Hockey

Jeremy Roenick is a weeping wound on the unwashed asscrack that is the NHL off the ice. His recent lawsuit, which claims that NBC fired him as a result of “heterosexual discrimination,” is both a laughable farce and a boot on the neck of people who face actual discrimination simply for being who they are.

Let us be clear: Jeremy Roenick is not a victim of any kind of discrimination. He is simply a gigantic asshole and sexual harasser who faced the consequences that gigantic assholes and sexual harassers ought to face. Going on a supposed sports podcast as a representative of a national broadcasting company and openly suggesting a threesome with a coworker, then getting fired for it, is not discrimination. If you, like Jeremy Roenick, want to point to some comments Johnny Weir made about a figure skater once on a half-baked variety hour skit brought to you by Seth MacFarlane in Roenick’s defense, fuck you.

However the lawsuit plays out, one thing will remain true: Roenick was an excellent hockey player once but will always be a useless asshole otherwise. His schtick is consistently showing us what a massive piece of shit he is off the ice because frankly, he doesn’t have anything else he’s good at. Past the post-hockey career money, fame, and everything else, not being good at anything useful anymore has to eat at him.

The sooner Roenick permanently disappears from the airwaves, the better off we’ll all be.

Hockey

Some notes pieces before we decamp for the weekend…

-It’s been a dark week for  Hawks fans, there’s no point in selling anything else. As gratifying as the 3rd period may have been last night, we know it’s for naught. The Hawks themselves have made no bones about where they think they are, even if they can’t put a finger where that is exactly. They’ve declared the rest of the season about their young players, which means they don’t have anything real to play for. And this is the third straight season that’s basically been the case, which firmly lands you in the hockey desert.

A lot of the discussion over those years has been whether or not if this is the price fans would pay for the six years of glory. No one seems to be asking whether or not fans should have been asked that at all. As we said yesterday, Pittsburgh and Boston haven’t really asked that of their fans. But that’s a discussion for another time.

The scarier or more frustrating strand of thought that’s been leaking out of the Hawks’ offices these days, along with the gas that has been clouding theirs and the Bulls’ minds, is that all of the sudden this is going to take two or three years to fix. It feels like the Hawks are prepping fans for a full rebuild that they A. can’t actually do and B. don’t actually have to.

While we’re one of, if not the, darkest Hawks corner of the dark corners of the internet, we’ve also been pretty consistent that this team isn’t far away from being an entrenched playoff team. Now, it’s not that close to running with Colorado or St. Louis or Boston or Tampa, and maybe that’s what they mean by taking two or three years. That seems a hard path to negotiate given the ages of some of their best players, but they can still relatively easy put themselves around the discussion.

Still, that’s a strange note to strike when the previous note was the “all we have to do is get in” the Hawks had been playing the past couple years, using the Predators team that caved in their skulls in ’17 or last year’s Blues as evidence, even though that wasn’t close to the whole story on those two teams. Both of them were preseason favorites that just took longer than expected to get their shit together. The Hawks can’t seem to decide where they want the goalposts.

Clearly the Hawks don’t know what message to send, which is what happens when you don’t even know what direction you’re taking your team. Or if you’re John McDonough, who you are (I really wanna know…).

Still, looking at this roster, it’s easy enough to point to where the Hawks have to address in the summer to gain the 10-15 points they’ll need to not just make the playoffs next year, but perhaps compete for automatic spots instead of being in this muck.

Despite Jeremy Colliton’s thoughts most of the year, if you can even pin them down, the Hawks have in place quality center depth. I don’t know what Dylan Strome is exactly, but I do know that hiding behind Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews next year is a pretty good place to be and one he can flourish in as well. Maybe none of Toews, Dach, or Strome are #1s either anymore or yet, but having three #2 centers seemed to work out pretty well for the Blues last year or the Predators in the past. It’s certainly a model you can win with.

The problem up front for the Hawks at the moment is that they only have four top nine wingers instead of the six they need. Saad, Kane, Debrincat, Kubalik, But if you’re using a “3+1” model, as the Hawks are pointing toward with their centers, you can get away with Drake Caggiula as a third-line winger. Or the idea of Andrew Shaw that he no longer is anymore. Or something like that. It would be fine.

So really, the Hawks need one more winger up front, and one that is a complete burner. This is why Andreas Anathasiou would have been perfect, but the Hawks need more speed. They’re not slow up front, but they’re also not in the same neighborhood as Colorado or Calgary or half a dozen other teams. Ideally they could add two wingers with gamebreaking speed, but I’m trying to be realistic.

At the back, we’ve been talking about the historically bad and slow defense for two years. Which makes it seem strange to say it doesn’t have to be all that far either. Part of that is Adam Boqvist hasn’t developed this year in the way that you’d hoped. But some of that is Keith not being really a great partner for him but also no one else being able to play with Keith. Calvin de Haan is a miss, whether we like it or not.

But simply the addition of Ian Mitchell helps. The Hawks can make noise about bringing him along slowly, but he’s been a top pairing d-man in the NCAA for three years. If he needs anytime in Rockford it’ll be an upset and probably means he’s not going to be anything close to what we hope. And he shouldn’t need that. How much he improves the blue line is up for debate, but he unquestionably will. If they can get him here.

If the Hawks are aggressive–i.e. buying out both Smith and Maatta, locking Brent Seabrook in his house, and simply letting Andrew Shaw retire–and use the $20M in space they might have in that scenario to bring in…oh I don’t know, Taylor Hall and Torey Krug or Mike Hoffman and Sami Vatanen or the like, they’re there again.

This idea that they’re just going to have to wait is them just giving themselves more rope for the fuckups they’ve made and the ones they’re going to make. Two more big contracts might make people worried, but they hardly have any other long-term commitments other than Daydream Nation. You can even see the end of Keith’s contract now. Strome or Kubalik are RFAs and aren’t due long-term commitments either, especially Strome.

It feels like the Hawks are preaching patience after they’ve already exhausted everyone’s. Which is about as backwards as everything else they do.

-The cognitive dissonance to separate Jeremy Roenick the player who presided over my world from ages 8-16 or so and Jeremy Roenick the person now is becoming a mountainous task. Thankfully we’re on the cusp of him having to go away forever.

Roenick showed up on The Score yesterday to whine some more about losing his job for being an unrepentant pig on a BarfStool show hosted by and for goo-brained warthogs. JR is now just every other older white guy complaining he can’t be an asshole without someone calling him on it and having real consequences when they’ve had run of the place before. Why you’d have this dope on your show is anyone’s guess, because he proved long ago he’s a shit-assed analyst and now his only job appears to be showing his ample ass. But of course Dan McNeil still needs to prove to everyone that he still knows famous people, and Danny Parkins was just disappointed that he wasn’t having an actual rapist on his show to get back at all the girls who didn’t talk to him in high school.

The choice quote of course is, “”I think anyone who knows the situation and who knows me, knows I got the biggest raw deal of all time.” I know when I’m sitting at home and thinking about JR I slot him right between slavery and the Jewish people in Egypt. Anyway…

JR doesn’t seem to get he was on a public forum with a public job. This isn’t some glib remark he made at the water cooler behind Kathryn Tappen’s back, and even that wouldn’t be acceptable in a workplace. He demeaned and objectified a coworker, making her job harder. It changes the conversation from Tappen’s skills as a broadcaster and presenter, and reduces her to just how she looks. JR is the same cigar-chomping boss you had who would go down claiming, “What? It’s a compliment! Don’t be so serious!” before smacking his secretary on the ass.

Thankfully, NBC seems to be moving their hockey coverage toward the same style as their soccer coverage, which is everyone acts like an adult and just analyzes the game or the league. Milbury is still lurking around, but Boucher, Sharp, Hartnell, Carter, Lovejoy, Johnson are all younger, more reserved personalities for the most part. Fuck, this is the same outfit that just announced and all-women broadcast for Hawks-Blues on the 8th, so it shouldn’t be a huge shock that NBC might not want some drooling goober grabbing himself around.

Hockey has always been terrified of pissing off its neanderthal section of the fanbase, which is why fighting is still around and the disciplinary system is a joke. But it can’t get the fans it does want to welcome in without eliminating it. It’s a painfully slow process, but punting JR and his type into the sun is progress.

Everything Else

From the jaws of a DLR, the Hawks tried to grasp at futility. After allowing a mere 18 shots on goal through two periods, the Hawks saw what the raw force of a rabidly powerful offense looks like in the third. With Crawford having to take a porcelain seat in the third, Delia got shelled for three goals on 30 shots. All in the third. And despite the Hawks’s elder statesmen successfully throwing the puck directly to the Leafs’s top scorers in the last 30 seconds, they still come out with two points. Let’s try to clean this up.

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

Brendan Perlini continues to impress. He had two assists, including one on a gorgeous pass to Top Cat on a 2-on-1. Even more impressive was how Perlini set that play up at all. He tipped Muzzin’s low-to-high attempt, drew Zaitsev way out of position with speed, then hooked a pass around Zaitsev to a streaking DeBrincat. His positioning was excellent pretty much all night, and though Andersen should have had his wrister, Perlini got to show off his puck handling skills, horsing Petan in the high slot off a slick Strome pass. Putting him with Top Cat and Strome has been a revelation.

– Through the first two periods, it looked like the Hawks were a bonafide hockey team. They held one of the most potent offenses to just 18 shots, and even controlled play for the first 25 minutes or so. Aside from the Forsling–Seabrook combo and a few stray Gustafsson boners, the defense looked legit.

And then the third happened.

What happened in the third was both woeful and entirely expected. The defense found itself running around without a rhyme or reason. The penalty kill was powerless. Duncan Keith managed to turn a defensive zone faceoff win in the last 100 seconds into an unforgivable turnover that directly led to John Tavares’s overpowering stuff shot. In the last 10 seconds, Seabrook, with all the time in the world, failed on a clearing attempt that he didn’t have to rush at all. At some point, we’ve got to see evidence that the Hawks can maintain defensive responsibility for 60 minutes. The Leafs are a tough test for that, especially when they’re in Hail Mary sets for the last 30 minutes of the game, but the 180 the Hawks took after having to yank Crawford was incredible, even by their piss poor standards.

– While Collin Delia didn’t look terribly sharp, he got totally hung out to dry. He faced a game’s worth of shots in just 20 minutes and still only managed to give up three. And I have a hard time blaming him for any of those goals.

On the first, the Hawks had Murphy, Dahlstrom, and Strome all looking at Nylander behind the goal line. This left both Matthews and Johnsson wide open in front of the net. Nylander managed to split all three guys and get the puck to an uncovered Johnsson at the top of the blue paint, who shoveled a shot at Delia, grabbed the rebound, and managed to get Delia sprawling out in pursuit of the loose puck after a backhander. With Delia stranded, Matthews picked up the puck and backhanded it in off Strome. Defensive positioning was to blame here.

The second goal may have been one he could have had. Rielly wristed a shot through two screens and possibly got a deflection off Kruger, but it never looked like he had much of a bead on the puck at all. It’s on the penalty kill, but it wasn’t pretty. And you saw Duncan Campoli take a huge shit on the failed clear that led to Tavares’s goal.

Delia’s rebound control and tracking could have been better, but he got less than no help.

– Crawford got pulled because he had diarrhea, so probably nothing to worry about there. I assume that his weak goal at the end of the second was the result of him shitting his shorts and choosing not to let it run down his skates. He looked outstanding in the 40 minutes he played.

Dylan Sikura led all Hawks in possession by far, with a 56+ share in almost 14 5v5 minutes. I like the idea of him playing with Saad and Toews, except for the part where he can’t buy a goal. You hope that once he gets that first one, they flow a bit more regularly, because he’s a good skater with what’s looking to be strong positional sense.

Jeremy Roenick was surprisingly decent doing color with Doc tonight. And listening to him shit all over the Leafs at just about all times was gravy on what was shaping up to be a blowout. He even managed to make Pierre seem less like the awkward weirdo from a galaxy no one wants to visit he is. That’s exceptionally hard to do.

Two points is two points, and it puts the Hawks four points out of a playoff spot with 12 games left. If Crawford stays healthy and the Top 6 + Kane keep producing, there’s still a flicker of hope. You’d have preferred the DLR, if only to watch the meltdown among Toronto’s piss drinking, toy fetishizing, cat-shit eating fanbase/media aristocracy. You would have preferred not wondering whether they’d pull out a game they led 5–0 at one point. But they don’t all have to be Rembrandts.

Onward . . .

Booze du Jour: High Life

Line of the Night: “Mike Keenan would have pulled him.” –Milbury, doing his best Birch Barlow impression to explain why the Leafs were down 4–0 after the first.

Everything Else

Yes.

Oh, I probably should go into it a little more, huh? Fair. This isn’t an MVP or Not-MVP discussion. I’m frankly tired of them and they don’t usually add up to any sort of logic. As I’ve said repeatedly, to me it should just be a “Player Of The Year” award, and on that status it’s really hard to not give it to Nikita Kucherov because he’s going to have a 130+ points and that’s stupid. He’s a big reason he plays on the best team in hockey, the best team in years, and he shouldn’t be punished for it. So let’s turn the talk.

What you might be watching is the best season a Hawk has ever had. The team record for points in a season is 131 by Denis Savard in ’87-’88. You might not have known that, and honestly I had to look it up. It’s not a celebrated number around here, which is weird, and might have to do something with it not being held by Eddie Olczyk and thus can’t be proclaimed through his own megaphone what an accomplishment it is because he did it. So yeah, 131.

And Kane is on a pace to get almost there without any adjustment for era or atmosphere, which we’ll get to. Right now he’s no his way to 125 points, by far a career-high, and the most any Hawks has managed since Savard. No Hawk has cleared 110 points since Savard’s record-breaker, and the most since is Roenick’s 107 in ’93-’94. Clearly, no one’s seen this in a very long time around these parts.

So let’s try and adjust for the different environments Savard was in and Kane is in. When Savard put up his 131, teams averaged 3.7 goals per game. This year, even with the bump in scoring, teams are averaging 3.06 goals per game. This is pretty crude, but we’ll try it: Savard averaged 1.59 points per game, hence he was a part, either scoring or assisting, of 42% of the goals per game. Kane is averaging 1.53 points per game, which means he’s a part of exactly half the goals taking place for the Hawks each game. So if Kane were zapped back to 1987, he would be averaging 1.85 points per game, which over a full 82 would equal out to 151 points. So yeah, there you go.

If Kane were to somehow get even more nuclear somewhere around here, he would have an outside shot at the club record of 58 goals (and Garbage Dick taking a record from the Drunk, Wife-Punchy Nazi would be a pretty wonderful symbol for the Hawks organization). Right now he’s on course for 51, and he’ll be the first Hawk to get to 50 since Roenick did it in 1993. But again, different scoring environment. And it’s actually a better scoring atmosphere now than it was in ’68-’69 when Hull put up 58, which is really shocking because goalies then were just newspaper guys they pulled in off the street and threw pads on. Obviously, Kane would score 439 goals if he were transported back to 1968. Let’s leave it at that.

Kane’s also likely to set a career-high in power play points. It’s 37 in his MVP year, and he’s already at 28 now. He’s at least on pace to match it. Where Kane is really making a difference is that he’s on pace to shatter his personal record for shots in a year, as he’s averaging over four per game for the first time in his career. In all situations Kane is averaging 10.8 shots/per 60, and the 15.7 per 60 on the power play are the highest since he won the Hart. His 8.91 per 60 at evens is actually lower than it was last year, so that’s where he’s making up the ground.

However you break it down, this is the best season Kane has had, and it’s at 30. Which is just ridiculous. Only he and Sidney Crosby are above 30 among the top-10 scorers in the league (Stamkos is 29). While he may still represent a special kind of scumbag, what he’s doing on the ice hasn’t been seen in this city in a very long time, and very well might not again. But the way he’s going, he might just do it all again next year.

Everything Else

We were asked to come and save the day for Puck Daddy’s Summer Series, “What if?” This is what we came up with. Enjoy

There are times when we don’t truly appreciate just how much the Eric Lindros saga shaped a good portion of the NHL. These days we look back on it and kind of just think of it as more hockey silliness, as the NHL is the only league where a team could somehow agree to trade one player to two teams and then have an arbitrator take nearly two weeks to figure out just what the hell happened. And yes, 25 years later it still sounds ridiculous.

But let’s consider what this was: what if Connor McDavid had pulled an Eli Manning and told the Oilers he wouldn’t play there before they even took him, which we all assumed he was going to do after THAT expression on lottery night decided his fate, and the Oilers took him anyway? And what if McDavid made good on his threat and never left Erie? And then the Oilers were forced to trade his rights the next year at the draft, setting off perhaps the greatest auction in NHL history?

Because that’s what Lindros was. He was the NEXT. He was Earl Campbell on skates. I saw him before the ’91 Canada Cup shrug off a hit from Chris Chelios in a warm-up game between Canada and the US. Chelios charged about half the width of the rink to get him, and Lindros brushed him off like his nose itched. Chelios went flying, and Lindros barely deviated from his path. He would go on to be one of the more dominating players in the league, and he was open for bidding! Has that happened since? Basically only when Jaromir Jagr bitched his way out of Pittsburgh as the league’s best player been on the trade block.

While the actual controversy took place between the Rangers and Flyers, most in the know had it that during the draft of ’92 Mike Keenan had engineered a deal before either of them that the Nordiques has accepted to send Lindros to the Blackhawks. Getting exact details on it is difficult, but most agreed it was centered around Ed Belfour, Steve Larmer, and Steve Smith. There were a few other names involved, and draft picks, and a ton of money going a couple ways; a $10 million check to Lindros himself and a bunch more to the Nordiques. Of course, when all this was presented to Bill Wirtz, assuming he was awake at the time, he would have turned… well, a different shade of purple than he normally was, spit up a bathtub of bourbon and probably try to hit Keenan with a phone.

But had Keenan caught Wirtz on a good day… or maybe just asleep, or maybe like Mr. Burns after a morphine binge, the shape the future of multiple NHL teams could have been greatly altered. So…what if the Blackhawks had traded for Eric Lindros?

Everything Else

At this point in my life, at least circling the concept of being an adult without actually becoming one, I know that separating the art from the artist isn’t only a good idea, it’s pretty necessary most of the time. I know Jeremy Roenick is getting ever more bloated, both physically and philosophically, and has essentially been a barking face-orifice for the past five to ten years now. So I have to keep his playing career, perhaps the single element most responsible for my Hawks and hockey fandom, separate from the man himself. And most of the time, it’s easy.

But every so often…

Everything Else

@Raskolnikov is perhaps our longest-serving and most loyal reader, therefore making him probably the weirdest. 

Like most children, I could not properly handle my emotions. I cried for many reasons—teasing from others, being sent to my room for acting out, and, most commonly, my sports teams losing ways. My sadness would be temporarily directed towards the unfortunate circumstances, but after an hour or two, I’d calm down and resume being a typical child. It wasn’t until Derian Hatcher entered the league that I actually held onto my negative feelings after his actions stopped directly impacting me. He was my first hate.