Musings

Grinds My Gears: Christmas Reset

Hey all, it’s been a few days. Had a good break, I hope. Spent it with your family either arguing about minuscule stuff or just being drunk… and arguing about minuscule stuff. As Hawks fans, or just Hawks watchers, you even get an extra day before we dive right back into it all. Good thing, too. Anyway, thought it would be time to air all our previous grievances from before the break to see where we are. Post-Festivus, let’s say.

These will probably sound familiar to most of you, but hey, sometimes you can’t get blood from a turnip or stone or rock or whatever the fuck these freaks are trying to get blood from. Which is actually very weird. I don’t want blood. I’m not a fucking vampire. Fifth Feather, he’s the vampire wannabe.

BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

Basically, everything that follows is my complaints about how this team has been managed. And yes, I think Q has done a borderline shitty job this year after doing yeoman’s work the past two years, I would argue. Whether he has just nothing to work with (and I really don’t believe that), is still in a snit from watching pet projects Hjalmarsson and Panarin dealt, or quite simply just doesn’t quite care as much anymore, I have no idea. But here’s where he’s losing me:

-The distribution of zone starts to his defense. This has been the dead horse we’ve already turned into paste at this point. But to repeat: the two d-men who have taken the biggest percentage of their shifts starting in the defensive zone are Jan Rutta and Gustav Forsling. They also might double as the two worst defensive players on the Hawks blue line, though Seabrook or Franson could poke their head into the room and say, “Is that your final answer?” in some awful, CBS-sitcom fashion that this season has felt at times.

This is just plainly stupid. Despite the broadcast’s/organization’s Pravda-like spreading of the gospel of Forsling, he sucks in his own zone. Like, out loud. And that’s fine for now. That can take some time to learn, and especially when the Hawks have other options. Take Forsling’s use with that of Will Butcher’s on New Jersey. He and Forsling are about the same size, similar skill-set. Butcher almost never starts in his own zone, and has 23 points. Forsling has 12. You can’t tell me that Butcher is that much more talented than Forsling.

Q might sit here and say that Forsling and Rutta aren’t the only ones who need to be kept out of their own zone, that Seabrook and Franson need the help, too. That isn’t necessarily wrong, but A. Franson shouldn’t be playing that much and B. Seabrook’s bigger problems are in transition so maybe just planting him in his own zone where he doesn’t have to worry about streaking forwards or puck retrievals might actually be the safer plan.

Duncan Keith is still good. He can take it on. He can probably save Rutta from himself, which Forsling most certainly can’t. Or if you’re still in love with Connor Murphy on his off-side, you can pair him with Rutta. Because if Murphy can keep Seabrook from choking on a ham-bone, he certainly can do the same with Rutta. Or better yet get Kempny out of the doghouse and just let him play because he’s good and shoots himself in the face with a bazooka less than Forsling does.

-Nick Schmaltz is a center, Ryan Hartman is not. Yes, I know Hartman played some center in junior. Yes, I know that Q loves to come up with solutions out of nowhere to satisfy is giant, throbbing brain. But if the Hawks ever thought Hartman could play center at this level, they should have at least had him do it some of the time in Rockford. So not only are you asking him to play a spot he hasn’t as a pro, you’re also asking him to do it after four seasons of not.

I understand the problems with Schmaltz at center. He can’t win a draw, and he’s slight. And yet there he is on the penalty kill, so Q must think he’s not completely helpless defensively. Yes, I know Arty The One Man Party is kind of useless if he’s not playing with Kane, and that’s another problem. But the world is dying for Top Cat-Nick At Nite-Kane. Let us just see it for a game or two.

This gets into a larger, organizational discussion, because Vinnie Smalls was brought up to play center, except he hasn’t played center at Rockford all season. Does Q know this? Whatever the answer is, I don’t feel good about it. Imagine the Cubs or Sox bringing up an infielder and then sticking him in center without him ever playing there in the AAA. Yes yes, stick your Kyle Schwarber jokes here.

-Saad and Toews need a playmaker. This has been obvious all season. The three seasons we had of Saad-Toews-Hossa scoring simply because they willed it into being are gone. Hossa has leprosy, Toews just isn’t that player anymore. They’ll keep the puck in the right areas, they just need help making that count. We saw Top Cat on the left side for like two games, and then it was abandoned so he could return to playing with corpses. Give it five, give it ten, because if you don’t get Toews and Saad scoring regularly, we can just dock this showboat right now.

-Did they rush Crawford from injury? The easy way out of this is to say that decision is the Hawks medical staff’s and Crawford’s. And yet this would hardly be the first time we’ve seen this under Q. Well, now Crow is out again. I guess it was necessary for those games against Buffalo, Arizona, and Florida with how they went, but it shouldn’t have been.

Look, I get it. Q’s cards aren’t great. He has no third line because Patrick Sharp died and Richard Panik had the temerity to turn back into Richard Panik (by the way Josh Jooris is kicking ass for the Canes, and is younger, faster, and cheaper than Patrick Sharp. I’m just gonna sit here and cry). That’s forced the fourth line into harder assignments than you’d like. The defense is a bit mismatched, but Q’s making that worse.

The Hawks only sit one point out of a playoff spot and have games in hand on everyone. It’s hardly disaster, it’s just not where we’re used to being. But it it’s going to get better, removing head from anus is always a good start, as my father used to tell me regularly.

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