End of Season Reviews: Jamal Mayers

Photo: Chicago Tribune

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…

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Things are Gonna Get Easier

Adrian Aucoin participating in second-round playoff hockey for a team that resides in the desert seems about as likely as him being captain for the Blackhawks. Unfoturnely, both have happened.

Well, maybe they won’t. I don’t know. They’re definitely going to be different, though. Right?

Basically, there are a lot of questions marks for Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks’ roster in the offseason, and with hockey still being played in places like Hollywood, the desert and whatever the hell you want to call New Jersey, attempting to make sense of it all seems futile.

What we will do, however, is discuss the good and the bad among last season’s contributors and disappointments who donned the Indian head on a player-by-player basis.

Each week we’ll bring you five player reviews and maybe some random discussion. Here’s what you can look forward to for the first week, as myself, Jim, Tim and JMH breakdown your 2011-12 Blackhawks – who will be playing as much playoff hockey as I will the rest of this season.

Monday — Duncan Keith

Tuesday — Jamal Mayers

Wednesday — Bryan Bickell

Thursday — Andrew Shaw

Friday — Patrick Sharp
We’re going to try and mix in stars and role players each week, with these recaps taking you through the Stanley Cup finals. And if St. Louis ends up playing for the Cup, you’ll likely need your hockey fix since you won’t be watching those assholes.

So, even though the Blackhawks’ season is over, ours isn’t quite yet. Keep checking back.

Detour On The Road To Dynasty

( Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Well, it’s not the way we had it scripted, but the 2011-2012 Chicago Blackhawks season ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

It was supposed to be  a lot different (better), of course. This particular ‘Hawks team was going to be the one to restore all the glory after a mostly forgettable 2010-2011 season. That season was written off fairly early by many fans who understand how contracts and the CBA worked. Hey, they would be back with a vengeance the next season, reloaded and rested, right? We heard a lot about how much that loss to Vancouver pissed them off. We heard about how hungry they were to prove the critics wrong. We were told the ‘Hawks finally had some money to spend. We had reason to be optimistic.

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Raffi Torres nailed with 25-game Suspension for Hit on Marian Hossa

Video of The Shanahammer laying the smackdown above

And the verdict is in. Brendan Shanahan has leveled Raffi Torres with an astounding 25-game suspension for his hit on Marian Hossa in Game 3.

Most of us thought 10. I sure as hell thought it would be 10. But 25? I guess that’s what happens when you’re a repeat offender and deliberately concuss someone in the playoffs.

It won’t bring Hossa back when the ‘Hawks desperately could use him down 3-1 to Phoenix, but at least Torres will serve his time.

Torres’ suspension in the longest since New York Islanders forward Chris Simon was suspended for 30 games in December 2007 for stomping on the ankle of Jarrko Ruutu.

Pretty amazing this hit warrants a 25-game suspension from Shanahan but not even a two-minute penalty from four apparently blind referees/linesmen.

Around the World: Bettman Speaks, Torres Decision Saturday, ‘Hawks Goaltending

Gary Bettman continues taking heat for his league getting embarrassed on a national stage, with nine players getting suspended so far in these playoffs. Some of it is deserved, some not, but the fact remains the dirty play has taken on horrible level that is making hockey look nothing like a goon sport to the casual observer.

And with the NHL being quite obviously the fourth major sports league, bringing in casual observers is what Bettman needs to get his NHL more eyes that stay focused on the product rather than veering off after the pointless fights end.

Bettman spoke at an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting on Friday, standing by Brendan Shanahan and his rulings to this point – including the the three-game smackdown laid on Andrew Shaw and the non-suspension of Shea Weber.

While Bettman did make a good point — “For everybody who says (a certain suspension is) too much, there are people who say it’s too little. For everybody who doesn’t like a particular judgment, they say they’re being inconsistent.” – he also didn’t do himself any favors by avoiding taking some of the drama out of the situations by at least seeing another point of view.

“Everybody will have a different view,” Bettman said. “In Vancouver, they probably thought Bitz was being picked on and got suspended for too much. In Chicago, everybody felt that Shaw shouldn’t have been suspended at all because Smith was faking. Not the case.”

Maybe Mike Smith genuinely was injured, but I’ve never seen anyone recover from getting shot in the face that quickly. He sure hasn’t seemed to lose a step, carrying the Coyotes to a 3-1 series lead over the ‘Hawks heading into Saturday’s Game 5.

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Fuggedaboutit: Coyotes Put Blackhawks on Brink of Elimination with Another OT Win

Oops, I did it again. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Go ahead and think sweet thoughts about how the Blackhawks stormed back from 0-3 down against Vancouver last season. Say it. “Anything can happen!” “It’s not over yet!”

This doesn’t feel the same, though, does it?

Losing back-to-back overtime playoff games on home ice is one thing, but the manner in which they were lost is even more disheartening. Once again, Mikkel Boedker slipped one past Corey Crawford in the extra period, and the Coyotes took a 3-1 series lead over the ‘Hawks with a 3-2 win Thursday at the United Center.

What we’ve seen in this series is a team consistently one step behind the other, constantly giving chase, even making it interesting at times, but ultimately falling short. I don’t for one second believe the Blackhawks have been badly outplayed in this series, but Phoenix is playing just well enough to overcome the talent gap and is beating the ‘Hawks on scheme rather than skill.

The whole let’s-spot-the-Coyotes-a-lead-until-late-in-the-third-period-then-tie-it-when-we-look-defeated thing might be exciting, and this series has had no shortage of free hockey. It’s the mental lapses that lead the games to get to that point that are the most frustrating, and Phoenix is taking full advantage.

There’s no doubt the ‘Hawks missed Marian Hossa and even Andrew Shaw, but what ultimately changed? The same shit happens whether they’re in the lineup or not. The Blackhawks are that close, but it really doesn’t mean a damn thing. Losing one-goal, overtime games is the same as losing 10-0. If it was January and the ‘Hawks were playing this way, we could say, “The Blackhawks haven’t played at their best the past four games and they’ve still taken all of them to overtime and earned a point. That’s a good sign.”

In the playoffs, it gets you down 3-1 in a series to a team that doesn’t possess the talent, but just wants it more. And that’s the thing – it really doesn’t seem like the ‘Hawks want it until they’ve fallen behind. They can talk all they want about what needs to change and they know where their deficiencies lie. They did that all season. It’s nothing new. But if you can’t change what needs to be changed, if you can’t execute the way you know you must, then all that talk is about as useful as screen door in a submarine.

If seeing Hossa go off on a stretcher isn’t enough to get the ‘Hawks psyched to be flying all over the ice, then what in the funky hell is enough? What’s it going to take? If they know the answer, it may be too late anyway.

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Shaw Sits Three : ‘Hawks v. Phoenix

Yup

As you all know by now, Andrew Shaw has been suspended for 3 games by NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan for his collision with Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith in Game 2. That’s right folks, Shaw will sit longer than Shea Weber, Matt Carkner and Byron Bitz - all of whom committed offenses far more  harmful to the game than Shaw did. So what did we learn today? Do not, under any circumstance, get close to a goaltender. Why the NHL considers the brains of goaltenders more important than the brains of other players is a question they will have to answer down the road. It’s absurd.

Shanahan, praised by many as the man who would save hockey from itself, has been unacceptably inconsistent with his rulings and is quickly losing credibility all around the league. Have his rulings really been any better than those of Colin Campbell? I’m not so certain anymore. Sure, he has been more transparent with his cute little video explanations, but what good is transparency without consistency? Wasn’t consistency the real problem with Campbell? Shanahan promised to step in and reform a broken system. To date, he has failed.

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Never Say Die: Blackhawks Even Series, Await Word on Andrew Shaw

"You know I was just bullshittin'." (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

A full day has passed, and I still can’t believe the ‘Hawks won that game. Complete disappointment to utter elation to ridiculously nervous to celebratory shots all in about 40 minutes. Saturday had some of everything.

And once again, it had Brent Seabrook. Definitely the MVP of the first two games for the Blackhawks, Seabrook was a part of a last-second regulation goal to tie the game. His blast from the point was redirected past Mike Smith by Patrick Sharp, sending the ‘Hawks into OT where Bryan Bickell would win it 4-3.

Just a couple of quick things as we await Game 3 at the UC on Tuesday…

♦   First, let’s address the “hit” on Smith by Andrew Shaw. Before getting fully into it, the NHL needs to immediately institute a rule that states if a player needs medical attention from the bench due to an apparent blow to the head, said player should be required to be taken to the locker room for testing as soon as he’s able to stand on the ice. With all the constant policing against hits to the head and the effects on star players – Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, etc. – you would think this would be in the rulebook already.

Smith laid there for a few minutes as if he had gotten shot. Shaw clearly was trying to avoid the contact, and whatever happened incidentally did not require the sack-of-bricks fall and ensuing fake blackout by Smith. If it was that serious, Smith should never have stayed in the game. Instead, we may have witnessed the best dive of the playoffs – even better than Ryan Kesler’s load of bullshit on Sunday night – that almost cost the ‘Hawks the game due to a major penalty call.

Shaw will meet with Brendan Shanahan today, and if Shaw is issued any sort of suspension, Shanahan should immediately be fired. For the rest of his career as The Shanahammer, he’ll have to answer for not penalizing Shea Weber and rightly so. For Shaw to be levied a suspension and Weber allowed to skate free would be such a crime there’s no way Shanahan can ever be taken seriously again.

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Weapon Of Choice : Game Two Preview

Unknown to Johnny, Shane Doan is about to punch him in the back of the head ( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

After suffering heartbreaking loss on Thursday night, the ‘Hawks still have a chance steal home ice in the series tonight. At the afternoon skate today the Blackhawks were rolling with the same lines they played with onThursday night. One suspects (prays) that Quenneville is just bluffing.

It’s hard to imagine that Q would be crazy enough to throw Sean O’Donnell back into lineup tonight, but this is a man who played John Scott on a regular basis. O’Donnell was consistently out of position and made horrible decisions all night long.

Niklas Hjalmarsson had one of his worst games as a Chicago Blackhawk on Thursday and one can’t help but attribute some of that to his partner. The Coyotes are a team that is ferocious on the forecheck and  getting someone who can move the puck on the other side  would probably go a long way in getting a minimally competent, non-panikly Hjalmarsson back for the ‘Hawks. Sami Lepisto is the guy who fits the bill here. But again, we don’t know what Q plans to do tonight.

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