I know you must be sick of the constant debate here and elsewhere on what exactly this season is supposed to be for the Hawks. We don’t know if it’s a secret rebuilding year that they’re afraid to label due to ticket sales, or they’re really trying to make the playoffs and they’re just bad at it. What’s really frustrating and scary is that it’s getting clearer and clearer they don’t know either. The lack of true bellyaching from the vets would suggest they’ve been advised it’s a rebuilding year but can’t say so publicly, but that’s just more tea leaf reading that make us all sick. So let’s forget that.
Because no matter what it is, it’s time to let Adam Boqvist run the show. Or at least see if he can.
In case you missed it this morning, Adam Boqvist was called up along with Matthew Highmore as Andrew Shaw was moved to LTIR. With Duncan Keith out for the entire road trip, it gives the Hawks some more bodies. But even the Hawks aren’t dumb enough to call up their #1 prospect and have him sit in the pressbox so we can watch Dennis Gilbert and/or Slater Koekkoek pull the Bugs Bunny, “Heyexcusmemistercouldyoutellme….’ while some Knight forward blazes past them. After Koekkeok’s egregious tour de stupid last night, he should be sent to Rock Vegas immediately and forever anyway.
If the Hawks are trying to make the playoffs, and I guess being only four points out even with every team to leap they can make that case, they need any kind of mobility they can get on the back end. They need transition. And they don’t need to worry about defensive breakdowns or getting beat, because everyone besides Connor Murphy is doing that anyway.
The biggest cause to the Hawks’ headaches, or one of them, is that they simply can’t win any races in their own end. Watch when any team gets possession in the Hawks zone, and whenever there’s a puck to be won you can be sure the Hawks will be second to it. This is where team speed really counts, not in racing up and down the ice in a track meet. The Hawks can’t get there. Boqvist can get there. And he needs to learn how to do that at an NHL pace and with NHL reactions, things he can’t simulate in the AHL.
And he can skate out of trouble. Watch how many times a Hawk d-man has the puck below the goal line and seemingly with time and never makes a play before getting inhaled and spit out by a forechecker. That’s why the Hawks have to use the 17-pass breakout, because the forwards have to be there to bail out their tortoise defense. And then the next forward has to be lower for an option for that first forward. Boqvist can extend all this up the ice.
And if this is strictly a development year, and it could be, then there’s even more incentive to let him come up, make mistakes but also “try shit,” because he’s the only one who can at high speeds. Gustafsson “tries shit” all the time at remedial pace, and you see where that’s gotten everyone. Having Boqvist drooled on by has-beens and never-will-bes in some backwater only reachable by dirt road isn’t going to do much for him or the Hawks. He’s gotten a sampling at both levels now, was told what to work on, so let’s go.
Even in his brief time here, the Hawks had their best goals-for per 60 and expected goals-for per 60 with Boqvist on the ice. Sure, more things happen in their zone too, but it’s not like they’re planning on making that stop anyway. Get him out there with a true free safety, really any one of de Haan, Murphy, or Maatta would work. Do not stick him with Seabrook on his wrong side or Gustafsson or Fetch or Gilbert or so help me….
And let him run. Don’t put the shackles on him. Let’s see what he can do. Don’t bench him for bad turnover or two. Put his hair on fire. If this is a Ferrari, you don’t use it to go to fucking Mariano’s a couple blocks away in traffic. Get out on Sheridan Road and scare some people on the lake in Winnetka. Put him on the #1 PP, get the puck off of Kane’s stick for a few seconds and see if Boqvist’s creative movement opens things up for everyone else. Once again, the Hawks’ PP has become stagnant as Kane James Hardens the puck on the right circle.
Because if you can see The True Boqvist in these next few games, it’ll make your decisions when Keith is healthy more explicable to people. Because that’s still the underlying debate. We know the Hawks likely will chicken out (again) and just send #27 down when Keith is healthy so they don’t have to scratch Maatta and Seabrook regularly. But if Boqvist gives everyone an exciting glimpse of the future, it’s much easier to go the press and say, “We need this in the lineup because we just don’t have it otherwise,” and one of the vets is out on their ass.
Whether the Hawks want to go somewhere this year or down the road, they have hard decisions. Give Boqvist every chance to make them easier.