On the surface, a No. 8 seed and first-round playoff exit seems downright horrific following a Stanley Cup championship a year earlier.
Dig deeper, sift through the preseason overhaul due to cap constraints, and you’ll likely find the Blackhawks’ 2010-11 season most deemed a miscarriage may not be so terrible after all.
The 97 points are more than any No. 8 seed since the NHL did away with divisional playoffs and the Campbell and Prince of Wales conferences prior to the 1993-94 season. That stretch includes the shootout era which began after the 2004-05 lockout, guaranteeing one team will receive two points in every game on the league’s schedule.
That’s nothing to apologize for in my book, especially since a victory over Detroit on the regular season’s final day would have given the Blackhawks the No. 5 seed. If you want to talk numbers, then look at them all – One more win, and there may have been a lot less complaining from the fan base.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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…
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?
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.