The Blackhawks’ off-season has begun, sooner than any of us would want, to be sure. But this is when us erstwhile robo-pundits take off our pants and open up the spreadsheets. Who is coming back? Who is being let go? Who is getting a qualifying offer, and who isn’t? Which free agents are available? Who is trade bait? And which of the farm team wanna-be’s are going to be part of the rookie class of 2011-12?
All of it makes for a worn-out keyboard, angry spouses, and sore… umm, hands…
Fortunately the news for the Chicago Blackhawks is not nearly as apocalyptic as it was last season. We were all still hung over from the Stanley Cup Championship parties when, almost without us noticing, five of our middle-tier players were shipped out of town. We’re not facing that kind of purge this year.
In fact, the real questions coming out of the Blackhawks’ camp have more to do with free agents being re-signed. We’ll get to that very soon. Let’s start with the easy stuff…
Breaking news via every Blackhawks beat writer on Twitter: Goaltender Corey Crawford has signed a three-year deal. A conference call is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. central time, when more details should be shared on the situation.
After the debacle with Antti Niemi following last season, it’s nice to get this done early to save for any stress. I’ll be on to update things as they come along, including the dollar amount.
UPDATE: Multiple reports say Crow’s deal is for $8 million, making his cap hit $2.6 million per season. Crawford is now making more money than Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.
Overall, this is fantastic news for the Blackhawks for a couple of reasons. First, there’s no more wondering who is going to be the starting goaltender, meaning for the first time in four seasons the ‘Hawks will enter training camp without any sort of goaltending questions. Secondly, the dollar amount is slightly more than we may have expected, but it’s not by much.
Between getting Crawford locked up and being able to do it for this price, the Blackhawks did very well on this one.
For those of you familiar with the Boxing feature here at Blackhawk Up, you’re well aware I have the extreme privilege of channeling the mind of ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. Despite the fact the Blackhawks are currently making tee times, I was once again able to get into the mind of the fearless leader and read his thoughts on his individual season.
It was very difficult, I might add. Toews doesn’t much care for singling out players, including himself. If you remember when Toews skated back toward his teammates holding the Conn Smythe Trophy after the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup, he clearly reinforced the team accomplishment by stating, “This is for you guys.”
He’s the clear definition of the consummate team player – unselfish, willing to be the voice when needed and perfectly able to lead when asked. And, more importantly, capable of putting an entire team on his back to win for them, not just him.
That Selke Trophy nomination? Great. I’m sure he’d like to add more hardware to an already impressive collection. But it’ll never mean as much to Toews as that big silver chalice or gold medal, simply because it represents team.
Here’s a look at his season stats, followed by Toews’ season review of himself and my grade, since he’s too humble to possibly grade himself.
Most folks are looking at this latest Patrick Kane incident the wrong way. I’ll try to summarize. Should he be able to live his life? Should he be able to chase every bit of tail in Chicago? Should he be able to drink himself to the ER, get into fights, stiff the cabbie, or strip naked in a limo?
It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point. And as long as he’s an NHL superstar, the point is this: he’s being a fucking idiot and putting his CAREER at risk by doing this shit. Furthermore, he’s risking disappointing Blackhawks fans who expect him to be with the team for another 4 years. Let me explain.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ defensive “crisis” in the off-season centered around Niklas Hjalmarsson, and the offer sheet dropped on his lap by traitor scum-bag shit-hole Doug Wilson, now GM of the San Jose Sharks. (You’re going to pay, Dougie — Logan Couture’s contract will expire at some point…) But once that was resolved, Blackhawks’ fans settled into the knowledge that they had arguably the best top-four defensive corps in the league, anchored by Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith.
Oh, how quickly things can change.
No time soon will Blackhawks fans forget Antti Niemi and his contributions during the Stanely Cup run last season. What many may not remember is Niemi and Corey Crawford were viewed equally for the backup goaltending job behind Cristobal Huet prior to 2009-10.
With Niemi out of AHL options and Crawford’s contract still at two-way status, Niemi may have won that job simply based off default and not talent. Rather than collecting a Stanley Cup ring, Crawford toiled in Rockford for another season and didn’t give up hope his time would come.
He got his shot this season, and what a hell of an impression he made.
So you ask your girlfriend to prom, and she hems and haws for a while until right before the dance, then her dad tells you she’ll only go with you if you pay her $2.75 million dollars. So you break up with her right then and there, and she goes off to prom with some other guy, even though he only paid her $2 million and you’re the reigning Prom King. But by this time all of the hot girls are either already have dates or are going to prom at some Russian school. Your previous girlfriend was too much hassle, and you wouldn’t want to go with her anyhow — and besides, her family is moving to Switzerland.
Well, your friend from Dallas just broke up with his girlfriend: will she go with you? And more importantly, will she put out?
Patrick Kane hasn’t always been the model citizen during his tenure with the Blackhawks. Between cabbie incidents, limo parties and random drunken photos, Kaner has put himself in positions fans – and the ‘Hawks themselves – have frowned upon.
But for all the tomfoolery, I’m stunned at the amount of discussion regarding Kane being shipped out of town. Remember, most of that partying wouldn’t have been possible without his Stanley Cup-clinching goal which sent us fans into many nights of inebriation.
His numbers speak pretty highly of his value. Kane has amassed 303 points in 317 career regular-season games, and another 48 points in 45 playoff contests. Did expectations rise among fans after the cabbie incident? After the limo party? Sure, and he responded with the most famous goal in franchise history.
I’d say those standards were met, and then some. Here’s a look at Kane’s 2010-11 numbers:
Every Blackhawks pundit, journalist and blogger has asked the same question during the playoffs the last two years. In fact, most pundits, journalists and bloggers for the Blackhawks’ opponents have asked the question also. So far, we don’t have an answer.
When is Marian Hossa going to show up?
This would be just a mere curiosity if we were talking about some bottom-six winger two years into a three-year deal at the league minimum salary. But we’re talking about a player with elite talent who just wrapped up the second year of a 12-year contract with the Blackhawks worth over $62 million.
The mere fact that we’re asking the question at all — and in the playoffs no less — is more than troubling; it suggests that we may have bought a horse whose Derby days are behind him. It also makes one think it might be better to find another buyer before the situation gets even worse and the market dries up completely.
There were very few players on the 2010-11 Blackhawks’ roster to which the word “consistent” could be applied. Fortunately there were at least a few, and fortunately one of them happened to be on the blue line — else who knows how many more games we would have lost.
Rare was the night that Brent Seabrook scored the winning goal, or stopped a breakaway, or dropped the gloves. But game in and game out, there he was, doing his job. Which is more than can be said for about 80% of the roster.