While us fans are still going to bask in the glow of Monday’s victory and Thursday’s parade (or in my case, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s Kyle Schwarber performance), this week is when the Hawks front office has to start to pivot toward next year, and namely to the point clearing out cap space to get Saad, Kruger, and whoever else they might like into the fold so we can attempt to do this all again in a year’s time.
Watching this unfold, I have to say I’ve been impressed with the local media’s reserved, optimistic tone about what the Hawks can do next year while the national — both here and north of the 49th — have been forecasting doom and gloom and it’s 2011 all over again! As it’s our job to piss on national and local narratives alike, let me poke some holes in this latter view, if you don’t mind.
Ignoring whatever moves are coming, we know for sure (unless the Hawks out-think themselves which they probably will), that the Hawks will raise this banner next October with Toews-Teuvo-Kruger-Danault down the middle (I’m higher on Danault than most, but I also am confident I’ll be proven right). That’s as deep down the middle to start a season, repeat: to start a season, as the Hawks have been since Toews-Sharp-Bolland-Madden in 2010. Would it take a change in contstruction from Q? A little. Q has reveled the past two seasons in rolling basically three scoring lines and one checking line instead of the normal two scoring, one checking, 1 goof formation of everyone else. With Kruger on the 3rd line, it would be hard to call that one a scoring one. But you could certainly still be a very successful team that way. That formation down the middle would be on the small side of course, but the team the Hawks just beat in the Final is on the small side down the middle. The Ducks and Blues are all big down the middle, how’s that going for them? It takes more than that.
At the base of this team, Johnny Oduya (unless he leaves a fuckton of money on the table) walking is going to hurt. No question. However, Stephen Johns is going to step right in and while there’s going to be a hell of a learning curve, he just might provide a little more push from the back than Oduya did, while not providing the defensive assuredness, at least not yet. If Trevor van Riemsdyk is just a solid third-pairing guy (and that’s what I think his ceiling is), the Hawks really only need to have one of Paliotta, Svedberg, Pokka, or nameless veteran they sign (which is clearly going to be Scott Hannan or Barret Jackman and this blog will cease to exist due to mass suicide) to come through to actually have a deeper blue line than last year. It wouldn’t have the high points, but it also wouldn’t struggle so badly at the low points, in case you forgot what Rozsival looked like in the regular season.
No, Brent Seabrook isn’t going anywhere despite the fantasies of every other fanbase in the league. As John said, it’s quite clear just how much he means to this team and I doubt there’s even another candidate to take Sharp’s “A” when he is tossed overboard this week.
So solid down the middle, and solid at the blue line. Gee, that sounds like the basis for a pretty good team doesn’t it? And we haven’t even mentioned Kane, Saad, Hossa, Shaw (could be real effective as a 3rd line winger). Hmmm..
Now, for what the Hawks are losing. Patrick Sharp is certainly going to tug at the heart strings when he goes, and that will deserve its own post later in the week. Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell are certainly going to be flogged if anyone will take them. It sounds like a lot to those who aren’t paying attention. But y’ know… it was only 33 even-strength goals during the regular season between them. It was five ES goals in the playoffs. Yes, we documented just how unlucky Sharp was considering his possession and shot numbers (and we did that in February, just so everyone’s clear), but he’s still turning 34 next year.
The Hawks’ prospects at wing aren’t as glittering as those at center and defense. I think it’s curious Mark McNeill is the only one of this generation to not have made his NHL debut yet. I want to believe in Garret Ross, but most in the know tell me not to. Ryan Hartman has a definite ceiling on what he can produce, I think, and it’s bottom six stuff. We have no idea what Panarin can do, honestly. Leading KHL scorers don’t always transfer well. Stephane Da Costa was slotted right above him in points in that league, and right now you’re wondering who that is. My point exactly.
This is why I think there’s talk of bringing Richards back if he’ll take another discounted deal. You could slot Teuvo down, or put him at wing again (don’t do this), or have Danault apprentice as a wing as well, making Shaw available to move up or Hartman or McNeill if they prove it. It should only be another one-year deal (learn your Rozsival lesson, Stan), but it would make sense.
Anyway, I’ll get into the minutiae of it all tomorrow, with the numbers and what it might take to bring in Saad and Kruger reasonably.