emery play evenly, I think Emery makes the team. The benefits of that are two fold. First off, you have a veteran backing up Crawford should he get off to a slow start. Secondly, Salak gets some time in Rockford playing North American hockey again. It takes a TON of pressure off of him as well. Emery is a great insurance policy.
Raymond E. - Joel Quenneville doesn't usually trust young players, so do you think Kruger or Smith will get the opportunity to crack the opening night roster?
Jay Z. - Yes. I think they'll both have a chance. Right now, I have Kruger pencilled in as my 4th line center. The organization speaks very highly of him, and he has shown the ability to play at the NHL level in many situations. As for Smith, he is valuable for his versatility. He can play wing on any of the four lines, and I'm sure he'll be given that chance. The Hawks have a lot of depth at forward. Camp should be extremely interesting and competitive this season.
Thanks again for all of the great questions. If you'd like to submit a question for the next edition, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or find my Facebook page and ask me there!
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