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…
Over the next few weeks the CtA staff will be looking back at the 2011-12 campaign and doing our personal evaluations of individuals players. We begin with one of the guys who wears a letter for this team and generally spends about half the game on the ice, Duncan Keith.
That’s the first number that I went and researched because it’s probably the most obvious place to start. For three seasons we’ve monitored Duncan Keith’s ice time because the Blackhawks have been unable to field a third pairing that can skate 10-12 minutes a game. Twenty six minutes and fifty three seconds is the average amount of time that Duncan Keith spent on the ice for the Blackhawks this past season. He did that in just under 31 shifts a game at about 50 seconds each. Only former Blackhawk Brian Campbell was in that range. In fact, the number is exactly the same for Campbell. It’s unfortunate that Duncan Keith will be remembered for what is pictured above because there’s far more to talk about with #2′s season than that. Much of the discussion will take the same tone though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.