2011 Off-Season

Blackhawks Acquire Mini-Serious

Photo: Zimbio.com

Today it was announced that the Blackhawks have acquired David Toews from the New York Islanders for future considerations. David Toews is the younger brother of Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews.

The younger Toews is 21 years old, also a center, and shoots right. He played for the Brandon Wheat Kings last season, and their web site lists him at 5’10″ and 175 lbs. He notched 48 points in 60 games last year, adding 7 points in 6 playoff games.

Word is that the younger Toews will be added to the Blackhawks’ roster for the rookie tournament in Oshawa.

Next on the list: Brent Seabrook’s younger brother Keith (yeah, hilarious isn’t it?) and two of Patrick Kane’s younger sisters. Man, would THAT be an interesting locker room…

If we get more dirt on this we’ll pass it along.

Ruin & Destroy Camp, Part II

Photo: The Globe And Mail

Earlier this week we reviewed the non-active-play changes tested out at Brendan Shanahan’s GM circle jerk known as “R&D Camp.” Today we look at the proposed changes that will affect play on the ice. Buckle up, people; the stupidity has been flowing fast and furious among the league’s brain trust.

No line changes allowed for offending teams when called for off-sides: One of the most unique things about the game of hockey is the ability for teams to change players on the ice at nearly any time. The imbecile who came up with this rule for icing should have had his eyeballs ripped out with needle-nose pliers, and the same fate should befall the twit who came up with this too. But you know the league: they’ll implement this rule.

Face-off moves to offending team’s zone when called for off-sides: I don’t think this goes far enough, actually. I think that for off-sides calls the face off should be moved inside the crease. In fact, how about one inch in front of the offending team’s goal line. Maybe a half-inch. Oh wait, I’ve got it: off-sides calls result in a penalty shot. They want to increase offense? That will increase offense! They never listen to me, however: but for now, you can expect to see this rule despite it’s obvious shortcomings.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Injury Prognoses

Photo: National Post

When the injury to Patrick Kane was announced, and surgery was conducted, everyone was all happy and relieved. “Good thing it won’t impact the season!”

I just kept my mouth shut. I knew that the official line was a load of bullshit, but I kept my mouth shut.

So then today…

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Ruin & Destroy Camp, Part I

Photo: NBC Sports

I was sitting on the dock in Muskoka on Wednesday, sucking on a Labatt’s and watching the kids splash around the lake, when it dawned on me: “Hold it! I’m in Canada! I can watch TSN!!!”

I’d been there four days already. Apparently when I cross the border I lose many important brain cells, even before I start drinking.

One of the things I like most about my parents’ place up north is the 365-days-a-year hockey coverage in the national media. TSN’s SportsCentre (love the spelling) program led with the NHL’s R&D Camp coverage, including a brief round table with three NHL GM’s, to discuss the proposed rules changes that were tested at the camp thus far. I have a feeling that if I had been able to watch the ESPN SportsCenter broadcast that night, they would have led with coverage of whether Chad Ochocinco had shaved his balls that morning, followed by whichever NASCAR driver had a hissy fit at qualifying, and spent exactly zero time on R&D camp.

Man, do I miss my homeland. They have their priorities in order.

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1 Bad Contract, 2 Bad Contract, 3 Bad Contract, Floor

Credit: Detroit Sports Nation

During my last appearance on the HOCKEENIGHT Puckcast, we briefly discussed the impending end of the NHL’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement following the coming season with the focus shifting mainly to the mandatory salary cap floor.

Forklift pointed out the relatively small gap between the cap ceiling ($64.3 million) and the minimum number ($48.3 million). For you math whizzes out there, that’s a $16 million difference – or the estimated amount of two high-priced studs or 3-4 second-tier players.

In the grand scheme of things, the amount separating the floor and the ceiling isn’t all that much, and I agree with Fork that forcing small-market teams to shell out dough relatively similar to those playing in high-revenue cities may, MAY (I’m emphasizing there with the all caps and the italics) do damage to those franchises.

With the ceiling and floor both rising, it has forced certain teams to take on some bad deals and overpay to simply hit the floor. For one, Dale Tallon brought to Florida Brian Campbell’s contract ($7.14 M) and signed Tomas Kopecky ($3 M), Ed Jovanovski ($4.1 M) and Tomas Fleischmann ($4.5 M) to deals which all made our acid reflux reach disheartening levels.

And yet with all that, the Panthers are barely standing on the floor. To Tallon’s defense, it was a spending spree forced upon him by the NHL’s CBA which required him to shell out these head-scratching deals.

But is that such a bad thing?

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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Blues with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford

Rather than the standard previews of Central Division foes from an outsider’s point of view, I decided to take a different approach. Behind Enemy Lines will take a look at our divisional rivals through the eyes of those invested in the team in one way or another. Today, the series concludes with the St. Louis Blues and beat writer Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Credit: Bill Boyce, AP

Bartl: One of the main questions surrounding the Blues was the health of David Perron, and it’s now known he won’t be ready to start the regular season following his November concussion. Will that have much of an impact on the team heading into the season, or were the Blues planning as if he wouldn’t be ready to go?

Rutherford: Not having David Perron in the lineup leaves the Blues without one of their top skill players and therefore hurts them, but because he missed the final 72 games of last season and most folks weren’t really expecting him to be ready, I don’t think his absence at the start of the season will have a dramatic effect. If the Blues struggle out of the gates and Perron is still out in January, it could weigh on them moreso, but they’ve been prepared to move on without him.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing Detroit with The Winged Wheel

Rather than the standard previews of Central Division foes from an outsider’s point of view, I decided to take a different approach. This week, Behind Enemy Lines will take a look at our divisional rivals through the eyes of those invested in the team in one way or another. Today, we look at the Detroit Red Wings with some good-natured, R-rated discussion followed by a great charity opportunity from Greg of The Winged Wheel.

Bartl: I’m going to get this out of the way quickly though it’s been discussed madly by pretty much everyone, but I’d like to know your opinion: Is Chris Osgood a Hall of Fame goaltender?

Greg: Abso-tittyfucking-lutely. (That’s me, all class right out of the gate). 3 rings. 400 wins. Hands-down the most mentally tough goaltender to step into the blue paint. The dude dominated throughout the playoffs, had a crazy-long career, and punched Patrick Roy in the mouth several times. That translates to one result: In.

Obviously, there are a good number of people who strongly believe that The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz does not deserve a bid to the Hall. Those people are wrong. They often cite just absurd arguments. They argue that his career was unimpressive because he played behind an outstanding team. Not so coincidentally, these arguments are usually made by fans of historically shitty teams. Your favorite barely-mediocre first line-center looks a whole lot better when you write off every player to have ever played for any team who ever came close to winning anything. These buffoons also make the argument that Osgood just isn’t of the same caliber as Roy, Sawchuck, or Brodeur. That’s kind of like saying Dino Ciccerelli is not Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, or Steve Yzerman. Well… yeah. No shit. But, he’s still in the Hall.

Long story short – Ozzie belongs in the hall of fame. You don’t luck your way into 400 wins. Period.

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The Blue Line: Cut And Dried

Photos: Bridget Samuels; Getty Images

Despite the lingering question mark about a second line center, and the wisdom of putting a completely unproven goaltender as Corey Crawford’s backup, the one place where there is little left to discuss is on defense.

To start with, there is universal agreement that John Scott’s best position is, in fact, in the press box. Or Rockford. Or Europe. Or the UFC. Or as a Walmart greeter. Anywhere but in a Blackhawks uniform between buzzers.

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Insurance Policy: Blackhawks Invite Ray Emery to Camp

Photo: AP

Wednesday afternoon the word came out on the Twitterscape that the Chicago Blackhawks had reportedly invited veteran goaltender Ray Emery to a tryout with the team at training camp in the fall. There is no contract in place, this will be a tryout only, meaning if the Blackhawks decide to pass it doesn’t cost them anything.

Ray Emery will be approaching his 29th birthday as camp gets underway. He is 6’2″, 196 lbs, and catches left. Drafted 99th overall in 2001 by the Ottawa Senators, he has also spent time with Philadelphia and Anaheim. But his career is a story of stops and starts.

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Losing Faith: Stan Bowman Mistakes Resemble Blackhawks’ Dark History

I’ve read several pieces in the last 3 weeks singing the praises of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman. Not necessarily with support for his latest moves, but spewing statements like, “There’s a reason he’s GM and you’re not,” and “He’s done a great job so far, we have no reason to doubt him.”

How quickly you forget. I, however, have not.

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Rest Your Hearts: Patrick Kane’s Injury Minor Blip In Drama-Free Offseason

The main problem I’ve had during this offseason for the Blackhawks begins and ends with my four days spent in Boston two weekends ago, when for four days I witnessed Bruins fans with hats and t-shirts bearing their latest accomplishment.

That’s it. Everything else has been smooth, even with Patrick Kane having surgery to fix a broken bone in his wrist. Compared to the Capacolypse beginning mere days after the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory, Stan Bowman has given us a very a nice 2011 summer.

To clear my opinion quickly regarding Kane’s injury, calm the flying hell down. If anything, celebrate the fact it was caught at the perfect time to fit in the requisite surgery and recovery time. I broke my wrist in high school and was back on the basketball court at full strength less than a week after the cast was removed. He’s still a kid and recovers much quicker than if, say, Andrew Brunette would if he snapped his wrist. He’ll heal, and we won’t be thinking about this anymore after he’s a point-per-game forward again this season.

It’s the little drama we’ve experienced as fans during an offseason we should be thankful for heading into the season. After Kane’s offseason from hell in 2010, we should be extra thankful he discovered an injury while working out. The Blackhawks are a better team than when Game 7 ended, and that’s what everyone should be thinking about leading up to this quiet time until training camp.

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Busy Friday: Two Signings, One Surgery, One Pla — Wait, WHAT?!?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

So here we are, just trying to enjoy the opening of the Chicago Blackhawks Convention, when we get news of some contract activity from the Blackhawks front office. But one of the names wasn’t on the roster last year. Then, the feces hit the climate control as news was released of one of the Blackhawks’ superstars going under the knife.

First, the expected (and, in fact, announced by what turned out to be a completely reliable source on Twitter Thursday night) signing of winger Michael Frolik to a 3-year, $7 million contract was made public by the Blackhawks brass. But along with that news came word that, despite GM Stan Bowman’s proclamations to the contrary, the team had been wading into the free agent waters once more.

The Blackhawks signed UFA defenseman Sami Lepisto to a one year contract worth a reported $750K. Lepisto is 6’1″, 195lbs, 27 years old, and shoots left. He was traded from the Coyotes to the Blue Jackets last season, playing in 70 games and tallying 4 goals and 12 assists with a +10 rating. Add to that 55 penalty minutes, 72 hits, 90 blocked shots. This was his second full season in the NHL, and his stats from the previous year were very similar. Lepisto became a free agent when Columbus refused to extend him a qualifying offer before the deadline.

Then in the midst of all the speculation about Chris Campoli packing his bags, the bomb dropped.

It was announced that Patrick Kane injured himself during his off-season training routine, and fractured his left scaphoid — a small bone near the long bones in his wrist.

Now is the time to come up with your best beer drinking/masturbating/punching a cabbie joke.

Done? Okay.

He will require surgery to repair the fracture, which will take place this coming Tuesday. The team physician indicates that Kane’s recovery will be complete by the time training camp starts, and he will miss no time during the pre-season or regular season.

Sorry, but this pisses me off. I’m going to withhold comment until Kane shows up training camp — or not. If he’s there, and all is well, fine. If not, put on your flak jackets.

Then, as if the waters weren’t rough enough, Bowman waltzed out in front of 100 microphones and declared that negotiations with Campoli were over, and the defenseman would be traded. A bottom-two defenseman asking for a $1 million raise and scheduled for arbitration? Yeah, good luck trading that, Stan. Especially after you tossed any leverage you have with other teams out the window by announcing that you had stopped negotiating with his agent. Smooth. You maybe should have consulted dad on this one, Sparky.

Well, holy char-broiled shit burgers. What will the team announce tomorrow? Please… Let it be nothing…

Whither Dave Bolland?

The free-agent falderall appears to be over from the Blackhawks’ point of view, which has a lot of fans puzzled, and more than a few of them pissed off. The only clear and concise declaration from GM Stan Bowman after the end of the season was that the ‘Hawks were going to acquire a big, tough center to play on the second line between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.

They did not. And by all the evidence available to the casual observer, they didn’t even try.

Failing to do so doesn’t just put the second line into question, it throws the entire top-nine forwards’ alignment into pure chaos. And so the speculation begins: what the hell are they thinking, and what will the top three lines look like when the season starts?

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Prospect Camp Wrap-Up: Wait Until Next Year

Every year the draft occurs, people get jacked up about the new crop of hungry young pups, and talk turns to which of these sled dogs will be mushing with the team straight out of camp.

Settle down, people. This year’s draft picks still aren’t weaned yet…

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Blackhawks Sign Stalberg: Are we happy about this?

Photo: Mark Piscotty/Getty Images

On Sunday the Blackhawks announced that they had signed restricted free-agent winger Viktor Stalberg to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.75 million. Terms of the deal are believed to be $875K/year, though that has not been officially confirmed as yet.

Stalberg was one of three restricted free-agents still to be signed, and one of two that had filed for arbitration. The contract terms represent a raise of just $25K per year for Stalberg, likely a token amount so his agent could say that he got him something. The arbitration results were unlikely to get him much more.

So, okay, nice deal for the Blackhawks. Under $1 million was likely what they were shooting for, and they got that for two years instead of just one — which the arbitration award would have been had it gone to that stage. But Stalberg is another winger, one of 9 now under contract, and that assumes Patrick Sharp plays center and we don’t re-sign Michael Frolik. We’re overcrowded at this position: where does Viktor Stalberg fit in?

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Prospect Camp Preview: Who’s The Next Star?

The Chicago Blackhawks are holding their annual Prospect Camp starting today and running through Monday at Johnny’s Ice House West from 10am – 1:30pm (roughly). Sessions are open to the public, and I do suggest getting there somewhat early — seats are very limited, and they fill up quickly!

For those of you who are going to see any of the on-ice sessions this weekend, we thought we would put up a who-to-watch-out-for post here to give you at least some idea of who is likely to stand out.

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Free-Agent Signings: Now What?

All right, here we are.

Stan Bowman made his free-agent moves early. His choices most likely knew exactly where they wanted to go and exactly what the Blackhawks would be offering (not that I’m suggesting Stan, or ANY of the NHL GM’s were tampering at all, noooooo…). Then Stan took the long weekend off. With the exception of Steven Stamkos, the big fish have all been caught and eaten.

The “Free-Agent Frenzy” is over. Now, the actual work begins.

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Numbers Game: Newest Blackhawks’ Uniform Numbers

Here’s a quick update for those of you who missed the announcement by the Blackhawks late Tuesday. The newest members of the Blackhawks have chosen their jersey numbers for the 2011-12 season.

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Honoring Norval Nelson, a True American Hero, on Independence Day

Norval Nelson with Jim Cornelison (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ciepley)

When fan of the site Jennifer Ciepley contacted me back in April about her husband’s 92-year-old grandfather, I was touched with a wonderful story about a man who is the true definition of an American hero.

Before Game 6 against the Vancouver Canucks, World War II veteran Norval Nelson stood next to Anthem singer Jim Cornelison as the crowd cheered every word. Jennifer gave me the story behind Mr. Nelson, and I felt the need to write a post detailing his experiences as one of the few surviving U.S. Navy divers during the D-Day invasion June 6, 1944.

Jennifer informed me through email Mr. Nelson died Saturday, surrounded by his three daughters after passing away peacefully in his sleep.

Mr. Nelson’s family likely won’t forget the night he was able to be honored by the Chicago Blackhawks’ wonderful tradition, and Jennifer wrote of how much fun Mr. Nelson had that evening.

Here’s to a true American hero. Thank you for everything, Mr. Nelson.

Have a fun and safe 4th, everyone.

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