And, Now … Deep Thoughts

We here at the Feather have a lot of opinions.  The only problem is we often don’t find room to make many of them known; there are just too many goings-on in Blackhawk land to worry about league-wide stories and other fringe issues. 

No longer, though.  Below you’ll find a collection of unsystematic thoughts, observations and predictions from the Feather.  It’ll be the first of – hopefully – a season-long practice we’re calling Deep Thoughts… 

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With the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars each projected to finish at or near the final Western Conference playoff spots, one wonders how much of an advantage finishing atop the Conference will actually be come April. 

The Kings are just too talented to watch the playoffs from home again this season.  Last year, they had trouble scoring goals; this year, they added Ryan Smyth to their young, yet-underachieving offensive nucleus, which, as of last trade deadline, includes Justin Williams

There’s no such thing as karma.  If the Hawks struggle to replicate or exceed their success from the ’08-’09 season, it won’t be because they’re being punished by Ishvara, the Hindu supreme controller.  (It will be the ghost of Bill Wirtz.) 

The Hawks will miss Matt Walker.  I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.  (For the record, Bob is on his own with the Matt Walker deep thought.  I’m under the impression that 6th defensemen can be plucked from anywhere.  Don’t let me down, Brent.)

If this past summer was any indicator, restricted free agency in the NHL is basically a joke.  Nobody is going to give up multiple draft picks to sign one player.  So let’s keep our diapers on and not freak out every time somebody asks how the Hawks will manage to keep the big three.  Worst case scenario, the Hawks will have multiple first round picks within two years.

Phil Kessel better be good, and the Maple Leafs better have many of the pieces already in place.  Giving up two first-rounders is a risky way to rebuild. 

Victor Hedman will be rookie of the year, and John Tavares will struggle.  If it weren’t for the New York Islanders’ off-ice issues, Hedman would have been the first overall pick.

If just half of the defensemen that Tampa Bay signed in July pan out, then they might be the surprise team of the Eastern Conference.  Combining a solid defensive corps with their goaltending and top-6 forwards could be enough to sneak in the playoffs as the 8th seed.  Or, at the least, prevent Washington from clinching the division in December. 

People forgot about the Dallas Stars’ Brendan Morrow awfully quickly.  Be prepared to be reintroduced. 

Sure, the Olympics make me nervous as a Blackhawks fan.  But, as a hockey fan, I’m like a teenage girl at a Hannah Montana concert.  The collections of talent Canada, Russia and Sweden will show the world are staggering. 

Raise your hand if you care about the future of the Phoenix Coyotes.  Bueller…

Sad to say, but given the depth of the Western Conference, funny how the Blackhawks are arguably one injury to a top center away from a handful of lottery balls next spring.

The Blackhawks’ early season European vacation will undoubtedly be grueling, and evidence suggests it will negatively impact the team.  2008 travelers included the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Lighting, Rangers and Senators all had disastrous campaigns last season, and no team had more points in 2008-’09 than it did the previous season (though the teams only had a combined 21 less points in the most recent season).  Of course, one also has to consider that the Penguins … ya know … won the Stanley Cup last season.

Cristobal Huet could finish the year with a .987 save percentage and 0.98 goals against average and some people still would think he’s a crappy goaltender.

He’s presided over the Blackhawks during a historic return to prominence, and he was unquestionably instrumental in bringing the Winter Classic to Wrigley Field.  But, is it too late to send McD back?

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For the past couple of weeks, the two of us have had discussions about whether the Hawks will miss Martin Havlat that have rivaled the Roe vs. Wade hearings.  So now the rest of you have to suffer.

John’s Take

As someone who spent the last two and a half years defending Martin Havlat to anyone who would bother to listen, it wasn’t too difficult to cut ties with my former Czech lover.  For one, Marian Hossa is a flat-out better player; on the power play, on the kill, even-strength, and in shoot-outs.  Two, and perhaps more importantly, even without Havlat getting concussed against Detroit, there was a very slim chance the Hawks were getting into the Cup Finals. 

Bringing back Havlat, even at lesser years than Hossa and a hometown discount, the Hawks would have basically the exact same team that wasn’t good enough to make the Finals the year before.  I prefer my franchises to operate under the assumption that if they don’t come within a couple wins of the championship, then upgrades need to be made.  Hossa for Havlat is just that.

What it boils down to is this: The idea of Martin Havlat was always greater than the product we saw on the ice.  For two and a half years, we were promised a top-10 talent.  Only in his final five months with the Hawks did he finally deliver the goods.  So no, he won’t be missed, but his legend will probably grow to epic proportions regardless of how well Marian Hossa plays upon his return.

Bob’s Take

Because Marian Hossa is a potential 50-goal scorer, it’s hard to argue with conventional wisdom, which suggests that Hossa is a better player than Martin Havlat.  I certainly will not. 

From my seat, however, the key question will undoubtedly become, Is he four years better?  In other words, assuming the Hawks could have had Havlat for the six-year deal he inked with the Minnesota Wild – and I’m not exactly out on a limb with that assumption – the Hawks have essentially stuck their necks out on the additional four years it took to reel in Hossa – and that’s assuming he retires after ten seasons.  Thus, the question: Is he worth the extra four seasons? 

Havlat led the Hawks in scoring last season – both during the regular season and playoffs.  When the Hawks’ offense struggled last season – which it did more than most remember – he excelled, often scoring big goals when few others were capable of contributing.  (Game 1 of the playoffs anyone?)  Havlat very obviously loved being a Hawk, and he was loved for it – so much so, his face was routinely superimposed over images of Jesus and nobody batted an eyelash.

I guess in the end it was a question of longevity, and Hossa’s won out.  Did he need an extra four (or six) years to prevail, though?

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One Response to And, Now … Deep Thoughts

  1. JDNoce says:

    Very good stuff, guys.
    Just saw Toskala flailing on his back. Welcome to Leafs season!

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