(Globe and Mail)–How’s this for a strange scenario for the NHL’ssalary cap this off-season. General managers were told at a meeting in New York this week that the upper limit (or cap) will rise to roughly $70.3-million (U.S.) from where it was at for the 2011-12 season ($64.3-million). The catch is that the cap is only a temporary one, as the league’s CBA expires on Sept. 15 and the new agreement could have a vastly different structure than this one. What that means is that GMs will be working under one cap all summer and in free agency, but then ultimately dealt another one whenever a new agreement is finally signed between the league and the NHLPA. Teams are also permitted to spend 10 per cent more than the cap during the off-season, meaning a really ambitious GM could spend $77.3-million or so before having to get under the eventual cap on the final day of training camp. The way the NHL currently calculates the salary cap is tied directly to their revenues from the season before, and commissioner Gary Bettman put that figure at a record $3.3-billion in his address before Game 1 of the finals on Wednesday.
This is very interesting and encouraging news. It’s great to hear that even in an economy that has been in a recession for five years the NHL is thriving. I have said many times in this space that there has never been a better time to be a hockey fan. Plenty of coverage, tremendous parity, and every team has a star that is worth the price of admission. Having said all of that NHL GMs have a virtually IMPOSSIBLE job to do this summer.
In 2005-06, the first season of the salary cap era, teams could spend a maximum of $39 million. Just seven years later the salary cap could be almost double. The Cap has gone up by $14m in just two seasons. With a seemingly ever-growing salary cap ceiling it is virtually impossible to set a value on a player. Let’s use the most recent Blackhawks signing as an example. Johnny Oduya was given a 3 year contract with an annual cap hit of $3.375m. Many people, myself included, were outraged by this deal. It seems like a huge cap hit for a player who is a 2nd pair D(3rd pair on a contender), but maybe in two years that’ll seem like a steal if the cap continues to race skyward. In 2006-07 NHL all-star defenseman Dan Boyle had a cap hit of $3.65m. Similar to what Oduya is making now. Boyle would have made 8% of the total team salary for a cap ceiling team. Oduya by contrast accounts for just under 5% of the speculated $70.3m cap for 2012-13. If that ceiling continues to go up then the Oduya obviously won’t be as bad. NHL GMs are forced to assign value based on a moving target. Determining value from year to year is always difficult, but this summer should be even worse with the CBA expiring on September 15th.
I can’t decide if the CBA expiring makes this the worst or best summer to be a free agent. Teams could either protect themselves by not committing to expensive contracts without knowing the future salary cap formula. Or, they could just as easily try to spend money now and essentially bargain hunt if they feel the players will be given a larger piece of the revenue pie in the new CBA. Signing players to long-term expensive contracts is also tricky because at some point the player you signed will have diminishing returns as he ages. Will a player like Marian Hossa, who is signed at $5.275 through 2021, still provide value at that cap number? It’s an impossible question to answer because there are so many variables in play. It’s kind of a game of Russian Roulette. If a team signs a player to a long and rich contract, the team is basically banking on the fact that salary cap will continue to rise. So even though a player’s cap hit will remain the same he will take up a smaller and smaller percentage of the team’s payroll. Therefore an aging player who produces less won’t necessarily handicap a team by being “over-paid” because essentially…he won’t be overpaid. However, the NHL salary cap simply can’t go up forever. Eventually revenues will normalize and the salary cap will increase incrementally if not decrease. That could leave teams scrambling to trim payroll.
I guess the point of this whole blog is two-fold. 1) Being an NHL GM is harder than it looks. It’s still easier than Stan Bowman makes it look, but it’s a tough job. 2) I think the NHL should allow teams to go over the cap, but have to pay a stiff luxury tax to do so. This would allow for more flexibility and would also allow players to potentially earn more money. The luxury tax paid by big spenders could then be redirected to a slush fund to help some of the teams in weaker hockey markets. No matter what this is going to be the most intriguing NHL offseason of all time because the GMs HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO!!!
PS: Just for fun/torture…if the salary cap was $70.3m the summer after the Hawks won the cup they could’ve resigned Ladd, Niemi, Byfuglien, Burish, and Versteeg, they could’ve kept Brian Campbell, and we’d be talking about a minimum 8-peat in Chicago.
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(Chicago Tribune)–The Blackhawks’ first significant roster moves of the summer involved dealing but little in the way of wheeling, which is what happens when all parties decide that things are generally just fine the way they are. So defenseman Johnny Oduya eschewed free agency for a three-year deal and forward Jamal Mayers re-upped for one year in pacts officially announced Tuesday, basically because both veterans believed there was no place like their current home and the Hawks agreed. Bowman labeled Oduya one of the team’s “top priorities” in the offseason after three assists in six games in the first-round postseason ouster against the Coyotes followed a plus-3 rating in 18 games after being acquired from the Jets. Oduya’s deal averages $3.375 million per year, according to TSN,
It seems like at every turn Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman is making a move to further decimate the future of the organization. This Johnny Oduya extension is just the latest in a long line of head-scratching moves that seem to weaken a team that only 30 short months ago appeared to be on the verge of a dynasty. A Stanley Cup is woefully out of reach, and the blame has to fall on Stan Bowman, the “Salary Cap Genius”.
I’ll admit that Johnny Oduya’s presence helped the Blackhawks immensely last season. They were pitiful defensively last year and improved markedly after the trade. Having said that…I didn’t like the trade then, and I like it even less now. At the dead line I said:
Johnny Oduya is not a star player. He is not a piece that will fix all of the Blackhawks defensive woes. He is a third pair defenseman with 13 points and is a -9. If everything comes together down the stretch for the Blackhawks, maybe Oduya’s presence is enough to get the Blackhawks out of the first round…maybe.
Turns out Oduya’s presence was not enough to get the Blackhawks out of the first round. I felt at the time that Stan Bowman vastly overpaid for Oduya. Draft picks and prospects are the life-force of any organization and are an extremely valuable asset. Stan Bowman pissed away a 2nd and a 3rd round pick for role player. I was angry when I thought Oduya was a rental. If I knew Stan was going to commit the team to 3 more seasons at $3.375m then I would have probably had an aneurism. I hate to beat a dead horse, but contract is worse than the Brian Campbell contract. Campbell at $7.14m provides more value than Oduya at $3.375, and Campbell certainly provides more value by himself than the $8.45m combined cap hit Stan has committed to Frolik, Oduya, and Steve Montador over the next two seasons.
Cap hit aside, Oduya doesn’t really solve some of the problems the Blackhawks have on the back-end. They notably needed size and shot blocking, neither of which Oduya does particularly well. The Blackhawks still have many holes to address and now they only have $2,809,872 in cap space heading into the summer(according to Cap Geek). Stan Bowman has the Blackhawks in an all too familiar and perilous position…right at the cap ceiling.
The Blackhawks are now in a position where they will likely have to further deconstruct their dynasty team from 2010. The Hawks have several players who are overpaid, but the two who actually have value are Dave Bolland(2 years $3.375m) and Nik Hjalmarsson(2 years $3.5m). Even though the Blackhawks can’t afford Hjalmarsson, they can’t afford to trade him either so I won’t theorize potential trades involving #4. I like Bolland, but I have been advocating a trade of “The Rat” for probably a year. The Blackhawks suddenly have plenty of depth at center in the organization. Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri, and Mark McNeil are young, cheap, and talented. None of those three are ready for a top 6 role on the varsity, but neither is Dave Bolland. Kruger has proven reliable in a checking role and could slide into that spot as the Blackhawks try to trade Bolland for more blueline depth. So while this is an unfortunate possibility, it’s a move that needs to be made. However, do you really trust Stan Bowman to orchestrate another roster move that removes a piece to the former championship puzzle?
The Blackhawks still have talent of which the majority of the NHL would be jealous, but it’s still frustrating to be a Blackhawks fan. Toews is a generational type of talent and his prime is being wasted. Stan Bowman’s ineptitude is closing the championship window on Jonathan Toews. This is like the equivalent of Tom Brady playing his career with the Lions. Hopefully this is the last year of the Bowman era and Rocky Wirtz pulls the plug before it is too late. If things continue on this path, the Blackhawks’ run as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender will not end with a bang, but with a whimper.
PS: I am glad Jamal Mayers has re-signed. He was by far Stan’s best acquisition last summer. Although Coach Q probably pushed hard to get Mayers because he is one of Q’s guys.
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(ESPN CHICAGO) — Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville opened the door for plenty of speculation when he said on Tuesday there was “dysfunction” among his coaching staff with regard to the firing of assistant Mike Haviland.
The picture emerging from West Madison Street is one of dysfunction that extends beyond just the coaching staff. Whispers and rumors of dissension beyond the normal back and forth of a team trying to achieve its goals have been rampant. And for good reason. The situation boils down to two camps: Quenneville’s and the Bowmans (general manager Stan and senior advisor Scotty). In the midst of a nine-game losing streak in February, Scotty Bowman accompanied the team on the road and saw first-hand the problems the Hawks were having on special teams. Not long afterward, director of player development Barry Smith was asked to help with some coaching duties. But not by Quenneville, according to multiple sources. Smith is a Bowman confidant and the unusual idea of helping a Stanley Cup-winning coach came from Scotty. Quenneville wasn’t given a choice in the matter, according to the sources. In fact, it was at that point that assistant Mike Kitchen’s job was in jeopardy. But Kitchen is a Quenneville confidant. So Kitchen stayed, and Smith was forced upon Quenneville, no matter the coach’s public proclamations of his acceptance of help. Smith took an active role talking to players and instructing the special teams. It prompted one member of the hockey community to say Smith’s involvement was undermining Quenneville. “And the whole coaching fraternity knows it,” a source said. Things came to a head on the final day of the regular season in Detroit. Multiple sources said there was a loud argument between Quenneville and Smith during which loyalties were questioned. It was the last the team saw of Smith. He never again ran a practice, and his travel with the team was limited to Game 5 against Phoenix. Quenneville eventually won that battle and now has full control of the coaching staff, but he certainly doesn’t have full control of personnel. It’s assumed he has control of how that personnel is used, but even that is in question.
The excerpt above is from Jesse Roger’s expose if you will of the Chicago Blackhawks front office. While I think this is a very well done piece by Rogers, I am I more confused than ever. Who is calling the shots? Who has ultimate authority? The front office hierarchy is terribly perplexing, but the one thing that is apparent is that the Blackhawks are a mess.
The dysfunction and distrust infecting the Blackhawks came to light in the past two weeks. Chicago Blackhawks’ Assistant GM Marc Bergevin left to become the General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens and it was rumored that Joel Quenneville would go with him. Was Quennville ever actually approached by Bergevin? Was Quenneville just using this as a bargaining chip? Who knows, but within the week Joel Quenneville fired assistant Mike Haviland. Coach Quenneville said that there was some dysfunction in the coaching staff and that the move needed to be made. Mike Haviland was a long time AHL coach and was hired before Joel Quenneville’s arrival in Chicago.
I met Mike Haviland at a bar on Armitage in late October. We watched football and talked hockey for the better part of an hour. Despite the shootout loss the night before to the Bruins both Haviland and I were filled with optimism about the season. Kane had been playing some of the best hockey of his career in the first few weeks of 2011-12. I asked him simply “What’s gotten into Kane? His game is on a different level.” Haviland was effusive in his praise of Kane and mentioned two very specific reasons as to why Patrick Kane had elevated his game. “He has a pretty serious girlfriend. Good girl. Sweetheart from Buffalo. Seems to have changed him a bit. He still drinks like a fish, but he is more serious. Came into camp just completely ripped. Really worked hard this offseason”. Then Haviland touched on Kane’s move to center. “Moving Kaner to center was the best thing we ever did. He needs the puck on his stick and playing in the middle funnels everything to him”. I then asked if the move to center was permanent, Haviland’s response really stuck with me and now, in light of the front office chaos, seems so relevant. He said “I don’t know if it’ll be permanent. Joel[Quenneville] doesn’t really like him there. Not sure if he can handle the grind all season. It’s tough to play all 200 feet, but so far he’s doing it”. The two comments, one right after another, seemed odd. If it was the best decision the team ever made, why wouldn’t it be permanent and why wouldn’t Coach Quenneville be on board? So I asked “If Joel doesn’t like him at center who decided to put him there?” To which Haviland replied “It was an organizational decision. Kaner played center in Junior. When we couldn’t find a top 6 center in the summer we agreed to experiment with Kaner in the middle. So far so good, but we’ll see”. We continued to talk about hockey and the conversation shifted as my friend came over and joined the conversation. Haviland couldn’t have been nicer. He is a very amiable guy. Loves telling stories and slapping backs. He bought my table a bucket of beers after my friend and I returned to our table. It was a memorable encounter for me(obviously) and I was sad to hear that he was fired, but it also made sense given our conversation that day.
Haviland’s firing proves that Quenneville has been given more power, but it doesn’t shed any light on who is actually running the Hockey Operations department. Maybe I was naive, but I always assumed that Scotty Bowman didn’t have all that much power in the organization. That he was basically a GM emeritus and not involved in the day-to-day operations. Similar to Vito Corleone right before he died. Just running around with the grandkids and occasionally dropping some sage advice to his son who is actually running the business. Now we come to find out that it was Scott Bowman’s idea to have his longtime confidant, Barry Smith, show up to practice mid-way through the season and start coaching special teams. That’s more of a Michael Corleone move. Pushing out Tom Hagan(Kitchen) and inserting his treasonous brother-in-law(Barry Smith) as consigliere. And if we are sticking with the Godfather theme…I think Stan Bowman is most definitely Fredo.
Even with all of those insightful and accurate Godfather references the Blackhawks structural hierarchy is still muddled. Does Stan have complete and final say? Is it by committee? What is John McDonough’s role? McDonough is the one figure who has seemingly stayed out of the fray somehow even though he brought in all of the people involved in this saga. It was McDonough who was instrumental in Quenneville coming to Chicago. Dale Tallon was reluctant to fire his long time friend Denis Savard. Then it was McDonough who fired Dale Tallon and replaced him with Stan and Scotty Bowman. Tallon was shown the door largely because he was blamed for over-paying Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet, as well as some of the clerical oversights that led to contract issues with a crop of RFAs. However, it is now being rumored that McDonough had his finger prints on both the Campbell and Huet signings(Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry now claims that McDonough forced the Soriano signing when he was in the Cubs front office as well). McDonough’s background is in marketing so it can be conceived that he wanted to make a splash by winning headlines in the offseason. It worked. Chicago was excited about the Hawks for the first time in over a decade and they sold out every game during the 2008-09 season. However, even with the success on the ice and at the ticket office, the Blackhawks put themselves in a precarious position with the salary cap as all-stars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith needed to be signed to longterm extensions. Now the salary cap became Tallon’s problem and McDonough decided that he wasn’t capable of fixing it. Tallon out, Bowmans in.
When the decision to implement Barry Smith was made by one of the Bowmans, is that something that McDonough has to sign-off on? How much autonomy do the Bowmans have inside of Blackhawk Hockey Ops? Blackhawks fans are frustrated, but they don’t know at whom to point their finger. If the Bowmans do have complete autonomy then they have done a poor job to date. The Campbell trade was a complete, and I would argue unnecessary, bust. They vastly overpaid Michael Frolik. They failed to acquire any viable goaltending solution so they were forced to overpay Crawford. They gave Andrew Brunette $2m and a top 6 role even though he can’t skate and the Hawks entire system is built around skating and puck-possession. Also, if the Bowmans really are so unsatisfied and underwhelmed with the performance of Quenneville, why not just fire him? At least the organization would have one voice. Sending an unwanted power-play expert undermines the Coach’s authority and can fracture the room. The Blackhawks have been on a downward spiral since the minute the Stanley Cup parade ended in 2010, and the decline actually started when the team was on their way to the Cup. Every decision seems to be worse than the last.
At some point the buck has to stop with Rocky Wirtz. The team in many ways has never been more successful. However, for the first time in Rocky’s era as Chairman the team is seemingly miles away from the Stanley Cup. Mr. Wirtz needs to get his house in order. Wirtz may not be a hockey guy, but he is a business man. He knows that every organization needs structure and for their employees to have defined roles. Right now that doesn’t seem to be the case. 2012-13 is a make or break year for the entire organization.
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(Deadspin)–On Monday we showed you photos of a soused Patrick Kane in Madison, Wis., and then we asked you if you knew moreabout what happened while Kane was there. We had heard some bad stories—that Kane supposedly choked a woman, that Kane supposedly said anti-Semitic things—and we wanted to know if other people had, too. But what, after all, is boozy truth? The chronologies in our Kane tale do not perfectly cohere, nor do the narratives of the events. But you ignore them at your own peril. Did Kane choke a girl? Is he an anti-Semite? Who knows? Dive in.
Kane came in at around 9:30 pm and he could barely stand. He got kicked out about 2 hours later for being blackout drunk and generally being the biggest asshole in the bar
Kaner was pulling down girls sun glasses and then going “ehhh, not good enough ” just straight being a douche right to their faces. Pretty strong move if you can pull it off.
Later in the day around 5:30 pm he got in a confrontation with a group of guys over a some supposed anti-Semitic comments he made towards one of the other guys. I was working at the door and they were talking to each other in front of me and across the street.
After the police intervened, they were very serious about wanting to arrest Kaner. Fortunately for him, the other party in the quarrel was being equally as abusive to the cops. It turned into much more of a “everyone just get out of here” thing instead of anything more substantial. I promise you one thing, Patrick did have tears in his eyes. I wouldn’t equate it to a full out sob, but it was absolutely in the whimper/misty category. I have attached a picture of him sulking. He quickly disappeared.
Ugh…probably the last thing on Earth the Blackhawks needed right now. Look it, I LOVE Patrick Kane. I have always defended his on ice game and have defended his pension for partying. When the pictures of Kane partying and being hammered at Miflin I didn’t even blink. The kid is 23 years-old and should be allowed to party like everyone else. He has been in the NHL since he was 18 and didn’t have the college experience. So if he wants to go up to Madison in the offseason and party his balls off, I think that is totally fine. When it was time to work Kane always seemed ready to work. I think almost every young player in the NHL parties like that. My only issue with Kane’s partying is that he always seemed to get caught and I can’t figure out why that is.
This latest incident is something completely different. Getting kicked out of bars, being an asshole, starting fights by yelling antisemitic slurs, and the worst of them…allegedly choking a girl. Completely inexcusable. I pray that this isn’t true and that it’s an exaggeration, but there are several witnesses telling the same story. If it is true, whether charges are filed or not…the Blackhawks need to explore the trade market for Kane. Which pains me to say because I believe he hasn’t even yet scratched the surface of his full potential.
The Blackhawks whole organization is a mess right now and certainly didn’t need another fire to put out. If Patrick Kane is guilty of these alleged incidents then he MUST be traded, but who do you trust to make a move that will alter the direction of the franchise? What value does he even have at this point? He is coming off of his worst season as a pro offensively and doesn’t appear to have matured at all off of this ice. Not a good time to be a Blackhawks’ fan. The team has never been further from a Stanley Cup in the Rocky Wirtz era.
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GET IT KANER!!! Summer is here and Patrick Kane is in mid-offseason form. Running with a decent roster of rockets(yeah you blonde girl). Showed pretty solid elusiveness. Just crushing 12oz curls until he dropped. Left it all out on the field. That’s a superstar effort. No wrist injuries to slow him down this summer. I am sure people will be all pissy about these pics, but I couldn’t care less. Kid is 23 and entitled to have a party every now and then. Keep doing you Kaner. My only issue is that why is it only Patrick Kane that seems to keep getting caught? All of these NHL guys party, but only Kane ends up plastered all over the internet. I think he is a target of the media. Either that or he just parties more/harder and it increases the likelihood of him getting busted.
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(Yahoo)–There have been trouble signs throughout the last few months that Quenneville could be in trouble, and that’s underscored by the Blackhawks’ first-round elimination to the Phoenix Coyotes. Now, the inevitable question is raised: If the Blackhawks move on from Quenneville, does he become the next coach of the Montreal Canadiens? The Hockey Night in Canada Hot Stove focused in on the Canadiens’ coaching vacancy on Sunday night, with Elliotte Friedman going right to Q:
“If you ask people, in a perfect world Marc Bergevin’s hire would be Joel Quenneville, head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. You say, ‘alright, that’s wonderful, but he’s still under contract.’ Well, there is a sense — if you watch Stan Bowman’s media conference at the end of the season in Chicago — that he wasn’t really happy with some of the coaching that was done this season. If the Canadiens come calling, would the Blackhawks be willing to listen?
“Bergevin and Quenneville have a close friendship that goes all the way back to when they were in St. Louis. Quenneville does have a French background. I don’t know how well he speaks it, but he at least knows it. I think if the Canadiens went down this route, there would at least be a conversation about Joel Quenneville leaving Chicago for Montreal.”
As CBC’s Tim Wharnsby noted, the Bergevin relationship runs even deeper. He suggested Quenneville come aboard in Chicago as a scout in 2008, and former GM Dale Tallon hired Quenneville for that gig and then as the team’s new head coach. Now, Bergevin and Tallon have both moved on from the Blackhawks, leading to speculation that Quenneville has run out of allies in the front office. There was talk of a rift between Coach Q and the Bowmans when John Scott was traded to the Rangers. There was more talk when Quenneville allegedly received some unsolicited assistance this season, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago:
Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman may not have seen eye to eye on all matters this past season, which might not be that unusual during a year that saw unexpected turmoil on the ice.
At one point, Director of Player Development Barry Smith was asked to help with some coaching — but not by Quenneville, according to multiple sources. That directive came from above. And at the team’s year-end press conference last week, Quenneville talked highly of Marcus Kruger’s job as the team’s second line center while Bowman said that Kane might be the best candidate for that position moving forward.
Is there any doubt that Stan Bowman is actively trying to ruin the Blackhawks at this point? I mean it’s one thing to trade Brian Campbell for dog shit and then take the cap space saved and spend that money on more dog shit, but running a Hall Of Fame caliber coach out of town is another. Yeah…Hall Of Fame…that is exactly what Coach Q is. He didn’t fall backwards into over 600 wins, a President’s Trophy, and a Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks certainly had their problems this year, and the powerplay certainly struggled…but I honestly believe that Coach Q did the best with what he had. This Blackhawks roster simply isn’t very good outside of the star players. Stan Bowman did a poor job of re-constructing a winner. Now he is looking to pass the blame on to someone else. I mean it has to be Joel’s fault that Frolik scored 8 goals last year(Stan gave him a $2.33m a contract) and followed that up with 5 goals this year. The goaltending…Joel’s fault. I mean when you got studs like Ray Emery and Corey Crawford getting lit up you have to point the finger at the coach. Counting on a 20 year-old to step in and take over Campbell’s role as a PP quarterback and top 4 defenseman…all Joel. Paying $2m for Brunette, a guy who is old and could never skate…well I guess Joel should have taught him to skate better. Pissing away assets for Morrison and Oduya…must have been Joel pulling the trigger on that one.
Honestly…couldn’t be more enraged by Stan right now. He sucks at his job and now he is cool with letting Joel walk so he has a scapegoat. This is the biggest moment of Stan Bowman’s career. If Joel leaves for Montreal Stan better demand the moon in compensation. Joel is still under contract. I am sure that Joel will just let him walk though. Feels like that is what Bowman wants. Well Stan, Hall of Fame caliber coaches don’t grow on trees and you father isn’t walking through that door. And if he does he will be grey and senile.
Stan took a Ferrari, brought it to the chop shop, and then drove what was left off of a cliff. END RANT #FIRESTAN!!!
PS: The Patriots are the only other team in sports with whom I have a passion for equal to the Hawks. I am just not used to this type of mismanagement and incompetence. It is driving me nuts. I don’t know how fans deal with it because I have never really had to.
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Love it. Thatta baby Sami!!! This picture kinda sums up playoff hockey. Guys literally sacrificing their bodies to block shots. I like Sami Lepisto. Good skater and puck mover. Played well when given a chance. I would definitely re-sign him if his price tag is about the same. Real solid 6th or 7th defenseman.
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This one hurts, but my emotion is more anger than sorrow. This is the first time in my life where I feel as though one of my teams had a series stolen from them. Stolen by cheap shots, stolen by the referees, stolen by the league office, and stolen by a goalie. The 2011-12 Blackhawks never really looked like a Stanley Cup contender, but they certainly looked better than the Phoenix Coyotes and they certainly deserved better than a 4-2 series loss.
The most disturbing part of this loss is that it wasn’t decided by hockey plays. The Game 2 flop by Smith, and subsequent 3 game suspension of Shaw and the despicable head shot on Marian Hossa by Torres decided this series more than anything else. Shaw deserved a penalty for his hit on Smith. You simply can’t make contact with the goalie. Shaw should have received a 2-minute minor for goaltender interference. A 5-minute major followed by a three game suspension is lunacy. Shaw was a very important player for the Blackhawks. He is a tone setter, he plays physical, and he is a spark plug for the team. Removing him for three games would have been difficult to overcome, but losing Hossa was a death-blow. There is no doubt that Torres was hunting for Hossa in this series. He took runs at Hossa in games 1 and 2, but Hossa was able to side step them. When Torres finally completed his mission, it sucked the life out of the team and the stadium. Somehow the most dangerous, intentional, deplorable hit of the year went unseen by all of the officials on the ice and the Blackhawks came away short-handed. Perhaps if the Blackhawks had received a 5 minute major power-play and Torres had been ejected the Hawks manage to win that game.
The Blackhawks are a team built around star players and Marian Hossa is one of the most important. You simply can’t replace Marian Hossa. He is an elite player in all three zones, not to mention the team’s leading scorer during the regular season. Losing him created a black-hole in the top 6 that couldn’t be filled. The Blackhawks became drastically worse in every phase of the game, while the Coyotes went unpunished. Yes, Torres got suspended for 25 games….big effing whoop. He had a whopping 26 points on the year. He was easily replaceable for the Coyotes. They would take a Torres for Hossa swap every chance they got. They simply throw some other body in the lineup. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks were left scrambling. Saad, Bickell, Hayes, Kruger, Stalberg, Frolik, Shaw, Brunette, and Morrison put together aren’t half the player Marian Hossa is. Their effort was great, but their talent just wasn’t enough. Even with two essential players missing, the Blackhawks still carried the play against the Coyotes. The Blackhawks averaged 40 shots per game in the series. So while the Blackhawks out-played the Coyotes, Mike Smith was out-playing Corey Crawford.
Corey Crawford simply isn’t a Stanley Cup caliber goalie. He was very good at times in the series and I love how Crawford stood up with his teammates and challenged Smith, but every time the Hawks needed a big save…he failed. Crawford’s soft goals were the difference in the series. In a series where everything was stacked against the Blackhawks, they needed Crawford to just make the saves he was supposed to make…he failed. Nobody ever thought the Blackhawks would need Corey Crawford to be better than Mike Smith, but he needed to give his team a chance to win…he failed. There is a lot to like about Corey Crawford…just not as your starting goaltender. The Blackhawks must find a way to upgrade the position or at least bring in a plan B that isn’t Ray Emery. Crawford certainly doesn’t deserve all of the blame, but his play simply wasn’t good enough. His .893 series save percentage doesn’t instill a lot of confidence going forward.
It’s going to be a long summer. Again, probably not a Stanley Cup team…but stranger things have happened. A full strength Blackhawks team would certainly have beaten the Coyotes and may have gone on a long run. Now…thanks to Torres, the referees, Shanahan, and Mike Smith we will never know. I will be dusting off my LA Kings swag from the early 90s the rest of the way while wondering what could have been.
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