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www.the-rink.com • 55 Years Old • Male

As The Indianhead Turns

Posted 7:53 AM ET | Comments 5
With last night's 3-1 victory over Calgary, one streak ends, and another is probably beginning.

Other than a rash of injuries to key players and the emergence of Pat Kane and Jonathan Toews, that's been the story of the Hawks' season thus far: back-to-back-to-back winning and losing streaks of 4-6 games. Those are the hallmarks of a very young team, and a .500 team, both of which the Hawks most assuredly are.

And back, perhaps, on a winning note, the Hawks' hopes will be further bolstered by the possible return of Toews and Jason Williams to the lineup. The absence of these two players has hurt the Hawks in all phases of the game, but especially the power play, which was dominant with them in the lineup, and terrible without them.

But before anyone gets all "wacky" with playoff fever, bear in mind, it would probably take a miracle for the Hawks to get the 8th seed some fans seem to covet so much. The rest of this season, to borrow from Al Cimaglia's most recent blog (though I've been saying it myself for a long while now), should be about next year. Specifically:

1. The solidification and growth of Dustin Byfuglien as a power forward

2. Unloading veterans at the trade deadline (Perreault, Lapointe, Lalime, possibly Khabibulin or Havlat) for draft picks or legit prospects.

3. Beginning the search, in earnest, for another somewhat experienced, two-way top 4 defenseman.

4. Ditto for a near-future #1 goaltender

The truth is, this team's timetable has been— and should have been— to be a serious playoff contender next year and a Cup contender the following year. As much as Hawk fans want a fairy tale ending and an overnight transformation of the team, the NHL is a tough business, and the road to the Stanley Cup a grueling one.

There are holes in the Hawks' game that prevent them from taking those steps right now. The good news is, there are less of them than there were a year ago. In addition to Toews and Kane appearing on the scene, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent seabrook and to a lesser extent James Wisniewski and Tuomo Ruutu have all stepped up. No, Ruutu hasn't scored much, but can anyone doubt his physical contribution? Cam Barker is starting to show some glimmers of the player he can be. Byfuglien has been both a revelation and a mystery, but now seems to be finally settled in at the position he should be at. From here, it's all about him getting comfortable and really defining his game as a forward.

Next year, Dave Bolland will help this team. The talented Petri Kontiola could be back in the mix. And remember this name: Niklas Hjalmarsson. This 20 year-old Swedish defenseman is turning some heads in the AHL, with a solid end to end play and devastating— I mean devastating— hits.

There's also a lot of cap room for the Hawks to add 1-2 marquee ($5 mil+ per season) free agents.

So Hawk fans, sit back and pop an Old Style in the rumpus room. Watch the young Hawks lay the groundwork for next year. The pieces are starting to fall into place.
Filed Under:   AHL   Blackhawks   Flames  
February 8, 2008 12:56 PM ET | Delete
I'm in agreement somewhat. I don't think a doom-and-gloom outlook for this team is totally warranted. Lots of good exists in some core areas (despite decidedly lacking it in others).I'm a little concerned that our precipitous fall after such a hot start may yet again hurt our chances of trading for or signing quality players at fair market value, without overpaying. And despite rumblings here and there, I would bet just about any amount that no team in the league will trade for Khabibulin or Havlat. They are our albatrosses, and no one in their right mind will want to take that on. But who knows, we may have some luck. Both are untradeable, and even though I think their departure would help the team more than hinder it, next year we might (despite the odds) be able to ice a defense that Khabby plays well with, and Havlat might play 70 games. You never know.
February 8, 2008 2:38 PM ET | Delete
icemud,I think the Hawks have turned the corner as far as being an attractive destination to free agents. The pitch is now: be the missing piece that helps us win a cup vs. be the first and only real star on the club. Plus, with the ownership change, you've got packed houses. if I'm a scoring winger I want Kane on the other side from me. If I'm a PP QB, I love the thought of Kane, Byfuglien and Toews out there with me. Plus it's a major media market, but not nearly as hellish on hockey players as TO or NY.
February 8, 2008 3:37 PM ET | Delete
I agree with John, I think there will be some marquee free agents whom would find the idea of coming to Chicago very appealing. Forwards, such as Huseilus whom I think will leave Calgary for unrestricted free agency, is one player that I would like Tallon to pursue. The Flames, will most likely not have enough cap space to resign both Huselius and Langkow, and I think Huselius will be the one to go. Maybe a three year deal worth 3.5-4 million and the promise of a shot to play on a line with Kane and Toews would be enough to land him. If we could go out and get a guy like Huselius along with either Campbell or Boyle, we could really have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs next year, possibly as a 5-8 seed. However, until we solidify the goaltending problems, the playoffs could be a long ways away. Good blog.
February 9, 2008 8:07 AM ET | Delete
99,Thanks for the comment. I agree with you about Campbell or Boyle. Not as sure about Huselius. yes, he's highly skilled, but he's really never produced much until the last couple of years and he's not a very physical player. The Hawks have a lot of skill. What they seem to lack are big, physical, multi-skilled forwards, though moving Byfuglien upfront, along with Toews and Ruutu is a pretty good complement. I stil think the primary focus in free agency needs to be D and goaltending. Khabibulin had a terrific game the other night, but the clock is ticking on him and I have to wonder when he will revert to "form" and start playing sloppy again.
February 9, 2008 9:49 PM ET | Delete
While I agree on most of your points and that we have a bright future , I still think the only thing holding us back is savard , and maybe tallon too. Until this is addressed , we may still have another losing season . The talent we have is better than our record indicates , and is not being used for maximum gain . We really are a better team than last year , but our record is about the same and the excuses are the same .
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