Raising The Bar: Norris Winner Keith Stumbles After Award

Photo: Comcast SportsNet

The Chicago Blackhawks’ defensive “crisis” in the off-season centered around Niklas Hjalmarsson, and the offer sheet dropped on his lap by traitor scum-bag shit-hole Doug Wilson, now GM of the San Jose Sharks. (You’re going to pay, Dougie — Logan Couture’s contract will expire at some point…) But once that was resolved, Blackhawks’ fans settled into the knowledge that they had arguably the best top-four defensive corps in the league, anchored by Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith.

Oh, how quickly things can change.

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A Pleasant Surprise: Corey Crawford Responds with Stellar Season

No time soon will Blackhawks fans forget Antti Niemi and his contributions during the Stanely Cup run last season. What many may not remember is Niemi and Corey Crawford were viewed equally for the backup goaltending job behind Cristobal Huet prior to 2009-10.

With Niemi out of AHL options and Crawford’s contract still at two-way status, Niemi may have won that job simply based off default and not talent. Rather than collecting a Stanley Cup ring, Crawford toiled in Rockford for another season and didn’t give up hope his time would come.

He got his shot this season, and what a hell of an impression he made.

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The Lesson Learned: See Ya, Marty

Photo: CBS Chicago

So you ask your girlfriend to prom, and she hems and haws for a while until right before the dance, then her dad tells you she’ll only go with you if you pay her $2.75 million dollars. So you break up with her right then and there, and she goes off to prom with some other guy, even though he only paid her $2 million and you’re the reigning Prom King. But by this time all of the hot girls are either already have dates or are going to prom at some Russian school. Your previous girlfriend was too much hassle, and you wouldn’t want to go with her anyhow — and besides, her family is moving to Switzerland.

Now what?

Well, your friend from Dallas just broke up with his girlfriend: will she go with you? And more importantly, will she put out?

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Want to Trade Him? Think Again: Season Review of Patrick Kane

Credit: Brian Cassella, McClatchy-Tribune

Patrick Kane hasn’t always been the model citizen during his tenure with the Blackhawks. Between cabbie incidents, limo parties and random drunken photos, Kaner has put himself in positions fans – and the ‘Hawks themselves – have frowned upon.

But for all the tomfoolery, I’m stunned at the amount of discussion regarding Kane being shipped out of town. Remember, most of that partying wouldn’t have been possible without his Stanley Cup-clinching goal which sent us fans into many nights of inebriation.

His numbers speak pretty highly of his value. Kane has amassed 303 points in 317 career regular-season games, and another 48 points in 45 playoff contests.  Did expectations rise among fans after the cabbie incident? After the limo party? Sure, and he responded with the most famous goal in franchise history.

I’d say those standards were met, and then some. Here’s a look at Kane’s 2010-11 numbers:

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Get On Your Hossa — PLEASE!

Photo: CBS Chicago

Every Blackhawks pundit, journalist and blogger has asked the same question during the playoffs the last two years. In fact, most pundits, journalists and bloggers for the Blackhawks’ opponents have asked the question also. So far, we don’t have an answer.

When is Marian Hossa going to show up?

This would be just a mere curiosity if we were talking about some bottom-six winger two years into a three-year deal at the league minimum salary. But we’re talking about a player with elite talent who just wrapped up the second year of a 12-year contract with the Blackhawks worth over $62 million.

The mere fact that we’re asking the question at all — and in the playoffs no less — is more than troubling; it suggests that we may have bought a horse whose Derby days are behind him. It also makes one think it might be better to find another buyer before the situation gets even worse and the market dries up completely.

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One Bright Spot: Brent Seabrook Shines in Contract Year

Photo: CBS Chicago

There were very few players on the 2010-11 Blackhawks’ roster to which the word “consistent” could be applied. Fortunately there were at least a few, and fortunately one of them happened to be on the blue line — else who knows how many more games we would have lost.

Rare was the night that Brent Seabrook scored the winning goal, or stopped a breakaway, or dropped the gloves. But game in and game out, there he was, doing his job. Which is more than can be said for about 80% of the roster.

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A Handsome Season: Patrick Sharp

There’s no question Patrick Sharp is a very handsome man. His numbers this season were awfully attractive as well.

With secondary scoring taking a hit due to departures during the offseason, Sharp provided the Blackhawks with a boost through to his unfortunate injury toward the end of the regular season. It was evident how valuable his presence was during the stretch run, when the ‘Hawks had to fight to the final day for a playoff spot.

Here’s what Sharp did this season:

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What Happened? The Sinking of the Defensive Corps

Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images

For the longest time the Blackhawks drafted players backwards. The foolishly misguided ‘Hawks brass went into each draft looking for defensive forwards and offensive defensemen. One by one the picks were wasted on players that had barely a snowball’s chance in hell of making the team. Dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and it was a key reason for the Blackhawks missing the playoffs so many years in a row.

The Blackhawks have very few of the remnants of that offensive defensemen draft strategy with the team now. What we do have is a defensive corps that went from having arguably the most effective top-four D-men in the league last year, to a group of four underperforming and disjointed blueliners this year — without losing a single member of their top-four. Making matters worse, the bottom pairing went from bad to worse to downright heinous before two additions to the team stabilized the situation — albeit way too late.

This, more than any other area of the team, was a disappointment for the Blackhawks and their fans during the 2010-11 season, and we’ll take a look at all of the culprits one by one.

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Season Review: Blackhawks Forwards

For all the deficiencies of the Blackhawks’ defense – which Tim will get to tomorrow – the offense actually played pretty well. Scoring didn’t seem to be the issue, as the ‘Hawks finished fourth in the NHL with 252 goals – just six behind league-leading Vancouver.

Jonathan Toews (76), Patrick Kane (73) and Patrick Sharp (71) each put up a good amount of points, but neither of those three will be on today’s list. The three who made up the top line for a good part of the season – plus Marian Hossa - will be reviewed on their own in the coming week.

Here’s a look at the rest, with a 4-Indian Head grade being the best.

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Bye Bye, Stanley: Upcoming Schedule of Blackhawk Up Season Reviews

The Chicago Blackhawks’ defense of the Stanley Cup ended a bit more prematurely than we wanted, but the wild ride had to come to an end at some point. Fortunately for you, loyal reader, the site must go on. And us idiots aren’t done yet.

Tim and I have put together a schedule of what’s to come over the next week as we review each player through different types of posts. That means we will be forcing our opinions on you for the next week – like it or not.

The forwards and defensemen will be handled with separate posts including our grades. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and Marty Turco will be featured in separate, in-depth reviews.

Here’s the upcoming schedule for reviews over the next week for you to keep track:

Tuesday:   Forwards
Wednesday:   Defense
Thursday:   Sharp (morning), Seabrook (evening)
Friday:   Kane (morning), Hossa (evening)
Saturday:   Turco (morning), Crawford (evening)
Sunday:   Off day
Monday:  Keith (morning), Toews (evening)

As you have all season, hopefully you continue to check in with us idiots as we break everything down and spark some discussion amongst you folk. Also, if anyone is interested in live chats on the site for those of you following those day’s games as the playoffs continue, let me know. I’ll also post a feeler on the Facebook fan page.

Thanks again for everyone who made this such a great season by following along with us. We’re not done yet.

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