Everything Else

For the Rockford IceHogs, the action in March gets underway quickly. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate opens what is a pivotal month of the 2018-19 season at the BMO Harris Bank Center against Grand Rapids.

For the IceHogs, a team trying to secure a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs next month, every point counts. The fourth spot in the Central Division is shaping up to be a battle between Rockford, Texas, Milwaukee and Manitoba.

Right now, the Stars are in that final playoff spot in terms of points percentage (.536).  The Hogs are not far behind with a .526 percentage. Rockford holds a one-point lead over Texas in the standings, though the Stars have two games in hand.

Both the Ads and Moose have .509 points percentages and are within four points of the Hogs. Any of these four teams (or even last-place San Antonio, for that matter) could wind up with a spot in the playoffs with a extended run. Conversely, even treading water in March could spell the end of postseason dreams.

Texas hosts first-place Chicago on Friday and Saturday, while Rockford’s game with the Griffins is the lone contest for the piglets this weekend. Following that contest, the Hogs will have eight days off before traveling to Manitoba for a pair of games on March 9 and 10.

The IceHogs beat Grand Rapids in comeback fashion in the last meeting between the teams on February 20. The Hogs have dropped three straight games since that night, including a 1-0 loss in Chicago Tuesday night.

Colin Delia, in his first game back with the Hogs since being re-assigned by the Hawks, stopped 15 of 16 shots. However, his counterpart in net, Max Lagace, blanked Rockford with 27 saves on the night.

After a return visit to Grand Rapids March 15, the IceHogs will have eight of their next nine games at the BMO. If they can go 7-2 as they did in their most recent home stand, they should be in in good shape to make a run at the postseason.

 

On Their Own

Does this group have the talent to turn in another dominant spring? We’ll see. Unlike last year, what you see in Rockford is what you are going to get, for the most part.

The only current member of the Blackhawks who would be eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs (not counting Delia, who is already with the IceHogs) is Dylan Sikura, who was sent to Rockford in a paper move at the trade deadline. Only players on the Hogs roster as of February 25 can skate in the postseason, not counting late spring ATO and PTO signings.

Whether the Blackhawks get into the playoffs or not, we won’t see a big influx of players coming in to upgrade the Hogs. In fact, Rockford might lose a player or two to emergency call-ups. Depending on how much time Drake Caggiula misses after his concussion, the Hawks may bring up a player like Andreas Martinsen, Luke Johnson or Peter Holland to fill out the bottom six.

Delia was a huge part of last spring’s playoff run to the conference final. That said, he’s not a huge upgrade in goal. Both Anton Forsberg and Kevin Lankinen have played very well in Delia’s absence. I think any of the three goalies could excel if required to carry the workload in net.

The X-factor for the IceHogs is health. There are several players who could make a difference for Rockford who are currently injured. Defenseman Brandon Davidson missed almost a month of action, came back for two games February 17 and 20, then has been out the last three. If he could stay on the ice, Davidson would be a nice veteran piece to have in the lineup.

Forward Terry Broadhurst has not played since February 16. William Pelletier was banged up February 20 and has missed three games. Tyler Sikura has been out since early January with a broken thumb. Matthew Highmore, last season’s MVP, is practicing but has yet to return from a November shoulder injury.

If all the above players could all get back into the Hogs lineup in the coming weeks, it would made a huge impact on Rockford’s playoff chances. This doesn’t seem likely. However, getting Highmore and one of the Hogs AHL signings (Broadhurst or Pelletier) back for the last four or five weeks would still be a positive for Rockford.

 

Bit ‘O Hoggies

  • Rockford has 18 games remaining in the regular season. Ten of those games are at home.
  • The IceHogs play Texas three more times, including back to back nights in Cedar Park April 5 and 6. Texas has won four of the five games with the Hogs so far this season. They’re all big ones from here on out, but these tilts with the Stars could well decide who dances in April and who sits home with their thoughts.
  • Same goes for the five games remaining with the Admirals. Both teams have taken nine points from the first seven games of the season series. Rockford is 4-2-0-1 against Milwaukee but needs to rack up some regulation wins over the Ads.
  • The Hogs have put themselves in position to grab a postseason berth primarily through defense. Rockford is still last in the AHL in scoring at 2.40 goals per game. The power play is 29th in the league, converting at just 15.4 percent.
  • On the other hand, the Hogs allow just 2.76 goals per contest. That’s good for fourth-best in the AHL. The penalty kill is 15th in the league with a 81.5 percent success rate.
  • The key to the solid defense? Between the pipes, where the IceHogs goalies have a combined .917 save percentage. That is by far the best in the league. Syracuse is second at .911; Manitoba and San Jose are both at .910.

 

Roster Moves

Nathan Noel, who had been out since January 12, returned to action this past weekend. On Wednesday, the Hogs sent Brett Welychka back to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Recently acquired forward Spencer Watson played for the Hogs Tuesday night in Chicago.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for intermission updates tonight, as well as thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been at home for most of the last three weeks. They made the most of the extended time in their own barn.

The Hogs had nine of their last ten games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Their record at home during that stretch was 7-2. That includes a thrilling finish to the home stand this weekend.

Rockford had dropped two games in a row heading into the weekend and found themselves down 4-0 Saturday night against visiting Iowa. The piglets roared back into contention to force a shootout and bested the Wild, then finished the weekend with a win over San Antonio.

The IceHogs are now 25-21-3-5 on the season. The pendulum swings the other way for Rockford, who are on the road for seven of its next eight games. The current jaunt begins in Grand Rapids, where the Central Division leaders are 20-5-1-3 this season. The Griffins have won eight of the last tilts at Van Andel Arena; Rockford is 1-2 in Grand Rapids this season.

From there, the Hogs go East to take on Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Sunday. Rockford has home victories in prior meetings with the Bears and Penguins.

 

Musings

  • Kevin Lankinen was in net for all three of Rockford’s games this week, including work on back-to-back nights. The rookie has proved himself this season, sporting a 2.47 GAA and a .911 save percentage despite a 7-6-3 record. If Lankinen needed to carry the load in net for Rockford, it appears that he would be up to the task.
  • On the other hand, why has Anton Forsberg been glued to the bench? There’s the possibility that Collin Delia could be back in Rockford sometime soon and would likely get a bigger share of the starts. Could Forsberg be sitting while a deal to send him out of town is made?
  • Luke Johnson has stepped up his play the last few weeks, with two-point efforts in both weekend games. Johnson’s shooting percentage is 17.5, the highest of the active IceHogs skaters. Right behind him is Jacob Nilsson, who hits nets at a 17.1 percent rate.
  • In contrast to Johnson and Nilsson, two guys who have difficulty converting on their opportunities are Alexandre Fortin and Graham Knott. Both create some decent scoring chances with speed (Fortin) and hustle (Knott). The problem is that those chances don’t cue many horns.
  • Saturday night, Fortin was sprung for a breakaway chance early in the contest. As happens with frequency, he was not able to put an effective shot on net. This has been a consistent problem with the speedy forward. Fortin has 29 games in Rockford and has nine points (4 G, 5 A) to show for it. In 33 games, Johnson has collected 22 points (11 G, 11 A).
  • In fairness to Fortin, his 8.2 shooting percentage is nearly double last year’s effort. He is a plus-seven this season, highest on the squad. You can still see plenty of potential in his game. Sooner or later, however, the kid’s got to knock the cover off of the net.
  • Knott, who like Fortin has another year on his entry deal, is going to better his rookie numbers. His passing has been more noticeable in the offensive end and two of his three goals are game-winners. Aside from the penalty kill, Knott has yet to really stand out in any area of the game. How much higher is the ceiling on Chicago’s second-round pick from 2015?
  • Henri Jokiharju is not long for Rockford; I would imagine he’ll be back in Chicago by the beginning of next month. In eight games with the Hogs, he has seven points (1 G, 6 A). He is also creating a slew of scoring opportunities from the point. Jokiharju is averaging nearly four shots a game and is making an impact since being assigned to Rockford.
  • Jordan Schroeder is emerging as the team MVP. The 28-year-old forward leads the IceHogs in goals (14), assists (19) and points (33). Schroeder’s five-game point streak came to a close on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Texas. However, he had a pair of goals in Saturday’s comeback win on the way to a four-point weekend.
  • Rockford’s power play had scored in five straight games before coming up empty Sunday against San Antonio. However, the Hogs (15.3 percent) are still 30th out of 31 teams on the man advantage. The penalty kill has slipped a bit, to 80.8 percent. That’s good for 17th in the AHL.
  • The Rockford offense is still the worst in the league, with an average of 2.46 goals per game. However, over this last ten-game stretch, the Hogs have scored 3.50 goals per game.
  • Simply put, if Rockford can get three goals, they have an excellent chance of winning. There’s still a lot of battle in these kids and the defense and goalie play are going to keep them in games.

 

Roster News

There hasn’t really been any roster activity this week. Brandon Davidson returned from injury Sunday. He scored the game-winner against the Rampage after being out for nine games. Blake Hillman also rejoined the lineup Saturday after missing five games.

Nathan Noel’s last game was back on January 12. Tyler Sikura’s thumb has kept him out of the lineup since January 6. Terry Broadhust was a late scratch on Sunday; no word as to his status for this week.

Matthew Highmore, who had shoulder surgery back in November, is practicing with the team. A return from the second-year forward could provide a big boost to the Hogs playoff hopes.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

The Hogs dropped their second straight game as the Stars inched closer to Rockford in the Central Division standings.

Texas drew first cord late in the opening period. The goal came from Park Ridge native Michael Mersch, who sent a deflection past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at the 17:10 mark.

The IceHogs narrowly avoided a shorthanded goal against them early in the second period, then came down the ice to tie the contest. Luke Johnson brought the puck out of the Hogs zone after Lankinen stopped a Justin Dowling attempt. Making his way to the opposite coast, Johnson maneuvered between the circles and passed to Henri Jokiharu.

Jokiharu’s shot rebounded off the pads of Texas goalie Phillipe Derosiers, where Johnson had first dibs. The putback was denied, but Jacob Nilsson finished off the scoring play by knocking the puck across the border and into the city. The game was tied at one 2:37 into the second.

The Stars responded with a pair of power play goals of their own to build a 3-1 advantage. Travis Morin added to his hefty scoring totals against Rockford at 6:51 of the second, while rookie Joel L’Esperance put in his league-leading 27th goal of the season 3:31 into the third period.

The IceHogs rallied for a Viktor Ejdsell strike with Lankinen on the bench at the 16:51 mark, but Rockford ran out of clock before they could finish the comeback.

 

Saturday, February 16-Rockford 5, Iowa 4 (SO)

In what just may have been the game to see at the BMO this season, Rockford erased a four-goal deficit in the last 21:32 of action. The Hogs triumphed over the Wild to break a two-game skid in exciting fashion.

The Wild skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Brennan Menell’s deflection of Cal O’Reilly’s shot 18:36 into the first period. Goals by J.T. Brown and Sam Anas in the first two minutes of the middle frame had the IceHogs reeling and down three. A Gerald Mayhew tally 16:34 into the second had Iowa leading 4-0 and the outcome seemed academic.

The rally started on a late power play chance, after William Pelletier was cross-checked by Iowa’s Michael Kapla. Luke Johnson won the subsequent draw, with Jacob Nilsson sliding the disc to Jordan Schroeder in the high slot. The offering beat Wild rookie Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove and caught the upper right corner of the net at 18:28 of the second period.

Down 4-1 to start the third period, the piglets came out with some urgency for the first time all evening. Johnson got to the left post to redirect a Henri Jokiharu blast into the Iowa cage 4:38 into the third period. The secondary assist was given to Andrew Campbell, who made a nice play to keep a Wild clearing attempt in the offensive zone.

Midway through the third, Nilsson dropped the puck off to Jokiharju, who skated to the right corner of the Iowa zone and center to Schroeder for his second goal of the night. With 9:10 left in regulation, the Hogs had cut the lead to 4-3.

The much-anticipated equalizer came after Rockford had come up short on a power play. After the Wild’s Mason Shaw came out of the box. Viktor Ejdsell withstood a hard check along the half boards to keep possession. Andreas Martinsen got clear with the puck and sent a pass across the ice to Joni Tuulola at the left dot. Tuulola’s shot cleared the blocker of Kahkonen and rattled into the net at the 15:59 mark.

Neither team could breach the opposing goal in the remainder of regulation or overtime. This comeback would have to be completed via the shootout. Jokiharu and Schroeder were stopped by Kahkonen. Sam Anas and Dimitri Sokolov were denied by Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Ejdsell’s third-round attempt would be the pivotal moment. The shot met Kahkonen’s pads but still retained the giddy-up to slide across the goal line. Mayhew’s attempt was snuffed out by Lankinen and the BMO erupted in celebration.

 

Sunday, February 17-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

The IceHogs won their second straight game, closing out a six-game home stand with a 4-2 mark.

Rockford got the first goal of the game late in the opening period. Nifty backhand passing by William Pelletier and Andreas Martinsen set up Luke Johnson coming across the Rampage crease. Johnson was able to wait out San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau and slide in his eleventh goal of the season at the 16:33 mark.

The Hogs doubled the lead early in the second period when Dennis Gilbert got off a long pass to Jordan Schroeder coming into the Rampage zone. Schroeder skated to the right circle and let fly with a lamp-lighter for a 2-0 advantage at the 1:02 mark.

San Antonio got a goal back at 3:54 of the period when Adam Musil sent a shot past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. A couple of minutes later, Mitch Reinke sent a shot off of Lankinen. Joey LaLeggia got a hold of the rebound and banked in the equalizer off of the Hogs rookie.

The score remained knotted at two through the second intermission, until the IceHogs got a goal from returning defenseman Brandon Davidson. Davidson crashed the Rampage net to follow up on a Nilsson attempt. Collecting the rebound, Davidson stuffed the puck past Coreau at 4:51 of the third period to put Rockford up 3-2.

San Antonio went with an empty net for most of the final minutes, allowing William Pelletier and Nick Moutrey the chance to send the BMO faithful home with free Culvers and wrap up a weekend sweep.

If the feeling moves you, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news, updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

There’s probably nothing that will completely take the sting of today’s Bears game away for diehards, but the Hawks sure did their damnedest anyway. They continue what’s been a surprisingly comical dominance of the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning their 10th straight against them since 2014. And they did it on the backs of Cam Ward and Chris Kunitz. Fucking strap in.

– Every time Colliton starts Cam Ward, I want to lose my ass entirely. I usually do. But in four of his last five, Cam Ward has looked at the very least solid. Tonight was no different. It’d be hard to pin the first two goals on him. The first resulted from Toews losing his man in front while Murphy and Dahlstrom covered theirs. On the second, Keith and Anisimov got caught ogling Bryan Rust in the corner, leaving Guentzel all the space in the world to leak one past Ward off Letang’s point shot. The third goal he probably should have had. But 31 saves on 34 shots against the hottest team in the league—which also had an extended 5-on-3—ought to get you the win, and tonight it did. Ward played well.

– When Chris Kunitz and Duncan Keith both score game-tying goals in the same game, it’s probably wise to check to see which direction the screaming wind that will claim our souls is blowing from. But here we stand, alive and relatively well, following these signs of the apocalypse. Kunitz’s goal came off a slick Dahlstrom stretch pass to Kruger on the far boards. Kruger then backhanded it to a streaking Kunitz, who potted it over Casey “I’m a good guy according to a bunch of stupid jackoffs on Twitter” DeSmith’s dumbass glove. Anyone who gives up a goal to 39-year-old Chris Kunitz is automatically not a good guy. I don’t make the rules (yes, I do).

Keith’s goal was a simple snap shot from the point off a Seabrook pass. It’s been so long since we’ve seen this happen that I was certain they’d wave it off out of principle. While Keith’s goal doesn’t entirely make up for the fact that he had a dogshit game outside of it, it helps. It’s still a nightmare watching him get beat to his spots night in and night out. Tonight though, you’ll take the good with the bad.

– Speaking of good, the power play is good now. Write it down, you heard it here first officially. The Hawks scored much the same way they have been on the power play since Colliton’s actual genius brain put the current PP1 together: Toews roamed in the middle, forcing the PK to turtle into him, giving Gus, Kane, and DeBrincat more room to wreak havoc. Kane’s pass to DeBrincat was art that appreciates over time, and this is just what the PP does now.

– After a slow start, Garbage Dick came to life. First on the power play, then on the game winner, which came after extended pressure from the power play. On both goals, Kane slipped a pass from the far circle, though the slot, to a waiting Hawk. In the second case, Dylan Strome didn’t have to do much but tap it in. This is the pass Garbage Dick almost always looks for, but with the way Colliton is drawing plays up, there’s more room to work with.

– The Penguins have a Top 5 power play in the league. The Hawks killed off all of their attempts, including an extended 5-on-3 that saw Ward make several outstanding saves. The Hawks also had a 51+ CF% overall. You might say the win was a fluke, but none of the underlying numbers really suggest that. The Hawks just straight-up beat the hottest team in the league.

– In the grand scheme, Brandon Davidson probably isn’t an answer to any question you’re asking besides “Who’s that one guy who kind of sucked for the Hawks in 2018–19 who missed 25 games due to knee surgery?” But after tonight, maybe you let Forsling spend some more time in the press box with his “upper torso injury” (MORE LIKE LACK OF HEART, MY FRENTS). He and Brent Seabrook led all Hawks in CF% tonight, with a 53+ and 56+, respectively. Because fuck anything that makes sense.

– There’s no reason Dylan Sikura should be in the AHL while Artem Anisimov gets to do anything other than not play NHL hockey. Fuck the contract and whatever other excuse you want to make for Wide Dick, he unequivocally sucks. He brought up the rear in possession with a putrid 34+. The next closest was Garbage Dick with 40+, but guess who didn’t make two assists on game-changing goals? Just fucking offer him for Darnell Nurse at this point. What’s Chiarelli gonna do, say “No, that’s not a good trade for me” for the first time in his entire life? I know he has an NMC or NTC or whatever, so if you can’t get rid of him, just bench him. Sunk cost.

Folks, this is not a drill: The Blackhawks are only six points out of a playoff spot, because parity is fake, the NHL is a vile urinal, and they’ve played a few more games than everyone else just about. Regardless of where they finish, there’s hope for this team yet, and that’s before you truly incorporate guys like Boqvist, Jokiharju, Mitchell, Beaudin et al.

It may not make the hurt of this year or today’s Bears game go away, but it’s something to build on.

Booze du Jour: Tin Cup & High Life

Line of the Night: “The Blackhawks are within striking distance of the playoffs.” – Kathryn Tappen

Everything Else

This game was, well, for lack of a better term, stupid. From scratching Nick Schmaltz to getting goalie’d by a complete nobody, what should have been at least an interesting affair ended up a mix of boring and frustrating. Whatta western trip this is turning out to be, eh? Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– Nick Schmaltz was a healthy scratch for this game, which apparently is him being sent to his room to think about what he did for not trying hard enough recently. This was defended on Twitter most notably by Mark Lazerus who said it was part of Quenneville’s “meritocracy” this year (the subject of a recent article) but that is complete bullshit. This team is a meritocracy only when the autocrat decides to pretend it is. Exhibit A: Brandon Manning still playing regular minutes. Yes, Manning has been benched before but he’s remained dreadful even AFTER multiple benchings, so how could this be a meritocracy if he’s still in the lineup? A lack of defensive depth perhaps, whereas there are more forwards to take Schmaltz’s place while he learns his lesson? Not so fast, my frent. Andreas Martinsen replaced Schmaltz tonight, and Chris Kunitz is our other depth guy. How’s that been working out? Oh, I can tell you: Martinsen had a 45.8 CF% and took a dipshit offensive zone penalty by flattening Mikko Koskinen which led directly to the second goal. I’m not saying the Nick Schmaltz would have been the game-changing factor here or that playing him means the Hawks would have won (it wouldn’t, they would have lost anyway), but he’s already been moved to a third-line winger which is not where he belongs or clearly where he feels most comfortable, and then Q is surprised/angry that he’s demoralized and not playing well? Ah yes, let’s teach this youngin’ a lesson and meanwhile Andreas Martinsen brings GRITHEARTFART go fuck yourself, Q.

– The other stupid and frustrating part of tonight was the Hawks getting shut out by a guy playing in his sixth NHL game. And that’s not his sixth because he just broke into the league; he was last in the NHL seven fucking years ago with the Islanders. And no, he hasn’t been any good anywhere, so of course he’s going to stand on his head for the Hawks and deny Saad multiple chances, Toews with a shorthanded try in the second…really too many to list. The Hawks had 40 shots on goal and this random fuckstick stopped all of them. Typical.

– Back to the woeful defense, I’ve been hoping and occasionally saying that Brandon “Too Many Brandons” Davidson is a workable replacement for Manning or Rutta, but after getting a misconduct during Darnell Nurse‘s meltdown that’s unlikely to ever happen. It’s too bad because Davidson had a 60.9 CF% and two shots on goal, but knowing Q it’ll all be for naught and he’ll be banished to the land of wind and ghosts.

Cam Ward shouldn’t be blamed for this loss—it was definitely a team effort—but he threw an .862 SV% which we know just won’t work. In the first he actually kept the Hawks in it, particularly mid-way through the period when the Oilers had sustained pressure. But as soon as the second period kicked off, he let one in the five hole via Drake Caggiula. The short-handed goal, also by fucking Caligula in the third, wasn’t really his fault as it was just a breakdown by all the Hawks, but at least two can be pinned on Ward tonight. And it’s just annoying that it always feels like a matter of time with this guy. He holds up for a while, even against the top two Oilers lines, but eventually a good offense breaks him down, with help from the rest of the Hawks also imploding.

With two ugly losses on back-to-back nights, the Hawks as a whole need to sit in time out and think about what they did, and I can only hide behind my couch watching what the lineup and line changes are going to be for Saturday. It’s going to be a long plane ride home when this is all over. Onward and upward.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

Some combination of last year’s horrible season and all of the insane optimism I have about the Bears has resulted in an all-time low level of expectations about the Blackhawks this year, and with that it’s been difficult for me to get worked up about bad losses. So it should tell you something when I say that this loss was really aggravating. Let’s just get this over with:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– At a certain point Brandon Saad is going to have a breakthrough on offense this year. I feel this is a certainty. His performances have been too dominant in almost all other aspects besides actually finding the back of the net, and even tonight he managed to that, albeit in a really weird way. He almost had a second but he Maradonna’d it into the net with the kind of backheel touch I’d like to see in Man City’s midfield (yes I am a Citizen. No I don’t know why Sam still lets me write here). Overall he was probably the Hawks best player tonight, and his 70% shot share at 5v5 bears that out (though it was actually third on the team to Wide Dick and Kunitz, his linemates). It’s either gonna come together for him or continue to be the most frustrating season imaginable. Hopefully the former.

– I don’t know what kind of galaxy brain shit led Joel Quennville to a defensive pairing of the Brandons Davidson and Manning, but the results of that pair being on the ice is what Q and his team deserve for not just putting that pair together, but sticking with it all night. Manning continues to be unarguably the worst player on the ice, and his presence on this team is an affront to humanity and the sport of hockey. He almost murdered one of the Canucks players tonight (it’s too late for me to go back and try to figure out who it was) and in my opinion the only just result is that he gets banned from the NHL forever. It’s only right.

– Meanwhile, Manning was a land of contrasts tonight. There was a 30 second stretch before the Canucks second goal where he did an excellent job closing Elias Petterson out in the defensive zone, basically completely shutting the rookie down on the rush. Then 30 seconds later he seemed like he had no clue what to do with Jake fucking Virtanen as he rushed, and Manning ended up leaving Virtanen way too much room to shoot, and he burned Crow high. And then probably about two minutes later he boxed out Louis Eriksson extremely well to shut down a rush. So what the fuck? Pick a lane my dude.

– This was a really bad loss, mostly because the Hawks played so much better in the first two periods than the Canucks. But when you get brained so badly you only manage 28% of the shots in the third period, you deserve to lose. Let’s agree to never speak of this again.

Everything Else

 vs 
Game Time: 5:00PM
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, NHL Network, Sportsnet 1, WGN-AM 720
53rd Parallel: Copper & Blue, Oilers Nation

It’s a slightly earlier start tonight on West Madison to accomodate the western Canadian audiences as the Hawks welcome Connor McDavid and his merry band of pranksters into the UC for their only visit of the year, with both teams capping off a three-in-four weekend stretch yet again, with all of the Oil’s games coming on the road.

Everything Else

God we’re going to use that picture a lot.

I’m probably going to disappoint you here, because my energy to rant and rave got up and went. My borderline-dread of what this season very well may be has kind of robbed me of the vigor to go nuclear at the lowest-level signing of Brandon Davidson.

Because the thing is…Brandon Davidson is fine. He’s fine if he’s in your #5-7 rotation. Yes, he played for three teams last year. And players who play for three teams in a season suck. That’s just the nature of the thing. Yes, he played for three teams with terrible defenses and moreover two of those teams don’t really know how to coach or develop any d-men. I don’t know what to make of Claude Julien anymore, so I’ll reserve judgement on that.

Davidson doesn’t score much, but his underlying numbers have always been good with the roles he’s been given. He’s honestly not going to kill you. But if there’s room for him on your blue line, your blue line probably blows.

What Davidson’s signing should have been is the one instead of Brandon Manning. Because they’re essentially the same thing, though Davidson probably has a little more dash to his game, whatever kind of claim that is. They’re both left-sided, third-pairing guys that you hope you don’t even notice really. The fact that the Hawks found room for both of them is a pretty huge indictment of what they are right now.

The Hawks are spending nearly $3 million this season to get two versions of the same thing. They could have had one of them for nothing, as that’s what Davidson is getting. There’s really only one slot for both, I guess, behind Keith and Gustafsson who take the other left-sided spots. And if one of them overtakes Gustafsson, that means things are worse than we thought and Goose is never going to be anything and you’d be better off watching porn than this team (probably always true, though).

None of this solves anything, which is the gaping holes on the top four. And they’ve been there FOR YEARS. They were there the minute Johnny Oduya sauntered off to Texas after the third parade. And the Hawks have done nothing, NOTHING, to fix it. Their pro scouting continues to let them down, or their internal budget does. It’s why we’ve seen confused clowns like Rob Scuderi, Jordan Oesterle, Christian Ehrhoff, Trevor Daley, David Rundblad, TVR, Darko Svedberg, the corpse of Michal Rozsvial or the corpse of Oduya’s second term, while somehow Michal Kempny wasn’t used and then went on to just anchor a second-pairing on a Cup winner. Also, if you read that entire list you will now die of dysentery in the next four years. Sorry.

That’s not to say Stan Bowman can’t recognize any d-man, because it’s generally agreed that Adam Boqvist and Henri Jokiharju are going to be difference-makers. Ian Mitchell may be as well. But all of that is two years away at a minimum.

The Hawks actually had cap space to address this. They could have addressed it in the past. Their answer was Brandon Manning, whom they just duplicated for a quarter of the cost. And the defense is the biggest reason this team is almost certainly going to suck and no one will be paying attention to it by Christmas. The forward corps isn’t great, but with a good blue line and a healthy Crawford (or any goalie who isn’t Cam Ward and could be competent) the Hawks would threaten the playoffs at worst. This one is probably going to get its head kicked in by any team with a collection of speed, which these days is just about all of them except like, the Islanders. And you only play them twice.

This is what happens when you have to use your movable pieces to help get things off the roster instead of put things on. I could trace this back to trading Patrick Sharp a year too late, or having to move Stephen Johns to get Sharp off the roster (not that Johns saves this, but he’s an NHL-quality d-man who at the very least could have netted something in return if he wasn’t used as Sharp sweetener. Insert your joke about all the places “Sharp Sweetener” went in Chicago here, just like he did). Or Teuvo, who most certainly could have gotten you a young, serviceable d-man in return if he didn’t have to be lashed to Bickell.

But that’s getting to be the longest book written, next to “Why No One Goes To Comiskey.” The problem isn’t Davidson. The problem is that there’s room for him at all.