The combination of Prospects’ Camp at Johnny’s West and then the Convention not too far behind it is the last oasis for Hawks’ thoughts and goofiness before the doldrums of August hit. Even that will be cut a little short this time with the World Cup teams getting together to start training in August (and everyone seeing just how bad this US team is going to be which is just hilarious). This is the last time before training camp that all the beat writers are together covering hockey, which means they’re getting bombarded with a lot of inane and silly questions. And there’s one that’s been popping up ever since the season started that really has to stop.
I don’t know how to be any clearer on this: If Richard Panik is on your top six, your top six sucks.
I don’t know where this Panik love came from, and you’d think we would have learned the lesson of taking a small smattering of games as some true indicator of what a player is. That’s how we end up with a full season of Michal Handzus as a #2 center on a team claiming it’s a Cup contender. Same goes for Andrew Shaw. Or Trevor van Riemsdyk as a top four d-man. And yet here we are with Panik.
Panik was a Toronto Marlie for most of last season. I suppose there’s a chance that Mike Babcock could have made a mistake in shaping his roster, but I’m fairly sure if Panik was all that and a bag of chips Babs would have had him in the lineup. They weren’t burying him in the AHL out of fear he would hurt their draft position through dominant play.
Oh, and there’s this little nugget: When on the ice together last year, and it was only for 70 minutes, Toews and Panik managed a 41.2 CF%. That’s right. Panik turned Toews not into just a subpar possession player, but an awful one. That’s Jonathan Toews, one of the most dominant possession players of this era, unable to do anything with Panik on his wing. Again, we’re not going to use just 70 minutes of action as an overall indicator of what’s to come, just as we shouldn’t use 30 games either.
Panik has never been noticeably effective in either Tampa or Toronto. His best season was two years ago in Toronto when he managed 11 goals for an awful Leafs team. He’s never driven possession above a team-rate.
Panik is a fine 4th liner, and it should be the Hawks’ aim to keep him there. Yes, the Hawks are short at forward but this isn’t a problem they have to solve now and can wait for a mid-season trade if they have to.
-There are certainly other options that are quickly getting cheaper on the market. Most are pining for Jimmy Vesey, because college hockey signings have gone so well here before. Pardon me if someone who beat up on the ECAC when he was older than pretty much every other player he faced doesn’t exactly convince me. He might be good, he might not be.
Why do that when Jiri Hudler can probably be had for cheap in August? I may hate his face, but he’s two years removed from scoring 31 goals playing with Johnny Gaudreau. He can play with talented players. He’s only 32 so a long way away from Hockey Death (they once opened for Fastball). While I’m not sure how much he has left, Alex Tanguay would be a better option than Panik. McClure and I may be the only Josh Jooris fans out there, but he’s still available.
Let’s be better than Richard Panik. I think we can do it.
-Noticed Marc Bergevin was once again out there trying to cover his ass, going with the ol’ bus-toss and you-don’t-know-what-I-know ploys to explain the P.K. Subban trade. As if reporters in Montreal of all places can’t get to the bottom of anything and everything.
Let’s just assume that Subban was actually a dressing room problem, and didn’t like to break things after his team lost a game (which would have led to a lot of broken things last year). This probably wouldn’t have been an issue if Bergevin had hired a non-demented muppet as a coach. Instead he had Michel Therrien trying to prove how much of a man he was in the press by blaming Subban for everything publicly instead of doing any actually handling.
This is one of Joel Quenneville’s strengths, with some help from Toews. While the Hawks love to portray their dressing room as all rainbows and sunshine and all their players love to light each other’s farts or whatever, that’s hardly the case. There are guys in there who can’t stand each other and haven’t for years (and it wasn’t all centered on Sharp). But Quenneville keeps them focused on what matters, leaves the bullshit at the door, and gets them playing together. If Q had left for Montreal back in 2012 as was the rumor, I’m fairly sure he could have figured out how to keep everyone and Subban happy in a dressing room.
Whatever, watching the Habs crash and burn this season is going to be so wonderful. It’ll make the pain of watching Subban scorch the Hawks a little less.