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Notes From The Exhibition Opener

They hate it when you say “Exhibition.” Or is that the NFL? They definitely hate it when you say that. Though the NFL knows they’re perpetrating an even bigger scam with their preseason than the NHL does. I mean, the NFL preseason is 25% of the regular season, whereas both the NHL and NBA are less than 10%. Whatever, I’m getting off the rails again.

Anyway, let’s discuss some talking points from last night. Or at least the ones I gathered as I wasn’t there. Though it didn’t take long for the beaters to start complaining through Twitter, did it? Hey guys, you didn’t miss much. The baseball was pretty dreadful. You’re not in Edmonton in February yet.

-Jimmy Hayes continues to have the strongest camp, at least among those who weren’t certain of a roster spot. And yet I’m still skeptical. When this Saad-at-center thing is given up (I’m guessing November, as that’s when Kane was moved out of the middle after that adventure before Toews got hurt and he was needed there), the only open winger spots are on the 4th line. Unless Brandon Saad is moved to the 4th line and I don’t think any of us see that happening. Or Andrew Shaw is slotted there which would also be surprising even though he kind of screams that’s what he is.

But according to our fellow Hawks maven Chris Block from TheThirdManIn.com, Hayes was tried at center last year because the organization felt that he just was never going to be physical enough to be a forechecking winger. Now, either that’s changed or he’s been able to fool everyone in September when it doesn’t really matter. Until everyone is skating in anger, I’ll have to see it to believe it. Though I’m certainly not opposed to trying Saad and Hayes flanking Kruger on the 3rd line with Smith and Shaw doing all of Handzus’s skating on the 4th. It’s a look I’m sure we’ll see at some point.

Secondly, we know that there have been huge training camp performances before that didn’t mean much in the regular season. Two years ago it was Brandon Pirri who couldn’t stop scoring and sent Kruger to Rockford. For all of one game. The year after Saad turned a bunch of heads in camp, and got a brief look before looking totally out of his depth and needing the time in Rockford last year before he was ready. Nick Leddy followed the same path.

At least Hayes already has the AHL seasoning, which might make his flash a little more substantive. But let’s hold off just yet, as I still think Jeremy Morin is more cut out for what the Hawks need. But at least it’s something to watch.

-Let me warn again that it’s preseason and I’m just coming up with stuff because I want to and the excitement of having hockey back gets a little overwhelming, but I thought there was a curious little nugget when it comes to Teuvo Teravainen and Coach Q last week. When asked about how impressive the Finn had been and going back to Finland, Q said, “Well, the final decision is with me.”

But the next day, it was all he’s going back and needs a year to get stronger and all that. It’s weird because first of all, the final decision isn’t with him. Stan shapes the roster, perhaps (certainly) with input from Quenneville. At least we hope.

Did Q get a talk from Stan or someone else? Is he actually making the final choices on these things? Sure, Q gets final say on who makes the team from Rockford group, but when it comes to more complicated things like bringing in someone from Europe and starting the whole contract thing, I’m not so sure what he says goes.

I can’t escape the feeling that if this season doesn’t end in a repeat, that rumble of discord between the bench and the front office is going to be noticeable again.

-Shame about Kostka, because there were a lot of people who thought he could at least make Sheldon Brookbank sweat over the #7 slot on  defense, which will come into play far more in an 82-game schedule. Hopefully he can get back on the ice before final decisions are made.

-Midseason form: Hawks were abysmal at the dot and on the power play. I wonder if the power play sucks pond scum in February or March what kind of changes that could mean. Can you fire an assistant midseason from a good team? Handing it over to Kitchen would obviously be in the “McGoo” category.

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