Nov 092010

First off, I’d like to thank Buddy Oakes of Preds On The Glass for having me on his radio show last night.  We talked for about an hour and a half about the Blackhawks, Predators, head shots and what can be done to prevent such hits and some of the injuries that result from those.  If you’re a Twitter-er and ever need a Predators fix, you should follow Buddy.  His other guest last night was Mark from another Predators site, TheViewFrom111.  I jumped on about ten minutes in.  A direct link to listen to last night’s show is here

And after you listen to that, and if you haven’t had your fill of my flu-ridden twang, TheThirdManIn~Radio returns tonight, Live at 8pm central at   No guest tonight.  We’ll have plenty of news, notes and perspective from the two Rockford IceHogs games of the past weekend; Which Rockford prospects are close to helping, who isn’t and who doesn’t belong in the AHL.  I had a chance to take in both games; losses, on Saturday and Sunday.  We’ll get to many more of your emails.  If you have a question or topic you’d like to hear addressed on the show, send me an email at or with “radio show” included in the subject and we’ll get to it on the show….  I actually have an insightful and useful fantasy hockey segment tonight.  Unlike the one I spewed from the crack of my backside last Tuesday.  Professional operation we have here.  Of course we’ll discuss what’s wrong with the Hawks.  What needs to change and small alterations to be made to turn things around?  We’re also shooting straight on what Jack Skille can do if he wants to become an effective, permanent NHLer.

— My intention was to do another full IceHogs postgame report Sunday night after their game with Peoria, however, with travel, work and being ridden with sick and overdoses of over-the-counter anti-flu medicines, Sunday’s game recap dropped off my radar.  If you missed my detailed report of Saturday’s demoralizing 3-1 loss to Manitoba, click here.

Instead, I’ll share the bullet points from Sunday’s 5-1 loss at Carver Arena in Peoria.

– A day after Hannu Toivonen essentially single-handedly blew at least a point by surrendering three goals in a minute and twenty-seven seconds in the waning moment’s of Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to road-weary Manitoba, the last thing Rockford could afford was another shaky goaltending performance.

Well, 3 minutes and 11 seconds into the first period, on Peoria’s first shot of the game, a weak wrister by Rivermen winger Anthony Nigro somehow slipped through Alec Richards’ legs.  A few of the IceHogs on the ice at that moment couldn’t help but look up to the ceiling in disbelief and you could sense half the bench untying their skates and heading for the bus.  Rockford’s goaltending is dreadful right now.  Its really at a point where should either Turco or Crawford be injured and the Hawks have no choice but to call either Richards or Toivonen up to the NHL roster (based on experience and contract, it would be Toivonen by default), Joel Quenneville wouldn’t dare allowing either near the ice while an actual game were taking place.  We’ll probably delve further into this on tonight’s show.

– Anyway, Hugh Jessiman picked up his first goal and point of the season when he beat Blues’ prospect Jake Allen with 1:41 left in the 1st period.  Rob Klinkhammer was given the assist although I could swear it was Evan Brophey who passed the puck to Jessiman from behind the net to the opposite post where Jessiman was parked, but that could be the drugs too.  Jessiman’s goal cut the deficit to one and a Garnet Exelby fight moments later really swung the momentum Rockford’s way for a brief stay.  It was brief though.  The IceHogs put themselves down a man three straight times to start off the second period, including a dumb unsportsmanlike minor Brian Connelly had tacked on to his interference penalty seconds after Peoria increased the lead to 3-1.  A bad example set by a guy who says he wants to be a leader on this club.  At this point of the game, Richards had faced 12 shots and allowed 3 by.  Peoria had the game in-hand at this point.  If the IceHogs had some composure, they would have stood a chance.  For example, Igor Makarov ‘Lou Thesz pressed’ Derek Peltier in front of Peoria’s bench for reasons unknown two minutes before Connelly went nuts.  Makarov may have misread the plate on the truck (Brennan Evans) that hit him a few moments prior.

Saturday night was a penalty-caked affair too, but I would say that was more to do with the whistle-happy Ryan Fraser (son of Kerry) than the IceHogs discipline, or lack of.  Sunday was a different story.

– At the same time, there’s plenty of blame to go around.  Offensively, the IceHogs are inadequate on a good day.  Saturday and Sunday they were atrocious.  The power play had fifteen opportunities in two contests on the weekend.  They converted just once and you wouldn’t need an extra hand to count the number of decent scoring opportunities that special teams unit generated.  Rockford’s best offensive play is the alley-oop pass from the defensive zone to a cherry-picking forward.  And they were blanked on that play twice Saturday night by Manitoba goalie Eddie Lack.

– There was some good to come out of the weekend.  Shawn Lalonde was better in his own zone Saturday for most of the first forty minutes.  He used his body well to wane a few puck carriers.  Ivan Vishnevskiy was more willing to initiate and accept body contact than he did in training camp.  He moved the puck well Saturday.

— Chris DiDomenico was a scratch both games.  From the looks of Billy Sweatt on Saturday, the Hawks aren’t missing much.

– Until further notice, I don’t want to hear or read any more of folks suggesting the Hawks recall Kyle Beach.  He’s not ready, he won’t be for awhile and he’s the last ingredient the Hawks need at this time.  He’s not a tough guy.  Beach is more of an agitator.  And that’s not even what he should be doing.  He’ll add penalty minutes, not toughness.  Kyle is a talented young kid who has a lot of good qualities as a player, but he needs to lose the extra-curriculars and focus on his game.  He can easily be a 25-goal scorer in the league in a few years.  Dropping the gloves every once in a while is fine.  But the needless offensive zone penalties and wristers and slap shots from the blue line aren’t getting it done.  In the pros, if you go into the corner, you’re going to get knocked around.  I watch him now and I just don’t see a player that ultimately fits into what the Blackhawks want to be.  Beach too often is side-tracked by an aggressive shove or whack.  He has a great shot.  I’d like to see him set up closer to the net and hang out there from time to time.  The biggest issue with the offense this weekend was where they generated their offense.  Too many shots from the perimeter and not enough bodies going to the net for rebounds.  Or bodies getting to the net too late.  Beach hasn’t filled out to his potential yet, but he’s big enough that I’d like to see him use that size to shield the puck and drive to the net more.  His skating needs work too if he wants to be a scoring line winger in the NHL.  Not every, but most nights you can see his potential, but it remains to be seen if his head intends on wasting it away.

– When the puck lays flat for Brandon Pirri and he has time and space, he looks every bit of a top NHL prospect.  This was one of those weekends he was lost and we worried about when he left school and turned pro after only one year of college.  He really belongs in Canadian major junior hockey if RPI wasn’t for him.  He looks great in the shootout though.

– Rockford has lost four of their last five and haven’t won a game in regulation since October 15, at Abbotsford.  In fact, of their five wins, only two have come inside 60 minutes.  So not only are they struggling, even when they do win they’re giving away points to their Western Conference foes.  As of today, the IceHogs are last in their division and one point ahead of Toronto for last place in the conference.

– Rockford’s at home tonight for the back end of a home and home with the Peoria Rivermen.  Then, the IceHogs hit the road for five.  Thursday and Friday they’ll be in San Antonio.  The Rampage are 8-4-1-0 but have one of the league’s worst penalty-killing units.  Rockford will then have five days off before another back-to-back road pair November 18-19 at Manitoba.  Thanks to eight power plays, the IceHogs carried much of Saturday’s game until Toivonen broke down.  Manitoba owned Rockford 5-2 in the season opener Oct 9th.  These two upcoming games will be the final meetings of the season between the two clubs.  The road trip then wraps on Sunday Nov 21 at Peoria again.  These two teams have an obvious mutual disdain.  Five of their ten regular season meetings will be in the books by the end of the month (Nov 27th at Rockford being the fifth).

– After tonight, Rockford next plays at home Nov 24th, the night before Thanksgiving against the Lake Erie Monsters (Avalanche affiliate).

On to the Blackhawks:

— By the end of this week, the Blackhawks will be at the quarter-mark of their season and currently they’re on a pace to hit 82 or 83 points.  Per the conference’s current pace, that would be 12 or 13 points short of the 8th and final playoff spot.

After 17 games, the Hawks are 8-8-1 which projects out over 82 games to 39-38-5.  At this stage last year, Chicago was 10-5-2.  It was also at this very point last season the Hawks went on a six-game winning streak defeating Toronto and San Jose at the United Center.  Followed those two victories up by foot-stomping wins at Calgary (7-1), at Edmonton (5-2) and at the Shark Tank (7-2 in Marian Hossa’s Hawk debut), with the Bryan Bickell/Antti Niemi 1-0 win at Vancouver sandwiched in between (a night Vancouver actually outclassed the Hawks).  The Hawks want to get their heads well above mediocrity ASAP and a run similar to last November’s would heal a lot of the early wounds right now.

— We’ll see if Jeremy Morin‘s reassignment to Rockford yesterday was just a move to save themselves two days of Morin’s salary off the cap?  I don’t think so.  Unless they determine Dave Bolland can’t return tomorrow against the Coyotes, Morin’s better off in Rockford.  The Hawks aren’t winning or losing games right now based on the 9-10 minutes Jeremy Morin may get.  There’s a lot he can work on still.  Take that shot block Saturday night for example.  He’s closer to being NHL ready than anyone in Rockford right now.  Still, that’s no argument for rushing him.

Everyone should be more concerned with what method of extraction it’ll take to remove Duncan Keith’s head from his ass and less about who skates on the fourth line.  Or even the third.  Or what Stan Bowman’s doing with a couple of grand here or there.  It’s irrelevant to the larger problem.  Duncan Keith is supposedly this team’s most-dominating player and he’s doing his best Bryan McCabe impression this season.  Bryan Bickell isn’t the problem.  John Scott’s three minutes aren’t either.  Granted, Jassen Cullimore is good for one or two “Oh Dear God!” shifts per game, but he actually hasn’t hurt the team much at all.  Try starting with the guy who plays half the game and sometimes seems like he’s siding with the opposing team.  Another issue, to be fair, happens to involve star forwards who have a tendency to stand flat-footed in the defensive zone while the other team fire pucks at will on Marty Turco.

— Josh Mora, the former Comcast SportsNet-Chicago beat reporter who was one of, if not the first who broke the story of Dale Tallon’s firing, is now telling his side of that deal.  Being the first real reporter, on a network owned (20%) by Rocky Wirtz, to break the Tallon story essentially had Mora removed from the Hawks beat and eventually from Comcast all together.  I feel for Mora and I do miss his insight, but if you want to be a journalist, you shouldn’t be working at Comcast.  Anything deeper than “How does this feel?” or “Talk about that goal” is going to ruffle feathers.  If you’ve been paying attention to Steve Konroyd lately, he’s a bit more edgy than he’s ever been as a commentator on that network.  Ex-players have more leeway, but I’m wondering how much?  Especially when you consider the fat check Denis Savard’s cashing for essentially being a much older, less attractive ice girl.  Unless you’re into that sorta thing.  What’s the male equivalent of a milf?  Which reminds me, I got notice of some new flirts at my profile yesterday. 

Anyway, Mora sets the table for what seems to be the first part of a painstakingly unnecessary mini-series of blogs detailing how he reported the Tallon firing and how it affected his professional life.  I caught the link to his blog seeing a Sam Fels’ post at Second City Hockey.  Fels, who has always acknowledged a family friendship to Mora, notes that Mora has moved on to a job in education leadership and apparently out of the journalism field.  That’s fine, but even so, Mora’s coming off here like he’s making himself the story and that’s something a reporter should never do.  Again, its unfortunate what happened to him and I can sympathize with it.  But if he wants to tell his side, he should just put it out there and get on with his life because dragging this out to garner hits for his blog will tarnish whatever good reputation he has in the field.  Blackhawks fans looking to hate on John McDonough for any reason at all will get a kick out of it, and he’ll be a hero of the day in those people’s minds, but what’s that worth really?  Nothing.  I am interested to hear his side.  I just think there’s a better way to do this.

Dino Ciccarelli’s Hard Road to the Hall  Yahoo! Sports

Philadelphia locked up Claude Giroux on Monday.  3 years with a cap hit of $3.75M per.  Giroux will cash $2.75 next season, followed by $3.5 and $5.0.  And he’d still be a restricted free agent after his contract ends with the 2013-14 season, by the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Brent Sopel‘s latest video blog.  Its barely November and he’s sad.

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