Now that the calendar has turned over from 2020, training camps across the league are now open, and the Men Of Four Feathers hit this ice this morning for their first practice of what will surely be many over the next week-plus where they will finally hone their man-to-man defensive zone coverage skills under the tutelage of Coach Kelvin Gemstone. Here are a few takeaways from what transpired on the West Side this morning and early afternoon.


  • Dylan Strome was on the ice after signing a two-year bridge deal worth $3.0 mildo per against the flat salary cap. Strome was one of the last RFAs league-wide to sign, and he didn’t have much leverage to get anything more either in term or dollars, so this is about right. Strome will have every opportunity to get prime power play minutes this year with both Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews presumed out for the entirety of the season, and this could increase his value elsewhere in the event the Hawks want to move him to get help elsewhere, because they need help everywhere.
  • On the flip side of that coin, Zack Smith was placed on waivers today, and if he goes unclaimed, the Hawks could in theory demote him to Rockford (if the AHL figures their season out) they’d have about $2 million of dead money on the books, as only $1.075 million can be buried in the AHL. But most importantly it IN THEORY opens up a spot for a younger forward to get some time at the NHL level, and the Hawks need to figure out what they have in guys like Philipp Kurashev, Tim Soderlund, Pius Suter (who was “unfit” today), and others. And there is always the off chance that Smith gets claimed, as he is a depth center, and as he showed for a fair amount last year, he isn’t completely useless yet, though coming back from injury isn’t going to help that.
  • Other than Suter, Evan Barratt and everyone’s favorite expensive oaf Brent Seabrook were deemed unfit for today’s festivities. This isn’t a particularly good harbinger of things to come for Bottomless Pete, as he’s coming off basically having his entire body replaced by surgery last year, and has not seen any kind of NHL action in 15 months. With no exhibition games to even kind of get a look at him, if he does come back it’s going to be right into game action, and that’s not going to be pleasant for anyone involved. This is more than likely just another milepost that this slow-motion car crash has to skid by on its path towards the inevitable (and likely antagonistic) end of Seabrook’s storied Blackhawks career. It remains to be seen how everyone involved handles it, but given the lack of communication last year before he was shut down and not taking him to the Edmonton bubble, don’t expect this to end without there being some hard feelings.
  • Speaking of the blue line, while camp pairings mean nothing, it’s all anyone has to work off of in the absence of a single exhibition game. But that said, the pairings today of Boqvist-Zadorov, Mitchell-de Haan, and Keith-Murphy at least make sense from a free-safety/puckmover template. However, in order for them to work, that requires a) that de Haan and Murphy remain upright which is will almost assuredly not happen for any considerable length of time, and b) that Vinny del Colliton (or anyone in the organ-I-zation for that matter) has any idea how to develop a defenseman that isn’t completely turnkey and pro-ready. As usual, the future is blindingly bright.
Everything Else


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.


We know exactly what it feels like to be what the Habs were tonight…dominant in possession yet unable to capitalize on the power play and losing to a mediocre team. The difference is, the Hawks have excellent goaltending and Montreal most certainly did not. Although Crawford (great as he was) isn’t the only story tonight. Some fourth-line luck and decent special teams work did what they’re supposed to do, and were enough for a win. Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–It’s hard to believe I’m writing this, but Zack Smith was the difference-maker tonight, proving that there really is a first time for everything. But hey, good for him, right? Early in the first, he and Drake Caggiula took advantage of Charlie Lindgren being Charlie Lindgren when there was a bad turnover behind the Habs net on the PK, and it resulted in Smith scoring a short-handed goal. Then Smith potted another (even strength) goal barely three minutes later, and it was undoubtedly the best period of his life. It’s easy to laugh at the situation, or laugh at the Habs for letting this bum score twice on them, but honestly it was downright refreshing to have someone different step up and score. Especially with this being the second of a back-to-back, having the fourth line eat up some minutes and be productive while doing so was exactly what was needed.

–Related: when Drake Caggiula scores on you, you suck. Sorry, Lindgren, but it’s true.

–On the other hand, Dominik Kubalik suddenly couldn’t buy a goal, and not for lack of trying. He had three shots, all of which would have been easy goals, well, last night or any game in the last little stretch here. They were those point-blank shots that make you wonder how it couldn’t possibly have gone in because given the laws of physics, it would seem much more likely that the puck would go in rather than stay out. In fact the top line as a whole struggled to find the back of the net, and it was when Caligula moved off the top line that he did end up scoring. It’s really not a big deal (who gives a shit if they don’t score in one game?), but my concern is that Coach Cool Youth Pastor will use this as proof that Kubalik-Toews-Kane isn’t the right combo for the top line because they didn’t score in the .02 seconds they had on the ice together. But here goes dumb ‘ole Caggiula scoring so he’ll be back on the top line by Saturday.

Adam Boqvist had a couple nice plays, although the stats were rather ugly for the night. In the first period he saved a goal when Crawford got lost in space and couldn’t make it back to the far post in time, and it was a good keep by Boqvist at the blue line that set up Top Cat’s power play goal in the second. He flashed some speed but finished with a miserable 24 CF%, so cherry pick whatever you want from that information. Our other tender-age star, Kirby Dach, had a no-good very bad game. In the first, he broke his stick on an power play attempt, right in the slot and you could practically hear the sad trombone sound, and he followed it up by taking a penalty a few seconds later to negate the advantage for the Hawks. Even beyond that, he fumbled shots, and his line with DeBrincat and Kampf only managed a 38 CF% at evens. Like the top line, it was nothing to get upset about–both Boqvist and Dach are going to have games like this–but it’s becoming worrisome that Dach has struggled for a couple weeks because he needs confidence and decent coaching at this impressionable stage. Right now he seems to be sorely lacking both.

Corey Crawford was outstanding as usual in Montreal. Admittedly he looked a little shaky in the first, particularly when he fell on his ass behind the net, all by himself, but it obviously only injured his pride. Losing his net when Boqvist had to bail him out was also concerning, but when it mattered most he was lights-out. He finished with a .970 SV%, and the one goal he did give up came in the midst of the Habs completely running over the Toews line, in one of the stretches where it felt like the Hawks were dispossessed for hours at a time (there were many of these). For all the Habs’ dominance in possession, he was up to the task the rest of the time with a number of excellent saves, and overcame some rebound issues early on. People can sing Lehner’s praises all they want, but Crawford is god.

–It was good to see DeBrincat score, especially on a power play. Nothing earth-shattering, but let’s take what we can get.

So far, so good on this road trip. Or train trip, which the broadcast wouldn’t shut the fuck up about. They honestly sounded like old-timey boosters describing the wonders of the new iron horse, as if millions of people don’t take trains every damn day (and as if professional soccer teams in Europe don’t use them constantly to get to games). Dumbasses. But hey, wins are wins, so onward and upward…



RECORDS: Hawks 20-20-6    Senators 16-22-7


TV: NBCSN Chicago

BULWORTHS: Silver Seven Sens

The Hawks get to remain in the remedial class after their win against the Ducks tonight, and arguably tomorrow, as they’ll head for the Eastern Canada swing. They kick it off tonight against the equally-rebuilding-as-the-Ducks Senators, before decamping east into La Belle Province to face another floundering O6 team in Montreal on Wednesday. But first things first, a contest out in the middle of nowhere Ontario. Even though basically Ontario is nowhere, and deep down even Ontario knows that.

The Senators aren’t quite as bad as they were supposed to be. This was supposed to be a Wings-like outfit, with a sad little point total as they raced to the #1 pick in June. And the Senators certainly aren’t good, but they haven’t redefined stink as we know it like the Motor City cadre. Still, they’re tied for the second-fewest regulation wins in the league with the just-conquered Ducks and two ahead of the Wings. Perhaps they just couldn’t anticipate just how bad the Wings would be. Who could?

Not that the Sens do anything well. They’re bottom-five in both goals-for and goals-against in the league. Their metrics aren’t much better, though they’re a little weird. They give up a ton of attempts, and have one of the worst Corsi-shares around. But their expected-goals marks are basically middle fo the pack, in that they don’t give up a ton of great chances. They’re not a great defensive team by any sense of the word, and they don’t have nearly enough firepower to make any team capable of breathing sweat. But they do limit the kinds of things they give up, which is more than you can say for the Hawks. In fact, if they were getting any kind of goaltending, they might barely be on the fringes of they playoff picture.

But the thing is, Craig Anderson is now three days older than water and Anders Nilsson is the very definition of “replacement level goalie.” So this is what you get.

The Sens have gotten breakout seasons from Anthony Duclair (spotlighted earlier) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the latter of which figures to be a pretty valuable commodity around the deadline. He’s cheap now at $3M and will make a decent 2-3 center for some contender down the stretch. He also is an impending UFA, so he’s going to get a major raise which probably isn’t in the interest of the Senators.

The only pieces that figure to be around whenever this thing turns in Ottawa is whichever garbage Tkachuk son resides there and Thomas Chabot. You may have heard about Chabot playing 37 minutes in a game recently and averaging about 27 minutes per night the past couple months. I mean, why not play your future pieces into dust now while you suck raw sewage, eh? I suppose names like Filip Chlapik, or Rudolfs Balcers (which sounds like a gastrointestinal problem), or Drake Batherson (which definitely was a character in Knives Out) could make the list before the year is out but they have some work to do. The road is long for the Sens, let’s just say that.

For the Hawks, Robin Lehner gets his “revenge” game or whatever as a former Senator before Corey Crawford gets the hometown start in Montreal tomorrow, where he generally has flourished. Thanks to the demotion of  John Quenneville, which was done because the Hawks actually feared putting him on waivers, means that Dylan Sikura gets back in the lineup. Zack Smith also has this as a homecoming, having spent his entire career in Ottawa before moving south.

Neither the Senators or Canadiens are any damn good, so the Hawks might want to gobble up these points before seeing a rejuvenated, if not beat up, Leafs squad on Hockey Night. They’re getting close to the bye, which generally has seen them turn the motor off. And that’s fine if they’ve scratched this season. If they’re still planning on making something of it, these are games you have to have. Well, they have to have them all but we know how they do against other teams actually competing for playoff spots, but you know how this goes.


-We’ve commented in the past year that when the Hawks have played in games against teams that are fighting directly for the playoff spots the Hawks claim to be after, they’ve fallen flat on their face. This can be a big fudge-y to determine, as some teams are in for automatic spots, some teams should be but aren’t, and others definitely are in the wildcard chase.

But this harkens back to last year. And going over the actual records, it’s kind of funny that we thought the Hawks were so in it, and they were, as they were under .500 at the time when this started. That’s more on the Western Conference than the Hawks, but the standings said they had a chance. And here’s what they came up with:

2/22/19 – Colorado: lost 5-3

2/24/19 – Dallas: lost 4-3

3/9/19 – @Dallas: won 2-1

3/11/19 – @Arizona: won 7-1

3/23 – @Colorado: lost 4-2 (this pretty much ended things)

3/24/19 – Colorado: Won 2-1 in OT

3/26/19 – @Arizona: lost 1-0, definitely ended things

So my claims that they’ve never taken a point is an exaggeration, but 3-4-0 with one of those wins in OT isn’t exactly impressive either. And the win in Arizona was before the Coyotes had made their last charge toward the playoffs, and the OT win over Colorado was basically after the horse was out of the barn. Still, you get it.

It could be argued that the win over Calgary on Tuesday was over a fellow playoff competitor, as the Flames are in the wildcard mess at the moment. We can go back and forth on that. My wager would be on the Flames eventually joining Vegas and some other random third team in the automatic spots, and rather easily as well. Time will tell on that one.

It’s hard to know what games that came before have the same meaning, but now that we’re in the second half we’ll definitely get sharper context for some. They’ll have games with the Flames, Predators, and Jets in the next couple weeks (all at home) so that will be a good start. Next month is rife with them as well.

-One thing we know the Hawks simply aren’t equipped to do is protect a lead, and a big one. They might hang on desperately and let their goalies bail them out, but they can’t shut down a game. We saw it last night, we saw it in Calgary, we saw it in St. Louis earlier in the year.

Looking back over the schedule, a lot of wins were the Hawks coming from behind or catching a team cold. The Islanders were clearly out to lunch. Their one authoritative effort of late was against the Jets, and even then they had to survive an utter onslaught in the second period when leading. The win against the Wild saw them take the lead with six minutes left. The Bruins were able to storm back to get to OT. You have to go all the way back to their win at home against the Stars, which was Dallas’s third game in four nights for another “easy” win.

This isn’t much of a surprise, given the state of the Hawks defense. They can basically only toss out Keith and Murphy to keep things “calm,” and even then Keith was a culprit for the winner last night. Keep them separate, and you’re still asking Adam Boqvist and Erik Gustafsson to see things out in later minutes. There’s just no way.

It’s been a constant complaint around here, but the Hawks blue line is the prime example of how there’s just no plan. If they had any idea that Seabrook wouldn’t be part of the every day lineup, and they should have, then the minutes going to Dennis Gilbert right now would be going to Henri Jokiharju (who’s no genius but he’s a hell of a lot better than Gilbert and wouldn’t you look but the Sabres just moved along an overpaid vet to keep him in the lineup. What’s that like?). Instead they have a winger who is deservedly sitting behind Matthew Highmore. After being given literally every chance and boost to succeed.

At this point, there is no downside to letting Phillip Holm or even Nicolas Beaudin take those minutes. They can’t be anymore helpless than Gilbert, who is Brandon Manning bad, and perhaps they would respond better to the NHL game than the AHL one which has happened before. Gilbert is definitely meant for the AHL game. Fuck, you’ve scratched and clawed to keep Fetch on the NHL roster, perhaps it’s time to give him one last stretch of games to see if anything can be salvaged here. The Hawks were so convinced of it earlier.

Or maybe you can just keep throwing things at the wall. It’s going great so far.

-Also it’s time for MY GUY Philipp Kurashev to get a look over John Quenneville, who doesn’t really do anything. The Hawks are still far too infatuated with plugs who “work hard” instead of those with actual skill. Quenneville is never going to be more than a fourth-liner. Again, you have nothing to lose.

-I feel like two or three times a game I marvel that Zack Smith always seems to be in a good spot but then completely undoes that by having no feet or hands.

-John mentioned it last night, but there’s no excuse for coming out of a TV timeout and having Gus, Strome, and Top Cat out for a defensive draw, no matter how much you trust Carpenter to take it. This is base-level NHL coaching, and Colliton gets it wrong far too much.

I have spoken.



We joke a lot around here. Mostly it’s to keep from crying. It’s certainly better than thinking about anything you’ve seen seriously with this team the past couple seasons. Anyway, if you’re somewhat new or just missed it, we refer to “Magic Training Camp” because every excuse for the Hawks last year seemed to get back to the fact that Jeremy Colliton didn’t have a training camp. It’s why the penalty kill sucked. It’s why they were defensively awful. It’s why Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook essentially un-velcro’d from the season. And we could keep going. It asked us to ignore that the fact that Colliton had five months in charge to install…whatever it was he was trying to install. The problem is we don’t really know.

So tell me, is this good?

Now it’s only two games. But it’s two games against one team that isn’t any good (Flyers) and another that wasn’t particularly interested in anything other than maybe getting their coach fired but couldn’t turn down the gifts the Hawks felt it mandatory to hand them (Sharks). So yeah, this is a problem. There’s all the time in the world to fix it, but it is a problem.

If it makes you feel better, the Hawks don’t have the worst PK in the league. Yet. The Devils have killed less than half their penalties. So we have that going for us. But still, batting 50% over two games, wherever they fall on the calendar, is less than ideal.

We probably all have a theory on why the PK sucks, and the thing is they’re probably all correct. Talent-level is an issue, Crawford probably could have made a save or two more, structure, entries, whatever. It’s all a problem. Ok, the goal on the PK against the Flyers was a fluke that bounced off Koekkoek, so let’s not hold that against them.

To me, the entries for the Sharks last night were way too easy. Again and again, the QB–generally Karlsson–would skate up to around the red line, hit a man along the boards on the blue line, and that player would immediately pop it to a charging teammates at the line through whatever Hawks forward thought it was a good idea to go charging out to the boards on the PK. Not only were they in the zone, they had possession and speed. From there you’re always chasing.

The first goal was off a scramble, but look at how it starts:

Somehow, Kampf ends up with three guys to cover. Karlsson at the point he’s fronting, then LeBanc on the wing, and Kane in the middle. Murphy and Toews both go out to Couture at the point. Now I’m no expert, but two guys covering one when you’re down a man already is a Custer-esque strategy. Maybe that’s just an individual goof…but when you’re fresh out of training camp–that got something of a bonus week thanks to the schedule–shouldn’t individual goofs not be a thing that happens? Also Keith never moves here, though never really takes anyone either.

So to the second PP goal against:

Again, another ridiculously easy entry, that has the Hawks chasing. Zack Smith (who is awfully close to the Bobs question of “What is it, you would say, you do here?”) chases Gambrell (who?!) far too low in the zone, and because he’s slow he can’t get back to the point to cover for Karlsson’s shot. Seabrook and Maatta can’t recover from the rush from Gambrell, then trying to get set up for the point shot, leaving all sorts of free sticks everywhere.

There were times last night when it also looked like the Hawks were moving out of the way of shots on the PK, which is…a choice. The idea of any kill is to front the point-men, force the puck to the wide areas and block off the cross-seam pass. You want the shots coming from beyond the circles from that angle. It’s easier to block off whoever’s in front of the net there. There is far less net to shoot at. The angles are easier to cover up. And yet it feels like the Hawks never force the puck there.

The other excuse I’m supposed to give you is that Calvin de Haan hasn’t played. That’s cool, but Calvin de Haan is Calvin de Haan. He’s not Larry Robinson circa ’77. He’s also not all that quick, so if everyone else is getting pulled out of position–or not in one to begin with–there is little he can do.

Not exactly the start they were hoping for.


I’m as tired of writing about 4th-line glorified quadruple-A guys as you are of reading about them. Let’s just get through it:

2018-19 Stats (with Senators)

70 GP – 9 G – 19 A – 28 Pts.

44.6 CF% (-0.8 CF% Rel) – 41.3 oZS%

45.2 xGF% (-2.24xGF% Rel)

Avg. TOI: 16:21

A Brief History: You may remember a guy by the name of Artem Anisimov, who was really not good at anything over the last couple seasons. He was no longer Annette Frontpresence—overrated as she always was anyway—he was slow, which is really saying something on this team, his puck handling was laughable, it goes on. He was a 4C making over $4 million a year, which was downright stupid as well as unsustainable. So StanBo finally got rid of him and his contract, but because we were giving away trash, we could only get trash in return.

Enter Zack Smith, lifelong member of the Ottawa Senators, and not only that, a guy that this joke of a team put on waivers before last season and had to take back when there was no better offer. I imagine Smith kinda like George Costanza after he quits—quietly slipping back in and trying to pretend like nothing happened, like it was a joke. Although this is the Senators we’re talking about, so do not take this humiliation to be entirely Smith’s fault—they were also just being douchebags. His paltry production made him a scapegoat, but he was a scapegoat nonetheless for a team with so many, many other problems.

Anyway, at $3.25 million a year he’s still a grossly overpaid 4th, or at best 3rd, line-guy, but thanks to Anisimov’s signing bonus and other financial chicanery that goes into professional sports contracts, both teams end up saving money on this deal, which is really the only thing that matters to these obscenely wealthy shithead dinosaurs in the end.

It Was the Best of Times: The best-case scenario is that Smith isn’t a trainwreck. He fills up time and space so that better players can get a breather, while he and his fellow fourth-liners take dungeon shifts and maybe flip the ice. Or, perhaps Smith can be packaged up with a better layer as part of a trade later in the season, as the plethora of cheaper fourth-liners makes him truly unnecessary. Just do no harm and that would be sufficient.

It Was the BLURST of Times: I’d like to say the worst situation would be for Smith to see serious playing time, because that means the Hawks have no one better than a washed-up former Senator. And while it’s true that such an outcome would be bad, the real worst-case scenario would be if Smith is totally useless. They’re spending over $3 million, which means they probably won’t be able to unload his shitty contract. I know, there’s lots of morons out there, but we just pulled one on Ottawa to get the mild cap-situation improvement we’re now discussing, plus we dumped Manning on the Oilers, so the truly abject morons who would be willing to take this guy might be onto us at this point. At the very least, pawning him off is not something we can count on. And apparently he’s got a back injury right now, which is never a non-issue even if it’s technically something minor. That shit just gets worse. Maybe I’m overly frugal, but wasting that money entirely and not even getting 10 minutes a night from this oaf would be the most lamentable outcome.

Prediction: Zack Smith will manage to both suck and blow, yet the Hawks won’t be able to get rid of him nor will they be willing to eat the shit sandwich that their prior decisions left them with and play a younger prospect in his place. Neither success now nor helping the next generation is what we’ll get, unless he’s hurt for a significant portion of time, in which case we at least won’t have to watch him. We can just watch that cap space go up in flames instead.

Stats from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick

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

Ryan Carpenter

Alex DeBrincat

David Kampf

Patrick Kane

Alex Nylander

Brendan Perlini

Brandon Saad





It probably should have happened a year ago, if ever at all, and you knew it was coming for sure as soon as the Hawks drafted Kirby Dach. The Hawks needed cap space, they needed a space for another center either this year or next, so off Artem Anisimov had to go. And today he did to Ottawa, for Zack Smith. The headline of the deal is that the Hawks will save $1.3M in space over the next two years. I’ll forgive you if you don’t vomit with joy.

On the surface to the uninitiated, it will look a little strange. After all, Anisimov managed 20 goals in three of his four seasons here, and was in between Kane and Panarin when they were setting off all sort of fireworks together for two seasons. To the dedicated observer though, Anismov’s numbers were something of a mirage. He was a plug-plus at best who could barely move and had decent hands around the net. His goals and points were accumulated through the Nuno Gomes method, which is where you let far more talented players ping pucks/balls off of you into the net and you get to take the credit. In a league that’s only getting faster, Anismov’s place became more and more precarious, and he was hardly cut out to be a bottom-six winger as he was at times last season.

Anisimov’s extension will be another cudgel to beat Stan Bowman whenever he is fired or leaves, though those in the know will tell you orders came down from on high on that one to appease the angry masses about the first Brandon Saad trade. Whatever, it’s over now.

Of course, this being the new Hawks ethos, they got a plug in return. They’ve been chasing Zack Smith for years, with rumors of them calling the Senators about him stretching back to at least 2013. He’s got that precious size, except he doesn’t do much with it anymore and he isn’t very quick either. Smith has only managed 20 goals in the league once, where he shot 20%. The past two years he’s pretty much been between a third- and fourth-line contributor, and while listed as a center I have to believe at his age they see him as a wing now. Otherwise you’ve basically made a lateral move for a fraction of cap space now and next year.

Metrically, Smith hasn’t been of any use in a couple years, though he was getting dungeon-shifted by the Sens last year and you might imagine that’s the plan here whether he ends up skating with Kampf or Carpenter or both. Or maybe the Hawks are planning to move him along as well to open up even more cap space. We’ll see.

Smith can certainly act as more of a checking center than Arty ever could, though that would give you 2.5-3 checking centers in Kampf, Smith, and Carpenter. So you’re depth chart looks something like:





Let’s just say there are options on the bottom-six, and that’s even without the longshot of Dach making the team. Again, it’s not that likely that Smith is at center these days, so the most likely solution is Kampf and Carpenter taking the last two center spots, with an outside shot of Caggiula taking some fourth center time (they wanted to try it last year, or so they said).

So there you go, the Anisimov Experience is over. The first Brandon Saad trade now has netted you…well, nothing.  A couple of 20-goal seasons that stood for bupkus. Great work all around.