As if the previous week and a half wasn’t enough to seal it from an intellectual and emotional standpoint, the Hawks losing both games to the Panthers this weekend has them on the brink of mathematical elimination as well, and are only spared by having scraped their way into OT on Thursday with the net empty. But if nothing else, these two games were ideal outcomes – some kids put more on tape (for both good and bad), and the glaring flaws both behind the bench and with the roster are also put on a display in a competitive game against an obviously better team that they lose. Obviously wins are more fun, but when the process matches the results. This team cannot afford to risk learning the wrong lessons with the complete dope behind the bench they’ve got currently.
The Blackhawks blew another lead? Again? This team? Are you sure? Is this déjà vu?
It’s not déjà vu, friends. The Blackhawks have blown 7 of 9 total multi-goal leads since the beginning of February, which is a staggering, incomprehensible statistic. I’m trying to be positive down here because there are still some individual efforts by players to like. Alex DeBrincat’s third-year renaissance is relieving and exciting to watch. Kane is still scoring goals, or at least being an integral part of setting up the goals. Lankinen is making highlight-reel saves (and let’s be honest, he can’t save all of them). The young kids are simultaneously fun-yet-terrifying to watch. But there’s also obviously some not great going on here that you can’t just ignore. Let’s take a look at the bullets, shall we?
- Everyone’s adopted son Brandon Hagel showed up to this series, getting a goal in both games. Tonight’s goal kind of fell into his lap, but he was positioned well in front of the net to give the Hawks the 3-1 lead-that-once-was. Hagel is finally seeing production come out of his offensive flashes, and that should be good for his development. Screw it, keep throwing him out there.
- Speaking of development, one day Boqvist will be a defenseman who will be crushing it every night. But right now we have to take the good with the bad. He had one of the Hawks’ two goals on Saturday and did a great job breaking up a 2-on-1 Verhaeghe chance in the 1st on Saturday. He was also not looking good during the first Panthers goal on Saturday and had some dicey plays tonight, so he definitely has room for improvement. Overall, I like watching him and I know he will continue in that positive trajectory.
- The Hawks were able to be the first ones on the board on Saturday night with a beautiful Hagel/Kubalik passing play, where both were able to out-speed the speedy Panthers. However, the fun didn’t last long as the Panthers were able to score three goals in that same period. The first goal went off a Lankinen rebound, the second goal was a one-timer from beyond the circles, and the third was shot right in front of the net because Nikita Zadorov didn’t feel like playing defense, I guess. A valiant effort, everyone!
- Penaltypalooza Night Two happened tonight with a ridiculous 9 penalties all game. Once again, just like the last Tampa game, the opponents were able to capitalize on these powerplay opportunities (and one shorthanded opportunity) and the Hawks were not. Taking irredeemably stupid penalties over and over again and not being able to kill them is not a winning formula. It’s costing us games and points. Every time I mention the penalties I say, “please end it, thank you.” And they never do. So I give up here.
- The revolving door of centers for Kane and the Cat continued tonight, as it seems like every active center on this team now has tried out with them this series and nobody has really stuck. It shows our lack of depth at center with Toews and Dach still out. Hopefully Dach will be back soon and will be able to slot back in there for a dynamite line, if our playoff hopes are still alive by then.
The Blackhawks’ hellacious schedule doesn’t let up, as we are back to face the Tampa Bay Lightning through the weekend. Last series was incredibly entertaining, the definition of FUN hockey. Hopefully the Hawks’ confidence isn’t shot after this series and they will come in ready to play, and more of that FUN will ensue. Onward.
Well that looks more in line with what’s to be expected. The Hawks play an obviously better team, keep it close for long enough through a couple of highly skilled plays including a flash from a kid, while the deeper truths about how far this team has to go are ultimately revealed. It’s not that losses are good, except when they are. It’s about the results matching the output, and the Hawks have been mauled for three straight games at times, and only once by a team with any kind of hope whatsoever. To the bullets.
While this series was different in form and function from the other Florida series, the end result is the same: the Hawks got broomed out of the building (and the state) without a win to their name. The offense was less offensive to the eye this series, but the defense and goaltending continued to be eye-meltingly bad, with Nikita Zadorov impressively the worst of the bunch. Colin Delia and Kevin Lankinen did nothing to settle the argument over who should be the poor soul forced to take the reigns and handle the majority of the starts going forward, and honestly if I was one of them I’d probably already have PTSD from the amount of rubber thrown their way. On the plus side, the Hawks now have 1 out of a possible 8 points. Yay?
To the bullets:
-Let’s get this out of the way at the start: If the purpose of this season is to fail, but in a way that the supposed future core of this team is learning from it, then they should probably BE ON THE FUCKING ICE to fail and learn from it. Kubalik, Kurashev, Mitchell and Boqvist being on the ice for less than 15 minutes each while Patrick Kane gets as many minutes as Duncan Keith (20) accomplishes less than nothing. Ian Mitchell and Boqvist not even seeing the ice in the 3 on 3 OT is borderline criminal. Then trying to throw the scoreboard operators of the COVID Coliseum under the bus as to why everyone’s ice time looked kinda low is almost stunningly ballsy. McClure had it summed up perfectly:
Way to develop your two puck moving defensemen when neither get a 3 on 3 shift and you lose anyway you hollow skulled himbo.
— Matt McClure (@Matt_McClure_) January 20, 2021
-This team is not built to win games, but it’s also not built to lose them in a way that creates future winning opportunities. It’s just…there. None of the signings that StanBow acquired this off-season are going to be anything the Hawks want on their team long term, nor are they the kind of players that teams are going to be clamoring to trade said young talent for at the deadline. It’s like he just walked into IKEA and asked for the “Mark” collection of forwards because, ya know, they practically build themselves. Trading Brandon Saad to the Avs for the hockey equivalent of an Easter Island statue on skates and not getting anything else AND having to retain salary is mind boggling. The absence of a plan is what’s most frustrating about all of this. Say what you want about the White Sox and Rick Hahn, but you could always see what the end goal was and it made the suffering a little easier to take. Looking to the horizon now, all you see is the volcanic mountains of Mordor.
-Speaking of the human obelisk, Zadorov’s play in these first 4 games shows clearly why the Avs were more than willing to rid themselves of his services. Night one featured the following from him:
That’s Zadorov at the middle of the left circle after he plowed through the crease from right to left, taking out his goaltender and Adam Boqvist. This is after he followed Boqvist’s man (along with Boqvist) into the corner. His lack of positional awareness is bordering on performance art, and I really need someone to explain to me how he not only has a spot on this roster, but is worthy of the 2nd highest ice time on the team. GALAXY BRAIN.
-On the positive side, the Hawks have finally discovered what the Caps and Ovechkin figured out a decade ago: creating a shot lane for your best snipers (Kubalik and DeBrincat) by moving the puck laterally and letting them bomb away actually is a successful proposition. Not having Duncan Keith firing rubber into the shinpads of the point defenders or holding the puck on the half boards with Kane seems to be working. More of this please.
-Despite not cracking 15 minutes of ice time with Coach Smoothbrain, Dominik Kubalik is already proving that last season was not a fluke. His shot is filthy, and he has the speed and hands to create the space that makes him dangerous. But hey, gotta find those minutes for Ryan Carpenter to do whatever it is he does.
-Kevin Lankinen showed some flashes last night, most notably whenhe was left to deal with a 3 on 1 in overtime and he stoned Weegar after a nifty passing sequence. I don’t know if he’s the answer going forward, but with Colin Delia and Malcom Subban pretty much known entities at this point, you may as well throw him to the wolves night after night.
-Next up is the rekindling of the old rivalry against the Red Wings, which might actually provide the Hawks the opportunity to get into the win column. The Hawks and Wings should be battling it out for a lottery pick this season, though none of us should feel comfortable about how Stan Bowman would use such a boon. Moving on.
A completely fucking banner 96 hours for Stan Born on Third. Bowman dug deep into his throbbing Krang’s-body brain to:
2. Trade a solid top-6 LW for a defenseman whose greatest contribution to the sporting world tops out at “piques Vince McMahon’s interest.”
3. Piss off the guys who sell the tickets.
The easy argument would be “This is what a rebuild looks like.” Bull fucking shit.
Why Zadorov and why the FUCK now?
There are many, many things to be pissed about regarding the Saad for Zadorov trade. Let’s start with the easiest thing to be pissed about. Zadorov is a Vince McMahon wet dream. He’s big, he’s muscly, and he sucks big ass at defense. Don’t believe me?
“The 25-year-old is a member of the Chicago Blackhawks now because the Avs became tired of his inconsistent play and they probably didn’t want to deal with another contract negotiation for the restricted free agent.” –Mike Chambers, Denver Post, 10/11/2020
“Zadorov is adored by fans and has become a favorite over his five years in Colorado. His teammates also rave about his humor and ability to keep things loose in the locker room. His character might be the only thing he has going for him these days…because defensive ability certainly isn’t.” –Scott MacDonald, Colorado Hockey Now, 9/11/2020
“This looks like a very obvious improvement on behalf of the Avalanche. Zadorov was getting pushed out of the defense group and his defensive mistakes were becoming too much. He now goes to Chicago where their level of defense is much lower while the Avalanche get back a really really good offensive player.” –Hardev Lad, Mile High Hockey, 10/10/2020
Inconsistent play? Bad at defense? He’ll fit right fucking in!
As we’ve vomited out ad nauseum, the Blackhawks learned all the wrong lessons from the Blues winning the Stanley Cup. Saad for Zadorov itself shouldn’t be surprising, given that Stan Bowman has absolutely no idea what a good defenseman looks like. But Zadorov doesn’t have “future contributor” written anywhere on him on a team with any serious intention of being a contender, now or in the future.
Here it is in neurotic nerd form:
McCurdy’s graphs above give a snapshot of a defenseman who’s simply “a guy” at best. He provides little to no offense, which, whatever. His best defensive year was in 2016–17, and his last three years in Colorado were a hobo’s listless shrug.
But Zadorov often finds himself out of position. And one of his supposed strengths is he’s A BRUISER. Which means he takes penalties. Which means he’s off the ice. Which seems like a really bad place for a supposed defensive defenseman—which is how they’ll sell him if they aren’t already—to be. Seems especially bad given how bad the goaltending projects to be relative to what it was when Crow was here. He makes it more likely that we’ll see Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, or Kevin Lankinen up against a power play behind THIS defense and THIS system (last year’s good PK performance be damned).
This isn’t a brick in the rebuild. It’s a brick you throw through the window because the owners have abandoned the fucking house.
Though Brandon Saad isn’t Hossa Jr. like we wanted him to be, he’s without a doubt a good, possession-conscious, two-way responsible top-6 forward. All Bowman got for him was a guy who likely won’t be here next year. No picks, no prospects, no nothin’, AND they’re retaining $1 million of Saad’s contract. And if you think Zadorov has potential or whatever, congratulations on being Pierre McGuire, I guess.
Trading Maatta and not re-signing Koekkoek was a step in the right direction. They’re depth guys at best, and doing so sprang hope that Mitchell and Boqvist would get real, big boy minutes from the word go. But after seeing how Colliton turned Boqvist into a kicked and scared puppy, you wonder what that opportunity would be worth to him.
Then, after unclogging the defensive toilet, StanBo immediately stuffed a full box of jagged-plastic-applicator tampons down and said, “This is good.” And he lost a solid top-6 winger to do it. And I’m just now realizing that this is how Alex Nylander gets back onto the top 6. Shit on me.
In short, Stan Bowman traded for a defenseman who will likely take time away from Mitchell or Boqvist, and whose most attractive skill is BIG TOUGH. They’re going to throw him into Colliton’s Pollack-on-Krokodil chase-the-shitty-dragon system, despite the fact that the Avs didn’t want him because he sucks at positioning. Oh, and they signed him to a one-year, $3.2 million contract.
That’s not part of a rebuild. It’s fucking hubris.
But wait, there’s more! No Crawford negotiations but money for Zadorov?
Losing Crawford was bad enough. But as Scott Powers reported over the weekend, Bowman didn’t even bother to negotiate with him.
“There just wasn’t much negotiation,” Crawford said. “We thought there would be more talk. I think it was at $3 (million). We just didn’t go back and forth at all, so it just kind of ended there. There’s not much more I can say about that.
“I don’t think it was necessarily (the term). We just didn’t negotiate that much. That’s all it really was. I can’t really say much more about that. Let’s leave it there.” –Corey Crawford, 10/10/2020
What’s done is done, but in light of this Saad for Zadorov trade, it’s even more upsetting. Crow ended up signing in New Jersey for two years and $7.8 million. That’s a $3.9 million cap hit a year for one of the best and most consistent goaltenders in the league. The Hawks have committed $4.2 million in cap space between the Zadorov signing and keeping $1 million of Saad’s contract. That on its own should be grounds for firing. Fuck off with “It’s just this year though.” I do not care.
If it’s about rebuilding, you maybe get them jettisoning Crow. But which moves has Stan made that you trust to help reach that goal?
And that’s not all! The Core is pissed, too
The fucking cherry on top is that Toews, Kane, and Keith are pissed about these moves. They’re especially pissed about the lack of negotiations with Crawford. Most of all, they’re mad that no one seems to have relayed that they’re rebuilding. You may recall earlier in the year that Patrick Kane made mention of The Core wanting a say in the team’s future. In response, Bowman said something along the lines of “Players play and managers manage.”
These players have won three Cups. They play. When the fuck is Bowman going to start managing this team? If your reaction to The Core’s upset is “It’s not their decision to make,” it should horrify you that Bowman is indeed the decision maker here.
Bowman has ridden this Core, which was almost entirely handed to him when he arrived, to three Cups. Now, after beginning to install his vision—which includes Jeremy Colliton as coach, trading for Alex Nylander on purpose, and failing to build a blue line to give his young goaltenders any hope at success, just to name a few moves—his answer to their concerns is “screw.” Yeah, he’s within the realm of his responsibilities to do so, but outside of drafting Dach and re-signing Kubalik for a song of a bridge contract, what’s Bowman done recently to give you the confidence that he’s at all authoritative about what makes a good hockey team?
In the end, this is less of a rebuild and more of a pursuit of stubbornness. Bowman is going all-in not with The Core that’s won him three Cups; not with a core of young talent combined with a coaching staff that can foster their strengths and patch their weaknesses; but with this Pretty Little Coach and his Shitty Little System that makes anyone in it for long enough worse. No one listens to, respects, or wants to play for Colliton, because he’s a bad coach with a bad system. Instead of admitting fault, Bowman will shift blame and build around his good-looking hunk of walking hubris, because that’s what being born on third is all about.
Toews, Kane, and Keith each have no-movement clauses. Toews has made it abundantly clear that he’s not going anywhere. Keith doesn’t sound interested in moving either, presumptively with how tough it’ll be for him to find a mover who can safely transport whatever crystals he’s healing with these days. And if Kane decides to waive his NMC, it’ll likely put the team’s budget actually in the red. All the while, the actual young talent is under the tutelage of a coach whose biggest possible contribution would be not teaching them anything he knows at all.
The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain.
Samuel Girard – The Avs have had a tradition of dirty shits since their inception, begun with founding father Claude Lemieux. Forsberg was dirtier than he got credit for. Ian Laperrierre carried the torch for a bit, there was dunderhead Cody McLeod for far too long, and then of course their coach picked up the slack in Patrick Roy there for a minute. So it’s somewhat comforting to know this hasn’t died as Girard seems desperate to be the next one. Maybe he was pissed he didn’t actually win a fight against pint-sized Alex DeBrincat, but his hit on same last Wednesday was cheap, late, and dirty and while this thing is usually stupid we’ll admit to some bloodlust tonight. It was also cowardly, as not only is DeBrincat much smaller and the play was over, but he was off balance and streaking towards the boards. The Hawks are lucky it wasn’t much worse. That’s taking the low road to look tough, which is an Avalanche tradition.
Nikita Zadorov – He only didn’t do the same thing as Girard because he didn’t think of it first. But totally capable.