Hockey

The moment has finally come, whether you like it or not. The Blackhawks season is upon us and it will probably be the shittiest team this town has seen since at least 2008, give or take a few Hall of Fame players who may not make it to the end of the season in Hawks uniforms.

The new Blackhawks front office has taken us all at our word when we asked them to clean house of any trace of Stan Bowman or the previous regime. This offseason they cleared out almost exclusively players acquired by Stan Bowman in one way or another. In the name of Connor Bedard, an actual zoomer born in 2005, the Hawks have successfully traded off and discarded every offensive weapon they had. The Cat? Gone forever. Dylan Strome? You didn’t think you were gonna miss him, but you will. Dominik Kubalik? Maybe you didn’t notice his 32 points last season but you will now that they’ve disappeared from the roster. And I’m sure Kane and/or Toews will be for the taking come trade deadline, for the right price of course.

Instead we have, uhhhhh…this roster to get pumped about? This does not give me joy to look at. Remember how pissed off we all were when the Hawks traded away Dylan Sikura in 2020? Well he’s back now, and his numbers have literally never returned to his ‘18-19 stats because fuck you. They acquired Jarred Tinordi (son of Mark) off waivers who isn’t gonna do shit outside of barreling into people at the blueline, and David Poile likes him so that confirms just about all of your worst nightmares. There are also three Johnsons on this fucking team that are probably just simulations of hockey players and not even real people.

Maybe the front office staff thought you’d be placated by them bringing in familiar names from around the league, but let’s be honest—it’s hard to get jazzed up about some of these guys. Andreas Athanasiou seems to be the only one with offensive promise, being pretty quick on his feet and playing with Kane which will assure him lots of points on an offensively floundering team. (A limp dick would score points playing with Kane though.) Then there’s Max Domi, who ragdolled halfhearted-Duncan-Keith-replacement Connor Murphy last season when he was on the Blue Jackets. He’s already successfully played his way off the first line with Kane as we saw resurgences of Daydream Nation in this preseason—squint and you will remember better days. Depending on how quickly the Hawks fall out of the gate it’s likely neither of these dudes will be in Hawks uniforms by the end of this season.

The rest of the offensive lineup is incredibly underwhelming to me, though I pray I’ll change my mind after watching a few games. Most of the forward corps is a jumble of bottom-six forwards on a normal team, but plenty will be thrusted into top-six positions for the Hawks. The 2nd line pairing of Tyler Johnson (who is who he is at this point) and Taylor Raddysh (who just needs an opportunity to realize his potential!) are great examples of this. On the bottom six, Philipp Kurashev survived Davidson cleaning house of all offensive-minded forwards, and although he’s still just 23 I am not sure if I’d pin him as the breakout star of this season. God knows there’s a place for him to be that there if he wills it, though. He’s on a line with Sam Lafferty, who is fast but doesn’t have a ton of finish, and Mackenzie Entwistle, who is still young but is coming off just a 12-point season, so maybe Kurashev is actually screwed here. Finally, rounding out the fourth line is Colin Blackwell and Buddy Robinson, who are the equivalent of two ships passing me quietly in the night. They center Jujhar Khaira, who I’m just glad is back on the ice after getting bulldozed by professional assclown Jacob Trouba in December 2021 and dealing with concussion issues for the rest of the season.

On defense…well, not a ton has changed. The Joneses continue to be rostered, although Amy’s Youngest will be starting this season on the IR. Our top pairing of Amy’s Eldest and one of the Johnson simulations (Jack) find themselves reunited not only on the ice but off the ice as well in the I Played For John Tortorella in Columbus Support Group that I can only assume they are a part of. Murphy is hopefully healthy despite dealing with some back tightness to start off the preseason, leading him to miss a couple of games. (He might ask Coach if he could miss a few more after spending some time dragging around Tinordi on his pairing.) Jake McCabe, who is currently being held together by duct tape at Luke Richardson’s personal request, made his way onto the roster despite another major surgery this offseason, so expect to see him in the lineup once he feels fully healthy. And to round out the pairings, we’ll be able to watch two future pieces of the Blackhawks blueline in Filip Roos and Alec Regula probably get skulled by every opponent. But hey, at least it’s just two young guys getting skulled instead of the entire prospect pipeline.

We were all tossing and turning at night wondering what the Hawks goaltending could possibly look like this season. Considering Arvid Soderblom is 23 which is like 15 in goalie years, more stopgaps had to be placed on the NHL roster so he could continue with his development elsewhere. Unfortunately, the stopgaps available to us were…Peter Mrazek and Alex Stalock? Mrazek’s stellar .888 save percentage on a 115-point Maple Leafs team last year sounds about right to me. People will hold out hope he’ll return to his .923 numbers that he had with the Hurricanes in 2020-21, but that was behind a competent team with solid offense and defense, neither of which Mrazek is gonna see between the pipes in the United Center. Stalock has drifted between “meh” and “serviceable” during his time with the Wild between the years of 2016-2020 but considering his age and the fact that an injury sidelined him for all but one game last year, it will likely take him a while to get his footing.

To round it all out, the Hawks get to start their season against the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, who are still considered contenders this year by just about every sportswriter I’ve seen on Twitter Dot Com. It will probably get bad real quick, right off the bat, and we’ll have to get comfy in the muck and mire that will be the rest of the season. But if you’ve read until here, you’re a fan for the long haul and will stick around for as long as it takes to see a contending team get built here again. Hopefully there will be some silver lining to this season—like Lukas Reichel’s eventual callup—that will make things Fun-Bad in the meantime. We’ll try to hold down the fort here, previewing and wrapping groups of games as much as we can, and hope to see you along for the ride.

Hockey

In retrospect, Duncan Keith’s exit was paved nearly three calendar years ago when Joel Quenneville was fired and Coach Cool Youth Pastor Jeremy Colliton was brought on to do whatever it is he’s been doing since. Keith had just turned 35 and the signs of wear were finally starting to show, and what that deterioration would look like was without true precedent, as the closest comparison to Keith has always been Scott Niedermayer, who retired at age 34. Adding to that fact was a coach whom Keith was older than and had zero respect for and his passive aggressive undermining bordered into outright contempt. At long last, what it finally took for Keith to ask out was a third straight year without a playoff appearance (sorry, the bubble doesn’t count and it never did) and yet another sex crime scandal for the Hawks for him to say “Fuck this” and want to finally be closer to his son, and the Hawks accomodated him in sending him to Edmonton for Caleb Jones (Seth’s kid brother) and a third round pick while moving his salary off the books.

There simply are not enough superlatives to lay upon Keith’s career, and again it’s equally as decorated as Scott Niedermayer’s minus the WJC that Niedermayer has under his belt 30 years ago. But with the Hawks Keith earned three Cups, two Norrises, two gold medals for Canada, and a unanimous Conn Smythe in 2015. The way Keith played the game however, was quite different than Niedermayer. Keith’s stride was far choppier, and basically all of his offense came as the result of his unbelievable defense. It has long been the lament of this outlet that Keith was never a natural power play quarterback, but that didn’t stop him from firing a million and one pucks into shin pads. His assissts came from breaking up plays at the Hawk blue line as opposing forwards were funneled there in the prime era by the relentless backchecking of Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, leaving Keith to knife the puck away if a forward tried to carry it across the line, or beat that player to the corner if they tried to dump it in. He was like a shutdown corner in football, just completely eliminating an entire side of the field. Keith also had a tremendous red ass streak both towards the press and on the ice. He made some vaguely sexist remarks when pressed by a female reporter in 2010, and flat out refused to be a part of McDonough’s PR (and coverup) machine by wearing team hats in locker room interviews. He nearly decapitated Daniel Sedin, Jeff Carter, and Charlie Coyle, receiving suspensions each time, so putting him now in the same division as the Canucks ought to be entertaining for everyone involved. And then there are all the rumors surrounding everything that transpired in 2015, some of the rumors of which are very not true, and some of them very much are.

But after all is said and done, Duncan Keith is more than likely the greatest defenseman in the history of the franchise, and one of the best to ever play the game no matter how his career ends in Edmonton. Chris Chelios might have been meaner, Doug Wilson may have scored more in the cocaine-addled and goaltender averse 80s, and Pierre Pilote might have been more graceful, but none of them did it all at once for so long, and when it mattered most. And the fact that he has asked out of this radioactive situation should not be held against him in the least going forward.

As for what the Hawks got in return, well, at least credit Bowman for not retaining any salary. The third round pick this year is a lottery ticket, and the Caleb Jones aspect of this is interesting and slightly disconcerting. As far as Caleb Jones the player is concerned, he’s 24 and has played a total of 93 NHL games with 5 goals and 14 assists for the Oilers, and has played 125 games in The A at Bakersfield putting up 11 goals there, so the offensive upside is tepid at best, and he’s certainly not the behemoth his brother is at 6’1″, 194 to Seth’s 6’4″ 215. But therein lies the intrigue. Clearly this is a precursor to making a full on push for Jones via trade, as he has asked out of flailing Columbus, with whom he has a No Trade Clause he can submit a list of 10 teams he does not want to go to. As John put it on twitter, this is Stan signing Yonder Alonso in the hopes of landing Manny Machado. As far as a player goes, Jones at 26 (27 in October) still should have plenty of time left being a two-way force and power play weapon as he has been to this point in his career, and is as legit a #1 defenseman as there is in the league, though playing in Columbus did nothing for his possession metrics. And with only one year left at a $5.4 mildo cap hit this year before hitting unrestricted free agency, he figures to be motivated. However, putting all of that into Jeremy Prinze Jr.’s absolute horse shit defensive “system” isn’t likely to improve any of those metrics, and that system is so bereft of any structure that even a player of Jones’ caliber can’t make any difference in team results. Furthermore, while no one should expect athletes to be great people or agree with them, the fact that the culture in Columbus was on the record as being so conspiracy-minded in the locker room that Pierre-Luc Dubois asked out of it is certainly not nothing, and Jones was one of the stronger voices in that room as a lettered alternate. A quick glance at the Jones’ social media feeds (along with their mother’s) backs that claim up, and is a very real concern as far as public health goes. But if nothing else has been made clear over the past 13 years, the Hawks clearly don’t give a shit about the greater good when there’s money and winning at stake. Either way, take all of this with a massive grain of salt.

In any event, farewell Duncs. It was a great run. See you at the number retiring ceremony.