Getting High in the Desert

While the internet finally cools off after nearly burning down from a napalm storm of make-believe Blackhawk trade rumors (I wonder if Brian Burke woke up on Wednesday morning and thought he’d have to answer questions regarding a rumor from Hockey Buzz.  And another thing, if any person with half of a brain cell knows any post from that site is about 10% fact, 90% fantasy, how do their blog posts become an international story?) let’s take a look at some of the reality facing the Hawks in the next two games:

Jonathan Toews returned to practice on Wednesday.  The ‘meh’ news was that Toews didn’t skate with a regular line so it appears as though the Hawks still aren’t counting on him just yet.  At this point, though, it’s encouraging for him just to return to the ice.  To get the go-ahead from the medical staff would mean his concussion symptoms are finally subsiding. 

-It’s kind of surprising how shocked people are about the Phoenix Coyotes start to the season.  I suppose all the off-season drama plays into it.  What people forget is Phoenix was in the hunt for a playoff spot last year until early February.  Once they reached their high water mark of 5 games over .500, that’s when the wheels came apart.

Getting superb goaltending is certainly helping their cause in the early going.  Ilya Bryzgalov and Jason LaBarbera have combined to stop 93% of the shots they’ve faced.  With Bryzgalov getting the start against Colorado on Wednesday night, it will be interesting  to see who Dave Tippett turns to in the Thursday night match-up with the Hawks. 

Other than Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski, the Coyotes are a mish-mosh of veteran players.  Some familar names you’ll see- Robert Lang, Adrian Aucoin, Jim Vandermeer, Radim Vrbata, Vernon Fiddler, and Matthew Lombardi. 

They won’t be raising the Cup in June, but they could prove to be a formidable opponent for teams taking them lightly.

-As for Colorado, back-up goalie Peter Budaj got his first start of the season on Wednesday night.  At this point, it’s not a matter of if Craig Anderson reverts to his career numbers, but when.  A heavy workload combined with having no defense in front of him isn’t exactly the key to surviving the grueling regular season.

Going into this week, the Avalanche were tied with the Edmonton Oilers for the worst shot differential in the entire NHL.  Puck Prospectus uses this statistical measure to help figure who the lucky teams are and who the good ones are.  I’ll let you try and figure where they think Colorado stands.

-Another bizarre thought from Tim Sassone today.  After unmerciful spanking to the blogger who started the rumor firestorm, Sassone offers this:

 Who wouldn’t want Kaberle, a terrific defenseman and a power-play quarterback? The Hawks need both.

Um, come again. 

Two Julys ago, the Hawks gave Brian Campbell the richest and longest contract in team history to fill the role of power-play quarterback.  Not to mention, power-play quarterback is the only thing Cam Barker can say he actually does.  So no, the Hawks don’t need a power-play quarterback and probably won’t need one as long as those two guys are wearing an Indian head.

-As for the rumor mongerers among us, I just have one request: Is it asking too much to start throwing some other names out there?  The ‘Tomas Kaberle, Anze Kopitar, and Alexander Frolov to the Hawks’ rumors have officially entered the ‘Chone Figgins to the White Sox’ and ‘Brian Roberts to the Cubs’ zone.  

If we’re going to wildly speculate about players, why is it always the same three guys?  Give us someone new to make fun of you about.  I’m not asking for much. 

*On the Farm* 

–The IceHogs took out a weekend of frustration on the San Antonio Rampage with a 5-3 win.  Rob Klinkhammer, Akim Aliu, Bryan Bickell, Mark Cullen, and Jassen Cullimore were the goal scorers.  Cullen added two assists and Klinkhammer had an assist as well.  Corey Crawford stopped 30 of the 33 shots to nab third star honors. 

Byron Froese scored his second goal in as many nights in Everett’s 3-2 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Kyle Beach continues to leave behind a trail of scorched Earth.  He scored two goals in a 5-1 win over the Chilliwack Bruins.  The goals were just over 30 seconds apart.  He scored his first goal with 15 seconds left in the first period.  Then he scored again 18 seconds into the second period on the power play.  Beach leads the Chiefs with 13 goals.

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17 Responses to Getting High in the Desert

  1. Anna S. says:

    If we’re going to wildly speculate about players, why is it always the same three guys? Give us someone new to make fun of you about. I’m not asking for much.

    I’ve lurked here for awhile now, but I’d like to come out of hiding and give a hearty amen to this.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    @John> the Yotes are coming off two straight losses, which is never a good thing for the opponent of a Dave Tippett-coached team.

    I watched the PHX-COL game last night, and JovoCop is playing some seriously mean hockey.

    Hawks will need to play smart and tough to win this one.

    How would the Black Hawks look if they still had Aucoin, Vrbata, Vandermeer and Lang? Not that I miss them, but just a thought for our Feather friends to mull upon.

    Trade rumors and cap crunches make for some pretty lively banter, don’t they? I found myself attacked (virtually, you understand) yesterday on my KK blog by a rabid Wings fan who claimed the Hawks have the worst cap crisis in the NHL. Tranquilizer darts did little to calm that savage beast.

    And ya know, if StanBow were to focus on a core like this:
    Toews-Kane-Hossa
    Keith-Seabrook-Hjalmarsson-Campbell
    Goalie TBD, remainder of roster as budget allows

    …would any Hawks fan be unhappy?

    I think not. But what do I know?

  3. Patrick says:

    Question – how well would Kyle Beach be doing in Rockford right now and is his extra season in the juniors hurting his development?

    Other than that, Dave – I started your KK article and will finish it today. The Hawks will be fine with the cap. As for “the core” that you propose above – I think that I agree, although I may add Versteeg into that group as one who has potential to become a world-class agitator and somewhat reliable goal scorer. Would love to keep Sharp indefinitely, but I don’t think the Hawks can afford his next contract, unless the cap jumps up significantly in two years. I like the makeup of this team and how they get along, and of course would want to keep all of them, but reality dictates that we can’t do that.

  4. Lou says:

    @Dave, the core would be solid. I think you need to have a few more forwards in the overall mix. Maybe Brouwer and Buff evolve into that nucleus. I can tell you if Madden weren’t at the later phases of his career he would be on my list.

    All those guys you mentioned that are gone would not make this team.

  5. John says:

    Patrick, considering he’s not even 20 years old yet and by all accounts, still very raw, I think the Hawks made the correct move sending him back to juniors.

    My personal feeling is unless it’s incredibly obvious (i.e. Patrick Kane) and a player still has junior eligibility, then he needs to be playing amongst similar competition.

    Not to mention, in Spokane, he’s getting top-6 minutes. I’m not sure he’d be getting the same treatment in Rockford.

  6. Patrick says:

    Dave – just finished your KK article. Good read – very balanced, and things are not as dire for the Hawks as some would think. I like your supposition that Kane, Keith and Towes could all “punt” next year until the new CBA, because when that happens, all of this fretting we have going on could be for nothing as it will be a vastly different landscape (although it’s one that will probably take away the Hossa-type deals and if you could get them in under the wire with KK&T, it might be worth it). Anyway I digress, and for good reason too – that HockeyinHD guy is an idiot!

  7. Patrick says:

    John – I hear you but I’m just wondering if the “minors rule” is getting outdated and in the way for him (and others). If I’m a fan in Rockford, I would rather see raw kids (the future) than retreds (the past).

  8. John says:

    Let’s also keep in mind that Beach isn’t exactly setting the WHL on fire. Scoring 13 goals is great and all but he’s barely in the top 10 of goal scorers.

    The Hawks would also prefer Rockford to have retreds as those will be the guys asked to step in for injuries. If and when Beach is ready, he shouldn’t have to spend too much time in Rockford. Having raw kids is great for you to watch but it’s not really the best way to insure yourself in case of injuries.

  9. John says:

    I’d also add, if seeing young kids at Rockford is what you want, just give it a year or so. I’d call this a transition year within the Hawks farm system. In a couple years, there should be a decent amount of youth and raw talent scattered across the IceHogs roster.

  10. Dave Morris says:

    @Patrick> thanks…and re: ‘HockeyHD’…he’s also a persistent WingNut.

    😀

    I’m really curious to see how management transitions some of these talented kids like Beach, Aliu, Lalonde, etc into the makeup of the big club.

    Skille may not have fulfilled his promise, but an argument could be made he was caught in the numbers game. A counter-argument can also be made the kid doesn’t have ‘it’.

    But watching what teams like Colorado, LA and Phoenix have accomplished so far with young players on their roster, there’s no reason to think the Hawks won’t, as Dale Tallon once suggested, “get younger”.

    BTW I noticed the Fifth Feather has mentioned Puck Prospectus. Don’t know if you’ve all read this, but their report on the Hawks is worth your time.
    http://www.puckprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=291

  11. Patrick says:

    John – thanks for the insights

  12. blackhawkbob says:

    Patrick:

    Note too that, as a 19-year old, Kyle Beach is not yet eligible to play in the AHL. That’s pursuant to an agreement between the CHL and NHL that mandates younger players either (i) play in the NHL or (ii) go back to their junior teams. Once one of these players has played ten games with his NHL club, he must stay for the remainder of the season.

    As for whether it’s hurting his development, the rule above seems to have served many young players through the years just fine.

  13. blackhawkbob says:

    Patrick:

    I see now – upon rereading your conversation – that you’re aware of the rule. I should have known…

  14. feyer says:

    @blackhawkbob> I could be wrong, but I think the rule stipulates that once a player 19 and under plays 10 NHL games, that season counts as a “contract year” as far as his NHL entry level contract goes and his eligibility for RFA status. He can still be sent back to the junior club, but it is an important decision wether to play him past the 9th game none-the-less.

  15. Patrick says:

    Bob – it’s all good – you guys are a couple of Blackhawk savants and it’s good to have you out here.

    Dave – good puck prospectus link. Hope they can accurately predict the future. BTW – if you’re in Ottawa, how’d you become a Hawks fan? Did you grow up in Chicago?

  16. blackhawkbob says:

    Feyer:

    I actually think we’re both combining two separate rules. First, I believe there is an AHL eligibility requirement, which mandates players be 20-years old at some point during the season (which I can’t recall at the moment). Then, I believe there’s a separate rule, which speaks to when the contract of an entry level player starts ticking.

    I always get the two confused, but I’ll figure it out.

  17. Dave Morris says:

    @Patrick…I’ve been a Hawks fan since ’61. Back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth and Bobby Hull had his original hair.

    PS gang…the Blackhawks were obviously still lounging by the pool when the game started tonight. Or maybe they were comparing lap dances.

    The Coyotes are a good team, and they knew the Hawks were suffering from ‘desert hangover’.

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