Hockey

Joel Edmundson – For the rest of his career, he’ll have that Stanley Cup sheen that blinds every GM and commentator to the fact that he sucks and is stupid. Edmundson has always been a rock that Blues fans worshipped because he hit Toews once, and he only fits in Carolina because they have so many other mobile d-men. But don’t you fret, this is still the same shit-for-brains you remember, leading the Canes in PIMs at the moment.

Dougie Hamilton’s Coverage – It’s not going to matter to far too many people that Hamilton leads the Canes in points, or is one of the better puck-moving d-men in the league and has been. No, all they’ll focus on, and you can bet Pat and Eddie will remark on it tonight at some point, was that he avoided one hit from Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs that led to a goal. Never mind the Canes won that series or the next one. They’ll do their best to make it seem like all of his teammates hate his guts for that one bailout while extolling the virtues of Edmundson. Bank on it.

Ryan Dzingel – And they may make time to mention how great of a signing Dzingel would have been because he’s from here and got Olczyk’s autograph once because his dad made him while he had no idea who Eddie was.

Hockey

Let me contrast two organizations in this town. A month or so ago, a brilliantly researched and written piece about the Bears’ throwback jerseys by Jack Silverstein at Windy City Grid Iron pointed out the problems with said jerseys. That would be that they came from a time when black players were banned from the NFL, and how awkward it seemed that the Bears would not be wearing it. This caused the Bears themselves to address it head on in the week leading up to the game, releasing a video with several players commenting on the debate, problem, and why they felt it was important for them to wear the jerseys. For it being staged, I actually thought it was pretty well done. It certainly wasn’t the Bears hiding or skirting the issue, we can say that.

So, do you think the Hawks will be addressing this?

I wouldn’t try to tell you this is the exact same thing. One is directly from the organization and one is something of an offhand remark by an announcer. But they come from the same place, and carry some of the same issues, and both can be damaging.

Believe me, I know all the arguments that are coming from the people who I would bet good money own a pair of Zubas or six. “It was just a joke.” “It’s Pat Foley, he’s old.” “Well, that does sound like a shortstops name!” Heard it all before, will hear it all again.

At the base of it, however innocent or off the cuff it was, it reinforces that if you have a Hispanic last name, hockey isn’t for you. You don’t belong. However softly it might do that, it still does that. Which seems like maybe not the best method of carrying out, “Hockey is for everyone.” Certainly, participation in hockey faces what we’ll call an uncertain future if they don’t engage with and get Hispanic kids involved. Also, the best player on the league’s signature team is Hispanic (Auston Matthews). Hockey is already seen, and often is, as a whites-only-and-keep-it-that-way. That doesn’t fly in this day and age.

Now, is this alone a fireable offense from Foley? I struggle to get there, but I could see where people might. I think an earnest apology on the next game broadcast would suffice, along with an acknowledgment from the Hawks themselves. The Hawks do a fair amount of outreach with minority communities here in town, and this would run counter to that and something they definitely should want to get out in front of to not undo any of that work. Though man would I want to be a fly on the wall with whatever team employee has to tell Foley to do this.

This would be an opportunity for the Hawks to stand out from the league again, on a very important issue. It could reinforce the work they’ve already done, if they handle it correctly.

While it may not warrant a dismissal on its own, as yet another piece of evidence in the case against Foley, it’s getting pretty pretty mountainous. And I reiterate, I grew up with Foley and Tallon on my headphones way past my bedtime broadcasting from Chicago Stadium. I know exactly what he means to Hawks fans, because he means that to me. Doesn’t mean I can ignore what’s gone on here the past few years.

The biggest complaint you get from everywhere is that Foley hasn’t been able to hide his displeasure with the team. Which is fine.  We don’t want simple water-carriers in the booth (though that hasn’t stopped him and Edzo from doing just that in regards to certain players). Criticism is welcome and vital. But it goes beyond that when Foley makes it clear how much he’d rather be doing something else and how hard it is to watch this team.

Sure, we do that here, but it isn’t our job to sell the product at all. We’re supposed to tell you what we think. It’s all we do. And while that has a place in a broadcast, it can’t be all of it. Ask Len Kasper or Jason Benetti how you present a team that sucks in a fun way for the viewer. And they either do it or had to do it every damn day.

Add to that Foley is usually behind the play, or misidentifying everyone, or just grab-assing it with Olczyk, and you get a pretty unlistenable broadcast. This is the Hawks, it’s a job most every up-and-coming play-by-play guy would remove a digit or two for.

Everyone loses the fastball. Throw some casual racism on this pile, and what you’re left with is something the Hawks simply don’t need anymore, and could enhance. It’s time.

Everything Else

We’ll never be rid of Ryan Reaves.

At this point in our lives, we’ve come to terms with doofuses and ignorami like Reaves being part of the league. They’re slowly fading, and maybe we’ll live to see their extinction, but we won’t bank on that. What we can’t stomach is the ways in which they’re revered by those who are paid a lot more than we are to analyze the league.

Earlier in the year, Eddie Olczyk nearly passed out from a lack of bodily fluids from the ways which he slobberingly described how the Hawks “couldn’t handle” Reaves. It ignored the fact that he was out against Jan Rutta and Brandon Manning or Brent Seabrook most of that game, and those three couldn’t manage a piss-up in a brewery. Or that P.E. Bellemare has actually been a nifty fourth line center for most of his career and Reaves is just along for the ride.

If only that’s as bad as it got.

A couple weeks later, on national television mind, Mike Milbury was advocating that the Tampa Bay Lightning acquire a player because “Ryan Reaves might be waiting in the Final.” This is the Lightning. Who have lost eight games in regulation all season. They’re being urged by a tube steak with a hairpiece to plan for a player who barely gets eight minutes a game whose team might not even make the Final, or even conference final. Gee, do you think the Raptors should pick up a guy to match up with the Nuggets’ 12th man just in case they meet in the Finals?

Reaves has actually been something more than a glorified moth this year, already at career-highs in goals and points. The Knights’ fourth line has been good, one of the better ones around. But the Knights aren’t a force because of that. And yet more than enough still think you have to plan for these guys. It doesn’t help that Gerard Gallant keeps throwing Reaves out when he needs a goal and the goalie pulled, as he did again on Thursday in a game against the Sharks.

This is what we’ll never be able to stomach.

 

Game #47 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Because if you didn’t, you soon will!

Every Hawks trip to Manitoba is now guaranteed to come with Eddie Olczyk reminiscing about playing with the Jets, or more to the point trying to inflate what he meant to the Jets. If you thought it wasn’t bad enough that Olczyk did his best to co-opt the Hawks “Hockey Fights Cancer” night to be all about himself, he attempted the same a couple weeks ago when Winnipeg had theirs. But that’s fine, he can forward a lot of causes.

No, the problem is every time he arrives in Winnipeg, he makes sure everyone knows that he returns a conquering hero, with roses tossed at his feet. As if he was a legend that all 12 of the Jets fans who were alive and caring in the early 90s have pictures of in their homes, next to their portrait of the Queen.

So let’s clear that up. Olczyk spent two and a half seasons in The Peg. and then returned for another parts of two season after he did next to nothing in New York. He scored 95 goals and registered 201 points, which is fine enough. Then again, most everyone amassed a point per game back then. He ranks behind Laurie Boschman in career goals for the franchise. He’s not in the top-20 in points.

He was a nice player, and one that most wouldn’t have been able to pick out of lineup if wasn’t constantly getting in their face and telling them what a legend he was in their team’s colors.Of the 16K in the building tonight, maybe 1/16th of them would know Olczyk played there if he didn’t spend the entire pregame roaming the concourses and reminding every single one.

But that also won’t stop him from telling you what an ordeal it was to get traded there and deal with the harsh Manitoba winters, which every Jet has done. So it can’t be both.

Really what’s important for Olczyk is Olczyk, as always. You must know that he was a Jet, because if you don’t know that then the Jets are an irrelevant team. He defines them, at least according to him. Maybe they should give Pat Elynuik the same kind of treatment, as he put up the same numbers.

Who? Yes, exactly.

 

Game #32 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

At least the Colliton Era already has a familiar pattern.

Once again, the Hawks were the better team in the first period. They had the better chances, they looked faster and more creative than they have for most of the season, and yet they couldn’t solve a goalie who for the most part has struggled for a while. And then a defensive miscue causes them to fall behind. They don’t panic, but can’t scratch one out. At least it didn’t all fall apart like Thursday. Progress?

But then two veterans completely shit it on a power play, including some really questionable effort, and now you’re down two. The Hawks couldn’t crack a Flyers team that could then just sit back and wait, because they don’t have enough of those players. You know where it goes from there.

Let’s sort it out.

The Two Obs

-Let’s start with Duncan Keith. In the first period, the broadcast was all gaga about his “activity,” which pretty much amounted to impersonating that shortstop on your little league team who chased down every ball, even if it was deep in the outfield. And while activity looks nice, there’s a problem.

It’s not what supposed to be happening.

The main reason Henri Jokiharju was paired with Keith, other than there being no one else really and his veteran tutelage, was to take that part of the game off of Keith’s plate. Keith simply can’t be all over the ice anymore, he can’t be jumping into the play because he can’t get back, and he wasn’t that good at it anyway. As he settles into the sunset years of his career, a free safety role where his still useful mobility would be better suited is what’s on the menu. It’s Jokiharju the Hawks want jumping into the play. They want him making those passes and taking those shots. That’s where his game is. He’s not going to develop by having to catch all the fly balls Keith loses in the sun behind him. If Keith can’t, or won’t, reel it in, then there’s going to have to be another solution. This is part of the reason HarJu is drowning in his own zone. He’s there on his own a lot. And when his instincts to be aggressive come up, he’s finding his partner already there.

As for the first goal, yeah it’s a bad turnover, and a symptom of the Hawks still trying to do the things they used to. But still, when Keith does look, Anisimov is in that circle. Anisimov then proceeds to just float backwards toward the blue line, letting Giroux in front of him, for no discernible reason. Keith is under pressure and facing the boards, how’s he going to get that puck to you at the line, Arty? If you want to know why Anisimov’s possession and defensive numbers blow, there you go.

-Now to the second goal. Keith biffs a puck, admittedly rolling, at the blue line, letting Couturier in. And then Chris Kunitz…well I’m not sure what the verb is here. Blobs on Coots? Attempts to confuse him with his taco breath? Whispers in his ear about the emptiness and meaningless of life in an attempt to get Coots to be buried in ennui? I can’t tell.

I’m not going to rant and rave about him being on the power play at all, though I want to. With Saad out and the first unit loaded up, the alternatives are like Kahun, Fortin, and….well, you. So whatever. But if that’s the best effort that Kunitz can muster, to be shrugged off that easily, then he’s not an NHL player anymore and should be on waivers tomorrow. If he didn’t bother to do more, well that’s some veteran presence you’ve got there.

-Every time David Kampf, who does have use, makes a move at the offensive blue line to put his teammates offside, he should have to spend five minutes with a weasel in his pants.

-The third goal is mostly unlucky, except for the part where Jan Rutta is hesitant, takes a shit angle, and gets beat to the outside. Otherwise there isn’t even a shot to bounce off Crow and Manning to go in. Ain’t no coach going to do anything with Jan Rutta or Manning or Davidson. Too bad Connor Murphy is dead.

-At least Crow looked more like Crow than he has in weeks.

-A word on the broadcast. First, the barely concealed contempt Foley and Olczyk have for Barry Smith during that interview is excellent television.

We went through this last year. I know this team is a tough watch, but Pat and Eddie are getting paid a fair sum to be professional about it. I don’t need them to agree with the firing, I really won’t argue with anyone who does. But it’s not their job to sit around and lament it two games later. To make it clear how miserable you are having to broadcast this team. No, it wasn’t a great game today, but the mark of a broadcaster is what you do with the bad games. We’re all wondering what we’re doing here, but it doesn’t help when the broadcast of the game sounds like they’re narrating a trip to the DMV. Do better.

Onwards…

Everything Else

One of the many problems with cramming in this many games with one opponent in such a short amount of time is that we already know the narratives that will be belched out during the broadcast. Along with Eddie Olczyk’s newfound passion for slamming analytics or possession-numbers (he seriously must not have got a job or something because he wouldn’t consider them and thus is going to make everyone pay now), and the long-standing fascination with hit-stats, apparently the new argle-bargle for Pat Foley and Eddie O is faceoffs.

And there’s no one they love to talk about more on that subject than Ryan O’Reilly.

Sure, ROR is third in the league again in faceoff-win percentage at 62.4%. That’s par for the course for O’Reilly, who consistently has been among the league’s best. What it hasn’t stopped is his possession numbers from being middling at best, considering how much he’s starting in the o-zone this season, or his team from being a big ball of suck.

It’s not that faceoffs don’t matter. They just don’t matter as much as everyone seems to want to believe.

Last year, ROR was second in the league in FOW%. The leader was Antoine Vermette, He spent most of the season getting his head kicked in while a Duck and is now out of the league. Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews, and Patrice Bergeron were behind ROR, and we know they’re some of the best possession players in the league. It can go either way.

Team-wide, faceoffs matter even less. Two of the top five teams in faceoffs last year didn’t make the playoffs, and a third, Philly, didn’t really have any business there either. Three of the bottom five and four of the bottom six were playoff teams. You find these kinds of numbers no matter what season you look.

It’s not that faceoffs are completely irrelevant. There are a few draws within each every game that do matter, and they’re usually on special teams or toward the end of a game. But there are so many that they become rather meaningless if you study them all at once. They’re a pebble in a river.

But that won’t stop Foley and Eddie from championing ROR as the cure for cancer and/or complaining about the lack of draws that the Hawks win. Strangely, Anisimov doesn’t win draws and yet can’t seem to do wrong in their eyes, though.  Some men you just can’t reach.

 

Game #11 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

It’s something of a spring tradition, at least it is when your team doesn’t go anywhere or misses the dance altogether. There’s always a player or two or six who make it to the Final and some of those even win it (funny how that works). And you sit there and curse the brainpower of your local/favorite organization, and are convinced if only they saw the world they way you saw it, there’d be a never-ending parade. Often, this involves a player you didn’t even like when they sported the colors you prefer, and what you often do is lament that your coaching staff doesn’t know how to get the best or even good out of said player.

The case of Michal Kempny is a little more tasty than that.

Most players don’t get a 180 from one Edward Olczyk. And yet that’s what we had last night, as Eddie lauded Kempny’s performance in Game 7 and throughout the playoffs, and remarked he was more comfortable in Washington because he knew “one mistake wouldn’t mean getting benched.” That certainly wasn’t the theme in the booth when Kempny was here, and Eddie wasn’t alone as pretty much everyone covering the Hawks leapt to point out his foibles when the coach was basically throwing him under the bus. And the mistakes weren’t always there.

There is more to unpack here than the untrained eye might guess. And we’ll get to all of it. But let’s not bury the lede.

Michal Kempny’s resurgence, or I guess simply “surgence,” with the Capitals would raise the curtain or lid on what was and might still be a dysfunctional system between the Hawks front office and behind their bench. While we try and guess or claim we know what goes on, it’s probably safe to conclude the Hawks always try and reach a consensus. They have many voices in there, Bowman and Quenneville are the two biggest, but MacIassac and Maciver get heard as well (Irish much?), as well as Kelley, the elder Bowman (even if he’s what they’re moving Sue over at the Field to display), Stewart, Hallin, et al.

Still, Kempny was a player that Bowman clearly wanted, given that he signed him twice, and their European scouting recommended. As as we’ve said in previous posts, the Hawks’ European scouting is probably the strongest of the three areas (pro and amateur the others). They had clear plans for Kempny.

And yet he could never win any affection, or barely attention, from Quenneville. We rarely saw him in anything more than a third-pairing role, even though this was a blue line that’s been screaming for mobility for two seasons. He even played with a snarl in his own end that Q supposedly loves. Kempny only played more than 18 minutes with the Hawks five times this season, and he exceeded that six times with the Caps in just a quarter of the season, basically. In these playoffs he’s exceeded 20 minutes five times, with only one of those being an overtime game. It is clear that Barry Trotz is not a moron, so what does he see that Q couldn’t.. or more to the point, wouldn’t?

We had written at many points last year how Kempny’s pairing with Seabrook, despite all logic, actually worked. The dude carried a 58% share with Michal Rozsvial for fuck’s sake! He clearly had use.

And yet he was another player that the front office, whoever were his fans and whoever weren’t, had to toss overboard because they knew simply the coach would never give him a chance. And because of that, they had to know he wouldn’t re-sign here and had to cash in whatever they could. Most players the Hawks have lost over the years were due to cap considerations, but their coach’s use and view of them always played a part. And for the most part, the Hawks have gotten it right. Kempny now, Teuvo this season are generally the exception of who’s gone on to be successful. And we’ve written this article before.

It’s the sideswipe from Olczyk that makes this more interesting, however. It’s not something we’ve ever heard, and there’s been no bigger water-carrier for the organization and how it sees its players than those in the booth. From protecting Marcus Kruger in his rookie year to the over-the-top criticisms of Teuvo to the shielding of Seabrook this year, to his one-man band that basically handed Duncan Keith his second Norris with the Leddy-bashing thrown in, this list could go on. Where Eddie was getting his info is up for endless debate, but clearly this one didn’t come from the coach. Does Eddie perceive a less secure Q, one that he doesn’t have to cozy up to quite as much now? Does he just disagree with his methods more than he did?

If I can put my tin foil hat on–the sun is out after all–I’m curious what Eddie is getting at. Sometimes I wonder if Eddie hasn’t looked at Q’s job with envy, and wouldn’t mind positioning himself in line should it finally become open. But that seems far-fetched, though he’s stated his desire to try coaching again. Perhaps he just became frustrated, like a lot of us, at the handling of the lineup on a nightly basis and couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe he’s just like a lot of fans who want to criticize after a season gone wrong, even if it involves players he himself criticized when they were hear and now the winds have shifted. I don’t really know.

What we can do is be wary of how things are going to go from here. Because the Hawks aren’t going to get older, and they’ve said as much, as far as how they want to develop the team under the aging core. Sure, they may make a splash or two in free agency this summer, but the fortunes of this team are still greatly dependent on Schmaltz, Top Cat, Sikura, Ejdsell, Duclair, Hinostroza, Saad, Murphy, or at least whoever among them sticks, to go along with other kids through the system and signed out of Europe (Ian Mitchell and Jokiharju would be the two names at the top of that list). And at the very least, Eddie is pointing at a disconnect in how the front office and scouting wants players developed, and how they’re actually getting used and developed.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

This one was a real shit show, and that all started this afternoon before the game even started. I have some questions. Let’s get right to the bullets:

– So let’s get to the one that I think is the most glaring: what the heck was this lineup? Please don’t get me wrong, I know that with Toews out with an “upper body injury” aka getting his offseason started a bit early, there aren’t a lot of really good options available. But why aren’t you just top-loading then and putting Top Cat and Kane on the wings of Schmaltz? With Toews and Duclair out, you really only have 4 players worthy of top-six minutes – these three and Saad. You’re out of the playoffs already, and the league is trending toward the top-heavy lineups already. There’s no value in “depth” or “balance” in your lines at this point. Even though it’s just the Canucks, let your two young guns – who are the future of your forward group, by the way – take on the top competition with your best player and see what they can do.

– My next question: Why are we still trying this Oesterle thing? His contract is fine, of course, but that’s only because he had done jack and shit before getting here. He’s been actively bad all year. I guess I sorta see the goal in pairing him with Murphy, who has been good, and hoping it evens out, but I’m just not sure what Oesterle is giving you that Dahlstrom’t or Forsling didn’t, and those two are obviously going to be more integral to the future success of this team than Jordan Fuckin’ Oesterle. Nothing to play for, so why not just claim Keith is hurt, use an “emergency” recall for Forlsing, and use him in that role instead and see what happens? Yes I know Keith probably wouldn’t play along. Put some legos in front of his locker or something.

– Thirdly: what’s your best guess on career NHL games played for JF Berube after this season? Because teams often get desperate for backups, I’ll go optimistic and say he probably gets another two or so years to see if he can be that. Which will be hilarious for whatever team that is (it’ll be this one) because he is very clearly NOT that. I’m setting the over under for him at 55.5. What do you got?

– I’m out of questions, but I have some more thoughts. Sam put on Twitter tonight that sitting Toews is the best outcome for the pro-tank people, like myself. That’s pretty obvious. The only way it could get more tank-y would be to sit Keith as I said before, or maybe Kane, but I doubt either wants to play along, and I certainly am not about to give Kane any longer of an offseason than he deserves (don’t forget, we’re three years since his last act of menace, so we’re on pace for another one). But I’m not sure how much actual value is in that. Even if you get to 4th-to-last place, you’re only improving your draft odds by about 1.5%. Maybe giving Keith the rest is worth it, if he wants it, but I think even with him in the lineup this team is bad enough to slip, and teams like Detroit, Monteal, and Ottawa will probably fuck up by going on a run to close the year out. So basically what I’m after here is, leave Toews out, see if Keith wants to sit, and start praying to whichever diety you follow that the ping pong balls go our way.

– To close out on a high note, I want to wish my sincere congratulations and well wishes to Eddie Olczyk on him kicking cancer’s ass. Having a few family members who have done it, as well as a friend and co-worker here in Rose, it makes me happy as hell to hear every time someone tells cancer to get fucked. I am very happy for Edzo and hope for only good health for him in the future. And on a selfish level, the less Steve Konroyd we have to deal with, the better. Fuck Cancer.

Everything Else

Being a Hawks fan this season hasn’t been pleasurable. We all know that. Even the most cynical amongst us before the season never saw this coming, though there was no way to see that Corey Crawford would miss over half of it. No matter how well the Hawks play for the past couple months, they’re just a bad goal away from everything going to shit. And that bad goal is always arriving. And sometimes they don’t play well and they get steamrolled. Vets haven’t performed, or have gotten old, or both. We get it. It’s been a slog. Tuning in sometimes feels like a chore, and that’s if you’re still bothering.

If you are, what you’ll find is a broadcast that’s making it even worse.

As we always say, writing this king of thing is a knife to the heart for us. Pat Foley is the soundtrack to a good portion of our childhoods, and his calls of some iconic Hawks moments last with me forever. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s turned most of these games into a funeral dirge, and quite frankly that’s not what the job is.

For the past few months, you can hear the laments out of Foley’s voice several times per game. And hey, part of the job is calling out mistakes and bad plays. We don’t want a cheerleader either. But it’s gone way beyond that. It’s as if the entire team offends Foley’s sensibilities and is beneath him, which doesn’t make the viewing experience any better. Which has only led to longing for more neanderthalic aspects, like hit stats or fighting. If it’s beneath you, Pat, then why are we here? Are you above us, too?

Granted, Foley and Olczyk always cited hit stats when the Hawks were good, but it’s insulting to the audience because we know at this point that the Hawks don’t require “MOAR HITZ” to be good again. They never did in the past. And whether Foley likes it or not fighting is making its way out of the game in a natural progression, and the way the NHL is tripping over its own dick in this concussion lawsuit you might see that accelerated soon.

The whole air of the broadcast makes it feel like it’s a waste of his, and in turn our, time. And Adam Burish threatening to punch Brandon Saad in practice isn’t helping (hey Adam, whatever happened to that time you said you’d fight Chris Pronger? You’re still living, so you must’ve found a way out of that one). Yes, the Hawks make a lot of turnovers and mistakes and don’t get saves they need. That’s the hallmark of a bad team.

But being a professional means you’re supposed to cover this game in the same fashion you covered Game 5 against St. Louis in ’14. That’s the job. If you need inspiration, look no farther than your friend Len Kasper. Kasper called five years of utterly dogshit Cubs baseball between ’10-’14, not to mention the pretty terrible 2006 as well. And that’s every goddamn day, not just two or three times a week. And Kasper’s calls don’t sound any different from those to today when the Cubs are one of baseball’s leading lights.

We don’t need another Hawk Harrelson, as we’re on the verge of gloriously getting rid of the one we already do have. Listen to Jason Bennetti who has only had really bad Sox teams to comment on, and tell me he isn’t doing a marvelous job.

We’ve been down this road before, of course. Foley was a leading voice as the Hawks became irrelevant due to simple indifference and incompetence. He wasn’t hesitant to point out the problems. It got him fired. But that was under an ownership group that didn’t care and wasn’t trying. The Hawks didn’t foist this on us on purpose. A lot of things went wrong. And while I’ve said a lot about the Hawks’ organization, I would never accuse them of not caring what the product is on the ice. This is not the Old Man’s Era and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Sure, it’s deflating to have nine years of covering good teams with games that mattered to a team running out the clock for three months. It’s frustrating to see the same mistakes over and over. It’s probably hard to not have a close friend in the booth with you most nights due to health troubles and have the blank gape of Steve Konroyd. But that’s the job. That’s why they pay you.

Let us lament what’s gone with this team in our spare time. Hey, I don’t want to be in Buffalo on a Saturday afternoon watching two bad team scrap at shit like the rhino pen at feeding time. But I’m not being paid to present it like I should be. All we ask is that you sound like you want to be there. That would seem to be the minimum requirement of a broadcast job.

Everything Else

Been stewing over this one since Friday night. It’s no secret that we are not huge fans of Eddie Olczyk’s analysis work here at the FFUD labs. While I’m tempted to give him a break this season due to his current health struggles and stop-start schedule, this particularly angle is one that demonstrates not just his shortcomings in the booth, but the inaccessibility of hockey coverage as a whole. I’m sure Eddie is having to put forth a huge effort just to get through a game these days, and I salute him for it. This is just a nugget in a much larger problem.

In the 3rd period of Friday’s loss to the Knights Who Say Vegas, Pat and Eddie began to discuss Connor Murphy. Of course, nowhere was it mentioned that Murphy has been the Hawks best d-man for about two months, which of course didn’t stop him from being scratched yesterday because TREE CUPZ. Anyway, they were discussing his transition to the Hawks and settling in with a new team.

During the discussion, at least twice and I think three times, Olczyk said, “The Hawks have a complicated system.” At no point did Eddie dare to explain what was so complicated about it, what was so different about it from the one Murphy played in Arizona, or what specifically Murphy struggled with at first. All we got was basically Lewis Black’s, “It’s really hard. Makes me wanna go poopy!”

This is the problem with hockey analysis everywhere. Either all analysts assume we’ll never understand, or they’re full of shit and they don’t really have any idea what they’re watching anyway. So how exactly is anyone supposed to learn anything about the game they’re watching and become more attached.

Here’s the thing, and Fifth Feather is fond of when we say this, but no hockey system is The Mike Martz Route Tree. There are differences with each team, but no one’s doing anything revolutionary here.

Maybe there’s more nuance to the Hawks’ tactics, but would it have been so hard for Olczyk to point out that the Hawks like to have their d-men step up at both blue lines whenever possible? That they rely on back pressure from the forwards to do that? That they’d rather cause turnovers in the neutral zone or in the offensive zone then force dump-ins to their own zone as a lot of teams, like the Coyotes, do? Would it have been so hard to explain that the Hawks want their d-men to be able to make that five-to-ten foot pass to a waiting center in front of their net when under pressure below the goal line and/or in the corner? Hawks fans have watched Keith, Seabrook (he did once, I swear), and Hjalmarsson make that play for about a decade now. Would it have been so impossible to explain that on breakouts, the Hawks like their d-men to hit a curling forward in between the circles, and on the move, and if that’s not there to use the forward on the boards who will then hit said curling forward out of the zone? If you’re talking to a Hawks audience, we’ve all seen that. And if you have a new fan, isn’t that something they’d want to watch for?

One of the problems hockey has in attracting new fans is that to a lot of them it just looks like a mad scramble. And if you’re watching the Hawks in their own zone this year, it really looks like a mad scramble. It could only help if everyone had a clearer idea of what teams and players are actually trying to do.

But you never get that. I’m not a huge NBA fan, though getting bigger, and yet I can tell you how Tom Thibodeau teams play a pick-n-roll or how the Warriors move the ball or how James Harden does what James Harden does. Because they take the time to tell you. Fuck, aren’t we all NFL experts on how to run an offense (except for Dowell Logains, of course)? Hockey doesn’t even give you the depth of knowledge that would allow you to know the difference between a 4-3 and 3-4 defense.

It would hardly kill NHL analysts to show us how maybe one team covers the front of the net with the weakside d-man for the most part, though some want both their d-men chasing the puck and cover the routes to the net with forwards.

Because there aren’t nearly the variables in how to run things in hockey as there are in other sports. Maybe that’s a lack of new ideas but it’s the reality.

And yet we just get, “It’s a complicated system.” Which basically hangs Murphy out to dry because barely anyone can understand what he’s trying to adjust to. Or could it be these guys just don’t know and take Q’s words for it? That might explain why Olczyk wasn’t much of a coach, though that can’t be it. Or at least all of it, for sure. Fuck, we knew why the Mike Martz Route Tree was so fucking hard because it took so long to develop and also nearly got Jay Cutler killed.

It just can’t be that hard to find someone who can do that. It’s not Olczyk, and it isn’t Pierre McGuire who I’m sure doesn’t know the difference because he’s too busy memorizing OHL stats from 1997. Which means less people will know what they’re watching, which means they’ll be less inclined to do so, and who does that help?