Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Surprises? nope

So I'm out of town all weekend without any real access to the internet/cable and what happens? The Hawks finally did something about their goalie problems and put Khabby on waivesr.

Of course in his moment to finally claim the starting position as his own, Huet lets in 7 goals against the fucking Blue Jackets.. atta boy.

In other news - Koci got his ass kicked again

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Season Preview: Captain Fantastic

There isn't much more to say about Johnny B. Good, other than we won't have to hear Dan Kelly call him "Johnny Toews" ever again. We are lucky to have him, and it isn't an exaggeration to say that the Hawks have their Yzerman, Sakic, Modano, whatever. The best way to describe how important Toews is is to have some fun with Behindthenet.ca and look as some sabermetrics for hockey. Except they're impossible to understand, but the one I did get is that Toews, as a rookie, led the Hawks in +/- per 60, which is a measure of a team's +/- per 60 minutes if he were on the ice the whole time and if he weren't. It also weighs the strength of the guys he plays with and against. Toews is worth a goal every 60 minutes. At least at even strength.

But he's obviously more than that. He's clearly the team leader, and has been from the moment he scored on his first shot, and certainly was when he told the entire team they didn't hate to lose after a lacklustre performance against the Kings. (Actually, all our performances against the Kings, save one, were lackluaster last year, but you get the point.) He's not only our best offensive performer, he's our best defensive center to. He also happens to draw the 3rd most penalties per game on the team. His PK time with Sharp last year was deadly. His wrist shot is still being studied by Chris Osgood. And he's handsome. And he loves his mother. Basically, it's not a stretch to say, barring injury, there'll be a 19 hanging in the rafters one day. So enjoy the ride. 80 points this season is probably the minimum we'll get, along with a challenge of his teammates during some losing streak. He's also looked to have bulked up a little, according to reports, so look for John T. Killer to be a physical presence as well. Who can wait?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Season Preview: James Wisniewski

So what if he'll be out until December? Any excuse we can get to post what very well may have been the highlight of last season, we're going to take:

Pounding Jordan Fuckyoo on one leg is something Hawks fans will be talking about for years. But Wiz is so much more than that, and upon his return the Hawks will have a blue-line corps that most other teams are going to envy. Wiz took significant steps forward last season, almost cracking 30 points while missing 15 games and being, at best, the 4th d-man. This season, he will most certainly find himself on the 3rd pairing. He was also a +12, and provided some toughness that the Hawks so sorely lack. We'll miss his shot from the point, but if paired with Sopel, which looks likely, he'll have more than enough chances to showcase it with Catfish covering. Probably won't get any PP time, so maybe his output won't be the same. But he's also solid, if not better, in his own end, and of course, he's going to beat someone's face in. Get well soon, Wiz.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Season Preview: Cameron Barker

(Doesn't this look like the picture of someone who just got caught jerking off?)

I'd like to start by saying I always find it funny that the national sites, or someone outside of Chicago, calls him Cameron Barker. That's not a hockey name. Thankfully, we don't do that here.
Where to start with Cam? Cam is the girl you're hooking up with and will slide her head down your torso only to stop, smile at you, and then come back up. Repeatedly. He has teased us with the flashes of the D-man we've always hoped he'd be. He'll show a mean-streak once a month, and flatten everything in site. He'll blast a shot into the top corner from an impossible angle. He'll zing a cross-ice pass right onto the tape. And then he'll do nothing. For games. Sometimes weeks. We've seen the non-chalant attitude. The absence of a physical presence. Well, Cam, this season, it's time to get your lips around it or we're just going to kick you out of bed and masturbate in the bathroom.
To be fair to Cameron, the 2nd half of last season he was pretty good. Or at least not consistently bad. Frankly, it's debatable partnering him with 51 Phantom is a good idea, which seems to be the way Toe Savard is leaning. Campbell's game is to get up the ice, join the attack, all the time. This will leave Barks as the stay-at-home cover guy, and he's not suited for that. He should be the one shotgunning up the ice, to use his big shot and soft hands. But we'll settle for him QB-ing the second power-play unit well, and not looking like he doesn't care half the time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Season Preview: Brent Sopel

Honestly, I'm not really sure what to write about Brent Sopel. I know he wore the A for a good part of last year and seems to be a good guy to have on your favorite team, but I've never really paid attention to him? So why am I writing about him? Because he was next on the list.. so fuck it..

Lets learn about Sopel together... Sopel had 1 goal, 19 assists, a +9 rating, 28 PIM... What he did do though, is lead the team in blocked shots with 122. I really feel that's an underrated stat - I'll have to check with The Forechecker though to see what he says about it since he's a stat guy.

What Sopel does bring to the ice is a veteran presence to our insanely young team. He's a smart player who you won't see making many of the mistakes someone like Seabrook will be making. Sopel will help develop the younger players (which is the main reason he was given an A for last year). I'd expect him to see him paired up with Campbell as long as Savard doesn't break up the Keith/Seabrook pairing. If Savy does, then expect to see some combination of Seabrook, Keith, Campbell and Sopel. These are our best 4 on D and will be a pretty solid group on the Blueline.

One interesting thing I did learn while doing "research" for this, which mostly included watching the Daily Show and drinking, is that someone like Sopel enough to create a website entirely devoted to him... seriously. Evidently he's a "man of style" which is good to know.. maybe he and Avery can teach us how to dress sharp

Central Division Interview - End of the Bench

Hey - remember when I was asking questions to other people who follow teams in the Central? Well I'm back at at it. I got lazy and didn't email questions out for a while so sorry about the delay... Here's an interview with Drew from over at End of the Bench, Blue Jackets site

The Blue Jackets seemed to have a ton of players coming and going for this year - how is that going to impact the team? Who are players to watch and who is the team going to miss?

All signs (at least, what the media tells us) are that the changes are a net plus. The big name on the "OUT" list is Nikolai Zherdev. While I hate to see a guy with so much promise leave the organization, I get the impression that he wasn't exactly a great locker room guy. He'd run his course, and I think it's pretty apparent that he's not a "Hitchcock guy". Of the guys coming in, there is the skilled name of Kristian Huselius who should help replace that which was lost in the Zherdev trade. Of the "difficult to play against" names, you have Raffi Torres, and Mike Commodore. Neither of these guys is going to be one of the three stars on a regular basis, but you know they're going to bring it every night and will be fan favorites. And the defensemen coming back from the Rangers, Tyutin and Backman... they're names I recognize and they're "proven" NHL'ers. They should help replace the departed Ron Hainsey, and stabilize a backline that has always been suspect in Columbus.

Stefan Legein? Is he in or out? Is that a big prospect to lose? I hadn't heard anything about him til he decided to retire (at 19).

He's out. Is it a big prospect to lose, I have no idea. Some folks say "yes", but let's be honest... nobody really knows. I do know this: the decision he made was certainly not an easy one. I am someone who had a dream, and pursued it from a young age until midway through college. When the time came that I knew I didn't want to do it anymore, it was tough to change direction in my own mind, to say nothing of the folks around me who thought I was throwing away a certain future. I wish him the best.

Dirk from On The Forecheck said some shit about your team (and Nash's mom) last week, here's your chance to fire back (I suggest mentioning that someone wanted to live in the Republic of Bashkortostan rather than Nashville.) They're asking for it.. Or do you want to battle it out with St. Louis to see who should have to change the color? Two teams with "blue" in their names is a bit too much for one division, isn't it?

I hate the Predators with all my being, but I have nothing bad to say about them. Seriously, until the Jackets beat the Preds more than once a decade what do I have to say. Plus, I happen to like the city of Nashville. But if they (whoever they are) paid me more to live at "home", I'd probably do it, too. I didn't follow the reaction on the Radulov situation much, so I can only compare it to some stereotypes I've created in my own head. Americans have a propensity to think that anything they created (NBA) or think they created (NHL) is the greatest thing in the world (maybe it is) and that this should be the end destination for all the greatest players in the world (there are other factors besides competition, money, etc). Radulov is the first (relevant) big star to jump ship. Wait until LeBron James signs in Spain, Randy Moss plays in the CFL, or Rick Nash goes to play in Sweden. Of course those scenarios are all speculative, but we'd be naive to think it's impossible.

After seeing last night's preseason game(short recap - Crawford looked pretty solid, Kane's vision and passing is still sick, Sharp and Campbell need just a bit more time to get going and a lot of the kids on the team look good, but need time) I have to think there's a bit of a rivalry going on between the BJs and the Hawks right now. I don't know if it'll ever escalate into much but it really seems like the teams don't like each other right now. There were a fair number of fights last year between the two teams and even though it could have been nothing more than young kids trying to make a name for themselves, it seemed like we could have some pretty exciting matches against Columbus this year.

Honestly, who had the better highlight reel goal last year, Toews or Nash?

Which Nash goal? The between the legs shot against the Blues or the double-depantsing in the desert? :) I'll go with Nash vs. Phoenix for the win, John.

Do you think Umberger is going to remember to keep his head up when Campbell is on the ice from now on?

Brian Campbell had the setup of a lifetime for that hit. He took it, and did his damage. I think Umberger has learned his lesson.

How good could Leclaire be if he had a better defense in front of him?

You saw what he can do with a seive for a backline. This year, the defense is supposed to be better. If he stays injury-free and plays 60-75% of the games, I say he has a shot to compete for the Vezina.

I've actually spent a good amount of time in Columbus though I never got out to a hockey game. The area around the arena seemed pretty lively though. Is (or has?) Columbus going to fully embrace the Jackets, or is it always going to play a distant second to the buckeyes?

Yes, Columbus has fully embraced the Jackets, and yes, they will always play second fiddle to the Buckeyes. There are plenty of people in this town who love hockey, and plenty for whom the Buckeyes hold no quarter. But if you poll every person in this town, you'll find that support for the Buckeyes outweighs support for the Blue Jackets. You can't put a franchise in place for eight years and expect it to be as relevant to the public as a school that's played football for over 100 years (and for most of that time, had no major pro sports in town to compete against). Not going to happen. They can coexist, and if the Jackets can find a way to win and be competitive, the rest of the world will see this, too.

Last question as always - how do you see the division playing out? Who finishes where?

Based on no research whatsoever: Detroit, Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis

Thanks Drew

Also, it looks like Sean from St. Louis Game Time was dead wrong in his answer to my question about Erik Johnson - his shoulder may be 100%, or 110% but the young star is out for the a good portion of the year after a freak gasoline fight accident golf carting mishap

What is this guy planning on buying?

Inspired by this interesting article on Puck Daddy about the tons of Winter Classic tickets available on StubHub, I thought it might be interesting to check in every once in a while and try and guess what the hell the seller of the most expensive tickets for the outdoor game might be spending their money on if some dumbass is stupid enough to buy them.

As mentioned in the article above, the most expensive tickets right now are $19,900 but you can only buy them as a pair. So the tickets together will cost you $39,800, not counting the extra $4,000 that StubHub will add on for commission.

What could the seller be planning on buying? Here's some things that you can get for $39,800:
  • 10,602 gallons of gas ($3.75 National Average)... or a new Toyota Prius (starts at $24,270) with enough left over for 4,141 gallons of gas - probably enough to last that car many many years
  • 5 - 60" Class 1080p Flat-Panel Plasma HD TVs (with universal remote!) - they'll need something to watch the game on afterall
  • 4,975 cases of Old Style (in bottles.. cause this guy is classy). That's 59,700 bottles...
  • 44 Puggles
  • Two years of education at a private college
  • Two of whatever Eliot Spitzer got from his prostitutes (or double plus a good tip... again.. classy)
  • Khabibulin's goaltending services for 2.15 days (6.75 Million divided by 365 for his daily rate)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Season Preview: Brent Seabrook

found on www.excelfitness.ca

Ahhh.. Brent Seabrook. Seabrook seems to be one of those players that people seem pretty torn over. Unlike Keith, who people just want to argue about how good he will get, Seabrook seems to have his fair shares of unbelievers.

Seabs was the primary ice partner of Keith on the blueline last year and his TOI average of 21:29 shows it. Seabrook brings much more of the physical side to the defense that Keith lacks. Seabrook lead the team with 167 hits last year which put him at 27th overall in the NHL. (Ruutu might have led the team in hits had he stayed on last year - he finished with 171 and was 24th overall. Also, did anyone know Dustin Brown led the league with 311 hits - 45 more than 2nd place?). Seabrook will drop the gloves on occasion but it'd probably be better for him to practice that aspect of his game a little more. He's by no means a heavy weight but since he's playing a lot with Toews and Kane he usually doesn't have to face up against other teams big guys. Either way you've got to like his willingness to fight when he feels it's needed to protect his teammates, even Keith.

Seabrook tied with Keith for points on the year and will probably be close to around 30 points again this year if his short track record is any indication. He'll block a fair amount of shots and will probably take the most amount of shots as a defenceman.

It could be a big year for Seabrook especially if he can work on his conditioning and maybe play a little less now that someone like Campbell is on the team to also eat a lot of minutes. Last year Seabrook seemed to really tire out towards the end of the season but the team will obviously need him to play hard if they want to make any noise in the playoffs this year. Seabrook could grow into a leader on this team given the effort on his part. At only 23 years old he has huge potential and needs to keep upping his game over the next few years

Quick Links.. hockey is coming..

So there will be a preview of the next Blackhawk up later today (hopefully) but in the meantime I thought it's worth mentioning that the Hawks have made some news around the internet today.. and it's all about season ticket sales.

I saw this first over at Kukla's Korner and now Mirtle has also just written about it. I don't think it'll come as a surprise to anyone around here, but the Hawks set a record with season ticket sales. Latest numbers have it around 13,425 from 3,400. The thing I find most shocking about this is that 3,400 people actually still had season tickets.. they deserve their own statue outside the UC.

Kukla's mentions that it "marks one of the biggest one-year turnarounds in sports ticket sales history for a team that did not qualify for the postseason." I'd be curious to see what some of the other jumps were...

Also mentioned lately, the game tonight is almost sold-out... wow. Lines for tonight's game have been posted on the official site. Toews is out but the Sharp-Kontiola-Kane line is one to watch for along with Barker and Campbell playing on the blueline. I'll be at the game tonight but if the training camp pictures are any indication, any pictures I take will fucking suck. I need a new damn camera.

oh, and another bit of self promotion - Here Come The Hawks was listed as a "blog to watch" on Fanhouse's preview of the Hawks - thanks to the writer Brian for that

For those who didn't see it....

Our opening front-page cartoon from The Committed Indian:

Bey haby, bow ahout lettin' me fuck your cap space too?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Season Preview: Duncan Keith

"From playing against him he seems to be becoming a better and better player. He's a real strong skater and with his skating ability and bringing the puck up the ice he can be a real helpful player for the Blackhawks. It's going to help having a skater of that caliber who can bring the puck up the ice."

Yeah - Nicklas Lidstrom said that about Keith. I know we all hate him but he's had a stranglehold on the Norris trophy for this entire decade, save one year where Niedermayer won so he probably knows a good defender when he sees one.

You’ll be able to tell a lot about Hawks fans by the way they look at certain players. Some fans will say Keith had his breakout year last season and we can expect a lot more of the same – others say that Keith hasn’t shown his full potential yet and THIS is the year that he’ll have his true breakout.

Last season the Hawks were pretty crippled by injuries (not an excuse for anything, just a fact) and they really needed their young players to step up. Keith is one of those players that did. Paired with Seabrook for the most part, Keith came into his own and was one of the many highlights of last season. Going into the All-Star break, Keith was averaging over 20 minutes on the ice per game and had a +/- of 14. For his play, Keith was named as the lone Blackhawks representative to the All-Star game (Sharp got screwed).

Keith ended the season +30, which tied him with Zetterberg for 5th overall. He also finished the season averaging 25:33 minutes on the ice, that puts him right at tenth overall for last season. Bringing on Campbell will hopefully help keep Keith’s TOI to a more manageable rate for a young player and hopefully keep him fresher for the post season, assuming that's needed.

As I mentioned in Campbell's preview, Keith is really fucking fast. His speed allows him to get into the mix on offense and still get back in time to make plays on D - just ask the Predators' Legwand, who Keith chased down and caught last year in overtime to save a game. (why can't I find any video of this sort of thing? trust me, it happened though). Keith and Seabrook are well on their way to being a solid shutdown defensive pair and we should expect to see Keith continue to improve. He'll continue to log big minutes, not allow goals when he's on the ice, and probably get his ass kicked if he gets into a fight (please leave that to Seabrook).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It needs to be said...

Congratulations Cubs. The training camp was fun to go to.. but it doesn't beat seeing the cubs clinch their division. I hope to one day see the Hawks do the same thing. Pictures of the cubs and hawks events soon to come..

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Season Preview: Brian Campbell

Other than Toews, arguably no player is going to have more pressure on them from the fans (and probably the front office) than Campbell. We should all know the deal by now, coming into the summer Campbell was one of the biggest names becoming an UFA. To the shock of many, he signed with these Chicago Blackhawks. Why did he do this? Probably had something with the $7.1 Million Tallon decided to hand him for the next 8 years. Having been in Chicago for the Hull/Mikita game with the Sharks also probably gave him a great glimpse of how great it can be to be cheered on by all of us amazing fans. There were reports that other teams offered him more but he came here.

Campbell and Keith will give our D two players with great speed, though if I remember the All-Star game correctly Keith smoked Campbell in a race. Campbell will take over for Jason Williams as the main "quarterback" for the Hawks PP. In the '07-'08 Season Campbell was on the ice for 47 goals with the other team a man down. He knows how to handle the puck and create opportunities. He isn't much a huge physical force on the D but seems to know how to pick his spots and can lay a big hit on occasion.

One point to watch is how Campbell will respond to the pressure a big contract like this can bring. For the kind of money he's getting some will feel he's not a success if he doesn't bring home the Norris trophy - but that's just not going to happen.

Campbell won't score many goals (highest in a season is 12) but will generate a lot of assists (160 of his 195 points come from the A). This will be key on the Power Play since that has been a notorious weak point on this team. At only 29 Campbell will probably be looked at as a leader on the team and may even get chances to wear the A depending on how that will work this year. Campbell will be a very solid addition to the already strong D the Hawks have and can provide some space for Keith and Seabrook to continue to improve without having too much asked of them too early.

Also look for him to make the All-Star team again this year and never ever throw a baseball again in his life.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Season Preview: Nikolai Khabibulin

Okay, so that's a bit of a cheap shot, but still. Anyway, much of the season hinges on Khabby, or more to the point, what return Khabibulin brings. But first, it's best to look at what he actually is. Firstly, Khabby has never been an elite goalie. He may be paid like one, but the numbers simply don't state that. He's only had a save percentage over .920 once, and that's from a majority of a career spent in what will be called "The Dead Puck Era". His GAA has only been below 2.2 once. What Khabby has been is a goaltender who put together one great playoff, when the 'ning won the Cup, and Nik put up a .933 SV% and a 1.71 GAA. Nik could always be categorized as "above-average". The problem has been his paycheck has forced two coaches to try and treat him as elite. This has led to Nik being overplayed, and faltering under the workload. He has shown flashes of being very good, but these get avalanched when first Yawney, and then Savvy would try and ride him. And our playoff hopes would crash under an avalanche of soft backhanders from the slot or wrap arounds that sneak under his paddle.

Obviously, at some point, Nik will move on. No man in his right mind thinks it's a good idea to blow over 12 million on your goalie. Then again, we need more evidence that Tallon is in his right mind. By moving Lang, Tallon has left himself some slack to wait until another team's goalie get hurt or proves ineffective. But it's doubtful this will up the return too much. Nik is still old, overpaid, and overrated. He most likely will have to be packaged with a young player to get us the help we need up front.

The other problem is Nik will not go quietly into that good night. He has a history of being a malcontent when not playing as much as he likes. If Tallon waits too long, Khabby will make himself a distraction, and this team doesn't have enough room for error to deal with that. So let's keep fingers crossed it doesn't get to that. So long, Nik. Too much was expected of you, and you didn't deliver. We'll be corgil when we run into you, but we like our new companion, Cristobal, better.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


We've waited. And waited. We poured over any bit of news we could find. We've read blog after blog. We even tried getting a life. Didn't take. But now, finally, the season is here! And with the kickoff of training camp tomorrow, we thought we'd kick off our season preview, player-by-player. And because it makes some sense, we'll start from the goal line out, so today's preview centers around The Amazing Cristobal Huet.

Well, okay, that's not him. But it's still The Amazing Cristobal. So whatever. I got to have fun with photoshop. Up yours. Anyway, what to make of our new starting goaltender? At least, we think he will be. We'd all like to believe that Tallon is just blowing smoke when he says Huet and Khabby will split time. But the more he says it, the more I think he thinks it can actually work. Which may be Dale hedging his bets on Huet, who has never been a full time starter for a team over a full season. But that would lead to wonder why he signed him for Vegas High-Roller Money? And if he did think him worthy of a starter, why is he hanging on to Khabibulin and thus reaming our cap situation, forcing us to unload one of our only experienced forwards? Questions, questions...

As for Huet the player, we do know that he is younger, slightly cheaper, and probably, at least, a little better than the incumbent. A .920 SV percentage and a 2.32 GAA are nothing to be sneezed at, though they aren't glittering. His stretch run for the Caps was, however, where those numbers jumped to .936 and 1.63. But that was over 13 games, and that was leading a team to win hockey's worst division by far. Back-stopping the Hawks to a playoff spot in a LOADED Western Conference is a different matter all together. Frankly, the jury is still out on whether or not he can do it. But at least it's unknown, whereas with Khabby, it's all too sadly known.

The Hawks, and us, would settle for steady performances from Huet, and none of the back-breaking, beer-dropping softies that Khabby let in on occasion, ones that this young team had a hard time recovering from. If Huet can reproduce even a sliver of the form he showed with the Caps, then the playoffs will be a cinch. But he shouldn't have to, as the Hawks D-corps is much more solid than Washington's.

And now Cris will draw a moo-cow....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rozner Writes About Hockey, A City Mourns

We here at Here Come The Hawks absolutely love it when Barry Rozner wakes up from his desk to belch something about the Hawks, because quite frankly we could use the self-confidence boost. Well, apparently, today, Rozner saw his shadow in his office and that means we get a really dumb column. Actually, we get the same thing when he doesn't see his shadow, and probably would if he couldn't see his computer either.

Here's a name for Hawks to remember this season

One down, two to go.

It's no secret around the NHL that the Blackhawks have been trying to trick someone into taking Robert Lang, Martin Havlat and Nikolai Khabibulin, so kudos to GM Dale Tallon for moving Lang and even getting a draft pick in return.

Hang on to your kudos there, buddy, you might need them. Though Lang could be a headache at times, 20 goals and 60 points is nothing to dismiss, especially when he's one of exactly two veteran, scoring forwards that you have. He also chipped in some pretty big goals, and if he kept Havlat somewhat content, that's something too. His departure leaves us with ONE forward on our Top-6 with more than a year of experience, and he's made of butterflies and dreams.

Lang was no small headache for coach Denis Savard, as Lang, Havlat and David Koci - the group known as the Czech Republic - were often seen partitioned in the dressing room, speaking in their native tongue.

Koci was around for all of 10 games, but it's nice to see people bond so well so quickly, isn't it? And this was before Obama brought us all together!

If the Hawks are stuck with Havlat, at least without Lang - another veteran who didn't care to play in his own end of the ice - Havlat may have to be part of the team this year.

Yes, generally when you're stuck with something, you have make it a part of your team or self. For instance, if I'm stuck with a rash, then that rash is a part of me. I still have to explain it away to whatever blonde I'm flirting with at the bar. "Oh, it's uh, from uh, power sander cleaner. I was trying to get answers from a mob informant. Exactly, just like Weeds! Don't you just love that show?" Just like we're all stuck with you, Barry.

So that's a good start.

What is? The fact that the Hawks are now even more inexperienced at forward? Or now Havlat, who you just called lazy and a malcontent, is here to stay?

It's also, by the way, no secret in NHL circles that Anaheim GM Brian Burke wanted to leave for Toronto this summer and may still have his eye on that situation.

But if that option is gone at the end of the 2008-09 season, when Burke's contract is finished in Anaheim, don't be shocked if the Hawks make a play.

This isn't actually that ridiculous a statement. I know, I was shocked too. The Hawks do not have a hockey operations guy above Tallon, though one has to wonder if this isn't exactly what Scotty Bowman was brought in to do, without the fancy title.

New boss John McDonough probably didn't know Burke when he took the job, but we're told he knows him now and is fully aware that an extraordinary opportunity may await with Burke's contract about to run out.

More people coming together!

It would be quite a change on the West Side, as Burke is not about making friends and kissing babies. He's about physical play, standing up in your own building, and winning.

He's just the kind of front man hockey people respect and, better yet, some dislike.

"Some" dislike? No one can stand this fucker. That tends to happen when your vagina bleeds on everyone's feet when another GM, perfectly within his rights mind you, makes an offer sheet to one of your players. They're still crying about Dustin Penner! Oh, and that's after they were able to pretty much fleece the Oilers for Pronger because the missus didn't like being cold and held Kevin Lowe hostage. Good times.

The Hawks remain one of the softest and smallest teams in the league, and Burke would solve that problem instantly.

How? Turn Patrick Kane into The Incredibule Hulk? Send him to Barry Bonds's trainer? "You wouldn't like Kaner when he's angry. You get the soda."

Oh, you mean by trading prospects we no longer value for hulking forwards who can't score, the Ducks downfall last season. Todd Bertuzzi, come on down!!!

The Hawks are one of the youngest teams in the NHL, severely lacking veteran character, and Burke would alter the chemistry before his nameplate was glued on the door.

Didn't you just say that trading Lang, a veteran was a good idea? Didn't you want to put Havlat, a veteran, in his carry-on? Granted, they're not exactly "character" guys, but they actually have TALENT. Let Kevyn Adams be "character" and find me experience on HOW TO SCORE. Generally, that's how the NHL decides who won or lost a game, but how many goals you score. I'm sure Bettman would love to decide games by market size, but he hasn't gotten there yet.

Despite the awkward, summer-long victory parade down Michigan Avenue, the team hasn't sniffed the playoffs since 2002 and has participated in the postseason once since 1997.

Trumpeting last season's improvement as a grand achievement and reason for ticker tape is an odd way of teaching young players what genuine success is in the NHL, a perpetration of a sham Burke would never allow.

Did I miss something? Was there a parade? Floats? Smiling models waving? The only things I've ever seen Hawks fans, and any writer who knows anything, get excited about was that A) The Hawks were a bona-fide organization again and B) They had a team much better than anything in years and with the potential to get much better. Nowhere did anyone think this was a satisfactory finish or feel as if we accomplished anything. The excitment is in reference to the idea that maybe this team COULD accomplish something. Maybe Barry had his own parade. And ask Johathan Toews if he think last year was a success, or Kane or Sharp or Keith, and see if their first sentence isn't, "Well, we didn't make the playoffs."

Now, based on how good they've repeatedly told us they are, we fully expect the Hawks to win a minimum of two playoff series next spring. So with progression like that, no one need fear for their jobs even if Burke comes aboard.

Is that the Royal We, Mr. Rozner? Who has said that, anywhere? Most predictions I've seen have the Hawks between the 6-8th seed. Most fans think that's about right, too. And where is this organizational trumpeting? All they've said is they've gotten better, and it's hard to argue with the addition of Campbell and Huet. You might expect that, Sir Rozner, but you're an idiot.

Playoffs or not, Burke could only benefit an organization that is nearing a half-century without a Stanley Cup.

He won his 15 months ago.

Ah yes, the championship-justifies-all argument. That Cup he won 15 months ago? Almost had nothing to do with Burke. No, really, it didn't. Getzlaf, Giguere, Perry, Kunitz, Penner, Pahlsson, all were drafted or acquired by someone else. Selanne wouldn't sign anywhere else. Neidermayer only came because his brother was there, as pointed out by a post on the 300 Level. We'll give you Pronger, but again, wife. And letting Niedermayer and Selanne on vacation last year forced him to swap McDonald for Doug Weight. Let us know how that looks in two years.

What's exciting about the Hawks is they have a chance for a sustained term as a contender. Burke would almost assuredly forfeit that for a one-time run. If that worked, great. If not, you're fucked. Without any of the customary fun. We'd never argue Tallon is a genious, and new GM and/or president may be necessary very soon. But if Rozner's championing his cause, then scratch him off the list.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dr. Tallon Strikes Again!

GENTLEMEN! I HAVE CREATED....A THIN FORWARD LINE, WITH NO EXPERIENCE! Dale Tallon, or maybe the people telling Tallon what to do, like shiny things. They like expensive things. But they don't think of the consequences of buying these things on the rest of the budget. I used to blow all my money on drugs, and then couldn't afford the cookies and pizzas those drugs necessitated I would need later. This is where Tallon has left us, at least at the moment. Because of his splash on the Huet signing, without a plan as how to move the other goalie out, our biggest weakness, a forward line lacking depth and experience, just got weaker.

I only hope there's another deal in the works, and will reserve final judgement until then. But the preliminary scores are not encouraging. We have, at the moment, a disgruntled goalie who will make a nuisance of himself, and four top-6 forwards with 1 YEAR OR LESS experience. Add to that we have less than 1M of cap room, and the flexibility to fix this would appear to be at the bar with the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. I'm getting itchy all over.


It seems like we might actually be stuck with the Khabby/Huet tandem afterall.. The Hawks announced they're sending Lang to the Habs (hey! just like all those internet rumors said!) for a second round pick in 2010.... The Hawks should be under the cap now but the problems are still not over... I'm bummed...

Official release

Central Division Interview - On The Forecheck

Up next in this here weekly series of blog interviews is Dirk from On The Forecheck. Dirk follows the Predators with great analysis of stats and numbers and overall pretty much the best writing you'll see following the Preds. I sent him these questions earlier this week and some recent developments have kinda fucked up one of the questions - but that happens.

Who actually thought it would be a great idea to give a franchise over to a guy with the nickname "boots"? How big of a fuckup is this and will it effect(affect?) the Predators this season?

Well, if you ask anyone around Nashville, "Boots" was preferable to "Balls" at the time! Yeah, he turned out to be a complete fraud, but at least the local group is in a position to buy him out, once the bankruptcy proceedings go through. As to an impact on the hockey team this season, I don't think there will be any, but the sooner this is over with the better.

How big of a blow is the Radulov mess to the Predators future? Is there anyone else in the system you can hope to shift a focus onto now that it seems Radulov won't come back? Do you hate him for the decision, or are you just disappointed?

Radulov was certainly the team's best offensive prospect, and the Preds will miss what they hoped to get out of him this year; something around 35 goals. It'll likely be up to the duo of Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Jones to replace that production. The guy to get excited about just might be Jones, lately the captain of the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, who should be much more of a team-first guy than the mercurial Radulov, and is the type of exciting, hard-working plugger that fans adore.

As to Radulov, you just have to shake your head and wonder what makes a guy who came over here, invested four years in working his way through Junior Hockey and with Nashville to develop himself into an NHL star, then throw it all away when he would have been eligible for a huge contract next summer. If he pots 35 goals in 2008-9, you can bet he'd be looking at a $30-40 million dollar contract either from Nashville or someone else with deeper pockets. For his sake, the Russian economy had better hold together for the next few years.

(So just yesterday Puck Daddy wrote that Radulov actually might want back into the NHL after only a few games in the KHL. I can't say anyone else in the Central should really be happy about that news, and while many fans I'm sure are pissed at him about this Dirk likens the situation to Fedorov's holdout with the Wings back in '97 and seems ready to welcome him back.)

With the exception of Radulov, what were the Predators biggest moves in the off-season, either in addition or subtraction?

The big trade sent Marek Zidlicky, a good powerplay QB, to Minnesota for Jones and a draft pick. Personally, I thought the Preds should have packaged Zidlicky along with picks or prospects to land a major talent that could help the team win right away, because after Brian Campbell signed at $7.1 million per year and Dan Boyle got $6.7 million per, Zidlicky's $3.3 million pricetag (which runs through 2009-10) looks awfully affordable for a legit offensive blueliner.

Everyone gives places like Nashville shit for not being a "real hockey town", how do you respond - what's the scene like in Nashville for hockey fans?

I'd encourage anyone laboring under that delusion to just come on down; the atmosphere is great, and the energy in the arena is much like a college game. Opposing goalies are taunted, there's crowd interaction with Paul McCann, the PA announcer, and the fans are genuinely behind this team. I've seen some pretty amazing NHL moments in person (the massive McCarty/Lemieux brawl, Wings winning the Cup in '97), and the Sommet Center gets as loud as anywhere else in the league.

Now, it is true that hockey will never be #1 in Nashville; football is king south of the Mason-Dixon line, and many in the local sports media still talk like they've just come out of "Hockey 101". Building the broader base of people with at least a decent understanding of the game will take time, but that's the way it works.

Your site focuses a lot on the numbers and statistics which has always been more of a baseball thing, I've always loved hockey more for the action, speed and athleticism, but what drew you to hockey rather than baseball? Which stats do you enjoy watching for the most?

I used to be a pretty big baseball fan, but having lived away from an MLB city for over 10 years now, that's pretty much worn off. As to hockey, growing up we had an ideal pond across the street that would freeze nice and solid for a few weeks every winter, but it wasn't until college that I tried actually playing in beer leagues. There's definitely nothing like the combination of speed, power, and fluidity that hockey brings, relative to the other major sports.

As far as stats go, the neat thing about all of this relative to the NHL is that it's still wide-open territory. How can we succinctly summarize the impact of a given player, and evaluate him against the performance of some guy from the other conference? Are there ways to determine what type of player (sniper, playmaker, mucker) might make the most effective addition to a given lineup? There are a zillion questions to be answered like that, and the toolbox available for that work, while limited, is growing more sophisticated with each passing year.

The one stat I enjoyed watching last year was the
Penalty Plus/Minus; finally, the NHL started noting in the Play By Play files which player drew a given penalty, allowing us to quantify what everyone knows to be a game-changing effect of great players; the ability to take a defender out of position and force them into a hook, hold, or trip. Generating a power play opportunity for your team is, outside of scoring an actual goal, one of the most useful things a player can do for his team in a given game. For the record, Dustin Brown of L.A. led with a +43 (he drew 43 penalties more than he took), although Sid Crosby was not far behind at +39 despite missing time due to injury.

Every team needs a good rivalry, right? Do the Predators have one team in the division that you love to hate? Is it the standard Detroit, because we all pretty much hate them? I think Columbus would be a great rival for Nashville - is there anything going on there? If not, care to start something now? Go ahead - feel free to insult Rick Nash's mother or maybe just the Buckeyes in general (they hate that shit).

I think there's a Big Fish, Small Fish thing going on here; Predators fans absolutely hate Detroit above all others, because, as an up-and-coming team, obviously the team on top is the one to target. Also, there a ton of ex-Detroiters (like myself) that live in the area, and for years, matches against the Red Wings looked and sounded more like a Detroit home game. That's no longer the case.

With Columbus, they definitely have it in for the Preds, but Nashville has historically owned them. According to Hockey-Reference.com, the Predators enjoy a .756 lifetime winning percentage against the Blue Jackets, who roll over easier than the Bulgarian women's team. As to how easily Rich Nash's mother rolls over, hey, I try to keep mine a family-friendly blog...

Finally, how do you see the division playing out? Who makes the playoffs and what will the final record be between the Preds and the Hawks?

The easy part here is that the Wings should cruise away with their 47th consecutive Central Division title, and Columbus and St. Louis will come in 4th and 5th, respectively. Over the course of the season, I think the Preds will still keep ahead of the Blackhawks, because they've already got a deep lineup that's perfecting a well understood, consistent team philosophy. Basically, they'll be ready to go right from Day One. With Chicago, there are some depth questions behind those exciting stars, a two-headed goaltending situation that could become a real distraction, and I wonder how Denis Savard will handle the pressure of coaching a team that actually has expectations of success this year. I'll call the Preds for a 3-2-1 record against the Hawks in the regular season, with both teams making the playoffs.

Thanks again to Dirk

Thursday, September 11, 2008

8 more days...

Then training camp will start - This 60-man roster will slowly shorten.. the meaningless preseason games will end and the season will start.

Season tickets have been mailed and it feels amazing to hold 42 tickets in your hand all at one time.

In addition to Hall, Pilote and Magnuson - the Hawks relatively subtly announced that they will also be having Larmer, Amonte, Probert appreciation nights. They're calling them Blackhawks Heritage Collector's Series.. I have no idea what the fuck that means exactly but it might be getting a little out of control. There's still another night on their schedule with the player TBA..

Tomorrow I'll be posting an interview with Dirk from On The Forecheck.. until then.. there's this:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Central Division Interview - St. Louis Game Time

All the talk of hockey by politicians is fucking weird - it annoys me to see the two mixed but it's also getting me even more excited for the season to actually start. We know we're all close know.. who isn't getting excited about $7 beers already?

With the season so close - I thought it'd be a good time to get in touch with some of our foes around the central division and see what's going on with them. Hopefully, once a week til the season starts I'll be posting short email interviews with authors of other blogs from around our division. Sam and I will also be doing some individual player previews once we figure out what the hell we want to say about them. So in all - it's going to start getting busier around here now that we've survived the summer.

So first up on the interview schedule - it's Sean Gallagher (another one.. not the former cub) from St. Louis Game Time:

I was in such a state of shock that the Hawks actually signed two of the best free agents this year (even if one of them is yet another overpaid goalie) that I barely paid attention to other moves made in the central division around free agents or anything else, so what are some moves the Blues made, were there even any? Anyone prospects coming up?

The biggest move the Blues made this summer was to not re-sign Matt “Big Country” Walker, allowing him to go to Chicago where he can wander the streets in full bewilderment a la Crocodile Dundee. The bright lights of the Windy City ought to quickly have Walker in all sorts of mad-cap adventures that culminate with his down-home country charm and wit allowing him to escape city slickers with high falootin’ hubris as well as crafty ne’er-do-wells who mistake a bumpkin accent for stupidity rather than realizing that smart is smart, no matter how ‘country’ the person may be. Oh, and they also signed a bunch of guys who will fill out the roster in Peoria.

What should we expect from the Blues this season? What are you looking forward to seeing?

You should expect the Blues to pretty much suck, throwing their fans onto the horns of a dilemma: root for the team to win more or root for the team to lose more, pushing them towards a shot at the first overall pick and John “Sidney Crosby carries my jock” Tavares. The Blues will play lots and lots of youngsters in key spots this year which means that fans will see lots and lots of enthusiasm. And lots and lots of mistakes. I’m personally looking forward to seeing TJ Oshie who has been a one-man wrecking ball and offensive star for the North Dakota Fightin’ Sioux for three years. A youngster who also managed to out-score a talented young man named Jonathan Toews when the two were linemates in Grand Fork, ND, we just hope his game translates to the N as well as Mr. Toews’ did.

I know about your thoughts about Matt Walker, what can we expect from him? Should we hope he is going to punish St. Louis the way Edmonds did recently?

Matt Walker, when he’s not working away at a cure for cancer, perfecting his “sound” on the pan flute or hand-buffing his custom-built monster truck, will provide the Hawks with exactly the same thing he provided the Blues: solid if unflashy defense, simple no-mistake play in his own zone and exactly one goal every nine years or so. He’s a great guy to fans, a great teammate in the room and very much the definition of a seventh defenseman. Plus, he’s like a crazy-savvy neo-hero in the mode of Crocodile Dundee as previously mentioned.

Are we going to see much from Erik Johnson this year? What's the word on his shoulder?

You’re going to see more of Erik Johnson than you care to as a Hawks fan. His shoulder is supposedly 100% (don’t know why he didn’t say 110%, but we’ll let it pass) and his role on the team is guaranteed to expand over last year’s when he played limited minutes and in limited situations and still led the blueliners in points.

Last I heard, the Blues were still interested in Shanahan, think he'd come back to St. Louis? He continues to play for teams I tend to despise, except for the Whalers of course, (who can hate the whalers?) is that whole situation being held up by the Sundin fucker?

The Blues broke with NHL tradition by coming right out to the media and announcing, “We’re in the fucking Brendan Shanahan sweepstakes!” knowing full well that fans in this town love former heroes. They then, very unsubtly, announced that single-game tickets were on sale the very next day. The Shanahan move is a shitty PR scheme if we’ve ever seen one. Why would a guy like that come here for the last year or two of his career? What benefit could there be? I mean, unless he wants to trade in his wife (the former Mrs. Craig Janney) for yet another teammates’ wife.

Any luck finding that Jay McKee picture in drag? That has to exist somewhere right?

The best Jay McKee in drag pic we could come up with was a photochop of him as the real Marilyn Monroe. I haven’t slept well since I saw it. Speaking of Fragile Jay McKee, if your team is interested in him, we can work something out. Some Chicago-style hot dogs, perhaps? Hell, I’m sure we could pop for the plane ticket and everything….

There was a little bad blood between our two teams this year, Savard claiming some cheap shots and Jackman apologizing for hurt feelings (a noble gesture from a lovely youngman, I'm sure) - Think that will carry over to this year? How many fights between our squads do you see?

Blues/Blackhawks games have always had an extra edge, but back in the days when our team was good and yours was deeper in the standings than Bill Wirtz is now and during the days when we both sucked, the rivalry died a little. Last year was the first real charged up games in quite a while. Even in the stands it was getting pretty chippy, which we can all enjoy. We love when you guys come to town because our fan bases can argue and make fun of each other, but at least there’s some sense of mutual respect. Red Wings fans, by comparison, are just an ungodly amount of retarded. I hope they all die. As for the games, I’d put the over/under on on-ice fights at 2.5 per game.

Finally, how do you see the division playing out? Who finishes where? What will the record be between the Blues and the Hawks?

Division: expect the Wings to walk away again, the Hawks to beat out the Preds for the two spot and the Blues and Jackets to battle for last. Expect the Blues to always get up for the Hawks, as Oshie tries to outduel his fellow “underage in a bar” arrestee buddy Toews and Johnson to tries to out-MacInnis his landlord and break a goalies’ hand with a slapshot like Al did when you guys thought Thibeault was a good goalie. I’ll go ahead and predict a season split between the two, with each team getting one win in the other guy’s barn.

A big thanks to Sean for answering the questions - and it's always good to hear other teams hate Detroit nearly as much as we do..

Coming up next week: I don't know.. maybe Nashville? Who ever answers their email first I guess

Monday, September 1, 2008

Another Sample

(click to enlarge)

This is the kind of stuff we hope we will consistently provide when we carry the torch on from The Blue Line as the official Hawks' fans program. For info on how to advertise or how to help out, email committedindian@gmail.com.