It’s been one of the stranger starts to the season, in its lack of action. The Hawks have played one game, while some teams have played four, and we’re just sitting around basically still waiting for the season to get started. We can’t draw any conclusions after one game (we’re not Toronto), so we don’t know anything more or less than we did before. So we’ll try and clear whatever’s going on, which is a whole lot of not much.
-Perhaps the biggest story to watch over this homestand is when Kirby Dach will get into the lineup, and how he will do when he gets there. Given that the nine-game “trial” only covers the games he dresses for, this could go on all month. Which probably wouldn’t make Saskatoon all that happy, but no one has ever given a fuck what Saskatoon thinks and no one ever will. The Hawks are being awfully cautious, though at this point it doesn’t seem to have that much to do with his injured brain.
It’s looking like the Hawks won’t dress him for the home opener, given that he’ll only have a handful of “real” practices under his belt. We all wish to have seen him in preseason, but in preseason he would have been beating up on AHL-level talent for the most part and we’re already pretty sure he can do that.
The other part, as it always is with the Hawks, is the worry about his defensive game. It feels like a lot of the time the Hawks always see what a player can’t be instead of what he can, and the one time they saw what a player could be they ended up with Alex DeBrincat never having to step foot back in junior or in the minors at all. They certainly see what a player could be when they trade for him, i.e. Strome and Nylander (jury’s out there) or Koekkoek (jury’s definitely in there) and we could go on. But when it’s from their own system, they’re awfully harsh.
To me, we already know this team is going to blow defensively. There’s like, no hope that they’ll ever be good. So really, they need to try and outscore all of their problems. Installing Dach right between Saad and Kubalik would help you achieve that. Or the truly ballsy move, which would never ever happen, is to put Toews there to give you a hybrid checking/scoring line and let Dach play with Kane and Mystery Doofus on the left wing and let them only play offense. Teams would be tempted to play their top lines against that one, and probably do very well doing so, but would also run the risk of a Saad-Toews-Kubalik unit running roughshod over their second and third lines. But this will only happen in my mind.
The thing is, Dach is not going to learn that much about defense playing against children he’s putting up 120 points against. We pretty much know he’s physically dominant in that league. It is possible to drip-feed him responsibility at the top level, with some rough nights assuredly in there. With DeBrincat’s extension, we know the Hawks are merely focused on the next three to four years before a hard reset for just about everything. There actually isn’t that much time to waste.
-It’s a little silly to say in October, and things can change down the line, but the Hawks kind of do need to crush this season opening homestand. For one, the only world-beater on the docket is the Knights, who have spent three games looking like the West’s best, which makes me feel made of vomit. There’s also the little nugget that the Hawks have never beaten them. There’s a couple actually bad teams on here, a couple middling (though the Hawks just got their ass kicked by one of them). And whatever the Jets are right now, which is probably all of these things in one. Except without a defense.
But more importantly, if the Hawks don’t gain some kind of energy from even a 4-3 or hopefully 5-2 or better, you’d have to think there would be even more questions about the stewardship of this team or what it’s meant to do. You can’t really ask for more at the start of a season than seven straight home games. Everything the “Magic Training Camp” was supposed to do can be most easily instilled with this many home games. Everything you want to do, you’re supposed to be able to do at home. Especially when the opposition isn’t all that daunting for the most part.
If the Hawks still look disjointed and ill-equipped, there won’t be the excuses of “having to change systems on the fly” like there was last year. Or getting used to a new voice. Or figuring out what team they have. They’re supposed to know, and these seven games should show one way or the other.
The schedule, if you can judge it only a week in on who you think is good and isn’t, doesn’t really get daunting until the end of November. But we’ve seen what happens when this team has to chase later in the year. Here’s a chance to start to carve out a trench.
-Anyone else think it’s weird that training camp started with worries over Calvin de Haan’s shoulder and now it’s his groin that’s keeping him questionable?
-One thing we haven’t discussed a lot, and probably should have, is how Jeremy Colliton will handle a goalie controversy. We can expect Lehner and Crawford to split starts just about to begin. But what if on these seven games Lehner severely outplays Crow? If it’s the other way, that’s easy. Crow is the pedigreed veteran everyone loves. But if Lehner starts to earn the lion’s share of time, is this something a young coach in his first full season is ready to handle? Can he actually sit a vet with far more accomplishments than he has? And if he does, why does it have to stop there?
At least it’s interesting.