Good morning and welcome back to the Church Of Chief. After several months in isolation we are BACK with the people to deliver Blackhawks conversations to the masses. The season is three weeks away. 18 days to be exact. Lots of stuff to sort out so lets get to it.
The Corey Crawford thumbnail image for this blog was obviously used for a reason. The biggest story about Blackhawks training camp is about who wasn't there.
My honest thoughts are as follows:
1) I don't actually know what is going on with Crawford
2) I think tested positive for coronavirus
There's been lots of speculation about Crawford ranging from Covid-19 to something related to the birth of his new baby to contract ploys to all sorts of other shit about previous absences. Here is why I think it is corona...he didn't "opt out". All NHL players had a deadline which was on Sunday to opt out of this season for personal reasons. If Crawford didn't want to be away from his newborn or if he didn't want to risk injury on a shortened season ahead of what will likely be his final contract then opting out of the season would've been the move. Since he didn't do that, I think it is reasonable to assume that he wants to play. Crawford has been deemed "unfit to play" which is the official NHL lingo during the restart for injuries/covid-19 as to not violate player privacy and HIPAA laws. However...Bowman had this to say
"The way we are handling this is we’re looking at the guys that are here and ready to play. And when Corey’s in that group, then we can talk about Corey"--Stan Bowman
"..when Corey is in that group we can talk about Corey" makes me think that Corey tested positive and he is in isolated quarantine. The timing aspect gets tough because what if he tested positive on Sunday? That would mean he has a minimum two weeks of isolation. If he were cleared to return after two weeks that would give him only one week to get in shape, see live pucks, and get ready to go before having to look Draisaitl and McDavid square in the eyes. Is that enough time to be ready? Is he a better option than Delia or Subban who presumably have played in the one exhibition game and have been seeing practice pucks for three weeks? I don't know. And if Corey has any complications or symptoms his return date could obviously be longer than the mandatory two weeks. Maybe Crawford only becomes an option if the Hawks advance to the next round, but it's hard to imagine the Hawks advancing without a goalie stealing a game or possibly two. Something I was confident Crawford could do. Don't know if Subban or Delia have that in them under these circumstances.
I really fucking hope this isn't the end of the shake up. A bunch of scouts got fired. Nine people in hockey ops got new job titles. Stan Bowman's official title remains Senior VP of Hockey Ops/General Manager. I don't think the Blackhawks would go through the exercise of giving everyone promotions, demotions, and different titles if they were simply rearranging the deck chairs, but I could be wrong. I think the only "hope" at this point is that Danny Wirtz will see fit to hire a President of Hockey Ops to oversee Stan Bowman so he doesn't do things like trade a guy who is capable of scoring 100 points per year for a guy who has a career high of 53 points while those two players were making the exact same amount of money. Or you know…trading Danault, Teravainen, etc and getting nothing of value in return. Or going a decade without being able to draft an NHL caliber goalie or defenseman. You know…for example.
Kane is the QB of the PP no matter where he lines up. I have never loved Duncan Keith in that spot. They've got two lethal right shots available to them for one-timers if Kane is on the right side with Debrincat and Boqvist. I don't understand why Debrincat never seems to be given a shot at being in the heart position in the middle of the 1-3-1. Great release which he doesn't need much time or space to get off. He's also great at getting himself open. He has good hockey sense and would know where to go with the puck. What do I know though.
I've written about this extensively. I don't think it is a good idea. Please read this old blog on the issue
It is my understanding, and I could very well be wrong, that Ian Mitchell has not officially signed his ELC. He agreed to it, but it hasn't actually been signed. Mitchell is not eligible for the playoffs, unfortunately, so from a competitive stand point there is no reason to burn the year. There is also no reason for the Hawks to burn the year off of Mitchell's deal from a contractual stand point. That would mean that Dach, Mitchell, and I believe Boqvist would all be RFAs at the same time in 2022 and that is NO BUENO for a team that is FUCKED when it comes to the salary cap for the near future because of one bald idiot. The ONLY reason to sign and burn a year off of Mitchell's deal is to ensure that he doesn't decide to say fuck you I am walking. He can go back to Canada, train his ass off for a year+, get his degree from Denver University online, and then be the hottest free agent after his "college season". Again, not entirely sure that would be the case, but that would be the only reason I could see fit to burn the year.
He said yes in a statement last night. I am not a neurologist. I really don't know if he should or shouldn't. That is his decision. I hope he's healthy and happy. The Blackhawks might not even want him back, to be quite frank. Two more seasons at $3.9M for a guy who is always going to be an injury risk and just a guy who is likely to slow down from a production stand point because of the way he plays which is…fearless and…reckless. If he can't play that way then he's not an impact player and not worth that cap hit making Stan Bowman and everyone around him…look like a bitch again
Well Stan had so many other liabilities on the roster that he constructed that making the playoffs seemed IMPOSSIBLE at the trade deadline. Trading Lehner was the right move. Now, Stan misread the market and botched that deal getting almost nothing for Lehner who had been one of the better goalies in the league for the last two years, but again…trading him was the right move at the time.
My gut says he plays. Effective, I don't know. The fact that he's even a possibility after having three surgeries and recoveries over quarantine is incredible. The d-pairings yesterday during the practice session were
Now…I don't like Maatta or Koekkoek. I think I have made myself clear on that this year. In a small sample size I actually think Calrsson is the best defenseman of the four at this point. I like his skating, his poise with the puck, and his ability to read plays. If Seabrook can go full speed all out I think I am inclined to have his brain with Carlsson on the third pair and lean on his voice in the room and on the bench. Those things combined, to me, make him more valuable than Koekkoek.
Someone tweeted me about the lines, but I can't find it
Lines are always subject to change and I really don't want to get triggered by this, but I can't help it. Nylander is such a dog. How does saddling him with your best player help you win? That line better be able to keep the puck because there is very limited forechecking there with Kane. I'd rather have Caggiula or Kubalik there. Put Nylander in quarantine and give me Hagel or Sikura or a warm body who will work to recover pucks.
That's it for now. Almost 1400 words. We are back…almost.