It's that time of year again. Yep...late July, where nothing is happening on Planet Blackhawk. That means that blog ideas are few and far between. With that in mind, I asked my Twitter followers to send in some questions. Here they are, in all their uncensored glory.
Paul Z : "How tight is the leash around Joel Quenneville. If the Hawks miss the playoffs or are out in the first round, is he out as head coach?"
A lot of people, myself included, were surprised when Mike Haviland was relieved of his duties, while Mike Kitchen retained his job. At first blush, it looked like it was Quenneville flexing his muscle and showing he's still in charge. That may be true, but at the end of last season, Hawks upper management hinted that both Stan Bowman and Quenneville could be in trouble if the 2012-13 season ends with anything less than a series win or two. By allowing Quenneville to keep / bring in "his guys" (like he did with Jamie Kompon), Bowman has maybe lessened the pressure on himself. Bowman can look at Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and company and say, "Hey, I wanted to keep Haviland and fire Kitchen, but Q brought in his guys, and they failed. Why should I lose my job?" I'm not saying he's right. I'm not saying that's why Quenneville was allowed to have his own staff, but it's something to consider, and certainly something Bowman will bring up should his job be threatened.
Jim : "Did the Blackhawks get better because other divisional teams didn't improve?"
In a way, yes. The Red Wings, like the Blackhawks, missed out on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. However, they've also lost some key members of their core. Nicklas Lidstrom retired, Jiri Hudler joined the Calgary Flames via free agency, Brad Stuart left for the San Jose Sharks, and Tomas Holmstrom might retire. Those are all significant losses for the Wings, who are rumored to be hot after Shane Doan. There is no guarantee Doan leaves Phoenix, but if he does, Detroit will be major players.
Nashville lost Suter to the Minnesota Wild. Jordin Tootoo went to Detroit and Francis Boullion left for Montreal. Meanwhile, Shea Weber wanted to be in Philadelphia, but the Preds matched the Flyers' offer sheet. That makes an unhappy Weber with a long term deal. That could be toxic.
Columbus just traded Rick Nash to the New York Rangers, while the Blues simply re-upped some of their key players.
So did the Hawks get better? Well, no...but the rest of the division certainly got worse.
Jon B : "Why is Stan Bowman so terrible?"
I got a lot of questions just like this one, so I figured I'd go with the most blunt version. I don't believe Bowman is terrible. I do believe that he lacks nerve. There is very little question that the Hawks, despite their insane talent, need a couple of tweaks. Sheldon Brookbank is not that tweak. A second line center has been a need since, well, since the Hawks have mattered. Bowman denies this is a need at all.
I think the Hawks can contend for a Stanley Cup as assembled, provided Corey Crawford has a bounce back season, but I still think the Hawks would have a better chance with a few adjustments. A little more jam and size, a little less finesse. Those moves can still be made, but so far Bowman hasn't shown the desire, urgency or sack to pull off a big deal and part with a name player. The clock is ticking on Bowman. Another early exit will not make upper management happy.
George K : "How will the Hawks match the physicality of other teams?"
To be honest, they won't. The Hawks are not designed to play that style of game. That said, Daniel Carcillo is back, and Brookbank should supply some toughness, provided he's in the lineup.
Teams know when Carcillo is on the ice. He plays "over the line" often...maybe too often. The advantage there is that opponents never feel safe when he's around, and his mere presence takes them off their games. It's important that Carcillo stays out of trouble with the league and stays on the ice. He was very effective in a top six role last year before an injury ended his season.
Brandon Bollig is another guy who could be counted on for some fights and physical play, but it remains to be seen if he's in the Hawks' nightly plans.
Make no mistake. If the Blackhawks are going to win anything this season, it will be because of speed and skill, not physicality and intimidation.
Tim B : "Which sweater goes best with no pants?"
This one's easy. If you're a man, the best option is the old fashioned "barber pole style" sweater. It creates the illusion of width or girth, while simultaneously distracting from our lesser attributes. For women, it doesn't really matter. I would, however, suggest a matching pair of hockey socks to go with the sweater and no pants look.
Joe M : "Assuming the Hawks make no major moves before the start of the season, what gives hawk fans optimism for this year?"
Their core. The Blackhawks, for all the criticism thrown their way, still boast 6 of the top 50 players in the league. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are legit superstars. Toews and Kane should enter the season fully healthy. Hossa has resumed light workouts and is feeling better, but we won't truly have an idea on his health until the preseason gets here. Sharp is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro. Keith and Seabrook could and should improve from last season. Mix all of that with a maturing and developing group of kids in Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes, Ben Smith, Brandon Saad and Nick Leddy, and the Hawks should be well above the 100 point mark again this season, assuming they stay healthy.
Bro J. Simpson : "What is the reason for not playing Sharp at center? Also, what is a reasonable expectation for Patrick Kane point wise?"
I wish I knew the answer on Sharp. He was good enough to play center for the Cup champs...I'm not sure why he can't do it now. Bowman, in his postseason press conference, raved about Kane at center. Apparently, he's happy allowing that experiment to continue. As far as Kane's point total, I think it's fair to expect a point per game production level. Hopefully, #88 enters camp with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He has many doubters right now. A lot of people in town want him moved because of his off the ice indiscretions. This is the chance for Kane to prove he's the player we all expected him to be.
Vince A. : "What kind if role can one reasonably expect out of Dylan Olsen?"
At this point, I think they see him as a number 7 or 8 defenseman. When Brookbank was brought in and Johnny Oduya re-signed, many expected the Hawks to move a defenseman (Niklas Hjalmarsson). So far, that hasn't happened. It still might, but it hasn't. For for now, I think the Hawks' D pairings will look something like this :
Keith - Seabrook
Oduya - Leddy
Hjalmarsson - Montador / Brookbank / Olsen
I liked what I saw from Olsen last season, but at times he looked painfully slow. He needs to improve his footwork so he's not caught off balance so often. There is no reason to believe he won't make those adjustments. By the All Star break, I think Olsen could very well be playing every night, provided he improves in the areas in which he needs improvement.
Jeff L. : "Who do the Hawks' brass see as their next breakout young player?"
Brandon Saad. At last year's trade deadline, Bowman fielded a lot of calls about a lot of deals, and from all reports, Saad was a non starter. The Hawks were completely unwilling to move him. He looked like a man among boys in prospects camp last season, and simply refused to be sent back to Junior during the preseason. When the games counted, he wasn't quite as visible, but that's to be expected. He's an elite talent. He's "the next big thing" in the Hawks' system right now.
Thanks everyone for the great questions. We will do a bunch of these as the season goes on. Thanks for reading.
Follow Jay Zawaski on Twitter : @jayzawaski670
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