There’s been a bit of a hiatus on the site as we focused on our personal lives in the offseason. Leave it to us to start writing when the league is locked out.
I simply can’t be angry. I’ve tried, honestly. I tried to raise my voice and attempted to flail my arms around like a 70-year-old Italian woman telling a story. I even clenched my teeth once when I’d finally heard enough of about the yet-to-be-clearly-defined “hockey-related revenue.”
None of it takes. I’m just trying to cover up my sadness and disappointment that the NHL has been taken away from me, from us. My subconscious knows it.
The main problem? I don’t know where to direct my anger, and that simply depresses me. The owners, the players, Donald Fehr, Gary Bettman. They’re all guilty. Every last one of them. How do I pick a side when they’re all arguing over my money? And that’s exactly what they’re arguing over – our money, the almighty dollar.
The money we invested into attending games, buying merchandise and whatever else to help make the fourth of four major sports in America – where 23 of the 30 teams call home and where the last 18 Stanley Cup champs reside – grow by billions of dollars over the course of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement.
We watched the NFL lose a traditional offseason and the NBA cancel a chunk of its campaign over money, and we hoped the NHL would be better than that, recognizing it’s place among the sports food chain and knowing the risk of losing the casual fan that’s on their way to becoming knowledgeable because of growing interest.
We’re already living in a world where “record growth” is equivalent to “the Stanley Cup Final having less viewers than “Swamp People.” Take that as you wish – even though I personally don’t care – but less fans means less money for everyone.
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.
Stan Bowman took his shot(s) and missed, accomplishing a lot more than it seems most of the fan base thought he would.
The Blackhawks’ GM apparently made strong offers to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to obtain the services of one or both of the most sought-after free agents of this year’s class, but they eventually chose to start anew with the Minnesota Wild and sign identical 13-year, $98 million contracts.
Suter seemed the logical choice given the ‘Hawks struggles on defense last season, and a pursuit of Parise was something that would’ve intrigued us at best. As it turns out, landing Parise was more likely than getting Suter to don the Indian head.
Such is life in the world of high-priced free agency.
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.
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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.