(Lou Capozzola/SI)


After some R&R in Vegas the last few days, the Blackhawks will continue the circus trip against Antii Niemi, Martin Havlat and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night. As I’m sure you all know by now, the Hawks’ are coming off two of their worst games of the season – one of them being a 9-2 horror show in Edmonton. Predictably, people are losing their minds. The calls to bench Duncan Keith are starting on Twitter and elsewhere.

This is just about the most batshit thing I’ve ever heard and makes no sense whatsoever. In his last two games, Keith has been a -8 combined and certainly hasn’t been on top of his game. However, Fifth Feather points out some problems with putting the Edmonton debacle all on him and its not like #2 was the only Hawk who had a dreadful +/- that night. Aside from it being literally impossible to bench him (not enough d-men with Seabs hurt), have these people forgotten how good Keith looked in the Vancouver game and the games preceding it? Why would you rush to the whip when it appeared your best defenseman was finally returning to form before the whole team collectively turned to shit over the weekend?

The Blackhawks have problems on the back end, but it’s not all on Keith. The absence of Brent Seabrook is killing this team in the physical department and the continued presence of John Scott in the lineup every night necessitates more tough minutes be logged by Keith, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarrson.

Another issue is the surprising lack of depth on the defense. Most figured the Hawks had left the dark days of Scott, Nick Boynton and Jassen Cullimore behind when Stan Bowman went out and picked up Steve Montador, Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell up in the offseason. Tragically, this has not been the case. O’Donnell and Lepisto don’t even play over the incompetent and useless Scott lately.

This is unacceptable and the way things are shaping up, Bowman might have to go out and acquire another defenseman with some of those millions he has saved. While most people are looking for the Hawks’ to acquire a Top 6 forward, the situation on the blue line might actually be more pressing, especially if Viktor Stalberg continues to play well with Jonathan Toews (not something I ever thought I’d be saying).

On the offensive side, Ben Smith played in his first two games of the season and was practically invisible. It’s hard to imagine he will take away any top 6 time from Stalberg or Dan Carcillo based on these first few games. The sad saga of Bryan Bickell continues, he was invisible as well over the weekend and is providing no punch at all for the Hawks on the forecheck or the defensive zone. He could be on the 4th line or even in the press box when Michael Frolik returns. Andrew Brunette has yet to find a permanent home on any of the lines and it’s getting harder and harder to see where he fits in on the Hawks’ outside of the power play.

Couple things from around the NHL:

♦ Several Blackhawks are doing well in the All Star voting. John Scott is not among them (sorry Hockeenight).

♦ The Hawks’ once dominating lead in the Central division is disappearing. The Predators are now just 3 points back and the Wings 4. Both teams have played 19 games with 2 games in hand on the Hawks.

Sidney Crosby played in his first game since January last night against the Islanders. He scored 2 goals and also had 2 assists. The Penguins were already dominating without Crosby and  just went to another level with his return. Scary.

♦ The Coyotes and holdout/douchebag Kyle Turris have agreed on a 2 year / 2.8 million dollar contract. Turris is still very much on the market.

♦ Mason Raymond, one of the less annoying Canucks, is close to returning.

The Predators have waived Niclas Bergfors. Who?