Lots to talk about in the wake of last night's 5-2 loss at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, and not much of it good.
Before I dive in to the vitriol, allow me to offer my season-long caveat: this team is on an upward trend long-term, in spite of its recent poor play. Probably about one third of the current roster is composed of guys who should be playing in the AHL, which is due to both injuries and just a lack of quality depth at this point.
There I said it again. Now onto today's issues.
Nikolai Khabibuiln has become an albatross for the franchise. 4 goals in the first 8 shots of the game last night, two of them softies. Does anyone realistically believe he will ever be the goalie he was five years ago? But at $6.75 million per, in the age of the salary cap, he must be. The issue has gone from what can you get for Khabibulin in trade to just 'get anything,' a box of tape, to get his number off the payroll.
If Troy Brouwer was sent back to Rockford because of deficient skating and not making an impact, then in all fairness, so should Cam Barker. Folks, sometimes, prospects, as bally-hooed as some of them are, just don't develop. Barker is a horrid skater. He looks completely overwhelmed. Time to cut bait.
Yesterday on cbh.com, I posted that I suspected the trade rumors surrounding the Hawks involved either Rob Blake or Mathieu Schneider. But as I nursed a couple of glasses of Barolo (yum) last night while watching the Minnesota debacle, another name kept popping into my head: McCabe. I'm not saying that means he's a better option. Something just tells me that, for better or worse, might be what Dale Tallon ends up doing. Stay tuned.
If the Hawks had played in the first two periods last night like they did in the third, they would have won 3-0, instead of losing 5-2. They played the third with incredible intensity and fury, thoroughly dominating the action in the Minnesota zone. Kudos to Josh Harding, the kind of goalie prospect the Hawks could really use right now, who stood on his head. The clear lesson here is that the Hawks need to come out and play that way for 60 minutes, And if they don't, there's a problem in that dressing room.
One difference was Dustin Byfuglien moved back to forward in the third period. Get used to it, fans. Sopel's back, Wisniewski starts skating Monday and Byfuglien makes a difference in terms of puck control in the offensive zone. He (along with Barker) made a mistake that turned into a Minnesota goal. Probably sooner than later, he's at forward to stay.
At the beginning of the season, there was a lot of talk from the Hawk coaches and brass that Tuomo Ruutu needs to try for less big hits and focus more on his offensive output. He seems to have reverted to his old form of late, and I, for one, have no problem with it. He's a force when he plays physically. I wish the rest of the Hawks played with the same fury from horn to horn.
The Hawks are in Nashville Sunday night to play a team they should beat. Again, if there's any silver lining to this cloud, it was the amazing effort and intensity in the third period of last night's loss.
Maybe the young Hawks will pack it for their trip to the Music City.