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.
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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.
There was a time when Blackhawks fans questioned the signing of Dan Carcillo, fearing his off-the-cuff antics would eventually lead to some potentially damaging incident that validated all the concerns.
After the man appropriately nicknamed CarBomb proved everyone right, Stan Bowman went ahead and re-upped him for two more years, putting fans back in the same worrisome position.
Oh, and he got a raise at that.
Carcillo managed to pack a season’s worth of drama into a mere 28 games – a number cut short by suspensions and a season-ending injury that came while making an illegal hit he’s bound to repeat down the road.
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.
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.