Can we just fast forward to October? The summer sports scene is brutal now that the NHL and NBA are done. Baseball just isn’t doing it for me these days. Maybe because Chicago is like a black-hole of baseball talent. Is it me or was baseball better when guys were roided up? The Blackhawks schedule is out for 2011-12 and these are games that I won’t be putting on StubHub.
Saturday October 15th vs Boston Stanley Cup champs roll into town very early in the season. Marchand and Seguin will probably still be hung over and worn out from all of their paternity hearings. Great chance for the Hawks to announce their presence with authority as they begin to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Thanks for beating Vancouver and everything, but I hope they did those engravings in pencil…
Sunday November 6th vs Vancouver There is NOBODY I love beating more than Vancouver. Hopefully Luongo will be in net so I can dance to Chelsea’s Dagger all night. The Hawks nail Luongo, nail him right in his mind.
Friday December 2nd vs Islanders The Islanders are my darkhorse team to make the playoffs this year. They have a good thing going with Tavares, Grabner, Okposo, etc. They are an entertaining team to watch. Hawks better put on the foil for that game because the Islanders aren’t shy about throwing down. The game should have lots of talents and some fireworks.
Wednesday December 21st vs Montreal I love a good Original 6 match-up and the fact The Habs don’t come to the UC every year disappoints me. Both teams can really skate and it will be a battle of French-Canadian goalies.
Friday December 30th vs Detroit The crowds for the games over Christmas break are usually extra rowdy. College kids come home and drink and get a little excited. “De-Troit Sucks” will be said so loud that they could probably hear it in Michigan. Couple that with this being a Friday and right before New Year’s Eve and this might be the best party game of the season.
Monday January 2nd vs Edmonton Similar to the Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers are an exciting young team. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are great entertainment. Should be a high scoring game.
Wednesday January 18th vs Buffalo Shockingly, at least to me, the Buffalo Sabre fans travel about as good as any fan base in the league. They are kinda cute in a way. Trying to get their little chants going whilethe Blackhawks are smashing their faces in all over the ice. The Sabres are kinda soft in my opinion, but their fans are good people. I always enjoy hanging with them at the West End before hand.
Friday March 9th vs New York Rangers Chicago vs New York, always a good rivalry. The Rangers have a nice young core of guys that I’d like to see in person like Steppan and Dubinsky, and also plenty of guys to hate like Sean Avery and Marian Gaborik.
Sunday March 11th vs Los Angeles This could be a big match up in terms of seeding for the playoffs. I feel like LA may finally take the next and win the Pacific division so the Blackhawks could need a few points to lock down the number 1 seed. LA also plays hard and fast. Going to be a good show.
Sunday March 18th vs Washington This could really go either way. Saint Patrick’s Day…on a saturday followed by what will probably end up being like a noon start for the Blackhawks game. I am thinking that maybe I just won’t sleep and keep the party going through the end of the game. Hannge Uppe basement until 4am. Try to find some other party until like 6am. Head over to Nookies on Wells for an omelette bigger than my head. Take a shower, throw the Hawks sweater on and start heading towards Madison. If I fail at sprinting that marathon…there’s a real good chance I miss this game entirely. Ovechkin will be a blur regardless.
As noted in the previous post, the Blackhawks could have as much as 5 million dollars in cap space this summer to fill out 4 roster spots. The biggest need for the Blackhawks is legitimate second line center. This has been an ongoing issue for the Blackhawks for the past few years and now they finally have an opportunity to address this hole in the roster.
Brooks Laich is a versatile player who can play any of the three forward positions. He would slide in perfectly next to Hossa on the Blackhawks second scoring line. Laich has been an integral player for the Washington Capitals since becoming a fulltime NHL player shortly after the lockout. Laich has eclipsed 20 goals three times in his career and added 16 goals this year for the surprisingly offensively inept Capitals. Brooks Laich had a salary of $2.4m last year with a cap hit of $2,066,667. Laich is a leader in the Capitals locker room, and Washington will try to find a way to resign him. However, the Capitals suddenly find themselves somewhat devoid of depth as many of their veterans are UFAs. The Capitals have to make some difficult decisions with RFAs Karl Alzner and goaltender Semyon Varlamov. In the event that Brooks Laich is the odd man out in Washington, the Blackhawks should definitely target the productive pivot. Laich could perhaps be a bit over valued in a weak UFA class. If the Blackhawks could clear even more cap space by trading away either Brian Campbell or Hjalmarsson, then perhaps the Blackhawks could get into a bidding war for Laich. Laich between $2.75m and $3m would provide the Blackhawks with tremendous value.
Tim Connelly has been a frustrating player for Buffalo Sabre fans for the past few years. He is immensely talented and a great playmaker, but he has been plagued by injuries and concussions. Connolly is coming off of a contract where he had a cap hit of $4.5m. Given his health concerns there is no way his next contract will approach that level. Connolly is 30 years old and hasn’t played a full 82 games since the 2002-03 season. Connolly presents a high risk, high reward scenario for the Blackhawks. Connolly would be the perfect play-making center for Marian Hossa. In both 2008-09 and 2009-10, Connolly approached point per game numbers in limited action. Pairing him with a talent like Marian Hossa could put both players over the top. If Connolly would be willing to take a short deal at a cap hit around $2.5m the Blackhawks should pounce on it.
The Free Agent class is devoid of quality centers. If the Blackhawks are unable to reach a reasonable deal with either of the two sited above, then they may look to add an “insurance” type of center as they ease Marcus Kruger into the second line center role. Here are a few of the other options:
- Marty Reasoner– Reasoner was a Blackhawk for about 10 minutes in 2010-11 before he too had to be shipped off in a salary saving move. Reasoner is an effective player who had some decent production for Atlanta in 2010-11. While he isn’t a great fit for the second line necessarily, he would add overall depth to the position and would be an upgrade over Jake Dowell and Ryan Johnson.
- Michael Handzus– Another centerman who had a cup of coffee with the Blackhawks could also be a fit. Handzus is a solid two-way player who was an important piece to the LA Kings as they made playoff appearances in each of the past two seasons. Again, not an ideal fit, but a nice depth player who could help the Hawks win.
- Max Talbot– Ideally a fourth line center, but Talbot would add an element of grit that was missing from last year’s Blackhawks team. The Penguins are financially strapped and probably won’t be able to resign Talbot. I like Talbot, but not at a cap hit of more than 1.8m. Hawks signing him is unlikely.