Hockey

So after dropping 2 of their last 3 (one in mind-numbingly dumb fashion against The Leaf), the Hawks return to West Madison for an extended session of home cookin, with only the Stars matchup on the road until the Wednesday after Christmas. The issues the team faces remain the same (lack of scoring outside of Kane and Cat, questionable goaltending when Fleury isn’t in net), but there may be a glimmer of hope as Jonathan Toews potted 2 goals over that span, and has actually looked more himself than in quite awhile.

With Dylan Strome becoming more dangerous while actually getting meaningful minutes (who knew?), the Hawks are kinda sorta getting some of the secondary scoring the team so desperately needs right now. Even Domanik Kubalik was able to get one past The Leaf on Saturday night, so perhaps things are trending upward?

The Hawks will have to make due without having Reese’s Johnson (candy porno name) out of the lineup for at least a month or so, as he landed on IL Sunday with a broken clavicle. The Hawks also punted Mike Hard Man back down to The R, and recalled Brett Connolly and MacKenzie Entwistle. Hopefully Johnson being out means more meaningful minutes (alliteration!) for guys like Phillip Kurashev and Brandon Hagel.

With the game Monday night against Cal and Gary postponed to a Rona outbreak in the Flames locker room, the Hawks catch a break from what would have been (and still kinda is) a tough stretch of games. The Caps are still rolling, having gone 3-1 in the span since the Hawks beat them in the skills competition. The Preds are also hot, having won 7 of their last 10 (though 4 of them came against The Scum, Isles, Habs and Devils) and Dallas had a 7 game win streak before they dropped 3 straight. It’s not going to be easy, but 4 of 6 points here would go a long way to showing that this team is more than just a bottom-feeder right now.

 

12/15 vs. Capitals 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720

Bulldog Front – Russian Machine Never Breaks

 

After securing their first win in DC since the 2nd Bush administration, the Hawks look to take the season series against the Caps. The offense (and some of the defense to be honest) still resides in the orbit of the best hockey player of the last decade, Alexander Ovechkin. He’s had 7 points in his last 5 games and 44 overall (good for 3rd in the league behind the twin wizards in Edmonton), 10 more than the guy behind him. 20 of those 44 points are goals, good for 2nd in the league. The guy is still a dynamo, and his shot is almost impossible to stop if he gets it off from his spot low in the circles. Adding to the Hawks misery in this game is that TJ Oshie has returned from the land of wind and ghosts, giving the Caps another scoring option.

Defensively the Caps line up pretty well against the Hawks, with John Carlson having another very solid year resulting in Washington having the 2nd best goal differential in the league behind Carolina.  In net, the tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanacek have pretty similar numbers, and actually kinda look like each other too. They’re basically the same guy, with an average GAA and Save % to go with it. Just goes to show how often the Caps score if they can have an OK goaltending duo and still be tops in differential. Professional Assbag Tom Wilson is still here, so if the Hawks powerplay could find it’s way in from the cold, that might go a long way towards giving themselves a chance in this one.

 

12/17 vs. Predators

 

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST

TV/Radio:  NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Getting Smashvilled:  On The Forecheck

 

Since the last time the Hawks saw the Preds they’ve managed to go on a mini-heater by going 11-5 in that span. As noted above, however, a good chunk of those 11 have been against lower-tier teams. Granted, the Preds can only play the schedule barfed out by the league office, but that record can be taken with a grain of salt. Nashville’s advanced stats look like one of my old training reports back in the day, which said “does nothing well,” which describes them to a tee. They’re not top 10 in any meaningful metric other than PP% (and even then they’re 9th), and yet they currently sit in 2nd place in the division. Much like in every year past, this is due to their goaltending, and playing the part of Pekka Rinne this year is his countryman Juuse Saros. The Juuse keeps the Preds playoffs afloat all by his lonesome, and does so with a 2.24 GAA and a .925 save percentage. On the surface those don’t look like superior numbers, but when you combine those with the Preds style of game and Saros’ excellent save percentage of high danger chances you get a Nashville team that does just enough to be very annoying. If the Hawks plan on pulling themselves out of the basement, this game needs to be won in regulation. Having a coach that understands the benefit of matchups could go a long way to making that happen.

 

12/18 vs. Stars 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Jerry Jones Runs This Town: Defending Big D

 

Last and most certainly least on this list are the Dallas Stars, who have lost 3 in a row during a down road trip. The Stars are actually statistically better than the Preds in a few categories, but are not great inbetween the pipes. Anton Khudobin has turned back into a pumpkin after a few years of relevancy with a 3.73 GAA. After leaving Washington for greener pastures, Braden Holtby has been a pretty mixed bag, with a terrible year in Vancouver and now a slightly above average one in Dallas with a 2.40 GAA and a .920 save percentage. That comes from a team that is one of the better ones in the league in shot suppression, currently ranking 7th in the league in that department at evens. The fact that the Stars are only slightly better than the Hawks at scoring 5 on 5 and you get all the ingredients for a thrilling game. Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski lead the way for the Stars on “offense,” with Hintz leading the team with 11 goals and Pavs with 21 points respectively. Russian expatriate Alexander Radulov is still here, and his production has gone off a cliff, with only 1 goal and a -11 to his name thus far. With the Hawks actually improving over the last few weeks under Derek King at evens, this game looks to be their best chance to pick up an easy 2 points in regulation.

Hockey

vs

Game Times: 7:30 PM
TV/Radio: NBCSN (3/9), SportsNet (3/9), NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Dammit Pantera, This Beer Is Warm: Defending Big D

 

As hard as it is to believe, this series in Dallas will mark the halfway point of this abbreviated campaign for the Hawks, as it’s both zipped right by and felt interminable somehow simultaneously. They’ll face a Stars team that itself is adrift and had better get things straightened out in a hurry given the onslaught of makeup games they now face after both covid and Texan disasters in the past two months.

Hockey

at

Game Times: 2:00PM (2/7), 7:30PM (2/9)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN+ (2/7), WGN-AM 720
Sky Point Riley Gale: Defending Big D

This past fall or summer or whatever (time has no meaning anymore), the Stars nearly set the hockey world back 20 years by boring-ing their way to the Cup Final only to be fodder for the eventual and inevitable champion Lightning, with interim coach and NHL lifer Rick Bowness largely keeping Jim Montgomery’s desolate and exhausting defensive system in place which clearly belied Montgomery’s personal life. But that run earned Bowness a Magic Training Camp of his own, and after being the first of now countless covid breakouts across the league, the Stars have somehow turned into a pinball machine of scoring.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

This was always going to be a tough one for the Hawks, especially the way the Stars are playing right now. While the Hawks do struggle with teams that are open and play fast, there’s a better chance they’ll leave the spaces the Hawks need to create and score. Teams like the Stars, which basically turn the whole surface into a mudpit (and the ice didn’t help), are less likely to leave gaps. That’s what you saw today. That game could have been four hours long and the Hawks probably don’t get more than that one goal.

Let’s to it.

The Two Obs

-The Hawks had one high-danger chance in the game. One. So while the shot totals might look even, the Hawks weren’t really close. And the reason for that is it’s hard to find a team that fights harder at each blue line than the Stars. They keep that third forward high and their d-men up, and they can double at the points to keep you hemmed in. When they can’t do that, they still stand up at their line with three, and they can do that because not only is their defense big, but it’s mobile. Only Oleksiak in today’s lineup would approach “plodder” status, and he’s actually mobile for his size. They don’t have to win the race to dump-ins that they force, they just have to be close enough to lean on you when you do. And that’s what they do. The Hawks don’t have a lot of puck winners, and aren’t built to grind out chances…which is how you end up with one.

And if you get through all that, you have to weave shots, passes, and bodies through an enchanted forest in the middle of their zone. The Hawks have one d-man who can fit a shot through in Boqvist, and they’ve robbed him of any confidence. They’re not going to bull their way through much either.

Now you may ask where the Hawks would be if they opted to collapse like that instead of whatever it is Colliton asks them to do. The Stars have two really good goalies and play to that. The Hawks have those, too. They wouldn’t be the Stars, they don’t have the mobility or size on their defense. But they would be better off than they are now.

It’s hardly galvanizing to watch, but it’s effective and the Stars stick to the system. Compare that with the Hawks running all over like kindergartners nearing the end of the school year and you begin to understand why there’s some 15 points between them in the standings.

-You don’t want to base much of anything on one game, but we can say we’d like to see Lucas Carlsson more on this trip. And it’s frustrating to see a team that lacks movement and skill on its blue line so badly wait this long to give someone like Carlsson a look instead of Dennis Gilbert Elmer Fudd his way around the ice. It’s unlikely Carlsson can prove that the Hawks don’t need additions beyond Ian Mitchell next season in these last 20 games (if Mitchell even signs), but he can at least take a shot at it or showcase himself. He’s got hands, he’s got feet. The Hawks sport three other d-men with both right now. One’s 36. One’s 19. Give us more and let’s see, because there’s nothing to lose.

-Meanwhile, it’s quite the message I can’t decode that Slater Koekkoek can take three penalties in a game and not get demoted in the lineup, whereas Adam Boqvist was benched for the third on Friday for…well I don’t fucking know.

Koekkoek was at fault for the first goal, as Keith stepped up to block a shot and Fetch decided the guy at the side of the net was more dangerous than Joe Pavelski loitering right in front of Crawford. That’s Joe Pavelski of the 368 career goals, 200 of which at least have come within five feet of the net.

Koekkoek has been fine most games as a third pairing guy because the Hawks didn’t have anyone else. But he’s not an answer for any team that means to be taken seriously. He’ll get to finish the season in the lineup thanks to the Hawks trade of Gustafsson to follow and Nick Seeler being a clod, but it shouldn’t be ahead of Carlsson.

-Putting DeBrincat in front of the net on the power play is one of the dumber ideas Colliton has had, and I realize the enormity of that statement. He’s 5-7. His main skill is as a sniper, which you can’t do with your back to the net from two feet away. And the guy in front also has to be able to get below the goal line to retrieve the puck in traffic. Again, he’s 5-7. It’s not a use of the things he does well. Just as it probably isn’t when Dach is stationed there. I’ve had quite enough of this. I’ve had quite enough of all of Colliton’s ideas.

Ok, that’s enough of this. We’ll talk again post deadline, when the Hawks will hopefully have a direction for the first time in three years.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 9-9-4   Stars 13-8-2

PUCK DROP(S): Tonight and Tuesday at 7pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago Saturday, NBCSN Tuesday

TEXAS FLOOD: Defending Big D

It’s a bit strange that almost two months into the season, the Hawks have only played three divisional games. They haven’t seen St. Louis, or Colorado, or Minnesota, or Dallas yet. That will change over the Thanksgiving holiday, as the next five are within the Central and four of them will be amongst home-and-homes. It kicks off tonight with the first saunter of the campaign down to Texas, where the Hawks will start two against the hottest team in the league.

It’s been a miniature version of last season for the Stars, who won one of their first nine and now have ripped off 12 of their last 14. But whereas last year Jim Montgomery switched gears midseason to go all Trotz/Lemaire to shoot the Victory Green up the standings and into the playoffs, this year he’s loosened the reins a bit to give his team a little more freedom. But basically what both seasons boiled down to is either Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are scoring or they’re not.

Montgomery even pulled the same switch as the owner last year, calling out his two stars in the press. He walked that back immediately, because he knows they’re the reason this team will be good or not, especially with John Klingberg out injured (again). Not that it didn’t work, as Seguin has piled up eight points in six games since and Benn seven. These two were playing well before of course, just weren’t getting the bounces.

It also helps that THE BISHOP has started flashing Vezina form again, which is the real strength of the team. Whatever the Stars do he is the backbone, and a .942 in November will backstop just about any system or teammates Montgomery would choose. The Hawks will duck Bishop tonight by the looks of it, but will probably see him on Tuesday in the return. Not that Anton Khudobin is some easy task either, as he also has a .942 in four November starts.

The Stars are a bit beat up, as Klingberg is a big miss and Roope Hintz being out erodes some of their depth as well (both returned on Saturday and both scored last night, so it’s pretty much the full strength Stars now). Miro Heiskanen has made up for a lot of what Klingberg would do, and has even inspired Jamie Oleksiak into some form of competence, which is a true upset.

That doesn’t mean the Stars are without depth. Joe Pavelski has gotten used to being in green and not teal of late, and is dovetailing with Alex Radulov on the second line. Even shit-demon Corey Perry has chipped in on the bottom six, and you know what Andrew Cogliano (NBA Jam voice: COGLIANO!) can do to the Hawks (and Fifth Feather’s little cartoon hearts).

Perhaps the main feature of the Stars forwards is they can adapt to a variety of styles given their IQ and speed. Montgomery certainly hasn’t shied from trying just about everything.

To the Hawks, who shouldn’t see too many changes from Thursday aside from putting the seven d-men plan into the freezer for good. As we’ve said, in a vacuum it makes sense and would make more with Adam Boqvist around. But this isn’t a vacuum, the players clearly hate it, and we likely won’t see it again for a while unless Colliton has a point to prove tonight. Certainly Dominik Kubalik has no business being scratched other than he’s the lowest hanging fruit to do so being a rookie. Enough of that shit.

The Stars are almost already out of touch for the Hawks, six points ahead though having played a game more. Still, the Hawks aren’t going to climb the standings if they can’t get wins within the division, and if they fall on their face in the next five they could be season-boned as it is. The Stars aren’t quite as stout as they insisted on being last year, but their goalies are so the Hawks will need a big performance from Lehner tonight you would think. And probably Crawford again on Tuesday. Montgomery might sense that without a puck-moving d-man, the best route for the Stars is to back up for these two and just trench the neutral zone and see what the Hawks can do about it.

The most familiar rivals for Thanksgiving. Isn’t it that way for everyone?

Hockey

Over the summer, the Sharks made a pretty big call. Their usual M.O. has been to just strip their captain of the position when their season flamed out before they felt it should. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both felt the sting of that particular whip, with the former taking over for the latter and then Joe Pavelski taking it from Jumbo Joe. And then everyone would pretend everything was fine, in true Canadian fashion.

This time around, the Sharks just let their captain toddle off somewhere else. In order to fit other salaries and make room for some more kids, the Sharks let Pavelski walk to Dallas, and bestowed the “C” onto Logan Couture. It has been an ill-fit, shall we say.

Couture has been the biggest example of how the old and not-all-that-quick Sharks have struggled to recover from their long playoff run last year. Whereas last season you could argue they were only undone by the league’s worst goaltending, because the rest of their measurements were some of the league’s best. If they’d even had representative goaltending, they probably walk out of the Western Conference last year. And we’ll never forgive them for not doing so and saddling us with this cloud of despair.

The question-existence-entirely goaltending is still there, but the dominant process has gone away with it. The Sharks don’t have the puck nearly as much as they did, they aren’t creating as much as they did, they give up a whole lot more than they did, and Couture is at the center of it.

Couture has been crossed by some fiendish PDO treachery. He’s shooting below 7% at evens and 3% overall. But he’s also not getting to the spots he used to that would drive that shooting-percentage up dramatically to career norms. His shots per 60 are down a third at evens, his attempts down a quarter, and his individual expected-goals are half of what they were last year. Throw in the power play time and things look better, and that 3% number will go up. But the Sharks need serious help at evens and he’s not providing it.

His possession numbers stink, too. Couture has always been something of a high-event player, but he mostly kept those events to the other end even if he was on the ice for a decent amount of attempts and chances against. You live with decent amount against when a player gets a ton for. Well, the second part hasn’t happened this season, and now Couture is just a player who’s on the ice for a lot of chances against. Not good.

How much of this is due to the absence of Pavelski? Couture has seen him replaced with Patrick Marleau for the most part, who just might be clinically dead. Timo Meier is still the main running buddy, as he was with Pavelski and Couture last year. So if only on that limited evidence, Pavelski has been a big miss (and while Pavelski’s individual numbers in Dallas are down, his overall possession numbers are still very good).

So far this year, Couture has only found success with Tomas Hertl, but the Sharks would be bunching up their two biggest threats that way as well as weakening themselves down the middle, which has almost always been their strength. Joe Thornton isn’t taking on #2 center assignments at age 93. Quite simply, the Sharks aren’t as deep as they once were and they don’t have enough wingers to go around.

Perhaps as the year progresses, a couple of their kids can step up like Lean Bergmann or Dylan Gambrell. But it seems like an awfully big ask for neophytes to immediately take roles for what’s supposed to be a Cup contender. The Sharks might have to swing another trade, which will only kneecap their future even further.

The Sharks were always a bit up against it given their collective age. They don’t have one core piece under 30, other than Meier and Hertl. The kids haven’t caught up. But they couldn’t have expected it to catch up this quickly, and neither could Couture. But yet, here they are.

Hockey

There seems to be this misconception that the Stars made it back to the playoffs and to the second round of the playoffs last year because of a dynamic young roster playing entertaining hockey. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as coach Jim Montgomery authored a second-half charge by boring the utter shit out of everyone and trying to copy what Barry Trotz was doing with the Isles. They got a Vezina-finalist worthy season out of Ben Bishop, which was the main catalyst. So which way does Montgomery play this now? Stick with the effective but limited, and coma-inducing, style that got the Stars into the playoffs? Or retry finding something more expansive that might be harder to pull off but leads to bigger rewards down the line?

2018-2019

43-32-7  93 points (4th in Central, out in 2nd round)

2.55 GF/G (29th)  2.44 GA/G (2nd)

48.1 CF% (23rd)  50.2 xGF% (15th)

21.0 PP% (11th)  82.8 PK% (5th)

Goalies: The Stars get to return both halves of their duo this year, and it starts with THE BISHOP! Whenever Bishop is healthy, you get Vezina-level play from him. The problem is that remains a huge “if.” Bishop only made it to the post 45 times last year, and the Stars probably are going to need more from him this time around. Even if he is healthy, they’re probably not going to get .934 from him again, though they can still expect mid-.920s.

Anton Khudobin finally found success outside Boston last year,  flourishing behind the heavy shielding he got from the Stars and their system (expected save-percentage of .925 at evens). Still, Khudobin’s .923 SV% was by far the best he’d managed in five seasons, and to expect him to get back to that, no matter the defensive shielding, is kind of pie-eyed. He’s also 33, so going up from where he was last campaign is probably not a probability either.

The goalies will be good. Bishop always has potential to be great. They definitely provide a floor for the Stars that they can’t fall through, which is around the bottom of the playoff picture.

Defense: Perhaps the reason Montgomery opted for the Mourinho approach to hockey was that he ended up pairing his only two puck-movers in John Klingbergy and Miro Heiskanen. That left him with only pluggers and punters on the next two pairings, so better to just ask them to do what they do best, i.e. roadblocks. The two Finns are wonderful players and really do push around most everyone they come across when together.

It’s pretty much the same crew now, though they added Andrej Sekera just in case he isn’t clinically dead (he is). Stephen Johns started camp with the Stars but started feeling his post-concussion problems again, and one might have to suggest his career is over. Jamie Oleksiak will sink to the third pairing where he belongs, to make room for any Esa Lindell growth. But it feels like we’ve been hearing about that one for a while now and still haven’t seen it. At 25 and in his fourth season, it’s definitely a “shit-now” kind of season.

It’s a fine collection even if it’s really only the two Norris candidates in Klingberg and Heikanen at the top. If Montgomery wants to show any adventure in the team, he’ll split those two up. If they’re together, we can probably guess it’s going to be more three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust hockey, if we can keep mixing our sports metaphors (and I can, it’s my fucking blog).

Forwards: The name in lights here is Joe Pavelski, whom Dough Wilson deemed surplus to requirements at the price and age he was. Which should give everyone a second of pause. At 35, Pavelski’s days in the middle probably should be over, but it’s hard to spot a center who can maximize his still top-tier finishing ability other than Tyler Seguin, who already has his wingers. Or Pavelski could play there and Jamie Benn can not-munch his way to 50 points on the second line, but again, same problem.

As it always is with the Stars, the rest of the lineup is littered with products of the system who serve merely as foot-soldiers and insurance-carriers. It would be hard to convince me that Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark aren’t all the same person that the Stars have just cleaved in half a few times and watched them regenerate into two. They’re also throwing Cory Perry to the wall to see if the slime he’s made of sticks, which it won’t. Between him and Sekera the level of zombification in the dressing room is certainly over quota.

But everyone below the top line are capable of carrying out the specific tasks that Montgomery sets out, which is keeping things tight and preventing goals. It feels like they’ll be doing that again.

Prediction: You could roll out Bishop and Khudobin by themselves and probably guarantee 85 points. So the question is whether the Stars can add much to it. Pavelski adds some juice to the offense, but there’s no Logan Couture or Tomas Hertil for him to play off as there was in San Jose. If he plays on the top line, it’s probably a little more offense than Benn would get you there now but the problem of support scoring is still there. There’s just not a lot of goals here, although there doesn’t have to be considering the goalies and defensive ways. The division hasn’t taken too many steps forward. If the Hawks had made improvements, I would say the Stars’ spot is the one they can aim for. But they haven’t. Around the 8th seed is more than possible for them again.

Previous Team Previews

Carolina

Columbus

New Jersey

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia 

Pittsburgh

Washington

Boston

Buffalo

Detroit

Florida

Montreal

Ottawa

Tampa Bay

Toronto

Arizona

Calgary

Edmonton

Los Angeles

San Jose 

Vancouver

Vegas

Colorado

Everything Else

With unrestricted free agency opening in just four days, let’s get a little weird. The Hawks have allegedly begun addressing the skidmark on the salad fork that is the blue line with de Haan (fine) and Maatta (barf), which means we should probably look at who can fill out the top six on the forward front. If there’s one guy who might be that guy, it’s Joe Pavelski.

Physical Stats

Height: 5’11”; Weight: 190 lbs.

Age: 35; Shot: Right

On-Ice Stats (2018–19)

Team: SHA-ARKS Position: Center/Wing

75 GP, 38 G, 26 A, 64 P, 22 PIM

54.7 CF% (0.7 CF% Rel), 56.99 xGF% (3.41 xGF% Rel), 53.3 oZS%

Why the Hawks Should Sign Him

Pavelski is an outstanding possession player who’s capable of slotting as a center or a wing. If the Hawks are going to commit to the idea that large, not-fleet-of-foot defensemen are the way to go (it isn’t), then they’re going to need forwards who can bury the puck in their opponents’ ends (PHRASING) more consistently. The Hawks were slightly below middling in the possession department last year with a 49.34 CF%, which, despite StanBo’s shameless gaslighting, isn’t great for a team with no actual top-pairing D-men. Pavelski’s career is a seminar in consistently good possession.

Pavelski also gives the Hawks DAT GREASY GOAL SCORER Stan wants. And unlike the stale beer farts that are Corey Perry or Wide Dick Arty, Pavelski still has the skating and hands to do more than simply stand in the crease. As much as we scoff at the notion of Annette Frontpresence, Pavelski is the best version of that theory, though the prospect of having to experience Eddie O’s vinegar strokes for each crease goal Pavelski pots is off-putting enough to disqualify him as an option.

His versatility is another plus. You can see him as a winger with Toews and Saad. You can see him centering DeBrincat and Kane. As a righty, you can see him just about anywhere on the PP. This versatility, combined with Pavelski’s offense and possession, would be undeniable enhancements over anything the Hawks had last year.

Why the Hawks Shouldn’t Sign Him

Cap hit and term are going to be the biggest bugaboos in considering Pavelski. He’s coming off a $6 million per contract and a 38-goal season. Thirty-eight goals are impressive per se, but the fact that he did it at 34 is even more impressive. You can see him trying to squeeze in one more decent contract, and that should give the Hawks pause with DeBrincat due for his Fuck You Pay Me contract next year.

You also need to be concerned about Pavelski’s age and brain booboo from this year’s playoff run. At 35, it becomes more and more likely that the production will fall off a cliff. Though Pavelski’s never shown signs of slowing down (excluding the 2013 season-in-a-can, Pavelski’s scored at least 20 goals a year since 2008–2009), nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy.

And for as good as Pavelski’s possession is, when he’s caught in his own zone, he tends to get buried. This might limit his versatility a bit: God forbid you find him, Top Cat, and Kane stuck in their own zone with any regularity, which is a possibility given Kane’s do-more-with-less style of possession and play.

Verdict

If you can get Pavelski on a one-to-two-year term, the Hawks should take a run at him. He solves a ton of problems, especially in the Annette Frontpresence category. He’s a proven, genuine top-six skater, which would let Beto O’Colliton slot Dominik Kubalik in the bottom six, which is probably the kind of soft landing you’d want to see him get. But if he’s looking for more than two years, it’s a little bit more tenuous. The Hawks would absolutely need to win a Cup to justify more than two years, because at that point, most of the Core would be approaching or past the twilight of their careers.

All of this assumes that Pavelski even wants to leave San Jose. For as good as he’d look in red, black, and white, it’s hard to picture him in anything but teal.

Everything Else

You had one job to do.

Let it be known forth that the San Jose Sharks are the only Bay Area organization that can only wield its location and power to fuck itself. Whereas everyone else stationed there slowly (or not) takes over the world and is influencing their various spheres and others, the only sphere the Sharks can influence is the inside of their thigh with a warm, yellow, and constant stream. And now it’s well and truly over for them. This generation of this team, one that promised so much, is done. Charred. Finished. Fertig. Verfallen. Verlumpt. Verblunget. Verkackt. Whatever hope they might have had for beyond went out the window with Joe Pavelski’s sense of direction.

This is probably their most spectacular crash yet. They got the best defenseman on the planet for nothing. A song. They added him to a team that already had three scoring lines, one of the best d-men around (Vlasic, not Burns). And it seemed that despite their best efforts, it would work. They had a goalie doing the lindy hop in net all season. Didn’t really matter. Their coach was insistent on continually lighting a fuse of playing Brenden Dillon more than Joakim Ryan. The Sharks kept putting it out. Joe Thornton could barely move. Fine. Hertl moves to center and no one cares. Perhaps they picked the lock.

They had miracles on their side. They trashed everyone’s favorite overhyped darling in the first round. They benefitted from Gabriel LaxativeLog’s lazy ass in the second. They had perhaps the only team that’s a bigger collection of failures and stomach-acid-pukes than them waiting. They got more bounces. They had an entire city on the verge of meltdown (to be fair, that’s St. Louis’s natural state, thanks to the dangerous levels of methane that surrounds the place emitted from every resident every four minutes).

Cue faceplant.

And now it’s all ash. Peter DeBoer proved that any idiot can get a team to a Final, even twice. Hell, he just got beat by one. How did icing Michael Haley in the playoffs instead of…oh I don’t know, any kindergartner with two legs work out? Speaking of which, Dillon spent most of the playoffs looking like said kindergartner sprinting for the Sesame Street phone at playtime, and yet he played more than Ryan. Hey, did getting Karlsson back for those five games in February feel worth it? You were given the best toy in the whole league and you broke it. Fine work all around there.

This was a team that had a whole division basically fall in front of it, and still let Calgary’s line and a half plus a d-man waltz by it for the title. It was the first to contain two Norris winners in a decade, and then Brent Burns spent a month proving why his Norris should be melted down and poured over his head, if only to rid us of his hideous beard. If Burns came from Omsk instead of Canada Don Cherry would have beaten him with a 2×4 by now and they would have made that the Canadian flag.

Much like the Raiders, the Sharks probably need to be thrown out of the Bay Area now. Everyone else gets it. The Warriors are the best team in their league’s history. The Giants, inexplicably, created a dynasty out of hilljacks and sex fiends. Though the A’s trophy cabinet may be empty, they still stand for all that is progressive and cool about their sport despite drawing only parole board hearings to their games and playing in a literal sewer. The Raiders didn’t do shit, and have been sent off to where rejects go…off the strip in Vegas. Sadly, that’s not an option for the Sharks. Maybe Reno would work better.

They’ve left us with this curse of a Final. Just like they left us with Vancouver and Boston once upon a time. The Sharks have launched a bunch of plagues upon the hockey world through their incompetence. The Hawks dynasty started by running them over. The Canucks in ’11. We could have been rid of the Ducks sooner if the Sharks didn’t blow a #1 seed by trying to out-belch them. The narrative that Sidney Crosby would never get it done again was solved by a week with the Sharks. A Kings affirmation could have easily been snuffed out at the first possible hurdle. The Sharks turned it down four times.

The Sharks are everything bad about Silicon Valley, leaving the rest of society to clean up their mess without any of the benefits. They are the bubble-burst without the bubble. Somehow, they still leave the sticky residue all around without ever having put anything together. And “Sharks” is one syllable, you illiterate fucks.

Heretofore, the Sharks will be symbolized by both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, their two greatest ever players who will never win a Cup, even when they flee trying to do so. You know what your problem is, Toronto? You’ve got San Jose running through you. They will soon be joined by Joe Pavelski, who definitely should have been playing and will definitely be able to identify his family in five years, and Logan Couture. Maybe Brent Burns, assuming he’s not facing the wrong way the rest of his life, which he most certainly will be.

It’s best if you just break it all up now. The happiest you will be is everyone forgets you for a few years while Hertl and Meier thrash about trying to constitute a first line. Thornton retires, Pavelski and Karlsson walk, maybe try and cash in on Vlasic and save him from the fate that awaits him. It’s not in you, Sharks. That much is clear. Like everyone else out there, you thought you had big ideas and could change things. But all you did was annoy the piss out of people and give way to something much worse. Oblivion is your only salvation.

Thanks for nothing, fucksticks. Now we have to deal with this.