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Friday, August 19, 2011

"Sportswriter" Idiocy at its Best

There are many reasons I started this blog, and the biggest of which is the loudmouth "experts" on the interweb spewing all sorts of fabrications, untruths, and flat out conspiracy theories. I would read one after another and they would simply infuriate me with their idiotic accusations and impossible scenarios. So, instead of holding it in, I decided to hash out my own views and opinions right here, for all of you to read. That quickly, I started this wonderful cathartic place I hold so dear, like an adopted child.

As of late, there hasn't been much to really get my blood pressure up in the red range, until last night. As I was looking through my various Twatter and Facebook feeds, I came across an article from someone named Tony Pirano on some site called Rant Sports. Now while I've never read anything this guy has written or even visited this site, the title immediately grabbed my attention and made that little red light in the back of my head start flashing. The title of the article was: Chicago Blackhawks Front Office Prevented A Dynasty. Read it for yourself, if you'd like. It's quite, shall we say, interesting. Mind you, just from the title, I knew where this guy was going. As I read through, I found myself rolling my eyes and having to stop to compose myself. It's THAT fucking silly. People say hindsight is 20/20 and it truly is, which makes me question this guy and his silly rag. So let me pick out a few example of this masterpiece and weigh in on them. Lets not forget that this guy's credentials include nothing remotely involving professional hockey. He is a COLLEGE BASKETBALL Broadcaster/Color/Sideline Reporter. Oh THIS is going to be good...

The state of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise is in purgatory

Oh is it, Tony? The Blackhawks took the eventual Conference Champs to 7 games and gave them their biggest challenge until the Cup Finals. Purgatory? Slight disarray, possibly, but Purgatory? Easy there, Chicken Little. Have you been huffing pesticides down in Southern Illinois?

Basically, the Blackhawks had two goalies who are the same age and decided to re-sign the one who lost a first round playoff match-up to Vancouver versus a guy who helped give Chicago a title in 2010.

This is a flat out JOKE, and insult to anyone who has played goaltender! Antti Niemi had no more hand in winning the cup than Corey Crawford had in losing to the Vancouver Canucks. These were completely different teams, and neither goalie was to blame for the good OR bad.

In the regular season, Corey Crawford was 33-18-6 (58% winning percentage) with 4 shutouts, 128 goals against, while facing 1,545 shots, with a .917 save percentage, 2.30 goals against average, and a total of 3,337 minutes. Antti Niemi was 26-7-4 (70% winning percentage) with 7 shutouts, 82 goals against, while facing 936 shots against, with a .912 save percentage, 2.25 goals against average, in only 2,190 minutes. If you exclude the win/loss record, which is misleading in the first place, you have virtually the same numbers. In fact, Corey Crawford had a BETTER save percentage, with more playing time. Oh wait, PLAYOFFS, right Tony? Lets examine...

Young Corey Crawford was 3-4 with 1 shutout, and 16 goals against, while facing 218 shots, with a VERY impressive .927 save percentage, 2.21 goals against average in 435 minutes played. Antti Niemi was 16-6, with 2 shutouts, and 58 goals against, while facing 645 shots, with a .910 save percentage, and 2.63 goals against average in 1,322 minutes played. Once again, win/loss records are very misleading, but when you get to the "meat and potatoes" Crawford had a considerably higher save percentage and lower goals against in the playoffs. But, Crawford choked in the playoffs, right?

I'd really like to know how Niemi is so much better of a choice, when he couldn't beat out the sieve that is Cristobal Huet in the first place, until the closing weeks of the season, all the while playing behind a much deeper team than Crawford. I'm sorry if I missed the great Antti Niemi standing on his head to win the Stanley Cup for the very deep San Jose Sharks, last season. I think I remember an inconsistent goalie that was pulled from several games because if his play. I MUST have been mistaken, right? Mind you the Hawks would have been forced to pay Niemi $750K more than the Sharks did, to return to Chicago. Roughly $100K more than they are paying Corey Crawford for the next 3 years. LETS ALSO NOT FORGET the 3 year extension San Jose signed Niemi to, that will have them on the hook for $3.8 million, or roughly $1.2 million more than they are paying for Corey Crawford, who has better raw stats. You sir, have no fucking idea what you're talking about, and we're only 2 paragraphs in.

The Blackhawks no longer have the same luster or appeal as they once did, just a year ago. Besides the Chicago Blackhawks three major known commodities of Patrick Kane, Jon Toews and Duncan Keith, the team is built around young “prospects” and veterans with the hopes of reviving the magic from their 2010 dream season in the future

Has anyone heard of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, or Dave Bolland? These guys would all be top 10 players on ANY team in the NHL.

I see guys like Udonis Haslem taking $14 million dollar pay cuts to stay with the Miami Heat, rather then signing with a new team for a multi-million dollar deal. Those players do still exist. Some guys are willing to take less, to in-turn, win more. I don’t want you to think I am being naive either, I realize a ton of modern athletes will jump at the money, rather than the glory of winning.

Who the HELL is Udonis Haslem, and if you can name one person that even cares, I'll be surprised. He is a 10 PPG career player who had 8 PPG last season, and averaged the lowest minutes and points of his career last season. Of course, he's going to jump on the James/Wade/Bosh coattails, because the guy is a NOBODY, and not to mention a basketball player. You're not even comparing apples to apples. Where was this hometown discount during the Niemi negotiations? Niemi ended up making $750k LESS than the arbitrator awarded, to play for another team. Andrew Ladd going to arbitration, you say? Making $800K more last season than the one previous and then following up with a whopping $4.4 million cap hit for the next 4 years. Where would have the money been to resign Sharp and Seabrook? If you combine the salaries of all the Hawks players from that team, you're probably looking at something in the area of $70 million. Just a crotch hair over the salary cap there, Tony. But it's the front offices fault...right. Got it.

The Hawks could have always let Hjalmarsson go and let Nick Boynton or Jassen Cullimore patrol the second line pairing with Campbell. Wouldn't that have been fun? I'm sure you're going to throw old, slow Brent Sopel at me, and with that I retort with the fact that not a SINGLE NHL team had enough confidence in him to sign him this offseason. If Brent Sopel is on my second pairing, my team is hurting.

All this is a moot point because Niemi and his agent tried to do exactly what you're condemning, by gouging the Blackhawks for more money. They offered him something in the neighborhood of $2.25 million a year. This, of course, blew up in their face.

Arguably, the MVP of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawk playoff run was Dustin Byfuglien. He set the hockey world on fire with his size and ability to play anywhere on the ice. Especially, in front of the net where he did most of his damage. Even in the Stanley Cup Finals when he matched-up against a much bigger and far more experienced Chris Pronger, Byfuglien held his own and really stabilized the Flyers enforcer.

Byfuglien was out the door quicker than any other Blackhawk, pretty much as soon as the Stanley Cup was handed out. He was traded alongside another up and coming youngster, Andrew Ladd, to the Atlanta Thrashers for prospects. Ladd was making nice strides in his NHL career. The former 4th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft made major contributions to the Blackhawks during their ’10 title run. Those two were thought to be locked down in Chicago Blackhawk uniforms for the majority of their careers. No fans, teammates or experts thought Byfuglien was going anywhere after his emergence in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs….We all thought wrong.

Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien led the Atlanta Thrashers in points scored in 2011. They were the top two individual point scorers on the team. Ladd led the team in scoring with 59 points, 29 goals and 30 assists. While the 2011 All-Star voted Byfuglien was second on the team in scoring with 33 assists and 20 goals. To say they were missed dearly by an eighth seeded 2011 Chicago Blackhawk team, is an understatement.

Oh, you SIMPLE, SIMPLE person. MVP? Did anyone watch Jonathan Toews or Duncan Keith play in those playoffs? Dustin Byfuglien was a THIRD LINE FORWARD who wasn't good enough to put ANY of the top 4 defensemen out of a job, either. He annoyed Roberto Loungo for a series, and his claim to fame was having a big enough ass to block out the sun. You are comparing playing for the World Champion Chicago Blackkhawks and playing for the Atlanta Thrashers, my man. The Thrashers were basically a good AHL team last season.

Ladd, while being a player I absolutely loved, would not have cracked the top 6 forwards on the Blackhawks, at any point. If you throw hamburger next to a pile of cow dung, that hamburger is going to look MIGHTY TASTY, but if you plop hamburger down next to a juicy steak from Ruth's Chris, the comparison is drastically different. In case you didn't understand, the Blackhawks were the Steak, and the Thrashers were the cow dung.

If you'd like to dig deeper, certainly Buff's offensive season was commendable, but his defensive skill leaves MUCH to be desired. Joel Quenneville was NOT going to watch Byfuglien and his comedy of errors in the Blackhawks end of the ice for long, I promise you that. While Hjalamrsson didn't put up the offensive numbers, his back end positioning and shot blocking skills FAR outweigh what Byfuglien would or did do. Both Ladd and Buff would have wasted away behind BETTER players. The Thrashers do not have that caliber of depth that the Blackhawks do. If you want to pay Byfuglien $5.2 million a year to play on the third line and be a 30 point per season player, be my guest. Hossa and Sharp put up double the numbers for the same basic salary. I'll pass on that one, thank you very much.

Soon after Byfuglien and Ladd were traded, came the wheeling and dealing of Chris Versteeg. Thought by many in the Chicago area, to be a mainstay of the team for years to come. The gritty youngter was dealt to Toronto for prospects on June 30, further dissecting this once potent group of young-guns who already had a title to their credit.

Before I even get into the THIS one, it's KRIS Versteeg, Tony. With a "K", as in KNUCKLEHEAD. The "K" is silent there, get it?

Again, Kris Versteeg was a smallish third line player that created an amusement park type atmosphere in the neutral zone, because he absolutely refused to dump the puck into the opponent's zone. Hidden behind much better players he was able to put together decent numbers, and those "decent" numbers stayed exactly the same in Toronto, playing with their top forwards and on their top powerplay. Decent isn't good enough there slick, so he was traded to the Flyers, who quickly realized that he is exactly what the Blackhawks used him as; a bottom 6 role player. After 38 career games as a Flyer, he was traded to Florida to reunite with the guy that generously let his qualifying offer pass and forced the Blackhawks to overpay for him two years previous. There was that hometown discount you were chirping about, again.

The trade of Versteeg was drowned out by the Blackhawks signing of 38-year-old veteran Marty Turco, amidst allowing rookie Stanley Cup winning goalie, Antti Niemi, to walk away to San Jose in early August for nothing in return. This was the most gut-wrenching blow to me personally and most Blackhawk fans in general.

How in the world can you allow your rookie goaltender who just won you a Stanley Cup to walk out the front door while receiving nothing in return? You can’t and you shouldn’t be able to so easily, as the Blackhawks front office made it seem.

Don't insult my hockey knowledge. Turco didn't pan out, but the Blackhawks were able to develop the talents of Corey Crawford. For the first time in YEARS, they have a successful returning starting goaltender back in net. If you knew ANYTHING about hockey you'd know that VERY few goalies can singlehandedly carry a team, and Antti Niemi is NOT one of them. Corey Crawford isn't for that matter, either. Currently there aren't any in the league that can carry a team to the cup finals just on his sheer talent alone. That takes a Patrick Roy type player. Martin Brodeur was once that player, and Ryan Miller has potential. Not even the $10 million man, Bobby-Lu, can carry a team, as we saw. The Blackhawks received CAP ROOM in return, which is something they desperately needed.

They decided he was not their "future" goalie and signed a 38-year-old Turco who never got past the first round of the playoffs…Similar to Crawford in his young career so far.

First of all, Marty Turco was NEVER the "Future Goalie" of the Chicago Blackhawks. Marty Turco was a one year veteran signing that was intended to do what Niemi did the year before. Not lose games. He was not brought here to carry the team on his back, which is good, because he didn't. So they wasted an affordable one year deal. That's just smart business.

SECONDLY, you have your facts wrong, TONY. Marty Turco made it past the first round of the playoffs twice in his career. In 02-03, he made it to the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Ducks, and made it to the Western Conference Finals in 07-08 against the Red Wings.

The huge debacle with GM Darryl Tallon in 2009, filling out the incorrect paperwork for the re-signing of a number of Blackhawks was well documented and helped in their 2010 reckless off-season.

DARRYL Tallon? REALLY, Tony? You call yourself a journalist? I'm a mens league goalie with a day job, and I can get that one right in my sleep.

Now let's get to your comments, as you responded to people obviously smarter about hockey than you:
I would call Seabrook, Hossa, Sharp and Bolland solid above average players with the talent around them.

Granted, I love Marian Hossa. He was one of my favorite players in the game long before he became a Blackhawk. Yet, his best days are behind him. This speedy Hawks offense makes him look better than he is right now.

Seabrook is a sensational teammate, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want to go in the trenches with anyone else, yet he is not a top talent defenseman in the league. He does everything well, but does nothing extraordinarily great either. He is solid and a leader by example. But, put him in Tampa Bay or St. Louis and he would never be heard from again.

Sharpie is another one of the fan-favorites. He is great on paper, but lacks a major defensive prowess, intensity and he is not as crafty and agile as one would think. He is also 28-years old, so he is not as young as people think. Therefore, his ceiling is not as high as we would of thought it would of been three years ago. He is an above average NHL scorer, plain and simple.

Dave Bolland is the only one here who is worth anything. He is the man, you’re right. Bolls in one of the young studs who luckily escaped the meat grinder that is the Chicago Blackhawks front office. Hopefully, he can stick around for awhile. Great point though Jason, Bolland is a future star that we must pay sooner rather than later.

That is HILARIOUS!!!!! Sharp, Hossa, Bolland and Seabrook are "solid above average players with talent around them". What exactly would you call Byfuglien, Ladd, Versteeg, and Niemi? Hall of Famers? Solid above average players with talent around them is the DEFINITION of those four. Seabrook would be a top 2 defenseman on ANY CLUB IN THE LEAGUE, and there are only of a handful of players in the league that are better than him. If you'd like a more credible source than myself, you can kindly surf on over to Yahoo Sports very own Puck Daddy, where Sam McCaig named Seabrook the 13th best defenseman in the entire league. Far cry from a "solid above average player with talent around him", wouldn't you say? No other team had two players in the top 13, and the only one close was Nashville, with Weber at #2 and Suter at #14, which I also happen to agree with. Getting Seabrook back at $5.8 million a year in this market is a STEAL, and is certainly a hometown discount.

Sam McCaig also ranked Mr. Hossa as the 8th best right winger in the league, with Patrick Kaane being #5. Yes, #5 and #8. Hossa isn't going to give the Hawks 45 goals a year, but he is certainly capable of netting 30 or 35 and continuing to be one of the better defensive wings in the league, on a nightly basis as well as providing veteran leadership to the kids coming up.

In your defense, Andrew Ladd was ranked at #12 as a Left Wing. The Hawks are certainly not swimming in a pool of Left Wings, but they aren't exactly hurting either. I'll give you that one, but again, polishing up a turd doesn't make it an allstar.

Speaking of All-Stars, do I recall you mentioning the ALL-STAR GAME MVP a "solid above average player with talent around him"? Just refresh my memory. You also said "He is also 28-years old, so he is not as young as people think". Patrick Sharp is 29 years old (12/27/81) and has gotten better each of the last 6 years, with the exception of 08-09 where we was limited to 61 games, but was on pace to fit right in to his usual progression. Remember, he was not only elected to the All-Star team, he was awarded the MVP. Average, indeed, Tony. You're just knocking them out of the park. The only reason that he wasn't ranked in Sam McCaig's articles is because no one is sure whether he was going to play center or wing.

Dave Bolland is one of the PREMIER shutdown centers in the league, but the best of the group? As Sam McCaig said, "Just ask the Sedin twins about the effectiveness of this two-way 'Hawk." There is a reason the Canucks series turned around when he returned to the lineup, and it has a lot to do with David Bolland, whom McCaig ranked the #24 best center in the league. ON THE OTHER HAND, Dave Bolland was virtually invisible for much of the regular season last year. Kind of hard to describe that as "the only one here who is worth anything".

I'm going to call it a day, here, because I could literally tear this rag to shreds for days on end. As you can see, the interweb is a dangerous tool that allows complete morons to voice their opinions. Bad ones, at that. Go back to Women's College Basketball.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Please Hockey, Save Us From Boredom and Idiocy

Even though the weather is nice and hot in Chicago, hockey fans can't help but dream for September, so we can see a little puck-n-ice action. The summer is a great time for me, and most of the hockey reporting world to get some much needed down time. That time is quickly coming to a close, though. August is here, and training camp is right around the corner, but this leaves time to continue the silliness of the summer NHL rumor mill. Here are a few issues I haven't had a chance to weigh in on yet.
A rumor was brought to my attention late last week, regarding Patrick Kane going to rehab for drug abuse. This is some of the silliest crap I've heard in a long time. Look, we all know professional athletes like to party from time to time, and Kaner is a young kid having fun with life. There have been NO signs of anything out of the ordinary with young Patrick, and the only rehab he will be seeing is for his surgically repaired wrist. By all accounts, Kaner has put on some bulk, and is ready for the new season. Cut the kid some slack, because I'm sure what all of YOU were doing at 22 probably weren't your finer moments. Lets not get crazy with the rumors.

Who would have thought that inviting a guy to try out for your team would cause such discussion? Last Wednesday it was announced that the Blackhawks had invited former Senators, Flyers, and Ducks goalie Ray Emery to try out for a spot in camp. Immediately, there was an uproar from the Twitards about this move. I cannot stress enough how this move can do nothing but help the Blackhawks. They don't owe him a single cent for coming to camp, and if he looks good, they can offer him a contract. This said contract can either be to play behind Crawford or start in Rockford. Granted, he won't want to play in Rockford, but he's free to then walk away. If HE completely shits the bed, then the Hawks let him walk.

Not only that, but it creates some competition for Salak and even Crawford. Wouldn't it be NICE to have to make a tough decision between Emery and Salak? That's a problem Stan Bowman should be licking his lips at, and not to mention that there aren't many goalies willing to TRY OUT without a contract. Bowman should be lauded for getting Emery to agree to this situation, because most goalies would want SOME kind of monetary gain, even if they don't make the team. This guy has been to the Stanley Cup finals, AS A STARTER, WITH THE OTTAWA SENATORS. Yes, He was a bust in Philly because he had MAJOR hip problems that kept him out for roughly a year, and almost ended his career. This is the same injury that ended the career of one of the best athletes in the 90's, Bo Jackson. Bo didn't know hockey, but Ray does. He has rehabbed the injury after his surgery, he is back in the league, and he looked VERY WELL for the Ducks, last year, when Hiller went down with a foggy head. Remind me where ANY of this puts the Hawks at risk, please?

On a more personal note, I happen to really like Ray Emery's fire and attitude. He has had his issues, but has he really been any more of a handful than Dan Carcillo? I hope he does well for the Hawks, and I would gladly wear an Emery jersey. He's not going to win a Vezina trophy, but he's also not going to hurt the team as a backup. Welcome to Chicago, Ray Emery, and I hope to tell you that in person some day soon. Here is to healthy competition.

It was announced this week that former Blackhawks Chris Chelios and Gary Suter were elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, along with Keith Tkachuk. None of this should be a surprise after the careers they both had, here in Chicago and elsewhere. They were the original Keith and Seabrook, or should I say Keith/Seabrook are Cheli/Suter version 2. Being a Calgary Flames fan back in the day, I was very familiar with Suter, and couldn't believe the Hawks were able to get him for Frantisek Kucera and Jocelyn Lemieux. That's STILL a steal. He played for the Hawks for 4 1/2 seasons and including 34 playoff games. He was the perfect compliment to Cheli's physical play, and it showed on the ice.

What needs to be said about Cheli? Maybe the BEST American born player to step on the ice, and one tough son of a bitch. He came in under fire, when the Hawks traded away fan favorite Denis Savard, but he quickly won his home town fans over. Before long, Savard was fading into the twilight of his career, and Cheli was at the top of his game. No matter how you feel about his departure here, he's still one of the best ever and deserves to be a first ballot inductee to Toronto, as well.

These two are still my favorite Hawks duo just ahead of #2 and #7. Congrats, Guys!

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