23. I’ve chased Jonathan Toews during the off-season. He prefers his privacy and declines interviews, which is totally understandable. I only bring it up because the fact he surfaced to give an interview to The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus about the Blackhawks’ direction is significant. Toews wanted to make a point. Chicago’s decision making says to me that Blackhawks ownership doesn’t feel the team can contend for a Stanley Cup, knows the economics are extremely challenging without fans and are punting on next season.
That little excerpt there was from Elliotte Friedman's 31 thoughts. Toews has ALWAYS been a good soldier. The Captain. The face of the franchise who has been a model employee and citizen of Chicago. Friedman is right, this quote from Toews is significant. It's the closest he has ever gotten to an open mutiny. I would also guarantee that Keith and Kane are right there with him. Kane probably a little less frustrated overall, Keith probably a little more. But all three are frustrated nonetheless. Whitney put it out there that maybe this whole thing is coming to an end
There was also this comment from an anonymous source from The Athletic
Interesting quote. They're not selling him. They've sold him. Or maybe Rocky. I think there are many factors at hand here. Loyalty from the Wirtz family(Rocky is still involved), covid-19 implications for 2021, financial ramifications(they owe McDonough somewhere in the neighborhood of $12M. They also owe big money to Stan Bowman, Jay Blunk, and Al MacIsaac), and mostly…a big ole heaping pile of bullshit.
It'd be one thing if the Blackhawks were tearing it down because Toews, Kane, Keith, and Crawford were no longer good. That's not the case. We JUST saw those guys dominate Edmonton in the bubble. Vegas was CLEARLY the better team, but if the Blackhawks had a competent hockey ops department they would've looked at their roster and tried to add one more top 6 winger, one more defenseman, signed Crawford, and then hired a real coach. You do those things and then you're probably competitive with Vegas. There would be a transition from the core to the next core built around Dach and Mitchell. Maybe there is one more spike if you do everything correctly. What you don't have to worry about is pissing everyone off from players to fans and potentially alienating the fan base that came FLOODING back to the United Center under Rocky's stewardship. That is a real risk now. The hardcore hockey fans will always be there, but they've grown the base with "new fans" and those fans will turn their attention to the Bulls or really anything else because the team has been shit for 5 full years and many failed plans by Stan Bowman.
Anyways, let's take a look at the roster and I will try to be as positive as possible.
I think people will be surprised to see Wallmark here, but I think he fits with Kane and Dach. He is a very smart player. He has some offensive ability. He works hard and wins pucks back. Those are things that play well with Patrick Kane. We saw a guy like Ryan Carpenter have "success" when he played with Patrick Kane. Wallmark does some of those same things and does them at a little higher level than Carps. I like this signing and the potential for this line if Jeremy doesn't just hand Nylander a top 6 role again. Whatever line Kane is on is your #1 line, but in general I hate numbering lines. It's how and when the lines are deployed that matter.
Toews and Kubalik clearly belong together. It's the other winger that needs to be figured out. I've watched the YouTubes. I have talked to people who played against him in Europe. They all say the same thing about Suter: Smart, works hard, not really physically gifted, but he thinks the game at a high level so it makes up for his lack of speed and strength. I am hoping that Suter has been working on his strength in this extended offseason so he can come in ready for North American hockey. He is a different type of player than Kubalik, but they put up extremely similar numbers in the Swiss league. It's not impossible for him to be a nice piece next year.
I don't love the look of this line to be honest, but I don't know how this puzzle fits together. I like Janmark. He is a solid 3rd liner in the right situation. He can play some center. He is good defensively. Really strong on the PK. I am worried that this line will be REMARKABLY slow. And if Janmark, the defensive wiz is here with 12 and 17 getting all of these offensive zone face-offs and sheltered minutes is that really maximizing Janmark's potential and playing to his strengths? Probably not, but I also can't find a place in the lineup where he fits in naturally.
This was an effective line in the playoffs. They're all three pretty well suited for the playoffs. They play a hard nosed game. It's simple. It can be effective at times. I wish there was a little more beef and a little more physicality on this line, but you'll never be mad when these guys are on the ice because they compete hard every shift. They don't have a ton of talent, but if they can play the opponent even and wear them out that's a win.
There's a TON of question marks with this group. Where does Nylander fit(nowhere imo)? Is Shaw going to play? Is Strome going to sign? Should Strome even be signed? Can Debrincat bounce back and live up to that cap hit? Can Kubalik repeat last year's production? Is Brandon Pirri an option somewhere? Can Suter even play in the NHL? Will guys like Evan Barratt and Phil Kurashev get some burn this year? If Andrew Shaw is Andrew Shaw then the top 9 looks a little better.
I like the guys the Hawks brought in. I just don't like what they're likely going to be asked to do…which is more than they can. I also don't trust Jeremy to put them in the best position to succeed because we've yet to see him do that.
I think I am higher on Ian Mitchell than most. I love the kid. He is smart. He is skilled. He communicates well. Good guy. Teammates and coaches love him. He wants to be great. He honestly reminds me a little of Duncan Keith in some ways. The one thing that Keith has that makes him one of the greatest defensemen ever is his bite. He's a mean sonofabitch on the ice. I don't know if Mitchell has that. He is smarter and better defensively than Boqvist. I think Mitchell will have a smoother transition to the NHL than Boqvist. I also think his smarts make him better suited to play with Duncan Keith
I liked these guys together a lot. I could also see one of them playing with Keith. When 44 is with 5 you just feel safe. You know what to expect. Their games are simple and predictable. They're easy guys for their teammates to play with because they can be trusted to make the plays that put out fires. This can be your shut down pair. Take away space, win a battle, find a teammate or the glass, out of the zone, off the ice, rinse, repeat.
It is NOT Zadorov's fault that Stan traded Panarin for Saad in one of his failed plans and then traded Saad for Zadorov…a 3rd pair defenseman. I like Zadorov's game. Always have. He is an upgrade in this spot over Maatta. He uses his reach and body to take away space. He is hard to play against. Another guy that you can usually trust to make the right play. A true stay at home type, but I think he skates better than people realize and he isn't horrible with the puck on his stick either. I think he is a good partner, in theory for Boqvist. Boqvist needs to be unleashed. He is never going to be a top 4 defenseman who you want on the ice when you're up a goal and trying to defend a lead or defend anything. The ONLY way he has value is if he's allowed to take risks, use his feet, and create offense. The best way to free him up to do that is to pair him with a guy who will have his back. That can be Zadorov.
The obvious x-factor here is Seabrook. I've been told that Seabrook is looking fucking jacked and healthy and wants to give everyone(Stan and Jeremy) a big FUCK you. I don't know that it will matter though. Seabrook could look like 2013 Seabrook and Stan will probably put him on waivers and if he doesn't Jeremy will put him in the press box. They don't care about the vets at all. They don't really care about winning either. I think they want Mitchell in the lineup to start the year. Same with Boqvist. That squeezes Seabrook out. Having said that…there's probably going to be some covid issues next year in addition to regular injuries. I think there will be opportunities for everyone including Seabrook. At this time I wouldn't say that Seabrook is a top 6 defenseman, but I would like to see him get a fair shot. Mitchell or Boqvist getting more seasoning in RFD wouldn't be a bad thing necessarily either.
There's also guys like Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson, and maybe Wyatt Kalynuk who could see some time. I really like Carlsson. I think he's a nice player with an NHL future. Just feels like he's getting the squeeze because Boqvist and Mitchell have higher end ceilings.
Overall, the Blackhawks added a handful of guys who should make them better defensively. Janmark, Zadorov, Suter, Wallmark, and even Mitchell as a rookie in theory should all help the Blackhawks keep pucks out of their net. The only problem with that is that the Blackhawks clearly don't care about keeping pucks out of their net because…
This, again, is where the entire off-season falls apart. The Saad trade was a head-scratcher because of all the baggage that went with it. None of their moves are consistent with a rebuild. Why add guys like this that make you better on the PK and 5 on 5 if you're not going to sign Crawford? What the Blackhawks did net-net was put together a roster that gets the same result in a different way. This is a team with Colliton at the helm that is good enough to finish fucking 12th again and probably pick 10th. With Crawford maybe they finish 7th or 8th and you know…the most important people in the organization aren't disgruntled employees who feel shut out and disrespected by management and coaches. The plan seems to be no coherent plan…again.
There will be moments during the season that if you squint your eyes you'll see the greatness of the past, and if you drink enough you might see hope in the future, but the present is going to be frustrating. The future sold by Stan is a mirage. He fucked this up beyond repair and how he's allowed to stay on is beyond me. He won the battle against Joel Quenneville. He threw McDonough under the bus. Now it looks like he's going to win a battle against Toews and Kane too. It absolutely SUCKS that this is the reality right now. I'm disgusted that I wrote that sentence.