CtA’s All-Star Break Roundtable
Now that we’re back to getting some regular content on the site, we’ve decided to re-introduce every staff member with our opinions on some Blackhawks issues as the NHL takes a break from games that count.
Feel free to tell us how stupid we are and voice your gripes in the comments or on social media. Let’s get after it then, shall we?
Oh, also, Sellers’ answers are the best. I mean it’s not even close. OK, now let’s get after it….
The Blackhawks are 7-5-0 since Christmas and are tied with St. Louis (Blues have a game in hand) behind Nashville in the division. How do you account for the recent slip in their play?
Nakis (@JimNakis): It’s undeniable that the Blackhawks started coming back to earth after Corey Crawford took a fall at that Enya concert. I think it’s some combination of general fatigue, substandard defensive play from Oduya, Rozsival and Rundblad and Crawford trying to rediscover his pre-injury form. All things considered, I’m not super worried about the state of this hockey team.
Adam (@SouvenirCity): The Jets are no longer a punchline and two of those losses came at their hands for starters. Losing to the Stars isn’t wholly unexplained neither. That team is good and merely took some time to figure out a few things. Defensively they’re going to remain a mess more likely than not, but Dallas scoring 6 goals? That’ll happen with the kind of firepower they have up front. The only losses that really pissed me off were the WC and the Oil. The Winter Classic was a tough one to swallow given how it happened. I don’t fancy the Capitals much and that’s twice now the Hawks have dropped games to them. 0 points vs. WSH is not a good look. The Oil are the worst team in the league and it’s no longer a loss I can laugh off. Stop losing to them. Crawford was out for the beginning of that stretch I believe and our third pairing doesn’t give me much, if any, confidence.
Mighty Mike (@brightblack76): Combination of things, really. There’s the standard winter doldrums, where they seem to lose interest for a bit. There’s also been some rank bad luck (see Avalanche, Colorado for a prime example). The various injuries and suspensions and general Q line-juggling have disrupted the flow a bit as well. And yes, Crow hasn’t been imperious since his stage-dive went wrong. Nothing to worry about, really, although I’d like to see them push for the Division so that they avoid having to go through the Preds AND the Blues (although getting the Kings in the 1st Round would hardly be a walk in the park either).
Tom (@ThomPauly): The snooziness of January. Probably not what people want to hear, but these games are boring for good teams. They mean very little when you’re virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. And with the runs of success the Hawks have had in the past, it’s understandable that they’ve been just okay since the mid-December. I’m not, by any means, suggesting that it’s acceptable, but take a look at the January record for the Hawks last year. They were 5-2-6 to start the year last year. That’s not too good for any team, much less one that expects to compete for a Stanley Cup.
Sellers (@lexpatriate): These are clearly not champions. Champions don’t take breaks. A champion would have seized the opening and pressed the advantage and initiative and no letting up on the gas. A champion would have championed.
Bartl (@BartlSTATS4): Let’s take a look at the losses since the holiday break. Outdoors in the final seconds in Washington. Varlamov’s stellar 54-save shutout. At Edmonton in the second of a road back-to-back. A home to loss to a legit Winnipeg team that has owned the ‘Hawks. And a flat stinker against Dallas, which happens. I mean I’m not trying to make excuses, but I’m simply not getting worked up, especially after dominating Arizona and winning at Pittsburgh before the break.
Johnny Oduya: Hurt or just terrible? Do you believe the 3rd pair of Roszival and Rundblad is sustainable?
Tom: Johnny Oduya can’t hang against opponents’ top lines anymore. That’s the bottom line. He’d be an ideal bottom pair guy, not someone that should be relied upon to shut down the Taraenkos and Getzlafs of the world.
I believe that David Rundblad needs to play. A lot. Play the shit out of him. He’s been progressing this year, as I said he would as the beginning of the season. He’s 24, can skate and can shoot it. Let him make his mistakes on the bottom pair and enjoy. He’s fine. Unfortunately, he plays with one of two orange cones in disguised as humans in Tim Erixon and Roszival.
Michal Roszival is done. His career is finished. He can’t skate anymore. His hands are still there, but that doesn’t matter. He’s not a good shot blocker or penalty killer either. Maybe Q is playing him a lot to see if someone will hurt him?
Mighty Mike: I’m not as down on Oduya as some are. Time is catching up with him, for sure, but I’d argue that his performance over the last couple of seasons was unsustainable anyway. We were lucky to get that much from a guy who is pretty much a journeyman. Equally, I’m not worried about the 3rd Pairing: we’re blessed if that’s our biggest issue as Hawks fans. Losing Leddy has weakened the D, sure, but not by as much as I’d feared.
Nakis: All signs point to regression for the 33-year old blue liner. Even scarier, it appears that he’s starting to drag Niklas Hjalmarsson down with him. It’d be ideal if Bowman could find a way to swing a trade that would allow them to shift Oduya down on the third pair with either Rundblad or Rozsival. Will the cap situation prevent that? Probably.
Rundblad is starting to pick up his offensive game, but I have nightmares about what the Blues and Kings will do to that pair if that it carries into the playoffs.
Bartl: The fact of the matter is at this point Oduya is playing in the top four when he’s no longer a top-four defenseman. And the problem with that is no matter who the ‘Hawks have to throw out there on the third pair is worse than Oduya. Nothing but another trade would rectify that dilemma, but that’s probably not feasible given the state of monies. If the ‘Hawks are to win in the playoffs, they’ll do so in spite of a third pair that I don’t see cutting it. I agree with Tom that Rundblad has progressed, but Roszival and Erixon bring down any pairing.
Sellers: I like to imagine that our talents and skills are sentient independent of our own consciousness, that their intelligence doesn’t register on our plane. If our own existence is Nabokovian, then our talents’ crack of light is even briefer. We need to come to terms with the inescapable fact that Oduya’s lights are fading. Instead of deflecting our fears with fairy tales about phantom injuries, let us face the fact head on. Dude is three years younger than me and clearly way too old.
Adam: 27 is playing every bit of his age. Oduya was never a world beater, but the pairing of Hjalmarsson and Oduya certainly faired much better in years past than it has this year. I don’t think he’s hurt. I think he’s just dropping off as players do once they reach their mid-30s. The third pair sucks and I’ll make no bones about that. It makes the 4 combined games Klas Dahlbeck and Adam Clendenning have played this year that much more curious, and, indefensible.
The $64,000 question: Does Teuvo Teravainen stay with the Blackhawks when Kris Versteeg returns from his injury?
Sellers: I expect nothing. If the even the pope admits he can’t explain genuine child suffering in light of a supposedly merciful god, how can we expect any succor in our leisure pursuits?
Bartl: What I’m loving is that even if the ‘Hawks were planning to do that, Teuvo is making it difficult to send him down by playing well. At the same token, he played only 8:26 against Pittsburgh and hasn’t seen a single bit of power-play time since the 54 seconds of it against Dallas. I’d like to believe everyone in the organization when they said that Teuvo will be up to stay, but how can I not be a little pessimistic given how long it took him to get to the big club in the first place?
Nakis: Of course not.
Tom: I have a hard time thinking that the Hawks want to send this young man down. He’s getting minutes with Kane when Chicago is losing games. That says a whole lot about whether or not he’s ready to be in the show. I think Q is going to have to separate himself with his love for another skill-less bum on the roster that can play on the fourth line and let Andrew Shaw do that. Leave Joakim Nordstrom in the minors and let Danny Carcillo rot in Rockford.
Mighty Mike: Barring a precipitous dropoff in form (or, Hossa forbid, an injury) I think Teuvo stays up. He’s finding his feet and I think Nordstrom will likely end up losing out. But Q had better not have him in the pressbox: he needs to be getting North American games in, whether in Chicago or Rockford. Look at how much more sure of himself he appears after just a couple of games. Kid is a quick learner.
Do you believe the six games Dan Carcillo received for his crosscheck on Mathieu Perreault? Will the Blackhawks waive him once his suspension is served?
Bartl: Do I think that type of cross check happens every game? Yes. Do I believe someone with the history of ass-hatery that Carcillo has should even come close to putting himself in that kind of position? I don’t. He’s done here – I hope.
Tom: First of all, I think Carcillo is done in Chicago. His play hasn’t justified his roster spot since last November. I think in a discussion with Fork from Hockeenight the other day we discussed whether or not Joakim Nordstrom was worth a damn either. He’s not, but he’s got more upside and *can* kill penalties I guess, so it makes him more valuable than Carcillo.
Second, I think he got six games for a penalty that should have been maybe a double minor. It was unfortunate that Perrault got hurt, but a cross check to the arm and back happens a dozen times a game. Carcillo happened to hit Perrault in between his shoulder pad and his elbow pad. He got hurt, it was Dan Carcillo and thus the NHL had an easy target for a suspension.
A lot of very smart Blackhawks fans have had a pretty great time asserting that they are SMART AND FAIR hockey fans by decreeing Carcillo as a villain and horrible person for a play that happens quite often.
I’ve given examples on Twitter of more egregious plays, but fans see what they want to see, I guess. But here, here’s a pretty damn good example of a play that’s similar to Carcillo’s but didn’t end in a six game suspension.
To further my point, this is what a cross check deserving of at least six games looks like.
But hey, what do I know? I’m an idiot Carcillo defender.
Sellers: All jokes aside, I don’t get this one. Was this a stupid bit of Gorilla’ing by Gorilla Salad? Yes. Was it really that bad of a transgression if you hadn’t watched the slo-mo Vine a hundred times? I don’t think so. On the other hand, I’ve been waiting all season for Go’Sa to get himself suspended; I’d much rather it happen for this offense than something far more injurious.
Will they waive him? Again, the gods are merciless.
Adam: He won’t be waived (which I am totally fine with considering our cap situation and his league minimum salary as a 13th or 14th forward). Suspension is fine, maybe even a little light.
Mighty Mike: I think this is the end for Gorilla Salad, in Chicago at least. That brief burst of effectiveness is over, his ice time has dropped like a stone and Q is clearly falling out of love with him. I suspect he’ll be offered up as a trade before being waived: someone, somewhere will take him (looking at you, Toronto). And yes, six games seems about right, considering. Although if they want to add a zero to it I’d be happy.
Nakis: Seems about right to me. Carcillo has a long history and the Perreault got hurt. I’m not too upset about it, after all, the Hawks are better off without him and Quenneville can’t scratch Teuvo with only 12 forwards to work with. Will they waive him? We aren’t that lucky.
Which team in the Western Conference has surprised you the most this season?
Nakis: Winnipeg. This is a team that was mocked in the offseason for failing to make any apparent upgrades, lost several of their best defenseman and somehow have rolled right through most of the Western Conference. They’re going to give someone a real tough series in the opening round.
Mighty Mike: The Canucks. I had them down to struggle badly this year. Instead they’re right in the mix. They might be trending downwards a little right now, going 5-5-0 in their last 10, but their new front office and coaching staff have pulled off a minor miracle just to get them where they are. They’ve certainly banked enough points to be reasonably confident of a Playoff place, which represents a big improvement on last year.
Tom: Dallas. And I’m only saying this because it’s gonna be awesome when they go on a run around the trade deadline and make the playoffs. They’re four points out and when Nill makes a deal for a defenseman I’m gonna have a fun time digging up tweets making fun of him and calling him stupid.
Adam: Vancouver, though the shine is coming off them already. Still, they’re more surprising than even Nashville. At least the Preds are building around some nice young cogs. The Canucks are holding on to a team whose window closed 2 years ago, save for the goalie they finally traded last March.
Sellers: I’m going to dodge this question (it’s Winnipeg, bless them) and say that no team has disappointed me more than Colorado. I wanted one thing from the Avs this year – to regress just a little bit less. We all knew it would happen, but did it have to happen in such a boring, predictable way? We didn’t even get a month of “look who’s so smart” stories out of Denver. The statistas got to crow from the get. Boring. God damn you, Colorado.
Bartl: I’m pretty surprised that I’m the only one going with first-place Nashville. Never would I have guessed they’d be this good with Peter Laviolette as coach and the additions of James Neal and Mike Ribeiro. We knew Filip Forsberg would be good, but that’s the least surprising thing about this run the Preds are on.
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