Everything Else

I’m not even gonna give it a name. You know what we’re doing here.

2018-2019

FUCK YOU

Goalies: So the question isn’t whether you believe in love after love…well, I mean it kind of is. If you believe “love” is Jordan Binnington being able to repeat what he did over the final 32 games last year. And really, his regular season was a huge January and February, as he was rather ordinary in March and April, By then it of course didn’t matter. And he was good enough in the playoffs without being spectacular, as a .914 is not spectacular. In his first full season in the NHL, you can probably expect something like Matt Murray has gone through, which is very up and down and overall probably just ok.

If it’s anything worse, somehow Jay Gallon is still here. Perhaps this is what he was always meant for, with no pressure as a backup. He can probably fill this role well. It would be hilarious and a market correction if both Binnington and Allen both stained the sheets (in the bad way), but most likely the Blues are looking at no worse than solid if not song-worthy goaltending. FUCK YOU.

Defense: What really fucking sucks is that Justin Faulk, whom the Hawks should have been after for two goddamn years, is a major upgrade on Joel Edmundson, who was a rock-headed fuckstick that was over-worshipped by the inhabitants of the IQ desert down there. Now that they’ve let Alex Pietrangelo off the hook, the Blues have yet another puck mover, to go along with another season of growth from Vinnie Dunn Bag O’ Donuts Ovah Here! I’m still sure Colton Parayko is a disaster waiting to happen, except I’m still waiting. Jabe O’Meester and Robert Bortuzzo for sure are something that needed to be cleared with vinegar and baking soda, but it was enough once. If O’Meester is a healthy scratch a fair portion of the time, they’ll sadly be fine. FUCK YOU.

Forwards: Boy it must really piss the Predators off that the Blues stole their act of having only one genuine top line forward (Tarasenko) and a bunch of tweeners after that and went somewhere the Predators never have and never will. Sure, Ryan O’Reilly did a fine impression of a genuine #1 center in the playoffs, and took home the Conn Smythe as a demonstration of that. But we know what he is. But with him, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Bozak, and if Robert Thomas sees any time in the middle, they basically have three or four guys who slot between 1-2 or 2-3, so it’s just about the same thing. This corps is actually short on fuckwits and dipshits, which you would think would be illegal in West East St. Louis. But it’s young, and it’s fast. Thomas gets another year, as does Sammy “TO BLAIS, WHICH WE ALL KNOW MEANS TO BLUFF, SO YOU WERE PLAYING CARDS…”. Fabbri Robby or Robbri Fabbi or whatever is back before something else goes snap. Jordan Kyrou is going to get a full look after a pretty impressive half-season in the AHL last year and a cameo at the top level. Other than maybe Zach Sanford, the Blues are going to boast speed on all four lines. What the fuck kind of world is it when the Blues are sporting a lineup chockfull of speed both at forward and the blue line and the Hawks make the same sound as your car stuck in the mud/snow? FUCK YOU.

Prediction: With Winnipeg looking an absolute train wreck-in-waiting, the Predators possibly slipping back or at least going stale, there is no reason the Blues don’t win the division. Maybe Colorado is ready to take that big of a leap, but we’re talking about a leap of 15-20 points, which is asking a lot. Especially out of a team that has an iffy blue line, as the Avalanche kind of do. Yeah, the Blues might not have a lot of top end scoring. But they might have a wealth of second-tier scoring to make up for it. They might not have any top-pairing d-men, depending on what your opinion of Pietrangelo is. But they might have four or five 1B or second pairing guys to make up for it. The only hope is the goaltending completely drops out, but under Craig Berube their metrics were so good they can mitigate the goaltending to a point if they have to.

FUCK YOU

Hockey

’18-’19: 46-29-7 (99 points) – Lost in Conference Final

2.98 GF/G (16th)  2.71 GA/G (6th)

17.6 PP% (2oth)   81.6 PK% (8th)

54.6 CF% (2nd)   56.4 xGF% (1st)

Something of the feel good story of last season, the Carolina Hurricanes are essentially going to try and run it back again, counting on maturing from youngsters and what is still the best blue line around. There have been a couple smaller additions, a loss of captain, and what feels like a real missed opportunity for the big splash that would have put this team over the top. But hey, their owner sunk an entire football league just to benefit himself, so is anyone really surprised?

Let’s see what’s under the hood here.

Goalies: The Canes have moved on from their partnership of last year, where they alternated between riding the hot streaks of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney, and have given the job to Mrazek full-time. That might be a little strange considering that Mrazek’s performance in the playoffs was something you dug out of your ear, but it’s something of Carolina tradition to have a whatsit in goal. Mrazek was very good in the regular season, certainly the best goaltending the Canes have gotten in eons. Mrazek also put up a great season in Detroit once, but there are four seasons of mediocrity in three different places between that and last year, so who is he really?

Mrazek came in over his expected-save-percentage last year (.914 to .916 at evens), and what might be most important is he does that while cheap. Mrazek has only a $3.1M hit, and that matters to Carolina. It’s a shame they didn’t spend it elsewhere that much, though. Still, the Canes make it about as easy as a team can for goalies, as they have the puck all the time. They’ll be counting on that again.

There is a more than decent insurance policy here though in James Reimer. Optimus Reim has an off-year in Florida last season, but had racked up league-average SV%s or better the previous three seasons. He has been a plus-backup for the back half of his career, and the kind that can usurp the top job for a stretch when he gets hot/the starter goes to the zoo for a bit. He has made over 39 starts each of the past three seasons, either due to Luongo’s injury problems or just taking the job, so there is a safety net in net for the Canes. Pretty shrewd here, really.

Defense: Still the team’s strength, even with the subtraction of Calvin de Haan and the addition of Gustav Forsling (assuming he ever gets out of Charlotte, which he shouldn’t). The Canes still roll a top four of Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton, and Jaccob Slavin (and his superfluous c). You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that can match that top four anywhere, and if the bottom pairing becomes a septic tank accident through some combo of Forsling, Haydn Fleury (and his missing e), Trevor van Riemsdyk and his missing talent, or kid Jake Bean, they can just run the top four out there between 40-45 minutes a night and not get too worried about it.

There will be some drama around Faulk this year, as he enters the last year of his deal and the whole will-he-or-won’t-he be traded or re-signed thing. Considering what the Canes could accomplish this year it would be near farce for them to trade Faulk, but one wonders what the actual budget is here for this team and we know how teams are loathe to lose players for nothing, even if they have everything to gain here. Still, it’s not that hard to make a case for the Canes to be division favorites now, and you don’t maintain that status by losing Faulk in the middle of the season.

That behind us, this unit can do just about everything, whether it’s pushing the play and supporting the offense or locking things down. You wish the Hawks took notes.

Forwards: In a dream world, the Canes would have already offer-sheeted Mitch Marner for $12M a year, and gotten ready to be the East favorite. They thought smaller however, signing Ryan Dzingel and trading for Erik Haula, who is just about the perfect Hurricane. They’ll also get a full season out of Nino Neiderreiter this time, another perfect Cane, and maybe the production they get from those three is enough to offset the retirement of Justin Williams as well as boost an offense that needs to be a touch better.

They’ll also expect a leap forward from Andrei Svechnikov and possibly Martin Necas, who was excellent in the AHL last year. They still seem intent on using Jordan Staal as a #2 center, and that’s simply not what he is anymore and likely never was. He’s a checking center and should be used as such. When the Canes go deadline-shopping, another center probably should be top of the list.

Sebastien Aho is now locked down and flourished moving to the middle last season. Our Dear Sweet Finnish Boy is still here to break our hearts. I’ve never been totally sold on Dzingel, who didn’t do much in Columbus last year after a trade there and his goal-scoring in Ottawa screams “production because someone had to score.” They look a little short on the wing as well, with only Turbo Targaryn, Nino, and Svechnikov feeling like genuine top-six wingers and none really being genuine top-line wingers for a Cup-contender. Marner would have been perfect here, just as Tavares would have been the year before.

Outlook: This is still a great team coached very well by Rod The Bod. It’s hard to see where the goaltending will completely sink them as it has in years past, and there’s no reason to think their possession numbers are going to go anywhere given the defense they sport. The only thing that’s going to nab them is a lack of frontline scoring, and Svechnikov has a chance to remedy that (but not by himself). With the Penguins and Capitals having to be in decline, the Islanders being run by Nosferatu, and the Rangers, Flyers, and Devils still in a rebuild, and the Jackets a complete mess, there’s little reason the Canes can’t take the Metro crown away from the Caps for the first time in eleventy-billion years or whatever it is. They were only five points short of that last year, and that gap is going to shrink if not disappear. There should be no boundaries for this team.

 

Everything Else

Earlier in the day, friend of the program Jay Zawaski wrote and went on air with Laurence Holmes stating that the Hawks were going to look to the trade market to improve their historically bad blue line, and threw out the names of either Justin Faulk or Calvin de Haan from Carolina, and the Hawks have now acquired the latter in exchange for Anton Forsberg and Gustav Forsling, both of whom are restricted free agents.

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 in Brooklyn – Tonight, 6pm

Game 2 in Brooklyn – Sunday, 2pm

Game 3 in Raleigh – Wednesday, 6pm

Game 4 in Raleigh – Friday, 6pm

Well this wasn’t the matchup you saw coming. For the first time since 2015, the Metro Division Final won’t be contested by the Penguins and Capitals. And since the NHL went to this format in 2014, this is the first time that neither the Caps or Penguins will appear. Which is really quite something when you think about it. For comparison’s sake, EVERY team in the Central has appeared in the second round since this format came into being (technically the Avs are in the Pacific and never the Central but let’s just go with it). So the national audience may not be familiar with these teams, but there’s a lot to get through here.

Goalies: This is a clear advantage for the Islanders, and when you have a big advantage in net in the playoffs, sometimes that’s enough. Mrazek was barely ok against the Caps, with a .899 SV%. And that’s with giving up only three goals in the three home games the Canes had. The Isles don’t come with near the firepower the Capitals do, which will help Mrazek, but you would be shocked if he wins this for Carolina. He’s most likely going to be just fine, and the margins in this one are going to be so tight that fine may or may not be enough. The Isles can’t get him moving like the Caps did, they don’t have the skill or the interest. So maybe that helps just enough?

Meanwhile, Robin Lehner was throwing a .956 at the Penguins, and really not having to work all that hard to do it. He only saw an absurd number of shots in Game 1, and that was an overtime game, and Trotz teams keep him protected. But he might not even need the protection, such is the form he’s in. The last three game saw him give up three goals on 92 shots. That’s a .968. So even if the Canes might actually be better equipped to get through the Trotz minefield, getting past Lehner is going to take more than a smile.

Defense: While the Capitals might make fun of Dougie Hamilton, and he wasn’t particularly good against the Caps, the rest of the defense of the Canes was dominant. Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin carried a 58+% possession rate and just about the same in expected goals, and probably were the main reason the Canes are where they are. If you can believe it, de Haan and TVR on the third pairing were also very good. The depth here has always been the Canes strength. Also, if Dougie isn’t broken, they have three trap-busters in Hamilton, Faulk, and Pesce, though Pesce and Hamilton tend to play together. Rod Brind’Amour would be wise to get them all on separate pairings so they can always navigate the booby traps Trotz and the Isles set up, but with two pairings that should be 40-45 a night. It’s when TVR thinks he’s Paul Coffey that they’ll run into problems. If you were to design a defense to deal with a Trotz team, this is it.

You would be hard-pressed to pick the Isles defense out of a police lineup, but they’re well sheltered by they system and forwards. If the Canes can somehow open this up more than the Pens did, they Isles are in trouble. Nick Leddy has been iffy all season, and the Isles don’t have a proven puck-mover beyond that. But Trotz teams don’t get opened up on. They’re well-drilled and they do what they do, it’s just not terribly exciting.

Forwards: Of all the four second-round series, this one has by far the least amount of star power up front with either team. Sebastien Aho is wonderful, and so are Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey, but they don’t move the needle much. And all of them might be the best second-line players in the league. The Islanders aren’t asked to do much other than work hard and be on the right side of the puck and find the goals when they present themselves. The Canes grunted through and got just enough goals throughout the lineup.

The Canes forwards will depend on their defense getting through the muck of the Isles in the neutral zone. If they do that, there’s probably just enough dash with Aho, Our Special Boy, Nino Neiderreiter, and Justin Williams (and if Svechnikov returns), and enough graft with Foegele, Staal, Martinook, and one or two others. But that’s a big if. You’d feel more confident of them busting through here with just a touch more life on the front end.

The Isles can match a top six, maybe even the whole corps. They just don’t do the same things. This is basically a push. If the Canes get as loose defensively as they were at times against the Caps, Bailey and Barzal and Co. aren’t as lethal but they can make them pay. And we know the Isles won’t be loose.

Prediction: This one’s hard to call. I feel like the Canes are built to deal with this, I just wonder if they can do so at the first time of asking and with this forward group. And the Isles will be no softer than the Caps were, and maybe even smarter about it instead of running around like kindergarten recess. It’s not going to be pretty. The Isles have the edge in net. Feels like this one goes the distance too, and I’ll decide to punish the Isles for playing this in Brooklyn instead of Nassau.

Canes in 7. 

Everything Else

Something I like to do at the landmarks of every season. Most of these are the players that should win certain awards on analytic bases. But they probably won’t. And remember, the “quarter-pole” is when there’s a quarter of the race or season left, and you’ll hear plenty make this mistake. Including Pat Foley on Sunday night, which should never happen considering who is broadcast partner is. Anyway…

Hart Trophy – MVP: Conor McDavid or Patrice Bergeron

The problem with MVP debates in every sport in this country is that they split between “Player Of The Year” candidates, which is what the award should be, and some nebulous, indefinable “What This Player Means To His Team” connotation. And no one is going to hear the other side, and I’m one of them. As it seems to me, “most valuable” means “has the most value,” it’s simple. And you’ll never be able to define what would happen if you remove a player from a team without any doubt. Call me a lunatic, but removing the best player from any team is probably going to irreparably damage it.

Anyway, Connor McDavid is the best player in the league. So you don’t have to overthink it. Yes, a section of Avalanche fans (ones with names like “Anthrax”) are going to come running with weaponry in hand about Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, who should have won it last year. They have each other and Gabriel ThreeYaksAndADog. McDavid has been playing with Nugent-Hopkins and a various sculptures made of boogers.

You could also give this to Patrice Bergeron, and it will be the only time you can as he’s going to miss the next month. The Bruins have half of a roster and are still near the top of the Atlantic because Bergeron has kept their one line humming. See what happens to Brad Marchand now.

Vezina – Best Goalie: Pekka Rinne

I don’t like it any more than you, but he’s been the best goalie. He’s got the best overall SV% of any starter, the best SV% at even-strength of any starter, and the best difference between his expected save-percentage and his actual save-percentage at evens. That’s a clean sweep.

Selke – Best Defensive Forward: Jonathan Marchessault

Ah, here’s where the fun begins. Normally, the Selke goes to whatever forward scores a lot and everyone knows wins a lot of draws, or it just goes to Patrice Bergeron. And Bergeron is never a wrong choice, but we can do better this year. If you’re looking for best defensive forward, then you want someone who keeps attempts down, keeps chances down, keeps scoring down. And Marchessault, and his linemates William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, are doing that better than anyone right now.

Marchessault leads all forwards in Corsi-against per 60, shots-against per 60, and expected goals-against per 60. Karlsson and Smith aren’t far behind him, so you can claim that’s all the line’s work. But any defensive forward is going to be hard to separate from the rest of his line. Marchessault is starting 51% of his shifts in the offensive zone, which is one of the lower marks in the league among forwards who have amassed 300 minutes of even-strength time. Anze Kopitar actually starts the least amount of shifts in the offensive zone, and his metrics aren’t that far behind Marchessault’s, so if you want to make a case for him I’d listen. Actually, I won’t, because Kings fans have spent so much time spilling out their bladders about how they get no award attention that they should all be punted into the ocean.

This award never goes to a winger though, otherwise Marian Hossa would have at least one. But if hockey voting is going to catch up to the rest of the world, it should. Marchessault is your clubhouse leader.

Norris Trophy – Best D-man: Justin Faulk

Yeah, that’s fucking right. I’m gonna hand this to a guy with just eight points. Because I’m fucking crazy. TALK TO ME WHN YOU’RE ON MY BLOCK.

The Norris suffers from a lack of definition as well. It almost always goes to the blue-liner who scores the most. And then there’s a nutcase faction that wants it to be the Rod Langway Award (James Mirtle’s term), which means figuring out who the best defensive defenseman is. And we can do that, but stick with me.

So you basically have to synthesize the two. A d-man’s job is over all 200 feet of the ice these days, so they have to be able to do both. And Faulk is doing it better than anyone.

Faulk has the league’s best Corsi-percentage and expected-goals percentage. He has the lowest Corsi, shots, and expected goals against per 60. While he plays on a possession monster of a team, he’s still well above the team-rate in all of this.

The knock is going to be the eight points. Fine. Faulk is shooting 1.7%, and he’s a career 6% shooter. That goals-total is going to shoot up. Faulk’s major problem is that his team is only shooting 6.8% while he’s on the ice, and given the lack of front-line scoring on the Canes, that might not improve that much to vault his assist totals to where anyone will notice him for this award.

But that’s out of Faulk’s hands. The things he can control, he’s dominated. And if we’re forward thinking and living in a world where Jacob deGrom wins a Cy Young with 10 wins and everyone is like, “Well of course he did because he was the best pitcher and the Mets are a Soviet era cartoon,” then we can do better with hockey’s awards.

 

Everything Else

This is the Q&A with @Section328 from last Thursday, because four days in an NHL season pass with the impact of a fart in the wind. 

 

Game #16 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineup s& How Teams Were Built

 

Game #18 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Section 328 are the rabid section of the Canes fandom. You can follow them on Twitter @Section328. 

 

Game #16 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineup s& How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We move to the Metropolitan Division, and we start our tour through there with perhaps the biggest example of why hockey needs to die, the “new-look” Carolina Hurricanes. I put “new” in quotes because every utterance and belch out of Raleigh since Thomas “I Punch Myself To Wake Up And Shit” Dundon bought the team last year has been a call-back to some long-gone era that we all decided was best kept in a trunk. It’s like this guy watched that god-awful Bear Bryant movie by ESPN starring Tom Berenger and not only used it for fap material but made it his life ethos and is rich enough to make everyone around him adopt it as well. I mean, look at this happy horseshit:

What the fuck do you do with that? It’s not enough that this guy made his money by ripping off poor people, he’s now got to prove how tough he is by making his team play a style that outlived its usefulness in either 2007 or 1894? Who knows? Team Grit and Team Grind?! Little does this haughty fuckwad know that it makes sound more like a spin class for a gym in Lincoln Park filled with young mothers in $110 yoga pants. You can hear it now, can’t you? “ONE MORE TIME, TEAM GRIND! PUSH IT!” When someone tells him this he might actually Spinal Tap drummer. In about four months, “Carolina Hurricanes” is going to replace “toxic masculinity” as a term in the lexicon.

Anyway, let’s do this shit.

2017-2018: 36-35-11 (83 points) 228 GF  256 GA  18.4 PP%  77.4 PK%  54.4 CF%  53.1 xGF%

Goalies: So supposedly this is where the turnaround is going to begin, and it kind of has to. While Bill Peters’s coaching and system led to the Canes having a majority of possession and chances the entire time he was there, it supposedly left his goalies out to dry. Either that, or his goalie coach was actively using a voodoo doll on them during games to service gambling debts he picked up on a bad night in a country saloon in Saskatchewan. Either way, every goalie under Peters sucked out loud, and that included LOCAL HERO Scott Darling and new Hawks “backup” Cam Ward. I’m not sure I totally buy this, because the past four years the Canes were always on the good side of xGF% and scoring chances, but this was the theory. We’ll find out in Calgary. Actually we won’t because Mike Smith is still shite but whatever, we’ll get to that outfit of the bewildered soon enough.

ANYWAY…Darling is still here, and still slated to be the starter. He was simply woeful last year, with a .888 SV%. About halfway through the season you could see his confidence had been totally shot and he was completely lost. But I’m not going to tell you that’s who I think he is. While Darling’s first year came behind a still competent Hawks defense or better, his last two years were most certainly not. He was behind the declining Keith or ever-expanding Seabrook or the directionless theorizing of Trevor Daley or the corpse of Rob Scuderi or the rim-protecting of Darko Svedberg. And he still put up better than league-average numbers. Yes, it was as a backup and being a starter is a different thing, but I don’t think he’s Darren Pang back there.

The truth is likely in the middle. It’s no secret Darling’s movement is not great, and his starts on the road remain Scott Darling On The Road. But if he’s allowed to play a little more conservatively and use his size instead of his reflexes more, he can be more than serviceable. Which will look like Jesus has arrived to the 17 Canes fans, who haven’t seen serviceable goaltending since The White Stripes were still together.

He’d better be, because there isn’t much of a net (get it?) here. Backing him up is Petr Mrazek, with his missing “e.” Mrazek washed out of Detroit after failing to dislodge (not TEAM LODGE) Jimmy Howard, and then went to Philly when all their goalies got hurt and wasted everyone’s time. It’s been three seasons since Mrazek has even been league-average. Sure, he was behind some awful Wings teams (don’t worry, Stevie Y is coming to the rescue!) and if Rod The Bod behind bench can tighten up the Canes maybe there’s some relief to be found. The better bet for the Canes is that Darling finds it again.

Defense: Still unquestionably the strength of the team, and got even better if they hold onto Justin Faulk. Which they shouldn’t, because they should trade him here for a Manny’s corned beef, but that’s just how I feel. It’s also unclear how Dougie Hamilton is going to fit into the atmosphere created by the owner where grabbing yourself is considered a full sentence.

On paper, it looks great. Dougie is one of the five best d-men in the game and a pretty significant upgrade on Noah Hanafin, who was really good himself. They can really make the pairs anything they want here. They can keep their shutdown pairing of Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin together. They could pair Slavin and Dougie and have Faulk and Calvin de Haan together on the second with Pesce simply playing soccer with opposing skulls on the third-pairing. And Haydn Fleury, despite being another missing an “e,” is no slouch himself. Squint and there are four top-pairing guys here and two more second-pairing guys, if de Haan is fully healthy. And they can do anything they’re asked. So this team really shouldn’t suck as much as it has.

I assume Dondon takes Mrazek’s and Fleury’s missing e’s and grinds them with the rhino horns he puts in his coffee he thinks makes him more virile.

Forwards: And yet here’s the same problem as it always is. There isn’t a genuine top line forward to be found. Sure, Andrei Svechnikov will be one day, and that day may be as soon as December. Sebastien Aho probably could be one if you put him on a line with two other genuine, top-line players. But the Canes don’t have that. He probably never would have shown up, but this team should have been all-in on Tavares by trade and tried to convince him to stay. They definitely should be making calls on the impending UFAs like Tyler Seguin, Matt Duchene, and Artemi Panarin. They need the help. As good as the defense is, even with rebounded goaltending is this team going to score enough to beat out one of the Flyers, Penguins, Caps, Jackets for a playoff spot? Are they as good as the Panthers, who probably grab the other wild card? I’ll hang up and listen.

Our Special Boy is still making the first line go, which is a problem in itself because though we have various shrines set up for him throughout the city and suburbs to service our worshipping needs wherever we may find ourselves, he’s a second-line player. Jordan Staal is the #1 center here and he’s 30 and has never been anything other than a glorified checking center with a big dumb face. They lost 30-35 goals in Jeff Skinner, mostly because they thought he was a weak asshole who wasn’t going to stick around. And either they think Svechnikov will replace all of that or they have no plan. And even with that replaced this team missed the playoffs by a $50 cab ride. Michael Ferland was completely a product of getting to play with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and is going to be a Milan Lucic tribute band by the turn of the year.

Maybe grunting louder will solve it.

Outlook: Ok, first off, now that an actual hurricane is going to hit the Carolinas, this entire outfit is going to be a collar-tug the whole season. Secondly, whatever changes Brind’Amour (seriously, what the fuck is with this organization’s spelling?) makes from Peters, there’s a desperate lack of scoring punch here. Sure, the Predators get a ton of scoring from their defense, but they also have Filip Forsberg. There isn’t a Forsberg here. They’ve also got Rinne somehow throwing a .925 at people, and the Canes don’t have that either. Whatever help is in the system is a year or two away at best.

I want this team to be good, because of TiVo Targaryen and they’ve been one of the more entertaining teams to watch. Even if Peters’s system was reckless he at least was forward thinking and had his team push the play. I suppose with this defense Brind’Amour could go the other way and try and lock things down with that defense, and that might get them seven to eight more points. But the 15 or so they’re going to need to get into the playoffs? Seems a stretch.

Oh, and move them to Quebec already.

 

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Everything Else

One day soon, I’d love to see Stan Bowman say he’s going to meet with the media and no one show up. I think both sides would probably be happier that way. He never says anything, so the media doesn’t get much to write about. And he clearly doesn’t enjoy talking to them. This is a loveless marriage where they just show up to see their talentless kid’s recital and spend the whole thing loudly exhaling, wondering how things turned out this way.

So after Day 2 of Prospects Camp, Bowman met the media yesterday and said nothing. Yes, the Hawks have more cap space, but he may or may not use it. He may be looking for another d-man, but he may not be. They may add to the team, but he might not as well. Maybe, maybe not, maybe fuck yourself. This is basically all you get from Stan ever.

And clearly some of the beats are getting a little agitated, though you can see the frustration. There’s only so many words you’re going to get out of Cam Ward, Brandon Manning, and Chris Kunitz, and all the people yelling at you on Twitter don’t know who those people are anyway. So you get this from Mark Lazerus. Or this from Scott Powers. Or maybe this from the irredeemably handsome Jay Zawaski.

And all of it seems to suggest that the Hawks don’t have a direction, or a plan, or if they do they’re not saying anything. And we’ll never know because they won’t say anything ever.

But here’s the thing, and we’ve been over this before, there’s really no reason for them to.

I know we live in a town where both baseball teams have now been as transparent as can be, and it would be awesome to be in a world where every team does that. But when you’re about to embark on a full blown tear-down and rebuild, it’s easy to be transparent. Both the Cubs and Sox had been utterly useless for years before they decided to blow it all up. It was obvious what they had to do. Everyone knew it. Once you trade one aging star with an expiring contract, even if you haven’t said anything the cat’s out of the bag and it’s clear the rest will go.

And you’re prepping your fanbase that way. You’re saying it’s going to be rough, please stick with us and keep buying tickets and we promise it’ll pay off. Chances are you’ve already stopped selling as many tickets, or any in the Sox case, and you’re basically just trying to cauterize that  wound.

The Hawks aren’t in the same place. They’re not doing a full rebuild, and we’ve been over why they can’t. It really wouldn’t do Stan any good to say to the assembled media, “Well I’m going home every night and lighting a candle in my Justin Faulk shrine and then doing a seance hoping to force  Don Waddell to fall down and hit his head on a fire hydrant on the way to work and gives me him and Skinner for Artem Anisimov and the Other Sikura.” (side note: Waddell might be this dumb anyway but we’ll find out) While those on the inside know what the Hawks are looking for, publicly declaring it only erodes leverage.

Secondly, at least not yet, the Hawks haven’t stopped selling tickets. The TV numbers might be down, but the tickets haven’t gone that way. Yet. While they may have done some padding to keep their beloved sellout streak alive, they’re still at or near capacity every night. But it’s a fragile hold. Declaring “we’re gonna be THE SUCK for a bit while we groom these kids” is going to erode that unstable foundation of fans in a hurry. The Hawks might get there anyway by New Year’s Day if they start at .500 again or worse, but they have to salvage what they can.

Thirdly, Stan can’t declare that he isn’t satisfied with his roster because what does that tell the players who show up at camp right now? What’s that motivational speech on the first day? “Well guys, here we are, I wanted to add to this misshapen dreck but couldn’t and I really don’t think you’re going to the playoffs unless God miracles your ass there, so now give us everything you got!”

Honestly, I don’t think the veterans on this team are stupid enough to not see what’s going on here, but they don’t want their GM shitting on it, too.

I don’t want to be seen to be a staunch Stan defender, though I am a defender. He’s made his mistakes, and lord knows we’ve cataloged all of them here repeatedly. But when it comes to this, even though he’s bad at talking, I don’t really know what he’s supposed to say. If he comes right out and says, “We’re looking for another d-man because our blue line currently resembles upchucked Fruit Loops, but for the right price,” and then doesn’t get one, he still gets pilloried. It looks like he’s afraid to pull the trigger.

The other problem for Stan is that when you’re a mediocre team, you have no strength to trade from. What’s the surplus on the Hawks right now? It’s not d-men. It’s not centers. It may have been shifty, fast forwards who might be middle six guys but they just traded the one they had to lose to also lose Hossa’s contract. They can’t lose Schmaltz. They can’t lose DeBrincat. They can’t really lose Saad unless it’s a knockout deal, because that would just be running in place. Now, that erosion of a reservoir of talent is on Stan, at least to a point. This again, is where losing Johns and Teuvo for literally nothing is so detrimental, Because now you don’t have anything to trade for what you need. I’d throw Danault on the list, but he was at least flogged for what the Hawks thought would be something. If you had those three players now and not enough spots to go around, you best believe you could put a package together for Faulk or even Karlsson.

That’s the problem for NHL GMs. While they’re overwhelmingly made up of morons, nincompoops, and ignoramuses (ignorami?), they have no margin for error. There’s only two trades in there that Stan had to make to lose a contract, and now he has no flexibility. So I don’t know what good talking about it would do.

Everything Else

It’s been 19 days since the Blackhawks drafted Adam Boqvist with their first pick. It’s been 10 days since they signed Cam Ward, Brandon Manning, and Chris Kunitz. It’s been at least a week since any new flareups of the Hawks discussing a trade for Justin Faulk. And until someone of significant carriage traverses into the Convention to reach out a taint-damp hand to low-five the only player who can save the Hawks by himself, we won’t be able to confirm that Corey Crawford is even alive, let alone fit to play hockey.

While it is the doldrums of hockey summer, what the Hawks haven’t done stands at odds with all the scowling and growling about how things need to change and the unacceptability of quick-ending or absent playoff runs over the past three years. The dearth of activity is mostly in line with what the rest of the Central has done so far, save the Blues, but the Hawks were never really in a position to do as others have done this offseason.

But what it is that they can do now? They were spurned by John Tavares, and even if they had been allowed into the room in the first place, can you see the Brain Trust signing Tavares for more money and a higher spot on the depth chart than Jonathan Toews? Erik Karlsson—however unrealistic it is to hope for him—is still out there, but what would it take for Ottawa to even consider that? Are you comfortable shipping DeBrincat and Schmaltz out as part of that deal? The Hawks likely don’t have enough to offer even if DeBrincat and Schmaltz were both part of the deal, but if they did, would it worth it, especially if Karlsson wouldn’t want to re-sign?

The last big rumor we heard on the Faulk front was that Tom Dundon—who is working hard to establish himself as Not a Moron™ with his acquisition of Dougie “Don’t Call Me Yancey” Hamilton—wanted Brandon Saad in return, which the Hawks declined. So, we have an idea for what Dundon would want for Faulk as it stands, and it doesn’t look like he’s willing to sell short on him. The Hawks don’t have anything close to a player comparable to Saad (who would have thought that large, fast, 25-year-old, two-way wingers would be hard to come by?), so what can they even offer that’s in the same ballpark? Can you justify trading Schmaltz or DeBrincat for Faulk? In a perfect world, you’d jettison Wide Dick and Sikura. But given the original asking price of Saad and all the reports that say that the Hawks prefer to keep Anisimov, that seems vain (and maybe undoable, since we don’t know which 10 teams Arty has on his no-trade list).

Of course, all of this is probably moot if Cam Ward takes the lion’s share of starts. The continued silence around Crawford is a huge cause for concern, even when the Hawks go back to their boilerplate, “We expect him to be ready.” They’ve been expecting him to be ready since January, so the song remaining the same doesn’t really tell us anything.

And that’s where you might start to get itchy. The Brain Trust has been pounding their fists on the table about how things are going to change, but the only changes they’ve made so far include signing two guys who are old enough to use their ages as a basis for a calendar and a REAL HARD-WORKING defenseman who doesn’t move the puck and whom not even the Flyera wanted. As the summer churns on and the Hawks sit stagnant like an above-ground pool in Naperville during divorce proceedings, it becomes more and more likely that those were the changes they wanted to make. That’s a terrifying idea for next year.

I get that the Hawks have no obligation, and probably no desire, to keep any of us abreast about what they are or aren’t doing. It might be possible that they know for sure that Crawford will be OK and just aren’t telling anyone for HOCKEY REASONS. They might believe that this team as constructed is a playoff team. If I squint, I can maybe see it. But that requires Saad to show that last year’s shooting percentage was an anomaly. It requires Toews to dig himself out of an offensive decline that’s gotten worse over each passing year. It requires DeBrincat, Schmaltz, and Vinnie to further elevate their offensive games, and for guys like Sikura, Ejdsell, and Hayden to prove they belong in the NHL.

And then there’s the defense. Without a puck mover like Faulk or Karlsson, what is this D-corps supposed to be? Past a pairing of Keith–Murphy, which is by no means guaranteed in the first place, you’re working with what, Gustafsson–Rutta and Manning–Seabrook? That’s a whole lot of borderline 2nd pairing guys at best, AHL fodder at worst. It’s possible, and perhaps necessary, that Jokiharju can make the leap to the NHL at the tender age of 19, but even if he does, is Q going to use him?

There’s still some time and opportunity for the Hawks to make a splash at a puck-moving defenseman, which they desperately need as Keith’s engine starts to falter. Whether they can make a trade for one of them with what they have is becoming increasingly doubtful. But if they don’t, the silence that we want to interpret as calculated trade scheming must be viewed as the silence of men without answers whose asses will be one big blister if this year is a repeat of last year. And because no one from the front office can or will clarify exactly which direction the Hawks are going in, all we can do is assume that we’re in soft rebuild mode and hope that guys like Jokiharju, Boqvist, Schmaltz, and Top Cat are a core they can build around.

They told us change was coming. It might already be here.