It’s only one report. And you can hear things differently. But The Athletic’s Scott Powers had some thoughts yesterday, and boy do they set you out to kind of ignore next season. Let’s go through them.
1. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported Tuesday the Blackhawks’ offseason objective now that they’ve signed two defensemen is to find a forward or two who could help on faceoffs and the penalty kill.
No question that the Hawks penalty kill sucked, but it sucked because they didn’t have a single d-man who could play on it. Seabrook was too slow to react to anything, Keith didn’t care, Dahlstrom was overwhelmed, Slater Koekkoek has a terminal case of being Slater Koekkoek, and I don’t have to talk about Gustav Forsling anymore so I’m not going to. When Connor Murphy wasn’t out there, and he had way too much to do, it was a problem.
So fine, if you want some quick forwards to apply more pressure, that’s not a bad thing. But it can’t be all that they do. And you could probably fashion a PK out of Toews, Saad, Caggiula, Kampf, Kubalik, and Perlini (whose speed could be a real weapon on the kill if he could be taught where to be).
The whole faceoff thing…aren’t we past this? Kampf had a rough year at the dot last year but was 53% in his rookie year so we know he can do it. The Flyers, Ducks, and Red Wings were in the top ten in faceoffs last year as a team. The Caps, Islanders, Canes, and Avs were in the bottom-10. Faceoffs as a whole aren’t as important as teams still think. Individual draws are, and you’ve got enough for that. It’s not worth tossing $3M at Bellemare to win the occasional draw. Jesus Christ.
2. Powers goes on to project what the team will look like:
That’s the same forward group that got nowhere near the playoffs last season. Why are we supposed to get excited? Where is this going?
That blue line sucks hard. Like golfball through a garden hose hard. It’s also ridiculously slow. Is it better than last year? Sure. but what kind of bar is that?
What’s really worrying is that the rumbling from more than just Powers and Stan’s actual quotes on the Score on Tuesday is that Henri Jokiharju is going to struggle to make the team out of camp. Which is a big fucking problem, because if he can’t crack this he sucks. Yeah, he only had a half season at Rockford, but if he’s all they want you to believe he is than that should be enough. Also, there’s no allowance for Boqvist blowing everyone away in camp, but I guess that’s some miracle now even though Joel Qunneville, a far more experienced coach than the mannequin currently in the position, was making noise that he wanted to keep Boqvist around last year.
Oh, and here’s the kicker:
Jokiharju is probably a better fit than a few of the defensemen listed there, but best fit likely won’t decide which defensemen are in the lineup. Contracts and experience will probably be factored in too, and that could mean Jokiharju is on the outside looking in next season.
THIS IS THE GODDAMN FUCKING HORSESHITING PROBLEM!
Contracts and experience don’t matter when it comes to figure out your lineup (I’m going to turn into Brad Pitt here, “HIS DEFENSE DOES NOT MATTER!”) This is simply the Hawks justifying keeping Seabrook in the lineup. You’re already spending that money and his experience isn’t going to help him not skate and move like he just shit out a badger in his hockey pants so quit doubling your mistake. HIS CONTRACT DOES NOT MATTER.
Anyway, the only other nugget is that the Hawks are terrified of Strome’s and Top Cat’s next contract tying their hands again. An easy solution would be to punt Artem Anisimov into any box marked, “To Timbuktu,” and open up more space. That also opens a spot for Dach to make the team.
And that’s the main problem for me now. Because even if I accept that the Hawks really do regard this as yet another rebuilding year–and please release any video or audio of them selling that to Keith, Seabrook, Toews, and Kane–then that team listed above is your base. And I’m supposed to believe that the additions of Dach and Boqvist and maybe Mitchell make it a Cup contender? Sell that one to me. It’s a playoff team. It’s a decent team. Maybe it makes some noise behind a hot Crawford. But a really good team? I don’t see it.
But it’s a process, not a plan.