There’s a whole lot to cover, so let’s get right down to it:
—Jack Skille was reassigned to Rockford once again on Tuesday. At this point, the Hawks jagging around Skille is beyond curious. The excuse they are giving is their salary cap issues. However, one simple move would alleviate this so-called headache: placing Marian Hossa on Long Term Injury Reserve.
Bobby and I have tried to get to the bottom of why the Hawks haven’t placed Hossa on Long Term Injury Reserve and the best answer we’ve received is the Hawks don’t feel like it.
Ok, so then why are the Hawks constantly calling up Skille and subsequently reassigning him once the game is over?
Well, they obviously don’t think that highly of him. The Hawks would never pull stunts like this with a prospect of an esteemed pedigree.
The only other logical explanation we can think of is money. Every day Skille is up with the parent club, he’s collecting some of his $1.275 million contract. When he’s in Rockford, he makes significantly less. Players on two-way contracts are paid daily based on where they’re playing. So when Skille played on Monday, he collected on some of his $1.275 million. When they reassigned him on Tuesday, he was back to collecting his minor league contract.
Seems kind of silly for a team making bank like the Hawks to try and save a few thousand dollars, but it’s really the only thing we can think of. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.
–Here’s a conversation Bobby and I had during Monday night’s game:
Bobby: Have you noticed perhaps no one in the history of the NHL faces more bouncing pucks than Brent Sopel? Every time a loose puck comes to him, it’s hopping all over the place.
John: No, never noticed.
(Five seconds pass, the puck finds Sopel in the neutral zone and it’s bouncing like a Superball.)
John: You might be on to something there.
–The Hawks absolutely abused the Flames in the face-off dot. They won 41 of the 64 face-offs. Sure, it’s only five games into the season but the Hawks are currently the 3rd best team in the NHL in face-off percentage. They’re winning draws at a 56.4% clip. That’s already quite the improvement from last year’s 48.1%. Being mediocre at face-offs isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it sure is nice to see the Hawks made a conscious effort to improve a glaring weakness from last year.
–Raise your hand if you knew Patrick Sharp was in the middle of a 5-game point streak….Thought so. It’s quite possible Sharp is having the quietest point streak to open the season in NHL history. Maybe it has something to do with how awful he looks playing the point with a man advantage.
I’m all for Quenneville and the coaching staff experimenting with different looks at the start of the season. That’s why you won’t see me complain about Colin Fraser on the penalty kill yet, but using Sharp on the point is wrong on so many levels.
Everything Sharp is below average at doing, the Hawks are asking him to do by playing the point. He’s not an efficient puck handler; he’s not very good at distributing the puck; and that’s without taking into account how asking Sharp to stand there and wait for the puck is the worst thing for him. He’s at his best when he’s constantly moving around, helping out on the cycle, and getting himself open for a pass.
So yeah, anytime they’re ready to ditch the idea is fine by me.
–With Ben Eager out indefinitely, the Hawks fourth line is quickly turning from one of their major strengths into a major weakness. Last year, more than any other player, including the pie-slinging Adam Burish, Eager was the one who gave Quenneville the ability to constantly roll four lines without worry. His ability to forecheck and create offense has actually become pretty hard to replace.
—Colin Fraser is certainly more than capable of being a 4th line center. Unfortunately, if he’s not playing with two players better than him, he becomes a huge liability. He runs around in the defensive zone with the awareness of a Mite player in a scrimmage.
With Fraser between Skille and Kopecky, the Hawks are quickly becoming a three line team. It should be enough to get them out of the first couple months of the season but once the calendar flips to spring, they need to be rolling all four lines again.
–Just so everyone is clear, Bobby is planning on charging $20 a head for anyone trying to re-board the Dustin Byfuglien bandwagon. His goal against Calgary was something to be seen; picking the puck on his backhand, deking Kiprusoff, then sliding the puck through the 5-hole. Do I dare call it a ‘goal scorer’s’ goal?
–Speaking of bandwagons, it appears Sam and I will probably be the only two left on Cristobal Huet’s by the end of the month.
Let’s clear up some confusion because with the Hawks now a mainstream story, the media is adding all sorts of poppycock to this.
This isn’t football and goalies aren’t quarterbacks. If Antii Niemi is named the starter for a couple games that doesn’t mean we have seen the last of Huet. We’ll still be seeing him two to three times a week so the talk about the team losing confidence in him, not believing in him, his season being over, etc. is for the birds.
If anything, goalies are like relief pitchers. It’s incredibly difficult to predict future success, during the season they’re largely interchangable (with the exception of the top 2 or 3 guys), and they’re really weird.
Hell, we’re barely two years removed from Patrick Lalime being named the starter ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin for a brief period. How quickly we all forget.
–I would venture to guess the same people begging Dale Tallon to trade Khabibulin at the beginning of last year because of Huet’s arrival are probably the same people bemoaning the loss of the great Nikolai Khabibulin.
–Sticking with the goalie theme, I have to wonder this: If Huet let in the two goals Antii Niemi did on Monday night, he probably would have needed President Obama’s security staff to help him exit the United Center. Say what you will about Huet’s play to start this season, but he’s yet to give up two goals as bad as those. That’s a fact.
The Hawks are a whopping five games into the season. Five.
The hyperbole of the Hawks not being good enough to win the Stanley Cup because of what happened in an October game is patently ridiculous. If that were the case, the Penguins wouldn’t have had a prayer against the Capitals in the playoffs last year. The Capitals beat them 4-3 on October 16th and Marc-Andre Fleury only stopped 26 of the 30 shots he faced.
I guarantee you there were more than a few Penguin fans proclaiming after the game, “This team isn’t good enough to win the Cup with Fleury as their goalie!!!11”
How did that work out for everybody?
You guys are right on with the goalie thing. It definitely reeks of Chicago media and the appealing to the common fan’s desire to root for the backup QB. Those two goals given up by Niemi were horrible. The 2nd one especially was horrid. I know it was bouncing, but he needs to go to basic goaltending at that point and just square up and face the puck, just pathetic. We need Huet to get better and Niemi to start playing like an NHL goalie. It’s a long season and goalies run through hot and cold streaks throughout the season, so let’s see where we are in December. Khabibulin would not have been the answer, the man plays well for a couple of months last year and everyone forgets about the previous few years where he was a sieve, especially on shots through the legs. He had the worst save percentage in the playoffs last year through 2 rounds and actually was worse in the WCF, but still everyone is wishing he was still here. Simply mind-boggling.
@AC, what no Colin Fraser commentary. How long have we been watching games together? 1990? I am shocked. It was teed up for you. You are right on on the goaltending thing in terms of goaltending 101. It might/could help if the defensman got better too. Barker is Mr. Turnover for a goal this year and the other guys aren’t much better.
The Skille thing. Maybe it is a quiet tribute to Dollar Bill!
You guys said it Sharp needs to be down low on the power play and the fourth line is horrendous without Eager and Burish. They bring Energy to the table. If Eager has a concussion it could be another month. Fraser was one ACL from the season in the press box drinking vodkas with Foley hoping to say hammered by Klinkenhammer or Smothered by Smolenak (but that lasted one game. Still trying to figure that one out.)
The big question is do we make a trade and whom for what?
Lou, I have a reason to believe that Huet and Niemi can get better and that there may be something to look forward to there. As you know, my feelings about Fraser are that he is a nice AHL player (there, I said something nice about him). Outside of the fact that he doesn’t win many faceoffs, has no scoring ability, has been out of position a lot this year (and last), doesn’t clear the zone on the PK and isn’t big enough to intimidate, he’s a fine player.
100% agreed on the goalie situation, the chick that sits next to me at the UC was calling for them to put in Niemi before Huet had even given up a goal. Its ridiculous and hopefully Huet pulls his head out of his ass soon to shut these mouthbreathers up.
Genteelmen, I must say this particular article was Dostoyevskian in its scope. Kudos.
The hue and cry over Monsieur Huet is simply the consequence of his acceptance of a five million dollar plus multiyear contract and his assertion that he wishes to wear the Superman cape as Numero Uno in Chicago. Hey, if ya can’t do da time, don’t do da crime.
Perhaps putting Cristo on the back burner and letting him simmer for a game while they use Handy Antti to degrease an Oily situation will help set Monsieur H back on the path of righteousness.
Regarding Capable Colin and Jumpin Jack Skille, our friend Fraser is what he is. And he’s no Craig Adams. As for the skillet Jack’s put himself in by being a million dollar baby before he showed he could make change, Skille’s openly bemoaned the fact he signed such a big deal. “I’d play for the league minimum if I could,” he was quoted as saying by ESPN.
And of course Hawks fans, and hockey fans and media in general, are reacting to all of this kerfuffle. Thank goodness for that. Relevance has its rewards.
Going on half a century since the last Cup, I’m beginning to feel like a cranky senior citizen every time I talk about watching the Hawks win it, on that old woodburning RCA Victor back when Doug Mohns had hair.
Cheers, and have your adult beverages handy tonight.
Wow, Dave a kerfuffle. Is that a word still in modern English??? I guess that is a new word for us kids. Did Bill Mosienko tell you that one. Gotcha buddy 🙂
AC, that was the PG version on Fraser!
I think a Niemi start or two will allow Huet to re-focus.
I would love to see the Hawks torch Khabi tonight to shut everyone up about that entire issue before some of our local reporter colleagues whose names we shall not speak run wild with that.
This is a test to find out why i am not getting notified of comments. Can you comment to this
Here you go, Lee.
And Niemi with the start tonight…let the irrational thoughts begin!
skille is all about the salary. (confirmed 10am)
Wow, huge surprise, Hawks re-called Skille again.
An interesting question is does he have to drive back and forth to check in with Rockford’s fron office???? Curious on what the rules are there
I really need to stop reading this blog because the authors are pretty misinformed or completely uninformed with 75% of the comments. Playing hockey as a kid doesn’t make you a hockey authority, guys.
I agree with the goaltending assessment, well, we’ll say 90% of it. The last two games that Cristo has played he’s allowed 3 goals and in each game I would give him .5 “bad goals”.
In Detroit there was the powerplay cross-ice pass that was redirected in. The bouncing puck over Barker’s stick where he got sniped by Draper (.5 bad goal, but not his fault) and the 3rd goal was with Fat Ass Holmstrom (yes, I know he’s not fat, but quite annoying because he plays like a fat guy in the offensive zone) at the top of the crease setting a great screen. There was no way Huet saw the shot come from the point. 3 goals, half of one was bad.
In Chicago on Monday there was the Barker giveaway leading to a shot from the low-slot completely uncontested, not a bad goal from Huet’s standpoint. The second goal was a play where Huet was in good scramble position, but the puck bounced on the shooter and came off like a change-up going right through Huet’s legs. Huet had to sprawl to the post, anticpating a hard shot, but when a weak one came off, he had it overplayed. (Half of a bad goal.) Then the breakaway by Iginla.
Let’s recap: 6 goals combined in the two games and I’ll total it at one bad goal. I can live with that. Niemi allowed 2 goals and both of them were terrible.
Now, where do I disagree (the 10% that I referenced earlier). Huet is the better goalie of the two. However the Hawks may be better off with Niemi in net. In the two games Niemi has played the Hawks have played much better as a team in the defensive zone. They’ve blocked a ton of shots, checked the forwards better, and they haven’t been as careless with the puck.
Let’s also not read into the Niemi start tonight too much. He has earned a home start as Q says. But let’s also keep in mind how Huet played last season when he played a lot of games in a row. Towards the end he tired out and was virtually useless. This year with the Olympics and the condensed schedule we’ll probably see a lot of starts from the #2 goaltender just to make sure Huet (can we call him Huet Lewis and the News?) stays fresh. This will happen even more frequently if team France qualifies for the games.
Huet is the best goalie the Hawks have right now and he gives them the best chance to win the Cup with the current roster. I would love if the team would step up the defense in front of Huet, but that may not happen. I still believe that the Hawks should go out and find a #2 goaltender that can play a ton of games without much of a drop in talent. (Niemi isn’t the guy for that role.) If Bowman can go out and get a relatively inexpensive #2 goalie like a Clemmenson, Conklin, Budaj, or even a Hiller (pipe dream, but hey, who knows?). Each of those guys has proven that they can eat-up games and while they may not be as good as the starter. they do not offer as big of a drop off as Niemi.
I’m sure my argument will get skewered by someone and that’s fine. This is what I’ve seen.
Also, Skille has been recalled for tonight’s game. I wonder what kind of meal stipend he gets on the days he’s reassigned. “Stan, how can I get better when all I can afford is the dollar menu?”
Jamie, you are hilarious. Please don’t ever stop reading and commenting.
Buddy, other than France already not qualifying for the Olympics, you’re pretty much correct in your whole prose. Also, I would add Martin Biron to your list of B-goalies who the Hawks will be paying attention to.
As for the 10% where we disagree, I’m not sure it’s even that much.
John, thanks for the clarification on Team France. I tried to look it up yesterday, but was just given the Group A, B, and C teams (ranked 1-9) and the remaining teams were just listed as “Qualifiers”. Thanks again.
I’m always willing to learn – especially if it pertains to the Blackhawks or hockey – so I ask you to comment on a specific instance of misinformation – particularly from today’s post – to prove your point.
Thanks for begrudgingly reading, although I agree with you rather than John on this one; I think you should stop, too.
One of the great things about this site is your candor and allowing people’s differing opinions as unique as they may be. A lot of great folks bring a lot of great perspectives from what the say during the games live and on TV. You provide a good forum for healthy debate. The only thing would be better is to be able to sit around the table and have a beer. Just like the old Sportwriters show. Don’t change it.
You also answer some questions people don’t know. Ex: What are the rules on the revolving door call-ups does the player have to report back and forth. Not something in the mainstream but not sure if that makes us all dumb. It is the NHL and these are unique rules.
And if you guys and all the folks out here are misinformed, maybe we can go stay at the Holiday Inn Express Jamie owns.
Thanks very much, Lou.
As for call-ups reporting, I believe it is an assignment/call-up on paper only, but I will check into it this afternoon.
Additionally, it may not be a wild idea to suggest that the Skille treatment “circumvents” key provisions of the current CBA and, as such, actually violates the agreement. (Remember, it was the “Circumvention” language which the NHL used to investigate the Hossa deal in August.)
I agree with you that the two goals that Niemi let up were weak and that if Huet let them up he might have been murdered, but I also think that Niemi made a couple of saves in that game WHEN WE NEEDED HIM TOO. I am still on the Huet bandwagon. I had to deal with everyone of my family and friends talking about how they are all so worried about Huet starting this year, and I kept reassuring them that without Khabibulin he will flourish, blah blah, blah. I am still on that bandwagon because it is in the beginning of the season, like you said 5 games in. But what I’m worried about Huet is that he is not making saves when we need him to. When we had all the momentum Monday I remember Calgary getting sustained pressure in the zone and Niemi making at least 1 or 2 great saves that kept the momentum on our side. I’m not discrediting you, I just want to see what you think about Niemi making saves when we need him to and Huet the opposite.
Hold on now, if Jamie leaves then the readership in this blog will drop back into single digits. Damn.
Really though – you guys offer solid insight in a very witty way (and that goes for some of the readers too – Dave Morris is everywhere). Appreciate it.
On the Huet front, it’s early. One, two or three games does not a season (or goaltender) make. He’s not that bad and he gets blamed for everything – even when the D leaves him hanging out to dry. If the Hawks try to make a trade or dump him now, they’ll only get a bigger headache in return (either cap or player). Regardless of who starts tonight or whether it’s a win or loss, the Hawks will be just fine – and think, they’re doing all of this without Hossa.
@Patrick right on. And Toews hasn’t scored either.
Maybe Jamie is really Martin Havlat’s pseudonym and he just can’t let go in between beard trimmings. Hey Dave how’s that for a cool word like kerfuffle??
@Lou> how did you know Mosienko and I are buds? 😉
@Lou> geez, I didn’t mean for everybody to get into a kerfuffle over my use of the word kerfuffle. Maybe I’ll stick to words like brouhaha.
Ha ha. 😀
Oh, for all of those of you who remember black and white TV…’donnybrook’ was a favorite word of Danny Gallivan’s.
The Nieminator Vs. The Bulin Wall, tonight, eh. Sounds like a good match.
Just guessed after reading your blogs and wealth of blackhawk historical knowledge and since we are wee sprouts with 30 years of hockey watching he was a good old school name.
Although if you are still talking directly to him, can I borrow your phone or your drink mix?
Just a great word Dave as is Donnybrook
I don’t think there’s any doubt the Hawks need a capable goaltender to make big saves when the situation calls for them. With that said, our post today was meant to suggest that it’s far too early to say Huet is incapable of being that goalie.
As for Niemi, he gave some good and some bad against Calgary. The two goals he surrendered were putrid, but, as you’ve mentioned, he played well down the stretch, enabling the Hawks to tie and eventually win the game. For that he deserves credit – not the keys to the city, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
All in all, there is no doubt that Huet played poorly the other evening. Three goals on five shots is poor in a shootout – much less regulation play – and he’ll need to be better. Lucky for us, recent history suggests he at least deserves the chance to be.
Kyle, here’s a question to ponder….If Niemi hadn’t let in those two goals in, would he still be in a position where he had to make those saves down the stretch? He deserves credit for making the saves but it seems to me, at least, that he didn’t have to put himself in a must-save position.
@Lou>don’t shortchange yourself. Wee sprouts are good for you.
As for Mosienko, I basically just get the odd text message. Bill’s not the gabby type. The Bentley Brothers are much more loquacious.
Don’t mistake my shameless evocation of Hawkey legends for actual knowledge. I do think it’s funny that Troy Brouwer wears the same number as King Kong Korab and J.P. Bordeleau did, though. Why I think that’s funny I really don’t know.
Oh, and ‘drink mix’? Never. Straight up, straight from the freezer. With a beer chaser if you’re of that persuasion. And make sure you do up your chin strap.
Hey, does The Nieminator win tonight, or what?
Wasn’t always pretty, but whattya know…leading the Central AND the Western Conference.
And this team still hasn’t played its best hockey, nor does it have all of its personnel.
OK, halfway through October. Not doing too badly.
Beers in a frosty pint or Scotch on the Rocks and don’t you worry, I have peter panitis. I will always be a kid.