Whether Martin Havlat or Marian Hossa will ever want to admit it, the two will forever be linked in Blackhawk lore. Each can thank Stan Bowman, Scotty Bowman, Dale Tallon, John McDonough, or whoever else was in charge at the time the Hawks ditched their 2008-2009 MVP for a slightly shinier, albeit older part. In doing so, the Blackhawks thought they were getting a reliable 70- to 80-point winger they could pencil into the lineup 80 games a year for the next decade. They ditched an electric player who they thought couldn’t keep himself in the lineup for more than 60 games a campaign and, as such, couldn’t be trusted with a long-term contract. At the time, most Blackhawk observers were sad to see Havlat go, but hopeful that Hossa could be a better player for the young Hawks. The Feather was no exception.
Before we delve a little deeper, let’s first debunk the notion that Martin Havlat is the anti-Christ. You can guarantee that Pat Foley and Ed Olcyzk will go on an extended Havlat rant tonight should Havlat fail to play to their standards. Much of that is probably based upon the idea that Havlat waged a full-scale internet war on the organization in the weeks that followed what was essentially a star-for-star swap.
While Havlat was undeniably upset that he was not being invited back to the team he helped shape, the thought that he was one step away from setting fire to the United Center is very likely an overreaction that the Hawks haven’t tried to fight in any way. Here’s a sampling of what Havlat said on his now rarely-used Twitter account leading up to and following his departure from Chicago:
Meeting with Dale Tallon for dinner tonight, leaving to Prague tomorrow. FYI, I am NOT putting my condo up for sale (if you get my drift!). 10:35 AM May 31st, 2009
Everyone should know I am only thinking about signing with Chicago. It’s where I want to be. 1:40 AM Jun 24th, 2009
I just want to say thank u to all my teammates. You guys are awesome…sending me text messages all day wanting to know if it’s done. June 30, 2009 5:37 PM
Thanks to all Hawks fans for your love and support over the last 3 years. Will never forget your generousity and the great playoff run! July 01, 2009 10:01 PM
Hossa is a good friend and I am happy for him. July 01, 2009 10:04 PM
There’s something to be said for loyalty and honor. July 01, 2009 10:08 PM
I guess everyone saw what happened to Dale….yes, the story is starting to come out but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. July 14, 2009 12:30 PM
Lot’s of people are telling me to stay quiet but shouldn’t the fans know the truth? It’s your loyalty, season ticket money and emotions here July 14, 2009 12:32 PM
Not exactly words that should have launched a thousand ships. But while Havlat never told the “truth” to the fans as to what happened, it’s obvious he was a little perturbed that he was negotiating his contract with a lame-duck GM. Nonetheless, it’s hardly a reason to treat him like a war criminal every time he faces the Hawks.
Because of how similar the cap hits are but how different their contracts are structured, as long as Marian Hossa leaves us under-whelmed in a Hawks jersey, the song and dance of Havlat vs. Hossa is bound to continue. Let’s get one thing straight, though: Marian Hossa is not here to be one of the unsung players as Pierre MacGuire referred to him during Sunday’s broadcast. Bryan Bickell is an unsung player; Jake Dowell is an unsung player. Marian Hossa is here to be a difference maker: a guy who can take over a game when the opposition gives him the slightest opening, not someone who shanks more one-timers than your average rec league player.
After a year and a half, simply comparing the players, their individual results, and their cost (because isn’t that what it’s all about these days anyway) the arrow has to be tilting in Havlat’s direction. In two years here thus far, Hossa has never really been at 100%. (Have we mentioned that his durability was one of the major reasons the Hawks handed him a lifetime deal instead of Havlat? Funny how that works.)
Last year after his delayed start to the season, Hossa put together a really nice 22-game stretch where he scored 24 points. During that stretch, he was held off the score sheet just four times. He finished the season with 51 points in 57 games scoring 24 goals in the process.
His playoffs were a kind of ‘meh’ experience. Sure there was his overtime goal in Game 5 against Nashville, but he scored just two more times after that. His best game was a game after which he probably should have been suspended for a hit on Dan Hamhuis, so take that for what it’s worth. And, yeah, we had that whole Stanley Cup thing, so it’s difficult to give him a negative grade for the spring. Though he didn’t score at the levels he had in previous playoffs, he did manage to play responsibly and generally remain a factor – something Havlat struggled to do when he wasn’t producing. Nonetheless, his ability to be a factor while failing to get himself on the score sheet is admirable, but not quite the reason he’s wearing the Indian Head.
Hossa has offered the occasional glimpse at the player he was before Chicago. Take the first seven games of this season, for instance, where he racked up 11 points. Too many times this year, though, people have simply been satisfied with his back-checking and ignored the fact that he disappears offensively for long stretches without any results.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, following a 54-point season in 73 games last year, Havlat has recaptured his Jesus routine of two years ago. His season last year left quite a bit to be desired, though. He was injured a quarter of the way into the season and it apparently took a long while to get adjusted to his new team. It wasn’t until the Wild acquired Guillame Latendresse from the Canadiens in late-November that Havlat started producing like he was expected to. The two immediately clicked with Havlat scoring 46 of his 54 points in his final 52 games.
This season, he has almost single-handedly dragged the Wild back into the playoff picture with 43 points in 48 games – all without Latendresse, who has seen action in only eight games this season. His point total paces the Wild; Mikko Koivu has 42 points in just as many games. Havlat also has five points in his last four games, which included a three-point night in Calgary.
So who was the right player to sign long-term? How about you check with us the next time the Wild are in town. Until then, the playoffs have started in Chicago a couple months early, and the Hawks could use a big time scorer. Let us know if you’ve seen any former 40-goal scorers around.