Everything Else Hockey

The Blackhawks are kicking off their preseason schedule tonight at the United Center. I don’t even know against who.

As should have become increasingly clear over the course of this summer given the disgusting details of the latest sexual assault scandal surrounding this team, as well as its ham fisted attempts to completely deflect any and all responsibility, interest in the Men of Four Feathers is at an all time low here at FFUDHQ, or at least it is for me personally. The attempts to rebuild this roster on the fly in the hopes that Coach Jeremy Prinze Jr. can finally get his head out of his taut, perky ass have done nothing to command attention either. There have been no roster previews, no think piece writeups, no top-level league wide analysis. I elected to not purchase my share of season tickets this year with the group I’ve been a part of for 13 years, and I know Sam gave his up entirely. These were not easy decisions to come to.

As such, and also given personnel limitations now that our onetime fearless leader is actually being compensated fairly for his work elsewhere, coverage here of the upcoming season is not going to be as it has been for the past decade. In a completely unexpected turn of events, the NHL actually did something smart last year by having its two and three game series during the abbreviated schedule, which allowed us all here to divvy up the workload in a far more digestable fashion. In going back to 82 games now, that becomes a little more daunting from not only the hours needed to write and watch, but also in the sense that watching this team for moral reasons still feels gross, and the fact that they’re still going to trot this completely counterintuitve and disorganized to the point of being offensive brand of hockey and it feels like a millstone.

None of this is meant to elicit any kind of sympathy whatsoever, even given my well documented martyrdom complex. It’s merely a statement of fact in order to properly set expectations on how this team is going to be covered. What we’re going to attempt to start out with is a twice a week digest form, likely published on off days however they fall, with a quick look back at the couple games that transpired, and a quick look forward at what’s ahead. We’ll also try to toss out the classics like the Sugar Pile and Angry At Numbers every so often when the inspiration hits.

So that’s about the temperature around here, just wanted to let everyone know what we’re shifting towards.

 

 

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Game Times: 7:00PM (2/11 & 2/13)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
It’s Anti-Italian Discrimination: The Cannon

Picking up from last week’s episode of The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2021 Cavalcade of Numbskullery, Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Tortorella and his charges return to West Madison for the second time in three weekends, and are somehow even more hilarious than when these two teams last met up.

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Game Times: 7:00PM (1/13) & 6:00PM (1/15)
TV/Radio: NBCSN (1/15), NBC Sports Chicago (1/15), WGN-AM 720
Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%: Raw Charge

Despite every indication that this shouldn’t be happening from both the world at large given that pestilence still ravaging this country, and the fact that the league itself has said that they’d probably be better off simply NOT playing, the NHL regular season (such as it is) begins tonight. And the Tampa Bay Lightning will raise their championship banner in front of no one while an already decimated Hawks team looks on at a vague reminder of what once was and now seems so desperately far away.

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In somewhat of a stunner of an announcement this morning, in a joint statement, Jonathan Toews and the Hawks let the public know that he will not be reporting to Magic Training Camp on January 3rd and there is no timetable for his return due to ongoing chronic fatigue that Toews has been experiencing for a while with no clear diagnosis.

In Toews’ own words:

“This offseason, I’ve been experiencing symptoms that have left me feeling drained and lethargic. I am working with doctors so I can better understand my condition.

Until I can get my health back to a place where I feel I can perform at an elite level and help my team, I will not be joining the Blackhawks for training camp. I do not have a timetable for when I will rejoin the team. I am extremely disappointed, but it wouldn’t be fair to myself or my teammates to attempt to play in my current condition

I am grateful for the continuous support from and ongoing communication with the Blackhawks organization. Stan Bowman, Rocky Wirtz, Danny Wirtz, Jeremy Colliton and my teammates have been nothing but understanding of my situation, and I appreciate them standing by me.

To Blackhawks fans, I will continue to do whatever I can to get back on the ice and return to play the game I love for the team I love. I will not be making any further comment at this time and ask everyone to please respect my privacy as I focus on my health and recovery.”

Obviously Toews’ health is the top priority here, especially in the wake of the sincerely scary news of Henrik Lunqvist’s imminent open heart surgery. Hopefully Whatever is ailing Toews is something that can be managed so that he can have a normal life, even if that life is now away from hockey. And on the heels (or wrists) of Kirby Dach’s ostensible season-ending surgery from the broken wrist he sustained in an exhibition match in the International Unpaid Boy Exhibition, the Hawks season seems like a foregone conclusion of being abjectly awful, even if they were long odds if everyone was reasonably healthy. This begs several questions, namely just how long Keith and Garbage Dick are going to endure what is sure to be an incoherent mess on the ice and in the locker room with no Toews to buffer between the players and the incompetent and justifiably outwardly disrespected Jeremy Bevington. And naturally, this will give President Stan even more cover to stay with Beto O’Colliton’s ineptitude despite what may very well end up being the worst record in the league because his top two centers were completely gone.

Either way, it’s time everyone involved strapped in and adjusted expectations, as this situation is rounding the corner from “frustratingly inept” to “Fun Bad” at a breakneck pace, and even if Toews is feeling better by the midpoint of the season, there should be no reason for him to come back early and risk injury and covid exposure. Sit tight and get well.

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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.

 

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Game Time: 5:45PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NBCSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Potemkin City Limits: Copper n BlueOilers Nation

It can never be said that the general public wasn’t warned about this. This series was always going to be frustrating, surrealist theater with members of each bench desperately trying to give games away, and by the time the final horn blew on Wednesday night, the Oilers had managed to do so in rather impressive fashion, and now sit on the brink of heading home from the preliminary round of whatever these playoffs are despite having at least one, if not two, of the best players on the planet.

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Now begins the portion of the preview to this “series” where any parents allowing their children to read this should probably be reported to DCFS. While both the Hawks and Oilers boast varying concentrations of firepower among their respective forward corps, to call both of these teams a bit of an adventure on the blue line would probably be a bit complimentary. There are gaping fissures in the space-time continuum to be found on either side of the ledger here, and it will be up to the coaching staffs to find them. Ten guesses as to which one is more likely to do so, with the answer to be given on Thursday for the coaching preview.

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Game Time: 9:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet+, SN360, WGN-AM 720
Slaying The Dragon: Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

After a thoroughly embarrassing performance in Edmonton last night, the Hawks have no time to regroup as they continue their Western Canadian tour in Vancouver tonight against the Canucks, and just in time for Sedin Twin Night as 22 and 33 go into the rafters at Rogers Arena.