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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ladies and Gents, Versteeg has left the building

It’s the eve of July 1st and it’s déjà vu all over again. Kris Versteeg and the rights to Chicagoan Bill Sweatt were traded to lowly Toronto for Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis. Anyone who knows anything about hockey, and not just what they watched from their bandwagon seats, expected something like this. Versteeg is a 3rd line winger that was overpaid. As I’ve said before, If you think we can’t replace him, then you’re just a moron. The Hawks have plenty of young talent in the minors, and there are certainly some cheaper 40-50 point wingers out there that love to turn over the puck in the neutral zone and rap badly. In fact, I will go on record and say he will not have a better season next year, because he cannot hide behind 2 full lines of stellar talent and be forgotten about. As with the Atlanta trade, I want to emphasize something. This trade was NOT to get solid NHL talent in return. Bowman did NOT need to load up on more inflated salaries. They acquired two PROSPECTS and a good sized role player that might be able to put 15-20 goals in the net, with a few guys around him. So, all you little kiddies can just climb back off the ledge. If we're going to be left with one sightly immature player on the roster going into training camp, give me Patrick Kane 100 out of 100 times. I am, though, kind of sad to see Elburn native and Colorado College speedster Billy Sweatt gone. It's always good to see a hometown guy make it with the big club, a la Eddie O. I guess our hopes now hinge on Danny Richmond. So much for that pipe dream. The big picture shows that the Hawks will be just fine.

I also want to address the Colin Fraser trade. This one is a real wash, and, I believe, Edmonton's request, rather than the Hawks. Fraser didn’t even play more than 3 playoff games in either of the last two years. He was a marginal player. Obviously, he wasn’t that important. This gives him a chance to possibly move up to a third line position with Edmonton, rather than wasting away as a forth line/press box player. Good luck Fraz, you’re a good kid.

You’ll probably see Hjalmarsson, Ladd and Niemi back, unless some dumb team wants to grossly over pay for one of them. If they can comfortably sleep at night with that, then more power to them. Huet needs to take a long walk of a short pier. If I never see that guy again, it’ll be too soon. Rot in Rockford, you fragile, french, goofy grinning, sieve. Once all that is taken care of the Hawks will have cleared up somewhere around $13 to $15 million, and that was a tall order for Stan to do without breaking up the core. I'm very comfortable with the job he has done thus far, now lets sneak in a sleeper free agent.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Idiots Guide to The Blackhawks Offseason...Thus Far

The internet is a funny tool. It's probably one of the single best inventions ever, and the best tool for information. When you look past all that, you have the free porn, and people just showing what fools 95% of the population really are. It's another example of how when you give people rope, they want to be cowboys. I'm always jacked into the net, so I get to read quite a bit of information, and usually it has to do with music or sports. In tribute to my old random advice column, I'd like to pull a few of the idiotic comments that I've read, regarding some of the latest Blackhawks dealings, and respond in typical Random Advice Column fashion. Hold on, this is going to get sloppy.

-"Why did you trade Buff?", "I'm so upset you traded Buff", etc, etc, etc.

Do some research before you just blindly start typing away on your keyboard. Most of you really have no concept of Hockey or even sports in general, as a business. The Hawks very close to the salary cap, and they had quite a few players tied up in expensive long term deals. Byfuglien is making $3 million a year for his stellar average of around 35 points per year. He made a name for himself in the playoffs by standing in front of the net and being a target, which only helped to enhance the deal. Now was the time to go, in fact, he very well could have been unloaded after last season. This kind of dealing and adjusting has been a huge topic of discussion for over a year, now, so stop acting so fucking surprised. Dustin Byfuglien is not worth $3 million a year, for what he brings to a team. Stan Bowman was able to unload $3 million and just over $2 million with Sopel. That probably brings three players we could now re-sign or move up from Rockford. Educate yourselves!

-"this is a huge mistake", "Horrible trade"

How do ya figure? Give me more than one legitimate reason why we can't replace him. He's 260 lbs, sure, but that's no real reason. So, basically, because he's big, and can stand in front of the net, we should keep him. We're talking the definition of "one trick pony", here. Never you mind that he's vastly overpaid, and we have younger, cheaper, more talented people that could take that spot. I can promise you that 5 years down the road, Stan Bowman will not be kicking himself in the ass. He's now on a team that, while they have heart, aren't blessed with a plethora of speed and scoring talent. He's going to be counted on to do some serious work, and to date, he hasn't shown he is "THAT GUY". He's been hidden behind quite a few of the most talented players in the league, just on his own team. He was counted on to provide one thing, size, and quite frankly, when a player of similar size was on him, he was ineffective. Just because you went out and bought a jersey that is now worthless, doesn't justify your idiotic argument. Anyone that would rather keep these players and give up the chance to sign Hjalmarsson, Niemi, and Ladd is really dense and should have their fan card revoked.

-"they are dismantling the team", "we're one and done", "they are breaking up the team", "it's a conspiracy", bla, bla, bla.

I repeat, "how do ya figure"? This team has a core of VERY talented players and I'm going to name each one of them, because you obviously need to be reminded. Jonathon Toews, Partrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson (if re-signed) and Brian Campbell. They traded away 3 role players and a prospect. RELAX. There is a very good chance they will be stronger by the start of next season than this past one. Don't be surprised if you see Versteeg gone, as well. I can't WAIT to hear those people crying, and I'm sure it'll have something to do with his Eminem-like rapping skills. Again, he's a mid-level player hidden behind some very special players. Put him on a team that's hurting for talent and he is not going to be so successful. Stan Bowman has the opportunity to clear up roughly $12 million in payroll, if he's successful. That's a tall order. If you think this is some trick to break up a Stanley Cup Championship team, you need to be beaten about the melon with a 12 oz. hammer, because you're stupid. I'm sure the management's bonuses, resumes, and motivation are based on destroying a successful team. I hear there are quite a few jobs available, with that very result in mind. Simpletons!

-Bad move to get rid of someone who can take the front of the net on offense and make EVERY defenseman in the league nervous. Why did Pronger have such a poor series? Could it be the "Buff Effect?"

Poor series you say? Did you happen to WATCH any of the series, because if you claim you did, you are a moron? Pronger is the single reason Philly were in it AT ALL! He completely shut Byfuglien down for the first four games, and the only reason that Buff rebounded for games five and six is because his coach made a lineup change that kept Pronger away from him. I didn't see many teams in the regular season "nervous" about Dustin Byfuglien. As much as I think Pronger is an asshole, and he is; he's an asshole I'd love to have on my team. He's dominating. I'm sending the king of the internet to your house to remove your rights to it, altogether.

-"we just won, why so soon?", "couldn’t you let them celebrate more?"

I'm sure their motivation is based on off season celebrations. Let me explain something to you, the NHL draft is TODAY, and we received 2 draft picks in this deal. The Hawks would like to make their own draft picks, not let another team do it for them. Secondly, the free agent period is coming right behind the draft, and the team needs to be able to plan on who they are going to re-sign, or who they will need to go out to sign. If you seriously want to base a business deal on the amount of time they have to celebrate, you need to be banished from ever watching a hockey game, ever again.

- "we got ripped off", "we didn't get anyone in return"

Who do you think we were going to get for these three stooges? Sidney Crosby? Ovechkin? This deal was made to clear up salaries, not bring in superstar players. Marty Reasoner is a role player that is fairly cheap and will probably admirably fill in for John Madden. Crabb and Eager were “thrown-ins” and are a wash. Aliu has some potential but he hasn't progressed like they had hoped, and Jeremy Morin has some talent and potential. The best part is that they received two fairly high draft picks. We lost a role player who provided 35 points a year, a #5 defenseman, a 4th line role player, and a minor leaguer. Hardly, irreplaceable. You're seriously delusional, if you think Byfuglien is that good.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

OH NOES!!! The Sky is Falling!!!

The day all true Hawks fans, ones aware there was hockey in Chicago before April, knew we were going to see. The first big chunk of overinflated Stanley Cup salary was unloaded. The Hawks sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and prospect Akim Aliu to the Atlanta Thrashers for Marty Reasoner, former Chicago Wolves fan favorite Joey Crabb, prospect Jeremy Morin, the 24th and 54th overall picks in the upcoming NHL draft. You would have thought Michael Jordan signed to play with the Washington Wizards, or Wayne Gretzky was traded to the LA Kings, based on some people's reactions. The only people who have smegma on their faces are the people ran out a month ago and plunked down $190 for an authentic Byfuglien jersey. I hope you enjoyed your 4 weeks of die hard fandom. Bandwagon jumping is a complicated process. If anyone had a Sopel or Eager jersey, they just deserved to have $190 taken out of their bank account, doused in gasoline and lit on fire. Here is a little nugget of information about this move; it's a good, smart move for the Hawks. Anyone who says they could have gotten more, doesn’t pay attention to Cap-onomics. They were very close to the cap and have players to re-sign. Every GM in the NHL knew this, so their bargaining position is pretty poor.

Those of you that have watched a significant portion of the three full seasons with the Hawks know the true Dustin Byfuglien, and not the one who basically parked his butt in front of Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabakov for a handful of games. His last three seasons he has posted 34 points, 31 points and 36 points. That's all. In the playoffs he had 9 points in 17 games last season, and 16 points in 22 games this season. Serviceable, certainly, but not worth $3 million a season. During the regular season he is basically lost in the mix, and had no real regular line mates. Of course, the Hawks played significantly smaller defensive personnel in San Jose and Vancouver, so Buff looked like a beast. When someone close to his size, like Pronger, was on him, he was invisible. All this being said, he was an important part of this year's magic, but expendable. The Hawks have a few big, younger, and cheaper bodies ready to take a spot.

Brent Sopel, is a big hunchbacked, slow, caveman. He blocks shots like a beast, and was a stud on the penalty kill, but so is the younger, faster, and more talented RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson. So, we basically traded Brent Sopel for the room to sign Hjalmarsson. That is a win in any GM’s book. Thanks for the entertainment and making us laugh in those endless Geico commercials that VS and Comcast Sportsnet play.

Ben Eager is, well, Ben Eager. A cement head, and very easily replaced . He was a free agent anyway, so they only traded away his rights. The two things I’ll remember most about Ben are his slick goal in the Winter Classic, and of course, his game winning goal against Philly, 28 seconds after Hossa scored. Enjoy Atlanta, Ben.

The part that surprised me the most is Aliu. He was picked up last year as a “Byfuglien lite”, but it looks like the organ-I-zation wasn’t happy with his progress. This move will open the door for a young player that a lot of people aren’t aware of yet, named Kyle Beach. By all accounts he’s a lot slimmer than Buff, but twice as annoying to play against.

In return the Hawks got a couple of marginal players and a prospect that has some potential. Reasoner will probably replace Madden and Crabb will probably end up in Rockford where he can be a fan favorite for yet another Chicago area minor league team.

Your guess is as good as anyone else’s about Morin. One scouting report says, “A goal scorer at heart, Morin attempts creative maneuvers with the puck. He's just a bit slow putting things together and may not be as successful at higher levels. Skating is not his strong suit. Running into teammates on the ice makes one question where his head is at times.” I’m not so sure what to take out of that, but he had 83 points (47 goals, 36 assists) in 58 games last season for the Kitchener Rangers, in the OHL. This is a little draft interview on him from ’09:

Moving forward, I expect to see Hjalmarsson and Niemi signed and possibly even have Ladd back. At this point it’s 50/50, but I believe Versteeg’s salary will be dumped, too. I’m also reading rumors of Colin Fraser to Edmonton for a 6th round pick. I’m happy with any of that action, because the core is untouched. This all means the door has opened for some of the Hawks young talent to finally make a splash. Jake Dowell, Bryan Bickell, Kyle Beach, Jack Skille, Mathis Olimb, Rob Klinkhammer and Shawn Lalonde are all new names you could see getting some time with the team. Last but not least we have the albatross that is Cristobal Huet. Over $5 million of bench warming goodness. In an easy alternate universe, the Hawks could trade him, but no one wants that salary or his fragile ego, so either we release him and eat his salary or send him to Rockford, because he CANNOT sit on the bench making that next season. That money needs to be allocated somewhere else. Good luck cleaning this one up, Stan the man.

UPDATE - Colin Fraser was traded to the Oilers for the 151st overall pick in the draft. :snore:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2010 Hawks Stanley Cup; A Die Hard's Perspective

At about 10PM on June 9th 2010 I stood in my living room staring at every move made in game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. I was waiting for history, and we almost saw it happen in tragic fashion when Duncan Keith turned the puck over about 10 seconds into the OT. At 4:06 of overtime, Patrick Kane slyly snuck around Kimmo Timonen, sized up the net, and scored a perfectly placed goal right between, former Blackhawk, Michael Leighton’s legs. HISTORY. A million thoughts ran through my mind. Roughly 30 years of being a hockey fan, player and coach had come to this moment. I wanted to cry, and I was speechless. Something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. What a ring it has to it.

I thought back to my introduction to hockey in the early to mid 80’s. Some friends in my neighborhood had talked me into playing street hockey with them during the summer, and I loved it “EEEEEEE-MEDIATLY”. Soon, we weren’t playing baseball during our hot summer vacations, or after school, but we were playing street hockey, almost religiously. Any good little hockey player was a fan of our hometown Hawks, and names like Denis “Savvy” Savard, Steve “Gramps” Larmer, Dougie Wilson, Chicago Eddie Olczyk, Al Secord, Troy Murray, or good ol Murray Baaaaaaaaaaannerman. Even some names that are more suited for the trivia books like Keith Brown, Behn Wilson, Dan Vincelette, Mike Hudson, Everett Sanipass, and who can forget the “legendary” two headed goaltending duo of Jacques Cloutier and Alain Chevrier? We even had our early versions of Burish and Eager, in the cementhead twins, Stu Grimson and Mike Peluso. I’ll never forget watching each and every one of them, and each name brings a smile to my face, because I wanted to grow up and be one of them. I’m sure I could rattle off each of their numbers, fairly quickly. Of course, I was the sucker of the neighborhood that loved playing goalie, so Murray Bannerman, Bob Sauve, Warren Skorodenski, and Darren Pang were my heroes. We had the original, “flash in the pan, former Washington Capital goalie, that we just had to sign because they played a handful of decent games in the previous year’s playoffs, even though he is just an average goaltender, at best”, Bob Mason. Christobal Huet salutes you, my friend, and may you always be linked by that very distinction. Yes, I sat up and watched that entire 4-OT game on April 18th 1987, between the Islanders and Caps, just over a month after my 13th birthday. Even though a non Chicago player, Calgary Goalie Mike Vernon, was my favorite player since his heroic rookie season in 85-86, I was still a huge Hawks fan. I can clearly remember spending the night at my friend’s house many nights and his parents would get us cheap third balcony tickets. They would drop two or three of us off at the stadium where we would watch games way up in the old barn’s corners, and then they would pick us up after the games. We didn’t care that we were only 13 or 14, because we were at the game! It never seemed like we were with a stadium full of strangers, because it was a big red, white and black family. A loud, obnoxious, drunken family, but anyone from Chicago knows that’s what a family really is. The anthem was MUCH louder in that old barn, and it gave you chills EVERY STINKIN TIME. I truly believe the roof actually rose a few inches quite a few times. People use to pound out Indian drum beats on the wood doors that lined the walkways of the north and south balconies, just like we imagined old Blackhawk tribes would in their war dances. The old antique organ made the floor vibrate when it was played, and sounded like an enormous evil haunted mansion. The two final defining moments in the old Chicago Stadium, in my memory, were the All-Star game national anthem during the first gulf war (youtube it, if you’ve never seen it), and the Hawks heartbreaking finals appearance against Pittsburgh. I went to a game with my brother and father, in which my little brothers favorite player ,Denis Savard, scored against Mike Vernon to tie the game with under 30 seconds to go and the goalie pulled. Sure, he had scored against my favorite player, but I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy the chaos. I acted disappointed, but I loved every second. Even the old dirty troughs in the men’s bathrooms are worth mentioning. It was personality or, as Gallagher calls it, STYYYYYYYLE.

In the early 90’s hockey was still strong in Chicago, but they never got the attention they deserved because the Bulls were absolutely demolishing the NBA. At the time, Michael Jordan owned Chicago, and the Hawks would have to play second fiddle. You had coach Mike Keenan, who was bigger than life, and even Darryl Sutter showed some promise. The players, whom I feel all should have their names on banners in the rafters, were Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, Eddie Belfour, Dominik Hasek (whom I predicted would be a great goaltender, before he played a single game in the NHL), Gary Suter, Steve Smith, Tony Amonte (amazing hair before there was any knowledge of Duncan Teeth), Joe Murphy, Dirk Graham (one of the best Hawks captains ever!), Alex Zhamnov (you never stood a chance with Hawks fans, my man), and Eric Daze (the original Martin Havlat). Although, any true Hawks fan remembers legendary names like Sergei Krivokrasov, Jimmy Waite, James Black, Steve Dubinsky, Christian Laflamme, and Chad Kilger. The Hawks moved to the new stadium and so did we all. A new chapter. Times were changing and we had a brand new clubhouse to break in. The Hawks, unfortunately, were heading for a mediocre phase, and that lead to a simply terrible phase in the early 2000’s. I was always very outspoken about the Dollar Bill Wirtz’s “no home games on TV” policy. Most people who live outside of Chicago don’t realize that most of us rarely ever saw a home game on TV until a few years ago, because old man Wirtz had some twisted logic about how showing games on TV would take away from the ticket sales. I can remember, in my early teens, riding my bike with my friend to Palos Lanes in Palos Hills, to sneak into the bowling alley bar, so we could watch home playoff games on the Wirtz version of PPV, Hawk Vision. Talk about a lame way to treat young impressionable future Hawks fans. Make them have to feel like criminals to see the team they love and admire. We weren’t even trying to sneak alcohol, we just sat there, drank cokes and loved seeing the Hawks in the playoffs. How’s that sellout streak looking now, old man? It made no sense and aggravated me to no end, but I really became aggravated when the management just didn’t seem to care about the fans or the tradition.

In my middle 20’s, I had had enough of the archaic management style. They either signed “nobodies” or washed up “has-beens” and I certainly wasn’t lining the pockets of Dollar Bill with MY money, when he couldn’t have the common decency to let me watch my favorite team play a home game on TV. So I began my boycott of the Wirtz family, and it actually, probably, lasted 6 or 7 years. Judging by the attendance, I’m not the only one who boycotted. I loved the Hawks but I hated what had happened to our proud franchise. We were, pretty much, the laughing stock of all sports. This all came to an end the day William Wirtz passed away. As much as I want to respect his family, because I’m sure they loved him dearly, I couldn’t have been happier, and would have gladly danced a jig on his grave, if I knew how to. Any true fan knew that things were going to change soon. Rocky Wirtz, I will always respect you, because you, sir, are what us Hawks fans deserve. I basically predicted what would happen, from then on out. First, Hawks games on TV. We were in the middle of a season so contracts needed to be signed and schedules adjusted, but they started showing us home games and the following season all games were in TV. Second, was to bring some big names to Chicago. Third, I felt they would just miss the playoffs the next season, followed by making a strong playoff effort the next, and compete for the Cup the year after that, which is 2010. So to all of you Chicago Blackhawks fans, like me, who have suffered through the heartbreak and the disappointment, I raise a glass to you…We are Stanley Cup Champions. Let me repeat that:


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