Wow, the summer flew by.
As I’m sure most of you are aware, we kind of took some time off the past few months. Plus with the roster and it’s unstability, it was nearly impossible to duplicate the player previews we constructed last summer. Have no fear, though, we have returned in all of our glory.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Hawks released their roster for the Wednesday night tilt against the Lightning. You can check it out here. Marty Turco and Hannu Toivonen are scheduled to split the game.
With the Blackhawks playing a record amount of pre-season games on television this year, now would be the perfect time to remind everyone what to expect and what to exactly to watch for. Let’s get right to it….
Wins, losses, ties, shootout losses, none of it matters one iota. The Blackhawks could go 8-0-0 in the pre-season or they could go 1-6-1. It doesn’t mean a damn thing once the regular season starts. The Hawks are going to be trying a lot of different stuff with a mish-mosh of lineups. So it’s foolish to draw any kind of conclusion based on the outcome of a game between the Rockford Blackhawks and the Houston Wild. Not to mention, none of us need to be reminded about 2005-06 when the Hawks were the best team in the pre-season only to get pounded in the regular season.
Be very careful when looking at statistics. Flashback to the 2007-2008 pre-season, Adam Burish scored two goals in the pre-season which nearly matched his 4 goal output in 81 regular season games. Rob Klinkhammer and Radek Smolenak each potted a couple goals last year while Jonathan Toews was held goal-less. Which brings me to my next point…
Do not lay any stock into how Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Ham Sandwich, Troy Brouwer, and Marty Turco look. These guys are all veteran NHL players with a track record. They know what they’re doing and how to get ready for a 82 game season. Not to mention, their place on the team is firmly entrenched so whatever you think about their performance against Pittsburgh, Joel Quenneville does not care. All he cares about is getting them out of the meaningless games alive. (Special exemption goes to Tomas Kopecky who is a poor pre-season away from starting out on the 4th line. Dave Bolland also has to at least play in one pre-season game unlike last year when he sat out the entire pre-season and then missed the majority of the regular season with an achy back.)
You will see a record amount of penalties called. Just trust me on this, these games are going to painful to watch. Referees will use the pre-season to show the players what they’re going to call for the upcoming season. Then once the season starts, they’ll call the game the exact same way they did last year.
If a player is trying to grab the attention of the coaching staff, he’s going to drop the gloves. And with about 26 players on each bench, there will be no shortage of dance partners. You can pretty much guarantee seeing 2 fights at the minimum per game, some nights per period. Jake Dowell, Jeff Taffe, and Jack Skille will all fight in the upcoming weeks and then once the season starts, you may never see them fight again.
Watch not what someone does but who he does it against and who he does it with. This will be the case for every player locked in a roster battle, i.e. Igor Makarov, Viktor Stalberg, Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell, Ryan Potulny. Watching them light it up against the Lamb’s Farm JV team may get you all excited but it won’t fool Joel Quenneville and staff. They’ll be looking for those guys to play solid, responsible hockey against the opposition’s top lines.
In addition, you can get a real good idea of what the Hawks think of certain players simply by who they’re playing with. If Potulny starts off skating on a line with Kane and Sharp but by the end of the pre-season is skating with Evan Brophey and Nick Tarnasky, that is not a good sign.
Every one of the ‘bubble’ players will get an opportunity to play with the Hawks’ top players; what they do with that opportunity will go a long way into earning them a spot on the team on opening night.
The opening day roster will not be the same as the playoff roster. If you’re a die-hard Jeff Taffe fan and are absolutely devastated when he gets shipped to Rockford, have no fear. The Hawks bottom 6 is hardly a finished product and if certain players let up at all in the first part of the season, there will be a call made to Rockford quicker than you can say Brandon Bollig.
So let’s save the hand-wringing and worrying for once the regular season starts and simply enjoy the games for what they are.