Baseball

Well, the good news is that things are off to a better start than last season.

The Cubs reaped the benefits of the Brewers fumbling their Opening Weekend series, as their starters kind of threw three dud games in a row despite the lofty expectations from their fans and around the league. In addition, the surprising offensive performances by the Cubs were beyond any expectations I had, especially for this series against probable contenders.

What did not surprise me, however, was the tomfoolery that ensued in Saturday’s game with four players total getting hit by pitches and the benches-clearing “brawl” that commenced. The Brewers just love to hit the Cubs, especially Willson Contreras, and just about everyone has had enough of it, especially Willson Contreras. But the Cubs came up on top in the win column, which is truly all that matters. Fuck the Brewers, and to the bullets!

  • I wasn’t expecting much from Ian “Kirby” Happ to start the season, and made my feelings known in the preview. The Fels Motherfuck continues to haunt this website, however, as Happ made me look like a fool. He currently leads the team with five hits and has the best slash line on the team: .714/.778/1.778. He also has 4 RBIs, good for second on the team, and is the only player yet to strike out this season. Luckily for us the Brewers fucking drilled him in the knee with a pitch on Saturday and Rossy pulled him from the game as a precaution. He also didn’t play on Sunday, and though they were playing the B Team that day anyways, it’s obviously a bit of a concern. Hopefully Happer can continue to be a surprise offensive force, because we will need all the help we can get in that department to continue winning games.
  • Seiya Suzuki—what a guy. What plate discipline! He’s played in all three games so far this season in right field and has been an absolute pleasure to watch. I genuinely thought he’d look a bit worse to start the season off as he adjusted to MLB baseball, but he looks very comfortable here so far. His three-run bomb on Sunday was just about the only good thing I saw in the 5-4 loss, and he also leads the team with 6 RBIs. More, more, more please.
  • Our bullpen couldn’t suck more if it tried, God save us. With Codi Heuer, Brad Wieck and Adbert Alzolay on the 60-day IL, the only good/memorable pitching I’ve seen out of the pen has been from 37-year-old closer David Robertson, who collected his first save of the season on Thursday, and Keegan Thompson, who just got suspended three games for throwing at Andrew McCutchen (don’t talk to me about it, I’m still pissed). Jesse Chavez particularly was a tire fire on the mound on Sunday and couldn’t throw a strike to save his life, and when he did it was right down the middle and rocked for a home run. He gave up 3 runs in 0.2 innings pitched, good for a sparkling 40.50 ERA right now. Figure it out, people.
  • Marcus Stroman didn’t have a bad Cubs debut, and I loved that he caught a line drive on Sunday instead of ducking to avoid it like MLB pitchers are so very wont to do. He was able to execute a double play because of it, and I was pleased to see it.
  • The Cubs B Team Lineup (B for Bad, I guess) got rocked pretty hard on Sunday, especially on the offensive front. Alfonso Rivas, Suzuki, Yan Gomes, and Nico Hoerner had the only Cubs hits for the day. Suzuki was wholly responsible for 3 of the 4 Cubs runs, and the 4th and final Cubs run was scored by pinch hitter Patrick Wisdom after getting walked as the Brewers showed us they have the parts to make up a shitty bullpen as well (besides Josh Hader, who I will forever see in my nightmares). I will reserve my judgment for some of these Cubs for later on down the line, but it’s not looking great so far.

The Cubs season continues tomorrow with a back-to-back against the Pirates (1-2) and then they travel to Colorado for a weekend series against the Rockies (3-1) and Kris Bryant, who we will miss forever. After this performance against the Brewers I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs dropped a stinker or two this week, but I’m hoping they can build on this newfound offense and hopefully find a bullpen pitcher who can actually throw the ball. God willing.

Go Cubs go!

Baseball

We thought it may never come, but baseball season is once again upon us. And with the Cubs’ World Series core all signed to other teams and the Red Hot Chili Peppers just releasing a new album with John Frusciante on guitar, it really feels like we’re back in 2006. (Linked is Frusciante shredding up Give It Away like it’s nothing on Howard Stern. I didn’t get to see this band live with him in the lineup, so I am absurdly excited for the tour. Take my money.)

The Cubs have yet to officially announce their Opening Day roster, but it’s certainly starting to take shape, and things look a bit rocky with a myriad of starting and bullpen pitchers beginning the season on the injured list, because of course they are. Kyle Hendricks is deservedly slated to be the Opening Day starter, with Rossy confirming that Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman are starting on Friday and Saturday respectively. Drew Smyly, a pickup from the Braves this offseason, could be an option for Sunday’s start as well.

Stroman, the offseason pitching signing the Cubs inked just before the lockout, is yet another pitcher who loves inducing ground balls, and throws a 92 mph fastball—and though that may not seem very fast to you, it’s fast compared to the rest of the Cubs pitchers, since fastballs are not this team’s specialty. Meanwhile, veteran starter Wade Miley, who the Cubs easily plucked from the swarmey, grimey hands of Bob Castellini, has been on a slower ramp-up schedule over Spring Training and is expected to start the season on the injured list. Miley had a bounceback season with the Reds last year with a 3.37 ERA and a no-hitter to his name.

The bullpen is just a teeny tiny bit of a tire fire at the moment, with three of the strongest pitchers, Adbert Alzolay, Brad Wieck and Codi Heuer, starting the season on the 60-day IL. (White Sox fans are laughing maniacally at this news, I’m sure.) With the slower start to begin the season with the off-day on Monday, I bet we see Alec Mills or Keegan Thompson on relief duty to patch some of those bullpen holes. Other than those guys, we have a myriad of Joe Schmoes who will have a chance out of the bullpen. Michael Rucker is an interesting name to keep an eye on—he pitched 28.1 innings last season and had a ballooning 6.99 ERA, but didn’t look terrible in Arizona with a 2.25 ERA and 11 strikeouts over 8 innings. Some other names we will likely see early: Jesse Chavez, Scott Effross, Daniel Norris, Mychal Givens, David Robertson, and Rowan Wick. With no true closer figured out yet, expect the latter three to be rotating in and out of the 9th innings until Rossy sees someone that can maybe sorta kinda replace Craig Kimbrel. (Nobody can.)

As for the fielders, let’s start out with the obligatory fuck you to Ricketts and Co. for the handling of Willson Contreras’s contract extension this offseason. We’ve seen this long national nightmare before and we all know where it’s going—if Contreras is still a Cub after this year’s deadline I will be genuinely shocked. In the meantime, Rossy is relieved to have the DH in the NL now so he doesn’t have to ride Contreras into the fucking ground during the first half of the season. Hopefully he has a bounceback offensive season this year with some days off in the DH role as new signee Yan Gomes takes some starts. That way Contreras can get paid the big bucks he deserves in free agency when he signs to some team that isn’t the Cubs. Prepare yourselves.

The Cubs infield consists of a halfhearted shrug from me. Andrelton Simmons, who the front office hailed as the singular solution to the team’s defensive issues we saw in the back half of last season, looks bound for the injured list with shoulder problems. This means we will see Nico Hoerner at shortstop, who is surprisingly not injured to start the season (please God, do not Motherfuck me on this.) Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel will make their triumphant returns and we’ll see if last season wasn’t just an epic, humungous fluke. Finally, Nick Madrigal is expected to hopefully not get hurt this season and build upon his offensive numbers—he had a .305/.249/.425 slash line with the Sox before tearing his hamstring in June to end his 2021 season.

Last but not least, the Cubs outfield got bolstered substantially with the signing of Seiya Suzuki from Japan, who nudges Jason Heyward, God save us all, over to center. There’s understandably been a lot of hype around Seiya, but I’m trying to temper my expectations as he will probably need some time to adjust to the MLB. He hit two home run bombs in Spring Training but also had 7 strikeouts in 17 plate appearances, good for a .235/.350/.588 slash line. So again, time to adjust is needed. Meanwhile, Ian Happ, known oh-so-affectionately around here as the Kirby Dach of the Chicago Cubs, had surgery over the offseason and will probably see a lighter workload to start things off. Heyward continues to be a Locker Room Guy and not much else—just two more seasons on that contract to go. Other than that, we’ll probably see old familiars like Rafael Ortega and Michael Hermosillo filling in any outfield holes.

It was really looking like the Cubs were heading into full-blown rebuild mode going into this offseason, but the tides have turned slightly with some significant pitching signings and the acquisition of Seiya Suzuki this winter. Now the Cubs’ ship seems to be turning in circles, stuck between rebuild and contention, the place that MLB owners love so much to be. This team certainly won’t be good, but considering the expanded 12-team playoff system that came out of the lockout and the irreverent tanking of the Reds and Pirates this year, a playoff spot may not be as out of reach as you think…if everything goes exactly according to plan, of course. But I think a season not unlike the one in 2006 is in our midst.

Despite it all…go Cubs go!

Hockey

This sucks.

There’s not a lot more I can say really. This is what the beginning of a rebuild really looks like, and we’re going to be stuck here for years to come. And personally, I’m not sure how many more free Lankinen rebounds my frail heart can watch. Rebounds for everyone, everywhere, as many as you can scoop up. And the Hawks defense are not scooping very many of those rebounds up at all. Still waiting for those Beaudin and Mitchell call-ups, by the way. Literally any day now.

In all seriousness, a sincere congrats is in order for Pat Foley in his upcoming retirement. The man has been the voice of the Hawks for as long as most of us can remember, and he will be the hardest voice in hockey to replace. I couldn’t tell you a damned thing about Chris Vosters, the new play-by-play announcer, as the merry-go-round of TV auditions from this year has made all the new people a blur. Next Sunday, Foley and the man himself, Dale Tallon, will be broadcasting their final game together in what will likely be an automatic loss to Dallas. Buckle up for that one, folks.

The good news is that baseball starts this week, so everyone in Chicago can turn their attention towards their respective baseball teams and grumble about everything that’s wrong with those two franchises. Add onto the misery, why don’t we?

Monday 3/28
Hawks 5, Sabres 6
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks have spent years of our collective lives getting bailed out by their goaltenders, most recently in Marc-Andre Fleury. Now that era is over, and we get to watch garbage teams like the Sabres score four unanswered goals on the Hawks to tie it and two more within seconds of each other win the game. Granted, the Hawks defensemen weren’t doing Kevin Lankinen any favors throughout—Erik Gustafsson continues to take years off my life standing in front of the net and doing absolutely nothing to defend multiple Sabres goals, in one case kicking it into his own net. Without elite-level goaltending between the pipes, this team is an utter tire fire.

The Cat was responsible for a powerplay goal over halfway through the 3rd that put the Hawks back on top, but the momentum was all Buffalo’s starting really in the 2nd period, and two more Sabres goals late in the 3rd sealed the fate of the Hawks. Kane had a few solid chances near the end of the 3rd, but he wasn’t able to convert on any of them. The Sabres’ tying goal was a result of the Hawks defensemen being on one side of the ice and Alex Tuch on the other, receiving a pass to shoot at a pretty wide-open net—Tyler Johnson didn’t stand a chance defending that one. Jeff Skinner nearly scored seconds later but a Dylan Strome trip disallowed the goal and put Strome in the penalty box. The Sabres’ winning goal was entirely the fault of Lankinen, and something that an NHL-level goaltender shouldn’t allow. It cost the Hawks a point and the game, but luckily this team has nothing to play for down the stretch.

Thursday 3/31
Hawks 0, Panthers 4
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

I mean, I’m not sure who actually expected a Hawks win out of this game, but it was still tough to watch our (like it or not) captain Jonathan Toews look like he was having a genuinely horrible time during his 1,000th NHL game. Every eye and metric test imaginable against these two teams show the Panthers as the vastly superior team. This game became another look at how far the Hawks will have to climb to be relevant again. It will be a game and a season that Toews will likely want to forget as his legacy is called into question, fairly or not, after his reaction to the Beach allegations, the trade deadline moves, and other whathaveyous. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who wished for a happier outcome for the Captain tonight.

In other news, this game was dreck to watch. Sergei Bobrovsky completely shut the Hawks down, stopping all 37 shots he faced. On the other end of the ice, Collin Delia, who is not an NHL-caliber goalie, got scored on five times, although a mercy kick-in ruling of Barkov’s goal 40 seconds into the game made it only four goals against. Rebounds, five-holes, and a porous defense (Riley Stillman still sucks) meant the Hawks got lit up all night long.

Friday 4/1
Hawks 2, Lightning 5
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

Nothing like a shellacking on one night to prepare you for another shellacking the next night. The Lightning may not be playing like the impenetrable force they had been over the last month, but once again the gap between the Hawks and actual Stanley Cup-contending teams was well on display tonight. Not to mention it became a Brandon Hagel revenge game when he scored an empty netter in the dying seconds of the game, which I’m sure made Toews incredibly angry.

The Hawks at least scored in this one, the first goal coming from an unexpected source as Calvin de Haan blasted one home from the point in a play reminiscent of Duncan Keith. The other goal was scored by the Cat (who else?) to tie the game, though it certainly didn’t last long as the Lightning made quick work of the game over the 2nd and 3rd periods. And Tampa Bay’s penalty kill (9th in the league) thwarted the Hawks’ multiple powerplay opportunities almost every time and occasionally leading to an odd-man rush the other way. I truly felt bad for Lankinen—how can you possibly ask him, another fringe NHL goalie, to save some of the plays the Lightning produced?

Sunday 4/3
Hawks 2, Coyotes 3 (Coyotes win despite not having their shit together)
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

At least this was an overtime loss, but it was still a loss to the Coyotes, the league’s true albatross. The skill level of the opponent compared to the previous two matchups were considerably lower, and the game got to be a bit chippy throughout. Defensive structures for both teams fluctuated from “none at all” to “let’s go six minutes straight without a shot on goal as we fool around in the neutral zone,” which leads to wacky hockey.

Dylan Strome was able to score just a minute into the game to give the Hawks their first lead in who knows how long. And the Hawks didn’t look so bad for the 1st period either, although I must again reiterate that the Coyotes are the league’s albatross. Arizona took over in the 2nd period, however, scoring two goals thanks to an Amy’s Youngest clearing attempt gone terribly wrong, and Calvin de Haan and Jake McCabe both getting pantsed by some guy named Travis Boyd. Not a good look.

Despite Kane tying the game up in the 3rd, the Hawks were unable to put it away in overtime. Instead, it was Shane Ghost Bear who was credited with a goal that actually went in thanks to the skate of Amy’s Eldest, a fitting end to the clown show this week of games has been. Speaking of Ghost Bear, I’m amazed he hasn’t been sent to the land of wind and ghosts considering he took a puck to the throat and a stick to the face this game. That’s hockey, I guess.

Hockey

The rebuild is officially underway, what with the Hawks trading away Brandon Hagel, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Carpenter before Monday’s deadline, which was accurately summarized by McClure in the wrap last night. I was surprised there wasn’t a fire sale akin to the level of the 2021 Cubs, although Kubalik, de Haan and even Strome probably couldn’t have fetched the level of returns that some of the Cubs did, theoretically. However, I’d consider late-round picks better than letting some of these guys walk for nothing, which will be in the plans for de Haan at the very least, as we around here continue to wonder when the hell we’re going to see Nicolas Beaudin and Ian Mitchell back in the NHL now that we’re playing for nothing.

Yes, there’s still hockey to be played this season, amazingly. And a Hawks lineup without Hagel, Fleury and perhaps a disinterested and checked-out Toews will not be fun to watch. The Hawks have an easier matchup tonight with fellow deadline sellers, the Anaheim Ducks, before facing more difficult matchups against playoff-contending teams like the Kings and the tire fire Golden Knights later this week.

3/23 at Anaheim

Game Time: 9:00 PM CT
TV/Radio: TNT, WGN 720
Day Was Gonna Come When I Was Gonna Mourn Ya: Anaheim Calling

This website wouldn’t be called Faxes from Uncle Dale if we weren’t going to laugh at a GM not reading the fine fucking print. It was not the fault of Ducks GM Pat Verbeek, however—his team instead had the front row seat for the Vegas Golden Knights trying to somersault their way out of the cap hell they find themselves in (more on that later). I’m sure Verbeek won’t be losing sleep over not receiving Evgenii Dadonov, some AHL player and the ghost of Ryan Kesler from the Knights once this trade doesn’t go through. Plus, the Ducks had a selloff of their own at the trade deadline to start this week, moving out older vets on expiring contracts who we all know and love: Hampus! Hampus!, Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson and Nic Deslauriers are no longer part of the club.

The Ducks have the kickstart to the rebuild that Kyle Davidson can only dream of in our current state: two 1st-rounders and two 2nd-rounders in the 2022 draft, plus two 1st-rounders and five 2nd-rounders for the two drafts after that. Now that there’s nothing to play for in Anaheim (outside of watching Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras, I guess), Ducks fans, like the Hawks, can pray their shiny new GM doesn’t fuck some of these draft picks up and they get back into contention sooner rather than later.

3/24 at LA

Game Time: 9:00 PM CT
TV/Radio: ESPN+/Hulu, WGN 720
Los Angeles, Come Scam Me Please: Jewels from the Crown

Unlike the dumpster fire the Blackhawks organization has been for the past 6 years, the Kings were able to rebuild on the fly from their Cup teams, finding themselves snugly in 2nd place in the Pacific Division and positioned for the playoffs (and I have no trust that the Oilers will catch up to them, frankly). It’s likely they don’t go far in the postseason considering they aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts and they’re likely poised to get crushed by Colorado or Calgary or even Minnesota now that they have cemented their goaltending with Fleury. But postseason time can be invaluable to younger players, especially Quinton Byfield, who had two goals in a big win against the Predators last night. The Kings are the 6th-youngest team in the NHL, and getting a taste of playoff hockey will help inspire their young players to get back there again and win.

The Kings were quiet at the trade deadline, despite notable jackass Drew Doughty recently getting injured and the timetable for his return being a big mystical secret—yet another reason why this team likely won’t go too far in the playoffs. Someone has to play on the right side, however, so they acquired Troy Stecher from Detroit to ensure they could put a warm body on the ice. His career so far has been “meh”, and he seems to average multiple giveaways a game so I’d like to see the Hawks capitalize on that if possible.

3/26 at Vegas

Game Time: 2:00 PM CT
TV/Radio: ESPN+/ABC, WGN 720
Ride the Snake:
Knights on Ice

Perhaps the impending doom of the Vegas Golden Knights shouldn’t be so amusing to me, but it’s been telenovela levels of drama swirling around this organization for months as they literally cling to dear life for the final wild card spot in the West, despite Dallas being only a point behind them with four games in hand.

The Knights are, hilariously, in desperate need of goaltending after picking the wrong half of their previous season’s tandem in Marc-Andre Fleury to trade away. The reports are saying Robin Lehner could be out the rest of the season because of a lower body injury, leaving the Knights with Logan Thompson (young and unproven) and Laurent Brossoit (middling at best) to tend net into the playoffs, if they even get that far (they won’t). They were unable to add a goaltender at the trade deadline to help them out, as I am sure Fleury gave them the finger if Kelly McCrimmon even had the balls to ring up Davidson and ask about his services.

Meanwhile, arguably their best player in Mark Stone continues to sit on LTIR until the playoffs since the Knights are up against their cap ceiling and then some after trading for Jack Eichel. (Seriously, look at their CapFriendly page, it’s a fucking disaster.) The city nearly had a meltdown when Eichel left the game last Thursday after blocking a shot with his hand, and despite him returning for a game against the Kings, it sounds like there’s probably definitely something wrong with his hand that he is just gutting through, which certainly doesn’t bode well for the future, or playoff success in general, as the curse of Jack Eichel continues.

All this and the Hawks as currently constructed are still no match for this team. This could get ugly, folks.

Hockey

The Doom and Gloom Show stops for nothing, and especially not for the schedules of the fair Faxes from Uncle Dale writers as the Hawks just took the ice against the Ducks, once again winning thanks to specifically and only the Kane/Strome/Cat line.

The rest of Twitter awaits to see who on this team will be dealt away and installed on future playoff teams as depth players. It is apparently not going to be Marc-Andre Fleury, unless it’s Marc-Andre Fleury. I’m not sure why he’d want to stay here, but God bless him for mulling it over, even if it’s just so he doesn’t have to be away from his family for 2-3 months. And just imagine what hell this team will be to watch without Flower being singlehandedly responsible for 70% of the Hawks’ wins this season. It’ll be a true tire fire then, but at last we’ll have recouped our first-round draft pick!!!

In other news, Kirby Dach is officially a Franchise Winger, to the amusement of us all. When Toews’s career is over this team will be in faceoff hell, which is all the more reason why Kirby should be watching faceoffs get taken by the Hall of Fame center that the organization pushed him to be “the next” of. At this point, Derek King just wants to see Kirby produce and try to salvage as much of his botched development as possible. It’s still so tiresome.

3/8 vs. Anaheim

Game Time: 7:30PM CT
TV / Radio:
NBCSCH, WGN 720
Let me welcome everybody to the wild, wild west:
Anaheim Calling

After the season-high eight-game win streak that made the Ducks the talk of the town in November, the team has slid down to just about league-average, now five points out of the final Wild Card spot with and a plethora of teams they need to jump over to make a playoff appearance this year possible. And although it was the younger stars making all the highlight reels earlier in the season with Trevor Zegras’s highlight-reel goal Troy Terry’s hot start, the Ducks are now depending on their veteran presence to barely keep them hanging on in the playoff race.

Adam Henrique is at a point-per-game pace on the first line for the past 7 games—that’s gotta mean something right? So is Rickard Rakell, again over the past 7 games. (Seriously, don’t look back much further than that.) Even Ryan Getzlaf, despite being sidelined for the last Ducks game due to injury, is currently at a .65 point-per-game clip, his highest point-per-game number since 2019.

Speaking of grizzled vets, John Gibson’s numbers have seen improvement over the past two seasons. The unfortunate part of it all is that the improvement we see is a .910 save percentage, though that still means giving up only four goals in the last four games (the four goals we’ve scored so far tonight don’t count). The team itself has a sixth-worst goals against above expected in the entire league in 5-on-5, behind only truly pitiful teams like the Coyotes, Devils, Kraken, and yes, the Hawks.

3/10 @ Boston

Game Time: 6:00 PM CT
TV/Radio:
NBCSCH / WGN 720
Jackass Forever Named After Brad Marchand:
Cup of Chowder

The Bruins find themselves pretty snugly in a playoff spot, albeit the Wild Card, as this organization continues to Frankenstein themselves to the playoffs by adding players at the trade deadline to try to make a run at things. Where things stand now, however, that means they’ll find themselves in a first-round playoff matchup against either the Lightning, Panthers or Hurricanes, and they’ll likely get shellacked no matter which team they get.

Over the weekend the Bruins nearly blew it against the Blue Jackets, which would’ve been top-tier entertainment as Jeremy Swayman gave up the tying goal with 2 seconds left in the game. Thanks entirely to the shootout heroics of David Pastrnak, the Bruins walked away with two points. Yesterday the Bruins had a more even matchup against the Kings and this time walked away as the loser point losers. This game was yet another example of the Bruins blowing their lead in the dying seconds of the game, which isn’t something they should make a trend with the playoffs down the stretch. Perhaps they can sacrifice Brad Marchand to the league in order to make playoff games be 59 minutes instead of 60. Just a thought.

3/12 @ Ottawa

Game Time: 6:00 PM CT
TV/Radio: NBCSCH, WGN 720
I AM the Senate:
Silver Seven Sens

Ah, the Senators. One of only a few teams in this league that suck more than the Hawks do, and in the most hilarious fashion. They are currently on a five-game losing streak which included a Saturday night marquee matchup loss against the Coyotes. And the Senators are also no strangers to blowing games late, although the Senators community cried foul over their loss to the Golden Knights thanks to sketchy a tripping penalty on Thomas Chabot.

Senators starting goaltender Matt Murray wasn’t playing Sunday, by the way, and it may or may not be because he was crashed into by his own guy during the game the night before. (I don’t think Sens fans missed Murray much anyway considering he hasn’t won a game in over a month.) The net was therefore turned over to Anton Forsberg, who was in goal for the last FOUR Senators wins and is currently putting up the best numbers of his career. Like Fleury, the greatest gift that Forsberg could give Senators fans right now is some prospects at the trade deadline, though deciding whether a team should be giving up any significant assets for Anton Forsberg is luckily not what my job hinges on.

Hockey

The Hawks continue to suck out loud and for some reason we all continue to watch this team limp slowly toward the finish line that is the end of this season. Despite a faux reprieve from offensive terribleness on Friday with a double hat trick win against the disastrous Devils, it was bookended with two horrible losses against actually contending teams, the Panthers and Blues, successfully washing away any optimism that could possibly surround this team.

The real news around these parts is that they ripped off Kyle Davidson’s “interim” tag like a Band-Aid to name him the permanent GM over Mathieu Darche and some shmuck from the Cubs (hey, how about you fix my baseball team’s on-field product before you try to switch sports?). People are justifiably skeptical about the whole situation, which is understandable, but personally I’m still thanking God that Peter Chiarelli is not the Blackhawks GM—what a scare. Davidson has been able to take a deeper look internally at what this team is missing over the past four months, something the other two GM candidates haven’t been able to do, and theoretically this means he won’t fuck things up come the trade deadline.

In case you were trying to block it from your mind, the Hawks have needs in a lot of areas: drafting, prospects, goaltending, any amount of offense at all, way less infinitely replaceable clones that can only play bottom-six positions, a permanent head coach, and maybe a better player development department as Kirby Dach becomes a giant red flag to more and more people. It all begins at this year’s trade deadline at the end of the month, where any amount of wheeling and dealing could be done by Davidson that could make us see the departures of Kubalik, de Haan, Fleury, Strome—honestly fuck it, who isn’t available at this point besides Kane, Toews and the Cat?

Anyway, we have some games this weekend to preview, and it’ll probably end ugly.

3/2 vs. Edmonton

Game Time – 7:30PM CT

TV/Radio – NBCSCH / WGN 720

It Is Better to Live One Day as a Lion Than 1,000 Days as a Lamb – Copper N Blue

The Edmonton Oilers have briefly taken a stop off of the Hot Mess Express ever since Dave Tippett got canned for letting his team get beaten by…well, the Hawks. Since his firing, the Oilers have gone 7-3 in their last 10, clinging to dear life to the final Wild Card spot they currently hold for the West. Oilers fans shield their eyes and pretend not to notice they were able to harvest wins from crappy teams such as the Islanders, Sharks, Kings and struggling Ducks, whereas nearly all of their matchups against contending teams in this stretch have led to losses. It’s mostly because Oilers GM Ken Holland has quite possibly ruined everything by not signing a competent goaltender. Once again I must assume that this team might try to make something work out to bring Fleury to Alberta, though why Fleury would want to go there is beyond me.

In other news, two of the greatest Hawks defensemen of all time, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith, return to the United Center tonight in what will likely be an emotional affair. Had things worked out differently and if the front office hadn’t completely soiled the legacy of the 2010 team forever, the place would be packed and there would be positive vibes abound. Understandably, some fans may not want to see or hear tribute videos to anyone associated with that era, but I am personally pushing some of that aside for now as there hasn’t been a negative story about Niklas Hjalmarsson since I’ve been following the team. The man was a shot-blocking legend, a minutes-eater, and probably one of the best defensive defensemen of his era. His recognition is well-deserved and he seems like a good guy.

Keith will be honored in a smaller own way tomorrow, though he’ll be on the opposing team with the Oilers. Keith is my favorite Hawk of all time—he literally sacrificed seven teeth in the name of the sport, of winning the Stanley Cup, and whether or not you think that’s something worth sacrificing, you have to respect his dedication to the craft. That dedication has made it so he is still playing in the NHL at 38 years old, and he’s not doing so terrible, no matter what you may hear from Oilers fans. He’s having better numbers in Edmonton both offensively and defensively than he had with the Hawks last year; take a look at Natural Stat Trick.

Of course the great Boomer Gordon’s theory about ceremony games meaning automatic losses to the home team will probably come true, so expect a Blackhawks loss.

3/5 at Philadelphia

Game Time – 2:00 PM CT

TV/Radio – ESPN+, ABC / WGN 720

It’s Like When I’m Doing Good In The Game, I’m Doing Good In Life. – Broad Street Hockey

The Flyers are doing much, much worse than even the Hawks are at this point of the season, at find themselves in the basement of the Metro and continuing a similar aimless march toward the trade deadline. In this city, it is longtime captain and center dot staple Claude Giroux on the chopping block. Giroux, as old as Patrick Kane, is still a team leader in goals, points, even-strength goals, OPS and faceoff percentage. Trading him away would be…well, how much worse could it get? They’re also trying to deal Keith Yandle, who is at a team-worst -32 for the year and his other defensive metrics are just as terrifying, so good luck with that.

Flyers fans are probably excited that Carter Hart has had a bounce-back goaltending year from last season, although that just means he’s been putting up a middling .912 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA. For the Flyers, however, it’s better than the alternative, as Martin Jones has lost his last eight starts to teams like Buffalo, San Jose, LA and the Islanders. He also hasn’t started since February 22, but considering their schedule he might be in the crease against the Hawks just to give Hart some rest between games against more talented teams like Minnesota and Vegas.

3/6 vs. Tampa Bay

Game Time – 6:00 PM CT

TV/Radio – NHLN, NBCSCH / WGN 720

Are You Really Sure You Want To Watch This Slaughtering? – Raw Charge

Tampa Bay is once again really goddamn good, currently atop the Atlantic Division with 76 points, good for 3rd in the league. The Lightning are also currently on a 5-game win streak and considering they only have to play the Penguins and Red Wings before facing the Hawks, it’s very likely that streak will be extended to 7 when they arrive at the United Center on Sunday.

Despite the Lightning not being offensive analytic darlings like their cross-state rivals the Panthers or the even teams like the Avalanche out west, they allow the second-least shots in the league because of their solid defense and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one of the league’s most reliable goaltenders in Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes every night.

The Lightning are also finally healthy, as it seems only Zach Bogosian is on injury report list, and he won’t be missed too much. Steven Stamkos at 32 is also top on the team in goals, points, powerplay goals, the whole nine yards—as usual. Nikita Kucherov is 9th on the team in points so far this season after he spent nearly all of last season on IR, but that’s fine with Lightning fans since he usually pops off in the playoffs when the games matter most. The Hawks are outmatched and outclassed up and down the lineup against this team, and I do not have high hopes for this game by any means.

Hockey

I was hoping for at least one Hawks win this weekend, but that became too much to ask when the team flubbed it against the Blue Jackets Thursday night. Once again a lack of offense, a powerplay sucking at loud, and Patrick Kane not giving a shit in February did the Hawks in. Recap time, I guess.

2/17
Hawks 4, Blue Jackets 7
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Natural Stat Trick

On the front end of a back-to-back and with the Blue Jackets being one of the more terrible teams in the league, it was time for Fleury to take a seat in favor of young goaltender Arvid Soderblom. He was able to stop an onslaught of chances from the Jackets in the first seven minutes of the game, but unfortunately he showed his greenness when he gave up a goal on a rebound thanks to a Blue Jackets powerplay opportunity. And then a second goal just seconds later (shoutout to the horrific Erik Gustafsson giveaway that could’ve been prevented). He gave up five more goals, including a Patrik Laine hat trick, before the game was over. A flurry of them were his own fault, though many were the result of the Hawks being incredibly lazy when it came to defending their own zone.

The Hawks got goals from Philipp Kurashev, Ryan Carpenter, Mackenzie Entwhistle, and The Cat (most offensive-minded players were taking the night off). But the real story that came from this game is what the future of the goaltending for this team should be. No way Fleury stays, and it’s become incredibly clear the Hawks can’t trot out Lankinen and Soderblom or whoever as the starters next year. (Lankinen’s contract ends this season anyway.) You’d think they’d be on the market for a goaltender, but then you look at the 2022 free agents available and…well, ah jeez.

2/18
Blackhawks 0, Stars 1 (Stars Win Absolute Snoozefest)
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Natural Stat Trick

The morning of this game, the Hawks announced a flurry of roster moves. Fearless leader Jonathan Toews, although spotted Friday morning at the optional practice and on the ice, was placed on IR retroactive to his head injury on Jan. 26 and The Only Sure-Fire Prospect in the Entire Organization Lukas Reichel was called up yet again for the Hawks and placed right on the top line with Kane and Hagel.

Reichel’s game wasn’t terrible for his 3rd NHL game; he was hustling, winning board battles and generating chances in the 1st period before getting rocked over the visiting boards and getting himself stripped of the puck by Alex Radulov of all people in the 2nd. The Hawks had a surprisingly high CF% in the 1st period at over 70%, and Kane’s give-a-shit meter even seemed to be up higher than usual for the entire 1st period before things seemed to drop off for him. The Cat’s defensive skills were also great to see, as he kept pucks in and set up plays for Strome and Kubalik.

Unfortunately, none of these chances ended up in any goals scored, which is more of the usual for this team despite the “burst” of offense we saw from them the night before. And even though they had some good chances at the end of the game, the Hawks don’t have any finishing power and were lucky to pick up a point at all. It was mostly because of the heroics from Fleury in net—what else is new?

After an entertaining overtime and six rounds of a shootout, Jason Peterson won it for the Stars, despite Fleury doing all he could to drag this team to a win. Maybe you shouldn’t choose Jake McCabe in a shootout situation? Just a thought.

2/20
Hawks 2, Panthers 5
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Natural Stat Trick

Despite starting out horrifically with Kirby Dach allowing a Panthers breakaway seconds into the game because he didn’t have his stick on the ice, the 1st period saw the Hawks outshoot and out-posses the Panthers 8-3 and 66%-33%. Although the Panthers struck first on only their 3rd shot of the game thanks in part to Patrick Kane not feeling like playing defense, Kane decided to make up for it with just a few seconds left in the period by scoring from below the goal line, the puck bouncing off the back of Sergei Bobrovksy and into the back of the net.

The Panthers must’ve gotten absolutely and rightfully berated during the 1st intermission, because the 2nd period was much more what we expected out of both the Hawks and the Panthers. With the Panthers dominating the possession game, they were able to take the lead thanks to a shot from the blueline in which Fleury was screened by both Seth Jones and Calvin de Haan together. Sam Lafferty had a similarly Laff-able period, filled with multiple turnovers and a missed shot on a wide-open net.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to get their commanding 3-1 lead thanks in part once again to Dach tipping the puck in past Fleury with his own stick. (This will certainly be a game Dach will want to forget as much as we will.) Fleury made as many saves as he could in the 3rd to keep the Hawks in it, and he had some help from a coach’s challenge to keep it 3-1 in the 3rd, and a surprise goal from Amy’s Youngest made the game seem close for a minute or so. But then two empty-net goals at the end of the period cemented the Hawks’ fate. This outcome is about what we expected, especially considering the Panthers are the NHL’s top offensive team and the Hawks are…well, basement-tier.

My parting words for the weekend? Fuck Radko Gudas.

Hockey

The Hawks continue to be physically incapable of not stepping in it, both on the ice and off. They’ve lost 6 of their last 7, essentially no-showing it against both the Canucks and Wild this week, finding themselves ahead of only the Coyotes in the Central Division—and it would be a stretch to even call Arizona a pro hockey team, if we’re being honest.

And yet, the actual news surrounding this team as of late was Rocky’s outburst at the town hall press conference before Wednesday’s game against the Wild, which cemented him to Moron status for life on this fair website. I genuinely have no idea what the fuck Rocky thought was going to be asked in the organ-I-zation’s first press conference since the Kyle Beach story permanently changed the landscape of this team and the NHL as a whole? I also have no idea why the fuck he didn’t have a prepared statement, even to just read it halfheartedly off a teleprompter like he did to begin the presser? Really, all he had to do was say nothing, because the first question wasn’t even directed at him. You’d think that would be something he’d be good at doing, considering what went down with his players and coach under his leadership. Maybe he’s just mad that all his pals in the old guard got justifiably canned?

No matter what his intentions, his reaction and his half-assed press release apology means the Hawks continue to be the center of the NHL’s biggest shitstorm, as more and more Hawks fans seem to be leaving the team for good. It shows that Rocky hasn’t learned, and that Rocky likely doesn’t care about learning. And as long as Rocky is at the helm, I won’t be handing over any more money to this team.

As much as the on-ice product continues to pale in comparison to what’s happening off the ice, this is usually the week’s wrap, and games were indeed played, though if you missed them you’d be in the majority. And it seems like the players on the ice have a similar “I-don’t-give-a-shit” attitude, getting outscored 8-1 this week. The only player who seemed to show any emotion was Marc-Andre Fleury every time he gave up a goal. Which happened often. No thanks to the defense, which seemed flat-footed and lethargic for most of this week.

Kirby Dach was nothing special these games either, going -4 for the week with of course no points and really thriving in his New and Improved role as Checking Center on this team by getting consistently steamrolled by Canucks Monday night, as checking centers do. Look, the poor kid wasn’t in control of where he got drafted, but dear God, letting him believe that he isn’t a goal scorer cannot possibly be the answer. His confidence is obviously shot, and since this team seems to have no success developing scorers of any kind, who knows if the answer even lies here?

It’s all such an epic clusterfuck, in every sense of the word, that I am genuinely not sure where we go from here. We have one sure-fire prospect in the entire organization. And that prospect is likely ready for the NHL, but the Hawks are keeping him down in Rockford, probably so they don’t have to say they have zero sure-fire prospects in the entire organization. Derek King is the interim coach, but Marc Crawford is the real Man Behind the Curtain with an abusive history himself. Oh, and maybe Peter Chiarelli will be the next Blackhawks GM, because if you think things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they always can. The Hawks are attempting to rebuild the team in all facets, but how do they expect to do it when no player, GM or coach in his right mind would sign here after everything that’s gone on over the last year?

The All-Star Break couldn’t have come at a better time—I think just about every Hawks fan needs a break right about now. We’ll be back next week, perhaps with the regularly scheduled programming.

Hockey

There’s no time to waste in this season of cramming games in wherever we can—the Hawks are now going to be playing a double-header this weekend against the Wild, the first tilt between these teams this season. What could go wrong?

Game Time: 7:30 PM Friday / 8 PM Saturday
TV/Radio:
NHL Network, NBCSCH+, WGN 720
-30 wind chill:
Hockey Wilderness

The Wild started out the season hot, winning four in a row to begin the season and going on an eight-game win streak in late November and early December. Following that, however, the Wild have only won three of their last nine games and are now holding onto the 1st wild card spot in the Western Conference, four points behind the Predators because neither of these teams can ever leave the mushy middle of the Western Conference for some reason.

Offensively, the team is led almost exclusively by Kaprizov (first on the team in assists, points, shooting percentage, and offensive point shares according to hockey-reference). Just about as offensively productive is his 1st-line centerman and our old friend Ryan Hartman, who is having a career year and blowing all of his past stats completely out of the water. In just half a season, he’s surpassed all of his previous seasons’ stats, including his one full season he had in Chicago at the beginning of his career. Mats Zuccarello rounds out the Wild’s first line, who like Hartman is likely also benefitting from Kaprizov’s elite playmaking abilities.

The points production definitely tapers off from there, especially considering the myriad of COVID and injury-ridden players they’ve been dealing with. However, Wild fans must be pleased to hear that Joel Eriksson Ek will be making his return Friday to center the 2nd line. Additionally, they are hoping that Cam Talbot can start one of the games—he’s 34 and hasn’t started since January 1, so he could be a bit rusty if we do see him. Finally, Jared Spurgeon may or may not be returning this weekend, but I’m pretty sure nobody gives a shit.

Overall the biggest issue facing the Wild is their bonkers schedule coming up. Wild fans and media members are mad as hell that they have to play 40 games in 77 days thanks to COVID-related cancellations because of their opponents, apparently, and not the Wild themselves. The NHL certainly could’ve spaced more of their rescheduled games out, especially when you look at the multiple stretches of off-days the Wild have had during the month of January. The team will probably be exhausted by the time the playoffs roll around, and that’s if they don’t go on another cold streak and lose their wild card spot. Everyone up north is hoping their top line will see it through to the end, though.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, Seth Jones returns this weekend after missing his return to Columbus and then some with COVID. Dylan Strome is slated to return this weekend as well; he’s only had three assists in his last five games played but seems to be slotting right back into a first-line center role in practice, and with Dach still out he’ll likely stay there. The Hawks’ lack of center depth continues, I guess.

Interestingly, Rockford goalie Cale Morris has been placed on the Hawks’ active roster, despite both Fleury and Lankinen at practice and seemingly healthy. We’ll see how things shake up there, though I would be surprised to see Morris play. Without Fleury in net making every save imaginable, it’s much harder for the Hawks to win as they continue to be out-chanced and out-possessed by most of their opponents. More players stepping up and scoring goals this weekend would be advantageous, as the Wild are going to be the playoff-contending warmup for the Hawks before two games against the Avalanche later next week—God save us.

Hockey

Even with a game cancellation in Edmonton, the Hawks had an easier stretch of schedule to extend their winning streak, what with the Ducks skidding and not fully healthy and the Kraken turning out to be a regular expansion team that isn’t very good. Though we lost to the Kraken in overtime, the Hawks have Marc-Andre Fleury in net which means we can pick up 3 of 4 points on the week.

1/15
Hawks 3, Ducks 0
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Natural Stat Trick

The Blackhawks must feel mighty good blanking the Ducks with a COVID-decimated roster that did not include…breakout 20-goal scorer Troy Terry? But a win is a win and they looked good doing it. The Hawks put on pressure early on with some pretty solid chances, including a vintage Kane breakaway opportunity that seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days. Then a hooking call put him in the penalty box, which wasn’t great.

Overall, however, the Hawks were peppering the Ducks with chances, kept pucks in the offensive zone—all despite the numbers saying possession was about even throughout the game. The Hawks looking so good probably had to do with Fleury standing on his head to net his 70th shutout.

Lukas Reichel showed flashes, though he was ultimately stopped by the opposition with most of his chances in the o-zone. He wasn’t terrible in his own end, either, blocking a shot early in the 2nd period. Of course he got sent back down solely because of The Almighty Dollar, which is probably fine because this season is down the tubes anyway.

The Hawks didn’t score until the second period, when Gustafsson (right out of the box) set up Hagel after the Ducks had a myriad of scoring opportunities they somehow didn’t convert on at the end of their powerplay. The Hawks powerplay, though still bad, did finally convert in the 3rd period, as Kane and the Cat made it happen yet again with some great passing. Kubalik scored the empty-netter to end it with just three minutes left in the game.

1/17
Hawks 2, Kraken 3 (Kraken win spirited match of peg solitaire)
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Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks saw a lot of pressure from the Kraken to begin this game, which shows with their horrific 19.05 CF% in the 1st. The Hawks were spending the whole first period in the defensive zone, getting drilled physically and not being able to control the puck. Luckily for them the shots on goal were pretty even throughout and Fleury was once again saving every shot with his usual acrobatics in front of the net.

The Hawks looked a bit better in the 2nd with a few good chances and less time in their own zone. The powerplay continued the game-long trend of being complete buffoonery, as the Hawks were unable to get a shot on net it seemed in the 1st period and just a few meager powerplay chances in the 2nd. Luckily a Kubalik breakaway shortly after the powerplay put the Hawks up 1-0, though that lasted only a few minutes before the Kraken scored a weird tip-in goal that no one on the ice seemed to see.

The Hawks scored their last of the game nearing the end of the 2nd period with Brandon Hagel getting set up by The Cat. Kubalik was back on the ice, too, right at the net where he needs to be. I hope his hot streak continues.

The Kraken were able to tie it up in the 3rd with help from Amy’s Youngest who knocked over Fleury at just the right time for the puck to sail into the back of the net. The overtime was a horrific slog despite all the Fleury acrobatics, and the Kraken became the winner of the meaningless shootout on goals by Ryan Donato and Joonas Donskoi.

Seth Jones will make his return to the lineup this weekend in a home-and-home against the Wild on Friday and Saturday. The Wild are clinging to a wild card spot who just recently got Kirill the Thrill back from injury, so they should be a challenge for the Hawks. Read more about it tomorrow.