Well now that it’s done, it’s probably time to figure out where the Hawks go from here.
But before I head any further, this seems like a good time for a disclaimer or at least a warning. Every judgement we make on the Hawks on this site is viewed through the prism that they demand you view them through, which is anything short of a parade in June is failure. This is the standard they’ve set and the one they’ve asked to be held to. So while issues on the third pairing being the biggest problem is a biggest problem a lot of teams would like to have, that’s not how most teams are judged. I realize the Hawks are very good, will finish north of 100 points and very well might finish north of 110. Believe me, we get it. That’s not really the point. Keep that in mind all season before you threaten to shit in my mouth, which I have to say is a first.
Anyway, moving on. So the first concern after the trade of Leddy and the very likely LTIR-ing of Rozsival (if not now then at some point this season you can almost be sure), is the minute-load that the top four may have to take on. Whatever you think of Leddy and his performances in the playoffs, he was still able to take nearly 17 minutes a game during the regular season. Partly because of that, Duncan Keith’s minutes were under 25 a game. Hammer and Oduya didn’t crack 22 minutes per game. Getting over 15 minutes per game from your third pairing is kind of paramount considering the mileage and age of Oduya and Keith and the buoyancy of Seabrook (if the Hawks really had a wild hair on their ass, keeping Leddy would have provided the option of taking Keith off the power play to save his legs, not that that would have ever happened).
Even if Rozsival is healthy to start the season (breaking news: he’s not), Quenneville is left with unproven kids and we know how long it takes for him to trust kids in any capacity. And yet, his playoff discarding of Leddy is at least partially responsible for this trade, and Cumiskey and Van Riemsdyk are here because Q wants them here (however misguided that might be in the case of the former). If he has them here then they have to play over 15 minutes a night, full stop. Having the top four going north of 25 minutes in October and November chips away at what is already a tight margin of error in the spring. Who is Q going to trust with that much time, even with happy zone starts and competition? And if it isn’t one of these guys, they’d better find one out of Rockford.
Second, Leddy was a luxury item in that he was a plus puck mover on the third pairing. Few teams get to have that. But having luxury items is what makes a team special, and if the Hawks want to continue that they’d better figure it out. Because it doesn’t help the cause as much if you do get 15 minutes out of your third pairing and yet all they are doing is flinging the puck out of the zone wildly to avoid drowning.
It’s clear that Q thinks Cumiskey can do it from the left side, and I have no doubts he can skate up the ice quickly. The problem is he when he has to go back, which is going to be found out in a hurry (opening night: Nichushkin and Hemsky coming down the Hawks’ left. Have fun, asshole). Once Cumiskey washes out, there’s a problem. The Hawks are overloaded on the right side. In theory, Stan gave up a 2nd round pick to watch David Rundblad do this, but there’s no left-sided center fielder to back him up. I suppose Rozsival could flip to the left side, but I’m not sure anyone wants to see that. You wouldn’t want to burden TVR in his first dip into the NHL by having him play his offside, and Rundbland and Cumiskey together is going to cause everyone in the UC to have a very GERD-y day indeed.
For some reason I can’t see past Clendening and Dahlbeck being something of an answer, but I have a better chance of hitting a ball on the Dan Ryan expressway from home plate at Comiskey than Q playing two rookies on the third pairing together. So this also has to be solved.
And the main thing I can’t get past is that when I look at this team, with the addition of Richards but the subtraction of Leddy, is it really any better than last year’s team with Hossa, Sharp, Keith, Oduya, Rozsival all a year older? How much if at all? This could be a different answer when Teuvo comes here, because of the talent he brings and the way he would slot someone farther down the lineup. Morin being given regular time over Bollig would seemingly improve the team too, but is that really going to happen? An improved Versteeg would help. As of now the Hawks don’t have space to make a trade down the line to put them over the top. You can argue everyone in the division save Colorado is better than last year.
Again, it’ll be a very, very good team. But good enough? Sad thing is we’re about seven months away from finding out.