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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Top Cheese, Left Coast and Detoilet Style

Normally, this is a place STRICTLY reserved for Blackhawks news, but, because it's the ramblings of a lunatic, I feel the urge to stray from current Blackhawks news to FORMER Blackhawks news. There are two notable subjects that deserve some attention, and who better to unleash a sarcastic arrogant rant but yours truly? Shocking, I know. I'm in a zone and the interweb must feel my wrath. It's technology great? Ten years ago I would have been yelling this stuff at my 32" fuzzy pictured TV, while my dog hid under the couch. Actually, that's untrue, because ten years ago Brilliant Bill Wirtz was sure televised games hurt attendance, so I was listening to Hawks games on an AM radio. Yes, in the twenty first century, I was forced to listen to a sporting even on an AM radio. Bill Wirtz was a fucking old, drunken genius. ON TO THE SUBJECT AT HAND:

First, The Chris Chelios heritage night that the fans "booed", when announced. There is a fine line that's been drawn with this subject. Cheli was a deeply loved hometown product that successfully made Hawks fans do something that was unthinkable. Forget Denis Savard. The trade was deeply controversial at the time, but proved to be heavily in the Hawks favor, over the years. Now, Savvy won a cup in Montreal, but he was HARDLY a huge part of that feat. We all know Cheli didn't get another cup until he was cast off to Detoilet. None of these things warrant a "boo" from Chicago fans. He did not ask to be traded to the evil empire, but he also made no effort to repair any hard feelings after he was gone. Chicago was pretty much written off by Chelios, the day he was traded away. He closed up his business and moved it to Detoilet, he moved his family there, and very little was said by our former hometown hero, regarding our great windy city. This is where my problem with Chelios lies. Chicago was cast off like the used up ex girlfriend, and Detoilet was paraded around like the new, hotter trophy girlfriend. Almost as if he was trying to erase his Chicago roots. If we are one thing in Chicago, it's proud. We wear our roots on our sleeves, but don't treat the city and it's fans like they had anything to do with trade that shipped him away. We deeply loved the guy and would have accepted him as a star til the very end, but it didn't work out that way. Rivalry or not, he could have salvaged some Chicago loyalty, but chose not to. FOR THAT, he deserves to be "booed". I don't disagree with the decision to honor him for his service, I just think it's going to be slightly "tongue-in-cheek", and a little uncomfortable.

The second subject at hand is the "beaten to death" Antti Niemi soap opera. Last night, I watched the Sharks and Canucks play on the NHL network. I will fully admit it was a case of the "checking out how the ex girlfriend is doing" syndrome. Niemi was in net and I had to see how he was, without the top defense in the league to bail him out. After watching, I decided that "forehead" was no longer the most appropriate nickname for him (and it IS quite appropriate); "Top Cheese" is now MORE applicable, because that is how the Western Conference is going to be beating him all year long. Of course I wouldn't come to this party sans gifts. In this first clip you see goal number 1, where is he is beat back door. Admittedly, there isn't much a goalie can do on a play like this, but he was late shuffling over. Nonetheless, top cheese goal number 1:

In Top Cheese goal number two, Mason Raymond does a nice little dance to get in front all alone and introduce Mr. Niemi to Backhand Top Cheese.

Aaaaaand in Top Cheese highlight number three, Jeff Tambellini, ye of 18 career goals in 180 games, skates uncontested up the right side and introduces Niemi to a little Glovehand Top Cheese.

Everyone in the Western Conference is going to be watching these highlights, and it's going to be a feeding frenzy. Enjoy sunny San Jose, Antti.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And then there were two...LESS

-Hugh Jessiman cleared waivers and was assigned to Rockford

-Ludvig Rensfeldt was sent to Brynas IF, in Sweden.

-The Hawks lost in Pittsburgh, 4-1. Of course it's silly to expect every preseason game on TV, because MLB or the NFL don't televise the preseason, do they? Anyway, here is the AP wrap up:

"Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh and the Penguins beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 Tuesday night.

Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson and Mark Letestu also had goals for Pittsburgh, and Paul Martin had two assists. Kyle Beach scored for Chicago, which fell to 1-3 in the preseason. The Penguins are 4-0.

The game matched the past two Stanley Cup champions - but the lineups did not. Malkin played, but fellow Penguins stars Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Brooks Orpik were among the scratches. Chicago chose not to dress, among others, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Marty Turco.

Both of the Penguins' third-period goals went in off of Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook."

The only things that really jump out of the box score is that they were outshot 39-22 and the line of Pisani, Potulny, Skille, Campbell and Hjalmarsson were -2 for the night. Take it for what it's worth.

Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead

As everyone expected, the Cristobal Huet mess is officially out of the Blackhawks hands, for this season at least. The team placed him on waivers this weekend, which is a necessary step to allow him to be loaned to HC Fribourg-Gotteron SA of the Swiss National League A. He cleared waivers yesterday. The team will still have to pay his salary, but it won't count against the salary cap. Of course, he still has another year on his deal, so lets hope he plays well enough for the Swiss to want him again next season. What an epic mess. Hey, at least we're not still paying for Alexei Yashin to play in Russia and Rick DiPietro to nurse his fragile lower extremities, like the Islanders.

In other Hawks news, Evan Brophey and Jeff Taffe cleared waivers and were sent to Rockford. Brophey did some things well, but Taffe looked clueless in the time I saw him out there. Hugh Jessiman was put on waivers, and will most likely clear, which will see him taking I-90 west to Rockford, with the rest of the bunch. No surprises, again.

The team's roster is at 32 players, and will need to be cut down to 23 by the season start.

2010-11 Training Camp Roster (the ones in bold I expect to see sent to Rockford)

Forwards–Kyle Beach, Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Jake Dowell, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Tomas Kopecky, Igor Makarov, Jeremy Morin, Fernando Pisani, Ryan Potulny, Ludvig Rensfeldt, Patrick Sharp, Jack Skille, Ben Smith, Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews

Defensemen–Nick Boynton, Brian Campbell, Brian Connelly, Jassen Cullimore, Jordan Hendry, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy, John Scott, Brent Seabrook

Goalies–Corey Crawford, Alec Richards, Hannu Toivonen, Marty Turco

Monday, September 27, 2010

Double Dose of the Evil Red Army, and Musical Chairs

On the next "Bromance"

The first really eventful week came to a close Sunday, and the Hawks came out of it 1-2 and quite a bit lighter. They made several roster moves and split a Friday/Saturday home and home series with the Ivan Dragos to our Rocky, the Dead Wings.

-On Friday, the Hawks assigned, Forward David Gilbert to the Acadie-Bathurst Titans (QMJHL). No huge surprise, so I'm not going to spend much time on it, but He looked good in the rookie tournament, and was pretty much invisible in the game Wednesday.

-Friday's game against the Wings was a joke. Bolland, Kopecky, Brouwer, and Campbell were the only real noteworthy players in the lineup. Poor Corey Crawford, really didn't have much support. Most of the goals were poorly covered rebounds, and sketchy defense. Blah...blah, blah, blah.

-Saturday, the Hawks announced a flurry of roster cuts. Forwards Brandon Bollig, Rob Klinkhammer and Brandon Pirri, and defensemen Jonathan Carlsson, Simon Danis-Pepin, Ryan Stanton and Ivan Vishnevskiy were sent to Rockford. They also released forwards Rastislav Pavlikovsky and Nick Tarnasky, and defenseman Wade Brookbank. None of these moves surprise me, and the only one that was remotely noticeable was Pirri. He had a few nice plays, but he clearly needs some seasoning in Rockford.

Mr. Jack Skille

-Saturday night, the bottom half of the home and home series was back at the UC. Obviously, Quenneville rested up the big boys for the home preseason debut, and the Wings did the opposite. I really didn't see a lot of the game, but some things caught my eye. Turco's outlet pass to Kane, which set up a goal, was excellent; both from Turco's end and from Kane's. Turco noticed Detoilet changing lines and launched an outlet pass from the crease to the far blue line, where Kane was waiting. Kane was able to smoothly trap the pass and worked it in the zone to Pisani who fed Keith for a perfect one timer. Something, Huet or Niemi couldn't dream of. Jack Skille was actually, wait for it; NOTICEABLE. Now, keep in mind, we're talking about a half ass Wings lineup, but he had a goal, and assist and 4 shots on net. I didn't find myself asking, "Who is that number 20, out there?". I realize big bad John Scott made his debut, but I wasn't able to pay enough attention to the game to recall anything of substance in his play. Hossa quietly had a 2 point night and Fernando Pisani had a 2 assist night. Let's not all start planning the June Stanley Cup parade, but the team looks well, with most of the regulars playing. Turco played the whole game and looked pretty good. A few people have mentioned how small he looks, and I agree. He's probably closer to 5'9" than 5'11", but I don't care. He's aggressive, and athletic. Those two things, alone, will stick in the back of opposing players minds. Past goalies almost looked frightened by the thought of playing the puck, much less, turning it around and unleashing a 75' pass on the tape of a teammate. He may have his soft moments, but plays like that one make me smile and give me the "warm fuzzies", in the cockles of my heart. Well played, Sir!

-Sunday the Hawks assigned forward Chris DiDomenico and defenseman Shawn Lalonde to Rockford. Again, no big surprise. Lalonde is a player the Hawks are very high on, but needs a little AHL flavor added to his game. Connelly and Leddy have been much more consistent. The person that is SHOCKINGLY still on the roster, is Jassen Cullimore. There is no way that guy makes the this team. He has the worst qualities of Matt Walker and Brent Sopel, all rolled into one big 37 year old sloth. My prediction is that Leddy and Cullimore get moved to Rockford. Connolly is a 50/50 bet, but I just don't see him sticking at only 5'10" (probably really 5'8") 167lbs. that would leave Keith, Seabrook, Campbell, Hjalmarsson, Boynton, Hendry, and Scott. If there are any injuries or trades, Connelly or Leddy are the guys that are coming up. With Connelly making almost half what Leddy is, you can bet that Connelly will be the first guy brought up, if needed.

-Lastly, the phenom that is Jeremy Morin just keeps chugging along. Everybody loves him, and he's exciting. In fact, he's exciting enough to earn that #27 on his back that another legendary Jeremy once wore, but I still don't see him sticking right away. He's only 19, and right out of the juniors. Facing top 6 defensemen in the NHL every night will be a lot different than the hacks he's seen in the preseason. Don't get me wrong, I think he's going to be a star for this team in the very near future, but where does he play? 3rd or 4th line? That's a complete waste of his talent and skillset. He's a top 6 player, and needs powerplay time. Send him to Rockford, let him absolutely dominate the AHL competition, build his confidence, and work him in as needed. Rushing him up to waste away at the bottom of the lineup is just foolish. It's very nice to have the problem of too much talent. I still stand by my prediction that Makarov wins a spot over Morin, even though I think Morin is going to be a better player.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Here come the ...YouTube Sensations

The Blackhawks have posted a few highlights from the training camp last weekend, and I felt is was my duty to bring them to you. All of these can be found at the official website, as well.

The first is a montage of my man, Marty Turco, and his sinfully ugly duds. Nothing too exciting except a nice stop of a Kane spin-o-rama in what looks like a shootout:

Second, we have Jonny Be Goode Toews and his typical "I'm better than all of you, and I can show you this effortlessly" montage:

Third clip is a great play by Jeremy Morin to, not only, get around the defender, but then hit Brandon Pirri with a "no look" behind the back feed, which Pirri buries:

Last we have a pretty breakaway by Kaner. He makes Hendry and Turco look like complete fecal matter. No Stanley Cup hangover with this guy. It's going to be a good year:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's all over, we're going 0-82-0

Of course I'm being facetious, but I'm truly at peace with losing the first preseason game, with a quarter of the regulars playing. Sure, everyone would love to see them go 8-0 and dominate everyone, but they lost. So what? To be honest, I'm not so sure that they DIDN'T dominate puck possession. The way that first period looked, the Tampa players were going to wet their drawers, with the offensive talent the Hawks were showing. One silly cross-up in communication, and they go down 0-1. Silly? Yes! First game with a new goalie and a lumbering minor league defenseman that is best suited without the puck anywhere near him? YES! These things happen, and it's best that it happens in the first game of the preseason. I can tell already that I'm going to have to defend Turco, game in and game out, this year. He was rusty, I'll admit, and Tampa hit 3 posts in his time out there, but I've said it before, and I'll continue to say it; Marty is no worse that Neimi, and will prove that. I said it before he was signed, I said it when he was signed, and I maintain that. All that being said, He was playing a team that has multiple snipers, behind a grand total of three defensemen that he'll be playing with when the season opens. No Seabrook, Campbell, Hjalmmarson. Boynton and Hendry are clearly third line guys and neither one of them are assured steady playing time with people like John Scott, Brian Connelly, and Nick Leddy sniffing around. The one person that should never be sniffing anything is Jassen Cullimore. Just put him out of his misery, now. He's old, big, slow, and looks overmatched every time he's out there. The only thing i saw him do well last night was shoot the puck, and even that wasn't spiking my adrenaline levels.

Forward lines were a potpourri of young kids, sprinkled with a few studs, to keep them honest. Jeremy Morin, Jon Toews and Igor Makarov opened up, and looked pretty good together on the Toews goal. I like what I see of Morin and Makarov, but as things are, only one of them even has a chance of sticking, day 1. That person will be Makarov. That's saying either of them does make it. Morin is only 19 and could use some steady time on a top line with a lot of powerplay experience, and that will NOT happen with the Hawks this season. Give him a season or two in Rockford and this kid will be a STUD. I'm not so sure he already isn't, but he needs some seasoning. Makarov is in his early 20's and has played against NHL caliber talent in the KHL. He's ready to learn the ways of the NHL, and could very easily make us forget about the rapping phenom known as Kris Versteeg.

The second line was Bickell, Sharpie at center (as predicted by yours truly), and Stalberg. Sharpie was his usual McDreamy self, putting one in off his own rebound. You, sir, make the team. Bickell is a curious case. He digs hard in the corners, he can clearly hit an open guy with a pass, and he can throw his body around, but his puck carrying ability looks like that of my two year old. By puck carrying ability, I mean the only way way either of them can carry a puck is by actually physically picking it up. Stalberg had a fairly quiet night but he had sparks of serious speed and skill. I noticed him killing one of the million powerplays Tampa had, and his forechecking was relentless. He's still my pick to click for the year.

Third line was Pisani and Skille, with Evan Brophey. Everytime I hear the name Brophey, I think of Nick Brophey, the pants pissing player from Hyannisport Presidents in the movie Slapshot.

Anyway, Brophey actually looked pretty good out there, and even got some serious penalty kill time. He has a future somewhere as a third or forth line center, but with the plethora of talent here, he's going to end up in Rockford. That is, unless Potulny and Dowell completely choke. I honestly liked what I saw from Brophey over Dowell, but we'll get to Dowell in a bit. Pisani looked pretty good, and also saw some PK time. He looks like a savvy veteran that can not only log some serious PK time, but throw a couple of pucks in the net. Skille had some flashes of speed and skill, but was kind of lost on the third line. I really feel he will play best with solid talent around him, not a line of digging PK guys. Brophey and Pisani are forth line guys, and Skille is more suited to play with guys like Stalberg and Bolland. BUT, this is the first game of the preseason.

The forth line was a real snoozer. David Gilbert, and some guy named Tarnasky, playing with Jake Dowell. Dowell is really the only guy who was noticeable, whatsoever. His fight was laughable, as he got his jersey pulled over his head and was just pushed to the ground. The actual entertaining part was when he tried to pop his head back through and actually tore a hole through the back side of his jersey, so he was staring at the name plate on the back side of his jersey.

Fighting is not your forte, obviously.

I addressed the Turco deal earlier, and Toivonen was nothing to get excited over. His most interesting aspect is his mask. It's a little freaky, yet comical. Once I find an updated picture, I'll be sure to post it. The second aesthetic thing I want to address is Marty's pads. Of all the color combinations he could have picked, this one is clearly one of the worst. Red pads with the black accent. UGLY AS SIN! I'm beginning to think the man is colorblind. Only Huet's "Ketchup and Mustard" pads are worse, and that's partly because it was Huet wearing them.

Turco's atrocity of goaltending equipment.

EDIT: Here are the highlights of the game, feel free to check them out

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NHL Network Preseason Schedule

Because Hockey is the best sport on earth and because I've been bored out of my mind for three and a half months, I'm completely jazzed to watch some live NHL hockey, be it preseason or otherwise. This is the NHL network schedule for preseason games. All times listed are eastern. Now, based on past experiences, I would guess that all live Hawks games will be played on Comcast Sports Net locally and blacked out on the NHL Network, but the replayed games should be available.

Wed, 9/22 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (MTS Centre, Winnipeg) 8:00PM LIVE
Wed, 9/22 Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 11:00 PM
Wed, 9/22 Edmonton Oilers vs. Vancouver Canucks 2:00 AM *
Thu, 9/23 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Philadelphia Flyers (London, ONT) 7:00 PM LIVE
Thu, 9/23 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Edmonton Oilers 2:00 AM *
Fri, 9/24 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings 7:00 PM LIVE
Fri, 9/24 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 10:00 PM
Fri, 9/24 Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues 12:00 AM *
Sat, 9/25 Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks 8:00 PM LIVE
Sat, 9/25 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres 11:00 PM +
Sat, 9/25 Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 1:00 AM * +
Sat, 9/25 Anaheim Ducks vs. Vancouver Canucks 4:00 AM *
Sun, 9/26 Vancouver Canucks vs. Edmonton Oilers 8:00 PM LIVE
Mon, 9/27 Buffalo Sabres vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 7:00 PM LIVE
Tue, 9/28 Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators (Kraft Hockeyville - Dundas, ONT) 7:00 PM LIVE
Tue, 9/28 San Jose Sharks vs. Vancouver Canucks 10:00 PM LIVE
Tue, 9/28 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 2:00 AM *
Tue, 9/28 Phoenix Coyotes vs. Calgary Flames 4:00 AM *
Wed, 9/29 New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers 7:00 PM LIVE
Wed, 9/29 Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks 10:30 PM LIVE
Wed, 9/29 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators 2:00 AM *
Wed, 9/29 Calgary Flames vs. New York Islanders (Saskatoon, SK) 4:00 AM *
Wed, 9/29 Phoenix Coyotes vs. Edmonton Oilers 6:00 AM *
Thu, 9/30 Buffalo Sabres vs. Montreal Canadiens 7:30 PM LIVE
Thu, 9/30 Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Minnesota Wild 11:00 PM
Fri, 10/1 Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers 7:00 PM LIVE
Fri, 10/1 Vancouver Canucks vs. Anaheim Ducks 10:00 PM LIVE
Fri, 10/1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings 1:00 AM *
Fri, 10/1 Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers 4:00 AM *
Sat, 10/2 Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 7:00 PM LIVE
Sun, 10/3 St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks 6:00 PM LIVE
Sun, 10/3 Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames 12:00 AM *

* Denotes airtime is day after contest
+ Not available in HD
Schedule subject to change

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Blackhawks Player Cuts

As reported by the Blackhawks this evening, Five players were reassigned to their respective junior teams:

forward Rob Flick to the Mississauga St. Michael’s (OHL)
forward Byron Froese to the Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
forward Mirko Hoefflin to the Quebec Ramparts (QMJHL)
forward Philippe Paradis to the Prince Edward Island Rocket (QMJHL)
goaltender Kent Simpson to the Everett Silvertips (WHL)

Goaltender Joe Palmer was assigned the Rockford IceHogs (AHL), whose training camp begins this Sunday

Also, Non-roster invitees forward Steele Boomer and defenseman Dallas Jackson were released. I thought those were two stellar hockey names, but apparently the Hawks weren't as amused.

Back to watching the Flyers and Devils on the NHL network...

Monday, September 20, 2010

ZLionHawk's Training Camp Observations

Since my job was keeping me from doing anything fun, like watching the Hawks, I didn't get to watch as much of the training camp circus as I would have liked. So, "ZLionHawk" over at Second City Hockey posted up what his thoughts were. I cannot confirm nor deny these opinions, but I applaud his effort. I only saw the last 3/4 of the second scrimmage, which wasn't enough for me to give an educated analysis. Take a look, if you'd like, and check out the actual original post at Second City Hockey.


12-Kyle Beach(6'3", 202, 20): Looked OK. He seems to be off on his passing. Scored a nice goal in the shootout after scrimmage one. Right now he's targeted for AHL. He should be anyway.

29-Bryan Bickell(6'4", 223, 24): Big strong, great shot. Put the first puck past Turco with a laser wristshot low gloveside. Doesn't replace any individual player we lost in the offseason, but he brings a combination of size, speed, skill, and consistency that we didn't have from any of the players we lost.

36-Dave Bolland(6'0", 181, 24): He looked good. He is so skilled, its not far fetched to think he will be centering the second line this year. He also pissed off just about everyone he played against. Toews in particular on a shift "lost" is stick in the corner while in a scrum with Bolly and skated after him to center ice before going to the bench.

52-Brandon Bollig(6'3", 215, 23): Classic toughguy hockey, when he gets the puck he skates without changing his angle of attack and loses the puck as soon as he's challenged. Didn't drop the gloves, didn't impress.

47-Evan Brophey(6'2", 199, 23): Looked OK. He didn’t stand out, but didn't look bad either. He's comfortable with the puck and knows what do do with it from his own zone through the neutral zone. Not much offense.

22-Troy Brouwer(6'2", 214, 25): Faster than I've ever seen him before. He will help mitigate the loss of Ladd if he can raise the level of "jam" in his game. Has a phenomenal shot, and just looks like a quality NHLer. Showing more of the skill that made him a scorer in the WHL.

41-Nathan Davis(6'1", 205, 24): Did not play...if he did, I didn't see him once and that is not good.

49-Christopher DiDomenico(5'11", 165, 21): Needs some more seasoning. He looked uncomfortable on the ice. Of course, getting hit by John Scott will make anyone feel uncomfortable. Didn't get much ice time.

28-Jake Dowell(6'0", 199, 25): His best defensive play was to sprawl out and block a Hossa empty netter. The problem is that Hossa was on his line. He looked small. I would say that he definitely did not solidify a spot on the 4th line today. There is too much competition to just had the spot to someone.

67-Rob Flick(6'2", 205, 19): Looked much more comfortable than I though he would. Did an admiral job. There's no chance for him to make the squad but he will be pushing hard for the 4th line center spot in the next year or so.

58-Byron Froese(6'0", 176, 19): See notes on Chris DiDomenico

68-David Gilbert(6'2", 186, 19): Looks good and came off a decent showing at the rookie tournament. Good size, scored a couple of nice goals.

61-Mirko Hoefflin(6'0", 174, 18): Looked pretty good. Another surprise. He plays a gritty game in the corners. He'll be an interesting one to watch.

81-Marian Hossa(6'1", 210, 31): Looked a little off...which for him makes him the fourth best player on the team behind Toews, Keith, and Kane. I am still looking forward to watching him play at 100%.

46-Hugh Jessiman(6'6", 221, 26): Huge. Scored a nice garbage goal at the end of the first game. He bring great size and grit, but didn't see a great deal skill. Still he would be a nice presence on the 4th line and didn't look like a liability.

88-Patrick Kane(5'10", 178, 21): He picked up where he left off last year, no one is as comfortable in traffic as Kane (Toews and Hossa are a close second and third.)

59-Rob Klinkhammer(6'3", 206, 24): Looked fast, but his skill at speed drops off quickly (no pun intended). He score a nice goal and is a good addition to the AHL team. If he ends up on the squad at any point this year, the team is in trouble.

82-Tomas Kopecky(6'3", 203, 28): Stepped up big time. Something clicked in him at the Olympics last year and he has consistently gotten better ever since. I predict he will be the next clutch performer for us with the departure of Byfuglien. I think he and Hossa are a lock on the second line.

26-Igor Makarov(6'1", 195, 22): Biggest surprise of the camp. He was dominant against all but the elite players he was matched up against. He hits, he's fast, he's skilled at all speeds, and he plays defense (although he was cherry picking for a hat trick at the end of the last scrimmage). Scored two nice goals. It was kind of funny, he was a little too excited it seemed after scoring (maybe because he's spent the last couple of years not getting ice time in the KHL where scoring seems to be frowned upon). Versteeg replacement candidate #1.

27-Jeremy Morin(6'1", 189, 19):Made the best passing play of the day hitting Pirri with a no look behind the back pass through the deep slot. He held his own, but should return to a line up where he will be on one of the top two lines. He just won't be able to break the deep line up of the Hawks and would be stunted as a 4th line player.

54-Philippe Paradis(6'2", 205, 19): Looked better than he did in the prospects camp. He's tough, but lacks hockey sense. The puck seemed to play him and he didn't seem too aware of his positioning.

14-Brandon Pirri(6'0", 160, 19): He's skilled and finished a beautiful feed from Morin, but he's also not going to benefit by playing on anything but the top three lines and there's no room for a player with his lack fo size and defensive awareness.

15-Fernando Pisani(6'1", 205, 33): Started slow (as any 33 year old would), but finished strong with a beautiful wrist shot that found the back of the net. He should make the team (ideally as a 4th liner). He will benefit from playing on a Q coached team.

16-Ryan Potulny(6'0", 190, 26): Not bad, but didn't impress. I think he was a mediocre player on a terrible team last year and looked relatively good. Today he looked like a relatively average player. He's got a decent shot, but I didn't see enough defense from him to make me forget about losing Madden.

44-Ludvig Rensfeldt(6'3", 192, 18): Looked WAY better than he did in prospects camp. He was big on the ice and the puck seem to follow him. He had a great showing and was good in the high-traffic areas of the low slot.

10-Patrick Sharp(6'1", 199, 28): Steady as always, you get the impression that he's the glue that ties Toews to the rest of the team. He looked like he's been practicing his shot. With all of the changes he gets, he could have a huge scoring year if he's been able to improve his accuracy.

20-Jack Skille(6'1", 215, 23): Played with a nice edge and physicality. If he continues to pursue that element of his game, and step up his defense, he could be our Ladd replacement. He just needs to be a little more nasty.

57-Ben Smith(5'11", 205, 22): I like this kid, he's my darkhorse to make the 4th line. He could knock Pisani out of the lineup. His $ might be the only reason he doesn't make the big club. I'd like to see him at center.

25-Viktor Stalberg(6'3", 210, 24): FAST. He has some wheels, but you don't see a great deal of control on his rushes, he does the Skille thing where he trys to angle, and lean his way from the wing to the slot and get off a shot. He's so fast that he slid past the defender, but, like Skille, his stickhandling isn't good enough to keep up. It makes me miss Versteeg.

23-Jeff Taffe(6'3", 207, 29): Looked pretty good. Threw his body around a little and may be the answer at 4th line center. He made some nice plays in both zones.

19-Jonathan Toews(6'2", 210, 22): The best player, by far. If he wanted to, he could win any scoring titles he wants. He's so talented and competitive it makes me feel spoiled as a fan.


24-Nick Boynton(6'1", 218, 31): Smart player. A good veteran presence on a very young team.

51-Brian Campbell(6'0", 189, 31): Looked like the player we overpaid for. Winning a Stanley Cup has done him a world of good.

43-Jonathan Carlsson(6'2", 187, 22):OK...big, was brutalized by Toews on a play where he had clear possession of the puck in his own end. Long story short, Toews took it from him and buried the puck in about a 3 second span.

56-Brian Connelly(5'10", 167, 24):Really sharp. I think he could be the next defensive gem. Strong passing, great skating, and never seemed in over his skis.

5-Jassen Cullimore(6'5", 235, 37): He looked OK. He laid some nice hits. Had a couple of shots. Still looks a little slow, but never seemed uncomfortable.

48-Simon Danis-Pepin(6'6", 229, 22): He also looked OK. Didn't make any big hits, but skated fairly well and effectively pushed rushes to the outside. I'd like to see him get some time with the big club this year, but I don't think he should make the starting lineup.

6-Jordan Hendry(6'0", 197, 26): He's a steady player and seems to be stuck at the same level he's been at for the last three years. That's not a bad thing, because he's been a quality support player on the big squad, but it doesn’t keep him ahead of players behind him that are stepping up (Leddy, Lalonde, Connelly, Vishnevskiy).

4-Niklas Hjalmarsson(6'3", 205, 23): Looked off early, he seemed to get the worst of the first three big hits he threw. He took a terrible, lazy, holding penalty against Toews. He's still a great passer and made a couple of nice hits that had the intended effect later in the scrimmage.

2-Duncan Keith(6'1", 196, 27): Stud. He, Kane, Markarov and Toews were the highlights of the scrimmage. He finished his scrimage with a beautiful one-timer, top-shelf that beat Turco from the blueline.

42-Shawn Lalonde(6'1", 192, 20): Looked pretty good. He skates well, makes intelligent passes. The panic threshold isn't where it needs to be to beat out Leddy for a shot the big squad.

37-Nick Leddy(5'11", 179, 19): Looked solid. Way better than I remember him in the prospects camp. He was everything as advertised today. He really has a high panic threshold and seemed to hold his own in the corners (which was a major concern after the prospects camp). He could benefit from watching Keith use his stick. If Leddy develops the stick skills that Keith has (which would perfectly compliment his game), and adds some more meat to his frame, he could be a force for years.

32-John Scott(6'8", 258, 27): Way better than I thought he would be. In drills he missed on a pass so badly that I was really concerned, but in the scrimmage he was noticably good. Its scary to think of a guy that big being mobile and effective moving the puck. He laid some hits that ruined some of the other player's scrimmages.

7-Brent Seabrook(6'3", 218, 25): As solid as he's ever been. Steady, in perfect position, and not one to be trifled with.

55-Ryan Stanton(6'2", 205, 21): Not very noticible today. He seemed to be on the wrong end of too many plays.

34-Ivan Vishnevskiy(6'0", 193, 22): He's my bet to make the squad with Scott on the third defensive pairing. He's got a great shot, and has all of the right skills. His panic threshold may be a little too high. He got caught on the blueline a couple times in a way that makes me feel he's vulnerable to giving up a shorty every once in a while, ala Timmonen in the Finals. At 22, though, I'm expecting him to have some room to grow in the wisdom department.


50-Corey Crawford(6'2", 200, 25): Looked great today. Had nothing get past him and made an effort to move the puck in a way that we never saw from Niemi.

70-Joe Palmer(6'2", 190, 22): Looked OK, he'll be a good back up at Rockford.

38-Alec Richards(6'4", 210, 23): Not bad, but didn't impress.

33-Hannu Toivonen(6'2", 200, 26): Really effect and battled well against Turco in the first scrimmage. It took a couple of phenomenal plays to beat him, but was really never challenged one on one.

30-Marty Turco(5'11", 184, 35): Fun to watch. He's so good with the puck its scary. If he's playing with the Hawks top defenders, the majority of pucks he plays will end of in quick scoring chances. There were a couple of times where he hit a defender or forward and they didn't seem prepared to receive the puck and attack. The result was that the puck ended back towards Turco. He was only beat with a great one on one shot from Bickell, a Kane back-breaking deke backhand, and a screened Norris trophey winning blueline top-shelf slapshot from Keith.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blackhawks Prospects beat Pittsburgh 9-5 to wrap up Rookie Tournament

Igor Makarov

Because, in this day and age, the Chicago Blackhawks can't find a better way to report the action of their future players other than their Twitter feed, this is a vague wrap up of the action yesterday:

-Ben Smith opens the scoring five minutes into the first. Assists to Connelly and DiDomenico. Pittsburgh ties it up less than a minute later.
-Igor Makarov snipes top shelf from the top of the right circle. Assists to Gilbert and Lalonde. 2-1 CHI halfway through the first
-Brandon Bollig and Rob Flick have both logged fights already, and we're only mid-way through the 1st.
-Kyle Beach with a nice redirection of a Jeremy Morin centering pass and CHI now leads 3-1 with 2:30 left in the first.
-3-1 Hawks rookies after one. Shots favor the Blackhawks 12-8. The ice definitely tilted towards the Pittsburgh net most of the period.
-Brandon Pirri and Igor Makarov both dent the net in the first two minutes of period number 2. 5-1 Hawks rookies.
-The Penguins rookies get one back shorthanded. 5-2 with 14 minutes left in second.
-Brian Connelly buries a one-time feed from Chris DiDomenico from the top of the right circle on the PP. 6-2 Chicago.
-Makarov gets his hat trick as he cuts across the slot and rips another shot top shelf, ringing the crossbar. 7-2 with 11 left in 2nd.
-DiDomenico feeds Kyle Beach from behind the net and he makes it 8-2 from the bottom of the circle. 4 minutes left in second.
-Pittsburgh gets one late, but Chicago leads 8-3 after two. Shots 27-17 CHI.
-Morin patiently finishes the rebound of a Nick Leddy point shot on the power play. 9-3 Chicago rookies with 15 left.
-PIT benefits from two Chicago defensemen crashing into boards behind net and cuts it to 9-5. Five minutes left.
-The Blackhawks rookies win 9-5. Igor Makarov takes over the tournament goal scoring lead with four.

As I said the other day, this really doesn't tell us much, other than the fact that it was a defenseless weekend shootout. Nonetheless, I like seeing something related to the Blackhawks on the ice, actually playing.

You can also read the wrap up the Hawks reposted from the Pens Jason Seidling here:

Nice coverage, Blackhawks. Thanks for the effort.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blackhawk's Rookies Lose Tournament Games 6-3 and 7-3

After that pitiful embarrassment of a Bears game, yesterday, I'm so glad to see people wearing the Indian Head sweaters,and playing some puck. For those of you that aren't aware, the Hawks sent a team to the NHL Young Stars tournament in Toronto. This team is basically a tournament of draft picks and promising minor league players, that allows them to showcase their skills. It's really not much, but it's Hockey, and it involves Blackhawks, in some form or another.

The roster has the following players, with their 2009-10 teams:
Steele Boomer(Kootenay), Kyle Beach(Spokane), Brandon Bollig(St. Lawrence), Chris DiDomenico(Drummondville), Rob Flick(Mississauga), Byron Froese(Everett), David Gilbert(Quebec/Acadie-Bathurst), Mirko Hoefflin(Heilbronn), Igor Makarov(St. Petersburg/Dynamo), Jeremy Morin(Kitchener), Philippe Paradis(Shawinigan), Brandon Pirri(RPI), Ludvig Rensfeldt(Brynas), Ben Smith(Boston College)
Jonathan Carlsson(Toledo), Brian Connelly(Rockford), Simon Danis-Papin(Rockford), Scott Fletcher(Reading), Shawn Lalonde(Belleville),Nick Leddy(U. of Minn), Ryan Stanton(Moose Jaw)
Joe Palmer(Texas), Alec Richards(Toledo), Kent Simpson(Everett)

It's hard to critique something you can only see select portions of, but from the highlight clips I have posted below, the kids looked a little over-matched by the Toronto team. There were a few observations that I had, while watching the clip, though. Alec Richards looked pretty soft in net, but he didn't seem to have a lot of help either. Maybe he had some focus issues because the number 38 has been forever tarnished by the legendary Cristobal Huet, in 08-09. Kyle Beach, David Gilbert, and Jeremy Morin all scored, but the young Hawks never looked to be in the game. Gilbert's goal was a rebound laying in the crease, Beach's goal was a nice snap shot from the slot, and Morin's was an awful goal from an area that should never result in a "throw it at the net" tally. I don't know much about this Gilbert kid, but he seems to be involved in most of the positive action, so let's hope we see more of him in the near future. It's also odd to see someone (Morin) with some skill, wearing the #27, again (Yes, Pascal Pelletier, you suck). I can't really comment on the rest of the action, other than the fact that the defense looked like a Chinese fire drill, and got caught WAY too much. Honestly, what can you expect from a bunch of kids that have had played together for all of one practice? Have a look for yourself.

I'm having a hard time finding more detailed information on the Sunday game against the Sens rookies, but it looks like they lost 7-3, after going up 3-1 in the first. Goals were from Gilbert, Rob Flick and Igor Makarov. No one seems to care who was in net for the great choke job, but my best guess is Huet. Great job by the Hawks website people to bring us such great coverage from the Sens beat writer(note sarcasm). Whatever, they blew a nice first period lead, and no one on the Hawks end seems to give a rat's ass. Don't bother dragging yourself out of your champagne hangovers just yet, fellas. This commotion below is much more important than reporting on your young talent and the future of your organization:

Some Devin Aromashodu fan, with some shiny garbage can looking thing

The Hawks kids wrap up Tuesday, with a game against the mini Penguins at 1pm (central).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hawks go Pirri on the Potulny

Brandon Pirri and Ryan Potulny

The Blackhawks made two pretty tame signings in the last two weeks, inking prospect Brandon Pirri and former Edmonton center Ryan Potulny to contracts. Normally, these signings aren’t really blips on the radar, but it’s slow in the Hockey world and there isn’t much more to follow in Chicago.

Pirri is a 19 year old, 6’0” 160 lb, center from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and former second round draft pick, from 2009. The Hawks signed him to a 3 year entry level deal, last weekend, worth an anual cap hit of $648,333, according to Red Rising Blog. Not a great deal is known about him, but his scouting report says the following:
"His puck handling and play making skills are by far his strongest attributes as he combines both of them with excellent decision making. He is a good skater and can beat a defender one on one at either full speed of half speed."
Sounds to me like a Steve Sullivan type of player, which worked well here in Chicago. Sullivan was shorter in stature, but also weighs in about 12 lbs heavier. Pirri has been a very successful goal scorer at every level, which is promising. I would expect to see him playing in Rockford, but if things don’t pan out right away, he could end up in the CHL with the Saginaw Spirits. The past two training camps he has been pointed out as a bright spot, so I’m hoping he’ll be playing in "The A" this winter. My gut feeling is that he’ll be an NHL player in a year or two, after he bulks up, a little.

Potulny was a bit of a surprise, but not really what I'd call shocking. I guess Bowman saw something in that Oiler team that he wanted to bring to Chicago, although it wasn't wins. He signed a cheap 2-way deal that really isn't any risk to the Hawks. If he works out, he'll be a bargain 3rd or 4th line center, and if he doesn't, he'll be a productive character player in Rockford. Potulny is a 26 year old, former third round pick of the Flyers in 2003. The guy has been a standout at all the lower levels, and scored 38 goals in his last full AHL season. Last season, with Edmonton, he had 15 goals and 32 points for an injury ravaged and talent depleted Oiler team. Of course, someone had to eventually score for that team, and Potulny did a time or two. Even though he's a center, he's roughly the same size, and his numbers look slightly better than the numbers Patrick Sharp put up in the Philly system, before he came to Chicago. I'm by no means calling him the next Sharpie, but he has a knack for the net, and some penalty killing speed. Ladd, and Sharpie were once unknown players who broke through here, so lets hope Mr. Potulny can, too.

Here is a little spin-o-rama goal from a shootout in the AHL, last year

Thursday, September 2, 2010

As the Forehead Turns......

As the first day of September came and went, the Chronicles of the Forehead quickly got a whole lot more interesting. Several sources reported that Niemi would be signing a 1 year, $2 million contract as early as today. I literally laughed out loud, in my cubical, as I read this. First of all, because I was right once again, and secondly because Niemi and his agent, Bill (Don't call me Barry) Zito, look like a couple of Class A douche bags. Few things make me as happy as seeing an asshole agent and his naive/stupid client get completely embarrassed on a grand scale. I'll explain this pride swallowing move in a bit, but first, I'd like to clear up some misconceptions and incorrect information floating around in people's heads and throughout this wonderful place I like to call the interweb.

The Correct Antti Niemi information:

-Niemi made $826,875 last season. Previous to last season, he was an unknown minor league goalie, that couldn't win the starting job on the Rockford Icehogs, and had only one year of North American hockey experience.

-Niemi "won" the backup job because he had a shutout in his preseason game against Florida, in Finland, and Corey Crawford really didn't impress anyone.

-Niemi never "won" the starting job, outright. He was given it by default, when Huet simply crapped his jockstrap at the most important part of the regular season. Niemi was given several chaces to take the starting job and couldn't play consistent enough to force Quenneville to give it to him.

-Niemi has a grand total of 64 NHL games under his belt. His career in the NHL looks like the following:

64 games, 43-14-5, 152 Goals against, 9 Shutouts, 2.60 GAA, Sv% .911.

The Contract Saga:

-Niemi was a restricted free agent, which means the Blackhawks have the right to match any offer he signs with another team, given that they extend a qualifying offer to him before the deadline on June 28th. The qualifying offer must be at least 105% of the previous season’s salary, which would be $868,219. Niemi had two choices; go to a salary arbitration hearing, or sign a contract with a team. If he signed with any other team, the Hawks had the option of matching or getting compensation in return. In this case, the compensation would have been the other team’s second round pick, unless the offer was over $3,091,963, whereas the compensation would have been the other team’s 1st and 3rd round draft picks. Niemi's agent chose to go to arbitration.

-The Blackhawks extended a qualifying offer, worth a reported $1.5 million, to Niemi on June 27th. This was the debacle last year when Dale Tallon didn’t file the qualifying offers in time. As a result, Cam Barker, Troy Brouwer, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Aaron Johnson and Kris Versteeg all became unrestricted free agents. The team was then forced to overpay for Versteeg and Barker, which ultimately lead to their contracts being unloaded.

-The Hawks and Niemi could now negotiate the actual contract, or Niemi files for arbitration. His agent files by the deadline of July 5th. Both sides can still negotiate until the arbitration hearing, which was scheduled for July 31st, and if a contract is agreed upon, the hearing would be cancelled.

-The best reported offer that the Hawks made was a short term deal worth roughly $2 million a year. Niemi’s agent was reportedly looking for a reported 5 year deal, worth somewhere in the area of $3.5 million a year.

-The arbitrator awarded Niemi $2.75 million a year, which the Hawks had 48 hours to offer, or allow him to become unrestricted. The Hawks decided not to offer that contract and he became a free agent on August 2nd.

-Niemi reportedly agreed to a shockingly familiar short term $2 million offer with the Sharks on September 2nd.

Now these are all fun, but true facts. The qualifying offer was NOT the final offer the Hawks presented to Niemi. His agent turned down the same offer to come back, be the starting goalie and defend the Stanley Cup in Chicago, only to agree to the same offer a month later. In San Jose, he will have to fight for a starting job on a team that has already committed $2 million to Antero Niittymäki, and has young Tomas Greiss waiting for his time. Not to mention, San Jose consistently chokes every year in the playoffs, and has a far less talented defense than the Blackhawks. Niemi, Niittymäki, and Greiss are not an upgrade over Evgeni Nabakov. Nabakov is a solid veteran starting goalie, and they dumped him for 3 question marks. All this aside, a $2 million Niemi contract puts them over the cap by $912,501 without Greiss on the roster and still needing another defenseman. Welcome to Cap Hell, Doug Wilson, we’ve saved you a seat at the head of the table.

The last part I want to address is Forehead’s agent, Bill Zito. When all is said and done, Niemi got bad advice from his agent. Zito completely misread the market for goaltenders, and arrogantly turned down virtually the same offer to stay in Chicago where fan’s loved him. He must have also been intoxicated when he assumed his client could get almost $4 Million a year. Bill Zito, you sir, are an idiot and I hope you end up with less clients because of it.

The culprit and enemy; agent Bill Zito

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When Casual Hawks Fans Strike...

Yesterday, I noticed an article posted on a friend's Facebook page about the great Antti Niemi and chose to take a casual poke at his "wise" decision. Shortly thereafter things got interesting as a "fan", chimed in with some "facts". This is some grade A ownage and word for word:

This is the article:
Source: Niemi could make decision soon

Me: Enjoy being a backup again! Buh bye

My Friend: Yup lmao
Coulda had both security and be on a contender if he wasn't greedy.

Casual Fan: Don't be haters just because he exercised the options that were given him. He did a terrific job for the Blackhawks last season and that shouldn't be forgotten. He stepped up when Huet wasn't doing all that well.

Me: Exercised the option to be someone elses backup plan. Sure, sounds like a great career move.

Casual Fan: He exercised the option of going to arbitration in a contract year just like any other NHL player would. This has nothing to do with greed. Name me any other starting goalie in the NHL that's making $400,000. The Hawks chose not to pick up what the arbitrator awarded him. It was the team's choice, not Niemi's

My Friend: Hawks didn't have the cap room, , their choice was to sign him but they couldn't. Because he was awarded in arbitration 3.4 or whatever. They looked at just the playoffs. With another team in front of him, lessor talented, he may not far...

Me: First of all the league minimum is higher than $400k. A real team player would have at least signed a one year deal for a reasonable amount. His stupid agent made him believe he could get more than he could from the Hawks. No goalie with 60 career games, that couldn't win the starting job until the other dope shit the bed, deserves that money. Turco turned down a much bigger payday for the honor of playing for the hawks. That deserves respect and support.

Casual Fan: Check your sources Jeff. He was making $400,000 (WRONG) last year. I write for a newspaper and that is what my sports department tells me, so I trust them. If you want more proof, I'll get it for you. As for the "team players" you cite, they are a rarity. So he is supposed to turn down almost ten times (WRONG) what he made last year for the sake of being a team player? I'm not sure anyone would do that. Turco has the luxury because he's had a long career. And Niemi's stupid agent was right for telling him to go to arbitration. Tell me anyone who is going to turn down a $3.4 million payday (WRONG) to play again for a fraction of that and that person is business stupid.

Casual Fan: Any sane person is going to take the money because there is no guarantee that something like that is ever going to come along again, especially with the threat of career ending injuries.

And because I LOVE being right, I must step in.

Me: OK, because we all know newspapers have the facts right. Sources you say?

According to the CBA on the OFFICIAL NHL WEBSITE the minimum salary for a rostered NHL player last season is $500K. So, I find your sources wrong, because you cannot pay a player UNDER the league minimum. I checked my source, feel free:

Capgeek says $826,875

and I quote, "after earning $826,875 as a rookie"

"the $800,000 he reportedly made last season"

And no not everyone is a money hungry douche bag. Marty Turco turned down at least triple the money with Philly for a chance to play in Chicago. Niemi's agent advised him wrong. It was a terribly WEAK goalie market and he thought he could BS the Hawks into overpaying. He bluffed and now he will suffer. He would have gotten a HANDSOME raise from the past year, but he wanted to squeeze that extra dollar out.

Me: I suppose CBS,ESPN, FOX, and the national post are wrong as well:

"after earning $826,875 as a rookie"

"after earning $826,875 as a rookie"

"Niemi earned $826,875 last season as a rookie"

"after earning $826,875 as a rookie"

Casual Fan: Did you break down the salary into base plus incentives? Regardless of whether my sources are wrong, the guy has a chance to make far more than he made last year. And you're going to fault him for that? So if you're in the same situation, you'll turn down the money for the sake of being a team player, not knowing how long your career is going to last?

Me: He had standard player contract with no player incentives. He was a minor league goalie (that couldn't win the outright starting job on his minor league team) with one year of North American hockey experience when that contract was negotiated. He could have accepted nearly triple his previous salary with a manageable cap number, knowing full well the team could not afford to overpay for anyone. There was no reason to go to arbitration because the team was offering around $2 million a year. He's still jobless for a reason, and it's not because there is a fierce bidding war for him.

And for the record, I've never knocked his contribution to the team. He was a PART of the team, but nothing close to the major reason they won. Clearly, Huet would have handed that starting job to anyone, because not once did Niemi "win" the job. He was given it by default.


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