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Friday, August 27, 2010

Turco's New Masks Revealed

First and foremost, I’d like to wish you all a Happy Friday, and, more importantly, I’d like to wish my beautiful daughter a Happy 2nd Birthday.

Now, getting back to Blackhawks business, it’s been quite "slow" to put it mildly. We’re all just waiting for training camp to start because there isn’t anything else in the Chicago sports world worth defecating on. From any reports and speculation I have read, Marty Turco will wear #30. This is fine with me, as long as he didn’t turn that #35 around, like Khabby originally did, and make it #53. That’s a lame number, and even worse than the #48 that I wear. Some people have speculated that #30 hasn’t been worn since the great Ed Belfour, but this is untrue. Mark Fitzpatrick wore it briefly in 98/99, the infamous Mike Leighton wore it in 02/03, Adam Munro wore it briefly in 03/04 and 04/05, and so did S├ębastien Caron for one game in 05/06 according to HockeyDB.com. Interesting, and ironic, fact about Caron is that he is the goalie Christobal Huet will be taking the starting job from on Fribourg-Gotteron in the Swiss League, once the deal is finalized. Back to the subject at hand, a story was released about the masks Turco will wear for the Hawks, along with a photo. I, personally, think they are great, but you can decide for yourself. If we take those masks with the very slick one Crawford wore last year, the Hawks have the best LOOKING netminders in the league. Have a "look-see":

This guy looks excited, with a capital “e”

The Turco masks were created in Port Huron Michigan at Warwick Mask, and painted by Dave Gunnarsson, who painted many NHL mask in the past from his Swedish studio called DaveART (www.DaveART.com).

Monday, August 23, 2010

What you really need to know about the 2010-11 Blackhawks

Thanks for the memories

A good friend of mine, and person I have great respect for, gave me a great idea for both the bandwagon fans, that had no idea who Martin Havlat, or Nikolai Khabibulin were (much less Steve Larmer, Al Secord, and Denis Savard), and the casual fans, that insist that the team just picked names randomly out of a hat to trade away to annoy the fans. His suggestion was a comparison of the players from the Stanley Cup winning team, and the team that’s going to go to war in mid September. Now, I know full well that of the 2 million Hawks fans at that celebration parade, about 80,000 could name half the players without a lineup card in front of them. That’s part of being successful, and I don’t knock that; if you don’t try arguing hockey with me. If you do want to argue Hawks history or hockey in general, you’re going to get a verbal enema. Please, as the Rock would say, “know your role and shut your mouth”. Use the writings of the hardcore players/fans/critics to educate yourself. There isn’t much that looks more idiotic than someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about at a sporting event or when trying to debate sports topics. Kind of like parents who argue why their child needs to play ahead of everyone else, and I witnessed over 10 years of this. Your kid sucks; if they were that good, they would be playing already, and if you knew so much you’d be coaching instead of cheerleading from the sideline between cell phone calls, Johnny Superdad.

Moving along, My point here all along has been that anyone who has been paying attention knew for well over a year that poor Stan Bowman was going to need to unload some salaries after this season. Again, this was not some grand scheme to piss you off because you bought a Byfuglien jersey for Easter, or any other distorted variation. If you bought a Byfuglien jersey you’re a fool in the first place, because he was one of the first people that were thought to be unloaded. This is something I predicted after the 08-09 season! He wasn’t staying for $3 million a year, and if you think Bowman could have jackhammered $3 million somewhere into this salary cap, you are quite dense. Maybe you should have asked a knowledgeable hockey fan before plunking down damn near $200 for a jersey. I’m not going to rehash my past rants about the situation, but please feel free to read them at your own leisure. You’ll be a more educated Hawks fan after reading them.
The most logical way to lay this out is by position, so let us begin:


2009-10 - Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Patrick Sharp, John Madden, Colin Fraser, and Jake Dowell

This was actually a position you could call “questionable” after Toews, last season. Everyone knows Toews is the number one guy and deserves every cent of his salary. I will be upset if he doesn’t finish his career in Chicago and if #19 isn’t hanging in the rafters when his career is said and done. Bolland was hurt a majority of the season, and the other guys really didn’t light the world on fire with their play on the second line in his place. Coach Q was forced to moved Sharp, who is naturally a winger, to Center for a good portion of the season. Sharp did an admirable job, which is why he could be a Center again this year, and one of the many reasons that he was not traded to clear up cap room. Flexibility is a very important asset in sports, and Sharp is as flexible as a player comes. Back to Bolland, he never really struck me as a second line center. His skillset and play is perfect as a third line center and shutdown player. Just look at the way he shut down Jumbo Joe Thornton in the Shark series last year. Bolland gave up 4” and close to 65 lbs to Thornton, and completely shut the man down, and that’s a VERY hard thing to do. As with most positions, last season, they were overloaded with talent. John Madden played very well, as did Colin Fraser, but they were pushed down the roster because of all the talent at the top. I LOVE everything about John Madden and really wished there was a way to bring him back, but it was not reasonable. Chuck Norris should wear John Madden pajamas to bed, because he’s blue collar, bad ass, son of a bitch. He did exactly what he was brought here for, and was rewarded with another Stanley Cup. The forth line was centered by Fraser, who could blossom into a Bolland type third line player with Edmonton, and Adam Burish. They did an excellent job all season, and would have gotten much more playing time on other teams, but were kind of wasted when the playoffs rolled around.

Projected 2010-11 - Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Patrick Sharp, Jake Dowell, Jeff Taffe, Mathis Olimb, Marcus Kruger, Nathan Davis, Evan Brophey

This season, the Center position will be pretty close to last year’s group. Sharp should center the second line and Bolland on the shutdown line, which is virtually no change. You lose Madden, but you’d gain more Sharp’s playmaking ability and some youth. The forth line is where you’ll see the biggest change. The most likely scenario would be Jake Dowell or Jeff Taffe playing there and there are a gaggle of young guys that would love to answer a midseason call-up to head to the UC. One player that might have seen some serious looks was Mathis Olimb, but he was setback in the prospects camp, when Kyle Beach maimed him and busted up his shoulder pretty good (if Beach is like that to teammates, makes you wonder how insane he’ll be to opponents. ::cough:: Dan Carcillo ::cough::). If the young players do just a solid job, this will be a wash. A full season of Dave Bolland with a Sharpie getting the hang of being a second line center sits just fine with me.

Kyle Beach tearing Olimb's shoulder up


2009-10 - Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg , Troy Brouwer, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Tomas Kopecky, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, Bryan Bickell, and Jack Skille

Here is where they had a “logjam” of players. There just simply wasn’t enough playing time for all of these talented guys. This is a great problem to have, but it wastes a great deal of potential and probably costs quite a bit of money. Kane was a stud all year, Hossa missed 4 months and still had 51 points, Versteeg was solid with his usual mental lapses, Ladd was his usual quiet yet solid self, Eager was serviceable for his skillset, and Brouwer had a decent 40 point regular season. After that, Kopecky struggled to find a place, Buff was all over the map and only had 34 points in 82 regular season games, Burish was hurt 90% of the season, and the combo of Bickell/Skille racked up more miles on I-90 than they did noticeable playing time. The playoffs were a different story, as Kopecky finally looked like the player that Bowman was looking for, and Buff gained notoriety for parking his gimongous ass in front of Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabakov. I’ve made my opinions about Buff well known, but I’ll give a slight refresher for those too lazy to read past blogs. Buff is a one trick pony; he’s big. He’s not fast, he’s not overly agile, he’s not real smart, and he’s probably below average handling the puck. He’s a bowling ball that can run people over and can plant his butt in front of the net, and he can be very good at that. But, to keep a guy around that is really only useful as a screen in the playoffs for $3 million a year, isn’t smart. You can’t teach size, but you CAN find it cheaper somewhere else.

Projected 2010-2011 - Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Troy Brouwer, Tomas Kopecky, Viktor Stalberg, Fernando Pisani, Bryan Bickell, Jack Skille, Kyle Beach, Hugh Jessiman, Rob Klinkhammer, and a cast of thousands.

Offensively, this is where you’re going to see the biggest changes. Kane is tethered to Toews for life, and we might see big Troy Brouwer have a breakthrough year with them. Quenneville has put them all together quite a few times before. Brouwer, of course, isn’t as big as Buff, but he has better hands. My wild card, and you read it here first, is Viktor Stalberg. He’s a big, 24 year old winger with some great hands, that wouldn’t be out of place playing with two world class players like Batman and the Boy Wonder. He was lost in that abyss of a team called the Maple Leafs, last year. Even Phil Kessel was pretty transparent there, and who else did Stalberg have to play with there? Absolutely, no one. He had 14 points in 40 games, but this was as a rookie, with an atrocious team. He’s the same age, 4” taller, and 30 lbs heavier than the player he was traded for, Kris Versteeg. Of course, he probably doesn’t have the dangling skills Steeger has, but he has that thing you can’t teach, size. Toronto will be better this year, but Versteeg will get knocked around quite a bit with only Kessel to help in the scoring department. I can’t wait to see how many of Versteeg’s neutral zone turnovers end up in the back of his own net. If Brouwer doesn’t produce how "Q" would like, watch for Stalberg to find himself playing with Toews and Kane. Like I said, this is purely a hunch, but a good one.

Mr. Stalberg's College Highlight reel

The second line will most likely find the Czech connection, Hossa and Kopecky, between Sharpie. I was one of Kopecky’s most harsh critics, last season, until he finally found dug down in his chones and found some balls. It looked like something just finally “clicked” with him, once Hossa was back and comfortable. A full season of the Czech mob together, and I think we’ll have more appreciation for TomoKop.

The third line is anybody’s guess. You’ll either have Brouwer or Stalberg, with Bolland, and possibly Bickell or Skille. A late entry into the third line bonanza is Mr. Ulcerive Colitis himself, Fernando Pisani. I don’t really see a place for him on this team, but at $500K, I guess Bowman wanted to give it a shot. I’m not sold on anyone, just yet, so we’ll have to see how camp plays out. One thing is for certain, though, someone needs to break through for this group. Boruwer, Stahlberg, or Bickell could have a hell of a camp and get paired with Toews and Kane, which would leave the remaining two on the third line. That’s really not too shabby, any way you slice it. I’m really not a Jack Skille fan, but the kid had to have some talent to be a first round pick in ’05 ahead of players like: Devin Setoguchi, Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, Martin Hanzal, Ryan Parent, Tuukka Rask, T.J. Oshie, and Steve Downie. I’d like nothing more than to see him be the breakout star of this year’s camp, a la Kris Versteeg two years ago. I know this is purely a pipe dream, but “first round” first line of Toews, Kane and Skille would make for a nice story. I wouldn't count on that ever happening, but you never know how things will play out. Look for, Stalberg-Bolland-Pisani, or Stalberg-Bolland-Skille/Bickell.

The checking line is even more of a crapshoot. Jake Dowell will, most likely, center any combination of Bryan Bickell, Jack Skille, Fernando Pisani, Kyle Beach, Hugh Jessiman, or Rob Klinkhammer. The thing holding Beach back will be his salary. The Hawks don’t want to flirt with the salary cap ceiling any more then they have to, so Beach’s paycheck may land him in Rockford for a full season, barring catastrophic injuries. Honestly, every single report I’ve heard is that he’s a more talented Dan Carcillo. THAT would be fun to watch, now wouldn’t it? Jessiman is a mountain of a man, but has been a HUGE first round bust from ’03. He’s only 26, so maybe he’s just a late bloomer; or the Rangers just suck at drafting players, and I highly suspect the latter. I love to pull for the underdog, but I can’t see much promise in a player that can barely hack it in the AHL. For all you trivia hounds, here is a fun fact: Hugh Jessiman is currently the only first round pick from 2003 to not play in an NHL game. By comparison, the two players drafted after him are Brent Seabrook, and Dustin Brown. You can now pause for a chuckle and a drumroll. Rob Klinkhammer is a tough kid that made it to some of the final cuts last season, and could see some time as a digger, as well. From what I saw, he looks like a tough kid that’s willing to get his nose dirty. We may even see some of the 6’8” and 258 lb John Scott at wing, who at makes Jessiman look like an anorexic midget, but I’ll cover him more later.


2009-2010 – Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Sopel, Jordan Hendry, Nick Boynton, and Kim Johnsson

Most of you know the story of the Defense, last season. Duncan Keith was the best defender in the league and his partner, Brent Seabrook, could be the top defenseman on quite a number of teams. Brian Campbell showed that he is more valuable than originally thought when the “D” struggled while he was hurt at the end of the regular season, and beginning of the playoffs. Campbell does really dumb things, sometimes, but he is a talented guy that can take the spotlight off some of the forwards, which can allow them to find open ice or sneak in behind the defenders. The Hjalmarsson saga was an interesting soap opera that we’re all familiar with, but he’s a solid top 4 guy that needed to be kept. Things were rounded out with Sopel, Hendry, and later in the year, Boynton and Johnsson (who played 8 games and was abducted by aliens, never to be heard from again). Here is where I’d like to address the curious case of Brent Sopel. He missed all but 23 games two years ago, and the Hawks did just fine. Last year everyone fell in love with him for blocking shots, but I have to straighten one misconception out. Blocking shots has less to do with skill, than it does DESIRE and POSITIONING. If you’re going to fall in love with a player for throwing his body in front of opponent’s shots, there are much cheaper, faster, and more talented players. In fact, I’d be willing to bet the 34 year old Jassen Cullimore would be glad to get walked around 2 or 3 times a game and block 4 shots with his mug for his league minimum $500K, as opposed to Sopel doing the same job last year for $2.5 Million. I firmly believe that the Hunchback of Sopel Dame blocked so many shots because he was too slow to get out of the way. What do you think of that?

Projected 2020-2011 - Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Hendry, Nick Boynton, John Scott, Jassen Cullimore

Top 4 are intact from last year, and technically, the top 6 are back. Boynton and Hendry count, because they both played in the Cup Finals. The Hawks lost a whopping one “D” player, a third liner to boot, from the team that last year was one of the top in the league. Scared? Was Brent Sopel the “X Factor” in the 2010 Stanley Cup? No, he wasn’t. The interesting signing of the year was John Scott. He’s a Jolly Green Giant that I’ve nicknamed Big Bad John, after a 1961 country song of the same name. As I pointed out earlier, he’s 6’8” and almost 260 lbs. If you check out any of his fights at HockeyFights.com you’ll see that he’s a real bruiser. I’m not really sure where he fits in the mix, but even Stu Grimson was an unknown cementhead at one time, when he was acquired from Calgary. He plays wing and defense, so he’s flexible.

The only real question marks are the young kids that they have acquired. These are all names you should watch out for in the coming years: Ivan Vishnevskiy, Nick Leddy, Brian Connolly, Shawn Lalonde, Simon Danis-Pepin, and Dylan Olsen. Any of them could see a little duty if there are any injuries or trades at any point in the season, but don’t be too surprised if you hear Vishnevskiy or Lalonde’s names first. It’s a bright future with the defensive core of the Hawks system.


2009-2010 – Antti Niemi, Cristobal Huet, and Corey Crawford

I’m a person that is glad to point out when I’m right. Shocking, I know, but before last season and even as far back as July 1st 2008, I was what you would call a “Huet Hater”. Anyone who knows me might chuckle at that, because it’s a bit of an understatement. I never understood it, and on top of that, I never felt Huet was even a decent goalie. So, yadda yadda yadda, I was right again, and Antti Niemi fell ass first into a goaltending job that Huet was trying his hardest to give to anyone that would take it. Fast forward, and Antti Niemi is the Stanley Cup winning goaltender. I remember a line that was once on the Second City Hockey blog, where the subject of the goalie battle was brought up for the umpteenth time and one of the guys said something to the effect of, “Huet is what we have, would you rather be right (regarding him being a wet noodle) or have the cup?” I’ll take both, thank you! Thanks Cristo-balless, for making me look so good.

Projected 2020-2011 – Marty Turco, Corey Crawford, and Hannu Toivonen

This position is the biggest change of the offseason. Neither goaltending choice will be back this year, and I’m not worried about that one bit. By the time the training camp starts, the Hawks will have somehow found a way to unload the epic facepalm called Cristobal Huet. AHL, Europe, Russia, Seven Bridges 30 and older league, no one really cares as long as his obnoxiously inflated salary disappears. Goodbye and good riddance. Marty Turco will provide plenty of solid starts and probably a few not so solid ones. Tell me how this differs from anything the Hawks got this past year and I’ll tell you how you’re wrong. In fact, It’s nice to have a guy that WANTS the starting job and isn’t just looking for an inflated payday. Yes, Antti Niemi, I’m staring a hole in your enormous forehead right now. Niemi wanted to play games, Huet wanted to play with himself, and Turco wanted to play goalie for the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Turco is more affordable than the other two clowns, to boot.

Gotta love his attitude

Here is something to make you look forward to this season

On to the backup position, I‘ve always been a fan of Corey Crawford. I’m glad to see he’s finally going to get a chance, after the 2 year shaft job he got, courtesy of Huet and Tallon. He deserved an honest shot behind Khabibulin two years ago, and before he ever got the chance, Tallon raced out on the first day of free agency to sign Huet. He must have been drunk, because the whole league was rolling on the floor when that came across the ticker. To show even more confidence in Crawford, they ran out and signed some unknown Finnish goalie/zamboni driver named Antti Niemi. Somewhere, Crawford was slitting his wrists and dousing a Dale Tallon voodoo doll in gasoline. He had to have hooked up with one of Tallon’s daughters or something. I’m glad to see that the kid has remained patient and is finally going to get his shot. I wish him well, and best of luck.

Can't pass up a montage with a Van Halen song

I can’t really comment on the great Hannu Toivonen because I’ve never seen him play. I WILL say that his stats don’t exactly have the Hall of Fame, in Toronto, licking their lips. There is one infamous clip I’ve seen of him, in a game with the Bruins in ’06, where he gets stuck behind the net, and then finally, ON the net. I’m sure he’s more than qualified to be an NHL backup, though. I’m pulling for Crawford, but Toivonon has just as much of a chance, at this point, especially because he makes less money.

His best Cristobal Huet impression

Here is a little more flattering clip

This wraps up my preview of the 2010-11 season. Now, I won’t run around crowing like some idiot bandwagon fan saying that the Hawks WILL repeat, but they have just as much of a chance as anyone. They have a very strong core, and you can expect them to be a strong team for several years to come. The newer, youngers guys are very promising and talented. The management has created a few holes, but they have also replenished the developmental system with a lot of young exciting talent. My prediction is that they will make it to at least the conference finals.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are we there yet?

The natives are getting restless in Chicago, and when I say natives, I mean loyal Blackhawk fans. The Cubs are truly pathetic, the Sox are trying mightily to blow their season, the Bulls have been insignificant for a decade, and the Bears are one Jay Cutler injury away from a 4-12 season. So, what do we have to look forward to, Chicago? Blackhawks training camp is really the only answer. About the same time the Bears open their regular season, the Hawks will be starting training camp, and their defense of the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, it's really a "no win" situation for them, but the fans are going to be here to cheer them on, nonetheless. If they repeat, everyone will just say it was expected, and if they don't, which is a likely scenario for ANY franchise, all I'm going to read is how they broke up the team, and all that other utter trash the hockey rag writers will spew. As I have been thinking about how thankless the Cup was, outside of the Chicago area, I came up with a few more points and misconceptions I'd like to debunk. I'm not really sure why I get so wound up about dopey people and what they post on the internet, but I do. Stupid people and people who assume I'm stupid light my flame like nothing else. I'll flat out tell you the things I know nothing about, but Hockey is something I'm pretty educated on, so when I see lies, fabrications, and plain old stupidity, I get infuriated. Like a scene out of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, I want to go to each person's door and knock them out with a 2X4, for being morons, but then I remember that 90% of the population are the equivalent of slow adults. Nevertheless, here are a few more "Blackhawks for Dummies" points:

"The Blackhawks bought the Stanley Cup" - In the age of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Washington Redskins, Miami Heat, and a few others, things could look that way...if you're a total simpleton. Of the roughly 31 players that played games for the team this past year, a grand total of 6 players were signed as NHL free agents over the last 3 or 4 years. Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, John Madden, Brent Sopel, and Cristobal Huet were all signed on the open market. Of these players, only Campbell and Hossa were big name acquisitions with large contracts. Huet got a big contract, but is hardly a big name or impact player. Going out and signing 2 big name players (a whopping %6 of your roster), in successive years, is not buying a championship, folks. All of the rest were either drafted, traded for, or signed as unknown free agents. That's what you call building a franchise, not buying a championship. They did what ANY team should; they drafted very well, made a few smart trades, and filled in some holes with talented free agents. Anyone who tries to break that down any other way just looks childish and jealous. There isn't one team in any sport that wouldn't build their franchise that way, given the opportunity.

"The Blackhawks cheated" - I challenge anyone to show me one concrete example of cheating. Marian Hossa? His contract was reviewed and accepted by the league. It's not like he played illegally or anything. In fact, he missed 30 percent of the season with an injury. Again, more utter rubbish.

"The Championship will be nullified because of the Hossa contract" - This is one of the silliest theories I've ever heard. In the age where teams have championships with rostered players that were either drug abusers or steroid users, you're going to tell me they would revoke a title because they had second thoughts on the structure of a player's contract? If you think that, you're all high on crack. Seriously, you need to be put in a mental ward. It will never happen, nor should it. Again, neither the Blackhawks nor Marian Hossa did anything wrong. He played under a league approved contract.

"The Hawks will lose Marian Hossa" - Once again, not going to happen. If the league feels the contract violated anything in the CBA, they will void the contract as of that point. Rest assured, Hossa's agent and the Hawks management would, at the very least, quickly draft up a one year contract until the dust settles and they can structure another long term deal. If anyone thinks Hossa is going to want to leave the one team that has just given him the one thing he's been chasing, you are, once again, high on crack. Let's say the league fines the Hawks for the contract. Fines don't go against the salary cap, so they pay it and move on. Now, if we could get the league to void that Huet contract, we might be onto something.

"Without Niemi they will never repeat" - Until midway through the playoffs, no one thought the Hawks could win WITH Niemi, so that just goes to show that the general consensus really knows. Absolutely nothing. These are the same people who were SURE the Penguins were going to beat Montreal, and they were SURE the Caps were going to beat Montreal, so on and so forth. Marty Turco is more qualified to make a Stanley Cup defense than Antti Niemi, period. If you disagree, you're wrong. There is a reason Antti Niemi is still jobless on August 17th. He has no proven resume. He did enough to keep the puck out of the net for a team that was stacked from top to bottom, and no team is going to overpay for that. At least teams like Philly WANTED Turco. No one has seriously put an offer up for Mr. "Ye of 64 career games". If he's SOOOOO good, tell me why he's jobless, and quite possibly could be this season.

Feel free to email me any of the stupid propaganda that idiot Red Wings fans or any other fans, for that matter, are spewing. Jealousy is a funny thing. The Hawks were just jealous until they won the cup; now they are cheaters. Who is jealous now? I've said it before and I'll say it again; Until someone besides Jonathan Toews is hoisting the cup the Hawks are champs.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Turco Accepts the Keys to the 2010 Stanley Cup Defense

Marty Turco

I’m not a betting man, but I’m going to ride this hot streak I’ve been on. Monday the Hawks announced that they signed 3 time former All-star Marty Turco to a one year deal worth a reported $1.3 Million. Yes, I just said only $1.3 Million. The Hawks just signed a $5.4 Million, 3 time all-star for a mere $1.3 million. In doing so, the Hawks let Antti Niemi try his luck in the free agent market. The only words I have for that are "GOOD LUCK", because he will need it. Based on the fact that goalies have been signed for bargain basement prices all summer, I cannot believe that someone will sign him for a long term deal at $2.75 million a year. I’ve said over and over that I feel this is a very smart move by the Hawks. In fact, based on the current roster situations, he’s not even guaranteed a starting job somewhere else. He went from the starting goalie on the Stanley Cup champs to fighting for a starting job on some other team. I’m not a sports agent, but I’d say that’s a considerable step down.

I don’t want to take away from Antti Niemi, because he HELPED bring the Hawks a Stanley Cup, but lets look at the facts in this situation. He’s not even close to the only reason the Stanley Cup is in Chicago. Before last season, Niemi was an undrafted free agent signing that had ONLY played in the AHL, where he ONLY went 18-14-3 with a GSS of 2.43. He barely beat out Corey Crawford for the backup position and remained there for a good portion of the season. He only won the starting position when Cristobal Huet completely shit the bed in late February. During the regular season he only faced 21.8 shots a game, and in the playoffs he faced 26.7 and his GAA went up to 2.63. He’s played a total of 64 NHL games.
Turco, on the other hand, has an average of 29 wins a year (262 total). His GAA is 2.31 and he’s faced an average of 22.6 shots a game over his career. He’s been the starting keeper of a team for nearly 10 years. He’s a superior puckhandling goalie, and a great locker room presence. He’s never had a defense in front of him like the one the Hawks currently have. You can chirp all you want about how he’s a playoff choke artist, and all that other horseshit. He’s never had a team in front of him with offense and defense like this. Niemi rarely ever had to stand on his head and take over a game and neither will Turco. He’s a positive guy that keeps his teammates loose. He’s not a pouting Frenchman who has such a fragile ego that he can’t keep a job anywhere he goes, and he’s not a green, sophomore goalie that had the benefit of a strong defense in front of him. I love what I’ve heard and read of Turco. He took a huge pay cut just to come to Chicago. In the day and age of pompous egotistical athletes that expect huge contracts before they ever step on the field/ice/court, and for fluke years, this is refreshing. So, hate him all you’d like, but he has showed the maturity and character that most professional athletes lack.

Detroit has a new man in charge

Marty Turco will do just fine here in Chicago, so all of you haters and your “Enjoy your cup now because you’ll never defend it” can kiss my ass. This is a win/win situation for Stan Bowman. They get a proven goalie at a bargain price, and have leftover cash to fill out their roster. Some of these people act like the Hawks wanted this situation. Their hand was forced because of some bad decisions by previous members of the staff. Until the cup is in another city you can yap all you want; especially in Detoilet. The days of Detroit mowing the conference down are over, "Hockeytown". You’re older, and more fragile, so that "we had a lot of injuries" excuse doesn’t fly any longer. Every team has injuries, and every team has to learn to overcome them. You people can jump on the Chicago hating bandwagon just like everyone else outside of Chicago. If winning means everyone hates the Hawks, I hope every person outside of IL hates the Hawks. I’ll be the first to admit that maybe the Hawks won’t repeat. It’s a VERY hard thing to do in ANY pro sport, and the odds are against them without this salary capocalypse, but I will promise you one thing; The Chicago Blackhawks will contend for the Stanley Cup and will for quite a few more years to come.

In the shadows of the Turco situation the Hawks signed a few pretty obscure minor league players, some of whom I’d reported earlier. Evan Brophey, Jassen Cullimore, Nathan Davis, Hugh Jessiman, Hannu Toivonen, and Igor Makarov were announced this week. None of these guys are going to see significant time with the team, so don’t put too much effort into remembering their names. The biggest name is Jessiman, because he’s a former 1st round draft pick of the NY Rangers in ’03, and obviously hasn’t panned out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Man, I'm Tired of Being Right

Not that I predicted that the world would end in 2012, but it’s August 2nd and the Hawks are right where I said they would be. Sometime Saturday, the arbitrator awarded Antti Niemi $2.75 Million, which is at least half a million more then they want to pay him. I’m sure more than a few of you are mumbling to yourselves, “What’s $500,000, when we have salary cap that is $56.8 Million?” and I answer…again. The Hawks are currently over the salary cap by $3,003,256 with 1 forward, 1 or 2 defensemen, and 2 goalies left to decide on. As I’ve pointed out, that salary cap number includes Cristobal Huet’s $5.625 Million that the Hawks have no choice but to unload. Once Huet is removed, they have about $2.6 Million to play with. You can see where I’m going with this, as the ruling would put the Hawks back up over the cap by roughly $15,000 with a minimum 3 players left to fill the roster. The Hawks really have no choice, but to let Niemi go, but there are reasonable options that I’ll point out later.

NOW, Anyone who starts with the “wa, wa, wa, they are breaking up the team in some diabolical plan to make the city of Chicago suck again” needs to be stabbed in the thorax with a knitting needle, because you’re a complete asshole with no concept of the business side of sports. It’s a moronic theory and no team would do that. All the players that were sent away were overpaid or role players that were expendable. This is not entirely the management’s fault, and this is why. First of all, Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell, and John Scott are probably underpaid. You have Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Kopecky, Brouwer, Stalberg, and Seabrook that are pretty much paid fair market value. There is Sharp, Bolland, and Hjalmarsson that are slightly overpaid, and there are Campbell and Huet that are just retardedly overpaid. They are going to make the Huet abomination go away, and there isn’t much that can be done with Campbell. In all honesty, at the time, Campbell was a “must sign” player, and to get him, the team needed to overpay. You can’t fault them for being aggressive, and it paid off with a Stanley Cup. I fully blame the fact that they had to overpay for some of these players on the one and only rotting corpse, Bill Wirtz. He drove the value and reputation of the team down to the depths of embarrassing hilarity. Think about the scenario that he put the Hawks in; you’re a big money player that has a chance to play for a proven winner or cup contender for average market value or the lowly Hawks of 4 years ago, that had been the joke of the league because of the drunken, senile old curmudgeon, for roughly 10 years. Of course the Hawks would have to overpay. Dale Tallon really made a mess of the unrestricted free agent tenders last year, and the Huet thing is a big mess, but he accomplished quite a few more good things that brought a Stanley Cup to Chicago. So, If things were a little less screwy we might have about an extra $3.5 million to play with, but it’s not to be. At least we’re not paying Rick Dipietro $4.5 million a year until the 2020-2021 season, right?

Marty Turco

Now on to the options. I mentioned last week that Marty Turco was the best replacement option on the market for Niemi, and it’s looking like the Hawks think so, too. Early reports have the Hawks negotiating with Turco as recent as last night, and rumors have the one year deal worth about $1.75 Million. I realize Turco is 8 years older than Niemi, but this makes sense. The Hawks know what they are getting with Turco. Niemi may become a superstar, or he may slide right into Averageville. Don’t forget that the Hawks probably had the best top 4 defensemen in the league. Let Niemi try for a “no-no” playing in Edmonton, or for the Islanders. The bottom line is that he had a good playoff but could not win the starting job, outright, until Huet folded like a soggy pita. The outside option, which might drive me straight to the looney bin, is Jose Theodore. No one with any brains wants to see the guy that was chased out of Montreal by Cristobal Huet, and chased out of Washington by a marginal goalie named Semyon Varlomov. As I said the other day, I’d rather struggle with Corey Crawford and Hannu Toivonen in net. I'm just hoping we can see a sign and trade scenario with Niemi, so maybe we can get something in return.

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