With the All-Star Game in the rear view mirror and the true midway point of the Blackhawks season just four games past, the Fifth Feather will keep up the tradition started in the first few weeks of our website: Grading Dale Tallon. In case you hadn’t known us then, Bobby took a long, hard look in late November at Dale Tallon’s acquistions of the ’08-09 Chicago Blackhawks and even some former friends and enemies in ‘Do the Chickens Have Large Tallons?’ This will be Dale’s Mid-Term report card. Half of the season is gone and we have a better idea about some of the early question marks like Cristobal Huet. Unfortunately for Dale, the grades for Curtis Brown, Adrian Aucoin, and Matthew Barnaby won’t ever change. They are Scarlet F’s burned on his GM’ing soul. Without further ado, I present to you Dale Tallon’s Mid-Term Grades.
Important Note: This Report Card absolutely does not attempt to rank the players, but assigns a grade to Dale Tallons’ handling and/or acquisition of that player. For example, Patrick Sharp is not the best player on the Blackhawks – at least not according to this list – and Andrew Ladd is not the worst. Also, though Bobby didn’t grade Tallon for draft picks made in 2004, I will be for the mere fact that he was the assistant GM and undoubtedly had a big say in every pick.
Patrick Sharp (Quarter Grade: A++, Mid-Term: A+): Acquiring Patrick Sharp for Matt Ellison will go down as one of Dale Tallon’s best moves. Even locking him up to the four year extension last year still looks like a solid move. Despite a recent slump, Sharp is leading the team in goals with 21. This is the gift that keeps on giving. The only reason Sharp loses the plus is because he’s playing out of position due to other moves by Dale.
Jonathon Toews (QG: A+, Mid-Term: A+): Critics will point to the ‘Hawks brass putting too much pressure by turning Mr. Serious into Captain Serious at the age of 20, but in the long haul, this will be the right move. This grade is still subject to change when Tallon and Toews meet at the negotiation table. With a new contract due next off-season, Tallon has to play his cards right to make sure Toews isn’t leaving town anytime soon.
Duncan Keith (QG: A+, Mid-Term: A+): Just like Toews, Keith will be looking for a new contract come next summer. After the ‘Hawks stumbled into the All-Star Break, everyone finally realized how important Keith is to the defensive corps. If Tallon could sign him to a fair but reasonably cheap contract, call it another steal and throw another plus on this.
Patrick Kane (QG: A, Mid-Term: A+): How’s James Van Riemsdyk doing these days? That was the second pick of the 2007 Draft and a guy a lot of people were trying to steer Tallon into drafting. Luckily, he went with his gut (and brain) and selected Kane. Until Kane hurt his ankle in Detroit in late December, he was taking the league by storm. When Alexander Ovechkin lists you as his favorite player, you’re pretty good. Another contract for Tallon to extend next summer, Kane is looking like a max contract player, so that makes the Keith and Toews negotiations all the more important.
Kris Versteeg (QG: A, Mid-Term: A+): Maybe Tallon got a little lucky on this one, but Versteeg has all the makings of a top-6 forward. After nabbing him from the Bruins for Brandon Bochenski, Versteeg is looking to become the second Blackhawk to win the Calder in consectutive years. Versteeg is a restricted free agent this summer and could be due for a hefty raise. It will be imperative for Tallon to resist if his asking price is too high. Versteeg is replaceable; Kane, Toews, and Keith are not. If Sharp for Ellison was his best trade, then this would be his third best, and that brings us to his second best…..
Martin Havlat (QG: A-, Mid-Term: A): The first two years of Havlat’s contract are the only thing keeping this from being Dale’s 5th A+ of the mid-terms. Even though he sent Mark Bell packing at the perfect time, Havlat was the highest paid underachiever on a team full of them. This year, though, the Metrosexual Czech has been everything promised and more since Q moved him to the third line.
Dave Bolland (QG: Excused, Mid-Term: A): The second round pick of 2004, Bolland has the potential to fill the Blackhawks role of third line center for the next few years to come. He is also the second best center on the team and has benefitted greatly since being paired up with Havlat and Ladd. With a couple more years left on his rookie contract, it will be important for Tallon not to fall in love with his own draft picks when it comes to re-signing them.
Andrew Ladd (QG: C-, Mid-Term: A): Something tells me Bobby let his mancrush for Tuomo Ruutu get in the way of grading Ladd. Though Ladd and Ruutu have essentially the same amount of points and play a similar style of game, Ladd is much more cap friendly and still has time left on his contract. Not to mention, since being paired up with Havlat and Bolland, Ladd has looked like the player drafted fourth overall and at only 23 years old, his future is very bright.
Adam Burish(QG: Excused, Mid-Term: B+): Any time you can get anything of value from a 9th round pick, regardless of who drafted him and regardless if he’s a human punching bag, you did something right.
Matt Walker(QG: B, Mid-Term: B+): Very similar to Aaron Johnson in that they both came in with low expectations, Walker has been a find for the ‘Hawks. He’s looked solid on the penalty kill and can play a dependable defense, as long as the puck isn’t on his stick for too long. Call it a low risk, sastisfied reward for Tallon.
Colin Fraser (QG: B-, Mid-Term: B+): A training camp surprise, Fraser has been everything the ‘Hawks and Tallon could have expected. Coming over in the Alex Zhamnov trade, he may be all the ‘Hawks have to show for it after Bryan Bickell flames out. Even then, that’s still better what Philadelphia got in that trade. Fraser is a solid 4th line center who could develop into a 3rd someday. He did have 17 goals in the “A” last season.
Brent Seabrook (QG: B, Mid-Term: B): Not much to say or grade about Seabs at this point. His partnership with Keith is very fruitful and his contract is relatively fair. The big question will be what happens in a few years when he’s up for a new contract. If Seabrook wants Keith or Campbell money, he won’t be wearing the Indian head for much longer.
Nik Khabibulin (QG: Incomplete, Mid-Term: B): The best case scenario for the Blackhawks goalie situation is playing out perfectly thus far. This team will only go as far as their goalies take them. Khabibulin has the ability to take them a long ways. Tallon didn’t envision the ‘Hawks getting to the playoffs only once in Khabibulin’s Hawk tenure, but if he gets hot at the right time, it will almost make his first three disappointing years worth it.
Cristobal Huet (QG: Incomplete, Mid-Term: B): Huet is a solid NHL goaltender. Is that worth 4 years at 5 and a half million per? I’m not sure. His first year has been a success, but unfortunately, there are three more of them after this one with a hefty price tag on each. If Huet keeps putting up these numbers throughout his stay in Chicago, then this grade will go even higher.
Brian Campbell (QG: Incomplete, Mid-Term: B-): Brian Campbell has been everything promised. He helps the power play. He plays shady defense. He carries the offensive play. None of this should come as a surprise to any ‘Hawk follower. Tallon did a nice job bringing him over. He also did a not so nice job of overpaying him. Campbell’s contract has the ability to cripple the ‘Hawks cap for years to come. Years 5 through 7 on his contract may not be pretty.
James Wisniewski (QG: B, Mid-Term: B-): Wiz has been fairly unpredictable since returning from his injury. Some nights, he’s been the best defenseman on the ice and others, he’s looked like it’s his first game in the league. Another restricted free agent in the summer, Tallon will have a big decision to make on Wiz, especially considering Cam Barker’s contract situation.
Troy Brouwer (QG: C, Mid-Term: C+): His success takes away from some of the stench of Tallon’s second round busts. A 7th Round pick in ’04, Brouwer has been a top-6 forward, a fourth line winger, and a healthy scratch this year. The jury is still out on whether he’ll have prolonged NHL success, but he certainly looks the part of a gritty winger capable of scoring 20 to 25 goals.
Aaron Johnson (QG: B+, Mid-Term: C): Before Mike Grier knocked Johnson silly the day before Thanksgiving, he was one of Dale’s best off-season pick-ups. Now, not so much. Johnson has looked erratic and has played like the journeyman defenseman he was prior to the first quarter of this season. Though his contract is doing minimal damage to the cap, Johnson’s presence on this roster is stealing development time from Ham Sandwich.
Craig Adams (QG: D+, Mid-Term: C): When Adam Burish went down for a month and a half, it was Craig Adams who took his spot seamlessly. Not that he really had to do much, but Adams brought a veteran leadership and did exactly what he was supposed to do. He even brought a little bit of offense. Tallon nabbing him for a fifth round draft pick was worth it.
Cam Barker (QG: C+, Mid-Term: C): Until Barker learns how to play a dependable defense at the highest level, Tallon’s grade will continue to suffer. Barker was always known for his big shot and his ability to help out the power play but his inability to play even-strength will be his undoing. Luckily for Tallon, there wasn’t much other than Ovechkin and Malkin in the first 10 picks of the ’04 Draft, or this could be his worst mistake of all.
Dustin Byfuglien (QG: B+, Mid-Term: C-): Always remember this saying kids: Just because Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe gives out bad contracts to power forwards doesn’t mean you have to do the same. While Byfuglien’s contract is similar to Edmonton’s Dustin Penner, Tallon would have been prudent to set a limit on Big Buff, see what kind of offers he would get from other teams, and then decide if they should match said offers. Byfuglien’s contract has the potential to screw up the ‘Hawks cap situation for the next couple years. If the Islanders call up offering Mike Comrie or Doug Weight for Byfuglien in a few weeks, let’s just say Dale should listen to what they have to say.
Ben Eager (QG: B, Mid-Term: C-): Though Eager has shown occasional flashes of why he is a former first round pick, he’s also shown flashes of why he’s been traded twice in his short career. Tallon getting anything for Jim Vandermeer was impressive, but I don’t expect Eager to be a Blackhawk next season.
Brent Sopel (QG: C-, Mid-Term; F): When Tallon found Sopel on the scrap heap for a million bucks last year, he scored a coo. Sopel was the calm, veteran influence on a raw defensive unit last year. When Tallon decided to lock him up for the next three years and give him a 100% raise, that was a move upon which jobs are lost. After getting off to a slow start, Sopel was diagnosed with something and put on the Long Term Injured Reserve. He hasn’t been seen or heard from in quite some time. He also may be floating somewhere in the Chicago River.
Pascal Pelletier (QG: N/A, Mid-Term: Incomplete): Although it was impressive to get anything of value from Honorary ‘Steve Maltais All-Star’ Martin St. Pierre, the recent call up’s grade is incomplete.
Jack Skille (QG: Incomplete, Mid-Term: Incomplete)
1st Quarter Grade: B+, Mid-Term Grade: A