A thought crossed my mind last week. We sit here writing about this and that, and our readers loyally glance over our opinions and our pieces each and every day, but we (or at least I) have never opened up the floor to the fans to ask questions.
Earlier this week, I posted an update on Joel Quenneville’s Mustache giving fans an opportunity to ask any questions they want about the Blackhawks, hockey, or life in general.
I spent the next few days answering some of these questions, and picking a few of them to share with the world on Cheer the Anthem. So, without further ado, here are your questions:
Both Ed and I had planned to get this to you before Johnny Oduya suited up in a game, but his schedule dealing with the trade deadline and a game that same night kept him from getting back to me at lightening speed. I know, how dare him focus on his beat writer job for a team currently fighting for a playoff spot.
Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press again was gracious enough to take time out to help us get a look into Oduya’s time in Winnipeg. He played his first game with the Blackhawks last night after Stan Bowman sent a second- and third-round pick for the upcoming unrestricted free agent at Monday’s deadline, playing nearly 20 minutes.
Here’s Oduya’s career breakdown:
Shortly after sending my his answers while I was sitting in my seat at the UC, Ed sent me an email saying, “Ouch. Looks like Oduya was a -3 in that period.” Luckily, it got better.
Here’s what Ed had to say, and thanks again to him for taking the time…
I was able to trade emails with Mike Doyle of Wild.com to help figure out why in the hell the Minnesota Wild are actually atop the NHL standings. Here’s what he had to say:
Bartl: The Wild seem to be surprising everyone but themselves this season, leading the Western Conference despite a host of new players and a first-year coach. What has been the main reason for the turnaround, and how different of a team is this from last year’s squad?
Doyle: Well, I wasn’t working for the Wild last season and some people have tried to make that connection, but I have to give credit to the other Mike in the Wild organization.
Coach Mike Yeo has this team focused and there is a belief from top to bottom that if the Wild sticks to its game plan, the team can beat anyone. Other teams say that they are tough to play against because they don’t breakdown or give up a lot of opportunities.
To start the season, there was a lot of excitement with the off-season acquisitions and a new coach, and that enthusiasm has continued into the season. Yeo was able to get the veterans to buy into the system immediately. This team truly doesn’t seem to care who gets the credit, just as long as the team wins, and that might be the thing that has propelled the turnaround from last season.
Quick preview today, as Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) of the Boston Globe was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding tonight’s Blackhawks-Bruins matchup at the United Center.
Bartl: The Bruins have gotten off to a slow start coming off the Stanley Cup victory, which is something the fans in Chicago know quite well. Do you buy into the theory of a “Stanley Cup Hangover,” or is their current play on the ice something which can be easily corrected?
Shinzawa: Yes, I believe in the hangover. Season is far too long. Bruins started last year with exhibition games in Northern Ireland and Czech Republic. Ended on June 15. Too little time to recharge mental batteries. More mental than physical. That said, they’re not far off. They need to play with emotion to be at their best. That engagement has been spotty.
Bartl: Aside from the slow starts from indiviual players, David Krejci is battling an injury suffered in practice Tuesday and will not travel to Chicago. How will his absence have an effect on the matchup with the Blackhawks?
Shinzawa: Tyler Seguin will play in Krejci’s place. That line has been so-so. They should get plenty of reps as they try to find their rhythm. Julien likes rolling four lines. That won’t change with Krejci out.
Bartl: The ‘Hawks started slow Thursday, but ended up dominating most of the game from the eight-minute mark on. What must Boston do to slow down the Blackhawks’ attack in order counter that with an attack of their own?
Shinzawa: Bruins will want to be physical against Chicago. Get pucks deep, establish forecheck, limit opposing puck possession.
Remember these guys? Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien make their return to the United Center since being dealt in salary dumps following the 2009-10 Stanley Cup run. After one middling season in Atlanta, the two are a part of the NHL’s long overdue return to Winnipeg, with Ladd donning the ‘C’ and Byfuglien carrying some new paper.
Here to help me preview the Jets is Winnipeg Free Press beat writer Ed Tait, who discusses the atmosphere in Winnipeg, the Jets still being the Atlanta Thrashers, and the two former Blackhawks. Enjoy!
Bartl: First thing, can you talk about the atmosphere in Winnipeg for the season opener and how the fans and players alike are embracing having hockey back in the city?
Tait: The season opener was like no other sporting event I’ve covered. There was a variety of different emotions shown by fans and players, from pure euphoria to sadness during the pre-game memorial to Rick Rypien. I saw grown men crying tears of joy, the Canadian national anthem has arguably never been sung louder in these parts and the MTS Centre concourse was jammed with people three hours before the opening face-off. The whole event had the feel of opening night and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final morphed into one. The cool thing for fans now is this: after this road trip to Chicago and Phoenix the next home game is against Pittsburgh and everyone has their fingers crossed Sidney Crosby is back on the ice.
Bartl: Eventually, the excitement of having hockey back will turn to wanting competitive hockey. Do the fans realize they’re still cheering for the Atlanta Thrashers, who have yet to win a playoff game? Will the fans be a bit lenient with them this season?
The season opener(s) is upon us, and to help preview the home-and-home with the Dallas Stars is ESPNDallas.com’s Mark Stepneski, who discusses last season’s letdown, the departure of Brad Richards and the Stars’ gameplan for the weekend against the Blackhawks.
Bartl: After missing the playoffs on the final day of the season and allowing the Blackhawks to sneak in, has there been any talk around the team about that near miss providing added motivation for this season, or has the team moved on?
Stepneski: I think missing the playoffs for a third straight season is a big motivation. But the sense I get from the team is that this season is kind of a fresh start. There’s a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan and several new players have been added via free agency. Not many in the national media are giving them much of a chance – hardly anyone is picking them to make the playoffs – and that is providing a little extra motivation as well.
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.
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.
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, it’s the Columbus Blue Jackets with Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Disptach.
Bartl: One of the biggest surprises of the free agency period – especially to Blackhawks fans – was the 6-year, $33 million contract the Blue Jackets gave to defenseman James Wisniewski. From what we saw in Chicago out of Wisniewski, it’s tough for us to justify such a contract. Why do you feel Columbus targeted Wisniewski from the get-go by trading for his rights? Did the Blue Jackets overpay? What does he need to contribute in order to live up to that deal?
Portzline: It’s only right that fans in Chicago were perplexed by the contract given to Wisniewski. Fans in his many previous stops were probably perplexed, too. Is it too much term? Sure. Is it too much money? Yep. But here’s two points to consider: 1. that’s what free agency is … too much term and too much money. 2. scarcity was the rule in this year’s free agent class with respect to defensemen who could provide scoring. Wisniewski had a banner year in 2010-11 and the Blue Jackets do not believe it was a fluke. They needed a defenseman with toughness and power play acumen, and he provides both.
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.
Last night, I had the pleasure of making another appearance on the PUCKCAST with The Writer Known as Forklift and his partner in crime, CT. We discussed many things – CBA, realignment, Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith’s muscles, non-hockey topics – but mainly how much I hate America, given my Fox News appearance.
Enjoy the hour-plus banter and be less productive at work by listening through.
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, it’s the Nashville Predators and Dirk Hoag, who runs the fantastic blog, On the Forecheck
Bartl: The major development surrounding the Predators quite obviously was the Shea Weber arbitration award, which set a new record. However, the situation dragged on for a good amount of time, with each side very far off on their requested salary. With no long-term contract, does this situation become a distraction for Weber or the team during the season?
Dirk: Absolutely, this will be a distraction hanging over the team until some long-term resolution is found. You can bet that media will ask about this situation in every NHL city the Preds visit, and the Canadian media in particular will speculate often about how their Olympic hero would look great playing north of the border. When the going gets tough during the season, Weber’s captaincy will naturally come into question – how does it look when your team leader couldn’t even agree on a one-year contract with the team? All those questions and more will be fair game.
Blackhawks-Canucks III begins Wednesday, with the hated rivals set to do battle once again. To gain a bit more insight into the opponent, I traded emails with Vancouver Sun beat writer, Brad Ziemer, who has done a fantastic job of covering the Canucks.
Ziemer gives us his thoughts on the the differences between previous Vancouver teams, the resurgence of Roberto Luongo, the keys to the series and his prediction.
You may not enjoy his answers.
Bartl: Everyone knows the playoff history between the Blackhawks and Canucks. They don’t like each other. However, Vancouver enters this series as the favorite while the Blackhawks are backing in with a bit of luck. What are some noticeable differences from this year’s Canucks team and the two previous teams which lost to Chicago?
Ziemer: This is a much more confident and mature Canuck team. Guys like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, who used to waste much of their energy trash-talking and getting involved in scrums, have for the most part stuck to hockey this season. The team is also much deeper on defence. They enter the playoffs with their top six defencemen all healthy for the first time all season.
Welcome back to the return of Behind Enemy Lines! Today, Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald answers a few questions regarding the Flames’ surge up the Western Conference standings, the previous three matchups this season and the resurgence of Jarome Iginla.
It’s clear Vicki put a lot of thought into her answers. If this is one interview you read all the way through, make sure it’s this one.
Bartl: The fluctuating Western Conference standings reordered again Tuesday with Calgary’s win against St. Louis, moving the Flames back ahead of the Blackhawks. Can you shed some light on how Calgary has responded to what’s at stake with each game as it shoots to return to the postseason?
Hall: The Flames have basically been fighting for their playoff lives since Christmas. Seriously. They languished in 14th place at the time and had little, if any, chance of clawing back into the race. Somehow, they’ve done just that by breaking the season into three-game segments and pledging to win at least two out of every three. They’ve accomplished that goal, thus far, but much work remains.
Click the jump for the rest of the Q&A
Welcome to a special follow-up edition of Behind Enemy Lines. Today we get the perspective of St. Louis Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, who covers the team for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jeremy had a busy weekend and it gets busier tonight, with the Blues playing their fourth game in five nights. He was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Click the jump for the Q&A with Jeremy Rutherford
Aaron Portzline, the beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch, was kind enough to answer a few of Bartl’s questions before tonight’s Blackhawks-Blue Jackets matchup at the United Center. Much like Wednesday, playoff positioning is the story as we get into the stretch run. You can check out Aaron’s coverage on the Puck-Rakers Blog on the Dispatch’s website. Enjoy!
Click the jump for the Q&A with Aaron Portzline
Plus a bunch more. Have a listen and get a laugh rather than killing your boss while you hate your job today.
The tragic passing of former Chicago Blackhawk and legendary enforcer Bob Probert brought out the soft side in some of his fondest sparring partners.
Ken Daneyko referred to Probert as a “teddy bear” off the ice, and Tie Domi has spoken nothing but kind words since learning of Probert’s death. They shared his personal struggles and related to Probert, knowing Probert dropped the gloves far less times to throw fists on the ice than he did to wage wars with himself off it.
Stu Grimson needed some time to compose himself after learing of Probert’s death, remembering Probert as a man he fought relentlessly during his career then developed a relationship with after hanging up the skates.
“Bob was both a friend and a foe,” Grimson said through e-mail from Nashville. “he was my fiercest rival on the ice, but I was able to get to know him more after we retired.”
The two bonded during a trip to Afghanistan when they visited Canadian troops a few years back.
“I was really fond of Bob,” Grimson said. “He was a great guy. The hockey family will miss him, though not nearly as much as his young family. This is tragic news.”
The Blackhawks honored Probert with a Heritage Night on February 22, 2009.
Here’s a video montage of some of Probert’s best fights. RIP, Bob.