Following Up

Brent Sopel played exceedingly well yesterday evening, reminding watchers why Dale Tallon signed him to a three-year, $7 million deal two seasons ago. It proves – beyond a shadow of a doubt, to me – that Sopel is a much better player when asked to play big minutes against top offensive players, as opposed to fewer minutes against third and fourth line players. And, he wouldn’t be alone in that. Playing against the other team’s best players seems to allow Sopel to simplify his game; to concentrate on defending the opposition with quick decisions, rather than feeling responsible for more against less talented grinders. He’ll have to remember this mindset when he’s again asked to play against lesser talents, as he most certainly will be when Seabrook is ready to go.

— While they’re certainly very different players, watching John Madden play this season reminds me of watching Brian Campbell during the beginning portion of last year. I remember being stunned – following years of being subjected to below average defensemen – by watching a blueliner who could legitimately move the puck on a nightly basis. This year, while I continue to respect the defensive efforts of Jonathan Toews, Andrew Ladd, and others, John Madden is in a world of his own as a defensive forward. His speed, tenacity and strength on the puck make him a must-watch every night. I’ve also been impressed with his offensive ability.

— There’s been a Tomas Kopecky sighting! While I remain incredibly underwhelmed by the new Hawk, he showed spurts of what he’s capable of last night. To me, he seems miscast as a grinder; his skill set seems more fitting of a top-six role – a role he’s unfortunately not quite skilled enough for at the NHL level. More broadly, the fourth line played well, too.

Jake Dowell willingly threw his name into the “If Ben Eager Won’t Be Back Anytime Soon, I Can Be Your Enforcer-Type” hat yesterday evening. To his credit, during his scrap, he seemed to fight to get loose from Minnesota’s Shane Hnidy, but Hnidy didn’t seem to want to go with the former Badger.

Kris Versteeg played a heck of a game, too. If Q can just find the right combination to fully utilize Versteeg’s skill with the puck, one could see Versteeg making himself into a Kane-like threat. The problem’s never been Versteeg’s skill, though; it’s been his ability to show it most nights.

Dustin Byfuglien played a very active game.

— Yes, the power play has to be better, but as long as the penalty kill is great, there’s time.

— Okay, I’ve been persuaded. Put Huet on waivers.

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5 Responses to Following Up

  1. Dave Morris says:

    Gee, I thought you wanted to trade Cristo for a bottle of Moet and a wheel of ripe Camembert.

    What made you change your mind?

    😉

  2. CT says:

    ” It proves – beyond a shadow of a doubt, to me – that Sopel is a much better player when asked to play big minutes against top offensive players, as opposed to fewer minutes against third and fourth line players”

    Yes, he has played better lately (and not been terrible this year), but I would also argue that it could be a product of him now being paired with Keith instead of Barker, as opposed to tougher opponents bringing out the best in Sopel.

  3. blackhawkbob says:

    Point taken, CT. But, regardless of how short some memories are, Sopel was very good two seasons ago playing against top forwards. Most of the time, he wasn’t doing it with Keith.

    It’s hard to discount his playing with Keith over Barker, though.

  4. Tom says:

    Boom (Madden) has played his tail off this season – he had a great game last night! Hopefully this is one of those pick-ups that because it wasn’t front page news, pays off huge dividends for the Hawks this season.

  5. CT says:

    Bob, I didn’t really intend that to be a knock on Sope either (trust me, when I knock Sopel, there’s no doubt about it), but more on Barker. The kid’s just not good in his own end right now, and Sopel can’t cover up for it(I’m not sure many guys could).

    Anyway, for all the grief I’ve given Sope, I’m glad he’s playing better this year. If he can continue to be an asset to the Hawks, all the better.

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