Hockey

Since about 30 seconds into Game 1 of the season where it became glaringly obvious that this year’s Hawks team would not be competing for jack shit, this week arguably became the most important stretch of games of the year in the leadup to the trade deadline. Particularly now with a new GM steering the ship, it might have ended up being an indicator of GM Kyle’s mid and long term vision for the club. But overall, with a few wrinkles here and there, things shook out about how they could have been predicted, with the Hawks recouping some assets and also looking like shit on the ice.

3/15 – Bruins 2, Hawks 1 (OT)

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The Hawks were pretty well fucked from Jump St. in this one with the Bruins being the best team defensive team in the league by a lot of metrics while having almost no finish to speak of aside from two guys on the roster. Marc-Andre Fleury was at his acrobatic best throughout the game and was literally the only reason this game was not a complete dong-whipping. He made every kind of vintage save you could as of anyone, let alone a 36 year old with the mileage he has on him. In an ideal world he would have been traded at the second intermission when his value was at its absolute peak, but there were clearly other factors at play. The Hawks managed to get this one to OT, where the fun predictably ended quickly.

3/19 – Wild 3, Hawks 1

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A matinee played in St. Paul in the immediate aftermath of the Brandon Hagel trade saw the Hawks put forth a half assed effort at best, even by day hockey standards which this outlet is on record many times over as being an affront to the lord. Kevin Lankinen got the start on the front end of a back to back and is still somehow struggling with rebound control somehow, but made enough saves to keep it close until the very end, where the erstwhile LOCAL GUY Ryan Hartman put the Wild ahead. Toews’ comments after the trade were frankly those of a crybaby, complaining about someone being traded. As a long time captain in this league having seen guys get moved over and over and over again for cap purposes, having Brandon goddamn Hagel of all people be the one where he opines openly about his GM’s choices is certainly curious, especially without having done a goddamn thing in the post season in going on 7 years now. Sorry Jon, but you don’t have a leg to stand on whatsoever with regard to who stays and who goes. And clearly the team let this pouty piss pants attitude cascade down through the roster from their captain.

3/20 – Jets 6, Hawks 4

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Regardless of who had the final say in it between Kyle Davidson or Derek King, the decision to start Marc Andre Fleury in a game less than 24 hours before the trade deadline was curious at best, and professionally negligent at worst. On top of it being a back and forth game where neither team was interested in playing much defense and Fleury and fellow Vezina winner Connor Hellebucyk were hung out to dry early and often, the situation became that much more harrowing during a sequence wherein Fluery lost is glove, and still instinctually tried to make a save with that hand during a scramble in front of the Hawk net. Mercifully the result was merely a goal against and not a hand shattered into dust rendering the netminder untradeable, or worse at the end of his career. The Hawks would claw their way back with the help of a solid game from newcomer Taylor Raddysh (with a Y), and at least there was a little bit more jump to their game after going down after apparently getting their tantrum game out of the way the previous afternoon. But after all of that, the result was still the same, and the Hawks are now left to play out the string in what will surely be outstanding performances from Kevin Lankinen, Colin Delia, and Arvid Soderblom.

TRADE REACTIONS

  • First on the docket is arguably the most valuable chip the Hawks had in Brandon Hagel, with his cost controlled $1.5 million against the cap for two years following the end of this season, and will likely flirt with 30 goals by this year’s end. While yes, Hagel has been a fun middle six forward who plays with physicality and has a bit of a goal scorer’s touch, given the distance between what the Hawks are against teams with actual aspirations like the Bruins (where Hagel played and scored the Hawks’ lone goal), even the most optimistic projections would have the Hawks ready to take a step right as Hagel would be due a substantial increase in pay. Not to mention, with no disrespect to Hagel or any players of his ilk, but there should be at least two guys with the potential to be this in every team’s system. Andrew Shaw was this until it was time to pay him significantly, when the Hawks correctly identified that Ryan Hartman could fill that role. So the Hawks got about as good a return as one could have been asked for Hagel in two middle-to-bottom six forwards who can play right now as well as two first rounders, albeit delated and will assuredly be late in the round because they’re Tampa’s. And the fact that the trade pissed off some aforementioned players on the roster only reaffirmed that it was the right thing to do.
  • While the Marc-Andre Fleury trade seemed inevitable from the moment he actually decided he wanted to play for this calamity of an organization, it took til basically the last minute to get there for a variety of reasons. With having a full no move on top of uprooting his family here mere months ago, it extremely hamstrung Davidson’s options, and having a shit defense in front of him deflating his Vezina numbers from last year certainly didn’t help things. The Hawks eating half the salary for the remainder of the year is immaterial, but one can’t help but wonder if they could have gotten a true first round pick instead of just a condititional one had they pulled the trigger sooner and not exposed Fleury to a potent forward group and potential injury one last time before getting shipped out.
  • Ryan Carpenter was moved along to Calgary for a 5th rounder, and if there was ever a match made in hockey shot suppression hell, it’s Ryan Carpenter and Darryl Sutter. With Brad Treveling taking one of Sutter’s toys away in waiving Brad Richardson, he promptly gave him a younger version in the form of Carpetner who is a reliable worker who won’t let anyone down on the PK or the dot, and should never, ever be asked to be on the first PP unit ever again. Having a a solid bottom 6 versatile forward is a complete luxury that bad teams don’t need, like a closer on a shit baseball team, or a huge LCD infotainment screen in a run down 1988 powder blue Ford Taurus. So getting a fifth round pick is just fine for moving Carpenter along.
  • Calvin de Haan stayed put, because that’s just generally what he does these days, and there more than likely wasn’t a market for him even if it would have been at half price. Erik Gustafsson also had no takers, which just makes the fact that he was ever brought in here to take minutes away from any of the kids on the blue line even more short sightedly stupid from the previous regime.
Everything Else

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Game Time: 9:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, CITY, CBC, SportsNet, SN360, WGN-AM 720
Which One Of My Garbage Sons Are You?: Flames Nation, Matchsticks & Gasoline

So coming into this Western Canadian swing of five games, the Hawks were probably going to need three regulation wins to keep themselves reasonably fighting for a wild card spot in the west. To this point they have gotten exactly zero points in the first three games, so tonight in Calgary and tomorrow back in Winnipeg are absolute must wins. Generally those go about as well for the Hawks as hoping an unattended dog doesn’t eat a burger off the kitchen counter, but they’re going to play them anyway.

Hockey

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It took about 30 minutes, but the Hawks came roaring back against a team that hadn’t won a game since December 23 to win their third game after trailing through two periods. Never mind that the Senators are a divot full of wastewater runoff. Two points is two points. Let’s.

– Someone ought to give Mats Hallin a number just so we can retire it. He’s struck gold once again with Dominik Kubalik, who continues to complement his booming shot with speed and the exact kind of toughness along the boards and in front of the net that make things move in the nethers. He’s now on a six-game points streak and a five-game goals streak. He has 10 points over those six games and a cumulative 61+ CF% over those six. Tonight, he was second among all Hawks forwards in CF% (76+), led everyone in the universe with a literally unbelievable 96.87 xGF%, and had nine shots on goal.

He’s been dominant recently when given the chance.

– Which is why someone needs to tell Jeremy Colliton that absolutely no one tunes in to watch him put on Kissinger’s toilet glasses and flex his Throbbing Genious Brain. Look at the game flow chart here:

This is where Colliton stopped playing with his pud and put Kane with Kubalik and Toews. Who would have thought that loading up your top line against one of the NHL’s urinals would lead to complete dominance going forward? This “spreading out the scoring” horseshit only works when you have forward depth, and the Hawks absolutely do not have that. If the Hawks want to continue this playoff-team farce—and whatever, I’m here to watch them win—Colliton must stop trying to show everyone how fucking smart he thinks he is.

Ryan Carpenter is a fine fourth liner. Alex Nylander sucks. Patrick Kane should never be playing with either of them. Keep Kubalik–Toews–Kane together. This isn’t fucking difficult.

Drake Caggiula had himself a great game. He led all skaters in 5v5 possession with an 88+ CF%. He also had a hilarious 94+ xGF%. He’s another fine bottom six guy who can contribute when not asked to play so far out of his element. He exceled when Coach Gemstone finally slotted him off the top line. It’s doubly encouraging that he did so well in just his third game back from the land of wind and ghosts. Yeah, it’s Ottawa, but whatever. Gotta start somewhere.

– Friendly reminder that the Blackhawks could have traded Erik Gustafsson at any point during the season before the deadline last year. Or during the off-season. Instead, we get to watch him get turned inside out in the slot by Chris Tierney for absolutely no good reason on the Sens’s second goal. You may have been willing to forgive such atrocious coverage when he was putting up 60 points, but he’s not going to do that ever again. There aren’t any other options because Stan Bowman is a moron, but it’s nonetheless agonizing.

Jonathan Toews put up another good game tonight. It’s amazing what he can do when he’s not forced to drag AHLers and glorified fourth liners around. His 71+ CF% and 96+ xGF% tonight were a feast for the nerds. And he was easy on the eyes, contributing to every single goal the Hawks scored.

On the first, he won the puck behind the net and flung a crisp pass to the slot. Kubalik missed on it, but it found a waiting Kane, who ricocheted a shot off Kubalik’s shin pads.

On the second, Toews dropped a two-line stretch pass onto Kubalik’s stick, who exploded through the neutral zone for his second goal. No muss, no fuss.

And of course, Toews pantsed Hogberg in OT. An all-around outstanding performance from the captain.

It was more of a struggle than it needed to be, but when Colliton got out of his own way, the Hawks pulled it out. We can only watch and wonder whether he will keep his most dominant line together tomorrow night in Montreal, and if they want to keep flirting with the idea of going to the playoffs, there’s no excuse not to.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Kalamazoo Stout

Line of the Night: “I heard there might be some beer on that train.” –Steve Konroyd describing the train ride the Hawks are taking to Montreal

Hockey

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For a brief moment, it looked like the Hawks would rise to the occasion. They roared back from a deficit to take a two-goal lead over a team within sniffing distance of them for a playoff spot, then proceeded to cower and hope that their porous defense—which at no point during this season has shown capable of holding any kind of lead whatsoever—would hold the lead. After 53 minutes of burying his two most effective players in ice time, the Hawks’s hopefully soon-to-be former coach finally put Kane with them, and the Hawks teased another comeback, only to watch a depth forward get beat, fall out of position, and give Adam Gaudette a wide-open look for the game winner. A tale as old as time. Let’s clean it.

Connor Murphy had himself a game and continues to impress as the Hawks’s only consistently useful defenseman. He led all Hawks defensemen in possession with a 55+ CF% (10+ CF% Rel) despite having to drag Erik Gustafsson’s cratering trade value on his back for most of the night. And he scored his fourth goal of the year after Toews and Kubalik (much more on them later) dug the puck out of the end boards and slot, respectively. Murphy’s been a paragon of consistency this year when he’s been healthy.

Duncan Keith also had a good game. He was a bit underwater in possession (47+%) and xGF% (48+), but he made two outstanding plays to make up for it. After shooting the puck too hard to the far side, Keith hurried back to snuff out a 2-on-1. Then, in the third, Keith made a gorgeous steal on the near boards at neutral ice and chipped the puck to Kubalik, who danced around a defender at the blue line and left the puck for Kane, who buried his wrister. Keith’s looked spry lately, and that’s never a bad thing.

Jonathan Toews had himself a hell of a game tonight. Aside from doing yeoman’s work behind the net while setting up Murphy’s goal, Toews managed to bank a puck off Quinn Hughes for a goal after juking Alex Edler out of his elbows along the far boards. Toews led all Blackhawks with an astounding 70+ CF% and was second only to Kubalik in xGF% (60.45 vs. 60.75).

Dominik Kubalik will likely carry the torch of least respected contributor once Corey Crawford leaves town. Despite three primary assists, leading the team in xGF%, and the second-best CF% (68+), Kubalik managed merely 10:42 TOI at 5v5 and 12:19 total. Only David Kampf (expected), Matthew Highmore (who blows), and John Quenneville (who sucks and blows) had fewer minutes at 5v5. I would love to know exactly what it is that Hopefully Soon-to-Be Former Coach Bevington doesn’t like about Kubalik, but whatever it is, it’s inexcusable.

In fact, through two periods, Toews and Kubalik, who dominated in possession and expected goals all night, were among some of the lowest ice-time receivers among all Blackhawks. Sure, Toews has special teams time, but it’s as if rather than promoting Quenneville to the first line, Colliton actually demoted his two best players throughout the game to the fourth line. This kind of galaxy brain shit isn’t cute. I get wanting to play Dach, Strome, and DeBrincat more—which is something Colliton did try to do through two—but that shouldn’t mean that your two best fucking players are getting the short shaft on ice time. To the surprise of perhaps only Jeremy Colliton, once Kubalik and Toews got to play with Kane, it turned into an almost immediate goal. When playing a game you’ve got to have, you can’t wait 53 fucking minutes to do this. Dylan Sikura and Ryan Carpenter may be fine players, but they should not be on a line with Patrick Kane on purpose for a majority of a must-win game.

On top of this horseshit, nary a compliment did Eddie have for Kubalik at any point. I don’t understand why no one seems to like him, but he was a top performer tonight.

– Speaking of Ryan Carpenter, it was a tough one for him tonight. Though it’s not his fault that his coach needed to flex his throbbing genious brain and have Carpenter take a defensive-zone faceoff in a 4–3 game following a TV timeout . . . actually, let’s stay there for a second. Carpenter has a 47+ FO% this year. Toews is at 56+%, and Kampf is at 52%. Following a TV timeout, after the Canucks have seized momentum, Hopefully Soon-to-Be Former Coach Gemstone throws his second-worst faceoff guy out there with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Erik Gustafsson. Let that marinate for a second, because you can taste the fucking stupidity.

Anyway, Carpenter lost the faceoff then completely lost his man in Pettersson, who launched a set-play rocket past Lehner for the tying goal. Then, he got pantsed by Adam Gaudette along the near boards for the game winner in the third. Carpenter is a fine player, but tonight wasn’t his night.

– I’m just as tired of talking about him as you are of hearing about him, and there’s no real alternative, but Dennis Gilbert fucking blows. Four of the Canucks’s five goals resulted from Gilbert’s positioning. On the first, Gilbert had the inside track on Vesser with the puck ringing around the boards behind the Hawks’s net. And Gilbert just let him go by. Then, he went chasing a hit after Vesser passed the puck out, leaving J.T. Miller untouched for a tip.

On the second goal, Gilbert turned the puck over behind his own net and went chasing a hit again, giving Virtanen time to pass out to Edler. On the third goal, which was a PK, Gilbert inexplicably ended up at the top of the circles to pressure J.T. Miller, leaving a wide-open lane for Quinn Hughes. And on the fifth goal, the puck redirected off Gilbert’s skate, which you can’t really blame him for, but fuck him I’m going to.

– Friendly reminder that the Hawks could have traded Erik Gustafsson at any time last year or during the off-season and gotten probably at least a second rounder for him. So it goes.

Adam Boqvist’s assist on Kane’s first goal was excellent, but aside from that, he’s a kid playing scared. Whether that’s just jitters or by design, each game we see him hug the blue line on the power play makes us that much antsier. By no means have or should we give up on him so, so early, but something is off about the way he’s playing, based on what they told us he was.

Of course, all of this can and should be pinned on Hopefully Soon-to-Be Former Coach Jeremy Colliton. From yet another too-many-men penalty that led to a technically even-strength goal, to his abysmal use of his two best players, to his cowardice with a lead, to coaching scared against a team he had to beat, he continues to find ways to Lucy the football.

This supposed soft schedule doesn’t mean shit if the Hawks continue to piss in their shoes. A loss to Detroit on Sunday should be a fireable offense for all involved.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Gumballhead

Line of the Night: “Now, he’s got some people coming on him.” –Konroyd describing a play by Sikura in the pregame show.

Hockey

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Afternoon hockey always has the agonizing sting of digging out an ingrown hair from your inner thigh with a hot pin and missing. And for the first 40 minutes, it remained a tradition unlike any other. But a tip here, and a couple of redemptions there, and the Hawks come out of Columbus with two points. We may have learned all the same lessons we knew, but it was fun, and that’s all we ask. To the bullets!

Erik Gustafsson scored the game-tying goal, and that’ll probably be all that matters. That’s a good thing, because before that goal, Gus had had one of his most embarrassingly bad games of the season. Just look at his positioning on the Murphy penalty:

First off, any defensive structure that makes Alex Wennberg look like Wayne Gretzky is fucking bad. There’s no reason whatsoever for Wennberg to have that much time and space on what’s essentially a 2-on-4. Yet, here we are. But after Gus fails to clear Wennberg’s botched shot, look how far out he goes to defend Ryan MacInnis. This is a low-danger spot. Yes, Matthew Highmore sucks and shouldn’t be behind the play. (Notice that he couldn’t even skate backward trying to keep up with Wennberg as the play developed, which is definitely something you should see happen at an NHL level.) But there’s little point in meeting him out there, especially when Wennberg ends up occupying the spot you just vacated to cover a low-danger chance.

Gus was also directly responsible for Columbus’s second goal. His turnover pass into the slot in his own zone is the kind of mistake Gus makes all too often. Toews was nowhere near where the pass ended up, and so Dubois had nothing but time and space to set up the shot that led to the rebound that set up his goal.

Despite these boners, Gus managed to tie the game with a knuckling slapper past a good Carpenter screen, which is enough to get you a second star in this Late Rites of a hockey game.

– The DeBrincat–Dach–Strome line was dominant in possession, with respective 68+, 64+, and 66+ CF%s. DeBrincat is having a terrible season shooting the puck, with his S% sitting at around 8%. His two previous years produced 15+ and 18+. With Dach and Strome’s passing skill, and especially Dach’s constantly improving and impressive vision, you should expect that to jump at some point. Today simply wasn’t that day. But it looks like Colliton might have found something nice with this, even if it means putting Kane with Nylander and Carpenter.

Ryan Carpenter was a good signing. He was toward the top on the possession ledger and had an excellent fly-by screen that contributed to Gus’s game-tying goal. He probably shouldn’t be playing with Toews and Kane regularly, but when asked to step into an outsized role tonight, he did well.

Duncan Keith also had himself a pretty strong game, aside from getting blown away by Seth Jones in the third. His positioning and anticipation were good throughout. Playing him with Boqvist seems to bring something out of him.

– We can only wish the converse were true. Adam Boqvist is only 19 years old, but he’s already looking concerningly tentative. While QB’ing the PP1, Boqvist turned the puck over in his own zone to start, then spent the rest of his time demurring, relying on Kane to set everything up. You get it, but that’s not why you’re up here. He did have an excellent one timer that Korpisalo almost let get by, but outside of that, he looked lost and scared. At some point, he’s got to let loose on the offensive side. How he can do that when he chooses to defer as his first option is hard to see.

– We understand that there are lots of injuries and not many options on the blue line. But Slater Koekkoek is not, has never been, and never will be an answer to any question other than “Which player would you ice if you were actively trying to lose a hockey game?” He doesn’t ever do anything right. Look at this positioning on Nash’s goal:

Why cheat to the outside when you have Gilbert covering that spot? How are you letting Riley Nash break your ankles on an inside move? Why are you giving him that much space in the first place? So many questions, and the only real answer is that he’s not an NHL-caliber player. Yeah, Robin Lehner should have had that, but he was likely distracted thinking about what he’d say to the media about Koekkoek’s positioning after the game, because he’s SUCH A GOOD QUOTE or whatever. And yeah, it went off his skate. But if he closes the gap earlier and doesn’t cheat to the outside for whatever reason, we probably don’t see that shot.

Dennis Gilbert is high comedy at the very least. Getting bulldozed by Nathan Gerbe is an all-time laugher, as was his missed hip check in the third.

– Robin Lehner won in a shootout because hockey is the beautiful game. And if Torts isn’t lighting his own pubic hair on fire in front of Gary Bettman after losing his goaltender because of a shootout, it’ll be a first. What a stupid gimmick.

They made it fun and got two points to boot. Not a bad way to close out the penultimate game of 2019. Flames on NYE.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Zombie Dust

Line of the Night: “You know, the players can’t hear you.” Eddie O doing his best Neil DeGrasse Tyson impression about fans who slap the glass.

Hockey

We may forget his name. We may forget his point. But Ryan Carpenter is here, so here we go.

2018–19 Stats

68 GP – 5 G, 13 A, 18 P

58.77 CF% (3.9 CF% Rel), 56.6 oZS%

40.98 GF% (-16.27 Rel GF%), 56.99 xGF% (0.39 Rel xGF%)

Avg. TOI 12:37

A Brief History: There’s been talk about how Carpenter is a Kampf clone, which wouldn’t be a terrible thing, given the defensive rigmarole we’re going to be drinking off this entire year. It might be even better than that though, as Carpenter has shown a bit more offensive skill than our David.

Carpenter’s 18 points last year were a career best, as were his CF% and oZS%. He’s pretty good at limiting high-danger shots in his own end in the limited time he’s on the ice. And he’s good on faceoffs, which we think is sort of the appendix of hockey skill but sure won’t turn it down if he’s got it. He can play center or wing, so he’s got some versatility in the most literal sense of the word.

His value shines brightest as a dungeon master on 5v5. Last year saw him mitigate high-danger threats in his own zone and turn the ice with regularity. But then again, he started in his own zone at just a 43.4% clip. Still, he’s always been sort of a defensive plug throughout his short career.

There’s some talk about how Carpenter can play on the PK, but I’m not so sure I buy it yet. Although Vegas was in the top half of the league for killing penalties last year (12th overall), Carpenter was sort of a ninth guy on the PK unit (or 10th if you’re pedantic and count the goalie). But given how awful the Hawks were last year, that might still be an improvement, especially if it’s minimizing high-stress defensive time that Jonathan Toews has to take.

It Was the Best of Times: Carpenter ends up as a fourth line RW/C who wins more than half of his faceoffs. Though he doesn’t spend nearly as much time in the offensive zone as he did last year, he builds off last year’s career high in points, potting 20 on the year. He takes some time away from Toews on the PK.

It Was the BLURST of Times: Shaw gets hurt and Colliton gets a case of galaxy brain and puts Carpenter on the first line.

Prediction: Carpenter is 28 and has a three-year, $1 million per contract, and that’s about the player we’ll get. He’s an older David Kampf with slightly more offensive skill. He’ll score some kind of fluky, greasy goal in the first 10 games and replace John Hayden as Eddie O’s adopted son, number and all. More importantly, he’ll do a decent job battening down the PK2 unit.

That’s about all you can ask from a guy like Carpenter.

Stats from hockey-reference.com, NaturalStatTrick.com, Corsica.hockey, and HockeyViz.com.

Previous Previews

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford

Adam Boqvist

Carl Dahlstrom

Calvin de Haan

Erik Gustafsson

Duncan Keith

Slater Koekkoek

Olli Maatta

Connor Murphy

Drake Caggiula

Everything Else

I bury the lede too much, so let’s start with the Hawks signing Ryan Carpenter for three years at a million each. It’s a little weird to sign a fourth-liner for three years, but at a million apiece it makes no difference.

Still, I find it funny that the Hawks tell you they need a center to win draws in the defensive zone, they sign a center, and then everyone’s like, “Here’s a center that can win draws in the defensive zone,” without bothering to actually check if that’s true. Carpenter started nearly 60% of his shifts in the offensive zone last year. And yes, he won 53% of his draws, but that’s the only season he has at significantly above break-even. Which would matter more if faceoffs mattered as much as dumbass GMs think they do, which they don’t.

“He’ll help with the kill.” I mean, he’ll be out there, but he was the Knights’ worst PKer aside from Paul Stastny all season. Which means he’ll fit right in here, I suppose.

There’s also this narrative that the Hawks need to take defensive pressure off Toews, which Kampf can’t do alone. Except you’re no more than a year from having Strome and Dach on the roster, who are going to need to be way more sheltered than Toews, so he’s taking defensive draws then anyway. And from what we can tell, this year isn’t all that important.

Whatever. Depth signing. The Hawks also inked Kampf for two years for nothing, which is far more important. Kampf actually starts in his own zone and actually turns the play the other way, which seems to be a truly undervalued skill. That’s good.

Which means right now the Hawks have Toews-Strome-Kampf-Carpenter-Anisimov down the middle, which is too many and let’s allow for the slight possibility that the #3 overall pick makes the decision even tougher. So either they’re playing Anisimov as a bottom-six winger, or he’s going. And he needs to be going, because it opens up cap space for…well, too late for that but still, he probably should be going. 19-17-64-whatever Carpenter is down the middle isn’t poetry-worthy, but one gets the foreboding sense nothing about this team will be anyway.

Good seats still available!