Everything Else

If the Norris Trophy were simply about defense and only defense, Niklas Hjalmarsson would have to be a contender every season. Hammer is in the bottom 20 of all NHL d-men in the amount of shifts he doesn’t get that start in the offensive zone. He takes on the toughest competition every night, and has done so for the past three years at least (allowing Duncan Keith to become Fireball Mario). Last year, he was on the ice for the third least amount of goals against per 60 minutes despite those obstacles. And having just turned 28, he should be right in the heart of his prime as a d-man (we can only hope). Hammer might enter the season as the player with the least amount of questions about him. He’d be manning 75% of the other teams’ top pairing.

But we still need to find a way to have a stick laying on the ice that he can swat away dismissively on the few occasions he scores.

Everything Else

It’s funny on this blog, because there are certain players who we have spent as much time defending as we have criticizing. Brent Seabrook may top the list. After he signed his extension, it felt like once a week we had to explain to people why having two Canadian Olympic defensemen on the team for the long haul was a good idea. Then, when Seabrook was carrying around three pounds of nachos in his upper intestine, or at least sure skated like it, we kept having to point out just how sluggish he looked and how much Keith was bailing his overstuffed ass out (in particular to one certain Hawks blogger).

And then Seabrook had last season, where he looked better, skated better, played better, cemented himself as something of the heartbeat of the whole dressing room, and no one said anything. Which is preferable. Of course, with Biscuit heading into a free agent season and every Hawks fan having Cap Paranoia (Self-Destroyah’!…AND IT GOES LIKE THIS!), he’s probably headed in for a season of everyone looking at him quite intensely, trying to figure out if he’s worth paying what he very well might ask (which could be somewhere between $7-8 million per).

Everything Else

We did Corey Crawford last week, and then I opined that either he or Keith will be the most important Hawk this season. But Keith is pretty much the most important Hawk every season. When he’s good, the Hawks are one of the best teams in the league. When he’s bad, the Hawks suffer. When he’s other worldly, the Hawks can do things like win a Stanley Cup playing with four d-men, taking out offensively gifted teams like Anaheim and Tampa in a row.

Two Norrises, two gold medals, three Cups, and now a Conn Smythe, and yet it feels like when discussions in the national press come up of the best d-men in the league, I still see names like Weber, Suter, Subban, Karlsson more often than I see Keith’s. That’s ok, we know the truth here. And last spring’s utter dominance probably shifts that discussion. No one would argue that Keith is a surefire Hall of Famer now, and he might even be first ballot.

What does that leave in store for Keith this year? Let’s dig in…

Everything Else

Let’s get back to hockey for the seven minutes before something else breaks.

Much like the backup quarterback in this town, although I suppose that’s a lot of towns (and recently the backup point guard), the backup goalie in Chicago has become something of a revered figure. I’m exactly sure when this started. Hackett over Belfour? Passmore over Thibault? When Khabibulin was stealing all his money after the lockout? Maybe it was two consecutive seasons of Niemi outplaying Huet and then Crawford outplaying Turco. Maybe we’re all scarred from watching Hasek leave after backing up Belfour and just assume every backup is now a multi-Vezina winner in waiting (KEENAN WANTED A TEAM AROUND LINDROS AND HASEK MY GOD!!!!).

It doesn’t hurt when that backup also happens to be from Chicago.

There will be more eyes cast on Scott Darling this year, as some still view him as a path to get some salary cap relief if he can prove to be starter-quality in the NHL (those “some” might be in the front office as well). Will he? Let’s find out (not really)!

Everything Else

I feel like this is going to be one of the things I harp on all season and you’re all going to get sick of it, so just be forewarned. Other than maybe Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford is probably going to be the most important Hawk this season and the biggest bellwether on how this season goes, good or bad. And for a team that has done its best to take the goalie out of the equation (which they really haven’t done all that well the past two seasons), it’s kind of an uncomfortable spot to be in.

Everything Else

Ok, the title’s over the top and we won’t be sticking with it, but I thought it encapsulated where a lot of Hawks fans are at the moment (although in clearly heavy handed¬†terms).

So over the next month or so, we’ll be going player by player to preview the upcoming season, which is just somehow 35 days away (and we’re sure they’ll go by in a smooth jiffy!).

There will be other posts to wrangle out what’s going on off the ice, but it’s impossible to discuss the Hawks right now on the ice without really considering two forms of them. While it’s hardly anywhere close to the most important part of the whole story, and no one should care all that much right now, the Hawks could look like just about anything depending on how things go.

Everything Else

Continuing our spin around the Central, and today we’ll look at the Minnesota Wild who became a far more annoying playoff opponent than anyone thought they would. People forget just how good Crawford had to be in Games 5 and 6 to keep the Wild at bay (in those games where Peter Regin was among the best Hawks forwards and then was never heard from again). It could work out that way again.

Everything Else

Continuing our spin around the Central, and today we’ll look at the Minnesota Wild who became a far more annoying playoff opponent than anyone thought they would. People forget just how good Crawford had to be in Games 5 and 6 to keep the Wild at bay (in those games where Peter Regin was among the best Hawks forwards and then was never heard from again). It could work out that way again.

Everything Else

Like any healthy person, you can only spend so much time looking inward. Eventually you get sick of everything in there, and it’s a good thing to take that distaste for the world and aim it at others (I think?). So with that in mind, it’s time to stop poring over our internal questions and look at the other teams in the Central. And while I could never hope to come close to replicating what Andrew Cieslak does about the Blues over at HockeeNight.com, I’ll do my best.

Everything Else

Like any healthy person, you can only spend so much time looking inward. Eventually you get sick of everything in there, and it’s a good thing to take that distaste for the world and aim it at others (I think?). So with that in mind, it’s time to stop poring over our internal questions and look at the other teams in the Central. And while I could never hope to come close to replicating what Andrew Cieslak does about the Blues over at HockeeNight.com, I’ll do my best.