Rather than the standard previews of Central Division foes from an outsider’s point of view, I decided to take a different approach. This week, Behind Enemy Lines will take a look at our divisional rivals through the eyes of those invested in the team in one way or another. Today, it’s the Nashville Predators and Dirk Hoag, who runs the fantastic blog, On the Forecheck
Bartl: The major development surrounding the Predators quite obviously was the Shea Weber arbitration award, which set a new record. However, the situation dragged on for a good amount of time, with each side very far off on their requested salary. With no long-term contract, does this situation become a distraction for Weber or the team during the season?
Dirk: Absolutely, this will be a distraction hanging over the team until some long-term resolution is found. You can bet that media will ask about this situation in every NHL city the Preds visit, and the Canadian media in particular will speculate often about how their Olympic hero would look great playing north of the border. When the going gets tough during the season, Weber’s captaincy will naturally come into question – how does it look when your team leader couldn’t even agree on a one-year contract with the team? All those questions and more will be fair game.
Once upon a time, Patrick Sharp was a seldom-used center for the Ken Hitchcock-led Philadelphia Flyers, toiling to the tune of roughly eight minutes of ice time per night.
After 66 games, 10 goals and five different jersey numbers, then-general manager Bobby Clarke decided Sharp was expendable and started shopping the former third-round draft pick.
Philadelphia seemed set with 21-year-old Jeff Carter, veteran Peter Forsberg, R.J. Umberger, Mike Richards and Michal Handzus at the center position and were determined to add depth at the wing.
Little did Clarke know Sharp possessed enough skill at each position, and on Dec. 5, 2005, Dale Tallon pulled off a steal.
“Patrick is a natural center, not a wing, and we have too many centers,” Hitchcock said. “That’s all this is about. We had too many centers.”
WGN Radio and the big-boy credentialed guys on Twitter are reporting Patrick Sharp has signed a 5-year extension. No money has been thrown around, though Tim Sassone makes the point it likely won’t exceed the $6.3 million cap hit for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
We’ll have more details as the story progresses, but this is an early gift from Stan Bowman as we all pretty much figured this would happen during the season.
UPDATE (12:07 p.m.):
UPDATE (3:36 p.m.):
The press conference has sealed the deal, with Sharp getting a 5-year, $29.5 million contract – a bargain given his versatility and all-around game. There’s much talk about how amazing it is to have 17 players already signed for 2012-13 and one of the best cores in the game locked up for a long period of time, and I agree. However, looking that far ahead is pretty futile given things change at the drop of a hat at times. I will say that it sounds great, but lets get focused on the task at hand: 2011-12.
On the surface, a No. 8 seed and first-round playoff exit seems downright horrific following a Stanley Cup championship a year earlier.
Dig deeper, sift through the preseason overhaul due to cap constraints, and you’ll likely find the Blackhawks’ 2010-11 season most deemed a miscarriage may not be so terrible after all.
The 97 points are more than any No. 8 seed since the NHL did away with divisional playoffs and the Campbell and Prince of Wales conferences prior to the 1993-94 season. That stretch includes the shootout era which began after the 2004-05 lockout, guaranteeing one team will receive two points in every game on the league’s schedule.
That’s nothing to apologize for in my book, especially since a victory over Detroit on the regular season’s final day would have given the Blackhawks the No. 5 seed. If you want to talk numbers, then look at them all – One more win, and there may have been a lot less complaining from the fan base.
Despite the lingering question mark about a second line center, and the wisdom of putting a completely unproven goaltender as Corey Crawford’s backup, the one place where there is little left to discuss is on defense.
To start with, there is universal agreement that John Scott’s best position is, in fact, in the press box. Or Rockford. Or Europe. Or the UFC. Or as a Walmart greeter. Anywhere but in a Blackhawks uniform between buzzers.
Wednesday afternoon the word came out on the Twitterscape that the Chicago Blackhawks had reportedly invited veteran goaltender Ray Emery to a tryout with the team at training camp in the fall. There is no contract in place, this will be a tryout only, meaning if the Blackhawks decide to pass it doesn’t cost them anything.
Ray Emery will be approaching his 29th birthday as camp gets underway. He is 6’2″, 196 lbs, and catches left. Drafted 99th overall in 2001 by the Ottawa Senators, he has also spent time with Philadelphia and Anaheim. But his career is a story of stops and starts.
I honestly can’t believe this is my third year doing this. But alas, it will never get old quoting Seinfeld. With the Blackhawks making some significant moves to revamp the team and Patrick Kane being in the news once again, it’s time to let Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine take the reins.
Part I in 2009 featured quotes such as: “Well you know when you break up and say things you don’t mean? Well he says the mean things you don’t mean and he means them,” dedicated to Martin Havlat and his Twitter escapades.
Part II in 2010 brought you: “Have you ever been through an audit? It’s the financial equivalent of a complete rectal examination,” referencing the Capocolypse.
Let’s see what’s in store for Part III, with events in no particular order …
I’ve read several pieces in the last 3 weeks singing the praises of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman. Not necessarily with support for his latest moves, but spewing statements like, “There’s a reason he’s GM and you’re not,” and “He’s done a great job so far, we have no reason to doubt him.”
How quickly you forget. I, however, have not.
The main problem I’ve had during this offseason for the Blackhawks begins and ends with my four days spent in Boston two weekends ago, when for four days I witnessed Bruins fans with hats and t-shirts bearing their latest accomplishment.
That’s it. Everything else has been smooth, even with Patrick Kane having surgery to fix a broken bone in his wrist. Compared to the Capacolypse beginning mere days after the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory, Stan Bowman has given us a very a nice 2011 summer.
To clear my opinion quickly regarding Kane’s injury, calm the flying hell down. If anything, celebrate the fact it was caught at the perfect time to fit in the requisite surgery and recovery time. I broke my wrist in high school and was back on the basketball court at full strength less than a week after the cast was removed. He’s still a kid and recovers much quicker than if, say, Andrew Brunette would if he snapped his wrist. He’ll heal, and we won’t be thinking about this anymore after he’s a point-per-game forward again this season.
It’s the little drama we’ve experienced as fans during an offseason we should be thankful for heading into the season. After Kane’s offseason from hell in 2010, we should be extra thankful he discovered an injury while working out. The Blackhawks are a better team than when Game 7 ended, and that’s what everyone should be thinking about leading up to this quiet time until training camp.
So here we are, just trying to enjoy the opening of the Chicago Blackhawks Convention, when we get news of some contract activity from the Blackhawks front office. But one of the names wasn’t on the roster last year. Then, the feces hit the climate control as news was released of one of the Blackhawks’ superstars going under the knife.
First, the expected (and, in fact, announced by what turned out to be a completely reliable source on Twitter Thursday night) signing of winger Michael Frolik to a 3-year, $7 million contract was made public by the Blackhawks brass. But along with that news came word that, despite GM Stan Bowman’s proclamations to the contrary, the team had been wading into the free agent waters once more.
The Blackhawks signed UFA defenseman Sami Lepisto to a one year contract worth a reported $750K. Lepisto is 6’1″, 195lbs, 27 years old, and shoots left. He was traded from the Coyotes to the Blue Jackets last season, playing in 70 games and tallying 4 goals and 12 assists with a +10 rating. Add to that 55 penalty minutes, 72 hits, 90 blocked shots. This was his second full season in the NHL, and his stats from the previous year were very similar. Lepisto became a free agent when Columbus refused to extend him a qualifying offer before the deadline.
Then in the midst of all the speculation about Chris Campoli packing his bags, the bomb dropped.
It was announced that Patrick Kane injured himself during his off-season training routine, and fractured his left scaphoid — a small bone near the long bones in his wrist.
Now is the time to come up with your best beer drinking/masturbating/punching a cabbie joke.
He will require surgery to repair the fracture, which will take place this coming Tuesday. The team physician indicates that Kane’s recovery will be complete by the time training camp starts, and he will miss no time during the pre-season or regular season.
Sorry, but this pisses me off. I’m going to withhold comment until Kane shows up training camp — or not. If he’s there, and all is well, fine. If not, put on your flak jackets.
Then, as if the waters weren’t rough enough, Bowman waltzed out in front of 100 microphones and declared that negotiations with Campoli were over, and the defenseman would be traded. A bottom-two defenseman asking for a $1 million raise and scheduled for arbitration? Yeah, good luck trading that, Stan. Especially after you tossed any leverage you have with other teams out the window by announcing that you had stopped negotiating with his agent. Smooth. You maybe should have consulted dad on this one, Sparky.
Well, holy char-broiled shit burgers. What will the team announce tomorrow? Please… Let it be nothing…