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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Make A New Plan, Stan
There Must Be
Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover

Tuesday, some wise ass gave me the old "what would you do? what is your plan?" regarding a comment I posted that eluded to the fact that I wasn't going to expect any big transactions from Stan Bowman until he proves that I should feel otherwise. I figured the best thing to do was put together some plans to quiet the wise asses. What does HE know? Maybe I just missed my calling. Maybe I secretly AM a brilliant hockey mind.

To blindly throw trust into a GM that has watched the team he controls progressively head in reverse is naive and irresponsible. Everyone and their housekeeper can criticize the President when the economy doesn't recover or Obamacare gets uphend, but Stan Bowman should be allowed carte blanche because his last name is Bowman, which obviously means he must be the right hand of God. If that's the case, Obama should seriously consider a name change to Barack Kennedy Roosevelt.

Contrary to the conclusions that most Twatters probably have drawn, I don't hate Bowman at all. If Cautious Stanley is the type of GM he is, then so be it. If that approach means that the Hawks will continue to fade into the lore of the '85 Bears, then Bowman should end up jobless in the near future. If that approach means that the conservative method works them back into the conference or cup finals, then great for everyone. Based on the evidence of his first 36 months in office, his cautious approach has yielded them draft picks aplenty and little else. Using the salary cap as an excuse for failure is really unfair, because every team has the same restrictions, and Bowman was billed as the cap savant that was going to make all the issues magically disappear. He has had a respectable amount of cap space for 12 months, now, and has done nothing to improve the team. These are facts, kind people. He is quickly losing my support.

A team getting ousted in the first round for two straight years with a decent amount of cap room left on the table smells of a few possible scenarios:

-Bowman hoped that the team would get lucky, catch fire, and some players would carry them for four rounds, which is like rubbing a lamp and hoping for a genie. Hoping and wishing is a bad business strategy.

-Bowman grossly overvalued the talent on this team, which is a seriously disturbing character flaw. If he watched this team play and thought they were capable of anything more than what happened, he's not smarter than the meatballs who were doing their chicken little dance in December.

-Bowman just simply gave up, which is unacceptable for any number of reasons.

I would put my money on one of the first two. None of them should make fans all that comfortable. Anyhow, Enough "angry" bashing of the chosen one, and on to my brilliant couch GM rantings.

With the draft in the rear view, and the UFA period period on the horizon, the Hawks have less opportunity than they did a week ago. The draft could have been a prime opportunity to drop some less than desirable players and some salaries. We don't know what happened within the inner circle Friday night and Saturday. Bowman may have been weeping and begging on his knees for someone to Nik Hjalmarsson and Michael Frolik, and ever single GM in the league turned him down. He may have cornered Doug Wilson and threatened to shank him if he didn't take Hjalmarsson this time around, only to have his bluff called. I highly doubt both, and it looks as though Bowman wasn't willing to take any more losses on deals to free up cabbage. Your call, Stan.

One thing that the team has on its side is that there are no RFA's to tender qualifying offers to. One less thing to complicate the process. See? I'm not completely negative. Good boy, Stanley; you're such a good boy!

On to the UFA frenzy. This is the biggest and most exciting transaction day in the NHL. Chum in the water, and the sharks are swimming. Before I examine just who the Hawks should put on the speed dial, it would be best to lay out the current rostered players under contract. The current roster lays out like this:

CJonathan Toews19
CDavid Bolland36
C/WJamal Mayers22
CMarcus Kruger16
WBryan Bickell29
WBrandon Bollig52
WDaniel Carcillo13
WMichael Frolik67
WJimmy Hayes39
WMarian Hossa81
WPatrick Kane88
WPatrick Sharp10
WAndrew Shaw65
WVictor Stalberg25
DDuncan Keith2
DBrent Seabrook7
DNick Leddy8
DJohnny Oduya27
DNiklas Hjalmarsson4
DSteve Montador5
DDylan Olsen34
GCorey Crawford50
GRay Emery30

That, right there, is what you call a full boat, folks. Four Centers (if you include MegaMayers), ten wings, seven defensemen, and two goalies. If the season began tonight, three of those players would be healthy scratches. The problem with this is that the roster above is the same team that lost 9 straight last season and was schooled by Phoenix in the first round; and are a year older. That cannot stay the same. If you keep going to war with the same army, you're going to keep getting the same results. Expecting different is the DEFINITION of insanity.

The only two choices are trade, and then free agency. One doesn't have to come before the other, but if they sign someone July 1, they will need to move a body or two somewhere. They have three open slots in the entire organization to sign players, because currently teams in the NHL can only have 50 players signed to contracts. As I sit here, the team has 23 in the NHL and 24 in the depths of hell. They can currently sign three players for a total of $8,134,872 annually, with the recent salary cap announcement. For those mouth breathers having this read to them in their cages, that is $2,711,624 a year. Not exactly bait for any big fish unless they just sign one or two players.

The first scenario is trade. It is pretty much understood that the names most mentioned in trade rumors are Hjalmarsson, Stalberg, Frolik, Bickell, and any of the assorted kids in the system. Most of you should be aware of this, but there aren't many teams out there bidding for those players. The pickins are slim, as they say. Bolland and Montador have been discussed, but they are players with injury histories and fat contracts. Of the players listed, the Hawks are most likely to hear back about Hjalmarsson, Bolland and Stalberg. I could sit here and dream up some crazy scenarios like a certain message board, without knowing if the players at the other end are even available. Not worth wasting my time. What IS worth telling you is that Hammer would free up $3.5 million, Bolland $3.375 million, Stalberg $875K, Frolik $2.333 million, Montador $2.75 million, and Bickell frees up virtually nothing while swimming in the shallow end at the league minimum. The would, no doubt, have to take SOME salary back, but it's safe to say they could clear up another $2 million without breaking a sweat. With Stall off the market, Evander Kane is a possible big name guy, but they would have to trade for, and then resign him. I don't see it happening.

If they are able to pull off some fat trimming, they would have enough room to make a run at either a big name player or a couple of lesser solid ones. I'm fine with either, as long as it is an honest attempt to make the team better. What I'm NOT fine with is Bowman sitting on his thumb while teams like the Rangers, Pens or Wings make significant additions. The Hawks are not that good. They are not a team that can stand pat and dominate. One more year of mediocrity and this team is bordering on the need for a rebuild.

I know all the wise asses are out there saying, "OK, genius, tell me who they should get". In a fantasy land, Zach Parise, Shea Weber or Ryan Suter sound like lovely plans, but this isn't NHL 12 and there are other factors. Of those three, Suter is the one most likely to wear an Indianhead, but I'd give that a %15 chance, at best. Again, I'm all for a run, but I don't think the Hawks can compete, and I can accept that.

Where I think they need to make their mark is where they have failed pretty miserably since Bowman's promotion, and that is the second level FA market. I could run down the list, but there are a few names out there. Jason Garrison, Sheldon Souray, Matt Carle, and a host of others are out there on the back end.

As far as forwards go, there are people out there, just not the big names. Filling the hole at center would be a huge upgrade, but that would probably mean that Bolland needs to move up or Sharp bites the bullet. Kane cannot be the Blackhawks second line center, long term because he can't win a faceoff. Someone like Paul Gaustad could step in at #3 or #4, and I always like the face-off ability of Zenon Konopka at the #4 center. Hell, even Olli Jokinen is an attempt. It has been put out that Toews was sweet talking Shane Doan in the NHLPA meetings. If they can get him for $2 million or less, by all means, sign his tough ass. Otherwise, they are at risk of another Andrew Brunette debacle with an aging player, on the decline, getting pulled around the ice by the kids.

Take this for what it is worth, folks. It is a plan of attack. When all is said and done, I don't want to have to criticize anyone in the organization. I was a stern supporter of the Capocalypse of 2010. It was a necessary evil. Two years removed and the team is still moving in the wrong direction. As a fan, I SHOULDN'T be happy with this, and neither should you. Damn the man! Save the Empire!


Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 Blackhawks Draft Class

Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks Brass, and Teuvo Teravianen

Friday and Saturday, the Blackhawks took part in the NHL Entry draft, in Pittsburgh PA. By all accounts, they had yet another successful Stan Bowman draft, but it was just that; A Stan Bowman draft. The Hawks made one minor trade and selected 8 players. Hardly the big splash that fans and bloggers alike were hoping for. We were given exactly what you should expect from a Stan Bowman led team. Safe, calculated picks, and very little risk.

The trade was hardly a blip on the transaction ticker, with the Hawks trading their 109th overall pick to San Jose for their 191st pick, and a fourth round pick in 2013. Exciting, right? Contain yourselves, folks.

That being said, the Hawks looked to have themselves a good little draft class, although none of the players will be joining or helping this team in the coming season. This it the final tally of picks:

Round Pick Player Position 2011/12 Team
4 109 TRADE TO SAN JOSE -- ---

Teuvo Teräväinen - He is a smallish forward, in the Patrick Kane mold. He has even been described as a poor man's Kane, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The thing you have to worry about here is, first of all, the fact that he comes from a bigger European ice surface, and secondly, if he will have the ability to squirt off big hits, like Kane can. Kane has also worked out extremely hard in the offseason each year, when he's not courting drunken Wisconsin college floozies, and comes in pretty solidly jacked for his stature. I can't knock Teravainen, because I've never seen him play, and he had to have been ranked as high as #5 for a reason. If he IS anything like Kaner on the ice, he could be a very special player here in Chicago, in about 2 years. It's already been announced that he will play 2012/13 in Finland with Jokerit. He is only few days shy of being eligible for the 2013 draft, which means he is one of the youngest of this class.

Here is a highlight video of some of his work (complete with a terrible version of Kaner's theme song):

Dillon Fournier - He is, by all accounts, an offensive defenseman. He is listed as 6'1", and 175lbs, which is not all that big for an NHL defender. Scouting reports say that he has a tendency to be a little lax in his own end, and while having issues containing forwards. Another long term project. His upside is that he is one of the best puck moving/powerplay qb's in the entire draft. An eventual replacement for Nick Leddy?

Here are highlights of Fournier (Please turn the volume down. Between the obnoxious music and french announcers you'll be kicking babies and kittens by the end):

Chris Calnan - Calnan is a decent sized high school wing, whose biggest claim to fame is that he's the nephew of former beloved Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick. He's listed at 6'2" and 188, which is pretty good for a player that just recently turned 18. It has been said that he has the potential to be a "top 9 power forward". He has committed for Boston College and there is no reason to think that he'll be anywhere else, come fall.

Garret Ross - When researching Ross, 99% of the videos you find are of him throwing hammers with opposing players. Suffice to say, he's an "enforcer" type of player. In two particularly entertaining videos he even has a go at Andrew Shaw in '09 and '10. He also played in the OHL with Brandon Saad last season for coach and former Blackhawk Greg Gilbert, so he's familiar with some of the young Hawks as well as former players. He's only 5'11" and 170, so he really isn't much bigger than Shaw. I've seen the words "mean streak" associated with him, which can also mean "loose cannon", or in other words Dan Carcillo. I wouldn't expect to see him in the Hawks plans for a few years. From what I can see, he throws punches with both his right and left hands and can absorb quite a barrage of fists. You can watch all of his fights here: www.hockeyfights.com but here are a few highlights:

Here you can watch him get into a fight after plowing the opposing goaltender over:

Here is the better of the two Shaw fights. Shaw's post fight reaction is PRICELESS!

Travis Brown - Brown is a 6'2" 180lb defenseman from the Western Hockey league that will be a project. Here is a fight between Hawks prospect Mark McNeill and Brown:

Vince Hinostroza - Here is a kid that wasn't even drafted 30 second and the entire intarwebs was misspelling his name. Hinostroza is a local kid from Bartlett playing in the USHL. He's a smaller player at 5'10" and 160lb, but Reel Hockey Scouting states that he is "pesky" and "crafty". He is committed to Notre Dame in the fall, and thet's where we should expect to see him play. You can read more here along with an iso-cam video of him playing against his hometown Chicago Steel:


Brandon Whitney - This pick could have been the real steal of the draft, for the Hawks. Whitney was listed as the #2 North American goaltender in the draft, and somehow fell to the 7th round. He is huge, at 6'5", much like Rinne and Lindback are in Nashville and Tampa Bay respectively. In fact, Rinne was picked i nthe 8th round, and Lindback was also picked in the 7th round. The big difference is the European pedigree both Rinne and Lindback have. Whitney has been described as an upright butterfly goalie that blocks the puck more than saving the puck, which sounds to me a lot more like a positional style. His numbers won't really "wow" you, and it looks like his size is what got him his rank. Look for him to be a 3 or 4 year project with a big upside. Here is an article that was up on NHL.com regarding Whitney:


Matt Tomkins - Tomkins is a 6'2" 170 lb goalie that you would expect in the 7th round of the draft, and was ranked #10 among North American goalies. He has committed to Ohio State, like previous Hawks prospect Cal Heeter, after playing last season with Sherwood Park of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Nothing that jumps out and grabs your attention.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Commentary From The Balcony

Now that there are no more games to quench our thirst, and the off season has officially begun, the craziness has gone from zero to insane in 3 seconds flat. Trade speculation, free agent speculation and personnel moves are enough bait to suck the NHL crazies in.

The Blackhawks aren't immune to the speculation, either. Over the past couple of weeks, I've thrown out my theories and thoughts on the corner they have been painted into, but we don't truly know what Bowman has planned. The Draft should be the first glimpse of just what he is trying to accomplish, because no one really knows what he was trying to accomplish last season.

After a couple of years of defending Bowman, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for him to show us this alleged expertise that we've all been fed since the day he took over. Sure, he was restricted by the salary cap following the cup, but he has had room to make moves since and left cap space on the table, only to watch the Hawks fall short in the first round two years in a row. It is enough!

Two years ago, the Blackhawks WERE the Kings. They were the young hotshot team with a talented nucleus that could dominate for years to come, but they have taken a disturbing stroll down the path of the 1985 Bears. Salary purges, lack of necessary personnel moves, and a bizarre disconnect between Coach and GM have the Hawks chasing the pack, again, after only one Stanley Cup banner. The Bears were the most dominating team in the NFL, at the time, and they let their arrogance, or ignorance, turn them into a joke within 5 years. Here the Blackhawks are, two other Cup Champions later, and they have people shaking their heads.

One and DONE

If the Hawks cannot move in a significantly positive direction this season, if there IS a season, the window will have damn near closed. Lightning in a bottle isn't a 5 season trip anymore. Teams are lucky to be able to two in a row in this modern era, so asking fans to be patient for 3 seasons is, quite frankly, unreasonable and insulting.

Currently, the Hawks have room to wiggle, and they have salaries that can be moved. There is NO excuse to sit on their hands, and watch other teams pass them by. If Bowman doesn't jump into the water while it is still warm, he may end up losing any remaining momentum. We can curse in the name of Dale Tallon, but the man built the core of a winner here in Chicago and he is building a winner in Florida. Call it dumb luck, but he is doing something right. Tell me where Stan Bowman has done anything but stand behind a team that was already built and reduce them from Stanley Cup champs to first round exits with internal conflicts and gaping holes. This sounds disturbingly similar to what Mike McCaskey did with the Bears. Sure he brought in Nick Leddy and drafted a couple of solid guys, but a blind squirrel will find the occasional nut.

As I said last night on Twitter, I'm not a Stan Bowman hater. I want him to succeed in Chicago and lead the Blackhawks to another Cup, but my patience is wearing thin. I'm really not a doom and gloom guy, but a realist. I defended the purge of 2010 vehemently, but it isn't 2010 anymore, folks. Time to make this organ-I-zation the cream of the crop, once again, not the utter embarrassment that is the Mike McCaskey era Bears.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Natives Are Restless

This morning it was announced that the Blackhawks had resigned Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith to 2-year deals woth $575K per, and Goalie/Rockford Legend Carter Hutton to a one year deal. Slighty under the radar, the Blackhawks continued with their expulsion of Alexander Salak, by slapping him with an outright release.

None of these moves really matter much in the grand scheme of things. Bollig is a second string hammer thrower, behind Carcillo. He hardly matters in what the Hawks have ahead of them. Ben Smith still may never see the Blackhawks locker room again, and if he does, it'll be on the 4th line. Again, someone who figures little in the Hawks plans.

Hutton is the only move that I fully expected. He had a great year in Rock Vegas, after the goaltending there absolutely fell to pieces. He is one of the few players to have played, or at least dressed, in the ECHL, AHL and NHL last season. With the Goaltending depth as thin as it is in the Organ-I-zation, this was a no brainer. They could still bring in another depth guy, like they did with Emery last season, and bulk up a little between now and the start of camp. That would be the ideal situation. Competition never hurt anyone.

Friday, June 15, 2012

We Know Not What We Had
Blackhawks waive Alexander Salak

A story was floated, on twatter, this morning that the Blackhawks waived goalie prospect Alex Salak. I can't say that I'm least bit surprised. It looks as though he may have asked to go back to Europe, if he wasn't going to get a fair chance in the NHL, which he wasn't. The Blackhawks goalie depth, which was already disturbingly thin, has just taken another right cross to the bridge of the nose.

Salak had a rough year, that was compounded by injury and personal family issues. It has been reported that his attitude regarding his demotion to Rockford, following training camp, really left a bad taste in the collective mouths of the Hawks brass. This move makes that look even more true, now. I wasn't very shy about my affinity for Salak, but he simply came in with a poor attitude and didn't produce. Maybe he'll go back to Europe and maybe someone will claim him, but I hope he straightens his ass up, wherever he goes. This move along with Frolik's terrible year make Dale Tallon look much better in his deals with the Blackhawks.

Alec Richards is another interesting case, in how the organ-I-zation has handled him. He started the year in Rockford as the #1 guy, and ended up getting demoted to Toledo of the ECHL. When you go from the AHL to the ECHL, your career is definitely is heading, full bore, in reverse. I can't tell you just why coach Rockford coach Ted Dent soured on Richards, but he did. My guess would be that they let him play out his final year in Toledo and let him go.

This leaves the Blackhawks with Carter Hutton (if resigned), Kent Simpson, Mac Carruth, and Johan Mattsson in their entire system. A far cry from just a few years ago, when they had Niemi, and Crawford alone in Rockford. The good news is that Hutton, Simpson, and Carruth are all coming off very good years. Hutton is a good safety net, but no one knows just what Carruth or Simpson can do in Rockford. Carruth is only 20, so he could be sent to the Juniors if the Hawks don't like what they see just yet. Either way you slice it, the Blackhawks could use some goaltending depth in the system.

It is fun to think the Hawks might go for a "blue chip" goalie, in the draft, but from everything I've gathered, it's unlikely. Just for shits-n-giggles I thought I'd share the top goaltending prospects with you. I know, call me partial.

Oscar Dansk

The 17 year old Swedish born goalie is touted to be the best goalie pick in this years NHL entry draft, The 6'2, 183 pound currently plays for Brynas of the Swedish Elite league, This year winning a Silver Medal Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament with Team Sweden. This season he has also played in Brynäs J18 where he played just one game in which he had a 1.00 GAA & .954 SV%, he also played in Brynäs J20 where is saw 5 starts and came away with 2.39 GAA and .922 SV% and in the Swedish U18 he saw 4 starts with a 2.71 GAA and .905 SV%. He also spent time in 2007 & 08 in North America with Shattuck St Mary's, Minnesota where he started over 60 games and had a combined 1.70 GAA and .922 SV%.

He has been compared to Henrik Lundqvist in his style & size, his ability to absorb the hardest shot is a definite plus for any NHL team in and should be rewarded with a low first round or high second round pick.

Source: www.mynhldraft.com

Andrei Vasilevski

Andrei Vasilevski turned heads at the World Junior Hockey Championships when he fought off fellow countrymen Sergei Kostenko and Andrei Makarov to secure the job as Russia’s starting goaltender to begin the tournament. While he was pulled in favour of Makarov during the semi-final game against Canada and wasn’t called upon for the final against Sweden, Vasilevski’s brilliant performance up to that point showed why he is one of the highest rated goaltending prospects for this year’s draft. Team Russia’s aggressive offense and suspect defense meant that Vasilevski often had to face upwards of 40 shots per game in early tournament play. Vasilevski however, played spectacularly in the face of high shot totals, the height of his tournament being an epic duel with Czech goaltending standout Petr Mrazek that ended in a 2-1 Russian overtime victory. The composed Vasilevski finished the tournament with a sparkling .953 save percentage, a remarkable statistic especially for a draft-eligible 17-year old. At 6-foot-3 Vasilevski has prototypical size for an NHL goaltender and has displayed solid lateral movement to go along with a wicked glove hand. Vasilevski is also relaxed and composed when he needs to be, a trait that will surely augment his already impressive natural talent. Some teams may pass up on Vasilevski due to the stigmatic ‘Russian Factor,’ but his raw talent and size will be hard to ignore come June 22nd.

Source: www.mynhldraft.com

Malcolm Subban

The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K., Malcolm Subban went against the family mould of blueliners and became a goaltender. He may be smaller than most netminders in Canadian junior hockey but he uses his smaller stature to his advantage. Subban has really solid technique that includes quick feet and agile positioning. He squeezes tight in the butterfly and he uses his lower centre of gravity to pull the puck into his body. He has stellar reflexes which makes his glove hand very fast. Subban moves from post to post with fluidity and he watches the play closely. However, he does need to improve on watching the play while being screened as he tends to stand in his crease without trying to look around the player in front of him. Most goals that go in on him are ones that go high since he is a smaller goalie. He also needs to work some more on his rebound control as he gives out big rebounds on a consistent basis. Subban is not flashy in the crease but he gets his job done. His play in 2010-11 as a rookie was so impressive that the Belleville Bulls traded Tyson Teichmann to the Erie Otters during the offseason. He will surely challenge newly acquired John Chartrand and CCHL sensation Daniel Altshuller for the #1 job in 2011-12.

Source: www.mynhldraft.com

Joonas Korpisalo

Many teams in European junior hockey find themselves utilizing several goaltenders over the course of a season. The under-20 team of Jokerit Helsinki, which plays in the Jr. A SM-liiga, was no different in 2011-12. During the past campaign, the team used the services of five goaltenders between the ages of 16 and 20, but none were as beneficial to the organization as Joonas Korpisalo.

It is quite impressive, and almost ironic, to think that Korpisalo has found himself to be one of Finland’s best young netminders. His father Jari scored 444 points, including 213 goals, in 575 career SM-liiga games. Additionally, the elder Korpisalo played three seasons in the Deutsche Eishockeyliga, which included a league championship in 2000 as a member of the München Barons.

It is no wonder that Korpisalo has been garnering notice for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, especially since scouts have been quite high on teammates Teuvo Teräväinen and Esa Lindell. To add, he has taken over the #1 job vacated by Edmonton Oilers draft pick Frans Tuohimaa, which, in itself, is a testament to his ability.

Korpisalo’s resume has already become quite incredible despite his youth. In 2010, he helped Jokerit’s under-16 team, which plays in the Jr. C SM-sarja, win their league championship. It was this past year, 2011-12, where he completely showed his capability to be a top-flight #1 goaltender. Korpisalo joined Jokerit’s under-20 team, despite being only 17 years of age, and he showed that his youth was not a hindrance. He emerged leading the league with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .920% save percentage. These statistics won him the Jorma Valtonen Award as the Jr. A SM-liiga’s best goaltender. Korpisalo also was named to the league’s all-star team as they also won the league’s silver medal.

In 2012, after his season was over, Korpisalo joined Finland’s under-18 team for the World Under-18s in the Czech Republic. Finland had quite an impressive roster, which also included Teräväinen, Lindell and Ville Pokka; as well, there were two players, Aleksander Petrov and Rasmus Ristolainen, who are eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Korpisalo helped his team place fourth, losing the bronze medal game against Canada in overtime.

Korpisalo has been lauded for his athleticism, speed and professional build. He is also highly thought of his ability to make highlight reel saves, especially one he made on a Brendan Gaunce penalty shot in the bronze medal final of the World Under-18s. Korpisalo is also highly lauded based on his personality. His happy-go-lucky nature and his good sense of humour have made him very popular with his coaches and with members of the media.

Source: www.http://thehockeywriters.com

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