We’re still dealing with it, but at least we cover some actual gameplay this time around. Thank you again.
It’s been a busy transactional week with the Hawks, baseball, Da Bool, and The Beloved, and we discuss it all. It’s the director’s cut this week, thanks for listening.
We go over the massive reshaping of the Hawks roster and their trajectory, and then get into a bit of The Beloved. Thanks for your continued listenership.
The Stanley Cup Final started tonight, but instead of watching it I turned my viewing attention toward the Cubs, as I’m known to do during the summer. I was excited to watch the culmination of the NHL season just a few short days ago, but in light of the articles and events that have come out over the past 48-72 hours, I just found it too sickening to watch.
What’s come out about the Blackhawks recently feels like it couldn’t get any worse, even though the investigation hasn’t even really started yet and it very likely will get worse later on. The handling from top to bottom of this situation could not have been more terrible — no surprise there. But sex offenders and those who commit sexual assault have no place in society, and it’s time people start acting that way.
Gary Bettman was certainly not happy to be answering any questions in his presser earlier today about the investigation, and it didn’t even feel like he adequately prepared, what with his mindless responses about waiting for THE FACTS to come out. What’s waiting a little longer when it’s already been eleven years? Not to mention that it already seems like a lot of what’s coming out has already been corroborated by other players or staff members on that team, including but not limited to Brent Sopel’s tweet, Nick Boynton talking to The Athletic, and Car Bomb announcing he heard about it while playing for the Flyers at the time.
Who specifically is going to get implicated in this? Will there be criminal charges? People will quite certainly lose their jobs, you’d think. If the front office meeting to discuss the allegations and deciding not to go to the police are true, then these people have no place on the Hawks, in the NHL, or in sports, and for everyone’s sake I hope the situation is treated that way and punishments come due.
It’s difficult to read about this as that year and that team were so important to all of us. To have it tarnished in the way it’s being tarnished is horrible for everyone. That season showed a very young me how fun hockey could be to watch, to the point where I came back to watch every year after that and have no plans of stopping. I’m sure there are similar stories out there for all of you.
It’s okay to feel hurt and mad about what happened — how players, and eventually underage children, weren’t protected. It’s okay to mourn, in a way, the team you thought you knew as everyone comes to grips with hockey’s most horrifying reality. At the very least, take solace in the fact that there are journalists like Mark Lazerus, Katie Strang and others who continue to ask the difficult questions nobody in power wants to answer, and that there are fans around the league who are just as angry as you are. Stay angry, stay alert, and stay vigilant about wanting those answers; hopefully this lawsuit can help make the hockey world a better, safer place.
Well with the Hawks season all but mathematically over, we discuss the possibilities moving into the future, and of course brace ourselves from the assured hilarity of The Beloved making a draft pick tomorrow. Listen and rate and such.
Records: Predators 19-18-1 (39) Hawks 17-16-5 (39)
Puck Drops: 2:00 pm
TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720
Why Don’t You Have A Seat Over There: On The Forecheck
As if things weren’t bad enough, the Hawks reward for pissing away points against the Hurricanes in the last 30 seconds in game two on Thursday night is another game against the team that owns them up and down the ice, the Nashville Predators. The last meeting against Smashville went about as poorly as you could think, and if it wasn’t for the impressive effort of Alex DeBrincat most likely would’ve resulted in the Hawks only netting a single goal.
Nashville just plays the type of game that completely pulls apart whatever you would call the breakout “system” employed by Jerry Manuel-Colliton. The forecheck of the Preds completely exposes the inability of the Hawks D to move the puck out of their own zone. A large majority of the goals scored by Nashville in the last series came off of panicked turnovers by Hawks players in front of their goalie as they tried to fire the puck up and out of the zone by going right up the middle of the ice. This resulted in interceptions by fuckwaddles like Rocco Grimaldi, and were usually deposited right behind Kevin Lankinen.
So what can the Hawks do to flip the script on the Preds? By trading Brad Morrison to the Panthers and bringing back Vinny Hinostroza, duh! On the surface, this is pretty much a nothing trade for the Hawks, as Morrison hasn’t been anything of note. That being said, it’s the most Stan Bowman thing ever to bring back yet another former player. There’s definitely a spot for Hinostroza right now, since everyone’s favorite 3rd liner Brandon Hagel was thrown into the league’s COVID-19 protocol on Friday. Hinostroza plays a very similar North/South style game to Hagel, and the fact that Stan jumped on the phone to replace him this quickly makes me think that Hagel may be out for an extended period. This should not, however, be taken as a sign that the Hawks are going to be buyers at the deadline. The price for Vinny was essentially zero, so Stan can still try and keep the Hawks in the mix and yet gain assets next week by trading players that aren’t going to be part of the plan (whatever that may be) going forward.
As it stands right now, both the Hawks and Preds have the same amount of points, but Nashville has the tiebreaker thanks to the fact that they have the stunning ability to earn points during regulation, a feat that continues to elude the Hawks. After their single game this weekend, the Preds schedule (other than 3 more against the Hawks and two against the Scum) turns more difficult with matches against Florida, Carolina and Tampa all on the docket. It will be very interesting to see what the Preds do a week from Monday when the trade deadline rolls around. Both teams have to know what awaits them even if they make the postseason, so I can’t imagine Nashville being buyers, as hilarious as it would be.
Regardless of what they decide to do at the deadline, if either team has deigns of making the dance they’ll have to stake their claim over the next few weeks against each other. Based on what’s transpired thus far, I don’t like the Hawks’ chances. We’ve yet to see any adjustment by Jeremy Colliton to alleviate the pressure created by the Preds forecheck. As the guys mentioned in the podcast this week, even doing something simple like chipping the puck up and out of the zone off the boards and allowing the faster skaters like DeBrincat to roll with it could help. Really, I’d just like to see ANYTHING different than the piss poor shenanigans that define the defensive breakouts thus far. It’s not a super high bar to clear, but I’m also not holding my breath.
Two very important points sit out there for the taking this weekend, hoping they can get it done but also not gonna place any bets on it.
Let’s Go Hawks
In somewhat of a stunner of an announcement this morning, in a joint statement, Jonathan Toews and the Hawks let the public know that he will not be reporting to Magic Training Camp on January 3rd and there is no timetable for his return due to ongoing chronic fatigue that Toews has been experiencing for a while with no clear diagnosis.
In Toews’ own words:
“This offseason, I’ve been experiencing symptoms that have left me feeling drained and lethargic. I am working with doctors so I can better understand my condition.
Until I can get my health back to a place where I feel I can perform at an elite level and help my team, I will not be joining the Blackhawks for training camp. I do not have a timetable for when I will rejoin the team. I am extremely disappointed, but it wouldn’t be fair to myself or my teammates to attempt to play in my current condition
I am grateful for the continuous support from and ongoing communication with the Blackhawks organization. Stan Bowman, Rocky Wirtz, Danny Wirtz, Jeremy Colliton and my teammates have been nothing but understanding of my situation, and I appreciate them standing by me.
To Blackhawks fans, I will continue to do whatever I can to get back on the ice and return to play the game I love for the team I love. I will not be making any further comment at this time and ask everyone to please respect my privacy as I focus on my health and recovery.”
Obviously Toews’ health is the top priority here, especially in the wake of the sincerely scary news of Henrik Lunqvist’s imminent open heart surgery. Hopefully Whatever is ailing Toews is something that can be managed so that he can have a normal life, even if that life is now away from hockey. And on the heels (or wrists) of Kirby Dach’s ostensible season-ending surgery from the broken wrist he sustained in an exhibition match in the International Unpaid Boy Exhibition, the Hawks season seems like a foregone conclusion of being abjectly awful, even if they were long odds if everyone was reasonably healthy. This begs several questions, namely just how long Keith and Garbage Dick are going to endure what is sure to be an incoherent mess on the ice and in the locker room with no Toews to buffer between the players and the incompetent and justifiably outwardly disrespected Jeremy Bevington. And naturally, this will give President Stan even more cover to stay with Beto O’Colliton’s ineptitude despite what may very well end up being the worst record in the league because his top two centers were completely gone.
Either way, it’s time everyone involved strapped in and adjusted expectations, as this situation is rounding the corner from “frustratingly inept” to “Fun Bad” at a breakneck pace, and even if Toews is feeling better by the midpoint of the season, there should be no reason for him to come back early and risk injury and covid exposure. Sit tight and get well.
At last, the long national nightmare is over.
No, the pandemic is still running rampant, and the personal and economic devastation still remain to be dealt with, but after about 8 months of searching in total secrecy, the Hawks finally have their executive structure ironed out, and it’s basically what everyone speculated in the immediate aftermath of John McDonough’s ouster.
According to a press release from the team earlier today, as well as an exclusive interview granted to the Sun-Times’ Ben Pope, Stan Bowman has been promoted to President of Hockey Operations along with his General Manager responsibilities, with Rocky Wirtz’s son Danny remaining on as CEO of the organ-i-zation, but with the business responsibilities now siloed off and entrusted to Jaime Faulkner, who has an extensive resume in dealing with sports related business in her time with E15, a company she founded and was acquired by Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, who have extensive partnerships in arenas across the country including the United Center, and are the parent group of places like Spiaggia, Jake Melnick’s, and of course, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse.
Based on the interview with Pope, it seems as though Danny Boy at least correctly recognized his limitations in this aspect of the Wirtz family’s multiple business ventures, and correctly decided to delegate the responsibilities into two areas that shouldn’t have much to do with one another. Based on Faulkner’s career to this point, there doesn’t seem to be much worry about her meddling much on the hockey side of things like it was often suspected that McDonough had done. Her background is strictly in business development as well as being somewhat of an outsider to what’s been an insular franchise before McDonough’s born-on-third arrival. It’s worth noting that Faulkner’s husband Colin is a Marketing & Sales VP for the Cubs, so of course there is brand synergy in their household given their current occupations, but neither seems to have delusions of grandeur with regard to crossing over to the sporting side. Faulkner also becomes the second woman in the NHL to be named President of a team, joining Kim Pegula of the Sabres.
It should be worth noting that Faulkner is coming into this role during a period where the calls to address the team name and logo have never been louder, and as many of the other offending pro franchises such as Washington and Cleveland have at least announced plans to abandon their Native name and iconography. It was a Wirtz family decision to publicly double-down on the name and toss a few placating initiatives and platitudes out to the masses with regard to donations, education, etc to Native causes, but this issue isn’t going away, and it will likely never be known how Faulkner would have handled that had she been hired only a few months ago. But calls like these are ultimately up to Rocky, and he’s made his stance pretty clear. And given the blowback from the logo issue, it’s easy to suspect the Wirtz family of cynicism when it comes to this hire along with last month’s hiring of Kendall Coyne-Schofield in player development if they (incorrectly) think that hiring a prominent woman on the hockey side and a woman for a prominent position on the business side lowers the temperature just a little bit. This is of course, to take nothing away from either Faulkner or Coyne-Schofield’s qualifications – they are both clearly immensely qualified, and their appointments are long overdue. But it’s fully reasonable to question the business practices of an ownership family that backwardly believed until 12 years ago that NOT airing games on TV would be better for the bottom line. Just because Marian Hossa actually had a debilitating auto-immune skin disorder that caused him to need to effectively retire doesn’t mean that a critical eye couldn’t be turned at its timing. But make no mistake, this is a very positive thing.
All of this leaves Stan to his own devices on the hockey side of things, which isn’t necessarily the best thing based on the last 5 years and counting. But this is first real opportunity at having a direct and unobstructed line to his boss in Danny, as there were many rumblings over the spring and summer that McDonough’s right hand man Al MacIsaac may have had some differing hockey thoughts from Bowman, and steered McDonough in his direction. If nothing else now, Stan will sink or swim fully on his own merits as Danny appears to be going completely hands off, which is a bafflingly odd thing to say about the 4th longest currently tenured GM who has three Cups to his name and will certainly end up in the Hall of Fame, but these are strange times everywhere.
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.
With John McDonough no longer with the organ-I-zation, Sam, John, and I give him a proper Irish wake, and discuss where the Hawks go from here among other things. Play the fucking song, Hugh.