It's definitely seemed quiet in Blackhawk Nation of late.
After Wednesday's pathetic 6-3 loss to an even more-injured (than the Hawks) Avalanche club, the Blackhawks have settled in Silicon Valley for tonight's tilt against the Sharks and another two day rest following that.
But some things have changed. The scathing remarks from Denis Savard have become quite positive. While Dale Tallon is still publicly stating that the playoffs are the goal, he's starting to sound an awful lot like a GM planning for next year.
That said, the following are some things Hawk fans can count on over the next 12 months.
Those who are still caught up in the rush of hysteria about the Hawks' early season achievements are perhaps going to elevate their cries for the heads of Savard and Tallon. Those who take the longer perspective, like yours truly and Al Cimaglia, are going to look forward to a much better team in '08-'09.
1. Dustin Byfuglien is now a forward and will remain there for the rest of the season. For now, he will be playing with Kane and Lang. And he will also be asked to play in front of the net on the PP.
Talk about a screen.
He also gives new meaning to the term "immoveable object." The Hawks are clearly putting him in position to succeed as a forward. It's a smart move. Because his combination of size, puck skills and offensive insticts can make him a force as a power forward.
2. Marty Lapointe, Yanic Perreault and possibly Patrick Lalime will all be wearing other sweaters on February 27. These are not huge moves. But they will add draft picks in strong 2008 and 2009 drafts. They might also net another quality prospect like Kris Versteeg.
3. Robert Lang could be moved, though it's doubtful. Recently elected an alternate captain by his teammates, Lang's veteran presence at center and on the PP is still a positive for this young team.
4. Marty Havlat and Nik Khabibulin could be moved. The reason the Hawks would consider moving these players is also the reason they most likely can't move them: their huge salaries. While one could expect a fairly significant return for Havlat, the Hawks would probably take anything for Khabibulin. And thus, the Russian netminder is the more likely of the two to be moved before the deadline. A couple of possible scenarios involve Ottawa and/or Tampa Bay. The Hawks might move Khabibulin for some combination of Ray Emery and another player or prospect. Emery would then be given the opportunity to fly right for the remainder of the season. And if he brings his hijinks to Chicago, he would subsequently be bought out (for much less than doing the same with Khabibulin). With the Hawks' cap room and desperate need for more scoring, Khabibulin (and a top prospect) could be traded to Tampa for Brad Richards and another roster player. The Wall still has many fans and friends in the Bolts' organization, and the move would provide Tampa with $2-3 million in cap relief.
5. The Hawks will very likely be a lottery team, and therefore have a shot at Steve Stamkos or any of a number of big-time defensive prospects. Stamkos, like Patrick Kane, is an elite talent who would most likely play for the Hawks' immediately next season.
6. The Hawks will most likely wait until free agency to land a top-4 defenseman who can also run their PP. Put Dan Boyle and Brian Campbell at the top of the list. The difference this off-season versus years past is that the Hawks' youthful talent, central location in one of the world's great cities and re-energized organization now makes them one of the top 5 draws for free agents, as opposed to a bargain bin rag picker. A #1 goalie is also a possibility, especially if Khabibulin is gone. If the Hawks don't land, say, Richards or Stamkos, look for them also to bolster the lineup in free agency, perhaps looking at a veteran power forward who can score.
Taken together, along with the return and growth of Jonathan Toews and Pat Kane, these possibilities present a much better Hawk team in 08-09. An improved top 4 defense, power play and top 6 forwards, another year's maturity for all the kids throughout the organization.
And make no mistake, this scenario is where Dale Tallon and John McDonough are steering the organization as of today.