It’s all a problem. Thank you.
With the calendar soon to turn to April, the NHL lumberingly rounds its corner into the true home stretch, with this Blackhawks season mercifully coming to an end in just 16 more games. As a general rule, the post-deadline undead period for those teams who have stripped the roster for parts such as the Hawks should in theory offer a look at some of the youth that has been toiling in the AHL for 6 months now. But as has been apparently for years now, the Hawks don’t necessarily follow conventional wisdom. The only forward worth giving a shit about, Lukas Reichel, is being artificially held back for contract purposes, as exceeding 9 games in the show will allow his first pro year to slide til next year, and if this team were going to be competitive, it could sort of be understood. But there is a very real chance that we are all also observing the final games of the franchise pillars in Hawks uniforms, and Alex DeBrincat certainly has no reason to stick around beyond next season if they don’t. Add to the fact that none of the defensemen that had ARRIVED last season under Coach Jeremy Bevington can seem to break the lineup here even beyond the trade deadline and with Connor Murphy hurt, and things are beyond desolate. There is literally no reason for Connor Murphy not to be shut down after being knocked out cold, or for pending UFAs Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson to be on the ice anymore, yet the general public is subjected to them on a nightly basis because Derek King and his Sith Master Marc Crawford are laboring under the delusion that they could be brought back for next season. Which is to say that this is an entertaining product and can’t-miss television.
3/28 – vs Buffalo
Game Time: 7:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
The Pegulas Are Vile – Die By The Blade
Given the slow-motion Armageddon that has been the past two calendar years and the commensurate scheduling considerations, this will be the Sabres first visit to the UC since 2019. And for them, not much has changed other than sending their malcontent captain Jack Eichel to Vegas for Alex Tuch and some magic beans. To be fair, the Hawks are probably about the same level of bad as they were at that time two, but it’s been a far more eventful and circuitous path getting there. To their credit, LOCAL GUY Don Granato at least has this team playing hard even if they don’t do anything particularly well, and will occasionally jump up and bit a contending team in the dick as they did outdoors against Toronto, or just this past week against both Calgary and Pittsburgh while needing extra time to do so. The Sabres are finally getting something out of the lumbering and unfortunately named Tage Thompson, who originally came over in the Ryan O’Reilly deal and is likely to hit 30 goals while currently sitting on 27. It of course remains to be seen if this is something he can sustain at the NHL level or this is merely a function of SOMEONE having to score on a bad team. Former #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin is still here and doing well enough to apparently make the all star game, but again, it was mandatory the Sabres be represented. LOCAL GUY Craig Anderson will be 41 in May and somehow he has the most starts for the Sabres at 22 (along with Dustin Tokarksi), and has 12 of the Sabres 23 wins. He played yesterday afternoon against the Rangers so who knows if he’ll get one last hometown start or not, but it’s no guarantee he’ll be done after this year either. These are two evenly matched bad teams, so it’s likely they pull off an improbably entertaining game this even as has been the case with the Hawks all year, but it means nothing to either team.
3/31 – at Panthers
Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Bienvenidos A Miami – Litter Box Cats
The Cats probably spent the most capital to fortify themselves for a long cup run in acquiring both Ben Chiarot from the Habs (for what reasons is anyone’s guess, he’s never been anything more than A GUY), and landing the prize of the deadline in prying Claude Giroux away from the Cold Ones about 10 seconds after his 1000th game with the club ended. Since the trades they’ve gone 2-1, most recently losing in Tronna to the Leafs 5-2, but beating the woeful Habs and Sens. While obtaining both of Chiarot and Giroux are nice additions to an already potent offense, they do nothing to address the two biggest issues that would preclude a deep Cats run – 1) how healthy is Aaron Ekblad going to be, and 2) will Sergei Bobrovsky shit himself again in the spring or not?
4/1 – at Tampa
Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Feel The Void: Raw Charge
Will Jonathan Toews give Brandon Hagel a tearful, emotional embrace at any point during the game, similar to any of the 45 times Frodo and Sam are reunited throughout the course of the Lord of The Rings? Tune in and find out! Do not tune in to find out if the Blackhawks will win or not, however, because they are not going to.
4/3 – vs Arizona
Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Evicted Dogs: Five For Howling
So the Arizona Coyotes are basically a Ponzi scheme organization who have been evicted from their current arena in Glendale come season’s end and will have to rent time out of Arizona State’s new arena, which seats approximately 4-5K. They have been a Troubled Asset Relief Program for years where teams send millstone contracts of elderly players who are effectively retired but only exist as basically a no show job on their roster, like so many retiree “residents” of the state. They have been willfully trying to lose for years on a minimal payroll in order to maximize the profitability of league revenue sharing and taking advantage of Gary Bettman’s seemingly pathological need to keep this franchise afloat and in Arizona despite every shred of evidence they need to be relocated. As of the time of this writing they have the exact same number of regulation wins (15) as the Chicago Blackhawks, whose previous GM made moves last off season thinking they were going to be in the playoff picture.
Since about 30 seconds into Game 1 of the season where it became glaringly obvious that this year’s Hawks team would not be competing for jack shit, this week arguably became the most important stretch of games of the year in the leadup to the trade deadline. Particularly now with a new GM steering the ship, it might have ended up being an indicator of GM Kyle’s mid and long term vision for the club. But overall, with a few wrinkles here and there, things shook out about how they could have been predicted, with the Hawks recouping some assets and also looking like shit on the ice.
3/15 – Bruins 2, Hawks 1 (OT)
The Hawks were pretty well fucked from Jump St. in this one with the Bruins being the best team defensive team in the league by a lot of metrics while having almost no finish to speak of aside from two guys on the roster. Marc-Andre Fleury was at his acrobatic best throughout the game and was literally the only reason this game was not a complete dong-whipping. He made every kind of vintage save you could as of anyone, let alone a 36 year old with the mileage he has on him. In an ideal world he would have been traded at the second intermission when his value was at its absolute peak, but there were clearly other factors at play. The Hawks managed to get this one to OT, where the fun predictably ended quickly.
3/19 – Wild 3, Hawks 1
A matinee played in St. Paul in the immediate aftermath of the Brandon Hagel trade saw the Hawks put forth a half assed effort at best, even by day hockey standards which this outlet is on record many times over as being an affront to the lord. Kevin Lankinen got the start on the front end of a back to back and is still somehow struggling with rebound control somehow, but made enough saves to keep it close until the very end, where the erstwhile LOCAL GUY Ryan Hartman put the Wild ahead. Toews’ comments after the trade were frankly those of a crybaby, complaining about someone being traded. As a long time captain in this league having seen guys get moved over and over and over again for cap purposes, having Brandon goddamn Hagel of all people be the one where he opines openly about his GM’s choices is certainly curious, especially without having done a goddamn thing in the post season in going on 7 years now. Sorry Jon, but you don’t have a leg to stand on whatsoever with regard to who stays and who goes. And clearly the team let this pouty piss pants attitude cascade down through the roster from their captain.
3/20 – Jets 6, Hawks 4
Regardless of who had the final say in it between Kyle Davidson or Derek King, the decision to start Marc Andre Fleury in a game less than 24 hours before the trade deadline was curious at best, and professionally negligent at worst. On top of it being a back and forth game where neither team was interested in playing much defense and Fleury and fellow Vezina winner Connor Hellebucyk were hung out to dry early and often, the situation became that much more harrowing during a sequence wherein Fluery lost is glove, and still instinctually tried to make a save with that hand during a scramble in front of the Hawk net. Mercifully the result was merely a goal against and not a hand shattered into dust rendering the netminder untradeable, or worse at the end of his career. The Hawks would claw their way back with the help of a solid game from newcomer Taylor Raddysh (with a Y), and at least there was a little bit more jump to their game after going down after apparently getting their tantrum game out of the way the previous afternoon. But after all of that, the result was still the same, and the Hawks are now left to play out the string in what will surely be outstanding performances from Kevin Lankinen, Colin Delia, and Arvid Soderblom.
- First on the docket is arguably the most valuable chip the Hawks had in Brandon Hagel, with his cost controlled $1.5 million against the cap for two years following the end of this season, and will likely flirt with 30 goals by this year’s end. While yes, Hagel has been a fun middle six forward who plays with physicality and has a bit of a goal scorer’s touch, given the distance between what the Hawks are against teams with actual aspirations like the Bruins (where Hagel played and scored the Hawks’ lone goal), even the most optimistic projections would have the Hawks ready to take a step right as Hagel would be due a substantial increase in pay. Not to mention, with no disrespect to Hagel or any players of his ilk, but there should be at least two guys with the potential to be this in every team’s system. Andrew Shaw was this until it was time to pay him significantly, when the Hawks correctly identified that Ryan Hartman could fill that role. So the Hawks got about as good a return as one could have been asked for Hagel in two middle-to-bottom six forwards who can play right now as well as two first rounders, albeit delated and will assuredly be late in the round because they’re Tampa’s. And the fact that the trade pissed off some aforementioned players on the roster only reaffirmed that it was the right thing to do.
- While the Marc-Andre Fleury trade seemed inevitable from the moment he actually decided he wanted to play for this calamity of an organization, it took til basically the last minute to get there for a variety of reasons. With having a full no move on top of uprooting his family here mere months ago, it extremely hamstrung Davidson’s options, and having a shit defense in front of him deflating his Vezina numbers from last year certainly didn’t help things. The Hawks eating half the salary for the remainder of the year is immaterial, but one can’t help but wonder if they could have gotten a true first round pick instead of just a condititional one had they pulled the trigger sooner and not exposed Fleury to a potent forward group and potential injury one last time before getting shipped out.
- Ryan Carpenter was moved along to Calgary for a 5th rounder, and if there was ever a match made in hockey shot suppression hell, it’s Ryan Carpenter and Darryl Sutter. With Brad Treveling taking one of Sutter’s toys away in waiving Brad Richardson, he promptly gave him a younger version in the form of Carpetner who is a reliable worker who won’t let anyone down on the PK or the dot, and should never, ever be asked to be on the first PP unit ever again. Having a a solid bottom 6 versatile forward is a complete luxury that bad teams don’t need, like a closer on a shit baseball team, or a huge LCD infotainment screen in a run down 1988 powder blue Ford Taurus. So getting a fifth round pick is just fine for moving Carpenter along.
- Calvin de Haan stayed put, because that’s just generally what he does these days, and there more than likely wasn’t a market for him even if it would have been at half price. Erik Gustafsson also had no takers, which just makes the fact that he was ever brought in here to take minutes away from any of the kids on the blue line even more short sightedly stupid from the previous regime.
Well, at least the Witching Hour of the trade deadline drawing nearer feels to have a bit of purpose with Kyle Davidson permanently installed as the General Manager with his interim tag lifted. And now he’ll get the opportunity to really show what his vision for this team is, and he quickly did so by jettisoning part of the pro scouting department, which always seemed to land on players that had previously been in the organ-I-zation but couldn’t play dead. Of course, this now begs the question why both Henrik Borgstrom and Erik Gustafsson sat all three of these games if they are out of favor with the team and are trade candidates with scouts in attendance nightly and the Hawks playing for exactly fuckall with 25 games still to go. Maybe Kyle’s still just getting the hang of this thing.
Five games into a season-long six game homestand (albeit augmented by the schedule being altered on the fly by covid postponements), the Hawks find themselves 1-3-1 with one game remaining in it, in what could have been at least a half assed attempt to keep themselves remotely viable in hair brained wild card talk. But given the results of this weekend where they needed TWO hat tricks to get past a punchless Devils team, and were humiliated once again by the Blues this afternoon, it’s time to start stripping this team down to the floorboards, assuming a fucking GM is ever hired to have the authority and autonomy to do so.
2/25 – Hawks 8, Devils 5
There have been a few games like this that the Hawks have deigned to break up the toil and drudgery for us during, where both the Hawks and their equally bad opponent manage to put on an entertaining hockey game for the true sickos who are actually still paying attention to this. Such was the case on Friday in a back and forth affair that had neither team particularly interested in defensive zone coverage, the Hawks less so, surrendering all five NJ goals at even strength. Kevin Lankinen made his first start in over a month, this time with a hand issue after a protracted covid absence earlier in the season. He didn’t look particularly sharp but really wasn’t done a whole hell of a lot of favors by the group in front of him. But at least they figured something out against the Devils’ PK (which has been above average), scoring 3 times, which ended up being the difference in the contest, the two empty-net Hat Trick cappers not withstanding. It had apparently been 19 years since Hawk teammates had pulled that off, with the legendary Steve Sullivan and Eric Daze each turning one.
2/27 – Blues 4, Hawks 0
On to more dire matters, where the Hawks once again got utterly pantsed at home by a Blues team that clearly has zero respect for them. The Hawks played well enough in the first period to at least control the territorial battle, but without converting, there was a growing sense of the Blues simply playing with their food on a lazy mid-February matinee against an obviously overmatched opponent. A quick burst of effort got the Hawk defensemen scrambling wildly in their own zone, with Amy’s Youngest continually being the worst offender in this matter. Obviously he was brought here as a lure to his brother, but it’s been pretty evident that he just simply isn’t an NHL player. Erik Gustafsson was scratched and Jones was kept in the lineup somehow, which is one of the only times Gustafsson will get any kind of defense here on these airwaves. Isaak Philipps drew in, and it once again begs the question what the actual fuck are Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin doing still in Rockford when leadfooted dopes like Philipps and Alec Regula are here, and Regula is getting power play time to the abject horror of everyone bearing witness. None if this is helping the fact that the Hawks forward group has like a guy and a half who can finish at this point, so not getting literally anything from the back end and doing so on purpose with personnel decisions like this doesn’t seem to make a whole shitload of sense.
To add insult to all of this, smirking piece of shit David Perron was sitting on two goals late in the game when the Hawks went back to the box with about 90 seconds remaining. Coach Craig Berube, who in a past life was certainly an on ice fucking cop of a player, sent his first unit out in a 4-0 game to feed Perron one timers to try and complete a hat trick in a game that was already well in hand. Now these are professionals, not pee wees, so the Hawks get paid to prevent the other team from scoring. However, it’s highly doubtful that Craig Berube The Player would have appreciated such tactics or suffered through them without at least one attempted decapitation. Just further proof than any and every code in this game is abject fucking bullshit and everyone who has used it as rationale for anything is merely trying to justify their own dickhead actions.
The Oilers, the Flyers, and the Lightning are up next this week, and hopefully, lord willing, the Hawks will actually have someone in place who can unload some of this dead weight to the point where these games aren’t merely going through the fucking motions and some kids can get a legit look.
The Hawks careen in into the All Star break hosting the Canucks and Wild tonight and Wednesday respectively, with their date last night against the Blues having been rescheduled as a part of the NHL revamping its schedule on the fly to accomodate COVID postponements and the resultant lack of participation in this coming weekend’s Olympics. Coincidentally, the not so dearly departed Jeremy Prinze, Jr is now tasked with coaching Team Canada after Claude Julien sustained a freak eye injury, so it will be utterly hilarious to watch the Canadians try to chase puck carriers above the circles on the extra wide ice. And even with the NHL not sending players, that doesn’t mean the Canadian citizenry won’t feel entitled to gold and nothing less, so those hockey-birthright jingoistic psychos should be in full froth by the medal round. But back to more pressing matters on this side of the International Date Line, where the Hawks only have two more regulation wins than the laughable Habs and Yotes, and one of the Coyotes’ SEVEN wins cam against them.
1/31 – vs Canucks
After the obligatory Boudreau Bounce, where the Canucks went 8-0-1 after he replaced Travis Green at the beginning of December, but have gone 3-4-3 since, and still find themselves well outside the final wildcard spot, even with Edmonton absolutely shitting all over itself for like six weeks straight now. As is always the case when Gabby takes over, the pace quickens and players skate like their asses are on fire, but most of the time in every direction at once. Boudreau’s limitations have been well documented over the years in this space so there’s no need to rehash them again when this particular roster won’t get him anywhere near the top of the conference playing his signature style. The thought was that Boudreau could maximize the floundering offense of Elias Petterson, who to this point only has 24 points in 44 games, which is well off his basically point-per rate his first three (truncated) seasons. Since Boudreau took over, Petterson only has 12 points in 20 games, so things have yet to pick up for him, and it’s not as if his shooting percentage has absolutely cratered – he’s at 12.2%, but that number has been trending downward since his rookie rate of 19.9% to 16.7% to 15.9% to where it is today. Even if he were shooting his career rate (this year included) of 16.6%, that’d still only result in 4 more goals on his 90 shots. His shots on goal are only down .2 a game from his career rate, so something is off here. Considering that he’s locked up for two more years and that this season likely is going result in a sell-off prior to the deadline (where the most attractive piece might be leading scorer JT Miller who is at a point-per and plays a great two way game and has another year left), it’s probably not cause for riots in the streets, but is certainly worth monitoring,
2/2 – vs Wild
Game Time – 8:30PM CST
TV/Radio – TNT, WGN-AM 720
Doublewhiskeycokenoice – Hockey Wilderness
This will be the third meeting in two weeks between these two teams, and not really much has changed since the first two other than Jonathan Toews being out of the lineup in the concussion protocol. It’s anyone’s guess when he’ll return, and the continued presence of Lukas Reichel in Rockford makes even less sense now that the Hawks are down a center and apparently Kirby Dach has given up trying to score 120 games into his career leaving the Hawks with really only one guy with any finish, and he’s headed to Vegas once this game ends. The Wild dong-whipped the Hawks on UC ice two weeks ago in a game that was never close, and then the Hawks at least kept things interesting for a bit in St. Paul before blowing multiple leads and losing in OT. In both games the Hawks suppressed shots well enough on this Wild team, something they’ve been fairly good at since the aforementioned Coach Kelvin Gemstone got whacked, but with little to no finish, and lacking the team speed the Wild have, there’s only so much that’s going to impact actually good teams, as was the case twice against the Avs last week. This game is once again on national TV, but at least this one is the late game that a national audience won’t have to be subjected to it. After this it’s the all star break, where we’ll probably take a breather here too, because this new writing schedule is so exhausting.