Fancy seeing you here. How’s everything going?
Most Chicagoans will remember Atlanta as “Chicago South” following the off-season roster-wide flea market that arose due to salary cap constraints. Atlanta worked trades to acquire forwards Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Andrew Ladd, as well as defenseman Brent Sopel and prospect Akim Aliu. So the Blackhawks will see a lot of familiar faces staring back at them across the face-off circle.
So how are our former Stanley Cup winning heroes doing in A-Town? Quite well, as it turns out. Byfuglien had most of his success in a Blackhawks uniform on the wing, but the Thrashers are using him both in that role as well as on defense. The dual role seems to suit him: he leads the team with 12 points, and is second on the squad with 5 goals.
Ladd shares the most-points distinction, and is having what some NHL pundits have already called a “career year.” Leading the team with goals is second-year pro Evander Kane (no relation), who is on a pace to nearly triple his scoring totals from his rookie season. Also showing his teeth at pivot is long-time Maple Leafs disappointment Nik Antropov, who actually has the trophy for team’s biggest player at 6′ 6″, 245 lbs. When you have Byfuglien on your team, that’s really saying something.
The Thrashers have had their ups and downs. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec went temporarily tits-up during a stoppage of play in the season opener. One second he was standing there, a face-off about to occur at the other end of the ice; the next, BAM! Out like a light.
Pavelec was removed on a stretcher, kept for several days at the hospital, and doctors were unable to find any serious or potentially lethal cause for the momentary lapse of vertical stability. I guess that’s good news, but if they can’t find the cause, what’s to stop it from happening again?
Where this team is not performing well is defense. They hold second-to-last place in the league with 46 goals allowed in just 12 games, and the best +/- rating on the entire team is a +2. The aforementioned Antropov holds the basement in that category with a -9.
Chris Mason holds down the fort in net, though his 3.45 GAA is not what you’d call impressive. Let’s hope the Blackhawks take that opportunity to light the lamp in a humiliating fashion.
Because, in case you haven’t noticed, they are not doing so of late. Apart from Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, the highest individual goal total on the squad is 4 for the year. That’s Patrick Kane’s number; Jonathan Toews has 3; and the rest of the supporting cast is not contributing nearly as much as they should be.
Defensively things are more stable after Brian Campbell’s return, but still not excellent. Goaltending is starting to slip a bit, as Marty Turco may be starting to show signs of wear. The threshhold is 3 goals: when the opponent scores 3 or more, we lose. If they score 2 or fewer, we win. So be on the lookout for that.
Last game’s throw-up-your-hands-and-pray-for-a-miracle coaching decision was to put both Jordan Hendry and John Scott up on the wing, which (as anybody could have guessed) was a catastrophic failure of a magnitude not seen since the Alpo Suhonen era.
Look it up. You’ll get a chuckle.
So this morning the Blackhawks recalled rookie forward Jeremy Morin from Rockford. This, as you’ll recall, is the speedy winger who seemed to gel quite nicely with Patrick Kane during the pre-season, but was handed a Greyhound ticket due to salary cap issues. Morin will be making his NHL debut against the Thrashers: let’s hope it’s a memorable one, for the right reasons.
Game time is 6:00pm. WGN has the TV broadcast this time, and radio as well on AM-720. XM subscribers should look for channel 207.
I know. The Blackhawks are 23 days removed from winning the Stanley Cup, and Stan Bowman is crossing faces off the team photo like Ace Ventura. It’s a lot to handle for ‘Hawks fans to see pieces of a championship team sent packing by management for financial reasons.
Nobody wanted to see it, yet everyone expected it. Now, nobody wants to accept it. Well, get over it. Panic all you want, but you knew this was coming — and there may be more, too.
The Atlanta Blackhawks Thrashers will sport at least five Stanley Cup rings next season with Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and now Andrew Ladd (who has another ring with Carolina). Combine those departures with the trades of Kris VERSTEEG! to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colin Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers, then add Adam Burish’s defection to the Dallas Stars, and you’ve got the recipe for one hostile fan base.
Yes, the Blackhawks are ridding themselves of salary by dumping it on other teams at cost of losing contributors to a Stanley Cup champion. But to compare the ‘Hawks to the Florida Marlins, who broke apart two World Series championship teams? C’mon.
From Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski:
Worst Dismantling: The trade of Andrew Ladd to the Atlanta Thrashers marks the sixth player from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to be traded this offseason. The Florida Marlins comparisons are starting to inch toward validity.
I normally agree with 90 percent of what Wyshynski writes. But to use the word “validity” in regards to the comparison is down right ridiculous. Trading players is one thing, but the Blackhawks have their core intact — something the Marlins failed to do. If this was meant as a joke, great. It should have been mentioned as such.
If any of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa or Brent Seabrook were sent packing, then the comparison could be “valid.” Count Patrick Sharp, Antti Niemi and Niklas Hjalmarsson as large pieces of the puzzle who are staying in Chicago to defend the title, and you’re still looking at a hell of a contender.
The main point is this: I’m not sure if the Blackhawks are a worse team with these subtractions. The hockey world lauded the ‘Hawks depth last season and through the playoffs. A team with depth can rid itself of some spare parts. Replacing the aforementioned traded commodities with suitable NHL-ready players whose names may not be as familiar isn’t such a bad thing. People forget they complained about Byfuglien and Versteeg during roughly 50 regular season games. Because they scored some goals in the playoffs means they’re irreplaceable? Gimme a break.
Before everyone blows a fart in the direction of Stan Bowman’s face, they should do a bit of research. Byfuglien was once your whipping boy for being lazy, and Versteeg was an unknown until he came out of nowhere as a regular and Calder Trophy finalist two years ago.
What’s to say the next wave of role players can’t win your heart? After all, the Marlins dismantled their ENTIRE roster and won another World Series. The Blackhawks are letting go of replaceable assets, not the core. In my book, this is still the best team in the Western Conference, hands down.