2010-11 Ramblings

Tim Bits for Friday, December 10

Some quick news flashes for Blackhawks’ fans as the team wraps up activities for the day in San Jose:

Multiple sources on the scene are reporting that Corey Crawford will be in net for the Blackhawks when they take on the Sharks on Saturday. This should not be a surprise to anyone.

It was also suggested by Coach Joel Quenneville that Jordan Hendry may return to the lineup against San Jose. We haven’t seen him wearing the Indian Head sweater since November 7th against Edmonton. And few people were complaining. Hendry is a big goose-egg on the scoresheet and a -2 in 11 games this season.

More >

20 cents for your thoughts: Injured Patrick Kane out for three weeks

"Welp, see ya later." (CSNChicago.com)

The news  Patrick Kane will be out for up to three weeks with a left leg injury came without much of an uproar. The general consensus seems to be: “It looked worse than that. Three weeks isn’t so bad.”

Hmm, interesting. It’s funny how we all panic when  Marty Turco lets in a soft goal, yet we’re relatively calm when the Blackhawks’ point-per-game winger will be shelved for nearly a month. If you can figure that out, well, you’re a step ahead of me.

Fact is, a day without Kane is a day too many. There’s been times this season he’s been clearly absent from the game while his Give A Fuck is in the shop. However, at least he’s been on the ice. We all know when Kane decides he’s going to do something spectacular, it happens more often than not. I’d rather have Kane roaming the ice without a care in the world rather than have him watching from the press box.

The It’s-Not-So-Bad mentality may go away quickly tomorrow when the Blackhawks take the ice without both Kane and  Marian Hossa for the first time since Hossa signed with the ‘Hawks. They missed games separately, but not together.  Jonathan Toews put the Blackhawks on his back Sunday against Calgary, and we’re going to be hoping he can do that again for however long it takes Hossa to return.

As I stated after Sunday’s game, the Blackhawks are already dressing  John Scott at forward. Since Scott has the offensive talent of Dennis Rodman, losing both Kane and Hossa — along with Fernando Pisani still out — the attack is considerably less intimidating.

While  Chris Kuc says  Jeremy Morin should be back with the ‘Hawks tomorrow night against Dallas, my assumption is  Ryan Potulny will get his I-Pass and make the trip up from Rockford. Imagine if someone in your fantasy league offered you Morin and Potulny for Kane. You’d probably laugh yourself into a coma.

Maybe I’m not being optimistic enough, or everyone else is lacking the pessimism necessary to be a realist.

But three weeks without Kane? Sounds as fun as a fart in a 100-floor elevator ride to me.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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PUCKCAST: Tim and HOCKEENIGHT get their Nick Boynton on

Plus a bunch more. Have a listen and get a laugh rather than killing your boss while you hate your job today.

End The Controversy: A Tale of Four Goalies

Photos: TSN.ca

The Blackhawks’ rookie goaltender Corey Crawford came off the Circus Trip with three starts, three wins, and a GAA hovering just below 1.00. The calls went out for a third straight start after his wins over the Ducks and Kings, and he got it on Tuesday night against St. Louis. He came away with another win, but I think he showed us exactly why doing a flip-flop for the starting role with Marty Turco is a mistake.

Before we get into that, I want to take you back ten years and revisit the story of two young goaltenders in the Blackhawks organ-eye-zation. Michael Leighton and Craig Anders(s)on — I really should tell that story about the extra ‘s’ — were both drafted by Chicago and came into the AHL in 2001. They played as a tandem in Norfolk, which was then the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, and over the next three years started to gain confidence at the pro level.

Here and there they would get the occasional call-up, mostly to sit on the bench at the UC and watch Steve Passmore flop all over the ice and get his ass handed to him. Then, disaster struck. Blackhawks’s starting goaltender Jocelyn Thibault injured his hip, underwent surgery and was to miss a total of 60 games during the 2003-04 season.

More >

“It’s not rocket surgery”: Crawford to start, Boynton hurts Hossa

"I got this." (Chicago Tribune)

The clamoring for  Corey Crawford to get the nod in net Tuesday has come to fruition. Unfortunately, so has the official confirmation that  Nick Boynton is a worthless piece of shit.

CSN’s  Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) reported a couple of nuggets on her Twitter account today. First, Boynton and  Marian Hossa collided in practice and Hossa was sent back to the locker room to be looked at. No word yet on Hossa’s condition. However, if Hossa is out for an extended period of time yet again, Boynton and his lisp are going to be swinging from a building somewhere.

Myers reported later that Crawford will get his third straight start Tuesday night against St. Louis. He’s 4-0-0 with a 1.23 GAA in his last four starts, including three road victories. Giving the kid a start at home riding a hot streak should’ve gone without saying, but it was good to see  Joel Quenneville announce it early.

The only time Crawford faced the Blues was Feb. 2, 2006 in a 6-5 shootout loss. Crawford gave up five goals and made 34 saves in a brief call-up.

It should also go without saying that Q needs to ride Crawford as long as possible with the way he’s been playing. A loss shouldn’t immediately relegate Crawford back to the bench if he plays well. For a Blackhawks team seemingly lacking a spark, Crawford resembles the closest thing to a pick-me-up at the moment.

And on top of all that,  Marty Turco is the class act we all knew he was. According to Brian Hamilton of the Trib:

“Corey’s going to play, I think, and he should,” Turco said. “He’s been playing great, he’s been playing great all year, has won a few in a row. We want to get on a roll. I’m here to win, no matter what.”

Either Tim or I will have updates on the Hossa injury as we get them. Check our Facebook fan page or our Twitter for the the quickest info.

Dump & Chase: Tuesday, November 23

A few bits and pieces from around the league on the Blackhawks’ day off.

Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game has always seemed to me to be the election easiest to rig. Teams scatter fan ballots like confetti all over home games, and team with the most fans at the most games gets the most players into the game. The league is trying to put a lid on that, in its own way; but in the mean time the Blackhawks are reaping the benefits.

Despite his play being less than stellar of late, Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith is currently ranked first among defensemen, and second overall behind only Sidney Crosby in All-Star fan voting. Other notables on the Blackhawks include Jonathan Toews (3rd among forwards), Patrick Kane (5th) and Marian Hossa (8th). Some dedicated souls have Marty Turco sitting 14th among goaltenders as a write-in candidate, but it looks like Montreal’s Carey Price is going to win that one by a mile.

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We’re going to suggest you take a trip into enemy territory here, and visit one of our red-headed step-sister sites on the FanSided.com network. This time, in honor of tomorrow’s game against San Jose, we present you with Blades of Teal — which you have to admit is a pretty catchy title. They’ll give you an insider’s peek inside the tank in San Jose.

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A brief We’ll Always Love Them Even If They Wear Other Jerseys Now update for you.

Heading north to Minnesota we find John Madden starting to hit his stride after a slow start. His quick stick at the faceoff dot and penalty-killing abilities are helping Minnesota to secure a playoff spot.

Further north in Edmonton, we have seen Colin Fraser three times already this season, fulfilling his role as a grinding center with 22 hits to complement his 2 goals and 1 assist.

Up in Toronto, winger Kris Versteeg got off to a hot start and was an immediate favorite with fans and sports writers alike. But the bloom is off the rose, as his 6 goals and 6 assists are far fewer than Leafs faithful were expecting from a top-six forward. Don’t worry, Kris: the Toronto press tends to anoint anyone with a modicum of talent. Just stay consistent, they’ll get over it soon enough and start picking on somebody else.

Blackhawks’ fan favorite and consummate smart-ass Adam Burish landed in Dallas, and surprising nobody but his mother who is (no doubt) still ashamed, he leads the team in penalty minutes. He has seen time on a line with Mike Ribiero and Brenden Morrow, and has 2 goals to show for it.

But the real action is in Dixie, where some former Blackhawks are transforming a Thrashers team that we saw earlier this month. Winger Ben Eager has been throwing his weight around with 35 hits. Blueliner Brent Sopel continues his solid stay-at-home play, logging 15 minutes a night (and still sporting the homeless-musician haircut).

Dustin “BIG BUFF” Byfuglien has taken Atlanta by storm, returning to his native position on the blue line, and sitting second on the team in points — including a team-leading 4 game-winning goals. The Thrashers put the “A” on his sweater in recent weeks.

And finally, Andrew Ladd was recently named Captain of the Atlanta Thrashers, leading the team with 21 points (7 G, 14 A). He is having what more than one journalist is calling a “career year,” as his scoring and leadership abilities are illustrating the raw talent that has earned him two Stanley Cup rings. Congratulations, Andrew!

My update on Antti Niemi will be seen tomorrow morning: check back for our preview of the Blackhawks vs. Sharks tilt.

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One last note: Jeff wanted me to apologize to all of you for not getting your favorite “Boxing” features up following the games over the weekend. He told me to say that he’s been sitting at home playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and smearing Crisco on his nether regions.

And now, he’ll never let me apologize for him ever again!

No seriously, as is the case with all of us, work and life intervene. Jeff had his clothes stapled to his desk by cruel co-workers last week, and the custodial staff went through several pairs of needle-nosed pliers trying to break him loose. But he promises to be back in the saddle and “Boxing” again for you shortly.

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Edzo, Get A Rule Book

Photo: NHL

Sorry, Eddie, we all love you. But you’re wrong, and the tripping call by the official against Patrick Kane in overtime was complete and utter crap.

NHL 2010-11 Official Rule Book, Rule 57 – Tripping, Section 57.1, paragraph 3:

If, in the opinion of the Referee, a player makes contact with the puck first and subsequently trips the opponent in so doing, no penalty shall be assessed.

There was no “opinion of the referee” needed here. If Kane had not touched the puck first, it would not have been careening towards the boards and up the ice towards the ref who called the penalty!

So sorry, Mr. Olczyk, read the rule book. The ref was wrong, the call was crap, and that call could have cost the Blackhawks the game.

This extends the streak of badly called games by NHL officials to 35,466,907. These refs are pathetic, and the league risks the integrity of the game and the loyalty of its fans when it allows this kind of shit to go unpunished.

Sorry, had to get this up and make sure Blackhawks fans knew the truth. Jeff will have a more in-depth report on this game (plus Boxing!) later in the weekend.

Hawks have the Ducks at home on Sunday, we’ll preview that match-up right here for you, so check back and watch for our tweets!

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I want to talk about how we have nothing to talk about

NOTE: Sorry for no strict recap and/or Boxing. I was on vacation in Boston for a Bruins game and admittedly didn’t see much of either game this weekend. In fact, I still haven’t seen a highlight of the Thrashers game. It would be more of a disservice if I wrote about stuff I didn’t see. You’re alive, so you’ll be OK with that.

I really wanted to see Prognosis Negative with Jerry. Wanna go see Ponce de Leon? (Chicago Tribune)

Sunday night, it took a matter of 14 seconds for the Edmonton Oilers to relieve the Blackhawks of their lead and take their own.

The clock on when we’re going to see the defending Stanley Cup champions is still ticking.

What is it I’m hoping for? I don’t know. I can’t say I’m demanding to see every semblance of dominance we saw last season when the Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL. I’m not going to start crying if  Marty Turco isn’t “The One” or if the departed ‘Hawks succeed. Business decisions had to be made.

I will say I may have been a bit too harsh on some of our star players to date. Stars alone don’t win titles.  Jonathan Toews and  Patrick Kane didn’t win that Cup alone last season. I’m guilty of saying I want to see more out of them and  Duncan Keith and the other top-tier talent the ‘Hawks possess. There’s a lot of it. I understand the role of a star player is to play like a star all the time. But even  Michael Jordan had off nights.

It’s the off-the-ice stuff that needs the attention. No more talking about how they miss the old guys. No more talking about the new locker room and how it’s taking time to jell.

What I’m hoping for is the Blackhawks new faces and role players to start proving they’re impressed by that brand new banner hanging at the United Center. I want them to think back to the home opener when they stayed on the bench secluded from the players from the title team, and they watched the ring bearers witness something they’ll never forget.

I want them to start imagining that they’re on the ice at the 2011 home opener standing in the same spot and watching a banner be raised. It’s not to say they’re talented enough to make it happen, but it sure as hell doesn’t seem like they’re playing up to what’s now expected in Chicago. And they really don’t seem to be playing with the purpose of getting to that point.

And most of all, I want last year’s team members to starting telling the new faces why that’s so important.

There was a different look about last year’s champs. There were a lot of times the role players didn’t do their jobs and we got on them. However, they still had the fire in their eyes and the determination to accomplish that goal of winning the Cup. They always talked like it. Maybe they just knew the media and what had to be said, but everyone constantly talked about winning the Cup. It never went away.

Do you see that from the new faces yet? Do you see  Fernando Pisani or  John Scott or Viktor Stalberg have that look like, “Whatever I have to do, whatever these guys want me to do, I’ll do it because I want what they have”…?

I sure haven’t. And beyond that, it’s happening at home — where that banner hangs right above them as a constant reminder of the expectations surrounding anyone in a Blackhawks sweater.

I refuse to believe these Blackhawks that take the ice every night don’t have what it takes to win another Cup. Maybe it’s the superfan in me, but we’ve all seen flashes of brilliance from lots of those new guys. It’s the consistency that’s lacking. Last year’s ‘Hawks team was consistently good, then got great when they needed to be great.

This team is consistently mediocre, and they’ve gotten good at times. The personalities are different, sure. Last year’s team had a closeness about them that even the players have acknowledged is lacking at this point. Well, what are they going to do to regain that? Last year’s team didn’t know each other until they met. Seems like a stupid thing to say, right?

However, these guys are all professionals and share a locker room, and a city. Figure something out. Remember in that  Seinfeld episode when Elaine referred to her and George as friends-in-law? Elaine then sat down with George and told Jerry afterward, “I wanted to talk about how we have nothing to talk about.” Well, do that if you have to. Get your shit together, and get it together fast.

Toews knows what I’m talking about:

“That motivation should be coming within our own locker room … we’re adults and we’re mature hockey players and when it’s time to light that fire, you know where… “

While the ‘Hawks find some lighter fluid, the Detroit Red Wings continue to win. The St. Louis Blues, of all the goddamn teams, are playing phenominal. The ‘Hawks are currently staring up at both their naked asses being waved in their proverbial face. I know, it’s early. But how many times have teams had rough starts in a good division and simply can’t catch up because the other teams above them continued to play well? It’s not uncommon. More often than not, a solid start leads to long-term success.

So, what’s it going to take? Losing two games to a bottom-feeding Western Conference team at home within a week? I hope so. Maybe on Wednesday we can watch a team beginning to get things in order, beginning to play together rather than trying to do things in spite of each other.

The ‘Hawks still haven’t hit the opposition with their best shot.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer.

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Committed Indian column: 10 Reasons Why the Blackhawks Can Repeat

**** Sam Fels of Second City Hockey gave me some space in his wonderful creation, The Committed Indian,  for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s my column. Don’t be cheap and purchase one outside the UC for $3 if you’re headed there tonight. GO ‘HAWKS!

Despite all the departures, I don’t think anyone believed the Blackhawks would be stumbling into November hovering around the .500 mark. Things sure as shit haven’t been ideal and right now, this isn’t a Stanley Cup contender.

Fortunately, the NHL doesn’t hand out the Stanley Cup in November. Through 16 games last season the Blackhawks were 9-5-2 – not much difference from this season — Antti Niemi’s balls hadn’t dropped yet and Cam Barker still skated on the third pairing.

Lots of things can change between now and June – and they have to. As much as we all sit and point farts in the direction of Stan Bowman, we know he knows, too. And we know the players know it.

So, with that in mind, I present you with 10 Reasons Why the Blackhawks Can Repeat. I’m not saying they will repeat, so don’t come trying to chop my head off if the ‘Hawks are on their couches come June. Agree, disagree, whatever. Sam gave me the space for tonight, you paid for the damn thing, so you will listen to every single word I have to say.

John Scott and Nick Boynton

Total joke. These two worthless piles of shit hopefully won’t be around come March. I’m actually hoping Scott murders Boynton and is sent to jail for life. Then we won’t have to worry about either of them. Now that I have your attention…

Patrick Kane will start to give a shit

Partying with his best friend Jack Daniels and a summer of casual sex may still be on his mind, but Kaner isn’t far off his pace from last season. After 16 games, he had 16 points (4G, 12A). He’s behind, but not by much.

The problem is that his attitude seems to be different. He looks like he’s ready for the bar as soon as he steps on the ice. I personally think his “20 Cent” incident last offseason had him coming out of the gate with fire in his eyes. After winning the Cup and being loved for scoring the winner, he may seem a bit more casual. Rather than playing with something to prove on top of his ridiculous talent, he’s simply playing on talent.

Despite all of his nonsense, Kaner is a competitive SOB. He’s not happy where the team is right now, and his attitude will change. I’m certain of it. Last season’s, “I’m going to score on you, and there’s nothing you can do about it” attitude will come out – and soon.

Marian Hossa is, well, Marian Hossa

Hopefully while you’re reading this, Hossa is on the ice somewhere. Before he got hurt, Hossa was the best player in the NHL. He was doing everything right, scoring goals, finding teammates… it was beautiful to watch. The ‘Hawks haven’t been the same without him. They’ve looked like they’ve been missing something.

That something has been Hossa’s “Yeah, I’m doing this, you can watch if you’d like” style of play. The Blackhawks have Marian Hossa, the other teams don’t. Advantage: ‘Hawks.

Patrick Sharp is extremely handsome… and good

I remember saying at about the midway point of last season that Sharp has the offensive talent to be a 40-goal scorer. He just may accomplish the feat this season – and look good doing it.

I understand he can be better in his own zone, which his plus/minus proves. But his offense is what’s going to help the Blackhawks, and he hasn’t disappointed thus far.

Jonathan Toews won’t let this bullshit continue

I’m not talking about his performance on the ice – though the ‘Hawks could use some more offensive production from Tazer. I’m talking about that ‘C’ on his chest which he’s shown he’s well deserving of having. With all the new faces in the locker room, I’m assuming he’s simply waiting for the right time to start putting people in their place.

Duncan Keith recently said it’s taking some time for everyone to jell – both on and off the ice – and the Blackhawks are struggling because of it. Toews isn’t going to stand for much more of that excuse. This team is a bunch of professionals and they’re expected to mesh with whatever situation they’re thrust into. Tazer will do his job and right the ship.

Marty Turco may give you heart failure, but he’s a very serviceable goalie

The flailing, the flopping, the sometimes recklessness with the puck … I know, it can be taxing on blood pumper. His style is similar to Tim Thomas of Boston, which has been said to not but suitable for a playoff grind.

It’s true, Turco hasn’t had much playoff success. But Turco has come up with big saves while facing a lot more shots than he and any of us thought he’d be facing. Turco is far from the reason the Blackhawks are roughly mediocre right now. He’s kept some games closer than they should’ve been, and he has the talent, experience and determination to earn a ring to help the ‘Hawks through the season.

Brian Campbell is back

Without him, the Blackhawks were giving up an alarming amount of shots and changing up the defensive pairings seemingly every night. His absence was more than noticeable. Does anyone find it coincidental the ‘Hawks began rolling in the playoffs once Campbell came back last season? His return is the reason I believe …

Niklas Hjalmarsson will start playing up to his contract

Hammer’s left a lot to be desired since the ‘Hawks matched San Jose’s offer sheet, but I refuse to put all the blame on him. He hasn’t been able to play with the same cohesiveness with his defensive partner as he did nearly all of last season with Campbell.

Super Nintendo Hjalmers is a very heady player who is fundamentally sound and isn’t afraid to absorb contact in order to make the correct play. Though he hasn’t lived up to his new salary, look for Hammer to return to form with Campbell returning.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will play like the best D tandem in the NHL

Campbell’s injury forced Keith and Seabrook to play ungodly amounts of minutes, mainly because the units behind them were simply far less talented. They even had to be split up at times to try and make up for the deficiency.

Keith is still the Norris Trophy winner for a reason, and he’s near the top of the league in assists. His decision-making has been questionable, and Seabrook has appeared to be a bit lazy and getting beat on plays he normally wouldn’t.

Fatigue can’t be ignored in this situation. They’re the best tandem in the league when they’re on top of their game, and I can’t see some of the sloppiness continuing much longer.

Everything will fall into place by mid-January.

The ‘Hawks basically wrapped up the Central with a 10-4-1 January last season with Hossa hitting full stride after returning from injury. Hopefully the Blackhawks can stay healthy and won’t have to worry about that sort of thing. However, the new faces should have meshed with the stars by this point, and everyone should understand their roles. There’s a reason the stars are the stars, and they make people better. We’re not seeing the immediate effects, but by January we should be seeing some solid results.

No matter what, this team will be dangerous come June.

Put a defending Stanley Cup champion in the playoffs and anything can happen. Last season, some wondered if the ‘Hawks were too young and inexperienced to win it all. Well, there went that idea.

Now think of a young team coming off a Cup win and hungry enough to want to repeat. Five of the last six President’s Trophy winners haven’t won gone all the way, so forget regular-season record.

I know it may seem harder than it sounds with the Central Division being as strong as it is this season. But if the Blackhawks can get in the playoffs, they’ll make some noise. They have the talent to win a finesse series, the ability to win a speed series and the toughness to win a physical series.

Stealing a quote, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”

Contact Bartl sits in Section 326. Go buy him a beer or contact him at Jeffrey.Bartl@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlackhawksUp

A Proposal That Shouldn’t Be Necessary

May 18, 2010 - Sunrise, FL - Florida, USA - United States - (CAV) PANTHERS GM 0518C.CAV - The Florida Panthers newly-named General Manager Dale Tallon is seen during a news conference at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Tallon comes to the Panthers from the Chicago Blackhawks where he is credited for turning around the former cellar-dwellers. Joe Cavaretta, Sun Sentinel.

At the NHL General Managers’ meeting in Toronto on Tuesday, the league’s GM’s will have an interesting proposal in front of them courtesy of ex-Blackhawk GM (and current Florida GM) Dale Tallon. The proposal suggests allowing each team’s coach to have one “coach’s challenge” (meaning video review) per game.

This mimics other sports, college football in particular, where a coach can call for a video review of a play if he feels the call on the field is in error. In college football the team loses a time-out if they are wrong, but not if they are right.

Tallon’s proposal is similar in nature, but it raises the question: why should he have to be proposing it at all?

I once had an argument with a friend of mine concerning instant replay/video review in baseball. His argument was that it was a human game, played by humans, and humans make mistakes. That was part of the game, it works out in the wash, and it would lessen the integrity of the game to introduce video review.

To that, verily I say unto thee, butt-nuggets.

I, as a fan, pay money to go to a game. I cheer for my team, I buy its merchandise, and I have a certain amount of emotional energy wrapped up in the team’s success or failure. For me, the fan who spends the money to buy the ticket, I want the game to be fair and the call to be right. Every. Single. Time.

Does that mean stopping play every time a player takes a shot? Every time somebody falls down? Every time there’s a line change? No. There are limits, there have to be. But any goal, EVERY goal, should be reviewed. Anything that even looks like it might be a goal should be reviewed. Any time a player gets injured — or pretends to be injured! — should be reviewed.

When will they review it? Dunno. How? Dunno. Who will do it? Dunno. Obviously there are a lot of details to be worked out, but fortunately the infrastructure for a comprehensive video review is already in place. But the fans, the players, and the coaches should have the confidence in knowing that they are playing a game that has been called accurately.

What’s the expense? Probably less than 5 real-time minutes a game. What’s the payoff? Solidifying the reputation and integrity of the game. And that’s a lot more important than you might think.

For a very long time there was a figure skating special on every Saturday or Sunday afternoon, because the ratings were dynamite. Nationals, Worlds, exhibitions, you name it. Now? I think you’d have to search long and hard to find figure skating on television outside of the Olympics.

Why? The judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake City. Once the fans believed the scoring system was no longer fair, and that tainted officials had the ability to negatively affect results, they fled the sport by the thousands. Ratings suffered, and quite quickly the sport was bleeding revenue by the millions.

Integrity of officiating is no laughing matter. If the NHL is serious about its fan base and its revenue stream, it will consider a robust, if not complete video review regimen that sets a standard for fairness and accuracy in professional sport.

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Eddie O: Campbell playing tonight

Eddie Olczyk stopped by the NHL Live studios in New York, and said on the show that  Brian Campbell will be playing tonight at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

It’ll be interesting to see how many minutes QStache gives him and/or how many the doctors have cleared him to play. Either way, having watched  Nick Boynton and  John Scott fart all over the ice this season, even just a few minutes of Soupy would be a welcome site.

Tim should have your full preview later today.

Welcome back, Soupy.

UPDATE: A guy with actual big-boy credentials, Tim Sassone, puts up a blog stating Campbell’s return benefits  Niklas Hjalmarsson the most, seeing has he’s currently a minus-8.

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October Mail Bag: Injuries, Trapezoids, and Fool-Idiot Suck-Weasels

Letters... We get letters...

We have a little break in the action, the Blackhawks are enjoying three days off to lick their wounds from the embarrassing losses over the weekend, so we thought it was time to open up the Mail Bag and answer some of your Blackhawks and hockey questions. Lots of new hockey fans in the Chicago area, so remember: there are no stupid questions!

How serious is Brian Campbell’s injury, and when do we expect him back?

— Dave, River North

A sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament, it’s a vertical stretchy thing on the inside of your knee) is not as serious as a torn MCL, so the Hawks dodged a bullet there. Plus there’s good news from the weekend: Mr. Campbell skated for the first time in the last couple of days. He’s on target for his return to the lineup, which is… they’re not saying. But figure at least two more weeks, and maybe three. He’s got to get doctor’s clearance for participating in practices, and then to do contact drills, both of which usually take a week. They’re talking about him returning for the Circus Road Trip, which starts on November 17th. So cross your fingers.

I’ve watched hockey before, and they’ve put some new lines on the ice behind the net that I don’t understand. What do those mean?

— Huey, Mundelein

Nothing whatsoever. It’s called the trapezoid, and in theory it is supposed to be a restricted zone where goaltenders can’t play the puck. But neither the goaltenders nor the referees really know what that means, so play continues as it did before the area was created. Just ignore it.

How come some goals get reviewed and some goals don’t?

— Mika, Kankakee

Because some refs are idiots, and some aren’t! No seriously, in theory every goal is reviewed. But when the guys that review the goals think the refs might have screwed up, they stop the proceedings on the ice and take as much time as they want to in order to sort things out. Whether each goal is *actually* reviewed, I’ve seen enough blown calls to believe that’s not the case.

There is also allegedly a “war room” back in Toronto, where every goal from every game is reviewed to make sure the *reviewers* are getting the call right. But that’s a load of crap. They just got the dedicated satellite feeds because they wanted free Playboy Channel.

Hey! They made a big deal about fool-idiot suck-weasel referee Bill McCreary retiring last year. But then I watched the Blackhawks game the other day, and there he is! What gives?

— Mark, Addison

Yes, they did. And yes, you did. Buckethead is back, and despite being 54 years old and barely able to skate two lengths of the ice without an oxygen mask, Mr. McCreary will be donning the stripes and blowing call after call after call again for the 2010-11 season. Apparently NHL Director of fool-idiot suck-weasels Terry Gregson talked McCreary out of retiring late last season, because apparently there were too many veteran fool-idiot suck-weasels retiring, and the rookie fool-idiot suck-weasels replacing them were actually worse! If you can believe that.

I once watched two games with the Blackhawks playing against Tampa Bay and Florida, during which a grand total of four goals were scored. Replays for each of the four showed very clearly that McCreary, reffing both games, blew three out of the four goal/no-goal calls. That’s a 75% failure rate, and that was over ten years ago. He hasn’t gotten any better since then.

If the Penguins offered to trade Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, do you think we should take the deal?

— Stewart, West Loop

Stew, it is my fervent hope that Jonathan Toews turns into the Blackhawks version of Steve Yzerman, playing his entire career in a Blackhawks uniform and wearing the captain’s ‘C’ until they raise the #19 to the roof of the United Center. I would be surprised if we could keep Patrick Kane that long, as the contract offers that will await him upon the day he becomes an unrestricted free agent will likely be out of reach for the Hawks.

That having been said, I think if the phone rang in Stan Bowman’s office and somebody from the Penguins organization were on the line offering that deal, I think we’d have to sedate the Blackhawks’ GM to keep him from laughing himself to death. I would be hard pressed to find two players on any team right now that match the output — and potential — of Kane and Toews. And the two flame-outs from the Pens that you mentioned definitely don’t come close.

Who do you think the Blackhawks’ biggest rival is this year, Detroit or Vancouver?

— Brian, Joliet

I think the Blackhawks’ biggest rival this year is the Blackhawks from *last* year. The fans won’t be concerned about whether we beat Detroit or Vancouver so much as whether we win the cup again. As Jeff has outlined here recently, it’s a fool’s errand to expect a championship team this year. But that won’t stop the fans’ expectations from being elevated to that point. As for Detroit and Vancouver, we’ll bitch-slap both of them enough for us to enjoy this year. Don’t you worry.

The Red Wings are going to win it all this year!!!

— Chris, Novi, MI

Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, Chris. Now go put your nuts in a toaster.

That’s it for now, but keep those letters and e-mails coming! See you in November with another edition of Mail Bag.

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Theory of the Three-Year Grace Period

I’ve lived by a notion for quite some time. There’s no right or wrong, but there’s a general understanding I believe should be accepted by an avid supporter of any franchise.

It’s the Theory of the Three-Year Grace Period. It’s fairly simple, and the Chicago Blackhawks are the perfect example.

If I had to come up with a general overview of the Theory, it would go something like this: If the franchise you support wins a championship, you have no right to get angry or upset regarding any player decisions — excluding “star players” — made by management for a period of three years.

To be more clear, the Theory does not include coaching decisions. For instance, I can be completely perplexed and question  QStache for jumbling the lines or, more importantly, why the living hell he continues to scratch  Jordan Hendry when John Scott noticeably sucks.

Here are the general principles:

Players are often forgotten, but championships are remembered forever.

If you’re a supporter of a franchise, you’ll remember the exact place you were and whom you were with when your team wins a championship. I can tell you the exact places I was when the Chicago Bulls won all six of their titles in the 1990s, and I’ll always remember where I was on June 9, 2010. None of those memories will ever, ever go away.

However, I have no idea where  Bobby Hansen went for the 1992-93 season after sparking the Bulls to a fourth-quarter rally in Game 6 of the 1992 NBA Finals. He’s long been forgotten. And in 10-15 years, I challenge you to remember where  Brent Sopel went after the ‘Hawks won the Cup. But in 10 years, you’ll still remember where you were and whom you were with when the ‘Hawks ended their 49-year title drought.

Repeating championships are nice, but it’s a greedy thought.

Sometimes we forget how hard it is to win one championship, let alone two, three, four, etc. And for a long-suffering Blackhawks fan, I can’t see how that’s possible. Do you realize how long 49 years is?

It’s very easy for a fan to become entitled and spoiled by a championship. Many great athletes played their entire career without winning a championship, and many franchises with extremely large fan bases have gone years without a single title *cough* Cubs *cough.*

As a fan, take your title and be happy for a little while. A repeat is just gravy. In the case of Blackhawks fans, enjoy the Stanley Cup we currently have and enjoy some good hockey. Take in the banner when you go to the United Center. Watch your championship DVD. Re-watch Game 6 on your DVR. You’ll enjoy it just as much as you did live.

If you think your franchise stopped liking winning, you’re stupid.

Every management representative of the franchise you support wants to win again. If you think you want to win, multiply it by 100 and you’ll come close to knowing how they feel. Not only do they feel a sense of pride, but they get very rich by winning. If management makes moves, it’s either because they’re forced by player demands/league rules which would financially over-extend the franchise or break rules, OR because it’s simply at management’s discretion the player be moved.

And since the management of your franchise made the right personnel moves the season before which won you the championship you’ll never forget, I’d say there’s a decent head on that person’s shoulders.

If I had to come with FAQs on the Theory, here’s what it would look like:

If my team made the finals, do I live by the Theory?

No. Simply playing for a championship does not qualify you to live by the Theory. The reason being that your team was THAT close to a title, and you have every right to challenge and question management for making offseason or in-season moves that you feel may bring down the chances of winning a title. For example, Philadelphia Flyers fans can challenge and question with great vigor any player moves made.

Can I still be upset about the actual play of the new/current players and be just as passionate about my team winning another championship?

Of course. It’s the reason we love sports so much. Some players — new or remaining — are just terrible, and teams are forced to win titles in spite of those players. However, to say, “Damn, we should have kept Departed Player X rather than get this asshole,” is not right. As previously stated in the general principles, the move was made for a reason by the management who gave you the championship you’ll never forget.

Why is it the Theory of the Three-Year Grace Period and not four, five, six, etc.?

Three years for a championship team is plenty of time to reload/rebuild/find a new direction to win another title. If a franchise had to over-extend itself to win you the title you’ll never forget, management deserves time to be able to do what’s right by them to keep the franchise running successfully, though it may not feasibly be at a championship level.

If your team has not won another title within those three years, you have every right to challenge and question moves heading into the fourth year of the drought. After all, we’re still supportive fans and paying customers who help feed the franchise money. Especially since we’re living in a “I want it right now!” society, three years is more than enough time.

* * * *

The Theory can be difficult to live by for fans, including myself. I questioned the Blackhawks sending  Nick Leddy to Rockford when he was more than serviceable during his stint, especially because  Brian Campbell is out with an injury. Nick Boynton and  Scott are worthless. In my mind, I couldn’t justify the decision. Then I checked out my Stanley Cup Champions t-shirt, and I immediately began to trust  Stan Bowman.

However, I will never, ever, ever complain about the ‘Hawks trading  Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager or Andrew Ladd, letting Adam Burish sign with Dallas or walking away from  Antti Niemi. I made it pretty clear why simply based on what the Blackhawks had left to compete this season. But beyond that, I trust Bowman. I trust his hockey mind and I trust what he needs to do in order to stay competitive yet stay within financial compliance.

The bottom line is that I keep hearing a lot about how we should have kept one or more of the above players mentioned when the Blackhawks struggle. And the memory of people questioning the signing of  Marian Hossa at the expense of letting  Martin Havlat walk even furthers my point that management is smarter than us — no matter hard it is for us to admit.

I want to see the Blackhawks repeat as Stanley Cup champions as much as the next person. I probably think about it so much it borders on being unhealthy.

But if they are hoisting the Cup in 2011, management put the players on the ice, not us. And if they’re not? Well, that Stanley Cup champions t-shirt still looks pretty sweet.

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When It’s Time For Leavin’ I Hope You’ll Understand

Photo: AP

The battle of wills appears to be over, and it ended with a wave.

In Monday night’s game against the Blues, Blackhawks’ goaltender and ramblin’ man “Myocardial Marty” Turco skated out of his net to field a puck at the left face-off dot. He stopped. He looked up ice. And he waved.

Some background for you who haven’t been following this closely. The word on Turco when the Blackhawks acquired him in the off-season was that he was a skilled puck-handler, able to deftly wander the defensive zone and become an additional mobile asset on breakouts. This, it was reported, would be particularly helpful on power plays and when opponents were trying to execute a line change. Or for beaning Mike Leggo in the melon when he misses calls so obvious that somebody standing outside the United Center and facing away from the arena could have seen them.

During pre-season we saw this in action: both the good, and the bad. In two separate games Turco wandered up-ice and fired a tape-to-tape saucer pass to our right winger on their blue line. Both of those plays ended with the puck behind their goaltender in the next five seconds. This was an incredible crowd-pleaser, and it showed the potential for Turco’s offensive capabilities.

But the down-side was when Turco would go on his fishing expeditions with opponents in our zone. Twice during pre-season Turco either mis-fired on a pass or was stripped of the puck, resulting in an open-net goal for the opposing team, and Turco himself diving frantically back towards the net looking like a leaping tree frog from a nature special on the National Geographic channel.

The TV broadcasters were even nice enough to use their super-slow-mo feature to show Turco, hanging in mid-air for what seemed like an eternity, all four limbs splayed in abject panic as the puck sails gently past him into the webbing. This was the other side of that double-edged sword Stan Bowman had bought at a discount.

So then, about a week ago there was a suggestion amongst the “legitimate” (ha-ha-ha) Blackhawks press corps that insinuated that perhaps there was the possibility that maybe Coach Joel Quenneville could potentially be growing tired of his number one goaltender making plays that made him look like the freshman goaltender on the St. Mary’s School for Girls JV team. This was whispered, few took note, and nothing more was said.

Then, last night, came the wave.

The wave was aimed at Brent Seabrook.

The wave said, “Come here and get this, I’m not passing it to you up there.” Which he did, and the play continued.

But what the wave really said was, “If I do what my instinct tells me to do, and things go badly with me 30 feet out of my net, Coach Q will have the trainers tape my wiener to my butt-crack, the long way, then make me skate side-boards with my skate laces tied together until Captain Serious believes I’ve learned my lesson.”

And thus, the battle of wills ended, with a wave.

I’m sure that we will see Marty Turco out of his net again, and I’m sure we will see him make bone-headed mistakes again. Every goalie does a few times a season. But I’m reasonably sure that the days of keeping a defibrillator charged and ready every time Turco is announced as the starter have come to an end.

(*sigh*) And I spent all that time thinking up a cool nickname for him…

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Shattered Dreams: A Sticky Situation

Pat Foley: “Welcome back to the action here at the United Center, ladies and gentlemen. Hawks down by one early in the third period, they’re fighting to get back in the game.”

Eddie Olczyk: “Hawks showing a lot of heart, they’re really turned up the gas here in the third.”

Foley: “Here’s Duncan Keith keeping it in, up the boards to Patrick Sharp… Holds there for a moment — now has Jonathan Toews racing towards the net, hits him with a pass, he SHOOTS!” OOOHHH and Toews’ stick shattered into a hundred pieces on that shot!”

Olczyk: “Great opportunity for Toews there, just couldn’t convert as the lumber cost him a scoring chance there, Pat.”

Foley: “Now the Hawks head back into the zone, Marian Hossa pulls up and waits, now hits Duncan Keith on the far point, the ONE TIMER: NO NOT AGAIN! Pieces of Keith’s stick wind up in the netting 75 feet above the ice surface.”

Olczyk: “Tough break for Duncs there Pat, he had the goaltender down and out, all he had to do was get that shot on net. But a broken twig stopped him cold.”

Foley: “Off the turnover, here’s Brent Seabrook now, gains the line, he’s got Davey Bolland with him, the pass across to Bolland— OH WHAT’S THIS! Bolland tries to field the pass, and his stick broke midway up the shaft!”

Olczyk: “Yeah, Pat, it looked like Bolland’s stick just crumpled like an aluminum can when he tried to catch that pass from Brent Seabrook.”

Foley: Now heading back to retrieve the dump-in all by himself is Niklas Hjalmarsson, he has plenty of time as he arrives to pick it — NO! Hjalmarsson’s stick exploded like a water balloon when he touched the puck with his stick!”

Olczyk: “I was talking to a rep from a stick manufacturer last week, Pat. They say they are putting new age materials in these sticks, they are so strong that an elephant can stand on one and it won’t snap.”

Foley: “All evidence to the contrary. Now ready for the face-off, Jake Dowell to take the draw, they’re ready and — GOOD GRAVY! Jake Dowell’s stick disintegrated as he began to take the draw! I don’t even think he touched the puck, did he Edzo?”

Olczyk: “Not at all, Pat. As we look at the replay, he set up for the draw, got his stick in position, now STOP IT RIGHT HERE! The referee still has the puck in his hands. As Jake Dowell gets a tighter grip on his stick, the shaft begins to fall apart like it’s made of sand. It was merely the added pressure he put on the stick when he gripped it that caused it to vaporize. All you young hockey players out there, if you’re dad is buying you these one-piece carbon sticks, you need to be on the lookout for this exact thing.”

Foley: “The Blackhawks, believe it or not, have not had a single shot on goal, but that’s not for a lack of trying. They have suffered, by my count, one hundred and thirty-one broken sticks! Trainer Mike Gapski is on the phone with the equipment manager who is in the car on the way to Total Hockey out in Schaumburg right now. Not sure he’s going to get back in time to save the Hawks tonight.”

Olczyk: “As a former player who was around before all of this one-piece composite business got started, Pat, I can tell you: there’s nothing like a good hunk of ash wrapped in fiberglass when it comes to scoring goals.”

Foley: “We’re waiting for them to clean up the debris as you look here at a picture of Patrick Kane, who as we heard this past week was a bit under the weather, in fact it looks like he’s got a bit of an itchy nose there on the bench.”

Olczyk: “Yeah, he’s asking the stick boy to hand him some tissues he has there on the — Holy Moly, Foley! Did you see that?”

Foley: “I sure did Eddie! Patrick Kane sneezed, and the stick he was holding in his other hand instantly turned to dust!”

Olczyk: “I have never seen anything like this before in my years playing, coaching and announcing the game of hockey. And look at that, the officials are now saying there’s too much debris on the ice, they can’t continue playing.”

Foley: “That will do it from here: the Hawks fall for the first time here at home, and as we sign off the United Center has asked us to inform you viewers that the Nickelback concert scheduled for tomorrow night has been postponed. Apparently the UC facilities personnel will be working around the clock to clean up the shrapnel caused by all the broken composite sticks during this game tonight.”

*     *     *     *     *

Major League Baseball only allows players to use bats made of wood. I’m now convinced they were on to something. This is getting fucking ridiculous.

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That’s Gonna Leave A Mark

Photo: Buffalo News

When you play baseball, you can tell when a hit is going for the wall. There’s a certain feeling in the bat, that perfect connection between two objects in motion, and the feel of it says, “Bye-bye.”

Slap shots in hockey have the same feel to them when you “get all of it.” Pros have that feeling pretty much every shot. My slap shot sucks, so I felt it maybe twice in my years of amateur hockey.

But hits can have that same eerie resonance to them as well. Those I was good at. My favorite setup was catching a forward skating towards me, looking back over his shoulder to catch a pass. Happened maybe once per season. Time it just right, and you drop a shoulder into his sternum at the exact instant the puck hits his stick — BOOM. He goes down like he’s been hit in the chest by a wrecking ball.

That was the Niklas Hjalmarsson hit on Buffalo’s Jason Pominville. You could see it on the replays: he dropped like a stone. After his head ricocheted off the boards a couple of times, I mean.

Late Tuesday Niklas Hjalmarsson received a two-game suspension for the hit on Pominville. I had guessed three. During the preceding 12 hours I had heard the Old-Time-Hockey chorus around Chicago chiming in that they didn’t think it even deserved a penalty, let alone a suspension. Similarly, the Buffalo faithful were advocating that the league throw the book at him. That’s to be expected.

I actually read some barely-literate chucklehead comment on TSN.ca and suggest a suspension of 40 games. Holy bird turds, it’s pro hockey, not powderpuff soccer. Get a grip.

Let’s deal with the not-even-a-penalty suggestion first. From the NHL rule book, “Rule 41″ and “Rule 42″ respectively:

Boarding: A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently into the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.

“Charging: A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner. Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.”

The ref had both of these as options for the Hjalmarsson hit, as the play very easily met both of these descriptions. It was called on the ice as a boarding major, which comes with an automatic game misconduct. So it’s quite plain to all but the most biased observer that *some* penalty should have been called — and it was.

There is also the new “Rule 48″ which addresses blind-side and/or head-targeted hits, which is new this year:

Illegal Check to the Head – A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.

The league would have announced this as the cause for the suspension if that were the case, since it would have been the first one they ruled on. They made no such announcement, so I have to believe they did not feel the hit fell into the description as noted above. I think most casual observers would agree with that assessment.

So: not a blind-side hit, no intent to injure, not targeting the head, then why the suspension? In my opinion, it’s a question of PR.

This hit made the news. It was likely shown on ESPN’s SportsCenter, because they love good video that they can slow down and make viewers watch as bodily parts do things they were never intended to do in the interest of sport, while commentators who know precious little about hockey at all say, “Yeah Dave, that’s gonna leave a mark.”

It would have made the Buffalo newscasts, and other hockey markets as well. The follow up stories (when they show the hit and Pominville’s stretcher-bound exit yet again) will tell everyone that Pominville suffered a concussion, needed 8 stitches, and will be out a minimum of a week. This presents a PR problem for the league. There’s really no provision in the rule book that justifies a suspension per se, but they can’t do nothing.

If the league lets Hjalmarsson off with no suspension, then sports columnists and commentators get on their high horse about the league turning a blind eye to the needless violence that is now making a comeback. Next thing you know there’s some fool-idiot petition circulating about stopping innocent children from playing or watching hockey. And Lord love a duck, if Don Cherry says something about it on Hockey Night in Canada, then just look out. Every time that old bastard opens his mouth it’s as if somebody had skated to center ice and set a basket of kittens on fire.

Understand that the average person doesn’t follow this stuff. If you’re reading this, you can likely quote the number of games Alexander Ovechkin got for the hit that sidelined Brian Campbell last year. But 99% of the people who only see the news reports about this incident and don’t follow hockey at all. So because these people have the attention span of a gnat, the league only has one shot at controlling the message.

The only way to do that is to move quickly and give the appearance of firm and definitive action. Get the suspension, whatever it is, done quickly — and make sure it’s made public before the 6pm news sportscast goes on the air. You’ll notice that was the precise timing for this announcement.

The league brings this on itself. The rules of the game don’t — and can’t — accommodate for every single circumstance. So when something new or unique comes up, they have to wing it. This opens up debates precisely like this one, and because of the completely secretive and often-times incomprehensible means by which they choose whom and what to punish, they look like idiots, and the sport looks like a joke.

But in the absence of a set of rules that turns hockey into basketball (MOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM! HE’S TOUCHING ME!!!) we’re going to have to put up with this.

So, Niklas, enjoy your two games off, have some press box popcorn, and we’ll see you next week.

*     *     *     *     *

In other news, the league also handed out a two-game suspension to Islanders’ defenseman James Wisniewski, for being a dick-head.

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NHL lays the Hammer: Hjalmarsson suspended 2 games for hit

You got knocked the fug out! (Getty Images)

As suspected,  Niklas Hjalmarsson  has been suspended for two games for his bone-crushing hit on  Jason Pominville, according to TSNI thought it would only be one game, personally, but the NHL gave two games to  James Wisniewski  today for making a blowjob gesture on the ice. I guess nearly killing someone — intent be damned — is worth at least a blowjob.

Wait…

Anyway, we’ll have more thoughts on this later.

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Boxing with the Blackhawks and Communists, 10/9/10

Here’s Saturday night’s Blackhawks vs. Red Wings box score with a twist:

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Boxing with Blackhawks and Big Falling Snow Pile, 10/7/10

My nice new job allows me access to screenshots of the box scores, so I thought I’d take advantage and try to put something together for last night’s Blackhawks opener vs. the Colorado Avalanche.

I’m going to try and do this as much as I can this season. Can’t guarantee I’ll get to it every single game. Sorry if the font is a bit small, but it’s definitely readable. Let me know what everyone thinks.

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Comcast needs a pre-season, too

Watching the replay of the Blackhawks’ 4-2 pre-season loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, I noticed something very strange. Pat Foley and  Eddie Olczyk clearly were announcing the game the entire time. Apparently, Comcast disagreed. Have a look:


I did a little research but couldn’t find out who any of these three people are; unless of course it’s just the dummy template some intern forgot to fill.

Much like the Blackhawks, Comcast isn’t immune to needing some exhibitions. Luckily this intern will have another chance tonight to prove his/her worth before Comcast makes it’s first roster cuts.

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Makarov Cocktail explodes onto scene

Igor Makarov has received such high praise through the Prospects Tournament and beginning of camp, you’d think some people have actually forgotten about the off-season purge — if only for a minute.

Tonight, we’ll see how Makarov fares against some established pros and others fighting for roster spots.

I can only think to nickname the Russian-born forward Makarov Cocktail (Get it? Like Molotov Cocktail?) the way he’s exploded onto the scene with the big boys after being destined for Rockford when camp broke. Because of all the hype, Cocktail is giving me more of a reason to plan my night around a Blackhawks preseason game.

There’s no reason the kid can’t make the roster with what he’s shown so far according to QStache, who’s been singing his praises. Though I haven’t seen him in person, the talk I’m gathering from his speed and quick trigger sounds like a  Kris Versteeg-type guy, which means there will be a lot to be desired in other aspects of the game. But if Cocktail can put the puck in the net over the course of the preseason like he’s been doing so far in camp, he’ll get his shot with the big club.

But let’s not pencil in Makarov just yet. Given Makarov’s raw skill set, players like  Bryan Bickell and  Viktor Stalberg rank ahead of Cocktail in the competition for a top-6 spot. If Cocktail doesn’t crack the top-6 when the preseason concludes, look for him to be sent to Rockford to develop his scoring touch a bit more while working harder on the defensive end. There’s a possibility Cocktail gets a shot on the third line if  Patrick Sharp centers the second line, leaving  Dave Bolland centering the third. Makarov will need a solid passer who can find him at the right moments to score, and Cocktail may only be trusted with either Sharp or Bolland — and of course  Jonathan Toews, but the top line is out of the question.

Cocktail gets another chance to impress QStache tonight when the ‘Hawks take on Tampa Bay tonight in Winnipeg. Look for Tim Currell’s preview later this afternoon.

Other stuff…

Anyone have a few million bucks lying around?  Lame-duck goalie  Cristobal Huet has listed his River North condo for $3 million. Later, dude.

Tim Sassone puts in his two cents for Bickell.

Just so everyone doesn’t go around hanging themselves after a loss, Fifth Feather has your Idiot’s Guide to the Pre-Season.

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http://blogs.dailyherald.com/node/4681

QStache signs extension

Multiple reports surfaced this morning the Blackhawks have signed coach  Joel Quenneville’s  mustache to a contract extension, which will be announced at a 2:30 p.m. CST news conference. QStache was entering the final year of his current deal with the ‘Hawks.

No question QStache deserves it. He’s 97-44-19 since taking over the ‘Hawks from  Denis Savard  four games into the 2008-09 season in which QStache led the team to a Western Conference Finals appearance. He won a President’s Trophy in St. Louis, had good success in Colorado and shook the playoff-choke label by winning the Stanley Cup last season. QStache obviously knows what the hell he’s doing, and I’m happy he’ll be doing it here in Chicago for at least a few more years.

As I wrote the other day, QStache faces a difficult test behind the bench this season with a revamped roster. But I’ll say this: There’s not many other coaches in the world I’d rather have doing it — despite his constant renditions of Musical Lines.

Congrats, Coach Q.

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