The NHL owners made good on their threat to wait out the Players Association today, canceling the first 82 games of its season. The first of the games called was scheduled next week with 4 games on October 11th. You all know the story by now, of course. The NHLPA and the NHL cannot figure out how best to split a staggering 3 billion dollar pot. Both sides, of course, claim to be looking out for the best interests of the fans. The players are probably closer to the right in this instance, but it wasn’t all that long ago that their belligerence cost us a season. Both sides have now shown a willingness and ability to be stubborn and petty. The players seven years ago, management today. I’m pretty apathetic at this point.
The Blackhawks will miss a lame opening night with Columbus, but will also miss their first trip to Winnipeg, which could explain why Jonathan Toews sounded so pissed off today. Games with Detroit, St. Louis and a potentially exciting Colorado team are gone too. Nobody has any idea what a season will look like due to the massive uncertainty. so who knows if these games will ever be made up. Probably not. Who knows.
Thank the Risen Lord for Thursday Night Football every week this year.
Blackhawks Prospect Camp 2012 gets underway today, offering fans who are willing to stand in a pretty cold ice rink for a few hours the chance to see the next generation of Chicago Blackhawks. The boys have arrived and have completed their physicals and fitness testing, and they’ll be taking to the ice during the lunch hour today at Johnny’s Ice House West, 2550 West Madison Street, in Chicago.
The full Prospect Camp roster is available here, with the on-ice schedule for all five days here. Prospect Camp is free, and open to the public. If you’re serious about going, go at least a half-hour before the guys take the ice. There is VERY limited seating, and it goes fast.
In all, 52 players will be on the ice during camp, usually divided into 2 groups either for practice or scrimmage. There is a Team A and a Team B, one would expect each to contain 22 skaters and 4 goaltenders. There will be practices Monday through Thursday, and scrimmage days are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
With so many players — more than a third of whom are not even the property of the Blackhawks — how do you know who is worth watching? I’ve narrowed the field for you below: you’ll get the most “bang for your buck” by paying attention to the following 12 players.
I’ll give it to you straight: the Blackhawks did a whole lot of NUFFIN’ on Tuesday, and with Wednesday being 4th of July, expect a complete black hole of free-agent signings until Thursday at the earliest.
Blackhawks’ rumored free agent target Zach Parise was interviewed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo while getting off a plane at the airport in the Twin Cities, and Parise indicated that he and his fiancee were going to hammer out a decision face to face. No timetable was given for making that decision, and then he vanished.
The other major free agent that the Blackhawks don’t appear to be involved with, Ryan Suter, announced that he would not be making a decision today.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ activity level on Day 2 of free agency was even more depressing than it was on Day 1, if you can believe that. Not one signing was announced, one possible target signed elsewhere, and another perpetrated the troll of the summer on the hockey media and those following along via the Twitterscape.
And unfortunately, none of the big names did anything either, further clogging the pipes in the already stopped up basement toilet that is the 2012 free agent signing period.
The first day of NHL free agency is like Christmas for fans of any team. Last year, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman was very active right out of the gate, gift wrapping several key role players within the first 3 hours. That flurry of activity gave Blackhawks fans hope for a pony under the tree on July 1st, 2012; but instead fans will have to settle for a hamster.
There were teams holding multiple first-round picks, teams looking to move disgruntled stars, teams looking to shed salary, and teams looking to improve their draft position. The 2012 NHL Entry Draft had all the makings of a first-round free-for-all — and for once, it did not disappoint!
Even before the first 10 picks were in the books, there were players and picks flying all over the room. Jordan Staal sent to Carolina for Brandon Sutter and the Hurricanes’ 1st round pick; Lubomir Visnovsky traded from the Ducks to the Islanders; Mike Ribiero went from Dallas to Washington.
And Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman was smack dab in the middle of all the action…
One concussion, one car accident, one too many moguls, one too many beers, one of any number of things can deep-six your carefully-chosen and highly-coveted first round selection in the NHL draft. In some ways, the pick has more value before it turns into a living, breathing human being: because once it is, you’re stuck with it — and whatever happens to it.
So in some ways, your first round pick is kind of like shooting skeet while blindfolded. You do your best and prepare carefully, but in the end your success rate depends just as much on luck and fate as it does on anything else.
When presented in that light, maybe we’re taking this draft business a little too seriously. But let’s face it: most of us aren’t interested in seeing who the Blackhawks pick with their #18 selection; we’re hoping that some deal gets done during the draft that changes the ‘Hawks roster, or draft position, or both. So let’s explore some possibilities.
Breaking down Patrick Kane’s season by looking at his end-of-year totals is impossible. All you see is the fact that his goals, assists, and points were all down against the last 2 years. The story of the boy’s season is much more intricate, and it all started last summer when a certain Blackhawks executive who shall remain nameless (but whose name rhymes with “Dan Showman”) decided to cover up his inability to obtain a second-line center, and in the process throw a wrench into Kane’s season.
In short, Kane was put in a position to fail, and I don’t hold him responsible for his statistical slump. It’s most demonstrably the fault of the guy who has never played a single minute of time in the NHL.
When the season ended, the five of us here at Cheer The Anthem held a “draft” of sorts, to determine who did which player’s evaluation. A couple of rounds went by and I saw that nobody had picked Patrick Kane yet. So I said, “Okay, sure, why not.”
That was late April.
Now, regretting that decision, I decided to separate this evaluation into two parts — to dispense with the off-ice shenanigans and trade discussion up front, then on Monday we’ll talk about how Kane plays hockey.
* * * * *
We’ve all seen the pictures and read the articles about Patrick Kane’s Cinco de Mayo visit to Madison, Wisconsin, so I’m not going to re-live the experience with you now. But from this we know three things: first, the kid is a binge drinker, if not an actual alcoholic; second, that this behavior has established itself as a pattern over the last 3 summers; and third, that he is to the point where he needs help. Arguing with these points is merely denying reality and making excuses for a kid who doesn’t need people to make excuses for him anymore.
Part two of the dynamic duo called up in 2012 is Jimmy Hayes. I had really high hopes for this kid this season, but his presence was merely a teaser of his future potential on the Blackhawks, as well as a potentially promising indication of what’s to come.
I have a soft-spot in my heart for the big guy. For one thing, he’s American. Secondly, he is 22 years old. Lastly, and most importantly, Jimmy’s frame is built to bruise. Standing 6’6″ tall and weighing in at over 220 lbs, Jimmy has the body to hit and hit hard.
Jimmy started the season strong, scoring 2 points in his first three professional games. He netted 2 points in three different games for the Hawks. Not bad for a kid playing just above 10:00 per game on the season. Hayes started the season as a top line forward and netted 7 points in his first 10 NHL games.
Unfortunately, Hayes was a part of the player carousel that the Blackhawks had going this season, and it prevented him from developing any sort of offensive consistency, dropping in the depth chart towards the end of the season.