The 2012 NHL trade deadline was awash in armchair quarterbacking, as is usually the case; but this year, nobody could agree on what the Blackhawks needed to add to the mix. There were advocates for replacing nearly every position on the ice, including misinformed Moneyball disciples treating players like futures contracts and suggesting that “Jonathan Toews‘ trade value has never been higher!”
Please, go launch a hostile takeover or something. Come at me with that nonsense, I’ll implant your graphing calculator in your pancreas — the fun way.
As it turns out, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman showed his impotence, failing to acquire the 2nd-line center that fans and media pundits had been unanimously clamoring for since 2010. He also added another “Who?” on the blue line, and unpleasant memories of The Chris Campoli Incident flashed before our eyes. Thank goodness Johnny Oduya turned out to be a far better bet, though his first 20 minutes in a Blackhawks uniform didn’t help to ease our fears one bit…
Any way you look at it, old stats, new stats, eye test or whatever, the Blackhawks goaltending was their area of greatest need in 2011-12. They had a pretty good back-up goaltender, but we’ll get to him later. The guy making starter money had a 2.76 GAA and a .903 SV%. His even-strength save percentage was .915. Crawford was in the bottom third of the league in just about every goalie stat out there and dead last in shutouts along with his partner. During the 9 game skid, when nothing was going right, the goalies were the most culpable sources for blame. Crawford looked like he needed to be chained to his net. We can use all the excuses and cliches like sophomore slump, but the fact is he didn’t have a good season. There’s also the chance he can find himself somewhere in the middle of his past two years in the coming season though, too.
The Rat doesn’t need any introduction. Let’s get right to it!
After Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, you’d be hard pressed to find a Blackhawk who is asked to do more than Dave Bolland (okay, maybe Jonathan Toews) night in and night out. Whether it’s anchoring their most important line, killing penalties or playing on the power play, he does it all, and he does it all pretty damn well. This season, Bolland was once again asked to shoulder the burden of shutting down other teams top lines, and as usual, he delivered. The 200 ft game Bolland (he played tougher minuets than anyone) can and does bring to the table is a major factor in the success of this hockey team – especially in the playoffs. As usual, Bolland was a mainstay on the penalty kill (which was awful) and led the team with 3 shorthanded goals, which really wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was the fact that he ended up tied for 2nd on the team with 7 power play goals. His 10 special teams goals were 2nd on the Blackhawks behind Marian Hossa. Another reason everyone loves Bolland : the playoffs! His performance was criticized in some quarters, but I thought that line was the most consistent and effective the Blackhawks had. I shudder to think what the Phoenix series would have ended up looking like without Bolland, along with Bickell (which probably says something about the ‘Hawks).
We should have seen this coming. Specifically, we should have taken Florida Panthers’ fans seriously when they echoed our, “Ha-ha, you got Skille!” chants with, “Ha-ha, you got Frolik!” Apparently the scouts on both teams had mad cow disease when doing the assessments on these guys. Like just watching them play wasn’t enough to make them walk away for good.
But at least Florida regained its common sense in the off-season. Whereas Jack Skille got re-signed at $825K, our intrepid StanBow somehow thought Michael Frolik was worth nearly double his salary from the previous two years, and on a 3-year contract to boot. Once the ink dried on that deal, it was very obvious who got the better of this trade.
And then the 2011-12 season started…
A Blackhawks coach is leaving Chicago, but it’s not Joel Quenneville – yet.
The ‘Hawks fired assistant coach Mike Haviland on Tuesday in a surprising move few saw coming. It’s pretty safe to assume the first head on the chopping block would have been Mike Kitchen, given his responsibilities with the horribly bad special teams.
Al Cimaglia wrote recently he heard Haviland had an “unwritten promise” to succeed Coach Q, but that sure doesn’t seem to be the case now. I’m assuming Haviland was just as surprised as we are.
Then again, the Blackhawks needed a fall guy for another disappointing playoff “run,” and rather than Kitchen, Q decided to let go of supposedly his right-hand man.
So, in a matter of months Haviland went from being a finalist for the Winnipeg job to unemployed. Seems like a tough break.
We’ll be back with an update once we hear from those who made the decision.
There’s plenty of discussions regarding the Blackhawks’ financial situation and the money tied up in either under-performing players or long contracts currently on the roster.
But along with Jonathan Toews, some of the Blackhawks’ most wisely spent money is being given to Patrick Sharp – and he proved it once again with another solid season.
The Handsome One underwent an emergency appendectomy in the offseason, welcomed his first child into the world Dec. 10 – then scored the next night against San Jose – missed eight games because of a broken wrist suffered against Detroit on Jan. 8, played through the break the rest of the season, and still finished with a team-leading 33 goals.
He may have had a rough playoff series, but what Blackhawk didn’t?
I wanted to like you. Really, I did. But 27 points in 78 games isn’t anything to write home about. The Chicago Blackhawks paid Andrew Brunette just under $75K per point this season. I do recall hearing something of quite the winning ways for the Hawks when Brunette’s name showed up on the scoresheet. The problem was, it wasn’t showing up there nearly enough. This is the 2nd biggest lemon of Stan Bowman’s first offseason with the Blackhawks behind only Michael Frolik in my opinion. Brunette was supposed to supply powerplay net presence and we all know that the Chicago powerplay would have had to improve to be terrible this season. At even strength, he never really had a fit here because he wasn’t quick enough to keep up with the puck possession play of a fast moving team. He was the most frustrating player for me to watch this past year.
With 2012 just five days old and #ShawFacts unborn, the Blackhawks’ fan base sounded like a group of owls, collectively yelling “Who?!” after hearing Andrew Shaw was being called up from Rockford.
The little-known fifth-round draft pick wasn’t expected to be in the Blackhawks’ plans this season or even next season, depending on who you ask. Hell, I challenge most of you to even recall the ‘Hawks drafting him.
But there was Shaw, a 180-pound ball of energy unexpectedly ready to make an impact.
And from his first game, that’s exactly what he did. Shaw provided the grit and tenacity we’d hoped to see from more experienced players while also packing a scoring punch. Sure, there are deficiencies in his game. He has plenty to learn, and that aggressiveness he showed ended up costing him in the playoffs, but Shaw provided a pleasant surprise for the ‘Hawks by getting an early jump on his career.
Ahh, Bryan Bickell. If you’re the type of fan who has bemoaned the ‘Hawks lack of grit and toughness the past two seasons, you probably fucking hate Bryan Bickell. You tell anyone who will listen what a softy he is – ugly too!
There is little question that through two full seasons, Bickell has been a disappointment in a few categories. As a young 6’4 forward with a decent shot, the Blackhawks envisioned Bickell being a big part of replacing what players like Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager brought to the ‘Hawks forecheck in the years leading up to the Cup victory. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, even though I would argue that he hasn’t been exactly been a flop either.
When the Blackhawks signed veteran winger Jamal Mayers in the off-season, I thought it was the best acquisition they made. 12-year veteran, decent size, decent speed, enough grit and gristle to be useful. Sure, past his prime. But for the price we signed him at, he might chip in for 10 goals and 15 assists and provide some veteran leadership on the 3rd or 4th lines.
Those totals didn’t materialize (6G + 9A, and zippo in the playoffs), but we got a healthy dose of what Mayers was made of in the first 15 games of the season. Before the campaign was a month old he had 2 goals, including a game-winner, plus 2 helpers; and was getting an average of one shot on goal each night. He also took it upon himself to beat the crap out of no fewer than 5 guys. He was the only Blackhawk who registered a fighting major until Daniel “CarBomb” Carcillo went nuts during the Vancouver game on November 6th. Mayers was doing all of this while logging an average of only 10 minutes of ice time a night.
So now the season is over, and Mayers is a free agent. He was, arguably, the best investment Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman made — dollar for dollar — in the 2011 off-season. Hard not to pass on that kind of success again…