Everything Else

Motherfucker.

Diving into the 2018 free agency pool for defense was never going to go swimmingly for the Blackhawks. Sure, there were rumblings about John Carlson’s availability, but even if he hadn’t re-signed in Washington, paying him $8 million per over a two-term presidency was neither realistic nor wanted, given all the griping we’ve done about Seabrook. Calvin de Haan may have been nice, but he ended up in Carolina for $4.55 million per over four years. Thomas Hickey also could have maybe been a thing, but the 2007 #4 overall pick signed with the Islanders at $2.5 million per over four years. Once those three came off the board, you’d have thought the Hawks would scrape the bucket for a PTO guy like Franson to throw maybe $1 million at.

Instead, the Hawks went out and gave a two-year, $2.25 million per contract to Brandon Manning, a PTO talent at a Thomas Hickey price. ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET?

2017–18 Stats

65 GP – 7 G, 12 A

50 CF%, 45.6 oZS%

Avg. TOI 17:57

A Brief History: First off, fuck this guy. Brandon Manning spent most of his junior career sucking, and in an effort to get noticed, he—in his own fucking words—”fought nine or 10 times that year and stuck up for my teammates and made some big hits.” Jesus Christ bare-assed on the cross, Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville actually called Brandon Manning and told him, “We need a guy who doesn’t really score and can play physical.” Just keep giving Q the biddy, StanBo, it’s worked so fucking well in the past. Really good start here.

Manning went undrafted before latching on in Philadelphia—a place nothing less than perfect for a booger-eating buffoon whose calling card was protecting grown men on skates from other grown men on skates—in 2012. He spent most of his career with the Flyera doing nothing aside from tripping and breaking the collarbone of Connor McDavid in 2015, allegedly telling McDavid that he hurt him on purpose during a game in 2016, recanting when McDavid talked about it publicly, then getting his ass punched in by the aptly named Patrick Maroon as retribution in 2017. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT THIS SIGNING?

In his first two full years, Manning spent most of his time in the offensive zone not contributing offensively. Last year was a bit different. He spent just 45.6% of his time in the offensive zone but contributed a career high 19 points. He broke exactly even at 50% on the CF% front. That’s somewhat encouraging, especially since he played most of his time next to living ghoul Radko Gudas and his aircraft carrier forehead.

But as we are wont to do, once you dig into the fancier stats, things look less than good. His xGF% (expected goals for percentage) was 48.89, which means that Manning’s opponents were expected to score more often when Manning was on the ice than the Flyera were. The closest Blackhawks comp Manning had in this category was Jordan Oesterle (49.00), who, as we all know, is one of the suckiest sucks who ever sucked on defense.

Further, his Rel xGF% (relative expected goals for percentage) was -2.22, which means Manning brought the likelihood of the Flyera scoring a goal down about 2% while he was on the ice. The closest Blackhawks comp from last year is Jan Rutta (-2.24).

And fuck it, let’s go even deeper, because the Hawks brass obviously couldn’t be bothered, as evidenced by the fact that they signed Brandon Motherfucking Manning. Manning’s HDCF%, which measures the percentage of high-danger chances for vs. high-danger chances against, was 47.31, good for second worst on the Flyera. This means that when Manning was on the ice, opponents were more likely to take shots from high-danger zones. High-danger shots are more likely to become goals. Since Manning himself doesn’t generate offense and apparently isn’t great at suppressing high-danger shots, it would seem that having him on the ice against anything but bottom lines is a recipe for disaster, especially if anyone but Crawford is in net.

So, he’s a combo of Oesterle without the KEEP FIRING ASSHOLES mentality and Rutta. And all this for just $2.25 million a year for two god damn years. Whose loins aren’t frothing?

It Was the Best of Times: Best case, Manning becomes part of a trade package for Erik Karlsson. Or, with contract negotiations for Darnell Nurse reportedly breaking down, they do Hall for Larssen II with Manning for Nurse. Barring those miracles, Manning plays fewer than 10 games because Jokiharju pulls a DeBrincat and makes it impossible not to play him. In the time he does play, Manning puts three or four points up and wins a fight or two, and the Hawks can trade him for something not called Brandon Manning. If he can’t be traded (he can’t), Quenneville shocks us all by learning what a sunk cost is and makes him a consistent healthy scratch.

It Was the BLURST of Times: We cannot stress enough how asinine this signing is. The fact that he was signed at all is a worst-case scenario. But he’s here now, he’s going to play, it’s going to suck, and it’s up to us to imagine how badly it’s going to suck. Worst case, Manning slots with Seabrook on the second pairing, because Manning played Top-4 minutes in the playoffs for the Flyera last year, a series in which Manning tossed a 48.77 CF%, 35.83 xGF%, and a hilarious -14.88 Rel xGF% against the likes of Crosby and Malkin.

StanBo throws his entire dick into his pet theory that Manning has gotten better with age and is on the verge of a breakout. That doesn’t happen, of course, because Brandon Manning sucks and would be better served in the boxing ring having his dome caved in nightly like the palooka he is. He channels his inner John Scott and becomes an insufferable monolith, both on and off the ice. After serving as a $4.5 million paperweight in his two years here, Manning uses his money to buy and close Al’s so he can open a Wawa there.

Prediction: Brandon Manning is the most Tom Smykowski signing the Hawks have had since Jordan Oesterle. He spent most of his career doing much of nothing, couldn’t hack it on a team that started Radko Fucking Gudas with a straight face, then got a seven-figure settlement as Bowman (read: Quenneville) went drunk driving and smashed into him with a HOCKEY REASONS contract.

So, he’ll spend time on the Top 4 with Seabrook. He’ll be an unmitigated disaster at all times and still get looks over Jokiharju and Murphy because HE’S HARD TO PLAY AGAINST. He’ll stumble his way into 10 points and then be considered for an extension. We’ll get all sorts of think pieces about how much his teammates like him, yet none of his teammates will offer that thought without priming from whoever’s in charge of pushing that narrative that day.

Just burn the whole building down.

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Everything Else

Finally, something. Thank you John Pullega for taking the Fels Motherfuck into new places and spurring something resembling action from the Chicago Blackhawks.

There’s a lot of flotsam in this trade, so here are the exact details: The Hawks send Marian Hossa’s corpse and contract, Vinnie Smalls, Jordan Oesterle, and a 2019 3rd rounder to Arizona for Marcus Kruger, the amazingly named MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Maletta, Andrew Campbell, and a 5th rounder in 2019. There’s a lot here. What’s sad is that there isn’t a lot here that matters.

Let’s start with what the Hawks are sending away. It was no secret that the Hawks wanted to get Hossa’s contract off their books to free up cap space that wasn’t LTIR. Hossa is never going to play again, we all know this, the Yotes need to get to the floor, and it hopes up Hossa’s entire hit. The problem is that this would have been a good idea to do before July 1st so the Hawks could have been more involved in the free agency market than picking up whatever everyone else left on the floor. But hey, we don’t shout at the rain here and what’s done is done.

Jordan Oesterle sucks. There’s no other way to say it, and though he spasmed a decent month with Duncan Keith and the Hawks could probably use more of his “KEEP FIRING ASSHOLES!” methods from the blue line in the offensive zone, the Hawks are currently stuffed with third-pairing d-men, and really anything that gets Jokiharju closer to the NHL roster should be applauded. He still is going to have to beat out Rutta and Forsling and Dahlstrom and whatever else, but hey, it’s a step.

Hinostroza is a loss. Everyone who’s been around here for any length of time knows I might be Vinnie Smalls’s biggest fan, as for a third line winger he generated top six levels of shots and chances. He’s ridiculously fast, which the Hawks need all they can get, and a positive forechecker and penalty killer. He makes shit happen. What might not ever happen is for him to have the finish to match what he creates and starts. He hasn’t at any level, though that could have come. This one might come back to haunt the Hawks, but if Dylan Sikura is everything the Hawks think he is (jury is very much still out on that one) then he’ll do everything Vinne would have done and more.

What the Hawks also get is a ton of cap space. They now have $9.3 million in space. If you can get Anisimov off the books, and Kruger’s acquisition might have that in mind, that’s $13M or so. Hey, Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson together this year are about $13 million in salary. Isn’t that interesting? I find that interesting.

Ok, let’s go to the other side. I’ll be honest with you, I had forgotten that the Hurricanes had dumped Marcus Kruger onto the Yotes. And the Canes had no use for Kruger at all. I can’t honestly tell you what happened there. Kruger, in only half of a season, still put up a positive Corsi-rel in Carolina while getting his usual dungeon starts. He didn’t produce offensively, because he doesn’t produce offensively. Kruger wasn’t quite as solid defensively as he was here, but a demotion to the AHL all year seems a tad harsh. 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.

The rest of this seems to be just Rockford filler. MacKenzie Entwistle, as badly as I want him to be a player so we can just keep saying, “MacKenzie Entwistle,” hasn’t really done much in the OHL and was a 3rd round pick. Let’s just say it’ll be a year or two before you see him near this team or something is wrong. Jordan Maletta is 23 and hasn’t sniffed the NHL for two organizations now. He be better get used to the comforts of Winnebago County. Andrew Campbell has played 42 games in the NHL over three seasons. Again, this is just a plug. None of this matters.

What this trade is about is the cap space. And maybe the security of Marcus Kruger on the 4th line, but at this point in his career if Kruger matters too much you’re fucking sunk. He’s not going to be The Black Knight of the playoff runs of ’13-’15 that you remember, or is highly unlikely to be.

So the cap space. As stated, it would fit Ryan and Karlsson with some rejiggering if Stan Bowman was suddenly feeling his oats and went all in. It would also easily accommodate Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner, if one were so inclined. It fits SOMETHING. So before we can pass judgement on this deal, we have to see what the next move it results in is first.

Everything Else

Once thought of as merely a depth signing, Jordan Oesterle went from playing a combined 25 games over three years for the corroded sewer piping that is Edmonton’s defense to taking first-pairing minutes with future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith. Like you, we often wondered how on Earth a team that relied so heavily on its defensemen to win games and Cups ended up throwing a guy who couldn’t hack it in Edmonton into meaningful minutes. At the end of the day, Oesterle wasn’t the underground landfill fire approaching a nuclear waste dump that we worried he could be, but that isn’t saying much. Let’s see what we have here.

Jordan Oesterle

55 GP, 5 Goals, 10 Assists, 15 Points, -11, 8 PIM

52.4 CF% (Evens), -0.6 CF% Rel (Evens), 53.15 SCF% (5v5), 49 xGF% (5v5), 0.44 xGF% Rel (5v5)

 56.5% oZ Start (Evens)

What We Said: If truck stops served oysters, they’d be called Oesterles . . . He’s billed as a no-frills blue liner, which essentially makes him the Tom Smykowski of the NHL. If he’s afforded any meaningful playing time, you’ll beg for someone to set the whole building on fire.

What We Got: If not for Jeff G.L. Ass, Jordan Oesterle would have taken the “WHAT A GREAT STORY” mantle. He scored his first goal ever this year, played in more than half of his team’s games for the first time ever this year, and—per Scott Powers—averaged 21 minutes per game in the Hawks’s final 53 games, trailing only Duncan Keith.

Like everyone’s favorite Irishman, Oesterle found most of his success playing on his off side. Of his 986 minutes, he played 553 of them as the right-side D-man next to Keith. In doing so, he finished with a 52.99 CF% and six points (1 G 5 A) next to Keith (5v5). That’s not bad for a guy with 25 games of experience to his name prior to this year. I’m being entirely sincere when I say that’s really great for him.

What isn’t great is that when you start digging into the numbers, you can quantify what your eyes saw game in and game out: Jordan Oesterle probably sucks, and was at the very least in way over his head.

When you consider the fact that Oesterle started in the offensive zone more than 56% of the time, his overall 52.4 CF% loses some of its sheen. And it only gets worse from there. Despite the plush zone starts, Oesterle posted a team-worst 43.86 High Danger Chances For Percentage (Hillman doesn’t count because he only played four games). This means that even though Oesterle started in the offensive zone much more often than not, he still managed to give up more high-danger scoring chances than he and his linemates took, and by a wide margin.

Oesterle also contributed an abysmal 43.02 Goals For Percentage (GF%), second worst behind Duncan Keith; a -3.55 Relative Goals For Percentage (Rel GF%), third worst behind Keith and Gustav Forsling; and a 49 Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%). This means that in both practice and theory, when Oesterle was on the ice—especially with Keith—the Hawks scored much, much less often than when he wasn’t. Again, this is while starting in the offensive zone 56% of the time.

This isn’t to say that Oesterle can’t be useful. But as a first-pairing defenseman, Oesterle was overwhelmed more often than not. Granted, he was placed on his off side for most of the year, next to a cowboy with increasingly dull spurs, and was asked to take on the best his opponents had to offer on a nightly basis. That’s probably not the wisest use of a guy who, again, couldn’t hack it on a team that thought Adam Larsson was a comparable player to Taylor Hall.

But that’s also not Oesterle’s fault, as Q’s THROBBING GENIOUS BRAIN simply couldn’t contain the temptation to breathe life into a player who is the hockey equivalent of a lump of clay and call him man.

Where We Go From Here: Realistically and unfortunately, Oesterle will probably saddle up next to Keith to start the season again, as Q embarks on another campaign to prove what a smart and forward-thinking coach he is with one of HIS GUYS. But if we’re looking at this as a “maximizing potential” proposition, Oesterle would be the 7th D-man, spelling guys like Rutta and Forsling (God willing) when necessary.

The problem with this is twofold. One, we still don’t know whether the organ-I-zation is going to go out and get a legitimate top-pairing guy. If they do, that’s going to push Oesterle out, as you figure to see combinations of Keith–New Guy, Gustafsson–Seabrook (because fuck you), and Murphy–Rutta (kill me).

Two, though it’s clear to everyone outside the organ-I-zation that Brent Seabrook is now a third-pairing guy, there’s no guarantee that he’ll slot there. If he does, and Seabrook has a crystal-clear understanding that he is to play centerfield and nothing else, you can see Oesterle fitting in there, maybe. But given that Quenneville tended to lean on Seabrook when he was out of answers, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Seabrook as a designated third-pairing guy anywhere but in our dreams.

The important thing to keep in mind is that Oesterle is a complete trainwreck in his own zone—hell, he couldn’t take advantage of a 56% oZ start ratio—so pairing him with guys like Keith, Forsling, or Gustafsson needs to be completely off the table. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for him, and that’s probably for the better.

Oesterle can be a serviceable third-pairing D-man in spot situations. He’s proven that he can play his off side without completely filling his diaper, and if you want to be outrageously generous, you can maybe see him as a second-unit power play QB, if the Hawks stand pat with the blue line in the offseason. But like we said at the beginning of this year, if the Hawks are relying on Jordan Oesterle to play meaningful minutes next year, it might be time to start making and filling some upper-level-management vacancies.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

The last three minutes of this game were the most pathetic display of hockey I’ve seen from the Hawks all year. The Hawks are officially and mercifully out of playoff contention. To the bullets.

– Let’s get the worst part out of the way. The last two goals the Hawks gave up were the direct result of defensemen flat out giving up. First, Seabrook watched the puck roll into the net on the empty netter. He half-assed his way back toward the puck as it exited the Avs’s zone, and only started busting it when he realized it was going to go in. A guy with his lack of speed cannot half-ass his way back to anything. Whether the Hawks had any shot at coming back is irrelevant. That sort of lack of effort would get anyone else (e.g., Connor Murphy) benched, but since he managed the Hawks’s only goal, and he’s Brent Seabrook, he’ll be right back out there Thursday. Unless he was hurt from the Comeau hit, his effort was simply unacceptable, especially with the “A” on his sweater.

Then, Oesterle found himself strolling back on the last goal after jumping into the play on the offensive end, watching Kerfoot pot an uncontested shot while he trailed like an unwanted puppy. Of all the things the Hawks have done this year, the last three minutes of this game may have been the most embarrassing.

– The whole giving up at the end thing really tarnished what was an otherwise decent effort. The Hawks clobbered the Avs in possession, posting 65+ CF%s in the second and third but, as is wont to happen when they play Varlamov, they simply couldn’t find the net. With the game still in reach, the Hawks managed to hit a post and Landeskog’s stick before the puck squirted out of the blue paint. At least some things never change, and horsing the Avs in possession and still losing looks like it’ll always be that shitty totem we go back to.

– Patrick Kane put his entire ass into this game for the most part. He was flying around the ice and drew so much attention on the PP that Seabrook managed a half slapper all by himself for the Hawks’s only goal. And even though Varlamov stopped it, watching Kane wind up for a FUCK YOU slapshot in the third was kind of cathartic.

– Whatever offensive upside Gustafsson has is buried by his complete inability to do anything right on defense. His whiff on a clearing attempt in the blue paint in the second nearly cost the Hawks a goal. He took a completely unnecessary icing penalty in the first. Then, also in the first, after jumping in on the play and taking a shot, he failed to get back, leaving Seabrook all by himself on a 2 on 1. Oh, and he had the lowest Corsi for the Hawks tonight, with a 42+ at evens. The team rate was a 58+. Bravo.

– And Seabrook was right behind him. I get that this year is now officially lost, and so it’s time to experiment a bit. But there’s no doubt that Gustafsson and Seabrook absolutely cannot play together regularly. Gustafsson is too reckless and unaware, and Seabrook is too slow and apparently unmotivated to cover. If this is the second pairing next year, then Rocky’s going to have to get off his fat ass and make some phone calls.

– After clubbing the MacKinnon line in the first, Saad–Toews–Kane fell apart. Each ended below water in possession for the game, despite a strong performance against the MacKinnon line on the night. And Saad looked either nonplussed or uninterested for most of the night, especially on the Avs’s second goal. While MacKinnon’s patience was the key to that goal, watching Saad sort of float in the Royal Road while MacKinnon stick handled in anticipation for a lane surely didn’t inspire confidence. He, more than anyone, needs next year to be here.

The only thing to worry about over the rest of this year is preventing injuries and seeing what the younger guys can do. I’ll be keeping an eye on Schmaltz, Vinnie, Kampf, Top Cat, Saad (pray for Mojo), and Murphy.

Just eight more, then this nightmare is over.

Beer du Jour: Left Hand Milk Stout and Guinness

Line of the Night: “He has one of the longest sticks and he uses it so well.” –Peter McNab describing Alex DeBrincat, who, despite being named the Player of the Year by the Blackhawks, continues to play on the third line with Artem Fucking Anisimov and Tomas Motherfucking Jurco.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Like a Crave Crate, the Hawks were great through the first five. The rest was a blackout of shit, snot, and puke. There’s not much to learn from a drubbing like this, but let’s see what we can find. Sometimes there’s a penny in those sliders. To the bullets.

– J-F Berube, despite giving up six goals through two periods, didn’t look terrible. The only goal that was really on him was Vlasic’s “fuck you” at the end of the second, but at that point, his confidence is shot. No use keeping him out there. He managed to look good when he wasn’t getting hung out to dry, but those moments were few and far between.

– Carl Dahlstrom looked like a guy who’s played fewer than 10 games in his career tonight. He was directly responsible for the Sharks’s first three goals. On the first, he made a questionable pinch with Schmaltz near the puck after Highmore Salvador Dali’ed a shot off the far boards, running into Schmaltz and kicking the puck straight to Pavelski, who started an unbelievably pretty passing cycle with Donskoi and Burns.

The second was a complete circus. Gustafsson passed into Vinnie’s skates, and while Gustafsson tried to recover, Dahlstrom got caught starting to leave the zone early. He then set a pick on Toews, allowing the puck to squirt past a falling Gustafsson for a 2-on-0 that Berube had no chance on. It was Dahlstrom’s bad positioning that set that goal up.

On the third, Dahlstrom took a shot from the blue line that Labanc blocked, then got out raced by Labanc. After the initial rush failed, Dahlstrom floated to his off side to cover after Gustafsson hit the ice to block Labanc’s original attempt, then seemed to fall asleep, letting Tierney behind him and Gustafsson, who slid a quick pass past a confused Gustafsson to a wide open Labanc.

I’m willing to write this off as simply a bad game from a young player, and I hope that Dahlstrom can grow into positional awareness. But tonight was not one for his reel.

– Dahlstrom was noticeably awful, but the Hawks’s D-corps looked bad as a whole. Keith took a retaliatory penalty late in the second after Sorensen overpowered him with a semi-slash. Connor Murphy fell down a few times and was embarrassed by Timo Meier’s speed in the first. Jordan Oesterle tipped a puck into his own net after a Goodrow pass attempt from behind the net. While Oesterle had some bad luck on that tip, no one on the backend stood out, and for a team that relies as heavily on plays coming from the backend as the Hawks do, this is about the result you’d expect out of the effort.

– On the plus side, Duclair looked spry, even though he couldn’t finish a 1-on-0 in the second or his penalty shot in the third. He had the worst 5v5 CF% of all Hawks though, for what that’s worth on a complete blowout.

– Alex DeBrincat continues to impress. He had a few prime opportunities that Jones stuffed him on, but it’s still a joy to watch him get to all the right spots. At some point, he’s going to play with Schmaltz and Kane regularly, which ought to start tapping into his potential more directly. You’d like to see it now, but Q’s line choices continue to be a mystery.

– Matthew Highmore debuted tonight and did about as much as you could expect. His far-too-wide shot in the first triggered the Sharks’s first goal following Dahlstrom’s misguided pinch, but he was also in decent position for a tip off a DeBrincat wrister from the high slot in the second. He didn’t make the tip, but he had the right idea. Not much to take away from him tonight, but he wasn’t a complete zoo.

Games like these make it hard to say “everything will be better next year when Crawford comes back.” While Corey definitely is the difference maker, the Hawks have some huge questions to answer on defense going forward. It’s frustrating to watch this team have no answers, but that’s the kind of year it’s been. Take it on the chin and move forward is the plan.

At this point, all you can do is look for development and improvement from the younger guys. Tonight saw DeBrincat look great, Schmaltz look good, and Duclair look outstanding at times. The rest may have been garbage, but there are positives strewn among this shit.

We’ve got 17 more games to see what we’re doing going into the off-season. Onward.

Beer du Jour: Jefferson’s Whiskey with a High Life back.

Line of the Night: “Quite a debut for Matthew Highmore. He won’t forget his first NHL game.” – Chris Cuthbert, with the Hawks down 7–1.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Trying to sum this game up is going to be kinda hard. It’d be way easier if the Hawks played real well and just missed on some chances, or even if they played like absolute trash. Instead, they just looked like they didn’t wanna be there, like how you feel when you’re sitting at work wondering if your job is even that important. And who’s to say? To the bullets:

– I can confidently say one thing that I couldn’t stop noticing in this game is how fuckin’ bad Jordan Oesterle is, which is really a theme at this point and not exclusive to just this game. The first Kings goal was maybe a little questionable because of some maybe-goalie-interference, but Oesterle did nothing to help Forsberg out by standing right in his line of sight and screening the absolutely life out of him. Then later, in the second period I watched Oesterle stand still as a damn statue in the middle of his own zone before getting absolutely toasted in a foot race the other way, which resulted in a 2-on-1 for the Kings. They didn’t convert, but it was just embarrassing to watch, and I kinda wish they had just because it would’ve made that whole play more of a focal point on Oesterle’s part. No matter how much he fucks up he seems to be bulletproof in Q’s eyes right now, while Connor Murphy can’t get more than a third pair assignment and Michal Kempny just got shipped out for a lottery ticket cuz he couldn’t get a fair shake either. Fuck this.

– Q went after the Toews-Kopitar matchup for most of the night, and it saw some success. Toews posted a nice 57.69% CF at 5v5 tonight, which was about a point and a half above team rate. That team number got inflated by some score effects after LA went up 3-0, so I think in reality Toews won that battle very convincingly. I don’t really know what that’s worth, but it just felt like something sorta noteworthy, I guess.

– The worst part about this game was that the Kings worst players pretty much proved to be the difference makers. They got goals from Torey Mitchell, Andy Adreoff, and Dion Phaneuf. Those goals were the fourth, third, and fifth tallies for the scorers this year, respectively. That’s just frustrating to me. I am firmly on the “tank” team at this point, if you wanna call it that, but getting beat by another team’s scrubs is very disheartening. Then again, this team almost lost to Glendale by a touchdown, so nothing is beyond them I guess.

– I don’t really wanna write much more about this one, to be honest. The Blackhawks clearly did not care about this one – why should I?

– The Hawks are back it at home against Ottawa on Wednesday. Hope and pray that one is a chance for Stan to scout EK65 before managing a miracle trade for him to solve all of our problems (I CAN BE OPTIMISTIC, OKAY). Meanwhile LA heads to Winnipeg for a game tomorrow night. Wish them luck on their travels, as they have to take the bus because Winnipeg doesn’t have an airport.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Tonight’s effort killed whatever sliver of hope there was left for a playoff run this year. I could go on about how the numbers say the Hawks should have won, or point to the fact that the team shot 2% tonight despite taking 38 shots, but it doesn’t matter. All we could have asked for was an effort, and aside from two players, what we got was one of the saddest displays of Blackhawks hockey in recent memory.

There’s more to clean up than we have time for, but let’s try. To the bullets.

– It’s been a long, long time since Hawks fans have had to deal with this kind of answerless floundering. I find that when that happens, the best you can do is look to the positives. And one of the shining beams of hope for next year and beyond is, without a doubt, Alex DeBrincat. Despite playing with the somehow-dangling-trade-bait that are Bouma and Wingels, DeBrincat showcased the skill that is going to make him a star in this league. He was the only consistently noticeable Hawks forward tonight, making plays by himself and scoring the Hawks’s lone goal.

If the point of having him on a line with Bouma and Wingels was to make them look good, mission accomplished.  And if you’re into palace intrigue, DeBrincat made mention of how the team had to “come out ready to play” against a team like Arizona during the second intermission. It’s both encouraging and disheartening to hear a 20-year-old rookie have to state the obvious with such obvious frustration and implied responsibility, but it’s been that kind of year.

– The other bright spot tonight was Erik Gustafsson. He found himself QB’ing the power play after Jordan Oesterle turned back into Jordan Oesterle, and he managed to look decent doing it. His entries were passable, at the very least. He also had a few aggressive pinches that make you think he might have some offensive instincts, and even rang a shot off the post late in the second.

– Now, to the bad. Let’s start with the obvious: The third goal allowed by Forsberg was not only the dagger for the game but also the season. After he let a horrid-angle shot slip under his legs, you could see everyone but DeBrincat and Gustafsson shrug and wonder whether the losing streak will apply to the tables after tomorrow night’s game. Glass Jeff was no better, but what did you expect? Makes you long for the days when the worst we had to deal with was laughing at the jamokes who said Crawford had a weak glove hand.

– If Jordan Oesterle doesn’t sit tomorrow, I’m kicking whoever’s driving the FIRE Q bandwagon out of the seat and flooring that fucker straight down Madison St. with my bare red ass blowing farts until someone answers my call. His complete disregard for the basic tenets of defensiveness led directly to the first two goals. On the first goal, after Anisimov lost the faceoff into his skates, Schmaltz managed to find the puck. He reached his stick out to poke it to Oesterle, who somehow overskated it, leaving Rieder all alone to streak behind the goal, pass it out to Chychrun, whose shot deflected off Domi and in. On the second, he set up Keller just perfectly by ringing a pass directly to his stick behind the net. He had a nice 20-game run or whatever it was, but at the end of the day, Jordan Oesterle couldn’t cut it on an Edmonton team who thought Adam Larsson was an equivalent comp for Taylor Hall. It’s time to quit sniffing the model airplane glue, Q.

– Speaking of firing Q, tonight was the first night where I seriously thought about who’s going to replace him after this year. This isn’t to say that Q is a bad coach, or that he will go down in Hawks lore as anything but the legend he is. But the kind of failure we’re seeing is probably going to require a bigger fish than Mike Kitchen to be sacrificed. Whether that’s fair is another question for another time, but tonight’s effort was the exclamation point on the most disappointing year the Hawks have had during this dynasty run, and it’s easier to fire a coach to send a message than just about anything else.

I wish I had answers for you all. I know that “Team shooting percentage is way down” doesn’t make this year suck any less. I know that hearkening back to all the Cups this team has won won’t make this year just go away. But while this year might be a lost cause, there are still a bunch of young players to watch as the year closes, including DeBrincat, Duclair, Gustafsson, Kampf, Vinnie, Murphy, and yes, even the ghostly Brandon Saad. I still contend that, based on the numbers, this is simply a terribly unlucky year compounded by losing the best player they have in Corey Crawford. Blowing up this roster would be a fool’s errand.

That said, you feel that after an effort like tonight, or like this year in general, there are going to be some paradigm-shifting changes on the horizon.

I’m here for it. We’re here for it. Join us, won’t you?

Beer du Jour: High Life.

Line of the Night: “Let’s see if they can keep it in . . . Nope.” –Foley, describing a power play.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks, in the words of the inimitable Tom Waits, are a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace, and a wound that will never heal. To the bullets.

– Brent Seabrook had a positively wonderful game tonight. His pass on Toews’s goal channeled 2013, and his purposely wide shot on Arty the One Man Party’s PP tally was a tangible example of the excellent passing we’ve always loved about him. Plus, his Corsi was a robust 67+ at 5v5. It’s no coincidence that he played the second-fewest minutes of all Hawks D-Men at evens, ahead only of Kempný. I don’t know about you, but even with the Hawks losing, I took solace in watching Seabrook play well. Like hot spiked cider on a cold, unforgiving winter’s night.

– The same can’t be said about Jordan Oesterle. He had a nice run coming out of the press box cold for a while, but the magic beans he’d been consuming to give him that extra giddy-up have gone stale. His turnover behind his own net let Stephen “One of the Ones Who Got Away” Johns do his best Russ Tyler impression, burying a knuckler—that Oesterle himself may have set the screen on—from the blue line for the Stars’s second goal in less than a minute. He also had a couple of miscues in the third that ended up not doing any direct damage, but did lead to extended pressure for the Stars early in the third with the Hawks down one.  Despite this, and his 44+ CF% on the night, he played more than anyone except Keith. This is your D-corps, folks.

– Anthony Duclair seemed half a step behind everything tonight. He whiffed on a wide-open shot off a Toews pass after stealing the puck from Pissbaby Benn late in the first. His turnover in his own zone led to the Stars’s first goal. From about midway through the second onward, he was a ghost. But his possession numbers were stellar (67+ CF%). He’s still got loads of potential and needs to stay up with DeBrincat and Toews, and eventually be re-signed.

– I want to be mad at Anton Forsberg, by my heart just isn’t in it. At the end of the day, he’s a backup goaltender on a team whose D-Men are either rapidly declining, still learning, or flat-out suck. There’s not much he can do on that first goal, with Radulov firing a perfect saucer pass to Tyler Seguin off the Duclair turnover. Having Oesterle screen him on Johns’s shot can sort of be forgiven. And yes, he needs to stop fucking Tyler Pitlick’s slapper at the end of the second. But then again, it’s perfectly fitting that a guy named Pitlick would score the game winner against the Hawks tonight, isn’t it?

– Connor Murphy started the game on the top pairing and looked pretty good doing it. His CF% of 54+ was inspiring. But he was on the ice for two goals. You can argue that he took a bad angle on the first goal, but given how often he’s been flipped and jerked around this year, it’d be a stretch. And we all saw the third goal: That’s on Forsberg. You’d like to see him get more time with Keith, but with the defensive carousel that Q is throttling into overdrive, it’s impossible to tell.

– Erik Gustafsson looks more like a 5-6 D-Man every night. He’s got decent vision with his passing too, at least when Kane’s on the ice with him. I’d be interested to see him with one of Rutta or Kempný at some point.

– David Kampf probably has a future as a bottom six defensive center. His stick checking was pristine tonight, and he won a few board battles to show off his strength.

– It was nice to see Toews score tonight. He also had a 73+ CF%. But he missed a yawning net in the first off a pass through the Royal Road from DeBrincat, either because he wasn’t expecting the pass or because his skate got caught. Microcosms.

– The chocolates and flowers for Tommy Wingels tonight were a bit much. Foley, Jammer, and Burish barely had time to come up for air between all the kisses they blew at him for TROWING HITS OUT DERE. He had one good hit in the third that separated the puck and drew a penalty, but other than that, I don’t get it. He janked an uncontested rebound off the far post and did nothing other than hit guys the rest of the night. I understand the frustration over this team this year. I understand that we don’t really have any answers. But this whole DA FIRE AND DA PASHUN garbage is already wearing thin. Hits have never been the answer for this team, and they sure as shit aren’t the answer now.

– Brandon Saad did not have a good game, again. He logged a 48+ CF% with Schmaltz and Vinnie. He did set up a few good chances that went unanswered. Like all of you, I want to see him come out of his funk. He’s probably best served playing with Schmaltz and Kane again, but I get how it can be hard to justify it right now. At the end of the day, he’s a good player having both a down and unlucky year.

As it stands, this season is circling the drain. As it stands, the Hawks have good young talent on the front lines but not the back end. As it stands, without Corey Crawford, this team doesn’t have the firepower to make the playoffs.  It’s frustrating, it’s out of the ordinary, and it’s hockey, baby.

Onward.

Boozes du Jour: Jefferson’s whiskey into High Life back into whiskey.

Line of the Night: “HIT SOMEONE.” –Adam Burish on how the Hawks could overcome a 3–2 deficit in the third (I usually love Burish, and I get the frustration, but it’s lazy).

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Sometimes hockey is stupid. The Hawks did everything you’re supposed to do, and they still come out of it with no points and no spot in the playoffs as of now. To the bullets.

– Let’s not bury the lede. Brent Seabrook slotted back in and scored the Hawks’s only goal. With all the grace of a Weeble, Seabrook wobbled but didn’t fall down as he crashed on a hard Kempný one timer from the point off a pass from Schmaltz. It was the perfect kind of goal given the broadcasting booth we had tonight. Feather had probably the best idea of the night though: Just scratch everyone for the next game and enjoy the 18 goals we’ll get afterward. While it was nice to see Seabrook pot a goal, outside of that, he was much of the same old. Yes, his foot block sprung Kane for a Wingels crossbar, but outside that, Seabrook was as plodding as ever.

– The Hawks got goalied tonight. When you have a 67 CF% share at 5v5, you normally expect to win by three, four, five goals. Fuck, the Hawks had and 80% share in the first, and only managed one goal. So credit where it’s due. Devan “My Face Is Way Too Fucking Small for My Head” Dubnyk shut down the Hawks from start to finish with 34 saves, and absolutely earned the two points the Wild walk away with.

– Like the terrifying Russian nesting doll he is, Beef ‘n’ Cheddar Bruce Boudreau’s ability to take all of the fun out of hockey is multilayered. He managed to keep his team, which had the puck for less than one-third of the game, afloat though the Hawks’s barrages. He put the Wild into a fucking 90s trap in the third period. I wish I could analyze what a stupid dickhead he is further, but his whole “How can I make hockey even worse than people think it is” schtick is too infuriating for words. Fuck him and his refusal to have a neck.

– If we’re going to dress seven D-men, which we shouldn’t because it’s such an inefficient and stupid idea, we cannot have Connor Murphy be the odd man out. We’ve got Seabrook at 14 minutes, Kempný at 12, and Murphy at 7. In what fucking world does it make sense to have Murphy and Kempný play less than Seabrook? I know yesterday was against the Senators, but of all the times to get Cubist with the blue line, why does Q have to do it against a divisional opponent on the ass-end of a back to back in a game in which the Hawks need two points? Again, Murphy has been BY FAR the best defenseman the Hawks have dressed in the last two months. What’s the logic here, if not THE NARRATIVE?

– With Wiener Anxiety heading to Arizona, Q decided to double shift Kane. He played almost 26 minutes tonight, more than any other Blackhawk. As usual, his line dominated, but this time, they failed to put anything away. So all we really take away from this is that Kane’s outrageous TOI led to Minnesota’s game winner after Kane took an offensive zone penalty. Great.

– Let’s try to be positive now. I’ve never been happier to be wrong about something than I am about Jordan Oesterle. He led all Hawks D-men in TOI with 25:52, and for the second straight game led the first PP unit instead of Keith. He also managed to clear a puck from the crease and prevent a goal. I’m always going to look at him a bit side-eyed for no other reason than he couldn’t hack it with the Oilers, but in the time he’s been here, he’s looked a lot better than expected.

– When your backup goaltender only gives up two goals, there’s no excuse to not win. The first goal wasn’t really Forsberg’s fault. I guess if you want to lay blame on Forsberg, you can go the Brian Boucher route and say that Forsberg overcommitted, but when a shot takes such a wild bounce off Wingels’s stick, I’m not going to place too much blame on the goalie.

But that second goal was one Forsberg probably wants back. I get that Suter has a heavy shot, but with no screen and a good view, it’s not a goal you can just shrug off. Still, if you’re only giving up two goals against the worst possession team in the NHL, you should expect a win.

– Probably not one to write home about for Duncan Keith, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. This was one of Keith’s junkyard dog, try-to-do-everything games, and with that often comes the kinds of egregious turnovers he committed at a few points in the game. WHAT DEY NEED TA DO IS DEY NEED TA SCRATCH KIEF ON FRIDEE SO HE KEN SCORE HIMSELF A BIG GOAL ON SUNDAY, MY FRENTS.

– I could go on and on about Milbury being the worst Fred Flintstone impersonator on Earth, but honestly, outside of the beginning of the second period, I managed to not listen to a goddamn thing that overgrown, overpaid pile of rocks and garbage said. Fuck him.

Sometimes hockey is stupid. That’s really all tonight was. Look forward to Duclair and pray to whichever god you like that Seabrook isn’t in the lineup Friday (he will be).

Beer du Jour: Zombie Dust and Two Hearted

Line of the Night: “I know how hard it is to do what he does.” – Mike Milbury, flat out lying about how he can relate to what a good player Patrick Kane is.

Live From The Five Hole

In this week’s installment we discuss the ramifications of the Hawks’ transactions from Monday, the larger scale implications of Vegas’ success halfway through the season, and of course some talk BOUT DIS NAGGY GUY EVEN DOE PACE STILL HAS A JOB towards the end. The podcasts will always remain after the jump because we’re all about giving our adoring public what they want.