Bowman says NO: Niemi now UFA as Blackhawks go with Marty Turco

I’ll get right into this.

I thank  Antti Niemi  for his contributions to the Blackhawks and for back-stopping Chicago’s first Stanley Cup champion since 1961. His ability to forget goals-against and move onto the next play was a welcome relief from the headcase that was  Cristobal Huet.  Niemi’s quiet demeanor meant zero backlash toward fans or media when they criticized him, making for a somewhat peaceful situation in net compared to the Huet circus throughout most of the season. He has obvious skills that will be missed.

Is he worth $2.75 million for one season with no guarantee for a future long-term agreement for a cap-strapped team? Especially when the Blackhawks got virtually the same quality for less than half that money in  Marty Turco?  No. Absolutely not. And since  Stan Bowman  couldn’t find a trade partner for Niemi — and if you don’t think he tried, you’re a damn idiot — it’s pretty apparent other teams throughout the league feel the same way.

I don’t mean to be a downer here. But I had someone send me a message saying that the decision to let Niemi walk away “will far and away be the decision that determines Stan Bowman’s future as a quality GM in the NHL.” I’m sorry, but that can’t be further from the truth. I don’t feel there was much of a decision to make here, personally.

The Blackhawks just won a Stanley Cup dealing with a goaltending controversy that wasn’t completely settled until March. Bowman viewed Niemi and  Corey Crawford  as equal talents coming out of training camp, and Bowman solidified that point by publicly stating it’s Crawford’s time to make the big club. Clearly, Bowman doesn’t view goaltending to be a make-or-break position for a contender — and the Blackhawks proved his point this past season.

Investing $2.75 million in Niemi would have strapped the ‘Hawks even further. The extra million dollars in cap space allows for plenty of roster flexibility when the injury bug hits and during the early season evaluating period for the new faces. It may not sound like a lot, but in hockey a million bucks goes a long way.

Once again, people are getting too caught up in the name game. I’m sorry I’m trying to bring this to reality so quickly for those who worship Niemi, but we didn’t just let  Patrick Roy  go. This wasn’t the 1990s choice of keeping  Eddie Belfour  over  Dominick Hasek.   Niemi is a fine goaltender and will have some success elsewhere. But Turco is a more-than-acceptable replacement for a guy nobody even heard of going into camp last season. Before we start flooding Bowman’s office with hate mail, take a step back and realize who Niemi really is: A came-out-of-nowhere goaltender who played well enough behind the best defense in the NHL to not win nor lose games all by himself. You’re telling me Turco can’t do that next season?

Am I in the minority in feeling this way? Yes, there are knocks on Turco. He’s not going to do backflips or stand on his head and start winning Vezina Trophies all of the sudden. And neither is Niemi. The Blackhawks need a serviceable goaltender to make a few key saves.

In Turco, they have that — for $1.45 million less.

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Confirmed: Bye bye Niemi, hello Turco

 

Chris Kuc has confirmed the Blackhawks are walking away from  Antti Niemi’s  contract and have signed  Marty Turco  to a one-year deal.

More to come.

Bowman talks Niemi, Crawford

With a decision on  Antti Niemi’s $2.75 million arbitrator-awarded salary looming early Monday,  Stan Bowman addressed the issue — and it doesn’t sound too promising for Niemi fans.

Bowman didn’t officially tip his hand one way or the other, but the consistency in his comments remained by stating the Blackhawks have numerous options with or without Niemi.

Per Chris Kuc of the Tribune:

“There are always options in every decision,” Bowman said Sunday during a panel discussion at the 2010 Blackhawks Convention. “You have to weigh what it would take, what it would do to your team in terms of flexibility-wise if you decide to keep him (or) if maybe you have to move somebody else along. There’s no one right way to do it. But we’re going to all think about it and we’ll come up with the right decision.

“I’ve tried to say this all along. You know, one guy does not make a team here. We’ve got a lot of great players and we’re going to be ready come October to defend the Cup and we’re going to work on making sure we get it right.”

Bowman feels he’s going to get it right either way, despite the fact the Blackhawks really haven’t had a legit, consistent, No. 1 goaltender since Eddie Belfour. Letting go of Niemi and signing either  Marty Turco or  Jose Theodore would put the Blackhawks back in this same situation next season of searching for a goaltender. Or would it?

It appears Bowman is ready to give  Corey Crawford his shot on the big club.

“(Crawford’s) spent a number of years developing in our system and I think the time is now for him to get an opportunity to show us what he can do,” Bowman said. “He’s certainly had a chance to learn his craft in the minor leagues. He’s carried the load down there year after year. I think it’s time for him. That’s one of the things we’re looking forward to, is you have to give players an opportunity.”

Go back to the beginning of this past season when Niemi and Crawford were battling for the back-up spot behind  Cristobal Huet. At the time, the organization viewed Niemi and Crawford to be on equal footing talent-wise. Could it be, despite Niemi’s success of helping the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, that Bowman still feels the same as he did roughly nine months ago?

The plan now that Niemi received a figure which may be too high for the ‘Hawks to take on without trading anyone else away — which Bowman may not want to do — could very well be to find a short-term solution in Turco or Theodore to help groom Crawford for the big job in 2011-12.

No matter what, we’ll get a better idea tomorrow morning.

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Arbitrator gives Niemi $2.75 million

It’s decision time for GM Stan Bowman.

After hearing the case between the Blackhawks and goaltender  Antti Niemi,  the arbitrator ruled Saturday seemingly in favor of Niemi, granting the Finn $2.75 millionfor what would be a one-year contract. Bowman and the ‘Hawks now have 48 hours to accept the figure or walk away and allow Niemi to be an unrestricted free agent.

There’s also a possibility the ‘Hawks could sign the tender and trade Niemi, which may be the best for both sides. The Blackhawks have been rumored to be exploring the possibility of signing  Marty Turco  or  Jose Theodore,  with each of them saving the ‘Hawks over $1 million of cap space compared to Niemi’s now-set cap number.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, but I’m stick to what I’ve been saying all along: Start preparing for life without Niemi.

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One year, one Stanley Cup and a whole bunch of fun with Blackhawk Up

I’ve been thinking of what to write in this first sentence for quite sometime. I realized the reason it’s been so difficult is because I can barely put into words the amount of gratitude I have for all those who have made Blackhawk Up what it’s become.

Today marks the 365th day since Blackhawk Up launched on the FanSided network with me being the sole writer (save for one epic post by Forklift over at Hockee Night when I was on vacation during the Stanley Cup Final). It’s been one hell of a ride watching the site continuously grow with more and more readers each passing day. I glanced over the traffic numbers throughout the year, and the constant rise puts a huge smile on my face. The success of the site obviously spiked due to the Blackhawks’ run throughout the season, but I hope you all kept coming back because of the words I wrote.

I have so many loyal followers who have interacted with me through the comments, email, Twitter and mainly the Facebook page that it would take me forever to thank you all individually. With the amount of time I spend on making this site what I want it to be, it’s an amazing feeling knowing there are people out there who actually look forward to my next post. There aren’t many successful sites out there today with one writer, so the fact I’ve been able to provide constant posts for all of you who — for some reason — actually wait to read what I have to write is a great accomplishment. And it’s all because of you readers who stop by to take a gander.

I’ve been very right about a lot of things I’ve written here, and I’ve also been very, very wrong. I’ve been the calming influence, though I’ve also added plenty of fuel to the fire. I’ve taken on columnists from Detroit and even made a national television appearance when I got double-teamed like a fledgling pornstar.

No matter what I wrote, you were there to either agree or disagree for the past year — and I’ve welcomed, and will continue to welcome, both sides. You know why the Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup mean so much to me, and I’m glad I can explain my side of the story to those who share in my obsession.

With no disrespect to anyone else, I’d like to thank some people individually:

– Adam and Zach Best, the co-founders of FanSided, who launched the site, let me run with it and proceeded to let me have a voice throughout the network. Thanks for all your support and attention.

– My grandmother, who cringes at every single curse she reads, yet is still the most loyal reader of anyone. The woman actually sat and cried when she saw me on TV. She supports everything I do unconditionally, and Blackhawk Up is no different.

– The Blackhawks blogsphere, namely Fork and CT of Hockee Night and Sam, McClure and Killion of Second City Hockey. I’m sure all of them received my initial email and said, “Great, another shitty ‘Hawks site has popped up.” I think they all quickly learned I knew what I was doing, and we’ve all shared many adult beverages discussing the ‘Hawks. I’ve been on multiple PUCKCASTS with the Hockee Night fellas, and Sam has let me contribute to The Committed Indian on a few occasions. If I hadn’t started this site, I may have never met any of you. Thanks for the past year, and I look forward to many more.

– Jeff Erikson and Neil Brown, my partners in crime in Section 326, Row 12, Seats 9-11. Jeff has been my best friend since sophomore year in high school, and when he presented me with the opportunity to share a season ticket at the beginning of the 2008-09 season I jumped at the chance. Of course, he would have never came to me with this if it hadn’t been for Neil, who told Jeff he was purchasing tickets and asked if he wanted in on it. We’ve laughed, cheered and even shed a few tears after the ‘Hawks won the Cup. Gentlemen, now we finally have something to be happy about every June 9th. Thank you both for your support.

Now that I’ve gotten a bit sappy, I’d like to send out one more thank you to all of you readers and the 20,000 or so followers through the Droid and iPhone apps. None of the words I write would mean a damn thing if you didn’t stop by and read them.

Here’s to many, many more years at Blackhawk Up — and hopefully another Stanley Cup or two or ten.

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‘Hawks present negatives on Niemi hoping for positive outcome

I never understood the two-faced hilarity that is salary arbitration. The Blackhawks will tell a judge all the reasons they feel  Antti Niemi shouldn’t be compensated as he sees fit. Conversely, Niemi and his agent will explain why Niemi’s performance to date warrants a top-tier goaltender salary.

The ‘Hawks will attempt to prove why Niemi’s not worth the money, and Niemi’s agent will fight it. Yet the entire time, the Blackhawks want Niemi back wearing the Indian head — and from what we’re told, Niemi wants the same, but only for the right price.

It’s a back-and-forth process each side has dealt with since the Stanley Cup arrived back in Chicago. And today, we’ll finally get a ruling on what Niemi deserves — and doesn’t deserve. Either way, there will be countless overreactions to the judgment. People will cheer if the ‘Hawks win, and people will break shit if Niemi does. Neither reaction makes much sense.

As a sidenote, this is the reason I’ve stayed out of all this off-season salary cap shit. I haven’t posted here much because all I’d be doing is bitching about people whining over the Byfuglien and Versteeg trades and calling them their favorite players. Rather than crunch numbers or freak out about who will be the Blackhawks’ fourth-line center who can fit under the cap, I’ve been enjoying my Stanley Cup. I feel there should be a three-year grace period when you can’t bitch and complain about any move a franchise makes not involving a star player after winning a championship. I’m sick of hearing about all this crap. The Blackhawks just won the goddamn Stanley Cup. Enjoy it, shut up, and let the chips fall where they may.

If anyone believes the ‘Hawks go into today’s hearing with an offer of anything more than $2 million, they need to put the bong down. If anyone believes Niemi will present a demand of anything less than $3 million, they need to relinquish the crack pipe. Someone is leaving the hearing pissed off.

My guess? Start preparing for life without Niemi, ‘Hawks fans. I don’t see how this can work out. I would love to see Niemi back in net next season. It’s the best for both sides. But will I kill myself if Niemi is protecting another team’s goal on opening night? Hell no. There are viable options out there, mainly the constant rumor of  Marty Turco, who would come cheaper than Niemi.

No matter what happens, the Blackhawks will have a goalie good enough to play well behind one of the best defensive units in the NHL. Freak out about this hearing if you must, but it isn’t make or break for the ‘Hawks. It’s natural to get caught up in the names when your team wins a title. Problem is, I’m hearing too much of people worrying about the names of the since departed rather than what they actually brought to the table — which, sadly to say, is replaceable.

And the same goes for Antti Niemi.

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Really, Kovalchuk? 17 years?

17 years is a long time to be married.

Just for the record, the 17 years indeed does NOT relate to the amount of time he spent making this decision. It’s the number of years apparently agreed upon by the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk. Holy. Piss.

Remember when the league made a big, gigantic stink over contracts during last season’s free agency period? Marian Hossa’s  now-modest 12-year, $62.8 million deal makes the NHL look stupid for even looking into it. Kovalchuk’s deal is reportedly worth upwards of around $150 million.

At the conclusion of the reported contract, Kovalchuk will be 44 years old and heading into  Chris Chelios  territory while being tortured by the media and fans to just give it the hell up already. I’m wondering how much a team is going to enjoy a $7-9 million cap hit for a 44-year-old. Then again, Hossa won’t exactly be young by the time his Blackhawks contract is complete, so … whatever.

Either way, the ridiculous back-and-forth saga with the Los Angeles Kings is now over with after the Devils finally met the demands of a guy who is one hell of a player, but doesn’t deserve this contract. I’m sorry. I think he’s a great player and even hoped the ‘Hawks at one point would make a deal for him. But $150 million for nearly two decades? These are the kinds of contracts we expect to come out of MLB and NBA guys, not NHL guys. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

The fact I’m writing about this, which is the first update in a week, shows how slow it’s been around Chicago pertaining to the ‘Hawks. Yeah, they signed  Jack Skille.  That’s great. Only 80 more guys to go with $7.92 in cap space. Rather than constantly write about shit you know and beat the hell out of a horse that’s been dead and buried for nearly a year now, I’ll wait until something of substance happens. Or I’ll just curse a lot to take the place of it.

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If Niemi’s price is too high for Hawks, which team shells out the cash?

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi hoists the Stanley Cup after his team defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final hockey series in Philadelphia June 9, 2010.   REUTERS/Shaun Best (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

Capologists and ‘Hawks fans alike busted out the calculators in wake of  Niklas Hjalmarsson’s spankin’ new 4-year, $14 million contract thanks to those sore-loser San Jose Sharks. While the past few days may not have rivaled “The Decision,” a la  LeBron James, the ‘Hawks considered a looming variable: Keep Hammer, and risk losing Chicago’s first Stanley Cup-winning goaltender in 49 years.

It’s widely speculated  Jarslov Halak’s contract with the St. Louis Blues — coming in at a $3.75 million cap hit — will be a benchmark for  Antti Niemi’s award following his July 29 arbitration hearing. It’s obvious this may be the case, given that Neimi’s statistics are comparable to Halak’s numbers in relation to each player’s time served in the NHL and Niemi’s shiny new ring.

If the arbitrator rules Niemi deserves a similar salary, the Blackhawks have 48 hours to decide whether or not to accept the decision and pay him, or whether to lose exclusive negotiations and the right to simply match other offers and let him walk as an unrestricted free agent. In a strange twist of fate, working with the mentality  Cristobal Huet’s cap hit is buried in the minors, the latter may end up benefiting the Blackhawks — and here’s why.

Despite playoff success — which, of course, Niemi possess more of than Halak — the two goaltenders are vastly different in the eyes of NHL personnel and the fans they’re responsible for putting in the seats. Halak has star power in the public eye — he’s outspoken, animated at times on the ice and he greatly contributed to knocking out of the playoffs the two biggest stars in the game, Sidney Crosby and  Alexander Ovechkin.

It shouldn’t be a secret Halak’s image soared on a team of relatively unknowns and past-their-prime players as it slayed hockey giants. Halak was in demand as much for his star power as he was for his performance in 18 playoff games.

Niemi doesn’t have star power. He’s quiet, seemingly aloof and won’t be the main attraction for any paying fan. For as well as he played at times in the playoffs and in the regular season, he was regarded as the weak link on an otherwise stellar Blackhawks team. Though Halak’s playoff success carried him to his current popularity, Niemi’s resulted in a simple ho-hum. The view is the ‘Hawks won more in spite of Niemi rather than because of him.

Niemi just may be a better goaltender than Halak, and the arbitrator may feel he deserves Halak-like money, but no one is going to be kicking his door down to give it to him — including the Blackhawks. I’m not convinced even if if the Blackhawks had cap space to work with they’d shell out that type of money for him. If the Blackhawks don’t believe Niemi to be worth that type of money just yet, what’s to say other teams will be so willing to devote nearly $4 million per year to a goaltender with 27 regular season wins? Proven, yet aging, goaltenders like  Marty Turco are on the market at a discounted rate. The Blackhawks know that, too.

The Blackhawks view Niemi as a valuable asset, but not valuable enough to lose a second-tier defenseman to an in-conference power for what may turn out to be the same money. The ‘Hawks felt Hjalmarsson would be a bigger loss than Niemi, and they proved that by matching the Sharks’ offer sheet.

If the ‘Hawks allow Niemi to test unrestricted free agency, it may end up working in their favor. Which team goes after him at that price? Edmonton? Possibly Columbus considering  Steve Mason’s disaster-filled sophomore season? That would just put Niemi in another goaltender controversy. Ottawa? The options are thin. Even if any of these teams came after Niemi, will he take a larger paycheck and more pressure to carry a team which will rely on him for its success? Personally, I don’t even think a team is ready to make that commitment to him, no matter if he believes he’s ready for it or not.

Niemi’s best bet would be to return to a cushy situation in Chicago at a discounted rate, sit between the pipes behind stellar defensive units and be neither the savior nor the sore thumb. The ‘Hawks want Niemi back, but only if he fits into their cap plans — not only for this season, but for the future.

Bottom line, I’m not sure if we need to start worrying just yet whether or not the Blackhawks are going to end up losing  Brian Campbell and/or Patrick Sharp in order to clear space for Niemi’s pending arbitration ruling, as well as the rest of the restricted free agents needing deals just so the ‘Hawks can field a team next season.

If it comes down to it, the Blackhawks have made clear they’ll find a cheaper, suitable replacement for Niemi on the open market. My guess? Niemi ends up back with the Blackhawks for much less than we anticipatedbe it a contract agreement before the arbitration hearing, or once Niemi sees there’s no NHL team out there willing to shell out the cash for him.

With the way this off-season has gone, nothing is outside the realm of possibility.

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Blackhawks match Sharks’ $14 M offer sheet for Hjalmarsson

The Blackhawks made it official they will match the San Jose Sharks’ offer sheet for  Niklas Hjalmarsson  and sign him to a 4-year, $14 million contract. The cap it will be $3.5 million over the next four years.

Antti Niemi’s  arbitration date is set for July 29, and we’ll have to see if the ‘Hawks let him walk after the St. Louis Blues gave  Jaroslav Halak  a monster deal and set the bar pretty high for a goalie of Niemi’s comparable experience.

I’ll have more later on this decision and what it means for the ‘Hawks chances of keeping Niemi, or if they’ll be looking elsewhere for some goaltending.

Sharks ink Hjalmarsson to offer sheet

TSN.com is reporting Niklas Hjalmarsson signed a 4-year, $14 million offer sheet from the San Jose Sharks. I’m not sure about you, but a $3 million-plus offer is not what I expected — and I doubt the Blackhawks expected it, either.

The Blackhawks have seven days to match the offer sheet. With Antti Niemi awaiting a contract, this may be difficult to swing.

More details as they become available…

Prospect Camp

Well, the wedding season is here meaning I am out of town for the weekend attending the first of many this summer. If anyone is attending the prospect camp and would like to share their analysis, shoot me an email to jeffrey.bartl@gmail.com. I’ll post your write-up on the site and credit you however you please.

Have a great weekend!

Head on up to Lake Toews, where the locals bathe in victory

We have no idea where the lake will be located, but this one looks pleasant, eh?

Go ahead, dive in. You’ll immediately feel like a winner. Let’s just hope the bugs in Manitoba aren’t so big you’ll be naming them  John Scott.

Per Puck Daddy, the Canadian province will re-name one of it’s 400 million lakesafter Blackhawks captain  Jonathan Toews.  The damn kid has everything else, might as well give him his own body of water.

As dumb as I think all of this re-naming shit is after athletes for one reason or another, this is a hell of a lot better than some of the idiocy going on in Canada. For instance, an Edmonton couple recently named their child after No. 1 pick Taylor Hall, and two dipshits named their poor baby girl ‘Syd’ after  Sidney Crosby  scored the game-winning goal in the Olympics.

These people need to go wash off that stupidity in Lake Toews, where cleanliness is taken Captain Seriously.

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Stu Grimson remembers Probert: ‘Bob was both a friend and a foe’

The tragic passing of former Chicago Blackhawk and legendary enforcer  Bob Probert  brought out the soft side in some of his fondest sparring partners.

Ken Daneyko  referred to Probert as a “teddy bear” off the ice, and  Tie Domi  has spoken nothing but kind words since learning of Probert’s death. They shared his personal struggles and related to Probert, knowing Probert dropped the gloves far less times to throw fists on the ice than he did to wage wars with himself  off it.

Stu Grimson  needed some time to compose himself  after learing of Probert’s death, remembering Probert as a man he fought relentlessly during his career then developed a relationship with after hanging up the skates.

“Bob was both a friend and a foe,” Grimson said through e-mail from Nashville. “he was my fiercest rival on the ice, but I was able to get to know him more after we retired.”

The two bonded during a trip to Afghanistan when they visited Canadian troops a few years back.

“I was really fond of Bob,” Grimson said. “He was a great guy. The hockey family will miss him, though not nearly as much as his young family. This is tragic news.”

The Blackhawks honored Probert with a Heritage Night on February 22, 2009.

Here’s a video montage of some of Probert’s best fights. RIP, Bob.

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Comparing the Blackhawks to the Florida Marlins is downright stupid

I know. The Blackhawks are 23 days removed from winning the Stanley Cup, and  Stan Bowman is crossing faces off the team photo like  Ace Ventura. It’s a lot to handle for ‘Hawks fans to see pieces of a championship team sent packing by management for financial reasons.

Nobody wanted to see it, yet everyone expected it. Now, nobody wants to accept it. Well, get over it. Panic all you want, but you knew this was coming — and there may be more, too.

The Atlanta Blackhawks Thrashers will sport at least five Stanley Cup rings next season with  Dustin Byfuglien,  Brent Sopel,  Ben Eager and now  Andrew Ladd (who has another ring with Carolina). Combine those departures with the trades of  Kris VERSTEEG! to the Toronto Maple Leafs and  Colin Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers,  then add  Adam Burish’s defection to the Dallas Stars, and you’ve got the recipe for one hostile fan base.

Yes, the Blackhawks are ridding themselves of salary by dumping it on other teams at cost of losing contributors to a Stanley Cup champion. But to compare the ‘Hawks to the Florida Marlins, who broke apart two World Series championship teams? C’mon.

From  Puck Daddy  Greg Wyshynski:

Worst Dismantling: The trade of Andrew Ladd to the Atlanta Thrashers marks the sixth player from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to be traded this offseason. The Florida Marlins comparisons are starting to inch toward validity.

I normally agree with 90 percent of what Wyshynski writes. But to use the word “validity” in regards to the comparison is down right ridiculous. Trading players is one thing, but the Blackhawks have their core intact — something the Marlins failed to do. If this was meant as a joke, great. It should have been mentioned as such.

If any of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa or  Brent Seabrook were sent packing, then the comparison could be “valid.” Count  Patrick Sharp,  Antti Niemi and  Niklas Hjalmarsson as large pieces of the puzzle who are staying in Chicago to defend the title, and you’re still looking at a hell of a contender.

The main point is this: I’m not sure if the Blackhawks are a worse team with these subtractions. The hockey world lauded the ‘Hawks depth last season and through the playoffs. A team with depth can rid itself of some spare parts. Replacing the aforementioned traded commodities with suitable NHL-ready players whose names may not be as familiar isn’t such a bad thing. People forget they complained about Byfuglien and Versteeg during roughly 50 regular season games. Because they scored some goals in the playoffs means they’re irreplaceable? Gimme a break.

Before everyone blows a fart in the direction of Stan Bowman’s face, they should do a bit of research. Byfuglien was once your whipping boy for being lazy, and Versteeg was an unknown until he came out of nowhere as a regular and Calder Trophy finalist two years ago.

What’s to say the next wave of role players can’t win your heart? After all, the Marlins dismantled their ENTIRE roster and won another World Series. The Blackhawks are letting go of replaceable assets, not the core. In my book, this is still the best team in the Western Conference, hands down.

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Byfuglien, Eager, Sopel traded to Atlanta for picks

Per Jesse Rogers, in the first of what may be many salary cap-related trades, Stan Bowman  sent  Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel  and  Ben Eager  to the Atlanta Thrashers for a first- and second-round pick.

More details later as they come in, along with analysis.

UPDATE:  ‘Hawks receiving the 24th and 54th overall picks in Friday’s draft, plus prospect Jeremy Morin and veteran Marty Reasoner.

ANOTHER UPDATE:  ‘Hawks prospect  Akim Aliu  is included in the deal.

With the 30th pick, the Chicago Blackhawks select…

Tyler Toffoli, C, from the Ottawa 67s of the OHL.

The first-ever FanSided NHL Mock Draft will be posted today on the network’s new general NHL blog, Too Many Men On The Site. Be sure to check it out as you prepare for Friday.

From the start, I hoped Toffoli would last this long — and he also may be there at 30 for the actual NHL Draft. If so, the Blackhawks would be wise to take him for a few different reasons.

Toffoli is a raw talent. I watched him play when the NHL Network ran some OHL games and I saw a kid who has a lot of potential but is nowhere near NHL-ready — which is just fine, given the status of the Blackhawks farm system. There’s good depth at the forward position, plus enough prospects at defense giving the ‘Hawks the luxury of taking a chance on a raw, talented player like Toffoli.

Akim Aliu, Evan Brophy, Nathan Davis, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell, etc., will be NHL regulars before Toffoli, giving Toffoli time to develop his game. The general consensus on Toffoli from scouting reports says he’s not particularly stellar at any given aspect. What he has is a natural ability to score.

Toffoli came in ranked from 15 to 20 before the previous season began. His draft stock dipped a bit because of a horrible start to the year. But Toffoli bounced back to 79 points (37A, 42 G) in 65 games in the OHL.

If Toffoli is availabe at 30, it could be a steal for the Blackhawks. He’d be entering the NHL with more refined skills — He just turned 18 — by the time Jonathan Toews  and  Patrick Kane  are in the middle of their extensions.

The draft is Friday from Los Angeles and will be televised on NHL Network. Let’s find out if I’m right.

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Blackhawks Theater: Jackie Moon as John McDonough

NOTE: In every sports-themed movie, each character plays a distinctive role for their fictional squad. Blackhawks Theather will compare those characters and their roles with those of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. This segment will run each and every day for the next month at 10 a.m. CST. That should keep us all busy up to and throughout the Capocalypse. Enjoy.

Though you won’t see  John McDonough wrestling a bear anytime soon, his PR savvy and built-in knowledge to sell his product have led to over 100 consecutive sellouts at the United Center and counting.

McDonough’s promotions are far less shady than those of  Jackie Moon’s (Semi Pro), but each had a goal in mind: Drive up attendance and resurrect a dormant franchise to relevance. McDonough succeeded in a difficult task to mend strained relationships with Blackhawk greats like  Bobby Hull and brought them back for a multitude of  Heritage Nights, which the fans ate up.

Just like Moon’s Flint Tropics proved, winning sure does help. McDonough’s been criticized for his constant desire to be in the spotlight. It’s even been joked about on certain blogs that McDonough was going to throw another parade to celebrate the victory parade. But no one can doubt McDonough’s genius in making the ‘Hawks a fan-friendly franchise — something rarely experienced during the  Bill Wirtz years.

Both Moon and McDonough pulled out all the stops to get their respective franchise noticed. Let’s just hope McDonough doesn’t try and sing “Love Me Sexy.”

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Blackhawks Theater: Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh as Patrick Kane

NOTE: In every sports-themed movie, each character plays a distinctive role for their fictional squad. Blackhawks Theather will compare those characters and their roles with those of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. This segment will run each and every day for the next month at 10 a.m. CST. That should keep us all busy up to and throughout the Capocalypse. Enjoy.

At their age, the amount of talent possessed by each of these wunderkinds stopped people in their tracks to catch a glimpse. And like many young talents with money and fame coming so quickly, the ego and sense of invincibility took over at times.

No one every questioned the potential of Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Bull Durham). The kid threw 100 m.p.h and could strike out any hitter at any given time. Lack direction, his ego led to a bar fight with a veteran over a woman and his sexual escapades became more important to him than his control. He struggled in the face of having to tone down his attitude and ego with some direction, and eventually “Nuke” ended up in The Show, knowing exactly what to say when confronted by the media.

Patrick Kane draws a parallel. His off-season arrest for a confrontation with a Buffalo cab driver humbled him to the podium in front of his toughest critics to deliver an emotionless speech before USA training camp. If that wasn’t enough of a lesson, photos surfaced of Kane and teammates with their shirts off partying in a limo in Vancouver. Once again, he was forced to explain himself.

Sometimes we all forget athletes are human beings, too. If I was asked to tell stories of my days as a 21-year-old single male to people ready to make judgments, my presence would be banned in 30 states. The spotlight thrust the lives of “Nuke” and Kane into the public eye, and they struggled coming to grips with it.

The main comparison? Both “Nuke” and Kane succeeded and reached their ultimate goal — “Nuke” to The Majors, Kane winning the Stanley Cup. Maybe a little shit storm when you’re young isn’t all that bad.

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PUCKCAST: Blackhawk Up and HOCKEENIGHT get nasty

Once again, I appeared on the HOCKEENIGHT PUCKCAST with Forklift and CT to discuss a whole bunch of shit. However, I stayed pretty much silent during Fork’s tales of Cuban beastiality. No joke, he talked about some Cuban guy having sex with animals.

Enjoy.

Thank you readers, followers and those who merely stop in for a glance

Award-winning parade shot of Patrick Kane, courtesy of Jeffrey Erikson

I just wanted to post a quick thank you to those who have consistently come to Blackhawk Up throughout this season to read my passionate ramblings and continuous use of random four-letter words.

When I started Blackhawk Up in July of last year, I never expected the following I would gather and that the growth of the site would happen so quickly. It’s been less than a year I’ve been swearing at you, and all the kind words through comments, emails, Facebook messages and Twitter re-tweets have been absolutely amazing.

All of you made the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup that much sweeter for one specific reason: I got to share in the experience with all of you. It’s been a wild ride to this point, and there’s so much more to go.

Get on your Hossa, ride into the off-season with a smile on your face and continue to check in to this site through the summer months. I have some big stuff planned, so there won’t be a shortage of content during hockey’s brief summer hiatus.

Once again, thank you to everyone who continues to read Blackhawk Up. You make the time I spend on each and every word I write completely and totally worthwhile. Thank you.

Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, now Make-A-Wish for charity

I’ve posted this before, and it deserves more attention. The puck set is beautiful, and the proceeds to go charity. Don’t be cheap. Go get yourself a set.

Hawks Fans Can Celebrate Stanley Cup Title

With Special Commemorative 2-Puck Set with Cases

Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Illinois

Smiling As Hawks End 49-Year Drought

Only 5,000 Special Cup Items Will Be Produced To Raise Funds

For Youngsters Who Have Life-Threatening Illnesses

Chicago– It’s almost like a bunch of cobwebs have been removed and replaced by young and middle-aged cheering fans.  It is a new ERA for Chicago Blackhawks fans, a season that finally ended with a bang, not a whimper.

For the first time in 49 years, the fabled Stanley Cup will now call Chicago home, as the Blackhawks stunned the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, in overtime on Patrick Kane’s goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 9, ending decades of frustration for their loyal fans.  The last time the Hawks were Cup champs was in 1961, when John F. Kennedy was in the White House.

And no one is any happier than the youngsters at the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Illinois, many of who have life-threatening medical conditions and depend on this organization to fulfill some special wishes.  Just like these young boys and girls who never give up hope, fans of the Blackhawks never gave up on winning the Stanley Cup again.

And to help celebrate this special hockey moment, and raise some needed funds for the local Make-A-Wish kids, Nikco Sports announced it will be offering a special, limited edition commemorative Stanley Cup championship 2-puck set manufactured by Sherwood Hockey, the official hockey puck of the NHL, complete with display cases, to preserve this special time in Chicago sports history. Only 5,000 sets will be produced, with the goal of adding to the more than $1.7 million that Nikco Sports has raised for children’s charities in recent years.

The two pucks are licensed by the National Hockey League and can be ordered on a first-come basis for $39.95 by calling 1-800-345-2868 or ordering online at www.nikcosports.com.  Each purchase comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity to enhance the value and collectibility of this special piece of sports memorabilia.  There will be a limit of 5 sets per order, to ensure that as many Blackhawks fans as possible get a piece of history.

The Blackhawks team puck will feature the historic and colorful Hawks official team logo, and salute their four Stanley Cup championships won in 1933-34, 1937-38 and 1960-61 and the latest one during the 2009-2010 season. It will also list the conference titles captured in 1992 and 2010 and acknowledge their 14 Division titles.  On this puck will be the words “Stanley Cup Champions.” Any customer who ordered the limited edition set recently when it was introduced as a Stanley Cup appearance puck set will have their sets upgraded to include Stanley Cup Champions.

The second puck is a tribute to the 2009-2010 season and will have the official Stanley Cup logo and Western Conference logo and then a recap of each playoff series triumph over Nashville, Vancouver, San Jose and Philadelphia, as well as celebrating the Hawks 52-22-8 (OT): Points–112 Season Record and Central Division Championship, giving Hawks fans a great way to reflect back on the many happy moments during the season.

The Hawks finished the playoffs by winning 16 of 22 contests. Many Hawks fans still point to a last second goal by Kane in Game 5 of the opening series against Nashville that tied the game and propelled the Hawks to beat the Predators in overtime as a key turning point.  Chicago went on to win that series, 4 games to 2, then did the same thing in the second round against Vancouver.  That led to a 4-0 sweep in a tight series against the San Jose Sharks.  The Hawks won 2-1, 4-2, 3-2 (OT) and 4-2.

Then came a 4-2 series victory over the Flyers, including the clincher in OT.

It seemed like most every game was a nail biter.

“Chicago was a team of destiny, with its never-say-die attitude and hard work ethic,” noted Nikco Sports CEO Craig Bidner.  “Blackhawks fans waited a very long time to win another Stanley Cup, and the celebration in Chicago will go on for weeks, if not all summer.  It was quite the season.  The way this team battled and worked hard reminds me of how so many youngsters who are involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Illinois also battle on an ongoing basis. It makes our staff at Nikco Sports proud to play a small part in this special Stanley Cup commemorative program that is raising funds for these deserving youngsters.”

During the past several years, Nikco Sports has raised more than $1.7 million for charitable organizations across the nation with the issue of limited-edition sports memorabilia that has honored amateur and professional teams, as well as select athletes such athletes as Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, along with Peyton Manning, Jim Kelly, Carson Palmer, Steve Young, John Elway, David Robinson, John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Roger Clemens, Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor, Kirby Puckett, Edgar Martinez, Ichiro, Ozzie Smith, Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, Tony Gwynn, Craig Biggio and Cal Ripken Jr.

From the heart: Blackhawks bring Stanley Cup back to Chicago

Game 4, 1992 Stanley Cup Final.  Mario Lemieux  saw a 10-year-old boy pressed along the glass during the pre-game skate. Lemieux snatch a puck from the ice, lofted it over the glass into the boy’s tiny hands, winked and skated away.

That boy was me, and since that day my passion for hockey never died. When I saw Lemieux circling the Chicago Stadium ice with the Stanley Cup later that night, I hoped one day I would witness a Blackhawk doing the exact same thing.

Never let anyone tell you dreams don’t come true.

The rough stretches, the questionable trades which ran heroes out of town too soon, the edge of the cliff on which the franchise teetered for years, money invested, time spent, heart-shattering losses, watching the hated Red Wings win four Cups … it was all worth it. It will always be worth it. June 9, 2010 is a day only death can take away from me.

People wonder how I can talk this way about a team, a game. “There are more important things in life than sports,” they say, all while updating their Facebook status and planning their entire night around an episode of Jersey Shore. “How can you be so emotional over that stuff?”

With all the uncertainties in life, all the emotions spent on everyday events and questioning of the decisions you make day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute, it’s always guaranteed your team will begin play on the first day of the season at the same time every year. The players may struggle, may disappoint and you’ll even question your loyalty. But no matter what, you’re always given the option to struggle with them or share in their joy. And when you invest yourself hoping for the opportunity to witness something as amazing as Stanley Cup championship, it’s a feeling you’ll remember for the rest of your life. There’s not many things you can say that about.

Patrick Kane  scoring just over four minutes into overtime erased 49 years of Blackhawks fans feeling the disappointment of watching another team and another city embrace the Stanley Cup. People poured out into the streets, and hundreds of thousands of fans will rally for the parade tomorrow in downtown Chicago.

The waiting is over, the dream has been realized and the memory is ingrained.

And do you know what the best part is? We’re guaranteed to do this all over again next year.

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They did it. Chicago Blackhawks: 2010 Stanley Cup champions

This is all you’re getting from me tonight. I’ll be along tomorrow with a very heart-felt rendition of why this victory is so important to me. I still can’t believe it….

The 4th one is the toughest: Blackhawks-Flyers, Game 6 preview

It ends tonight. No more worrying, no more nervousness, no more games at the United Center. I’m ready for the 2009-10 hockey season to be over, and so are the Blackhawks.

Most sports experts will tell us the pressure rests on the ‘Hawks tonight to close out the series in Philadelphia and avoid coming back to Chicago for an always-tense Game 7. Well, forget it. Not only are the Flyers fighting for their season tonight, Q-Stache laid out the blueprint for victory in Game 5. His line shuffling had the Flyers on their heels most of the night, and it’s up to Peter Laviolette  and Philadelphia to provide resistence to the Blackhawks new-look attack.

In Game 3, Laviolette’s last-change advantage led to Philadelphia’s OT winner as the ‘Hawks struggled to get their desired personnel on the ice. He’ll use that same advantage tonight in hopes of countering the ‘Hawks offense. Still, he needs to figure out when to put  Chris Pronger  on the ice now that  Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane  and  Dustin Byfuglien  have been split up.

The Flyers’ aggressive forecheck didn’t do much to keep the ‘Hawks at bay, especially in the first period when most of the damage was done. In Game 4, Philadelphia caused havoc in the Blackhawks’ zone with  Mike Richards  making the most notable play when he swiped the puck from  Niklas Hjalmarsson  and slipping it five-hole past  Antti Niemi.  They’ll need more of that tonight to create more offense for guys like  Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux  and  Ville Leino  – all of whom the Blackhawks are having trouble containing.

Michael Leighton  will get the start tonight after being yanked for the second time in the series in Game 5. Niemi has been sketchy for most of the series, and the Blackhawks will need his top performance to withstand the Flyers, who are sure to come out amped in front of their home crowd.

OK, I’m done analyzing this game because my stomach is turning writing this. Bottom line, the Blackhawks have a chance to clinch their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years.

Go get it, ‘Hawks.

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Chicago Tribune gets into Pronger bashing with ‘Chrissy’ poster

Poster in print edition of June 8 Chicago Tribune

Never would I have expected to see something like this from the Chicago Tribune.  This is New York Post kind of stuff. I can’t remember the last time the Trib so blatently made fun of an opposing player with graphic like this. By no means am I saying this isn’t creative, but even the Chicago blogs haven’t come up with anything like this for him yet.

The above photo is a bit fuzzy when it comes to the writing, so sorry about that. Under ‘Chrissy Pronger,’ it says, “Looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane.” The overall knock to Pronger is quite obviously there, as the Trib traded his hockey pants for a skirt. But of course, they showed a bit of respect to Pronger, writing underneath the puck labled ’100%’, “… CHANCE we’ll change our minds if Hawks sign him.”

Not so sure about that…

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