Being Wrong Never Felt So Right

The following is our contribution to this year’s final issue of The Committed Indian.  It is well worth the $2 Sam is charging so splurge away. 

That big smile on your face gone yet?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  These are quite different times for Blackhawk fans.  When Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews debuted for the Hawks three years ago, you didn’t have to be Pierre Macguire’s thong to know things were going to turn around for this franchise quickly. 

By November of 2007 – when the Fifth Feather was a mere glimmer in our eyes – the two of us partook in one of our patented long-winded phone conversations.  By the end, we had convinced each other that with these two players, the Hawks were well on their way towards hoisting the Stanley Cup.  

But standing atop the hockey world in just three years?  That’s kooky talk.  Steve Yzerman waited his whole career for his moment with Lord Stanley; it took Joe Sakic almost ten years; and the list of big names that never hoisted the Cup grows longer with each passing season. 

When Kane’s shot snuck under Michael Leighton’s pads, it was a moment we thought would come, but somehow never actually materialize.  A lifetime filled with disappointments, heartbreak, and Igor Korolev can break even the strongest man’s will.  Either way, we were right in our early prognostications.  We’ll bask in it for a little while if you don’t mind. 

Ok, we’re back.   

At the same time, it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.  Unfortunately, we are neither big nor men (basically, we’re overgrown children with the ability to buy beer on our own), but in running a website primarily dedicated to all things Blackhawk hockey, we are often wrong with certain analysis or prognostications.

It seems like now would be the perfect time to air out our mistakes from this past season like a pair of stale shin guards.  And boy, do some of these just stink.

Cam Barker is ready to make “The Leap”.  Doesn’t it feel like Barker played for the Hawks, like, years ago?  Hard to believe it was just a few months ago that Barker was this team’s 6th defenseman.  And, way back in September, we pegged the gravelly-voiced defenseman as one of our breakout players for this year’s Blackhawk squad.

After playing in a career-high 67 games last season while quarterbacking the number one power play unit, it was hard to see how he wouldn’t – at the least – rack up big points.  After all, it was Barker who was the Hawks best defenseman in their opening round win against Calgary in 2009.  Years of waiting for the 3rd overall pick to deliver on all his promise seemed to be over.

Then this season started.

Barker opened up as a third pairing defenseman.  He injured his knee in the first month of the season.  Quenneville opted for Patrick Sharp on the point for the first power play unit.  Even when Barker returned from injury, he never was able to grab his spot on the point back, as Coach Q tried other options atop the power play. 

Instead, Barker was relegated to third pairing minutes and third pairing match-ups.  This was the worst of both worlds for him.  By the time the trade deadline rolled around, it was only a matter of time before Barker was sent packing.  Stan Bowman completed a trade right before the Olympics deadline and that was the end of Barker’s Blackhawks career.  It also brought a merciful end to our horrendous pre-season prediction.

The Hawks will need to roll all four lines to compete for the Cup.  There is no argument that the Hawks needed all four lines in the regular season.  Who can forget Colin Fraser finishing the season with his buns on fire?  When the playoffs came, though, the fourth line was basically an afterthought.

Last year, we got so caught up in how the Red Wings had four lines that could play significant minutes, no matter their roles.  On top of that, the Hawks fourth line was a force during last year’s playoff.  Adam Burish even contributed offensively during the Hawks’ 2009 run, and Ben Eager was a difference-maker on more than a few nights. 

This yearnot so much.  Outside of foolishly flapping his gums, Burish did nothing during the Cup run.  Please, spare us this talk about how he helped take media attention away from the shy Jonathan Toews.  The only time Burish stuck his face in the lights was when something good happened.  Ben Eager scored a huge goal in Game 2 of the Finals, but after that, he didn’t do much to rise above the five-to-six-minutes-a-night bar. 

With each passing round, the fourth line wingers saw their ice diminish significantly.  By the Stanley Cup Finals, Eager was lucky to play more than 4 minutes a game.  Burish found himself in the press box scheduling interviews by Game 2.

If the Hawks win the Cup, it will be in front of Cristobal Huet.  Let’s set the stage for this one, since it seems particularly foolish in retrospect.

It’s the third game played at the United Center of the season – sixth overall – and as the third period begins – while the Hawks lead 3-1, mind you – an overeager if not inexperienced fan runs to the first row of a 300-level section and unfurls over the balcony a sign that reads, “One Goal: Trade Huet.” 

It’s in front of that background that we set out to calm the masses and send the message – which we truly believed – that there was no reason to “go all Rex Grossman” on Huet.  And, while there certainly remains no reason to purposely attempt to destroy the confidence of a player on “your” team, our underlying hypothesis was wrong: the high-priced veteran goaltender wasn’t the only goaltender wearing the Indian head capable of carrying the Hawks to hockey immortality.

And boy, did Antti Niemi ever prove us wrong. 

Like many, we were very skeptical of what a 26 year-old unorthodox goalie with less than 5 NHL games experience (prior to this season) was capable of.  Huet was completely shell-shocked by March, the team played on egg shells in front of him.  Things were not going as planned.

Enter Niemi and our final admission of error.

You need a ‘hot’ goalie to win the Stanley Cup.  This was a favorite rallying cry for those looking for reasons why the Hawks wouldn’t win.  We claimed you didn’t need one; others claimed you did.  In the end, we were both – sort of – wrong. 

People who said the ‘hot’ goalie is the key ingredient also said the Hawks didn’t have a goalie with the pedigree to get ‘hot’.  In reality, any goalie playing in the NHL has the capability of getting ‘hot’ at anytime.  There’s no rhyme or reason for it.  It just happens.  Goaltending is the most unpredictable position in all of sports. 

While we claimed the Hawks just needed to have someone not crap themselves in a big situation, the truth is having a ‘hot’ goalie makes everything so much easier.  Imagine if Niemi wasn’t as good in the San Jose series.  Say the Sharks split the first two at home.  The series drastically changes.  Ultimately, the Hawks would probably still the win the West, but in avoiding games 5, 6, and 7, Niemi helped save his teammates for the Cup Finals.

_________________________________________

Happy now?  We’ve admitted when we were wrong.  Now it’s your turn.  Show yourselves thee who claimed the Hawks weren’t tough enough to win the Cup or those wanting to burn Joel Quenneville at the stake or if you’ve ever questioned how good Patrick Kane is.

Word to the wise, it’s easier to admit you were wrong when you’re slamming a beer out of a tin foil Stanley Cup your buddy’s cousin made.

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23 Responses to Being Wrong Never Felt So Right

  1. feyer says:

    Shortly before the Olympics, I suggested that there was no way Barker would be traded. I was wrong, and I am willing to slam a beer for my punishment.

  2. Lee says:

    Have to change the subject for the moment

    Read in Sneeds column this AM that Brent Sopel and family will take the cup from Vegas and march with it in the Gay Rights parade on Saturday in honor of Brendan Burke. I think that this is just great news and I am even more proud now of the Blackhawks family

  3. Dave Morris says:

    Whole lotta shakin’ goin on in the Central, as Ken Holland says he’s going to sign an enforcer.

    More here:
    http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/hockey/comments/ken_holland_would_like_to_get_an_enforcer/

    Georges Laraque is being measured for his red suit at this very moment.

  4. Lee says:

    Dave I know i’m asking for an attack here but here goes:

    If they get one, do we?

  5. AC says:

    Wow, if the Red Wings waste a single dollar on Laraque, then I will be happy. Paying 500K or more for a guy who was basically dismissed from the team on January 17th and played 61 games in 2 years, scoring 5 points goes against most everything that the Wings have done during their dynasty. This will be one signing I will openly laugh at if it is done. I guess we keep Eager if they sign Laraque, unless they think Beach is ready. Babcock and Holland are smarter than this, so I don’t buy any of this. They know how to win, and this isn’t the way.

  6. John says:

    Lee, heard/read the same thing. That’s uber-classy on the Hawks part, I think.

  7. Lou says:

    Read the attached link on the value of the enforcer.

    http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2010/06/pht-readers-poll-enforcers-losing-relevance.php

    Then, ask yourself were we tough enough to win. I am sure the parade of nearly 2 million should serve as the reminder

  8. Lee says:

    John:

    These guy’s always seem to do the right things. That is the reason I have complete faith that they will come out fine with the Cap

  9. AC says:

    I think that the Cup being in the Pride parade was kind of a foregone conclusion after the article yesterday noting that the Hawks had been approached about participating. They certainly couldn’t say no, not that they would, so they did do the right thing in participating and citing Burke. I would expect it would’ve occurred regardless of the leak, but they still lost any choice after that happened.

    Looking forward to an interesting week of rumors, actions, drafting and WTF moments around all of this.

  10. Big Tony says:

    I can’t wait for Flyers fans to get wind of the Cup being in the Pride parade. They may sink to yet another level of classlessness. Good times!

    The only thing I was wrong about was Sopel being totally worthless. He was all balls and heart out there.

    Laraque as a Red Wing is laughable at best. They need to add skill to stay with us, not some talentless goon who can’t play actual hockey.

  11. Lee says:

    Big Tony:

    And obviously a verry classy guy!

  12. Big Tony says:

    Lee, do you mean Sopel? I agree if you do.

  13. Lee says:

    yes I do!

  14. CT says:

    Well, my preseason prediction that Mick McGeough would never appear on television again certainly looks foolish now.

  15. Dave Morris says:

    @Lee Rosenberg> it seems to me StanBow got Bollig and Stanton as the ‘Anti-Laraques’.

    Anyway, Derek Boogaard is available, which will thrill CT to no end.

    We’ll soon see if there is any team left after July 1 or if the Blackhawks will be more like the ‘Blackhogs’ next year.

    Which, given the success of the Avs and Kings, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    I just hope the Hawks get Nino Niederreiter, if only to hear Foley and Edzo calling his name.

  16. Lee says:

    Dave: After reading all the rumours I am fearful that they will be the Blackhogs next season. For some reasonI thought Bowman’s(plural) might be miracle workers but now that I hear that all except the top 7 are being shopped I’m not so sure. As far as Bollig goes I saw him take apart Luke Gazdic of the Texas Stars who I think is a pretty tough guy and both Beach and Stanton I guess could be up also. I’m not feeling real confident in their chances for the 2010/2011 season now

  17. Lou says:

    Cammi Granato and Angela James to Hall of Fame – and well deserved and great that a player from each nation goes in on the inaugural vote. Congrats Ladies.

    And sadly, some other guys didn’t get in but a Hawk anti-christ, Dino Sissy got in. Oh the fond memories, of the fie-fi-foe-fum Dino is a fucking bum chant resonating from the third level in the old Stadium. You can’t argue he had a solid career but he was such, to quote Big Tony, an Asshat. You just couldn’t like him

  18. AC says:

    Lee: I wouldn’t worry too much about the shopping all but the top 7 thing. Like any good trader, you shop more than you are willing to give up to see what they will get in return. They will shop 10 to trade 3-5, that’s the smart thing to do. I would be shocked if Skille and Bickell weren’t up next year, but I doubt we’ll see more than 3-4 rookies, if that.

  19. Lee says:

    Actually I woiuld be shocked if Skille is still with us

  20. Big Tony says:

    Allow me to take you all back to Chicago Stadium, circa 1985 or so….

    DINO SUCKS!! DINO SUCKS!! DINO SUCKS!!

    And that was just from the womenfolk.

  21. CT says:

    The NHL will take a look at the ratings for the Finals and adjust the cap rules so that the Blackhawks can bring back their entire team.

    The Hawks have finally reached the status where the league office will start conspiring FOR them.

  22. Nick says:

    @CT, if that’s true, then we have reached the Golden Age of Hawkdom.

    Toews getting the cover of NHL 11 is proof of your claim.

  23. Brian Davies says:

    Re: keeping players, Pierre Lebrun at ESPN is reporting that the cap for next year will be over $59 million:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=5316505

    That’s a bit higher than what I’d heard from Bettman, so I think that’s one more 4th liner we get to keep…

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