So the break is over, I’m back from vacation (NOLA!!!), and I think it’s a good time to reset and see where we are and what we should be watching for.
-The Hawks sit three points back of the Preds, though having played two more games. And making up ground this week is not looking all that likely. While the Hawks are doing the California swing (not as daunting as it could be but certainly not easy), the Preds get the Avs twice around one game with the Blues, which you know is going to overtime or a shootout.
If ground is going to be made up, it’s probably after that. During the second leg of the Hawks’ trip, the Preds see the Ducks and Rangers, though also the Maple Leafs. And then when the Hawks hit that eight-game homestand (which actually serves up a fair amount of hanging curves), the Preds see both Florida teams, the Jets, the Sharks, and the Islanders before their schedule softens up.
If the Hawks can stay where they are with the Predators through this road trip, which shouldn’t be that hard without Pekka Rinne, and then collect 13 of a possible 16 points on that homestand (look at the schedule, not unreasonable), the Preds would have to go just 5-4 through the same stretch to stay even. And by then they’ll have Rinne back. So yeah, it’s going to be tough.
-What of the Blues, you might ask yourself. Not much better of an outlook.
At least the Hawks will see them, at the very end of this trip on a Sunday morning coming down. In the meantime, the Blues don’t get going until Thursday with that visit of Nashville, and have games against Carolina, Buffalo, and Columbus before that. When the Hawks hit that homestand, the Blues get Arizona, the Florida swing, and their own four-game homestand, though the Bruins, Penguins, and Canadiens are part of that.
If you’re looking for a gauntlet on their schedule you might have thought it would a six-game roadie in March. But by the time they visit Dallas, Calgary, and Minnesota all those teams might very well be done, and at the same time the Hawks will be grappling with the Sharks, Islanders, and Rangers before seeing the Flyers, Canes, and Jackets at home. This one’s going to the wire.
-The trade deadline will be worth watching, A) if the Hawks think they need to actually do anything (they do) and B) what they think that is (no idea) and C) how they pull it off (even less of an idea).
While we’ve been screaming for another blue-liner, it hasn’t been whispered that the Hawks think they need one while it has been that they might kick the tires on Antoine Vermette. I guess if you’re not convinced that Teuvo can contribute in the playoffs, or that Brad Richards isn’t going to hold up through the spring (both certainly understandable) than Vermette is an option. You know that floor, while the promise of both Teuvo’s and Richards’s ceiling in April and May are far from guaranteed.
When trying to figure out what the Hawks have to give up, it gets rough. All of Sekera, Petry, or the rumored now-available Cody Franson are strictly rentals, so it would depend how much money you could get their current teams to eat. Because it’s hard to see what the Hawks would be willing to lose off the current roster. Erixon or Rundblad for sure I would guess, but I doubt there are many takers. Other than that, I can’t see the Hawks be willing to part with any forward on the roster right now. Maybe Andrew Shaw, simply because he’s going to be due a hefty raise after next season which the Hawks simply cannot give him? But he’s far too beloved by the organization to be the one to go. Marcus Kruger’s PK abilities and defensive prowess probably shield him too.
When looking at past deadline acquisitions and what they cost, it’s kind of all over the map. Nick Schultz went at last year’s deadline for a 5th round pick, but he’s not the caliber of the ones we’ve been after. Fuck, David Rundblad cost a 2nd rounder. Andrew MacDonald, who at least was thought of in that same class as Sekera and Petry last year (and hilariously isn’t) went for a 2nd, 3rd, and a mid-level prospect.
However, if you go the year before Douglas Fucking Murray (official name) cost two 2nd round picks. Jordan Leopold a 2nd and a 5th. Robyn Regehr two 2nd rounders. So that’s just some idea of what we’re dealing with.
-One thing to watch for, and it’s if it even continues, is how long Q sticks with these new pairings. What’s obvious is that Q wants Hjalmarsson taking on the top lines, and he wants Keith free to run riot over others. This feels like it could be Rundblad’s audition to be Keith’s partner, with Seabrook being the more sure to partner Hammer than Oduya right now. Rundblad is not a #4 d-man, but maybe, just maybe, Keith can make him look like one like say Sheldon Brookbank did in the playoffs last year when he had to step in for Seabrook. But that was three games.
Because I feel better about Seabrook-Hammer than I do about Oduya-Hammer right now, but the pieces around it just don’t fit at the moment.