Hockey

Before The Dress Rehearsal

We’ve been setting you up bit by bit for the season, but we haven’t gotten a chance to muse much. And musing is what we do best. So before the Hawks have their dress rehearsal tonight, thought we’d go through some things (that weren’t covered on the podcast, which was most things, which you can find here).

-I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while, and it’s Stan Bowman’s take on Kirby Dach. Now, everything that follows is obviously moot if Dach can’t ever actually suit up due to concussion, and it doesn’t sound like that’s going to be tonight. On the ground, he’s going to Europe but probably isn’t going to play in the exhibition game in Berlin or in the season opener. Which is fine, as this weird schedule opener will actually give the Hawks an additional 3-4 practices before the home opener against the Sharks on the 10th. So there’s plenty of time to acclimate Dach for whatever audition he’s going to get.

And the gist of this piece is that he’s going to get it. Stan even hints at keeping him longer than the nine games even if he proves to need more time in the WHL, though that would be kind of silly. The beauty of the schedule here is that after this Euro opener, the Hawks next seven are at home. Which means seven games that Coach Cool Youth Pastor, if he even realizes he can do such a thing, can put Dach in the right spots and keep him away from tricky matchups. Obviously, you can’t go through a season doing that, but it would certainly give us an idea of what Dach can do and what he can’t when set up for success.

Whether Dach sticks or not will be an indication of what exactly the Hawks want out of this season. We’ve been debating this for two years without any answer, because whenever they deign to actually answer a question about what the goals are here it’s always some mealy-mouthed argle bargle trying to halve the line of competitiveness and development. We still honestly have no idea if the Hawks think the playoffs are a must this year, or if their eyes are really on next year and the one after when Dach, Boqvist, and Ian Mitchell are for sure on board. And we won’t, because transparency isn’t something they can spell over at 1901 West.

It would seem to me a third straight playoff-less season would mean everyone is fired, but we’ve though that before. And considering how much it feels like they’ve eaten through their season ticket base, that would be the factor applying the most pressure. They didn’t really have this last year as they remained competitive, but if they’re out of it in March I wonder how many patches of red seats we’ll be seeing in the stands (or won’t be seeing thanks to NBCSN Chicago’s spelunking-like filters).

So if the goal has to be playoffs, then Dach is here. Plain and simple. You’re not as worried about development, and he could walk in right now and be a better third center option than Anton Wedin or David Kampf. Put him between some two-way conscious wingers, and you might have something. If the Hawks send him down, then you have a pretty good idea this season isn’t the priority (and it might not have to be). That is unless he looks completely lost, which I heavily doubt he will.

Dach is a little awkwardly fit because even at home, Dylan Strome also needs sheltering. Ideally, you could trust Strome to not have to be coddled with hammock shifts every time, but we’re not there yet. If he could be, you could start Dach exclusively in the offensive zone and you’d probably have something.

I wonder if some of this Bowman thinking isn’t really hoping that Dach comes up, absolutely kills it, and makes the Strome negotiations in the summer easier. If Dach looks like he’s going to be a #2 or even #1 center by the end of the season, and Strome is knocked down the depth chart, well you’re not so eager to just hand him $6M or $7M are you? It’s definitely a factor.

Either way, Bowman sounds a little more aggressive with this prospect than he has about ones in the past. Part of that is he has a coach who won’t have his own agenda this time around, but I think he knows he’s got something here and he’s not going to get in Dach’s way.

-And when I say putting Dach between two two-way conscious wingers, I’m looking straight at this Saad-Kubalik combination. The Hawks seem intent on making Alex “Fetch” Nylander happen, so he’s with Toews tonight and Kane is going to have ya-ha time with The Hounds Of Justice (well, “The Shield” line was Perlini with DeBrincat and Strome but we’re keeping it). Putting David Kampf between the two of them makes for an effective checking line, and saw Saad control play from a third line spot last year, but there’s more they could be doing.

I am kind of happy Colliton has already decided to see Andrew Shaw in a 4th line role, though it’s probably already knowing what he can do in the top six and give someone else a look. Still, if this is any indication that Beto O’Colliton is a little more infatuated with what Drake Caggiula can do than Shaw, man won’t this be a fun season? This was one of our complaints about the Shaw trade, is that if Caggiula is healthy and fully blown out he kind of does the same things, though maybe not with the hands. Watch this space.

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