Hockey

Jeff Skinner – It’s not a very ornery bunch along the Falls these days, so we’ll start with the leader of the “Yeah, But Who Gives A Shit?” brigade. Tamzarian here has 252 career goals in nine seasons plus this one, which means he’s averaged just a tick under 30 goals every season. And he’s scored over 30 four times. And not a single one of them has mattered. He’s never even sniffed a playoff team with Carolina or Buffalo. The Canes, not exactly bursting with finishers, punted him to Buffalo last year and suddenly were conference finalists. Certainly not all his fault, but certainly being categorized and world-class asshole is. At some point a 35-goal scorer has to matter, otherwise you’re just doing the scoring because someone has to score goals on a given night. Skinner might already be there.

Rasmus Ristolainen – Nothing to do with him, he just sucks. And he has sucked for a long time. And the only people who can’t seem to recognize that he sucks is the Buffalo front office. Even most other NHL front offices realizes he sucks, because the Sabres haven’t been able to find a trade partner. Usually you can fool someone. The Sabres can’t.

Vladimir Sobotka – Harkens back to the days when Blues fans would massively overrate a player because he had one good game against the Hawks once. We never thought we’d miss them.

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Sabres 30-28-8   Hawks 27-30-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

IN A BARREL: Die By The Blade

I’ll give you the perspective as a season ticket holder. Normally, the Sabres game is one you can count on unloading for a profit. It usually doesn’t matter what state the Sabres are in, because Buffalo fans travel (or they’re already here and just come out of whatever abandoned factory they live in). Tonight’s game, I couldn’t sell for a song. Even Sabres fans couldn’t find a fuck to give about this one. That’s partly due to their own team’s slide ever since they won 10 in a row, and the Hawks not being able to be much of a draw to anyone else. The combination of the two renders this one a “non-happening.”

So let’s start with the Hawks, who return from a frankly embarrassing California trip. They needed a buzzer-beater to get past the Ducks, who have been a burned-up clown car for two months or more. They were flattened by the Kings, who had lost 10 in a row before that. Then they were simply outclassed by the Sharks, which isn’t a crime, but not something you can just shrug off when everyone didn’t care against the worst team in the conference the day before.

So now it becomes the watch to see how they respond. The season is lost, and they can say whatever they want. So can Coach Cool Youth Pastor keep his charges interested and motivated? Because he’s coming off a trip where pretty much everyone couldn’t be bothered in Los Angeles. He then had his assistant captain essentially air him out, in a way, to the press. So he’s not in the best spot here, with a team closer to giving him the Bolo Yeung wave-off than anyone in the organ-i-zation should be comfortable with.

So if the Hawks mail it in here for the last 15 games, yes that would probably be better long-term due to the draft position, but it will put Jeremy Colliton in an awfully weird position. Once a team quits on you, it’s nearly impossible to reel them back in. Whatever they may want, Keith is going to be here next year. So will Kane and Toews. You can probably count on motivation from the latter two, either due to sociopathy or professional pride, but even Toews has had his nights off this year. What if he checks out? Then you’re basically lost, and you have a lot of young players in what is becoming a more and more toxic atmosphere.

However, if Colliton can get them to recover and at least spasm one more death rattle, at least there’s hope that those who are gong to take this team forward in the future are listening. Which isn’t much, but it’s at least what I’m paying attention to.

As for on the ice matters, David Kampf returns, in for Dylan Sikura. That’s kind of annoying, but I can’t really defend Sikura too much more when he hasn’t scored. Kampf is actually more important than most realize, as his Baby Kruger ’13 act has been missed. So that’s cool. Corey Crawford gets the chance to recover from his technicolor yawn in Los Angeles.

To the Sabres, who have sunk like a stone since briefly being the talk of the league in the fall. Since that 10-gamer that was all OT and one-goal wins, they’ve gone 13-22-6, which is unsightly to say the least. And there’s not a lot to build on at the moment. They don’t score a bunch, they give up too many goals, but they’re not that close to the bottom in any category. Their summer hinges on whether they can keep Jeff Skinner, as he’s been the only winger to really dovetail with Jack Eichel.

Their big move at the deadline was to move along Brendan Guhle for Brandon Montour–the hallowed Brendan-to-Brandon upgrade–in a bid to get anything on their blue line other than Rasmus The Younger. The rest of the season will also be an evaluation of Phil Housley as coach. If the Sabres continue to break up like a too-steep reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, he’s going to be out of a job come May. If he can pull them out of this stall, he may get one more chance.

Like a lot of not-quite teams, the Sabres are one line. There’s Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart, and then whatever you find at the bottom of your trash can when you take the bag out. Evan Rodrigues is centering the second line, for god’s sake. Casey Middlestadt carries a lot of hope but not a lot of production yet. Kyle Okposo went back to his home planet. There’s nothing else really worth talking about.

This is one of a few games left on the schedule that will take place merely because they have to. There’s nothing riding on it, so just try and enjoy the spectacle of a hockey game. There’s not much else I can say about it.

 

 

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Now that the Hawks’ season once again lies in rubble and dust, you wouldn’t blame fans for turning their scarred eyes to the summer, and to the hopes of what the Hawks might do in free agency or via trade. One name you’re going to hear more than once is Jeff Skinner.

The Hawks have been connected to Skinner before, a couple times during his days in Carolina. Skinner was seemingly always on the block, and some of it had to do with a reputation of being a complete dickhead in the dressing room. But this is hockey, so even if that was true, what it’s based on could be literally anything. He might have worn orange New Balance shoes once and Jordan Staal would have lost his shit. We don’t know.

The Hawks couldn’t get much into the Skinner trade talks this past summer, as Skinner made it pretty clear he only wanted to go close to his home of Toronto. Buffalo counts. He didn’t cost all that much, three draft picks in the next two drafts and no first-rounders and also a prospect the Hurricanes have already moved along. He won’t cost any picks in the summer, but he will cost a fair amount of money.

Skinner is a lock to put up his first 40-goal season, to go with two other 30+ goal seasons. And if Mark Stone can get $9.5M a year (seriously that contract is STOOOOPID), and he’s never pierced 30, then Skinner’s and his agent’s eyes must be lighting up. Especially considering Skinner is just 26. Might they be looking at eight figures? That’s hard to justify, especially if you look deeper.

Skinner is an elite sniper, so his metrics are always going to be outdone by his actual performance. Or at least they usually will be. But this season is something of an outlier even in that. Skinner is averaging less shots, less attempts, and less chances than he has in the last five years, and that’s with getting to play with actual talent in Buffalo instead of Raleigh (the Canes never had a center in the stratus of Jack Eichel, until Aho this year). And yet he’s cashing in at 16.3% of his chances at even-strength, which is miles over what he’s done before. It’s also double his expected shooting percentage, based on the chances he’s getting. Again, Skinner is a gifted scorer, and he’ll regularly outshoot his expected percentages, but double? On the plus side, he does always stay on the positive side of the possession count and ahead of his team’s rate. But he’s also been heavily, heavily kept in the offensive zone on his shifts, so he’d better.

There also is an element of, “Yeah, but who gives a shit?” with Skinner. He’s never played a playoff game, won’t this year, and he’s never been all that close. So no team has been good because Skinner is on it. It’s hard for a winger to accomplish that, but it’s something an inquiring team might want to consider, especially if you’re going to hand him Scrooge McDuck’s vault. It could be that Skinner is just something of a luxury player and you’d better have everything else.

Again, 40 goals is 40 goals. But given the spike in his percentages, more likely Skinner tops out as a 30-35 goal guy. And that’s hardly a nothing. But it’s not something you pay more than $7M per year for, and Skinner is likely to be asking for more than that. Buyer beware.

 

Game #67 Preview Suite

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Melissa Burgess has been a longtime contributor to DieByTheBlade.com, a leading Sabres site. You can follow her on Twitter @_MelissaBurgess. This is the Q&A we did with her a month ago when the Hawks were in Buffalo, and things were a bit rosier for all of us. 

The Sabres had an incredible hot streak in the fall, but have been pretty poor since. What was going so right then that’s going so wrong now?

They did have an incredible hot streak, but it was a lucky one. So many of those wins came by one goal, whether in OT or shootout or regulation – it’s not like they were exactly running away with games. They just happened to find ways to win every night, grabbing the dirty goals, sometimes in the final minutes, and never giving up. So what’s changed? I think they just stopped meshing in that same way and it shows. Production drops off, pairings and lines don’t mesh the same, and all of a sudden, you find yourself out of the playoff picture.

What’s been the review of #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin?

Dahlin has been doing well so far in his rookie season. I think it’s important always for people to remember that he’s going to make mistakes, as any player is. But for Dahlin, it’s not just what he’s doing this season or what he does next season that matters; he’s hopefully a part of this team long-term and that success matters too. I think he’s a promising young defenseman and I like what I see from him.

Jeff Skinner is pouring in the goals but has yet to sign an extension. What’s the buzz on the chances of his long term stay?

It seems more likely than not that Skinner stays in Buffalo. I mean, when’s the last time you saw him without a smile on his face? In all seriousness, I’ve heard contract talks will start soon and I’m super excited for that. He’s an unreal player and it’s a treat to have him.

Jack Eichel is on his way to blowing past his career high in points. What’s the feeling about him there? Being drafted alongside Connor McDavid doesn’t help, but it doesn’t feel like he’s usually considered in the “next crop” of superstars like McDavid, Matthews, Petterssen, and the like…

I’ve never thought about it like that, but that’s true. You see everyone talking about the others, but not Eichel so much. I think he’s a quiet producer – lots of assists but also lots of moves that maybe seem small and don’t result in points – and that makes him lower on people’s radar. Of course, McDavid has always been “The Next One” and Matthews being in Toronto, there’s a lot of hype there. But I think just the fact that Eichel is that quieter leader sometimes leaves him off people’s radar. I think he’s been a great fit for this team, he seems genuinely invested in the present and the future.

 

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 18-24-9   Sabres 25-19-6

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

WEARING THE KELSO HELMET: Die By The Blade

The Hawks escape the Polar Vortex, and their bye-week, only to arrive in the constant vortex of misery and ice that is Buffalo, New York. As Harry T. Stone once said, “Why don’t you just sleep in your refrigerator?” They’ll find there a Sabres team still dog-paddling furiously to find the refuge of a playoff spot, but seemingly can’t get any closer after their one hot-streak of the season.

The Sabres seem to suffer from what’s been going around with a lot of teams on either side of the periphery of the playoff cutoff, and that’s they’re one line and then a bunch of understudies and scenery. You’ve seen this in Dallas, Colorado, Vancouver to an extent, Edmonton for like four minutes, Boston, and the like.

Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart (the one good Reinhart) form a deadly unit. Skinner is on his way to his first 40-goal season, Eichel is averaging a point-per-game for the first time. They’ve kept the Sabres in most games every night, and they had one streak where they found a way to win every game they were in. Which is the only reason they have any hope of a playoff spot now. Throw in competent goaltending in spots from either Carter Hutton or Linus Ullmark, and you get a team that’s slightly above an also-ran but not nearly ready for primetime either.

Because there’s isn’t anything behind that line. Casey Mittelstadt will be a fine player one day, but is learning the ropes. Kyle Okposo died of dysentery. Jason Pominville is three days older than water. Evan Rodrigues helps prove the theory that if you wore a letter for your college team, you suck. There’s just no secondary scoring here.

Perhaps one day Rasmus Dahlin will chip in big-time with that, but as promising as he is asking him to do it at 18 from the blue line is a bit much. Rasmus The Lesser (Ristolainen) has always been a fraud and maybe now they’re even realizing it in Buffalo. The rest of the defense is basically plugs like Zach Bogosian or Marco Scandella, or players who just never got there like Nathan Beaulieu and Jake McCabe. Again, there’s a top tier base here in Dahlin, the Sabres just need to fill in the rest behind. Or wait until their other prospects do so. It’s a project.

For the Hawks, they’ll start the post All-Star break “push” with a weird road-trip that goes east-to-west. with tomorrow night in Minnehaha to face the equally confounding Wild before decamping for Edmonton to face the always hilarious Oilers. Maybe the schedule makers just wanted the Hawks to see the three places consistently colder than Chicago for perspective.

Cam Ward will get the start, with Collin Delia getting the nod for what is the more “important”divisional game in the Hawks’ heads only. In theory, you might have to haul down the Wild to get into the playoffs, so if the Hawks do rip off 15 in a row the two points tomorrow will matter more. Or something. I just work here, ok?

As for other lineup changes, I would imagine that Carl Dahlstrom comes in for the bewilderingly-demoted Jokiharju, though Forsling was activated and could be chosen to waste all of our time again. Connor Murphy will probably stare quizzically at Slater Koekkoek all night, while the revival act of Marlboro 72 continues to not sell out theaters nationwide. Boy, this is fun. Whatever two of Perlini, Kunitz, and Hayden floats your boat will play. No, it does not matter.

The Hawks are back. And there was must rejoicing.

 

 

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It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Rasmus Dahlin is ahead of his class of rookie defensemen. That should happen when you’re the #1 pick overall, and you’ve been touted as a generational talent since basically your balls dropped. It’s especially so when it’s something of a weak class of weak, neophyte d-men, with only Miro Heiskanen in Dallas, and maybe Rasmus Andersson in Calgary looking like they may be long-term, enjoyable playthings (and if you squint, Henri Jokiharju. Though you’ll have to squint a fuck of a lot harder now to see him in Winnebago County). Still, the Sabres couldn’t ask much more of Dahlin so far.

He’s put up just about a point every other game, That might not sound like much, but there have only been four players to have completed an NHL season on the blue line at the tender age of 18. They are Aaron Ekblad, Zach Bogosian (Dahlin’s partner), Jakob Chychrun, and Dahlin (40 games minimum). Dahlin sure looks like he’s going to get past Ekblad’s 39 points at 18, though it should be noted that it’s a higher scoring environment and Ekblad isn’t really supposed to be the fireworks factory that Dahlin projects to be. Still, better than a point every two games would make him the first to do it at this age since his coach Phil Housley managed it in 1983 (EIGHTY-THREE). Boy, the Sabres sure have surrounded him with people who have shared experience, huh?

Hell, to make it more impressive, only 10 players since 1980 have managed better than 40 points from the back at even 19. Zach Werenski, Mikhail Sergachev, and Cam Fowler are recent names to have done it, but there have only been 39 players that young to manage a half-season or more in the NHL in the past 20 years at all.

Which makes you wonder how one Adam Boqvist is going to fare when he comes up for air next year. Because he doesn’t have Dahlin’s size, but Dahlin has his skating ability. We just saw Henri Jokiharju get sent down because he couldn’t deal with the physicality of the league, or at least that’s what the Hawks are claiming. The challenge for Boqvist at 5-8 or whatever he actually may be, is clear. To expect first-pairing production for him is…well, it’ll be a hurdle, that’s for sure.

Dahlin’s relative metrics aren’t as impressive, as he’s adhered pretty close to the team rate on most counts, and lags behind Jokharju and Ozhiganov in Toronto among his class in terms of relative-Corsi and scoring-chances. And the Sabres are pretty much the same possession team the Hawks are, and pretty paltry when it comes to their share of scoring-chances. Still, to ask someone who is years away from drinking legally (of course, this is Buffalo, and we know how young people there tend to find a way) to rise above what his teammates are doing consistently.

The key to Dahlin is the eye-test of course, where his skating will immediately jump out at you. He still has that young d-man problem of trying to do too much and skating himself into blind alleys, but once that gets sorted you’ll probably have one of the most effective puck-movers in the game. The kid certainly doesn’t lack for confidence.

Which puts the Sabres in the catbird’s seat. Jack Eichel starts making his real money next year, but the Sabres don’t really have anyone else to re-sign, depending on your opinion of Zemgus Girgensons (and you don’t have one). If they could fool someone into taking fellow Rasmus (Ristolainen) away they would have nearly $40 million in space to play with. Sure, Buffalo isn’t exactly a free agent hotbed, but money is green just about anywhere. They’ll want Jeff Skinner to stay, though his likely 40-goal season puts him in $7-8M range. He’s also an asshole, But teams have gotten around that before, and Eichel has never had a winger like him to play with.

#1 d-men are just about the hardest thing to find, an dit’s hard to think of a team that’s gotten a parade without one (though the Capitals spring to mind, and even they had John Carlson putting up #1 points at least). The Sabres look to have that. Now it’s about everything else.

 

Game #52 Preview Suite

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Melissa Burgess has been a longtime contributor to DieByTheBlade.com, a leading Sabres site. You can follow her on Twitter @_MelissaBurgess. 

The Sabres had an incredible hot streak in the fall, but have been pretty poor since. What was going so right then that’s going so wrong now?

They did have an incredible hot streak, but it was a lucky one. So many of those wins came by one goal, whether in OT or shootout or regulation – it’s not like they were exactly running away with games. They just happened to find ways to win every night, grabbing the dirty goals, sometimes in the final minutes, and never giving up. So what’s changed? I think they just stopped meshing in that same way and it shows. Production drops off, pairings and lines don’t mesh the same, and all of a sudden, you find yourself out of the playoff picture.

What’s been the review of #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin?

Dahlin has been doing well so far in his rookie season. I think it’s important always for people to remember that he’s going to make mistakes, as any player is. But for Dahlin, it’s not just what he’s doing this season or what he does next season that matters; he’s hopefully a part of this team long-term and that success matters too. I think he’s a promising young defenseman and I like what I see from him.

Jeff Skinner is pouring in the goals but has yet to sign an extension. What’s the buzz on the chances of his long term stay?

It seems more likely than not that Skinner stays in Buffalo. I mean, when’s the last time you saw him without a smile on his face? In all seriousness, I’ve heard contract talks will start soon and I’m super excited for that. He’s an unreal player and it’s a treat to have him.

Jack Eichel is on his way to blowing past his career high in points. What’s the feeling about him there? Being drafted alongside Connor McDavid doesn’t help, but it doesn’t feel like he’s usually considered in the “next crop” of superstars like McDavid, Matthews, Petterssen, and the like…

I’ve never thought about it like that, but that’s true. You see everyone talking about the others, but not Eichel so much. I think he’s a quiet producer – lots of assists but also lots of moves that maybe seem small and don’t result in points – and that makes him lower on people’s radar. Of course, McDavid has always been “The Next One” and Matthews being in Toronto, there’s a lot of hype there. But I think just the fact that Eichel is that quieter leader sometimes leaves him off people’s radar. I think he’s been a great fit for this team, he seems genuinely invested in the present and the future.

 

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Next stop on the Preview Tour in the Flortheast Division are the Buffalo Sabres, who after years of tanking both intentionally and unintentionally, finally landed the top overall pick in a year where it was almost impossible for them to screw it up. The Sabres were dead last in the league in almost any conceivable category last year, so in theory there’s nowhere for them to go but up, but this is still the city of Buffalo being discussed here, no there can’t be much that’s ruled out.

 

’17-’18 Team Marks: 25W-45L-12OT 62 PTS 199 GF 280 GA 19.1% PP 77.9% PK 47.61% CF 6.14% SH% .916 SV%

Goalies: Every year there’s a career backup that finally earns starter’s money from a desperate dipshit franchise desperate to find any kind of answer in net, and this year’s magic couple are the Buffalo Sabres and former Hawk great Carter Hutton. Hutton was admittedly stellar last year for St. Louis even playing way more than he had to while Jay Gallon continually shat himself, posting a .931 save percentage overall and .937 at evens in 26 starts and 32 total appearances. Both marks are 15 points above his usual rates, and Hutton will be 33 in December. Given how far away the Sabres are from meaningful spring hockey, this is clearly a team paying Hutton to be a placeholder, and a career journeyman finally getting a legit payday even at a decidedly modest $2.75 million a year for this season and two more. Everyone seems to get what they need out of this transaction even if none of it is all that inspiring for anyone from an actual standpoint of winning hockey games. Linus Ullmark at 25 and with 26 NHL games to his resume gets his shot at backing up Hutton, and if last year proves to be a major outlier for Hutton, Ullmark may get more of a look than that, but at least he has some shot of mattering the next time the Sabres do, which will be 10 minutes after never at this rate.

Defense: This is where top overall draft pick Rasmus Dahlin will be featured from day 1, and by all accounts from any scouting expert, Dahlin is close to a sure fire #1 defenseman as there’s been in the draft in a generation, with a rare combination of size, speed, skill, and hockey smarts. And he’ll need it, because the Sabres other Rasmus on the blue line, Ristolainen, has been kind of a giant turd. While Risto has put up solid scoring numbers from the blue line with two straight 40+ point seasons on dog ass teams, 48 of his 86 points in that time have come on the power play, and only last year was he even close to hovering around an already putrid team possession rate. And at 346 professional games, he’s long past the 200 game “getting it” threshold arbitrarily attributed to developing defensemen. In an ideal world however, the younger of the Rasmii now assumes the mantle of a true #1 that can legitimately handle top assignments and tougher zone starts, while Risto is given a more sheltered role. But there’s kind of no clearer indicator of a team in disarray than hoping a rookie will help a 5th year pro making $5.4 mildo a year by slotting him down. Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella, and Beaulieu are all here, but they’re all of next to no long term consequence. Beaulieu at 25 maybe, but even that’s pushing it, as he would have shown even a flash of something by now if he were going to.

Forwards: Whether anyone has been paying attention or not, and they haven’t, over the last two years, Jack Eichel has put up 121 points in 128 games, a .945 point per game clip. However there are two problems with this scenario, the first being that hockey seasons are 82 games long and 128 games is a lot less than 164 for two years. The second is that the guy picked ahead of Eichel, whom the Sabres nakedly prostrated themselves for in a tank effor has put up well over 200 points in that time frame. It’s not fair to Eichel to be compared to Connor McDavid, but he’s always going to be. And now he doesn’t have any protection on the center depth chart with Ryan O’Reilly getting traded to St. Louis for a big bag of bullshit coming back in the form of Patrik Berglund. But for as one sided as that trade was against the Sabres, getting Jeff Skinner for a prospect no one had ever heard of was as equal a theft. He and Eichel should form a fun top line together with whatever’s left of Kyle Okposo, but past that, hoping for the likes of Conor Sheary and Zemgus Gerginsons to make meaningful contributions is just flat out depressing. Sam Reinhart showed some growth last year increasing his goal output from 17 to 25, so naturally he remains one of the few RFA holdouts left league wide. Casey Middlestadt should get more time this year, but he’s not going to offer any protection to Eichel.

Outlook: It’s going to once again be an excruciatingly long winter for Sabres fans and players, and it’s pretty well documented how Phil Housely likes to entertain himself on go-nowhere teams. The only veteran pieces of any value that can be moved (assuming that the team still wants to build around Eichel) with expiring paper are Skinner and Jason Pominville, who already earned a spot on the All “Who Gives A Shit” Team last week. And within the context of this division, there’s not going to be any quick turnaround in sight considering how good the top of the division is and just how truly bad the Senators are trying to be.

Everything Else

Perhaps it being August is leading me to read too much into whatever little is happening with the Hawks, or around the league in general. It is the Doldrums, as we dubbed this time of year long ago, and it appears some of the bigger moves are going to happen on the eve of or during training camp. Except there was one big move, and it involved a player the Hawks were rumored to be after. Or at least that’s what they want you to think.

Jeff Skinner was traded from Carolina, who were pretty desperate to get rid of him, to the Buffalo Sabres for a 2nd, 3rd, and 6th round pick and a prospect named Cliff Pu and let’s all just ruminate on that for a second.

Now that we’ve done that, let’s refocus. This is basically a nothing package for a player with three 30-goal seasons on the weapons-shy Hurricanes, who has never had a real center when he wasn’t playing it himself. Skinner has 204 goals in eight seasons (seven and a half really thanks to the Season In A Can Of ’13). These guys don’t grow on fucking trees, and really the only thing of value the Canes got was a 2nd round pick this year. Pu (ruminate again) has played four seasons in the OHL, where he’s been all right. His best mark was two years ago where he put up 86 points in London, but that’s just about the buy-in for the Knights. He’s got decent size but is clearly a season in the AHL away before making it to the big time, if that. And he flattened out in his fourth season in the OHL, when you’re supposed to be dominating children at the age of 20. This is not an A-list prospect.

Now, it could very well be that Skinner is an asshat, as has been whispered about him for a while and cited as a reason the Canes wanted to see him hit the ol’ dusty trail. Or it could be the Canes don’t have any idea what they’re doing, as they still have not added a forward or center they so desperately need other than Andrei Svhechnikov, whom they just drafted. But with Skinner heading out the door for nothing that’s going to be on the roster this season, that would seem to be a push. And even if Skinner is a diaper rash, that’s what strong coaching and leadership is supposed to iron out, something I’m told the Hawks have in spades.

You could also be trading for just one year of Skinner. He’s due $5.75M this year and then goes UFA. But the Hawks have clung and clung to this “flexibility” idea, which Skinner’s expiring deal would still leave them, to re-sign Nick Schmaltz (who could get very expensive with another 50+ point season) and Dylan Sikura, should that be deemed an emergency (and let’s just say I have to be convinced that it will be). Should Skinner put up another 30-35 goals, or more considering he’ll actually have a center now in Eichel, he’s probably looking at a $7-$8M payday, maybe more. He’ll basically be the next best option on the market after Artemi Panarin, if you’re forecasting it now.

But still, what’s clear is that the Hawks have a hole on the top six, and Skinner would have filled it. As it stands, Toews, Saad, Schmaltz, Kane, and DeBrincat are on the top six, and as you’ll notice that’s only five. I assume they want Sikura to prove to take it, but again, color me skeptical until given good reason to be otherwise. Not only does this team have a blue line that looks like something out of The Annoyance Theater, but it looks short of goals.

So what are we to conclude about the Hawks not getting a player they’ve been hotly rumored to want? They thought that package was too much? They thought those draft picks were too valuable? That would mean they’re punting on this year, and as we keep saying with all your “core” players being over 30, you don’t get a year to punt. Or they know Crawford won’t play and the year’s been punted for them anyway. They certainly have enough prospects on the level of Pu (take your time) to have put this together.

Or should we conclude that Skinner used his NMC to rule out a trade to the Hawks? That he preferred the fucking Sabres to the Hawks because at least whatever talent they have, basically Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin now, has brighter prospects RIGHT NOW than the Hawks? That he thought the safest bet going into his UFA years was not playing on Toews’s or Schmaltz’s wing but in Buffalo. Again, BUFFALO.

The Hawks can’t claim that they didn’t go hard after Skinner because they want to maintain flexibility, because he only has the one year left. They can’t claim they didn’t like the player because we basically know they called about him and Justin Faulk. And if they did like him than they would consider signing him long-term if things worked. And again, if they didn’t, that wasn’t much of a package to take a flier. Or they were so worried about his personality that they thought Q and Toews couldn’t corral him and keep him focused (that’s just conjecture right now). Or they really think they can’t give up picks that aren’t in the first round.

So what about any of that makes you feel good?

Everything Else

evil empire at joe-camel

Game Time: 6:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, SportsNet1, WGN-AM 720
Mike Honcho: Canes Country

Tonight the Hawks will continue their tour throughout the the southeastern US in Raleigh, where they will close out the schedule heading into the All Star break, giving the vast majority of the roster an entire week off. And as they proved a month ago, the Canes will be more than happy to kick the Hawks right in the dick if they’re planning on coasting into the break.