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Friday, August 17, 2012

My First Blackhawks Hero: Bob Sauvé


This is an article I wrote for Second City Hockey, and figured I should post it here too.

In my nearly 40 years on this planet, more than 30 of them have been spent watching the Blackhawks and the NHL. That is a long time to be committed to anything, especially one that provides so much pain and heartache. Just ask anyone who has been married for that amount of time. Some would argue that I should be committed to an asylum, instead, but I digress. I found hockey, street hockey at the time, through neighborhood friends and fell in love instantly. For some unusual reason, at that period in my life, I was fascinated with any position that required the most equipment. I chose to volunteer to be a catcher, in baseball, even though I was far and away the fastest player on the team, and I had an obsession with goaltenders. My goaltender obsession clearly continues almost 3 decades later. That particular obsession is one that you might compare to a mental illness because it will never go away, and might very well require medication.

In addition to an unhealthy goalie obsession, I had that ever popular habit of pulling for the underdog; to a fault. It is hard to get your favorite player's jersey when he is playing for a different franchise every year. Some of my favorite players from my youth were Mike Vernon (then of the Calgary Flames), Don Baylor (of the Red Sox and a million other teams), Gerald Riggs (briefly of the Redskins), so on and so forth. It was cliché to follow the popular players, but I was never one to do something just simply because it was the popular trend. As a result, I was always tuned in to the little known Blackhawks backup goalies, no matter how insignificant they were. There were names like Warren Skorodenski with his great mask, Chris Clifford, Christian Soucy, Adam Munro, and even the Greatest American Hero, Ray Leblanc. I had an unhealthy knowledge of these players, most of which only played a handful of games.

Warren Skorodenski

These players, though, all came after my first Blackhawks hero, Robert F. Sauvé. I know, this revelation is really dating me. A majority of the Blackhawks, or even NHL, fanbase probably can't even recall the name, much less his very short Blackhawks career. First of all, he began his Blackhawks career as the backup behind Murray Bannerman, which caught my attention. Second, he wasn’t much to look at. Sauvé stood at a very generous listed height of 5’8", carried a robust playing weight of 175 lbs, and had a moustache that would make Tom Selleck jealous. He was the Blackhawks pre-Dirk Graham and pre-Michel Goulet equivalent of a Mario Bros long lost brother. Little did I know, at the time, that he was a former 1st round draft pick (1975), William Jennings (1985) and Vezina Trophy winner (1980). Maybe I just felt sorry for him because he had the dubious distinction of being traded away from the Buffalo Sabres TWICE to the Norris Division (Redwings in 1981 and later to the Hawks in 1985).

THE STACHE

Despite all the legendary names of the time period, those Blackhawks teams were absolutely terrible, playing in front of the ageless and clearly witless bizarro Jacques Lemaire of his time, Bob Pulford. While my brother and my friends were all following players like Denis Savard, Steve Larmer, Al Secord and Doug Wilson, I was paying close attention to the dynamic duo of Sauvé and his boy wonder Bannerman. Sauvé was brought in to provide some solid relief for Bannerman, but neither really stood a chance. Honestly, I can’t recall any specific plays that Sauvé made during his Blackhawks tenure, but I know I was quite possibly his one and only fan.

One might venture to call Sauvé the Ray Emery of his time, or call Emery the Sauvé of his time. I would have entertained calling him the "Marty Turco", but I can compare that debacle to nothing else. In theory, it was the same scenario, but the results were quite different. Sauvé actually outplayed Bannerman both seasons he spent at the Old Barn, but was left to sign elsewhere, aka New Jersey, when Pulford decided to scrap the entire goaltending crew after the 86-87 season. The Blackhawks then elected to go with Darren Pang and the" original Cristobal Huet, Bob Mason. How about that for a resume highlight? "Lost job to a Keebler Elf and the goaltending equivalent of John Druce". Ouchie; very very ouchie!

In a bit of an ironic side note, Bobby Moustachio devised a very diabolical way of paying back the team that unceremoniously jettison him many years previous, by representing the painful goaltending experiment known as Jocelyn Thibault as his player agent. Touche, Monsieur.


When the only good pose Todd Macfarlane can get out of you is drinking out of a water bottle after fishing the puck out of your own net...it's safe to say you've give Blackhawks fans nightmares.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Committed Indian / Second City Hockey


On Wednesday, the latest digital edition of The Committed Indian UnOfficial Blackhawks Program was released. As they have hinted to the rest of the intarwebs, the gents are breaking away from the Blog-o-sphere conglomerate that is SB Nation, and starting their own empire.

Back the truck up, and let me rephrase, because that is not entirely true. The gentlemen, and I use that term very loosely, are "moving" their existing empire over, to create the monster that will become TheCommittedIndian.com, mirroring The Committed Indian print and digital programs. This makes all sorts of sense. One name, one point of contact.

I have been a huge fan of the satirical musings if the triumvirate for quite a while. Specifically, since I read an article in the Sun Times about Sam and the Indian, sometime around '08. I'm also not afraid to admit that they are the biggest reason I started this insignificant little rag of my own.

I was always a huge fan of the old Blue Line program, because of its scathing criticism of the Blackhawks, the Wirtz family, and the nightly opponents. They even had the balls to peddle this genius rag on the doorstep of the Stadium/UC. Lack of funds and support, prior to the digital explosion, were the death of the old Blue Line. When I read that Sam was publishing a new and improved version, I was immediately on board. In the same fashion I specifically went to the store to support my favorite bands, even when the digital music apocalypse hit, I will not go to the UC without buying 2 copies, and I subscribe to the digital version. Call me old fashion but I believe in karma, and "paying it forward". I will voraciously support the people I respect and admire, and this is one of those cases.

Second City Hockey, and The Indian helped introduce me to places like The Third Man In, Hockee Night, and quite a few others that I follow

That being said, I'd like to provide you with some links and request some "assignments":
-The guys will be leaving Second City Hockey on September 14th to begin their new endeavor at www.TheCommittedIndian.com. Please, update and create your links and bookmarks.

-Secondly, as with any endeavor, there always needs to be some kind of start up capital. They are raising some funds to get the ball rolling, and if you can afford to do so, I strongly urge people to contribute. You can do so by following the following link:
http://gogetfunding.com/project/thecommittedindian.com

-Lastly, if you're a Facebooker, go to www.facebook.com/thecommittedindian and "like" the page.
None of this benefits me, in any way, other than providing me and the Blackhawks fanbase with great Blackhawks material for the foreseeable future. Thank you!
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Peabody's Improbable Blackhawks History



This is a post I put together dring the final days of the 08-09 regular season, which turned out to be my first attempt at blogging about the Blackhawks. The season before they won the Stanley Cup. There really isn't too much I whiffed on, overall. Sure, Brian Campbell ended up winning me over, and Cam Barker ended up, well, a bad Edmonton Oiler. All things considered, three full years later, that's not a bad batting average.


As the 2008/09 regular season is about to come to a close for the Blackhawks, I can safely say that for the first time in over a decade, I’ve payed enough attention to the Hawks to be able to give a solid season ending synopsis for the team. Until this season, I’ve boycotted the team because of one single person, Bill Wirtz. The day he passed on was the day I came back to the world of Chicago hockey, and I am so terribly glad to be back. Last year, I successfully predicted that they would be better than their previous years, but were still a year away from the playoffs. I also predicted that this year they would return to the playoffs, and maybe win a round or two. Thus far, I’ve been right on. With 2 games remaining against the devil’s very own hand selected team, Detroit, the Hawks have 44 wins and 100 points. I can whole heartedly say I am very proud of what I have seen and the progress they have made as the NHL’s youngest team.

Coach/Denis Savard – He never stood a chance. It’s clear that Dale Tallon was just looking for a reason to put Quenneville behind the bench, and that slow start was enough. It’s a shame that they treated one of their most popular all-time players that way, but it was bound to happen sometime. I’m glad to see the hard feelings passed, and he’s back as an ambassador, but that’s clearly Savard stepping down about 10 steps in the organization. Grade - Incomplete

NAILED IT

Coach/Joel Quenneville – From the day they hired him, they were just waiting to get him behind the bench. He’s a proven, experienced coach, and could light fires under the butts of some of the “tweeners”. He’s done a very admirable job. As with any situation, he’s made some questionable decision, but I have to give him credit for a few. The first, was making Khabby the “go to” guy. He is clearly the most experienced and dependable guy for a tough playoff run. The second is moving Havlat to play with Kane and Toews. This is one of the most talented lines in the entire NHL. Shades of Secord, Savard and Larmer, of the 80’s. Of course they don’t have the grit of Secord, but on pure talent alone, this line is among the best 5, if not best 3, top lines in the game today. The rest are hit and miss, but he’s done what he was brought in for; win. Grade - A

NAILED IT

FORWARDS

36/Dave Bolland – I’m sure no one expected 18 goals and 46 points out of him, but he’s proven to be a great player with a lot of heart. In a perfect world, he’s probably an excellent 3rd line center. He doesn’t have the finesse of a top 2 center role, but he’s done the job’s he’s been asked of, and he’s done them well. One of many pleasant surprises in 08/09. Grade - A

NAILED IT

56/Tim Brent - Didn’t see much of this kid, but what we did se was that he’s still green. I can’t really say much more than when he was up, he wasn’t noticeable, and he ended up back at Rockford. I’d say that says it all. Grade - Incomplete

MEH

22/Troy Brouwer - This is a guy that was handed a golden spoon from game one. He was put with two of the most promising young players in the NHL. 10 goals and 26 points doesn’t exactly make one jump up and notice he has some great talent. He’s probably a solid 3rd line guy with some grit. I feel Quenneville let this combination go on far too long, and should have put Marty up with the kids a lot sooner to build that chemistry. I’m not comfortable with him being the “old man” of the top line, at a ripe old 23. Injuries caught up with him, and he was forced elsewhere once Marty clicked with the kids. He’s where he should be now, and it looks like he can be one of the great young Hawks players for years to come. Grade - B

NAILED IT, and Quenneville still fucked it up

37/Adam Burish – classic overachiever. There is nothing flashy about Burish, but he has a huge heart and a motor that doesn’t quit. I really like what I’ve seen out of him, and it’s great to see him throwing his body around game after game. He plays the game like it should be played. When I see him streaking around, I can’t help but think of how he would have fit right in on those late 80’s and early 90’s teams. He’s certainly one of the fan favorites, and reportedly a favorite with the ladies. He reminds me of a Mike Peluso. I hope to see him around for a while. 6 goals and 9 points is nothing to sneeze at, but this is a total character guy. Grade - B

NAILED IT

33/Dustin Byfuglien - Big Buff. Sometimes I think he should be called Big Fluff. Someone, somewhere has a fascination with this kid. He’s one of the biggest guys on the team, but he gets lost out there. He often looks confused with the puck, and just confused overall with what his role is. He’s played D and O, and he never looks comfortable at either. I guess he has talent and when he applies himself, he can lay out anyone in the league. You just rarely see that. Coach Q needs to sit him down and define a role that he can fill and have him perfect that. I can’t see him being more than maybe a 2nd liner at best, and a failed footnote in Hawks experiments at worst. Grade - C

NAILED IT

55/Ben Eager – If there is an “enforcer” on the team, it’s Eager. He’s no Bob Probert, and as enforcers go, he’s no Stu Grimson. I doubt you’re going to hear any team mumbling about Ben Eager’s jackhammer right hands, and how you have to watch out for him. On the other hand, to his credit, he has stepped into some pretty large skates. He’s young and has time to develop. One of the highlights of the season was his crafty goal in the Winter Classic. That’s something that’ll go down in history, and who would have ever guessed that the nicest goal the Hawks would score in that game was from Ben Eager? Not I, Kemo Sabe. 10 goals and 14 points isn’t too bad, considering his role. Grade – C+

NAILED IT

46/Colin Fraser - Here is a guy no one rated very high as a prospect, but has stepped up and found a role as a solid 4th line center. You’re not going to get great speed, a blistering shot, or some great size, but you do get a guy that fit’s his role well. Again, he is an overachiever. He’s right where he belongs. Grade - B

NAILED IT

24/Martin Havlat – Marty “Crutches” Havlat. I never thought I’d mention the words injury free, and Havlat in the same sentence, but he has had a remarkable and injury free year. For the first time as a Hawk, I’ve seen him put a little fear in opposing teams. He’s stickhandling, shooting and overall playmaking like an all-star. Of course, this is a contract year for him, so Dale Tallon has a big decision to make. This is certainly why I’d never want to be a GM. One has to ask them self, does 1 year a career make? With all he’s done, can we expect a year even close to this from him ever again? At 27, he hopefully has a lot more hockey in him, but his fragile body is scary. The future aside, he has had an amazing year. Grade – A+

NAILED IT

88/Patrick Kane – The sophomore slump hasn’t Patty Kane. He has followed up a rookie of the year season with a very admirable season. If he has a solid final 2 games, he could tie his point total from last season, but you’d like to see him move up a notch each year. 70 points a year is good, but for a talent like Pat, he should have neared the 85 point range. Something he really needs to look into is plus/minus, which is negative both years. A top line guy should be in the plus. That being said, he’s a top NHL player and should be for years to come. At 20, he has a lot of good years ahead. How about a scoring title right here in Chicago? I wouldn’t be surprised. Grade - A

NAILED IT

16/Andrew Ladd – When the Hawks traded away Tuomo Ruuttu, I asked myself, who the hell is Andrew Ladd? Now we know. He’s been a solid 3rd liner all year. For most of the year, he’s had to help shut down many of the top lines in the game, and he’s been successful. He’s gotten himself 13 goals and 46 points, along with an exceptional plus/minus of +23. He’s not going to “wow” you, or stickhandle through two guys, but he will bowl you over and throw his body around. He’s shown to be another character guy, that has done nothing but produce. Once again, he’s another person that has some good years ahead of him, at 23. Grade - A

NAILED IT

26/Samuel Pahlsson – Now, I’ve never been a fan of the trade for Pahlsson. I’ve always thought his best days are a bit behind him, and even his best days weren’t mind blowing. But, based on their weakness at the center position, I can see how they needed to give it the ‘ol college try. I just think we could have gotten more for what we gave up. Wizer was a great locker room guy, and a solid Defenseman. I think we gave up a little too much chemistry for this guy. Granted he’s only played a few games, but I really don’t see much that has impressed me. We don’t need one top center and a bunch of 3rd liners behind him. Grade - Incomplete

NAILED IT

27/Pascal Pelletier - Didn’t see much of this guy, but like Brent, when he played, he was invisible. And how dare he don the number of the great Darryl Sutter, Rick Vaive, and that Roenick character. Big shoes to fill, Pascal. I suggest a change. Grade - Incomplete

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

10/Patrick Sharp – One of the unsung heros of the Hawks. Sharpie followed up a career year last year, with another banner season, to show the league he has arrived. I liken his rise to that of Steve Sullivan here in Chicago. No one thought much of him, but once he found a home here, he lit things up. He’s the perfect guy to build the second line around. Let’s not even mention the fact that he’s been playing out of position most of the year. The top brass owes it to him to find a solid center for him to work with in the offseason. Throw Versteeg up there with him, and you have a great line. How’s that Matt Ellison trade looking for you now, Philly? Grade – B (because of injury)

NAILED IT

11/Jack Skille – Here is a guy that I’ve been hearing about for a few years now. The next big power forward. In very limited action, I’ve seen nothing memorable. At the rate he’s going, he can team up with Pascal and Brent for a killer line…in Rockford, IL. Grade - Incomplete

NAILED IT, enjoy Florida

19/Jonathan Toews - Jonny T, Superman, JT, or whatever you’d like to call him. The kid can play. Toews is the face of the franchise at 20. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him. The only criticism I have of him is some of the bad penalties in the offensive zone. That aside, this is the next Blackhawks Icon. Watch out Troy Murray, your number is going to be hanging in the UC rafters someday with the name Toews under it. Grade – A+

NAILED IT

32/Kris Versteeg – Here we have one of the biggest surprises of the season. If you would have told me Kris Versteeg would be in the running for the Calder trophy, I would have looked at you and said “who?” After watching his spark, he has become probably my favorite player. He’s fairly quietly put together an excellent season with 22 goals and 52 points. If it weren’t for the goalies in Columbus, and Nashville, he might have a serious shot for rookie of the year.

Dropped off a bit in Toronto (who hasn't?) and Philly, but found a home in Florida

DEFENSE

25/Cam Barker – Cam has been another pleasant surprise for the Hawks. Just a year ago, it looked as though he could be another overhyped high draft pick, and here he is one of the top defenseman on the team. He’s made it easy to overlook Brian Campbell’s virtual disappearance in crunch time. It’s amazing to see the poise and maturity he’s found in a year’s time. He ranks as one of the top powerplay defensemen in the entire league. He has used his size to outmuscle people, and on more than a few occasions he has made diving and sprawling stops. Add his heavy shot and you have another young star in the making. You’d like to see him bring his plus/minus up, but he’s only 23, and has a bright future ahead. Grade – B+

This was the big whiff. Hey, I was green.

51/Brian Campbell – As they call him in the Committed Indian, Phantom 51, because he disappears. Everyone in Chicago wanted Campbell, and we overpaid to get him, so we can’t really fault anyone but ourselves. Fast forward to present day and give up Huet and Campbell for Hossa. It’s looking like it would be a much better deal. Not only that, but you save yourself a few million dollars. Campbell has shown some flashes of excitement, but for the most part he’s been a disappointment. For all the hoopla and All-Star shenanigans, he’s barely been a top 4 defenseman on his own team. Keith, Seabrook, and Barker have all played better. Credit the Hawks farm system with this dilemma, because it’s not a bad one to have, but Campbell needs to step up and stop the silly ass spin-o-ramas. We once had a beloved player here in Chicago named Savard, who trademarked the spin-o-rama, Danny Partridge. Just stick with the speedy, puck carrying, powerplay quarterback defenseman, because you have a bit to go on that one. Grade - C

He stepped up and won me over the following two years. Secondary whiff.

6/Jordan Hendry – Another prospect we hear so much about, but hasn’t played enough to even be noticed. Add him to the Pascal, Brent, and Skille line. Grade - Incomplete

NAILED IT

4/Niklas Hjalmarsson – Again, a prospect we hear so much about. I’ve seen nothing that impresses me. He plays smaller than his size, and gets outmuscled. I’m not sure he’s quite figures out how to properly finish a check but then again that wouldn’t be the first time a Swedish defenseman couldn’t check. He’s bigger than Nick Lindstrom, but hasn’t shown it. Could we really get that lucky here? Don’t hold your breath. He’s very raw at this point. Maybe he’ll be something to crow about in 2 years, he’s still very unfinished. Grade - D

NAILED IT

23/Aaron Johnson – I guess they really have gotten all they could out of Johnson. He’s not dripping with potential. He’s big, and kind of on the slower side, but he’s done an admirable job when asked. His plus/minus of +18 in 36 games is freakish, but don’t hand him the Norris trophy. With the stable of defensemen the Hawks have, he’ll be lucky to hang around for another year or two. Just too much talent. Grade – B-

Generous on the grade, but pretty much, nailed it.

2/Duncan Keith – Quietly, he’s lead a solid season on D. I’m sure it’s nice to have all the pressure on Campbell. Keith does nothing but produce and lead by example. You don’t hear complaining from him, and he just shows game in and game out why he’s one of the classiest defensemen in the entire NHL. He’s near tops in the league with a plus/minus of +32. Lets hope #2 is roaming the Chicago blue line for many years to come. Grade – A+

NAILED IT

7/Brent Seabrook – On very few teams would Seabrook not be the top blueliner. This is one of them. Like Keith, he’s done nothing but show class and solid gameplay night in and night out. He’s big, intimidating, and has no problem catching you with your head down. He’s also another guy with a freakish plus/minus of +21. This core of big young D-men has to make most of the league jealous. They’re all under 25 and shown stellar composure. Grade - A

NAILED IT

5/Brent Sopel – the old man of the D-men at 32 hasn’t shown much. At this point he’s just a spot filler for one of the kids to finally find their step in the NHL. 1 goal, and 2 points in 23 games with a plus/minus of -4 is just snooze worthy.

NAILED IT

8/Matt Walker – He must be bringing Q coffee every morning, because he’s just plain bad. He’s big, slow, and seems to trip over his own feet. I’d rather watch one of the kids trip over themselves and get some serious time with the big club than watch Walker not be aggressive enough. I hope to god we don’t see him in the line-up for the playoffs, and I happen to thing Khabby feel the same way. Grade - D

NAILED IT

GOALTENDERS

50/Corey Crawford – I’m beginning to ask myself who’s cereal he pissed in, because he’s getting the shaft. I added him in, even though he hasn’t even been able to sniff a dirty Hawks sweater this season. Last year he was anointed the future goaltender of the Hawks and they let Lalime go. Game on, right? No! They sign Huet to some retarded overpriced contract, and then sign Niemi to take Crawford’s spot in the minors. Did he sleep with Dale Tallon’s daughters or something? I’m not sure what happened, but I hope he gets a shot somewhere that wants him. He’s a good young Goalie. Grade – N/A

NAILED IT

38/Cristobal Huet – I don’t like him. Plain and simple. I didn’t agree with the signing the day they did it and I still don’t. He’s overhyped, and a technically lazy goaltender. He really needs to thank Bob Gainey for trading him to Washington last season. That team carried him to the finals, and lead to the silly contract the Hawks offered him. As he sits on the bench warming his butt cheeks, he’s laughing all the way to the bank. His play overall has been good, if you go by stats, but if you watch him play, you see that he’s lazy when recovering from shots, and his 5 hole is awful. There is a reason LA, Montreal, and Washington gave up on him. Unfortunately, Tallon will never admit the signing was a mistake, so we’re stuck with him for a few more years. Grade - B

NAILED IT

39/Nikolai Khabibulin – I am now comfortable admitting that the day Khabby was signed, I was stoked. Four years, and several disappointing seasons later, Khabby has finally found his game. Maybe its because he finally had some legitimate competition, but he’s been phenomenal. I was even shouting for them to trade him at last years trade deadline, and before the season started. I’m glad they didn’t. I’ve always liked his style, and pulled for him to do well, but it just wasn’t working. He has had one of his best seasons ever, and has been the veteran wall he needed to be for this team. The bad part is that they’ll never resign him. He’s probably going to end up somewhere like Detroit, and we’ll miss him when he’s gone. Grade - A

NAILED IT. Remember that trade talk last spring about bringing him back?

31/Antti Niemi – If I’m Corey Crawford, here is my arch enemy. I’m securely holding down the top at Rockford, and they bring in this hotshot kid from overseas to take over. I can’t say I’ve seem much of him, but he comes highly rated. In the games he’s played, he looks like he’s still a season away from NHL backup duty. I see potential, and I preferred him over Huet when Khabby was hurt, even though Huet is clearly a better goaltender at this point. Niemi is not as sloppy, technically, he just isn’t adjusted to the quality of NHL shots. I really don’t know if he is the future of the franchise or solid trade bait. I personally like Crawford better, but that has nothing to do with talent. I would imagine Niemi will end up a #1 Goaltender somewhere in a few years, and it could be here. Having a European goalie it’s the worst thing in the world. Just look at Niklas Backstrom, Pekka Rinne, and the gaggle of other ones throughout the league. Niemi and Crawford are the same size and almost the same age, so it comes down to talent. Unfortunately for Crawford, Q seems to like Niemi. Grade - Incomplete

NAILED IT
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