I was not a huge fan of the Blackhawks moves over the offseason, but just about all of them were understandable. They brought in some defensemen, even if not great ones, because they clearly needed blue line help. They traded Artem Anisimov for Zach Smith because they both suck, but Smith was ever-so-slightly cheaper. They signed Robin Lehner to shore up the crease, which has seen a lot of instability lately, and provide insurance for an aging Crawford.

But trading for Andrew Shaw was a move that I cannot understand in any sense other than “this is a guy we are familiar with.” Shaw is still everything he was when the Hawks got rid of him three years ago, which is: not as good as he gets credit for, frustrating as shit with his penalties, and expensive relative to his skill level and production. Let’s just get this over with.

2018-19 Stats (with Canadiens)

63 GP – 19 G – 28 A – 47 P

52.43 CF% (-2.39 CF% Rel) – 50.29 oZS%

53.79 xGF% (-0.29xGF% Rel)

Avg. TOI: 15:55

A Brief History: The common line being used in defense of the trade when it happened was that Shaw was coming off a career year in Montreal. And that is correct. Shaw’s overall contribution of 47 points was by far a career high, marking the first time in that he exceeded the 40-point mark. He also did that despite missing 19 games, putting him on a ~62 point pace had he appeared in all 82 (which he has never done in his career, by the way). That seems good! “So, Adam, why do you hate this trade so much?” you may be asking. Well, dear reader, because all of that production will be as fleeting as a fart in the wind.

Shaw’s shooting percentage of 14.1 last year was the second highest of his career, and tied for the highest-mark he’s ever posted in a “full” season, with only his 16.2% conversion rate in 37 games in rookie campaign being better. Moreover, Shaw had shot right around the 10% mark in the each of the four years prior, going 10.2%, 9.2%, 9.4%, and 10.6% from 2014-15 to 2017-18. Now sure, that was after doing a 14.1 and 13.4 percent in his first two full years, including a 20 goal season in 2013-14, but since then he had been consistently mediocre and had never topped 15 goals until last season.

I would love to be wrong about Shaw here, but I feel like trading future 2nd and 3rd round picks for a guy like Shaw, who projects to regress hard and will still cost you almost $4-million against the salary cap for two more years is going to end up looking like a hugely stupid move in the future. The Hawks are essentially banking on last year not being a fluke, and if we know anything about hockey, it’s that you should always be speculative about a guy having a career year at 27 years old. It was smart to get rid of him when they did back in 2016, and they even ended up with Alex DeBrincat as a result. It would’ve been smarter to adopt a no returns policy on this one.

It Was The Best of Times: Shaw proves that I am a huge fucking idiot with no clue what he is talking about, and goes out there shooting and playing at a similar level to last season, showing that it was not a fluke. He plays in all 82 games, getting some run on multiple lines but ending up a surprising first line right wing with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, and scores 20 goals for the second time in his career. By virtue of keeping up his ’18-’19 scoring pace and playing all 82, he tops 50 points for the first time in his career and gets close to 60, and he has a mutually beneficial relationship as a lineman with 19 and 20, helping to power the Hawks to the playoffs.

It Was the BLURST of Times: The luck pendulum swings to the other side on Shaw, and he ends up a $4-million fourth liner as he shoots 6% and can’t even top 10 goals, the first time in his career failing to meet that mark. Frustrated by his lack of scoring and overall suckage, he starts taking Tom Wilson-esque runs at opponents, and ends up with a career high PIM total, putting the Hawks shit ass PK on the ice way more often than it should be. As a result, the Hawks lose a number of games with opposing PPG’s as the difference, and it costs the Hawks a playoff spot in the end.

Prediction: Shaw ends up returning to what he really is – a somewhat versatile forward with a propensity for stupid plays, who shoots 10% and adds 12-15 goals for you and 30-35 points. I’ll go ahead and call it 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points. That will all be well and fine on the third line, but it’s not much better than you could’ve gotten from the guys you already had here, and I’m damn near positive it’s not worth the draft capital the Hawks gave up to get him here.

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford

Adam Boqvist

Carl Dahlstrom

Calvin de Haan

Erik Gustafsson

Duncan Keith

Slater Koekkoek

Olli Maatta

Connor Murphy

Drake Caggiula

Ryan Carpenter

Alex DeBrincat

David Kampf

Patrick Kane

Alex Nylander

Brendan Perlini

Brandon Saad

Zack Smith


Recently I have been reading The MVP Machine, a pretty interesting book about player development in baseball. The opening chapter delves into how the famous Moneyball story led to just about every team in baseball adopting a similar strategy in an effort to build their teams more intelligently. At one point they quote baseball analyst Phil Brinbaum, who once said, “You gain more by not being stupid than you do by being smart.” This quote stuck out to me as one that could apply far more to hockey than baseball, as there are far more GMs in hockey that work themselves into bad situations simply by being stupid rather than helping themselves out by being smart.

And lately Stan Bowman has been pretty fucking stupid.

Heading into this offseason, you would’ve been forgiven if you thought that Bowman’s shopping list was simultanesouly small and difficult to fulfill. Primarily, the Blackhawks were (read: still are) in need of at least two defensemen who could handle at least a top-4 assignment, or at least one or two who could play a much more competent third pair game than Slater Koekkoek and Gustav Forsling. They also could’ve used a more reliable backup/1A goalie, and maybe some forward depth or a top-six guy if they were lucky and the cost was right, but given that they were 8th in the NHL in goals scored but 30th in goals allowed last year, the defense clearly needed far more attention. So let’s call this shopping list: two defensemen, a goalie, and one or two versatile forwards.

On paper, you could easily say they’ve checked off this list. They traded for Calvin DeHann, Olli Maatta, and Andrew Shaw, and signed Robin Lehner and Ryan Carpenter in free agency. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know that even though this group consists of two defensemen, a goalie, and two versatile (used loosely) forwards, the Hawks have done very little to actually move the needle. Maatta stinks, DeHaan could be fine but might only have one shoulder, and neither of them bring anything of value in the puck-moving department which this team also desperately needed and still needs. Lehner could be a great signing, but he’s also been streaky in his career and no one will blame you if you feel icky about him given his politics. Carpenter’s contract bring almost no risk, but he’s a nothing forward and is supposed to be the PK savior apparently even though he was Vegas’ worst penalty killer. We already know Shaw sucks ass, and if you don’t think his 2018-19 production was a fluke I have a bridge to sell you.

A lot of the justification for moves like the above were that Bowman and Coach Cool Youth Pastor apparently thought this team lacked #grit and #toughness. We had “anonymous scouts” telling us that Shaw’s brand of bullshit was fine because of his contract, which it isn’t, and his contract is too much for his role. Maybe it’s the same anonymous scout that thought Top Cat was a 20-goal-max player.

But among all of this, the Hawks passed on a widely-consiered sure thing future 1D in Bowen Byram in favor of skilled but flawed center Kirby Dach at #3 overall. And then there was Tuesday when they went and traded Henri Jokiharju for Alex Nylander. The justification for these moves, both from the Hawks and from some analysts evaluating the trade, was that the Hawks are a team that likes to bet on skill even when there are question marks. And look, in some ways that is true – they did it with guys like Saad, Top Cat, and Strome, and those have all worked out well enough. There are other examples that didn’t work, too, but overall betting on skill is the correct approach, especially in the modern age of hockey.

The problem is that passing on Byram for Dach and trading Jokiharju for Nylander both represent the same mistake – passing on/getting rid of promising defensemen in order to bet on those skilled but flawed forwards. And when you have a giant pile of the Mind Flayer’s melted flesh legions on your blue line, you’re hardly in a position to do that, regardless of how you feel about Boqvist, Mitchell, Beaudin, etc.

But the real issue is that the moves in the Maatta/DeHann/Shaw vein and the moves in the Dach/Nylander vein are contradictory. It makes very little sense to simultaneously load your team up with grinders while also betting on skilled young players, because the best way to help those young players is to surround them with other skilled players. Only a maximum of four players at a time can play with Kane and Toews, and other than those two there are very few skilled veterans on this roster that can truly elevate the talent around them. Dach might not be in the NHL this year, but the Hawks should at least plan for scenarios where he is. If Nylander isn’t, the trade looks even worse. And if both of those guys end up on the roster, you can’t really construct a lineup that maximizes their help without ending up with someone on a third line who should be much higher.

All of this is indicative of a very real and very large problem on Madison St. The Blackhawks have no clue what they are doing. They admitted it earlier this year and then again after they signed Lehner – they don’t have a plan, they’re just flying by the seat of their pants and hoping it works out. They can tell us until they’re blue in the face that they’ve like Maatta and Nylander for years. They can tell us they wanted De Haan last year (if that was the case why did you not sign him instead of Brandon Fucking Manning?). There is zero reason to believe any of it is true, or that it is anything more than lip service. They are a team without a direction, and they keep making it harder on themselves to find one.


Day 1 of UFA season is in the books. Stan Bowman has made some moves. The moves ranged from “shoring up the blue line” and “adding a top-six forward” to “depth signings” and “signing Robin Lehner.” The general attitude is that the Hawks are now better than they were last year. That’s probably true, but that’s a bar that’s so low you’d likely throw your back out stepping into the divot it makes. The ambitious attitude, such as the one taken by good writer Mark Lazerus, is that “Bowman quietly has retooled the Blackhawks into a playoff-caliber team since the Quenneville firing with his most impressive run as a GM.”

I would like to whole-heartedly disagree with the latter attitude.

Here’s what the Hawks lineup looks like currently, taking some guesses as to where guys will slot.







de Haan–Seabrook





This is not a playoff team, finishing last season on a 100-point pace be damned.

Shitty Thing 1: The Blue Line Is Still Horrible

Credit StanBo for doing something to address the blue line if you must. But if you’re sitting around thinking that the Hawks’s blue line is even remotely close to acceptable, you might be Peter Chiarelli.

This defensive corps is simply terrible, and it’s going to prevent the Hawks from making the playoffs once again. There isn’t a single first pairing defenseman among them, let alone a #1 guy. And before you try to tell me that Duncan Keith can still be that guy, let me disabuse you of that notion. Let’s start with the nerd stats.

According to Manny Perry’s WAR model on Corsica, Duncan Keith has the absolute worst WAR (wins above replacement) among all qualified D-men over the past three years. He’s been worse than guys like Rasmus Ristolainen, Kevin Bieksa, Brooks Orpik, and Cody Ceci. Now, this does come with a caveat, as a huge chunk of that number comes from the utterly abysmal 2017–18 year, in which Keith had the 10,000-day goal-scoring drought and finished -29. But over each of the past three years, Keith has performed worse than a replacement-level player. Even looking at just Blackhawks from last year, only Gustav Forsling had a worse WAR rating, and he categorically sucks.

When you look at Micah Blake McCurdy’s models, we can see some pretty bad shit when Keith is stuck in his own end, which was par for the course for all Hawks last year.

That graph on the left shows shots-against distributions when Keith is on the ice. The one on the right shows without Keith on the ice. Both have huge red blobs right in the high-danger area regardless. One positive to take from this is that when Keith is on the ice, opponents tend to attack his partner (i.e., Seabrook and Gustafsson), as Keith typically lines up on the left, but not so much as to justify Keith’s performance.

The bigger issue is what it looks like with Keith on the PK.

The one on the left is with Keith; on the right, without. You can see what an unmitigated disaster it was with Keith–Seabrook out there.

And even if nerd stats aren’t your thing, when you watch Keith, the twitch speed just isn’t there anymore, and that’s when Keith can be bothered to give a shit out there. You may remember this turnover, and though one turnover does not a year make, this is the kind of shit we’re talking about when we wonder whether Keith is fully engaged.

Keith will get his statue, his number retired, and all the accolades he deserves. But he is simply not that guy anymore. The sooner everyone admits that, the better.

If Keith isn’t even a top-pairing guy, who is? Gus scored 60 points, but he’s a complete train wreck in his own zone. Murphy isn’t that guy despite being the steadiest of all Hawks D-men, especially as a 6’5” centerfielder with a back surgery under his belt. I’m done talking about Seabrook.

Maatta and de Haan are not top guys, either. Maatta is slow and consistently hurt, having only finished an entire 82-game season once. If you want to buy into the idea that he’s a shot blocker, he’s really not. He blocked 116 shots last year, which would have had him tied at 67th overall with Zach Bogosian, Adam Pelech, and Nick Seeler.

If you’re looking at de Haan as an answer, you better hope his shoulder holds up, because he might not even be available for the first month. Plus, de Haan likely tops out as a second-pairing guy. The de Haan move isn’t bad at all, but if de Haan is your best D-man (and he might be), your blue line fucking sucks.

And this doesn’t even touch the Harju fiasco, which is its own problem altogether.

Shitty Thing 2: The Forwards Aren’t Much Better Than Last Year

I get wanting to keep the powder dry for DeBrincat. You can’t let him get away. But after hardly doing the bare minimum on the blue line, what the Hawks did with their forward corps looks like a lot of standing still. You can live with that if you’re adding a Bowen Byram or Jacob Trouba or P.K. Subban on the blue line. But when the answer to a historically bad blue line is Maatta and an injured de Haan, you’ll pardon me for not being over the moon about Andrew Shaw.

Shaw might be fine, but he’s a glorified third liner. And that’s if he can stay on the ice. Both his health and discipline have been problems since he first left Chicago. If he’s taking the kinds of dumb penalties we’re accustomed to, then you better hope de Haan and Maatta are up to the PK task, and that’s not a bet I’m willing to make. I also don’t buy that Shaw’s 47 points in 63 games is the new norm for him. And it’s going to be a real gut punch if Kahun builds on last year even a little bit, because it’ll likely make the Shaw acquisition an unnecessarily expensive lateral move.

If the idea is to outscore defensive problems, what’s new on this team that makes anyone think they can do it? You’re going to need three 100+-point scorers to outscore the defensive woes, and the Hawks have maybe two in Kane and DeBrincat in their best years. Nothing’s indicated that Dach is going to be ready, and even if he is, it’s farcical to think he can contribute at an outscore-the-defensive-woes level this year. Although we liked what we saw, we aren’t sure what we have in Strome. Toews tops out at 80 points, and that’s if he neglects the defensive side. Brandon Saad will put up a respectable 50 points and good possession numbers, but he won’t ever be the game breaker the Hawks need.

Are you relying on Kubalik to make that scoring up? Or Sikura to find it? Or are you hoping that Carpenter and Kampf churn out Selke-contending seasons? The forwards are mostly fine, but I don’t see much of anything that makes me think it’ll be better (or even as good) as last year. And though the free agent pool wasn’t deep, you wonder what someone like Joonas Donskoi might have done here.

If the Hawks came out and said, “This is a transition year, be patient,” this offseason thus far would make sense. They’ve made a bunch of fringe moves to make the team a bit more watchable. But unless Stan’s got a monumental trade up his sleeve—one that doesn’t involve GRIND and DA FIRE AND DA PASHUN as Jeremy Colliton has reportedly said he wants more of (extreme jerking off motion)—it’s hard to determine what they’re doing here.

But that would imply a plan, dear reader. And we know StanBo has absolutely no fucking plan whatsoever.


A few notes to clear out before free agency officially begins, and keep in mind this post could be wiped moot in a matter of hours or even minutes.

-As I said last night, the Andrew Shaw trade could very well work out. You kind of know what you’re getting with Shaw, and unless he’s put on the shelf with a concussion by a stiff breeze (truly possible) it’s certainly going to help. It won’t be a directional change or a pivot, but he’ll contribute. But it’s yet another sign of just how much the Hawks pro scouting sucks, and yet there’s never been any impetus for change there.

Quick, name the last player the Hawks acquired out of an entry-level deal that was any good. That was a win. Strome doesn’t count because he was in his entry-level deal and the info on him was still mostly from the amateur scouting. I’ll give you Connor Murphy, even though everyone else hates him and he honestly might not still be as good as the player he was traded for. Richard Panik? Artem Anisimov for one season between two all-stars? And he was worse than the player they traded for him. And then they went and got that player back for a player much better than he is who just got $12M from the Rangers.

You have to go all the way back to Antoine Vermette, and before that the list isn’t very cheerful until you get back to Johnny Oduya (the first time). And you know the list of players that haven’t worked out at all. Look, if Rob Scuderi and Brandon Manning are on your list at all, your list sucks and I don’t care what else is on it.

Stan Bowman keeps making these moves and they keep sucking and yet nothing ever seems to change. Just you wait until you get a look at Olli Maatta. The Hawks seems to gain cover from fans and media for bringing back old names and cashing in on memories, and by the time everyone realizes these players suck now they’re on to the next one or the season’s gone anyway.

-Speaking of frugality, which is a big reason people seem to like the Shaw move, the Hawks are right in sitting out this market for the most part…if they indeed do. There aren’t really foundational players to be found unless you want to offer sheet Marner or Aho, and the Hawks won’t because they think they have to keep that from happening to DeBrincat. Fair enough, we’ll see. $9M for Lee is a function of him being one of the very few pieces out there and cashing in on desperation, and good for him, but you don’t want to be paying that. Three years for Pavelski is in the same range. It’s just not a very good class, and you can’t force it to be by paying more for it.

But if you’re truly trying to be frugal, why acquire Shaw for $4M instead of just keeping Kahun around who is basically going to give you the same thing for at least $2.5M less for the next few years? With a lot less dumbass offensive zone penalties and better health? More speed and durability? Younger? Am I supposed to believe Annette Frontpresence on the SECOND power play unit is that important?

The Hawks will say they got Maatta out of it, but he’s terrible and also seems to have crowded Henri Jokiharju out of the lineup completely. Which is either scandalous or they’ve decided Jokiharju sucks now which is also scandalous. So yeah, ok, Shaw isn’t that expensive but there was an even better money-saving way to go about it. This is middle path shit and the Hawks want pats on the back for like, spelling their name right on the SAT. It’s not imaginary or creative.

-When all is said and done today or this week, the Hawks still have not informed me how they plan on getting the puck to their forwards. Maatta can’t do it. de Haan can’t do it. Seabrook can’t do it. Keith can like do it maybe once per game. Gustafsson can’t because he’s too slow. It’s not Murphy’s game. How? You say you have scoring but what does that matter if the forwards have to break out themselves?

The Hawks have literally no transition game right now. None. Jokiharju is supposedly an answer to that, and they don’t even want him on the roster to begin the season. Boqvist is supposed to be that, but he’s one guy, a year away most likely at best, and also a smurf.

Again, there doesn’t seem to be a plan here, or any sense of how the game is played now. But hey, partial season ticket plans available!

Everything Else

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re not exactly wrong. You’re just not totally right, either. At least there’s a good chance you’re not entirely right.

Yes, the Hawks pro scouting sucks. And this is why they keep going back to the well of, “Well, he was good here before!” And it’s never worked. Versteeg was terrible. Oduya was past it. Sharp was too. Campbell was barely ok in his one year return. Andrew Ladd did nothing. But don’t think the Hawks don’t like the idea of the name recognition in their still somewhat nascent and parochial fanbase.

So I can’t tell you with any sort of confidence that the Hawks have done the hockey background on their trade or Andrew Shaw this afternoon. If it got beyond, “He was good here before let’s try again!” it would be an upset. Did the Hawks give up nothing? Well, a 2nd rounder isn’t nothing, and it’s one of the second round picks they got back for Shaw in the first place. Adding a third the next year seem a little steep, but hardly a crime.

And Shaw isn’t past it as the others were. He put up 19 goals in just 63 games last season, and 47 points. He’s not slow, though he’s not as quick as he used to be. He’s still a decent forechecker, and those hands around the net haven’t gone anywhere.

But there are concerns. One Shaw hasn’t been able to stay in one piece since leaving. After being a symbol of durability during his stay here, Shaw has missed 14, 31, and 19 games the past three seasons. He’s a couple surgeries in, which isn’t going to help the mobility much.

Secondly, if the Hawks think this is going to solve their top-six hole, they’re mistaken. It’s not what Shaw is, it’s never what Shaw was. He’s a third-line player who gives you scoring from beneath. Playing him with Toews or Strome isn’t going to do much, because he’s not the puck-winner he used to be (though the metrics are still strong). Still, Shaw spent most of last season with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin, so he can still play with skill. He won’t kill you up there, the disappointment is you could have done better.

His contract isn’t a total millstone, though it is somewhat curious that the Hawks got it right the first time with Shaw, in that he was a nice player to have but the exact type of player you cash in on when they become expensive and replace from within, and now the Hawks have gone out and got him again when he is expensive and older. Their bet with Ryan Hartman didn’t work, or they said it didn’t, and now there hasn’t been anyone else. If only John Hayden was the player every writer and broadcaster seems to think he is but isn’t. $3.9M for three years is what Shaw costs, which takes him to 30.

This is probably a sign that the Hawks don’t plan to do much tomorrow, as the prices have gotten too rich for their blood. Jay Zawaski (friend of the program) has said as much. That’s not total idiocy, as $8M for Anders Lee or slightly less for Joe Pavelski could be problematic. This is also a huge bet on Alex DeBrincat and especially Dylan Strome, who have been the center of the Hawks’ comments and thoughts all summer. Their extensions clearly have them terrified, and the Hawks are going to look pretty damn stupid if Strome backs up the same way that Schmaltz did in his free agent year that got him punted to the desert.

Again, in a purely hockey sense, the move works. What doesn’t work is that no one is going to believe they’ve done their due diligence on this, merely once against attempting to get the band back together. And even if this one works, and it easily could, it leaves you no faith that this front office has the slightest clue on how to get this team from Point A to Point B.

Everything Else


RECORDS: Hawks 31-30-9   Canadiens 37-27-7




Two teams scrapping desperately for playoff spots will meet up on Hockey Night In Canada in Montreal tonight. Which sounds weird given there’s a 10-point difference between the two. But that’s the tale of East and West this year. We don’t make the rules.

Though they’re hardly the best team in the East you can find, there are not too many teams the Hawks should want to see less after their attempted 3rd period sepuku against the Leafs on Wednesday. That’s because the Habs are one of the faster teams around, with four lines of nippy forwards whose only aim is to get up the ice as quickly and efficiently as possible. They’re one of the best possession teams in the league, and are probably a premier sniper away from being much higher in the standings. Seeing as how the Hawks are slow and don’t possess the puck, it’s not really the best matchup at all. You saw what happened when a fast team really gets going against the Hawks last out. They’re still picking up parts of the Hawks off the Toronto ice and trying to identify it through dental records.

But still the Habs are clinging on in the East and the Atlantic. If the music were to stop today, Les Habitants would not have a chair and would have to sit over there with a juice box. They’re two points behind both the Jackets and Hurricanes for the wildcard spots, and the Canes have a game in hand as well. It would be a second-straight season of no playoffs and third in four, which for an organization that thinks of itself as the center of the hockey world, if not universe entirely, would be unacceptable. So how did we get here?

Hard to figure. The big, glaring, pulsing rash is that the Canadiens have a power play that looks like what the Hawks’ used to looked like. It’s dead last in the league, connecting at a 12% rate. Pretty much everywhere else the Habs are at least middle of the pack, if not better, but because they can’t get easier goals they’re having to win every game at even-strength. And that’s hard to do when you’re merely functional everywhere else and not buoyant. It basically leaves you with the good record Montreal has, but in the East that’s only enough to hope to squeeze in.

Up and down the lineup you’ll see players slotted just a touch higher than they should be. Brendan Gallagher and Max Domi have been the most dynamic, but they’re both probably second-line players on a really good team. Only one of them is here. Phillip Danault causes cartoon hearts to float out of our chest, but he’s a #3 and not a #2. Tomas Tatar shouldn’t be on a top-six of a team that means to do anything meaningful, as Red Wings fans can attest. It’s a team that is just short pretty much everywhere.

And Carey Price is also functional-to-good, though not at the moment the galactic being he used to be. A .915 SV% is nothing to sneeze at these days, but doesn’t put him amongst the league leaders, which used to be his hood. He’s also had to play more than the Canadiens would have liked, because–and stop me if you’ve heard this before–Antti Niemi as the backup has been a gas leak. He’s had one start in the past month, and you’d have to imagine they’re going to have to ride Price now to 65+ starts which can’t ever have been the plan.

That doesn’t mean they can’t be a headache on a given night, especially for a leaden-footed defense like the Hawks. The Bleu, Blanc, and Rouge have gotten on the popular train and now let their forwards streak up the ice, trying to get up into and around the opposing defense before the forwards can help out. The Hawks really struggle with this, so they’ll have to be as clean as possible tonight. That means no turnovers at either line, and busting it back. If the Hawks can keep the puck for any period of time, the Habs defense isn’t anything that would cause a sonnet to be written, and Price isn’t the set of iron bars he used to be. But open up a sliver to this team and they can turn it into a wound pretty quickly. And then Max Domi is smiling or Andrew Shaw is screaming or Brendan Gallagher is yapping and you’ll want to throw your shoe through the TV.

For the Hawks, wouldn’t expect any changes. Crawford is healthy and continent, so that’s three periods he gets to play. He usually plays pretty damn well back home in Montreal, and the Hawks will likely need it.

The Hawks already got a bonus two points out of this Canadian swing. But that doesn’t matter if you don’t get at least one, and really both, of the points out of here that you would have been aiming for before it began. There’s a long way to go, but it is possible as the Canucks and Flyers at home are next and then a home-and-home with a direct competitor in Colorado. It’s all in front of the Hawks for the next week. It’ll take almost all of the points there, if not all, but that’s the path they’ve chosen. If they’re serious about this, they’ll need every last drop before that last week gauntlet of Winnipeg, St. Louis, Dallas, and Nashville. These are two they probably need to get.


Game #71 Preview Suite




Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else


RECORDS: Canadiens 14-10-5    Hawks 9-16-5


TV: NBCSN for the locals, NHL Network for those who aren’t


Yadda yadda yadda Original Six matchup blah blah blah. We’re contractually obligated to mention that every time the Quebecois wash up on Madison St. Whatever allure that sort of thing has, and it still has something if only a little, is probably mostly washed away by the utter incompetence of the Hawks these days. And it might sting a little more with the Canadiens, who used to be as hapless and directionless, might have turned things around a bit.

We’ll start with the main headline for the Hawks, which is the return of Connor Murphy from his back-iotomy, which is what doc said he needed. You know things are pretty dire when you greatly anticipate the return of Murphy, who simply be maintaining the form of “fine” last year was pretty much the best Hawks defenseman. He’s better than pretty much everyone aside from Jokiharju and maybe Duncan Keith though, and his return will be welcomed.

He does seem to smooth out some things. He gives Gustafsson a partner who can cover for his constant meanderings and delusions, and they dovetailed nicely at the end of last year. It keeps Keith with Jokiharju, which I’m not a huge fan of but don’t really see a way around. Maybe at some point Murphy pairs with The Har Ju, but that leaves Keith with only problematic partnerships. For now, let’s just enjoy the two second-pairings the Hawks might actually have tonight.

Also it keeps Manning and Seabrook on strict third-pairing duty, where they can still do some damage (evidenced clearly by Thursday night in Sin City), but this is what they’re barely cut out for these days. I don’t like it any more than you.

Though what Murphy is now being 6-5 and having back surgery in a job that requires a fair amount of bending over is a thought not for the weak of heart or stomach. Let’s run that kitten over when we get to it.

For the rest of the lineup, it appears Head Coach Arthur Fortune is going with the “pairs” system, where Toews and Saad, Anisimov and Kane, and Strome and Top Cat will be continually lashed together an they’ll make up the other wing as they go along. I guess this is what happens when you’re short on wingers.

Pivoting to Les Habitants. Montreal started the year on fire, with Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Tatar, Paul Byron, and some others shooting the lights out at a pace that was never going to be sustainable. That’s started to cool, and the Habs with it, however the underlying structure beneath that looks solid.

While Marc Bergevin may be unable to tie his shoes or spell “cat,” he has constructed a forward unit that is basically four lines of nimble, skilled forwards. They have rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi and fellow Finn Arturi Lehkonen on the third line, which is pretty neat. Drouin and Domi anchor the top unit (even if Drouin is never going to be a center), and Brendan Gallagher, Tatar, and Phillip Danault make for quite the second unit.

Even old horse Claude Julien has changed his…well, horses don’t have stripes but just go with me here, as the Habs are playing faster and freer than previous iterations. They have a bunch of gnats up top, so why not let them roam wild? Also, the defense is still spotty, so asking them to do less is the way to go. Jeff Petry has thrived under this system, and the returning Shea Weber will benefit from being asked merely to get the puck up quickly instead of picking out precise passes or moving all that much.

However, the foundation is creaky, because Carey Price has been REEL BAD. November was a real disaster for him, with a .888 SV% over the month. He’s only rebounded a touch in December, with four starts amassing a .912. The Habs have some of the strongest metrics as a team in the league, thanks to their speed and Julien’s tweaks, but if Price can’t get even to league average than there’s only so far you can go. The Habs currently have a two-point gap for the last playoff spot, and three on any team that’s going to matter. They’ll need Price to come in from the woods to hold onto it.

So here’s the thing. Vegas is filled with quick forwards who play fast. The Hawks usually get their lunch handed to them by that outfit. So do they by other teams who boast that. They looked better on Thursday but were undone by Seabrook and Crawford letting them down, simply. They’ll need another effort on that level to break their duck against a Habs team still feeling itself a bit. Don’t hold your breath.



Game #31 Preview Suite




Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

You can catch him a lot of places, so we recommend you just follow Andrew Berkshire @AndrewBerkshire and at his tumblr

The Canadiens started out hot, but have cooled off of late. What fueled the former and what’s the cause of the latter?
Hot starts from everyone new really helped the Habs this year. Tomas Tatar has been amazing through two months of the season, and so has Max Domi to an even greater degree, at least offensively. Couple that with Jeff Petry and Brendan Gallagher starting off the season the same way they played last year and it’s a good recipe for success. Claude Julien was able to run four scoring lines of various quality early in the year before injuries began to hit, and the Canadiens have started to come back down to earth where their true talent level is of late.
Max Domi has 30 points in 28 games. Is it more than just the 19% shooting-percentage for the little turd?
The high shooting percentage is absolutely a huge part of it, but it seems like the Canadiens’ system is tailor made to make Domi look good this year. When the Canadiens play with speed and attack the offensive zone with control, Domi looks like an elite player, but when the Canadiens have trouble attacking off the rush, he’s much more neutralized.
Is this finally the Jonathan Drouin “awakening?”
For the first month of the season, Drouin was riding Domi’s coattails quite a lot, I thought he looked pretty lost and was constantly making junior hockey moves and getting caught. The last month he’s been playing what Pierre LeBrun would call ‘Big Boy hockey.” Whether it’s a permanent awakening for him is up for debate, but the effort level is there.
How do the Habs plan to turn over what is still a pretty hilarious blue line? Kids we should know about?
On the right side the blue line isn’t too bad, with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry leading the way and Noah Juulsen being the young kid that’s not known enough around the league for how good he is. The left side is an absolute mess, even more so now with Victor Mete losing the coach’s confidence and being sent to the AHL. Eventually Mete will establish himself as the team’s top left handed defenseman. Until then, there’s no one in the organization that’s immediately available to solve this.
How long did it take before you could spell “Kotkaniemi” without looking?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t that long. Niemi helped with the latter half, and then it was just Kotka, which is pretty simple to remember. It’s nowhere near as tough as Vasilevskiy, for example.


Game #31 Preview Suite




Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else


RECORDS: Hawks 43-20-5   Canadiens 39-22-8

PUCK DROP: 6:30 Central




ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Hawks – 50.9 (11th)  Habs – 52.4 (4th)

ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Hawks – 48.7 (19th)  Habs – 52.8 (5th)

POWER PLAY %: Hawks – 18.8 (17th)  Habs – 20.3 (12th)

PENALTY KILL %: Hawks – 77.7 (27th)  Habs – 80.5 (17th)

The Hawks begin an Eastern Canadian road trip, touring the northern members of the Atlantic division all in a row. It starts with invading the constant carnival that is the Montreal Canadiens. And now this carnival comes with a full compliment of carny folk and a freak show. Because that’s how they want it up there.

Everything Else

Yesterday, the NHL and You Can Play announced ambassadors for YCP for each team in the NHL. Reading the press release, it isn’t really clear what these ambassadors are supposed to do and whether it’s simply ceremonial or not. I’m guessing they just stand there during a press conference whenever a team is having a You Can Play night, and god help us if they have to talk. As far as I can tell the Hawks don’t have a YCP night, but maybe that will change. Trevor van Riemsdyk was named the Hawks ambassador. I don’t know whether he volunteered for it, or was chosen simply because no one else wanted it. I hope it’s the former. It would be really great if someone with real clout on the team was named, who wouldn’t be afraid of being out front on the issue either. But I guess they’re too busy telling me which type of kale I should grow? Is he going to be at Pride in June? The Hawks have had a delegation there recently but the only active player to ever appear was Brent Sopel, and “active” is being kind at that point. There’s certainly more to be done.

Anyway, there was some consternation that Andrew Shaw was chosen as the Montreal Canadiens’ ambassador for YCP. The reasons everyone would take notice of that are obvious, given that Shaw was suspended for calling a referee a “faggot” during Game 4 of last year’s first round and was suspended a game.

I’m not so sure Andrew Shaw isn’t exactly the type who should be chosen, or close to it.