Everything Else

I’m sure it was only a coincidence that the Hawks completed and announced a trade of perhaps their most bewildering signing in a decade during the last Bears regular season game. Wouldn’t want anyone to notice an admission of a stupefying and yet comedic mistake of this proportion.

The headline is the Hawks traded Brandon Manning and failed prospect Robin Norell to Edmonton for Jason Garrison and Drake “The A.K.” Caggiula.

The Brandon Manning signing sucked when they made it, but we tried to reassure ourselves he was only a bottom-pairing player and really couldn’t do that much damage. And then he played, and somehow the signing looked significantly worse than we thought it would. Then he blamed it on the system Joel Quenneville employed. When the coach and system changed, he still sucked. Then his GM blamed his signing on the coach he just canned. And when Manning finally played himself out of the lineup, he bitched and moaned until he got traded. Perhaps the most infuriating part of this whole thing was that nothing was ever Manning’s or Bowman’s fault for his acquisition or play.

Take a moment to consider all that.

Manning was a continuation in a war between Bowman and Quenneville that went on for far too long, and it looks like both will eventually lose. Michal Kempny was the big battlefront in it, which has caused Bowman to re-sign Jan Rutta and Manning while basically saying to Q, “Fine, you can have your type of player. Good fucking luck.” I wonder if it doesn’t go back to Trevor Daley, who is utterly terrible and always has been but the similarities are there. Bowman desperately wanted anything to show for having to give up Patrick Sharp and also Stephen Johns just to get rid of Sharp’s contract. Daley was also unhappy under Q and his system, and his play showed that. And he wasn’t shy about telling people, even though he was always a cowboy laced on meth when it came to his defensive play. And the Hawks had to give up on him barely halfway into his first season here because it was just that bad.

We’ve seen this before.

In the end, the Hawks were always going to be bad and Manning only cost them some money, and some bleeding eyeballs at his play. Maybe they could have believed in Carl Dahlstrom more and let him just start the year here, but these things aren’t always linear. At least it’s over.

They get back Drake Caggiula, a player they wanted to sign out of college and made a push for. He’s at least not a complete suckbag, though close. He did manage 13 goals last year. You’d probably rather see him take fourth-line shifts than Andreas Martinsen or John Hayden, who gets an abnormal amount of ink spilled about him for someone who can barely do anything. That’s about the ceiling for Caligula. Jason Garrison is on a minimum deal for this season and we’ll never see the light of day and will probably be waived tout suite.

While the Hawks will tell you it clears up their defensive logjam, it really doesn’t. When Henri Jokiharju comes back, they’ll have seven d-men and various arguments about why they all need to play. Certainly Dahlstrom’s play doesn’t warrant him sitting regularly. Jokiharju has to play. Murphy’s been their best d-man by miles. You’re not going to sit Keith, who seems to have found some reasonable understanding with Gustafsson, no matter how little sense it makes. Which leaves Forsling and Seabrook. Forsling is terrible and awful and bad and stupid and sucky, and if never plays again I’lll consider it a brief ray of light in an otherwise ceaselessly dark existence, but the Hawks are still under the impression he needs to develop and at least see what they have. He can’t do that from the pressbox. Which means they’re headed for their Seabrook Nexus Of Death faster than they would like, I’m sure.

All in all it sounds like a really healthy organization we’ve got here.

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 11-19-6   Stars 17-14-3

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

SOME WERE SHOUTIN’ “TEXAS #1!”: Defending Big D

I don’t know if a team rooted to the bottom of the standings, with the worst goal-difference in the league by open lengths, can have anything resembling “momentum.” Especially when it was only two games ago it gave up a touchdown and PAT while their goalie sank back into the abyss. But hey, the Hawks played what may have been their most solid game all season against the (admittedly beat-up) Predators. And though there isn’t much to make out of the rest of the season, they won’t feel that way. So hence, they will try to build on it in North Texas, facing the same confounding Stars team they always find there.

If you thought the Predators were injury-filled, wait until you get a load of these guys. The Stars have used 12 d-men so far this season. Now you may think, “Wait a minute, the Hawks have used 10! So is 12 really that much!” Well, the Stars have had to go through their entire organizational depth on the blue line because of injuries, not because they’ve populated it with a collection of fuckwits and jackwagons.

John Klingberg has been out for weeks, but he returns tonight, so that’s great for the Hawks. So has Marc Methot and Connor Carrick, though I leave it to you to decide if that means anything, or should. Stephen Johns hasn’t played a game due to concussion problems. Klingberg has obviously been the big miss, as he’s one of the best puck-movers and passers in the league. The Stars base most of their offense on what he can do, and he can’t do anything from the trainer’s room.

And yet, with all that the Stars have been a top-10 team in goals-against at evens and overall. A lot of that is THE BISHOP! having an excellent season. Some of that is Jim Montgomery being able to keep whatever defensive unit he has on a given night playing a tight system. Or maybe it’s still the frame of Hitchcock lingering around. Either way, the Starts have survived.

Up front, it’s basically Colorado-Lite. There’s a great top line here of Jamie BennTyler Seguin-Alex Radulov. While Seguin couldn’t throw a grape in the ocean right now, compared to his career shooting-percentage, these are three players over 25 points. The next forward on the list is Jason Spezza at 18, and he’s sick anyway and might not play tonight either, aside from being three days older than water. This has been the issue for the Stars for years, that they can’t seem to produce a second line, much less a third, that can support the top one. We go into this heavier in the Spotlight, but all the kids the Stars were depending on have basically gone flaccid.

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom, or meh and feh as has been the Stars case. Rookie Miro Heiskanen is making everyone go weak in the knees, and will dovetail nicely with Klingberg as a support, second-pairing player. Taylor Fedun has been an analytic revelation filling in for the depleted defense. Which is a good thing, because when you’re rolling out Roman Polak with a straight face, you’re supposed to be in trouble. And we mean literally “rolling,” because Polak can’t skate. He’s basically what Donkey Kong throws on the ice now.

All that said, the Stars are still aimed for another 88-92 points season without a jolt somewhere here soon, the same kind of season that no on remembers when it’s over. It’s also the kind of season that doesn’t push a team forward. This is not a rebuilding team blooding a lot of new kids. They won’t be bad enough to get a real piece in the draft that can help in the next couple years. They’re not contending for banners. They’re just scenery right now, and that’s the absolute worst place to be.

As for the Hawks, you would think changes would be on the minimum. Cam Ward looks to start, which means Collin Delia gets to deal with Galactus’s playthings tomorrow night in Denver in the form of MacKinnon and Rantanen, which seems a tad harsh for a second NHL start. Given the defensive effort on Tuesday, one would imagine there would be no changes there. So Brandon Manning can continue to blame everyone else while munching popcorn. Marcus Kruger didn’t make the mini-trip, and SuckBag was called up yesterday and he’ll probably slot in ahead of Chris Kunitz, because no one wants to watch Chris Kunitz ever again.

This is where we usually try and include some sort of higher meaning to the game and streak the Hawks are on. There isn’t any. They were enjoyable to watch on Tuesday. Let’s hope they are enjoyable tonight.

 

Game #37 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Tonight’s game was quite a throwback—to stupidity, dirty hits, pointless fights, everything you remember from the bad old days! This marks two games in a row where the Blackhawks have had a player thrown out, which tells you nearly all you need to know. Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

–The Hawks actually made it over 10 minutes without giving up a goal in the first period. This is where we’re at now, when going half of the first without falling behind is a major step. Putting aside the blackness of that reality, not only did they avoid giving up multiple goals early, they even answered the Flames’ first goal with a classic forehand-backhand by Jonathan Toews, which just de-pantsed Mike Smith. So the game didn’t get off to TOO terrible of a start, although it must be said that the Flames outshot the Hawks 18-6 in the first. Think about that for a minute. They gave up 18 shots in one period, which is bad enough, and that was a full three times the number of shots they themselves managed. What does this tell you? One, is that they barely clung to life in that period. Two, is that the only reason they did so was because Corey Crawford is unreal. He had multiple saves in the first that kept the game from getting out of hand early, including after Forsling had a bad giveaway, and also on the PK after Kunitz took Dumb Penalty #1 (more on that later). Crawford hasn’t exactly been lights out in his last few games, but none of the goals tonight can be pinned on him as bad or soft ones. He was definitely back to form.

–And man did we need him to be. The level of stupidity tonight was really something to behold. After getting out of the first tied at one and with a tenuous hold on things through 4-on-4 to start the second, Chris Kunitz went full-on Neanderthal and elbowed Travis Hamonic in what can only be described as a dickhead play. Hamonic’s head was down, but Kunitz went high with the elbow and he was getting rid of the puck so it was both foolish and dangerous. Kunitz fully deserved the major penalty and game misconduct. And of course, the Flames scored twice on the ensuing extended power play. Those goals made the difference in the game, and they were entirely because of Kunitz being a stupid asshole. If he isn’t stapled to a chair in the pressbox for the rest of the season that will prove once and for all that the Hawks’ brass is incompetent, doesn’t understand how to win, and doesn’t care to figure it out.

–In an attempt to not be outdone in the stupid asshole department, everyone’s favorite dung heap Brandon Manning got in the most useless and wimpy fight possible with Garnet Hathaway (which btw is NOT an actual name). The two skated around each other with fists brandished like old timey boxers, and hit each other far less than that. It didn’t “change the momentum” or “send a message.” In fact, the only upside was that Manning spent most of the rest of the game in the penalty box and thus unable to offend our eyes with his playing.

–Clearly I’m not one for fighting, but I will say this: in the second period when James Neal basically stomped on Corey Crawford and Crawford came after him and nearly punched him, I was cackling with delight. If Crow wants to hit someone because he’s frustrated with this shitty team and the defense allowing him to get curb-stomped, I’ll set aside my issues and I’ll be here for it.

–The power play…it’s just so bad. And on paper it really shouldn’t be: Toews, Kane, Saad, DeBrincat and Jokiharju…this should be a functional first power play unit! But they can’t make a zone entry to save their lives. Seriously. They cannot get out of their own zone, they cannot get through the neutral zone, and they most certainly can’t get across the offensive blue line. It’s like a god damn force field, and that stupid-ass drop pass in the defensive zone has lived on in the Colliton era like a recurring nightmare. There are too many issues to cover in these bullets, but suffice it to say that the clown shoes are still firmly entrenched.

–Alright, enough doom and gloom. What was good from this game? Toews’ goal was pretty and we need the top line to keep scoring. The Kahun-Kampf-Kane line may be something that works. Their 43 CF% didn’t bode all that well but they were certainly fast (and besides, the entire team was underwater in possession). Dylan Strome had a nice goal. And once again, for the cheap seats in the back, Crawford finished the night with a .927 SV% and an assist, and had to face 41 fucking shots on goal.

Tonight was ugly, dumb and frustrating. If the Hawks had gotten blown out it would have made sense and been deserved. The Flames are playing much better, but again this could have been a winnable game—Mike Smith is Mike Smith which means there’s always a chance, and the fact that it came down to the stupidest of penalties is downright painful. But, there’s no rest for the wicked with three more games this week. Fire Chris Kunitz into the sun. Onward and upward.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

Through the first four minutes, this game had all the feel of a sudden onset of diarrhea after your morning shower, punctuated by slipping off the toilet seat because you didn’t have time to dry your ass off. While things got marginally better and there were some bright spots, the song remains the same: a flaccid start and a broken heart at the end of it all. Let’s clean it up.

– We don’t condone fighting usually. We get red and nude when anyone in the broadcast booth starts alluding to physicality and barbaric dickery (more on that later). But it’s not hard to understand Duncan Keith completely losing his goddamn mind and assaulting Miikka “I let a cat walking across the keyboard name me” Salomaki early in the first. It was a blindside hit along the boards. I’m sure people will try to argue that the hit came from the side and THIS IS HOCKEY and all that happy horse shit. Those people are wrong, and the Venn diagram of people who defend that hit and who own more than zero piss-yellow Mike Ribeiro sweaters is the same fucking circle.

Along the boards at an angle that Linda Blair would have had a hard time twisting to see, let alone Keith playing the puck, is inexcusable. I’m not going to defend Keith trying to piledrive Salomaki and getting the match penalty for it, but I sure understand it. There aren’t many good tit-for-tat arguments, but if you wanted to make one for Keith after the no call, I’m open to it.

Gustav Forsling is still only 22, and he missed a good portion of last year to injury. But with each game, it gets harder and harder to figure out how he fits in among a D-corps that you couldn’t trade for a cup of coffee along with the two dollars in your pocket. When he’s not getting overpowered (by Ryan Johansen on Goal 1 and Kevin Fiala on Goal 3), he’s freezing up in his own zone (Craig Smith, Goal 4). His vision is questionable at best, and are we really sure he has the skill to be the breakout D-man we thought he was? At this point, you let him shit his pants, dive in, and swim, but you wonder if the clock is starting to tick on whether he’s a guy they keep long term.

– A quick word on Erik Gustafsson: You might be able to capitalize on whatever offensive potential he has when Connor Murphy gets back. Maybe. But he’s just as bad as Forsling in his own zone, if not worse. You’d excuse that if he’s a point per game D-man, but he’s playing more like an eleven-year-old with a mustache who thinks running head first into a wall is a good way to impress girls.

– There were some positives here. Brandon Manning was by far the best D-man the Hawks had out there tonight. All of his metrics flesh it out: He had a 55+ straight CF%, a 51+ CF% SVA (score and venue adjusted), and contributed offensively. His assist on Artem Anisimov’s goal was flat-out gorgeous, splitting traffic in the slot and allowing Wide Dick to just be there. He also hit the crossbar off a Henri Jokiharju rebound in the second. You hope that this kind of play continues from Manning, because he’s exactly the kind of guy you can trade for a young flyer or mid-round draft pick later down the line.

Brent Seabrook flashed some of the old style of play too. Outside of his terrible turnover that led to the Preds’s second goal, he was, for lack of a better word, crafty with the puck. He nearly set up David Kampf with a semi-breakaway off an area pass, and managed to juke Roman Josi out of his skates with a fake shot in the third, which led to a quality chance for Dylan Strome off a Forsling point shot rebound.

Brandon Saad—who has more goals than Artemi Panarin on the year, thanks—did that voodoo that he do so well again. When Saad gets a full of head of steam along the boards, there aren’t many people who can stop him. And he managed to overpower both Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne on his goal, swatting his own attempt out of mid-air. Anyone who doesn’t want to admit that Brandon Saad fucks is a jerk.

– I don’t want to see Alex DeBrincat fighting. In the moment, it’s fun, but let’s not make that a thing in the future.

– We rag on the broadcast for falling back into the MORE PHYSICAL trope all the time. And while Eddie was guilty of it a few times tonight, nothing was quite as weird as Steve Konroyd after the first intermission. I get being mad about the Keith hit, but Konroyd went so far as to say that a guy like John Hayden should “go after one of Nashville’s smaller guys” to “help bring them [the Hawks] together.” Motherfucker even acknowledged that “that may not be right” and called his own idea “kinda barbaric,” then proceeded to justify it as something to bring the team together. It may not seem like anything more than Konroyd tossing meat to the worst kinds of hockey fans, but this kind of mind-set contributes to guys like Tom Wilson constantly having the chance at gainful employment in the NHL. It’s fucking gross to imply that someone should put a horseshit hit on an opponent as a team-building exercise. Stuff your mouth with my dog’s fart blanket with that suggestion, Stevie K.

The Hawks get a heaping helping of mulligan stew with a tilt against Calgary tomorrow. If they play anything like they did in the second period tonight, it’ll be fun. But at this point, any wins the Hawks get should be considered gravy, because even if the brain geniouses in the front office won’t admit it, this team is in rebuild mode.

Onward. . .

Booze du Jour: Four Roses and Eagle Rare

Line of the Night: “The Mute Lounge was conceived for nights just like this one.” –Matt McClure

Everything Else

 @ 

Game Time: 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
The Business Of Pleasure: Raw Charge

In a manner befitting of their relative age as far as the hockey world is concerned, rather than spend Black Friday in California as they have done in years past, the Hawks have opted to go the snow bird route and kick off the holiday season in Florida, starting tonight in Tampa against the lecherous Jon Cooper and his Lightning.

Everything Else

Yes, it’s up to us to pick something good out of the ash and rubble of a five-game losing streak. And the losses in Western Canada were all particularly ugly in their own way. But sometimes your path chooses you. So on we fight!

The Dizzying Highs

Brandon Saad – It’s kind of perfect that Brandon Saad had maybe his best stretch of hockey in the past two years in the midst of an unsightly losing streak for the Hawks. That way he can still get dunked on by the masses for not making a difference. In reality, there’s not much he can do when the Hawks don’t have a bottom six or a defense. Saad was pretty much unplayable against the Canucks, and scored against the Flames in much the same way. When Saad basically just highlights a streak of the ice between the two nets and rarely deviates from either, he’s a force. So that’s nice. Nothing else is, but at least we’ve had that.

The Terrifying Lows

Brandon Manning – I mean, this is the obvious choice and might even seem like piling on. There’s also a lot of competition for this spot. But, responsible for at least two goals against in Vancouver, another one or two in Calgary, and the list could go on. He’ll be a major discussion point of the podcast tonight I can assure you. This may go down as the worst signing of Stan Bowman’s reign as GM, and yes I fully realize the enormity of that statement. It isn’t clear what it is Manning does, and whatever it is probably no longer has a place or fit in today’s game if it ever did. The Hawks can chalk this one up as an “L” now and make him a regular healthy-scratch when Forsling is up and Murphy is healthy. Both of those things may never happen though, in case you wanted to feel worse than you already did.

The Creamy Middles

Jonathan Toews – Two more goals, which has him on a 40-goal pace. No, he won’t get there, but the Hawks problems tend to extend to when he’s not on the ice. He’s at least bot the best relative-Corsi among the forwards, though some other metrics could use some work. Still, at least he’s not one of myriad problems to worry about again. For now.

Everything Else

I don’t know that we’ll make it strict blog policy, but I think it’s important that when analyzing and discussing the Hawks we always keep in mind their “real” record. That’s hard to decipher in the NHL at times, as they do everything they can to ensure the standings are what are interpreted as what a team really is. So the OT results can cloud things a bit, or sometimes more so. Right now, the Hawks are a 3-5-6 team. That’s essentially what they’ve earned. They have six ties, and three regulation wins: in Columbus where they were severely outplayed for most of it, and over the Ducks and Rangers who both suck eggs. If viewed through that prism, then recent results don’t really surprise.

Coming into this season, the biggest problem the Hawks had was that they were a bad defensive team last year. And that’s being kind. You might be tempted to describe them as “abominable” defensively. While the goaltending was awful without Corey Crawford, no one was pretending that he wasn’t Atlas-ing a very creaky if not downright faulty ship. The team didn’t seem to lie to you about it either, as they knew they were terrible in their own end and the neutral zone. Clearly changes had to be made not just personnel-wise, but structurally as well.

We’ll get to those changes in a minute, but the story so far is that they haven’t worked. The amount of attempts the Hawks give up at even-strength has gone from 58.1 per 60 to 58.0. Not exactly a cataclysmic improvement. Their shots against per 60 at evens has gone from 32.1 to 31.8. Again, an improvement but not enough and still one of the worst marks around. And their expected goals against per 60 has actually gotten worse, and by a noticeable margin, from 2.54 per 60 last year to 2.74 this year (about an 8% increase). So even if they’re giving up a shade less attempts and shots, they’re giving up even better chances than they did last year, and last year was a veritable waterfall of chances against (which you shouldn’t go chasing, as you well know by now).

What’s been clear in the season’s first 14 games is that Joel Quenneville appears to be trying to install a more aggressive tweak to the defensive system. It’s not an overhaul, and the Hawks were always aggressive–trying to stop rushes ahead of their line, going into the corners and half-boards as the slightest sign of an opening, etc.–as well as going with a more zonal system. But now the Hawks, at times, send two guys after the puck, are chasing behind their own net far more than I can remember, and are trying to step up even higher into the neutral zone.

The question one might ask is if this is a prudent change with a defense that overall has gotten even slower. Because the Hawks just don’t get there, which is leaving even bigger gaps than they had last year. Let’s look at some goals from recent games. Now, the following may seem like we’re trying to single out Brandon Manning, and we’re not….well, ok, that’s not the sole intention. But he is a good example of a player ill-suited to what the Hawks are trying to accomplish, or at least what I think they’re trying to accomplish. And I will admit that using a third-pairing on a mediocre team at best is cherry-picking, But there are things to learn.

Take the fourth Oilers goal last night:

Manning makes a bad pass, which is not systematic. There’s a turnover at the blue line. Davidson, who’s already cheating to the middle before, is by far the closer to the play and cuts across. Because Manning was already backing up when passing and is somewhere near his left circle, the read should be his partner cutting across and Manning being something of a free-safety. Instead, much like Gallahad, Manning comes charging to where Davidson and a Hawks forward already are, leaving an entire side of the ice open. And because it’s Brandons EAT ARBY’S, they both get beat and it’s a 2-on-0.

Let’s move back to Wednesday:

Again, it’s Manning and Davidson. Manning wants to step up on Granlund before his own blue line, but his gap to start before the pass even heads to Granlund is too big. And because he’s slow and a clod, he gets turned trying to make it up too late, leaving Davidson with about two and a half guys to cover.

But it’s not just them. Take St. Louis’s second goal on Saturday:

Jokiharju goes chasing the puck and Ryan O’Reilly around and up to the boards, even though ROR is basically in the corner and can be easily “contained.” Keith is now on the right side of the net. If that’s where he’s supposed to be, then Alex DeBrincat has to be crashing down low to deal with Perron. Toews is late to cover for Jokiharju and Keith as they try and scramble, but he has about four different places to be. At the beginning, Toews was the one who seemed to think ROR was at least accounted for along the boards and isn’t expecting Jokiharju to come flying out there.

Now, this is easily the result of a teenager learning at the highest level, and mistakes you can live with. Except they’re happening multiple times a night to everyone. The amount of times the Hawks leave an entire side of the ice open per game is simply confounding. No one seems to have any idea what the other guy is going to do, and they hence end up doing everything and nothing at the same time. Communication seems to be somewhere around the level of whatever that shrieking was on the NBCSN broadcast last night

Before we start breaking glass to get our axes, these are changes that would take some time to bed in, but the clock is ticking. You’d have to think that if the Hawks still look this iffy and unsure at the end of this month, then real problems are going to need real solutions. But by that point, it may be too late.

It should also be noted that the Hawks most consistent defender from last year, Connor Murphy, is yet to play. But when you’re really depending on the return of a 6′ 5″ d-man with back problems now, who is also Connor Murphy–a fine player but nowhere near a great one– that makes a statement of its own.

Which makes the Hawks’ personnel decisions on their blue line the past couple years all the more strange. The perfect d-man for this souped-up system in their own zone of course is Michal Kempny. But I don’t want to litigate that whole thing again. The blue line is just another area where the disagreements between coach and GM and how they see how a roster should be built are clear. Stan Bowman liked Kempny, and brought him back for a second year even though he spent the first being spit on by Quenneville. But when that didn’t work, Stan has provided Q with Jan Rutta and Manning, which more and more seem like decisions with a “Fine, here are the fucking monoliths you prefer” tinge of attitude to them. And Q’s now running a defensive system based on what he thinks Stan wanted with the players he was stuck with.

That’s all just a theory, and not even all that likely. On the ground, what we know is that Stan tried to make the blue line more mobile last year with bringing back Kempny and swapping out Hjalmarsson for Murphy. And this year he’s made it less so by bringing back Rutta and bringing in Manning. They were forced into playing Jokiharju, who isn’t really all that quick either, just smart though learning the hard way.

At the end of the day, through their performance, decisions, changes, and whatever else, none of it really makes sense.

 

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.