Hockey

The New Oilers – When you have Taylor Hall and two #1 overall picks, you’re supposed to be interesting. And yet the Devils aren’t, and now they don’t have Hall anymore and they didn’t get much other than lottery tickets for him. Jack Hughes was one of the more anticipated #1 overall picks in recent memory, and he’s spent most of his season on a fourth line and looking at Wayne Simmonds wondering what this is supposed to be. Their game against the Hawks was perhaps the most unwatchable of the past three Hawks seasons, which is quite the claim indeed. Nico Hischier has yet to do anything in the NHL that anyone remembers. The Devils are headed for another top five pick, and yet we can be sure their soul will die as everything else does in New Jersey. Are we sure we need these guys?

John Hayden – To quote Fifth Feather, it will be 2035 and both Eddie Olczyk and Pat Foley will be saying of John Hayden had just been given a chance, he could have been the power forward the Hawks haven’t really had since Marian Hossa went to the land of wind and ghosts. And he’ll still be a slow nincompoop.

Will Butcher – Just because he’s yet another four-year college free agent who everyone lost their shit over and he’s, at best, fine. You can see Ian Mitchell’s path from here.

Everything Else

Oh this is certainly a great use of everyone’s time. The only people who liked John Hayden were the broadcast, who will believe that if he’s just given a chance he’ll really make an impact for the next 10 years. Even when he’s on another team, which hopefully is next year, you can be sure Olczyk will be bleating on about how he never got a fair shake in town even when he’s spending 80% of his time on a bus in the AHL for the next three organizations he plays for in the next five years. But hey, we’re being thorough, so let’s do whatever this is for the Ivy Leaguer, which everyone loves to point out.

Stats

54 GP – 3 G – 2 A – 5 P

46.1 CF% (-3.5 Rel)  46.9 xGF% (+2.1 Rel)

It Comes With A Free Frogurt!

I guess the expected goals are nice. That’s about it. Hayden never rose above a fourth-line role except for the occasional audition on the power play which he always biffed. But on the fourth line, if you’re creating better chances and more of them than you’re giving up, that’s good enough. And I think that’s it. I don’t know what else there is.

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

Other than the above complaint about the broadcast, this is the third season that the Hawks have given Hayden a chance to be something of a useful power forward, and then watched it bounce off his stone hands or him not even get there thanks to his even more stone feet. He got a couple chances to play the role of “Annette Frontpresence” on the power play and in the middle six, and he didn’t do anything with any of them. He can’t get there in time to make his size count, and he doesn’t have the hands to make up for it when he ends up around the net magically at the same time the puck is there. He also ended up with 27 penalty minutes somehow and I’m sure all 11 minors he took were of the dumbass variety. You can see the Hawks moving away from their older ideas with their European signings and most of their draftees, where they’re willing to sacrifice size for speed. So Hayden’s presence must be service to some dinosaur in the front office who still believes in GRITHEARTSANDPAPERFAAAARRRRTTTT. Maybe that’s Stan, who knows. Anyway, Hayden has never done anything and will never do anything. The end.

Can I Go Now?

Hayden is signed for one more year at a nothing, which means it can be buried in Rockford and never heard from again. And then he’ll go on some streak there of like 10 goals in 15 games for no reason, get called up, Pat and Eddie will pant, and then he’ll do nothing and the whole cycle will start over again. In our dreams, there’s really no room for him on the bottom six. You have locks like Kampf, Caggiula, and Perlini (maybe?). Dominik Kahun should be on the bottom six and will be moved there with any upgrade on the top half. Dylan Sikura should probably be up full-time next year. Anisimov is still around, so that’s all six spots without any moves whatsoever. And there have to be moves. Hayden will soon be passed on the depth chart by Entwhistle, and there’s also Kubalik coming over as well next season. So we don’t have to deal with this anymore. Thank God for small favors.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Henri Jokiharju

Gustav Forsling

Erik Gustafsson

Carl Dahlstrom

Brendan Perlini

Alex DeBrincat

Chris Kunitz

Artem Anisimov

Marcus Kruger

Dylan Strome

Jonathan Toews

Brandon Saad

Dominik Kahun

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

I can’t remember the last time I was left with such a feeling of “meh” after a game. I guess it’s good the Hawks showed some gumption and fight to tie it late, and keep their braindead playoff hopes alive. If that’s what they were playing for. But I mean, the Jets really couldn’t be bothered, other than their fourth line. So it doesn’t really mean much. I can’t get emotional either way about overtime results. They’re a coin-flip. I was surprised to find out a 12th extra-time loss for the Hawks doesn’t lead the league. They’ve also won nine in overtime, so basically they’re getting to 50-50 that you would think is par for the course. I guess it means they aren’t good enough to win games in regulation but aren’t bad enough to get beat in regulation in those close games. But again, the overwhelming feeling is, “whatever.”

Anyway, let’s run through it.

The Two Obs

-Dylan Strome’s three-point game will take the headlines, which is good. It doesn’t mean he’s automatic, but he’s got sense you can’t teach and his second goal showed that, the ability to ghost into space and find just enough time to get a good shot off. And he’s got one. 54 points is more than Schmaltz ever put up. That’s nice. That said, Stome’s line was sporting a sub-30% Corsi for the night, which is U-G-L-Y. That’s what’s going to have to change starting next year, because he can’t start every shift in the offensive zone. At this rate he’ll have to.

-You can easily see the problem with the Jets. When you get into their zone they either can’t be bothered, their defense is slow in transition, and you never know when Byfuglien and Myers are going to get caught up the ice and leave someone exposed. They have the forward depth to cover it for a while, but the warts they and the Preds are showing means it will not be a surprise if the Stars or Blues find their way out of the division come May.

-Brent Seabrook, 14 minutes. The third straight game he’s been at 15 minutes or below. They see what we see.

-The only line above water for the night in possession was the Saad-Anisimov-Sikura line, which seems to be the case most nights.

-Every goddamn broadcast when John Hayden belches his way into the lineup contains some segment about how he hasn’t really gotten a chance or he should get a chance. He’s gotten his chance, and he sucks. The only shift he was noticeable was just because he delivered three hits that were all at least three seconds late and mattered not a jot. He can’t do anything, and his physical presence doesn’t do anyone any good because it doesn’t disrupt anything. It’s all for show, just to demonstrate to a coach how hard he’s playing. I hope he enjoys his time with Minnesota’s AHL team in Iowa next year. Or Europe.

-One of my big complaints about Jeremy Colliton is the lack of adjustment to his “system.” They keep telling us that he needs a training camp to really install it, which is a bunch of ripe shite but fine, but that means what you’re playing now should be tweaked to at least look more like what they used to do. Scheifele’s non-goal was an example, as the Hawks have to chase their man all over the zone, but they can’t keep up, and by the time Scheifele deposits the puck in the net Seabrook is out beyond the circles, Toews is nowhere, and everyone’s scrambling. They don’t have the speed to chase and harass. The Hawks should have been playing softer and leaving things to the outside to the outside months ago. When they get in serious trouble is when they’re trying to pressure outside or out high and get beat, and they will because they just don’t have enough speed. Now people don’t know whether to switch/commit and who to take when someone does. If they’d just sink into the middle of their zone and try and block shots, “Torts it” if you will, they probably would have surrendered less. Instead were stuck with this happy horseshit. And we will be next year too.

-They didn’t give up a power play goal. That’s something.

Onwards…

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

THE BEST PART WAS WHEN THE BUILDINGS FELL DOWN. Until late in the third, this one had all the appeal of an open-air autopsy in Miami-Dade in July. But with both of these teams out of the running, there was always a chance this would turn into a shootout, and it did, literally and figuratively. In a game whose highlight was the Sharp–Burish Eagleman parody, it’s nice for the outcome not to be in vain. Unless you’re rooting for a tank, in which case, I can’t help you. To the bullets!

Brendan Perlini had himself a game tonight. Playing alongside DeBrincat and Strome will do that sometimes, but he really took advantage. In just under 11 minutes, he scratched a 58+ CF% and scored the game-tying goal. His 18.67 CF% Rel led all Hawks forwards on the night, and frankly, it wouldn’t have been upsetting to see him get a little bit more time tonight. He’s probably not much more than a 2019 version Kris Versteeg (1.0 or 2.0 is still TBD), but that can be fun sometimes. I liked that Colliton slotted him there tonight.

– Because we can’t have nice things, a nice performance from Perlini on the second line was balanced by John Hayden appearing on the first line because Colliton’s genious brain is a muscle that needs to be flexed, apparently. He might be a nice guy, and he’s got a degree from Yale—which will no doubt be helpful for when he commits securities fraud after he retires, or whatever it is rich prep boys do in their free time—but he’s not a hockey player for this generation. In just over six minutes, he had a 4 CF against an 11 CA, good for a team-worst 26.67 CF%. The next worst was Patrick Kane, but he also does things like score goals and create assists. Unless you can find someone who either actually commits to GRITHEARTFAAAAAAART or reads Ayn Rand unironically, it’s time to cut bait. He’s just not very good.

– If the Hawks had managed not to play jump rope with their own dicks and win this in regulation, this would have been the ARTEM ANISIMOV GAME. His first goal came on a breakaway (lol) off two excellent tic-tac-toe passes from Kane and Kahun, and the second was sheer power from our widest dicked forward. If he wants to keep Refrigerator Perrying his way into goals, that’d be fine.

– Murphy and Dahlstrom were nails tonight. They dominated the Eichel line to the tune of a 64+and 66+ CF%, respectively. Murphy almost contributed on the score sheet too, with a nice kick to the stick wrister off a Kunitz pass. Connor Murphy probably tops out as a 2A guy on a good team, but when given 1A matchups tonight, be performed admirably.

– Crow was a little urpy tonight. You’d think that he had that first goal caught in his glove, but his fumble, compounded with Seabrook’s Cubist positioning and the delayed penalty, gave Vladimir Fucking Sobotka free rein near the crease. He also totally lost his net on the shorthanded goal unnecessarily. Still, he managed to keep the Hawks within shouting distance, even if that meant taking a hard Sheary wrister right off the mush late in the first. Poor guy can’t catch a break. These games don’t matter much, but seeing how Crow finishes out the year is something to watch. He’s obviously shaking off some rust, but if he can finish strong, it’ll be something to hang onto going into the offseason.

– When Erik Gustafsson is scoring, you can put up with his treasonous dereliction of duty in the defensive zone. When he’s not, it’s worse than watching your mother fuck your bully. He was putrid tonight at all times, falling asleep in coverage on Okposo’s goal being the most obvious. In a perfect world, you pair him with something that looks like a better version of Dahlstrom and let him bum slay, especially if he’s just not going to learn how to play defense. But if he’s not scoring, he’s not worth even the modest salary he’s making now. Something to watch going forward, now that the Hawks don’t have much to play for.

– With each passing day, buying out Seabrook’s contract looks like the only solution to that problem, which is a fucking shame in the grand scheme. He was mostly responsible for Montour’s goal, as he wandered out to the near boards to cover Smith despite Montour and Pominville streaking through the middle of the zone. If he sags back, which is really all he can do anymore anyway, it’s at worst a 2-on-2, with Seabrook covering Montour and Keith covering Pominville, leaving Smith at the point and preventing Montour from taking all that space.

– The power play looked like complete shit. The last thing Coach Cool Youth Pastor needs is for the one thing that he can point to as making better taking a huge dump on him toward the end of the year. It’s only one game, but they looked terribly out of sorts.

– Top Cat had a couple of excellent chances that he just missed on. The most disappointing miss came off Kane’s rebound on the PP, which looked like a guarantee coming off his stick. Instead, the puck rung around the boards to Rodrigues, who blew away a half-assing Kane and led to Bogosian’s highlight reel goal. Shit happens.

Duncan Keith had a pretty good game. His goal was good, aggressive awareness. His possession numbers were a refurbished marital aid, which is concerning because he didn’t match up with the Eichel line too much. But he wasn’t a complete tire fire. Baby steps.

– Garbage Dick hopped over Larmer for fourth in Hawks history with 924 points on his assist on Keith’s goal. Creep can roll.

If you’re a Brendan Perlini or Artem Anisimov fan, you had a really fun time tonight. And for as stupid as 3-on-3 OT and the shootout are, they’re mindless fun. Which is exactly the kind of fun we need with this team.

Onward . . .

Booze du Jour: High Life and Maker’s 46

Line of the Night: Each team has had the lead in the game! Who’s gonna win it? –Foley

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Urban Meyer Is A Sociopath: The Cannon

With the NBA All-Star festivities taking place, the Hawks will get a rare premium Saturday night home game in the mid-winter. They’ll welcome the Columbus Blue Jackets to West Madison, who are threatening to be wildly entertaining over the next few days, though not for on ice-reasons.

Everything Else

Well, what can you say about this one? We knew it was going to be rough, and right out of the gate it felt doomed. But then for a moment it didn’t…until it did again, until the third, and then… let’s just get to the bullets:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– We’ve all been rightfully bitching about a lack of scoring depth, so didn’t we get a treat tonight with five goals coming from the dregs: Marcus Kruger, John Hayden, Jan Rutta, David Kampf, and Artem Anisimov (no, I don’t really think Kruger is the dregs but he’s acting like it right now). Kruger’s and Hayden’s came in the frantic mess that was the first period, where it seemed initially like the Jets were going to run away with it, but these goals exposed how Hellebuyck was already having an off night and the Jets defense wasn’t at their best. Both came from rebounds in scrums right in front of the net, as did Kampf’s late in the third. So I guess there’s a moral victory in that our shitty bottom six and possibly worst defenseman managed five goals against ostensibly one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Honestly I’m shocked we scored five goals at all, so I’m going to take a cue from the sunny disposition of the Canadian announcers whose feed supplanted the dogshit Comcast one, and be pleasantly surprised with our offense tonight.

– The Jets looked beatable at many points tonight, which is contributing to the frustration here. Yes, they have ridiculous scoring (more on that later), but the fucking Hawks were able to tie it up once and come within one whiffed shot of tying it twice. Jonathan Toews had the game on his stick in the final seconds of the third and it looked like he either had some equipment malfunction with the stick, or just missed the puck. He was at the top of the crease and had Hellebuyck moving the wrong way but no dice. Either way, the Jets did not dominate in possession—they best they managed was a 53 CF% at evens in the second, whereas in the third they had a measly 30 CF%. In fact during the third the Hawks had multiple long shifts in the offensive zone with plenty of cycling but not quite enough finish. Connor Hellebuyck finished with an .839 SV%, so he continued his underwhelming ways. But the Jets’ raw talent was enough to overcome suspect defense and goaltending.

– About that…Jesus christ, Patrik Laine is a beast. He only had two goals tonight, which feels like a win right there. In the third he straight-up robbed a hapless Jan Rutta in the defensive zone and walked right in to score easily. This guy has had three hat tricks this month alone—and in three different countries! This is what I learned thanks to Canadian announcers: hat tricks in Finland, Canada, and the US. Just this November. He’s terrifying. And even though Laine had an off night with less than 17 goals, Nikolaj Ehlers did the honors by getting a hat trick instead. He also made our defensemen look pathetic, including picking off a pass from Gustafsson for an easy breakaway that led to his third goal. That was the real difference between the teams tonight: when the Jets needed just enough to get out of a jam, their insanely talented players could do it, regardless of the rest of the team.

– The DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line got split up in the second and brought back together in the third. Their possession numbers didn’t turn out great (about a 29 CF%), yet in the third they turned it around a little and were responsible for a lot of that cycling and puck movement in the offensive zone I mentioned earlier, except there was that no-finish problem too. Personally I think they should be given time to make things work, and I’d rather not see Jeremy Colliton get antsy and start hitting the blender on these guys.

– Hellebuyck had a bad night but Crawford’s wasn’t any better. Granted, Crawford was facing far superior scoring threats and has the shittier defense in front of him. After destroying everything that came his way a week or so ago, I guess a bit of a correction is to be expected. But games like this where a better opponent is caught on an off night are exactly the ones where we need him to be super-human. Help me Corey Crawford, you’re my only hope.

– The broadcast issues were a bit comical, since at least for me it kept cutting out every time there was a goal. Finally they went to the Canadian broadcast and I was not sorry to hear someone other than Pat and Eddie, even if it was a couple of backwoods tundra-dwelling clods drunk on Labatt.

Only another 48 hours until we get to do this again! And it’s against another elite team…aren’t you just counting the minutes?

Beer de jour: Totally Naked by New Glarus

Line of the Night: “Good things happen to good people.” —Random Canadian hockey announcer, with what was the most Canadian thing ever said.

Everything Else

Tonight’s preseason game was as invigorating as a toenail-clipping party. That’s about par for the course when both Ottawa is involved and Garbage Dick is on the sidelines. We did learn a little bit in this game though, so let’s get through it.

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– In true FFUD form, just a few hours after Hess wrote about how you’ll never really notice John Hayden out there, John Hayden was probably the most noticeable Hawk for most of the game. The Hayden–Marcus KrugerAndreas Martinsen line was by far the best performer on the ice for the Hawks tonight, which is both good and bad: Good in that it’s always encouraging to see the fourth line dominate possession like they did, bad in that your fourth line probably shouldn’t ever be the most noticeable line, especially against a team contending for the first overall pick (IF THEY STILL HAD IT THAT IS). Hayden’s performance got him bumped up to the “second” line with Schmaltz and Anisimov later in the game, and while he wasn’t as noticeable in that role, he sure earned it.

– With Hayden moving up, Dylan Sikura got bumped down to the fourth line in the second half of the game. The hawk-eyed Mark Lazerus suggested that this could potentially be a death knell for Sikura’s hopes of breaking camp, especially with Luke Johnson and David Kampf playing relatively lights out. It’ll be a huge disappointment if Sikura has to start in the AHL, as just about everyone assumed he would be an offensive contributor out of the gate. Something to keep an eye on.

Anton Forsberg only gave up two goals, and the first one was on blown coverage from “Hard J” Henri Jokiharju and Dominik Kahun. The second was on a Joe Louis Arena-esque bounce off the end boards. Overall, he looked decent, but he always looks like an eighth grader nervously asking his crush to dance with him when under pressure. There’s a loudness to his playing style that always has you on edge it seems.

– Jokiharju is going to have a pretty steep learning curve to overcome on the defensive side of the puck, but that’s not the end of the world. His offensive instincts are there. He ended up with a 45 CF% on the night, spending most of his time with Keith.

– Thank fuck Alex DeBrincat is 5’7” and fell to the Hawks in the draft last year (with the pick they got for Andrew Shaw. Never forget that.). The pass he conjured through Chabot’s legs on the Jonathan Toews goal slipped past three Senators total, and was simply a sight to behold. They may have brought Saad in to reinvigorate The Captain, but Top Cat on his left side is going to be the Michelangelo to his Renaissance.

– I’ve been pissing and moaning about Brandon Saad on the third line with Chris Kunitz and Luke Johnson since it’s been announced, but his play was deserving of his status tonight. He had a few unforced turnovers early and never really got into a groove. He finished with a disappointing 44.44 CF%. There might be a couple of mitigating factors here: Namely, Kunitz and Johnson are grinders and Saad was playing on his off wing, which he’s never really done, but that’s not much of an excuse. With the Nick SchmaltzArtem Anisimov–Sikura line being the only line to be more of a ghost out there, I still think putting Saad with Schmaltz and Patrick Kane will be best for everyone, but his performance tonight didn’t inspire confidence. The Fels Motherfuck knows no bounds, apparently.

– Let’s cut this “Nick Schmaltz on the wing” horseshit out now.

Join us next week when we watch the Hawks play the fucking Senators again, because nothing worth doing ever comes easy.

Everything Else

Did you guys miss me? It has been almost two full weeks since I wrote up a player preview because I was out of town most of last week. I return to bring you – wait, what? You barely noticed that I was gone? You mean to tell me that when I am here or when I am not you can hardly tell the difference? Well, that gives me something in common with today’s subject – John Hayden.

2017-18 Stats

47 GP – 4 G – 9 A

47.69 CF% – 44.37 oZS%

10:49 Avg. TOI

A Brief History: Okay, so maybe saying that you don’t notice when Hayden is or isn’t on the ice is a bit misleading. If you ever catch yourself thinking “holy shit this line is getting completely shelled in their own zone right now,” you probably will find number 40 on the screen if you look for it. I mean, you almost have to be impressively bad to have nearly 53% of the 5v5 shot attempts go against you when you’re averaging less than 10 minutes of 5v5 ice time per game. And it’s not like this guy was playing top competition either. Look, Hayden isn’t totally to blame there, because the Hawks bottom six was pretty weak in general last year, but good lord my dude you’re barely playing in the game and yet still getting your ass kicked when you’re out there.

It’s not hard to figure out why Hayden kept getting ice time (and will do so again this year) despite sucking out loud: he does “the little things” which is hockey speak for he is rough and tough or some shit. Spin the giant “hockey cliche wheel” and I’m sure you’ve heard just about everything in the book said about this due. Gets in the corners. Makes the ugly plays. Finishes his checks. Eats slop out of the garbage. Wait.

It Was the Best of Times: I’ve mentioned in the past that I really am not good at these best case scenario things, but ho boy is it hard to do it with Hayden. It’s like trying to find something positive about getting punched in the face. “Well, my jaw’s broken but it could’ve been worse!” Bitch, your jaw is still broken. Hayden is 23 years old and doesn’t have the profile of a player who will have any sort of real scoring breakout ever. We know what he is already, and really knew what he was before he got here. He’s fodder for a team that wants to at least look like it has depth.

So with that said, I guess the best case scenario is just that Hayden isn’t as bad as last year, or doens’t play much if he is. It can’t be that hard to inch closer to 50% of the shot shares, even if he’s unlikely to push north of that. Scoring wise, it’s not necessarily unrealistic to think he can climb toward 20 points, given that he had 13 in 47 games last year, but I wouldn’t expect much more than that even in the best outcomes. He also might not play in more than about 50 games again, so something in that 15 point range might be where he tops out.

It Was the BLURST of Times: At this point, I have very low expectations/hopes for the Hawks this season, so I don’t really see how a bad season from Hayden would really have any sort of major negative impact on their season. Still, there is a worst case scenario for him, especially as an individual. I’d say that if he doesn’t at least improve his shot share from last year, that’s a major issue. If he goes even more in the wrong direction, just cut your losses and buy him a house in Rockford so he knows his place.

Prediction: Is it clear yet that I think Hayden sucks? I think he will continue to suck this year. He might see more luck with the shot share, but I bet it still looks bad at the end of the year, still in the 47-48% range. I don’t think he should play more than about 50 games, which means he will probably be this year’s Bollig and play in every damn one. At least it might inch us closer to Jack Hughes/Kaapo Kakko territory next summer.

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Brandon Manning

Jan Rutta

Erik Gustafsson

Henri Jokiharju

Nick Schmaltz

Alex DeBrincat

Chris Kunitz

Artem Anisimov

Marcus Kruger

Victor Ejdsell

Jonathan Toews

Brandon Saad

Everything Else

Kruger is only one season removed from being the firefighter you remember here, and we know that Q knows exactly what he is. Let’s say he’s an improvement on David Kampf. And he only has one year on his deal, so if he’s another charred remains of a beloved warrior of victories past, well whatever. . . . At this point in his career if Kruger matters too much you’re fucking sunk.Sam Fels, July 12, 2018.

Well shit.

Everything Else

If you believe that time is a flat circle, then there are two signings that make perfect sense. One is Brandon Manning, whose performance Q recently described in an after-camp interview as pleasing in the same breath as saying that Jokiharju will need to work on his decision-making if he wants to make the team. The other is Chris Kunitz. He came into the league when the Hawks were really bad and, barring a lot of ifs becoming yeses, will likely go out of the league when the Hawks are really bad.

2017–18 Stats

82 GP – 13 G, 16 A

50.2 CF%, 46.8 oZS%

Avg. TOI 11:57

A Brief History: Kunitz has been playing professional hockey since 2004. And believe it or not, he’s played mostly good hockey by the numbers over 14 years. Kunitz is a rare combination of GRITHEARTFAAAAAAAAART and actual talent, and unlike many other plugs teams sign simply because DEY WERE ON DA TEAM DAT WON DA CUP SO DEY KNOW HOWDA WIN, Kunitz usually contributed to his team’s success in ways that didn’t get the blood pumping to Mike Milbury’s gnarled shillelagh. Over all four Cup runs, he posted a healthy 51.5 CF% and contributed 29 points (five goals, 24 assists). His career 55 CF% is nice, and reflects both the talent he’s played with (Crosby, Malkin et al.) and the 55.4 oZS% he’s accrued over his career.

So what the silly shit is he doing in Chicago?

Last year saw Kunitz in a full-fledged fourth-line grinder role. For only the third time in his career, he started more often in the defensive zone than the offensive zone. Despite spending just 46.8% of his time on the offensive side of the ice, Kunitz still posted a 50.2 CF% with the infinitely talented Ning. He also scored 29 points, which would have made him #8 in the Hawks’s scoring totals last year, just two points off Artem Anisimov.

Given his contract this year (one year, $1 million) and usage last year, Kunitz would have been a no-doubt improvement for the Hawks on the fourth line. He’s a bit long in the tooth, but he can still be a gigantic boil on his opponents’ asses in terms of agitation and offensive production.

The problem, of course, is that Joel Quenneville has no intention (and perhaps no option) to use him as he should be used. Early in camp, he’s on the top line with Jonathan Toews. With all the what-have-you about how Toews needs to up his scoring if the Hawks want to stand a chance, it’s hard to understand how having Kunitz on his left side helps him do that. Kunitz is slower and less handsy than he was in his heyday. Maybe, if you really, REALLY squint, you can justify having him on the right side next to Alex DeBrincat and Toews, but if it’s come to that, then this year is already a burning clown car with a stuck horn.

And of course, in the organ-I-zation’s constant attempt to tie their own hands behind their backs while pissing into a headwind, Kunitz has a No Movement Clause. So, if he manages to have a decent year and turns into trade bait, he will have all the leverage in picking which team the Hawks can even potentially trade him to. That’s fine from a high-level players’ rights lens, but I don’t see any reason why the Hawks had to give him an NMC in the first place, and I’ve given up on trying to figure it out.

It Was the Best of Times: There might still be some gas in Kunitz’s tank. In a best-case scenario, he hunkers down the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and I guess John Hayden, and they serve as a strong shutdown line with a bit of scoring flair in Kunitz and Hayden. In small doses, Kunitz plays on the right side of the first line with Toews and DeBrincat, playing the role of Annette Frontpresence and taking the Wide Dick route of having Toews and DeBrincat fire shots at him instead of the net. He scores 15–20 points by the trade deadline and agrees to a trade to Toronto for a second- or third-round pick in 2019.

It Was the BLURST of Times: Kunitz spends most of his time on Toews’s left side, which is where DeBrincat should be if Q is dead-set against throwing Top Cat–Schmaltz by the Bowlful–Garbage Dick out there regularly (and of course he is). This means that either DeBrincat has to play on the right side (recall that even though Top Cat is righthanded, he’s goofy-footed in that he’s more comfortable on the left wing) or, god forbid, on the third line again. When approached by upper management about a trade, Kunitz declines.

Prediction: With this team looking more and more like the West Lake Landfill—which, I shit you not, is a smoldering landfill fire approaching a radioactive waste dump outside of St. Louis, a more apt metaphor for that dogshit city I cannot think of—I suspect Kunitz will play more time than anyone wants on the top line. But with Dominik Kahun promising to fuck off back to Germany if he’s not on the team this year, maybe Q does DeBrincat–Toews–Kahun (which is a problem itself) and lets Kunitz troll around the bottom six, which is where he belongs at this point in his career.

The nice thing about Kunitz is that he’s fine. He’ll be OK if in the bottom six, frustrating on the top line. Much like how this season looks to bode, his presence is an overall shoulder shrug, a constant reminder that nothing gold can stay.

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Brandon Manning

Jan Rutta

Erik Gustafsson

Henri Jokiharju

Nick Schmaltz

Alex DeBrincat