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The Blackhawks Are Back And So Are You Mailbag Questions, Let's Dive In

Welcome back to the NHL season and welcome back to the blog. I won't lie, I asked for questions on 12/21 and decided not to ruin my own Christmas break with negativity and then things went from bad to worse. Let's face it...this was the worst off-season in recent memory. Maybe ever. Toews is out with a mystery illness that sounds serious. Dach is out with a wrist injury. Crawford was let go for no reason. The GM who hasn't been able to put together a team capable of getting out of the first round in 5 years and missed the playoffs in 3 straight years somehow earned a promotion and his hand picked coach who is the butt of jokes for other teams around the league is back. Not great. Having said that, the Bears, Bulls, Notre Dame, and the Cubs prevented me from really enjoying that Christmas break as well. So let's just dive back into the misery because we never actually left. The only silver lining is that having hockey is better than not having it. So here we go with your questions

The name to watch this year is Owen Power. The 2021 draft is heavy with defensemen at the top and Power is at the top. I typically don't talk too in depth about prospects, especially this far out, but I am actually somewhat familiar with Owen Power. First of all...BIG time name. That is a Hall of Fame name. I want him in Chicago just for the t-shirt sales alone. He plays for Michigan now so you can see most of his games on the BigTen Network and he stands out. I also saw him play in person out in Geneva when he was a member of the Chicago Steel. 6'6 and 215lbs as an 18 year old. He's a man child. He skates very well for his size. Has offensive ability and looks like a true top pair type guy. He gets compared to Victor Hedman a lot because of the size and mobility. I don't think he's quite that good, but more and more it sounds like he is going to be the top pick. A pick the Blackhawks should be in the running for. A defense corps built around Power and Mitchell is a great place to start. 

Colliton is safe. I don't think he is a good coach, but nobody could win with this roster so he has a built in excuse and Stan has pledged his undying love for him even though Stan's father is rumored to not be a fan of Colliton which is interesting. 

And this is why Colliton is safe, I mean look at these forward lines

Debrincat-Strome-Kane

This line has some holes defensively, but it should at least be fun. 

Kubalik-Soderberg-Shaw

Hard to imagine getting 30 goals out of Kubalik if his center was just signed off the street and is 35 years old and was always slow. Glad to see Shaw back in camp though. 

Janmark-Wallmark-Suter

I like all three of these players, just not together. Looks like the Blackhawks won't really have a choice though.

Highmore-Kampf-Carpenter

I liked these three together in the bubble. They play hard. They're reliable. They'll bring next to nothing offensively, but you will never wish they weren't on the team the way you will with Soderberg. 

It's just impossible to cobble something together that looks like an NHL roster without Toews and Dach. That changes everything. I don't think the Blackhawks were going to make the playoffs with those two guys, but without them things could be ugly. 

The defense could actually be the strength of the team which is WILDLY different from where the Hawks have been since 2015. I actually like these pairings on paper

Keith-Murphy

I love Duncan Keith. He is still a TOP pair type guy at both ends. Maybe not Norris level, but there's nobody I'd rather have out there in a key spot than Duncan Keith. Murphy has really become a nice player. A definite top 4 type guy. These two didn't play great together in 2018 when they had considerable time together but so much has changed. New systems, new coach, and Murphy really coming into his own. This is a good pairing. 

de Haan-Mitchell

If you have been following me on twitter or this blog you know that I LOVE both of these guys. de Haan just does all the little things right. He is simple. He is safe. He's never out of position. He will take away space, create a turnover, move the puck up and out and get off the ice before you even notice he was out there. He is the perfect guy to bring along Mitchell. Mitchell, with de Haan, will be allowed to play to his strengths which is skating and puck movement, but Mitchell is NOT Boqvist. He is not going to be a liability defensively. There will be a learning curve, but eventually Mitchell will be a guy you trust in high leverage situations late in games against top players. I believe in him. This is a good pairing. 

Zadorov-Boqvist

I don't know if Saad for Zadorov was a "good trade", but I do think Zadorov is a good player. He is big, mean, and a true stay-at-home type defenseman. A guy who is physically difficult to play against and a guy who will hopefully allow Boqvist to have the freedom to do the things that made him a top 10 draft pick. Skate, jump in on the rush, jump in on the cycle, create, and score. Boqvist has been a liability and a guy who drags his partner(usually Keith) down. I hope a seemingly complimentary partner stylistically and another year of growth and development make Boqvist take a big leap forward this year because they need him offensively because look at those forward lines. 

The way these pairs are set up on paper it looks pretty decent. But…

Yes, I do kind of want to cry. I think Delia is a very capable NHL back-up caliber goalie. I am interested to see what Subban can do with Jimmy Waite guiding him because I do think he has a ton of talent. Anyway you slice it though the goaltending has been downgraded IMMENSELY. It is crazy to think otherwise or try to justify it. 

The NHL is about goals in and goals out. There's no way you can look at this team with Colliton putting systems together, losing your best two defensive centers, and losing two goalies who were both in the top 10 last year and replacing them with AHL guys is going to get you anything other than a team in the bottom 3. The Blackhawks players are saying all the right things right now. "We want to surprise people", "we have good players in here", "we believe in our group". That's all well and good, but if you were to ask Kane and Keith privately I think they'd tell you they know what is up. Those guys know what it's like to be surrounded by championship talent. They know the difference between Hossa and Pius fucking Suter. They know the difference between Sharp and Soderberg. They have to know this team is garbage and Stan fucked the end of their careers. Those two guys are leaders and the definition of professionals so they're going to show up and give max effort, but they're also not stupid. They know this roster isn't good. 

The Hawks right now look to be right down at the bottom with the Red Wings. With Toews and Dach it would be a different story. With those two and extreme optimism about the goalies you might be able to talk me into a 5th place finish behind Tampa, Dallas, Nashville, and Carolina and in the mix with Florida and CBJ. Now the way it looks is right there with DET at the bottom. 

I am going to enjoy every single second Patrick Kane is on the ice. Same thing for Duncan Keith. Those guys are once in a generation type players. I love watching them. It's important to appreciate the good things and they're as good as it gets and it won't last forever. I am also excited to see the development of Mitchell and Boqvist. I am not super high on Boqvist. Never have been. I am hoping he becomes a weapon offensively to justify that draft pick and trade of Jokiharju. I hope Mitchell becomes something that vaguely reminds us of Duncan Keith. 

They don't. I know that for a fact. I really like Danny Wirtz on a personal level and I believe in him as a steward for the organization long term. I don't think he knows that teams around the league think Stan and Jeremy are a joke. The Blackhawks front office is seen as an organization that can be taken advantage of. Their analytics department is in the stone age which is crazy because Stan is seen as analytic guy. I've had people from four organizations(two east and two west) say that the Hawks simply don't have good talent evaluators at the NHL level. Everyone respects Mark Kelley, but the others at the top stink. Internally it sounds like Stan only really listens to Ryan Stewart and Pierre Gauthier and not the guy most respected by outsiders…Norm MacIver. 

I think Danny spent a lot of time with Stan in the bubble. Grew to like and trust him and that was a mistake. Perhaps it was a mistake he inherited from McDonough and that is part of the equation, but the results aren't there and everyone seems to know the score around the league. I do think Danny will realize what is up eventually, but in the meantime we are on the verge of another lost year and a waste of the Kane-Toews-Keith era. It's sad.