Hockey

Now that the calendar has turned over from 2020, training camps across the league are now open, and the Men Of Four Feathers hit this ice this morning for their first practice of what will surely be many over the next week-plus where they will finally hone their man-to-man defensive zone coverage skills under the tutelage of Coach Kelvin Gemstone. Here are a few takeaways from what transpired on the West Side this morning and early afternoon.

 

  • Dylan Strome was on the ice after signing a two-year bridge deal worth $3.0 mildo per against the flat salary cap. Strome was one of the last RFAs league-wide to sign, and he didn’t have much leverage to get anything more either in term or dollars, so this is about right. Strome will have every opportunity to get prime power play minutes this year with both Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews presumed out for the entirety of the season, and this could increase his value elsewhere in the event the Hawks want to move him to get help elsewhere, because they need help everywhere.
  • On the flip side of that coin, Zack Smith was placed on waivers today, and if he goes unclaimed, the Hawks could in theory demote him to Rockford (if the AHL figures their season out) they’d have about $2 million of dead money on the books, as only $1.075 million can be buried in the AHL. But most importantly it IN THEORY opens up a spot for a younger forward to get some time at the NHL level, and the Hawks need to figure out what they have in guys like Philipp Kurashev, Tim Soderlund, Pius Suter (who was “unfit” today), and others. And there is always the off chance that Smith gets claimed, as he is a depth center, and as he showed for a fair amount last year, he isn’t completely useless yet, though coming back from injury isn’t going to help that.
  • Other than Suter, Evan Barratt and everyone’s favorite expensive oaf Brent Seabrook were deemed unfit for today’s festivities. This isn’t a particularly good harbinger of things to come for Bottomless Pete, as he’s coming off basically having his entire body replaced by surgery last year, and has not seen any kind of NHL action in 15 months. With no exhibition games to even kind of get a look at him, if he does come back it’s going to be right into game action, and that’s not going to be pleasant for anyone involved. This is more than likely just another milepost that this slow-motion car crash has to skid by on its path towards the inevitable (and likely antagonistic) end of Seabrook’s storied Blackhawks career. It remains to be seen how everyone involved handles it, but given the lack of communication last year before he was shut down and not taking him to the Edmonton bubble, don’t expect this to end without there being some hard feelings.
  • Speaking of the blue line, while camp pairings mean nothing, it’s all anyone has to work off of in the absence of a single exhibition game. But that said, the pairings today of Boqvist-Zadorov, Mitchell-de Haan, and Keith-Murphy at least make sense from a free-safety/puckmover template. However, in order for them to work, that requires a) that de Haan and Murphy remain upright which is will almost assuredly not happen for any considerable length of time, and b) that Vinny del Colliton (or anyone in the organ-I-zation for that matter) has any idea how to develop a defenseman that isn’t completely turnkey and pro-ready. As usual, the future is blindingly bright.
Hockey

Right smack dab in the middle of the Holidays right as Chanukah came to an end and as the Christmas Express barrels towards the 25th, the NHL and the NHLPA have somehow managed to put aside their usual Mutually-Assured-Destruction-caliber negotiating tactics to put a little something under the tree and into the stockings of hockey fans in the form of an accord over the 2021 season, whether anyone involved deserves it or not.

The actual nuts and bolts details of the season have been reported by all the outlets one would go other than here for actual news, but the scaffolding for the season ended up being what was long reported – four somewhat geographically coherent divisions, with all the Canadian teams forming one of them due to “differing” (read: “better” or “coherent”) policies compared to the good old US of A, playing 56 games wholly within said division, and the top 4 from each division making a divisional playoff. So teams will be playing the same 6 or 7 other teams over and over and over again until the end of May, basically, when those four teams are at for now supposed to be re-seeded at the semifinal/Final Four round. So the Hawks will be playing the Jackets, Red Wings, Preds, Stars, Hurricanes, Panthers, and defending champion Lightning for the entirety of this season.

As far as what this means for The Men of Four Feathers, this is a fairly shit draw as far as the limited number of teams they’re going to be up against night in and night out. Having both of this past year’s Cup finalists in their division isn’t a good thing for their chances, regardless of whatever one’s opinion on Dallas trapping their way out of the west yielded last year. But on the other hand, it’s probably better to face them than the Avs, who have been punted out West and will get to turn whatever is in California to plasma. Either way, the Hawks are likely looking at another lottery pick out of this barring some Loki-with-the-Reality-Stone type horseshit. But hey, all teams are required to have three goalies on hand at all times home and road, so Stan’s brilliant gambit of letting Crawford walk for the platoon of Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban, and Kevin Lankinen looks like some four dimensional chess right now, doesn’t it?

Ultimately, however, this is probably about the best way that it can be done to minimize international travel, and to allow for the possibility of collapsing things down into a bubble site or two per division if necessary should the virus run even more wild than it is right now while most places don’t give a shit. The structure of the playoffs allows for the potential of the actual two best teams in the league to play for the Cup at the end, regardless of their traditional conference alignment, and that can only be a good thing, provided the season gets that far. And in another fun victory for the PA over the owners, salaries are not pro rated this year, every player will receive their full compensation over 56 games instead of 82. And because of that, the daily cap calculations can allow for more banked cap space to accrue for the few teams that are under it, which could lead to a truly bonkers trade deadline.

As of right now, the season is slated to begin January 13th, though no official schedule has been released. This is of course due to a) the Canadian government not fully signing off on this even after setting the precedent of kicking the Raptors out of the country (great optics, there), and b) with so many NHL teams sharing facilities with NBA clubs who only have half of their schedule right now, there will likely be some conflicts with dual purpose buildings such as Club 1901. So that means it’s only about 3 weeks from when the Hawks will toss Brent Seabrook out there opening night with a straight face after two hip surgeries and not playing against anyone for 18 months, with no exhibition games and only 10 days of training camp, which is slated to open January 3rd. But don’t worry, Coach Jeremy Prinze Jr.’s third time holding Magic Training Camp is sure to be the charm.

 

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
He Could Really Make It If He Just Got His Shit Together: The Royal Half, JFTC

As the Freakout Hell Bus Ride of 5 games in 7 nights comes to a close on West Madison tonight, the Hawks are looking to avoid losing their fourth straight game after having gone 1-1-2 so far, with the resurgent Kings now waiting for them as the capper.

 

Everything Else

evil empire at imos blues

Game Time: 8:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, SportsNet360, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
If A Urinal Cake Were A Town: St. Louis GameTime

As far as inevitabilities go, the Hawks and Blues meeting in the first round of the playoffs this year is right up there with death, taxes, and David Haugh writing something profoundly ignorant, stupid, and damaging. And with this series, all of the old war horses once again will be trotted out, from the Hawks “turning it on” and hockey followers everywhere from local to national believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this time it will be different for the Blues.