Thursday, October 16, 2008

Right Move, Bewlidering Timing

When I first saw the subject line on the thread on The 300 Level, I thought it was a joke, but soon realized the surprising news was in fact that, news. The timing is just so odd, but ultimately, probably the right decision. There was a post on the 300 Level, I don't remember by who, but I thought it summed it up best. The gist was that Scotty Bowman was brought in to survey everything, and at some point he must have said to Rocky and McDonough something to the effect of, "I don't know how much talent you have on the ice, and I won't know until they are playing a real NHL system." Quite frankly, the Hawks weren't.

It has to be said that Savvy has been a class act throughout. Though opinions of his coaching were pretty low, I doubt anyone could find a way to not like and root for the man. His players loved him, and that very well may have been the problem. Part of the love he felt from the team was that he required so little from them. There was no system to adhere to. Back-checking was non-existent. Fundamentals apparently were never worked on, all of this stuff the players' least favorite. Savvy wanted to be liked by his players so badly. He rewarded them instantly. Any string of good performances landed you on the top line. Notice Versteeg has been skating with Toews and Kane the past two games. Versteeg had been the Hawks best player in the first two games, but he doesn't belong on the top 2, or really even the top 3, lines. He's good in his role, and that's where he should stay, perhaps with increased ice time. How many other players have strung two or three good games together and found themselves with 19 and 88? Buff? Ladd? Kontiola? All did, and more. The list goes on. Savvy wanted his team to know any above average performance would result in promotion, whether it would fit or not, so that they would work hard and play for him. But that doesn't really work.

The similarities to when the Bulls fired Cartwright are hard to ignore. Everyone was happy that a beloved former player who was an assistant took over for a subpar head coach. His young team loved him, partly because he was a good guy and didn't really run any system they had to adhere to. They weren't forced to exert themselves on the defensive end. But that doesn't win, and Cartwright was dispatched early in his first full season.

Coach Q will definitely maximize talent on this team. We'll know exactly what they are soon enough. Fans in Colorado complained of his goalie juggling, that he never gave Budjai or Theodore an extended run until Theodore in the 2nd half of last season. Well, that would work here, as Khabby has never dealt well with a heavy workload and Huet's never been a full time starter. Avs fans also bellowed that he didn't play the kids enough. He'll have no choice here.

Some are wondering why Tallon hasn't followed Savvy out the door, and it's a good question to ask. This is only a theory, but Tallon is coming off his first off-season where the William Wirtz leash was off. Rumors have it that McDonough instructed Tallon to make a splash, which he did, which inturn has handicapped this roster. But McDonough and Rocky know they can't fire him, yet, for doing what he pretty much was told to do. Plus, now, with a real coach, they'll know exactly how much talent Tallon has assembled. Tallon has only one way out now, and that's Khabby continuing to play well and netting something in return that propels the Hawks to the playoffs, and not just as an 8th seed. It's his only salvation. Doubtful he pulls it off.

Bottom line, the Hawks will have a better coach behind their bench on Satruday night in St. Louis than the did on Wednesday night at the UC. Players will be held responsible, and we'll know how or if they are viable NHL players. Defensive lapses and turnovers will be reduced, you'd have to imagine. Perhaps, in the long run, we'll be glad that it was done so early to get the adjustment out of the way ASAP. But that remains to be seen.

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