This would be a good time for a confession. I don’t know what I want, people. Would I be happy if I never heard from Stan Bowman and John McDonough? I mean, maybe? Probably not. They have to talk at some point. And yet when they do the best reaction I can hope for is laughter. I also don’t know what it is exactly I want them to say. While Theo Epstein-like transparency would be nice, that hasn’t exactly worked out that well for Theo of late either.
But I also find it curious you can find in-depth interviews with both of them when the Hawks are in their only streak of looking like…well, barely competent. Should they lose the next five I wonder if we’ll hear from McDonough. I’m guessing no, at least until the announcement of some other useless event the Hawks have procured from the league. Anyway, Stan Bowman gave Tracey Myers of NHL.com some decent time, and we’re going to go through it piece by piece (much like Man On Fire).
On reports the Blackhawks will ask defenseman Duncan Keith before the trade deadline if he wants to stay in Chicago or waive his no-move clause and accept a trade to a contending team:
“I’ve been asked that since the report came out. What I say is the same thing: whenever we’ve had those types of discussions, I wouldn’t comment. It puts the player in a tough spot. I’m not going to get into whether we have or haven’t, will or won’t. The fair thing to say is, both of those guys (Keith and defenseman Brent Seabrook), we’ve played our best hockey in the last stretch when they’ve been playing together. I think [Keith and Seabrook] have been a pair for this last stretch when we’ve played well, and they’re playing well. That’s what we need from them right now.”
Well, huh? Here’s Keith’s CF% during these past eight games: 41.6% scoring-chance share: 41.7% high-danger chance share: 40.9. I’ll spare you what Seabrook’s numbers are, but I assure you they’re also burning piss. Oh, and the save-percentage these last eight games when Keith and Seabrook are out there? .989. But I’m sure they are totes responsible for that.
Again, I don’t expect Stan to shit on the first winning streak of the year or try and talk anyone out of getting excited (good seats still available!). But the fear is that they actually believe this shit. And it wouldn’t be a crime to say something to the effect of, “The results are nice, and the players have worked hard and stuck together to earn them, but there are still aspects of our game that need improvement. We’ve been lucky, but we can build on that.”
If you’ve watched this team most games, you see that Keith and Seabrook can’t get out of their own way (Seabrook couldn’t get out of a sloth’s way right now). Say, this strange, yellow, warm liquid on my ear must mean it’s raining!
On the report that the Blackhawks asked Seabrook to waive his no-move clause, something Seabrook said isn’t true:
“Same answer. The hard part is if I say, well that’s true, the next time you have to keep doing it. You shoot a few [reports] down, then if you decide not to comment on the other one, people think that’s the true one. That’s not always the case. I get it, I realize why the fans want to know. I just think it’s more fair to the players to not be put in that position. It’s unfortunate it went that way, but I realize that the world we live in now is that way. Reports become facts until proven otherwise. Sometimes it should be the other way. I don’t want to specifically comment, other than to say he’s played his best hockey lately and I hope he keeps it up.”
Not exactly a hard-denial, is it? Stan’s right here, that it does put the player in an awful position. Which…would be the exact reason a team would leak that sort of thing? Get the onus off of the organization? Just spitballin’ here. And again, if “this” is Seabrook’s best hockey–as he was an absolute hemorrhoid last night–then Stan knows exactly why these reports are surfacing/being leaked.
On the job done thus far by coach Jeremy Colliton, who took over after Joel Quenneville was fired Nov. 6:
“The biggest thing I can applaud him for is his disposition and positive approach, even in light of a tough start. He never got frustrated, never got down, didn’t allow our group to feel sorry for itself or get upset about things. We still aren’t near where we want to be, but we’ve made a lot of strides. When you start to see those things together, and I think the players are starting to now see and starting to get excited. It’s one thing to believe what someone’s telling you and you want it to work, but it’s not working. Now it’s starting to work, and they start to feel like, ‘wow, now I get it. Now I understand what he’s been saying.’ When you’re around our team, you can pick up there’s a good vibe around the guys. They’re excited and can’t wait to play the game.”
Again, there’s no reason to think Stan is going to hang out his chosen to guy to dry, and nor should he. And some of this is right. Colliton did stay positive, hasn’t singled out anyone, and basically kept his head down. The power play is better, as we keep saying.
But overall, the structure is still rotten. This team is still woeful defensively, and while the personnel will never allow it to be a good defensive team, we repeatedly point out changes that could be made to help it that aren’t being made. It’s fine if the guys are more excited because results happen to bounce their way for a couple weeks, but there is still very little to suggest that this is being built on a foundation made of anything other than sand. While the Hawks blue line is truly terrible, there are some equally terrible blue lines around that are keeping things a little tighter than the Hawks are. That’s because every team is better defensively than the Hawks. It doesn’t really HAVE to be like this.
Ok, Strome’s development can be credited to Colliton, I guess. But we need more than a few weeks of that, too. The idea that this is “starting to work” flies in the face of everything that’s happening on the ice aside from the goalies playing really well and more pucks going in than have been. And you saw last night what happens when one of the goalies doesn’t go Siegfried and Roy.
On assigning 19-year-old defenseman Henri Jokiharju to Rockford of the American Hockey League:
“Sometimes guys get sent down because they aren’t playing well, and sometimes they get sent down because of circumstances. In Henri’s case, it was more circumstantial. He’s played over 20 minutes every game in Rockford and that’s what we’re looking for. Our defense has evolved over the course of a year. We didn’t have [Gustav] Forsling and [Connor] Murphy at the start of the year. If they had been here, Henri may have been in Rockford the whole time. It’s not because he’s not deserving of the NHL; it’s a hard League to play as a teenage defenseman. I think there are only two teenage defensemen in the league (Rasmus Dahlin, 18, of the Buffalo Sabres and Miro Heiskanen, 19, of the Dallas Stars). When you get to be 20, 21, you see those guys filter their way in. They’ve gained experience at the AHL level, they’ve finished college, whatever they do. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid, and he’s not far away. We can bring him back at any point. It’s not disappointment; far from it. He’s exceeded my expectations with how well he’s played.”
This isn’t wholly incorrect either, but if you’re trying to sell me that Gustav Forsling would have kept Jokharju in the AHL at the start of the year had Forsling been healthy, I would use that as grounds for canning your sorry ass right then and there and calling it a love story. Gustav Forsling is Brendan Smith levels of bad, and those of you who have been around here for a while know that I don’t say that lightly. I think Smith is the worst player in the NHL and have since he came up, and I’m telling you Forsling is right there.
Stan is right on circumstances, though. Jokiharju is right-handed and the only Hawk capable of playing on the left and letting Jokiharju be aggressive and get up the ice and support him a bit is Connor Murphy, who was hurt and then didn’t play with him. While the numbers were promising with Keith, we saw far too often a teenager having to clean up #2’s messes all the time. The pairings with others were nothing short of a disaster. So on some level, I get it.
If Jokiharju does come back, it had better be to play with either Murphy on his off-side or Dahlstrom as a third-pairing. But the Hawks have some culpability here in not putting a very young player in the best possible place to succeed. I think that’s what Q was doing when he was here, and I think Q thought that Keith might adjust his game a bit to compensate. He didn’t, we saw what happened.
The interview goes on to talk about the Hawks prospects, and the Holy Troika of Boqvist, Mitchell, and Beaudin get mentioned. And Stan should talk up these guys, because he’s going to have to trade one or two of them. All three will not fit on the roster in the next three years, unless Seabrook is bought out, Murphy traded, Gustafsson gets sold while the price is up (which should be happening now but whatever) and the Hawks add people for these kids to play with. But we’ll have all summer for that talk.