Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dr. Lineblender's House of Horribly Distorted Mirrors

If you told me, on October 16, 2008, that Joel Quenneville would lead the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cup championships and a couple of deep playoff runs, I am not so sure I would not have you checked for dementia. That exactly scenario is exactly what happened. Lets be very honest, though, he was handed a pretty damn good team to work with. This is not to take away from the accomplishment of not only winning one, but winning multiple Stanley Cups. There are many coaches around the league that are very good and had teams of cup winning caliber that, quite frankly, just shit the bed.

I do not like being the guy that has to piss in the punch bowl

Well, OK, yes I do.

The Blackhawks also have 2 first round playoff exits in that run, as well. In 2010-11, they honestly had no business being in the playoffs, anyway, and it showed by bowing out to the Canucks, who eventually shit the proverbial bed. The following year, they were outplayed and out coached by the, then Phoenix, Coyotes. Part of this had to do with Capocalypse 2010, but the pieces were still there to produce better results.

Not all is as perfect as some naive Blackhawks fans want to believe it is with the coach, or some would even say the GM, of this team. Lets be completely honest here, Joel Quenneville was handed a golden egg when he stepped to that Blackhawks podium and accepted the job. Much of the core that still plays for the Blackhawks today were a major part of that team, at the time. Also included in that mix are players that have very strong careers after leaving Chicago, as well, like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, Troy Brouwer, and Antti Niemi. It is not like he took over a decimated last place team, and pushed them to Stanley Cup glory. He took the reigns of a swiftly upward trending team with a strong core, and some of the most promising young players in the entire league, and coached them to exactly where he should have. He is a great coach, no doubt, but he has some qualities and tendencies that can drive a fan base insane. Let me clarify that, things that can drive a cognizant fan base insane.

This does not mean I'm suggesting that Joel Quenneville be fired. I am simply saying that he has areas that he is lacking in, and should probably address. A portion of fans would rather just stick their heads in the sand and let him do whatever dumb shit he wants. If Quenneville sat Patrick Kane for no reason, they would say, "Are you nuts? How dare you question a coach with two Stanley Cups?". Free your mind, and stop being such fucking pathetic and naive sheeple. The reason Mike Ditka, and Ozzie Guillen were here in Chicago past their expiration was exactly the same. Blind faith. You can question the government, you can question your boss, you can question your family but, god dammit, if you question the man with #2CUPZ you are out of your mind.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is Quenneville's "Band of Bros". If you're lucky enough to earn your spot in Q's "club", it takes a hammer, chisel, and a suitcase of C4 to get you out of the lineup, no matter how bad you play. I can understand having your favorites, but this takes it to a whole different level. This is a list of players that adorn the walls in the "Hall of Meatballs":

Michal Rozsival, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig, Gorilla Salad, Michal Handzus, Andrew Brunette, Sean O'Donnell, John Scott, Nick Boynton, Jassen Cullimore, Fernando Pisani

Not exactly your "who's who" of future hall of famers. Honestly, only Versteeg and Shaw have amounted to anything, whatsoever. I understand that the cap has restricted what the team was able to do, as far as free agents, but if you are going to attempt to tell me that there were no better alternatives, then you are blind. Often times, there were young promising players that needed to be brought along and were not, because they didn't break into the "Band of Bros". Some players, like Shaw, have earned some leeway but most of these slugs get infinite leashes. If you're going to tell me that Kris Versteeg played better defense or made less mistakes than players like Brandon Pirri or Jimmy Hayes, I call bullshit. Which then brings me to my second gripe; lack of development in young players.

Because this "Band of Bros", the development of young players in this organization has been significantly hampered. Clearly nothing is absolute, but for every Shaw, there are two or three Jimmy Hayes. In Quenneville's tenure, there are only a handful of young players that have made their way through the organization and into his lineup. Some will argue that this shows organizational development, but I disagree. This is a list of young players that have come up through the organization to see significant playing time for more than a portion of one season:

Kris Versteeg, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith, Joakim Nordstrom

That is all. Since the 2008-09 season. Seven years. They have developed 7 players that went on to play significant minutes with the Chicago Blackhawks, but it gets better. Let us further examine the circumstances these players gained favor by:

  • Versteeg was already on his way when Q jumped on board.
  • Kruger was already playing pro league when he landed in Chicago.
  • Leddy and Saad were slam dunks that really didn't really require any grooming at all.
  • Shaw and Nordstrom were surprises to everyone right out of their first camps, so saying they were developed is a stretch.
  • Ben Smith was the only player to spend considerable time in the lower ranks, and spend time with the Blackhawks.
  • You could throw Teuvo Teravainen in, but he hasn't played significant minutes yet, either. They are still too busy busting his chops, and wearing him down.

Please tell me where the "organization" has really developed anyone, in these examples. Oh, right. The guys they traded away. The ones they gave up on because they didn't have the right attitude, or they weren't strong skaters, or whatever horseshit excuse you get from them. Tell me half those guys in the "Band of Bros" are strong skaters, or strong on the Hawks end of the ice. Some of these guys needed to go to acquire assets, but this is generally a decent group of players:

Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes, Jack Skille, Rob Klinkhammer, Brian Connelly, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck

The Hayes brothers have had nice seasons in Florida and NY, Pirri is starting to come through in Florida, Morin was having a nice season in Columbus before he fell ill, Clendening will be a solid player in Vancouver, and Klas Dahlbeck is a building block in Arizona. Sure, not all panned out, and not all players will, but these guys look much more promising than that list of fucking meatball boobs that Quenneville insisted on playing ahead of them. I fully understand that Kevin Hayes never even walked in the door of the UC, but are the Blackhawks really that much thicker up the middle than the Rangers? No, they aren't. If they were, Antoine Vermette wouldn't be here.

Some say that Jimmy Hayes, Pirri, Olsen, and eventually Morin had bad attitudes, or felt entitled. Is that so? So then tell me, are the Blackhawks front office collectively poor judges of character, then, or are they just awful at drafting players? Something is wrong, here, and it doesn't make sense. Bowman and the rest of the suits behind the scenes aren't excluded from this debacle either.

This summer, for the first time since 2010-11, the Blackhawks will have to rely on rookies to fill some big holes. Players like Mark McNeill, Philip Danault and Garrett Ross look to be set up to crack the NHL lineup next fall, as should Stephen Johns. What happens the first time one of them turns the puck over and it ends up in the Blackhawks net? This WILL happen, because it happens with all young players. Probably the same thing that has happened all long, they will sit and then get taken out of the lineup, because Q is just allowed to play these stupid games, without any retribution.

Because that has worked so well with the other prospects.

My final concern is Quenneville's knee jerk reaction to start flipping the lines upside down if the team doesn't play well for 5 consecutive minutes. This can go hand in hand with the young player development, as well. How can young players, or even newly acquired players, expect to find a place to settle into the lineup, and get comfortable, when the lines are constantly in flux? I'm not talking talking multiple games, either, because he cannot keep lines together for multiple PERIODS. It is kind of hard to provide consistent play when you don't know who you will be playing with next shift. Players, especially young ones, need to be put in a position they feel comfortable in to succeed. It is common fucking sense.

All this said, and the Blackhawks might be stuck with 4 or 5 rookies on the roster next fall. How is that going to work, when none of them have more than a game or two of experience, and weren't allowed and significant time? When has Joel Quenneville allowed more than 2 rookies in his lineup at once, much less ones with no NHL experience? The answer is never.

I know this is just me venting, but these should be concerns for everyone. It is OK to question authority. We should expect the best, all the time. Especially when the Blackhawks have all the tools at their disposal.


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