By Rich Lindbloom
What’s with all the negative vibes? You’re bringing me down man. Just about everything I read or hear about the Hawks requires anti-depressive prescriptions. Perhaps it would be a wise idea to take the belts and shoe laces away from those of us who inhabit the upper reaches on the United Center. The most depressing movie I ever watched, They Shoot Horses Don’t They, would be a comedy compared to reading most analyses of our struggling team. While I will admit I’m not exactly feeling groovy at the moment, I refuse wallow in the muck of doom and gloom. (There’s enough of that in the real world.) While preparing to jump off the wagon, it appears the vast majority of fans have grabbed hold of the white flag. Need I remind you Hawk fans, surrender is not an option!
Actually, I came across how all those playoff rags (ok Don, rally towels), we see waved so often in the playoffs, came to be. In the 1982 Conference Final playoffs against the Canucks, our mighty Blackhawks took on a team that arguably had the ugliest uniforms in the history of the NHL. The home uniforms were enough to make you sick to your stomach; I’m pretty sure they were designed by someone who was on a “bum trip.” When I looked back to see who was on the Hawks that year, I was amazed at the talent on the team. The top four Hawk scorers were Savard (119 pts.), Wilson (85 pts.), Lysiak (82 pts in 71 games) and Big Al Secord (75 pts., but more importantly 303 penalty min.) Vancouver had a few ruffians of their own, most notably Tiger Williams. Of course Richard Brodeur played completely out of his mind.
The Canucks won the first game but followed up with a loss in Game Two, 4-1. The third period was marred, (or highlighted I guess, depending on your perspective), with numerous brawls that ended up totaling 150 minutes in penalties being assessed by the overwhelmed zebra. Roger Nielsen, the Canuck coach, finally had enough of the officiating. He grabbed a white towel, fastening it to a stick and mockingly started waving it at the referee. Several Canuck players followed suit, (monkey see, monkey do), and Nielsen was eventually tossed for his lack of respect and dissing one of the NHL’s finest. When Vancouver returned home for game 3 there was a little surprise for all the fans in attendance that night. A white towel was draped over every seat in the Pacific Coliseum before the game!
All that to say, Hawk fans, put away those dang white towels. While I’ll grant you at the moment the future does not appear to be bright enough to require shades, the sun will come out from behind the clouds soon enough. You might not want to jump off the bandwagon yet. Yes I realize the slobbering, obnoxious Blues and their fans are 9-2-3. Don’t forget, they didn’t make the playoffs last year. As a general rule, things tend to even out. Eventually the second law of thermodynamics will overtake the Blues and their incredibly auspicious start. Entropy is defined as the “irreversible tendency of a system (re: the Blues) toward increasing disorder.” Take heart, the paddlewheels will soon be falling off the hockey team along the Mississippi. Are you really ready to say the Blues are a better team than the Hawks? (Don’t answer that question Chris Block.) [ed: For the record, I’m not.]
Following are some of the attempts to describe what currently plagues the Hawks that I’ve gleaned from the radio, TV and the analysis of omniscient fans.
1. No energy.
2. Lack of effort or it’s close cousin, lackadaisical effort
3. Hocus, pocus, there’s no focus.
4. Lackluster play do to the signing of big ol contracts.
5. No sense of urgency.
6. Taking shifts off.
7. Duncan Keith’s bone headed decisions- that’s the weirdest one for me to figure.
8. The best players not being the best players.
9. Bad decisions, were not throwing it at the net enough.
10. Not creating enough traffic in front of the net.
And on and on. Frankly, I’m not seeing the same game most of you are describing. Then again, I just could be a prime candidate for the Nut House (“They’re coming to take me away ha ha, he he, ho ho, to the funny farm where the people go.”) Before they cart me away however, I’d like to point out the biggest areas of concern for me. There is certainly a lack of cohesiveness and definitely a dearth of fortuitous bounces.
I’m thinking way too many of you dismiss the importance of a team bonding together. As Anna sung in the musical The King and I, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you, getting to like you, getting to hope you like me!” Whether you want to admit it or not, last year’s team was about as close and tight as a professional sport team can get. Team unity, togetherness, or something like a band of brothers, plays a significant part in winning. Let me give you an example.
Nathalie and I used to play in quite a few co-rec volleyball tournaments years back in Michigan City. Country Club Hills and Joliet. They were highly competitive and to advance out of pool play you’d better be packing. There were tournaments when our front line was stacked with 6’5” all-stars and times where we just played with good friends. For some reason or another, the stacked teams not only didn’t fair that well-they weren’t nearly as much fun to play on. Frowns, pointing fingers and dirty looks took the place of a nice swat on the butt when someone messed up.
At one Michigan City tourney, we formed a team of good, but certainly not the greatest individual players we knew. (Actually, our girls were le crème de la crème. It was our men that were a bit of the “fourth line type players.”) We named our team “The Big ol Butts.” We’d celebrate or commiserate what took place during the matches by occasionally facing each other in a circle, wiggling our fannies and shouting, “Oh Jim got a big ol butt, oh yeah!” We were loose as a goose as they say, finally losing in the finals to a much more talented team. However, I guarantee you that team did not have as much fun as us that day.
That’s what unnerves me most at the moment with the Hawks “team.” Cohesion is not a word I’d use to describe what I’m seeing on frozen pond. It appears our lines are changing nightly, almost put together by a lottery system. Against the Coyotes, our Norris Trophy winner was banished to the third defensive pairing, apparently as a form of punishment. I must admit, Keith did not have one of his best games, he actually looked a little shook up. We all know what happened to Huet’s confidence last year when the mind games began. Peevishly fretful fault finding should be confined to our politicians. In the real world, we need to find solutions. Actually, Coach Q may get them to unite as a team by unifying the Hawks in their antipathy towards him! (It worked for Herb Brooks.) Fault finders in life are a dime a dozen. Smile, pick each other up, have fun.
On to the dearth of fortuitous bounces or lack thereof. Carolina rookie Jeff Skinner, was quoted after the Hurricane’s thrashing of the Oilers on Tuesday, “It’s been really fun, with some of the “bounces” we’ve got. But at the same time, we’ve earned those bounces.” Wednesday, against Phoenix, we out shot them 36 to 22. Belanger cranks a perfectly placed slap shot from about 15 feet away from Turco. A wrist shot I can understand, but finding the junction of the cross bar and post with a wicked slapper requires a “touch” of luck. In contrast, Kaner makes one of the prettiest moves I’ve seen in hockey this year behind the Coyotes net in the third and perfectly sets up Toews. The #19 car misses a fairly open net by a few inches. It reminds me of that old Persian proverb; “If fortune turns against you, even jelly breaks your tooth.”
I like the effort I see in our current, disconcerting turn of events. I think we’ve actually picked it up a notch. Our goaltending has been solid and our fourth line continues to contribute. Those were two areas that a lot of us were concerned about prior to the start of the season. Don’t take me wrong; Keith, Hossa and Campbell have been killing me in my Fantasy league. I feel the pain more than you realize. Lately my best hope for them to contribute to my point total is to take penalties. I’m highly optimistic that will change over the remaining 64 games. I still think their better than Perron, Backes and Johnson! By the way, was it just me or did any of you take delight in the Blue Jacket’s 5 on 1 beat down of the Blues last Wednesday? You knew the horseshoe was going to fall out of their pockets sooner or later.
Take heart you downtrodden Hawk fans, I don’t think it can get worse. (There’s always a silver lining.) As Susanna Moodie noted:
“When things come to the worst, they generally mend.”
I realize 99% of Blackhawk fans think I’m nuts; the other 1% can’t figure out why Chris Block or Sam Fels would ever print anything I write. Yet the beat goes on; the beat of a different drummer obviously. It could be worse; just think if we had to wear the 1982 Canucks uniforms while going through this period of trial and tribulation! Keep the white flags at home. They make excellent cleaning rags.
Getting to know you and some good bounces, (hell I don’t even care if they’re earned good bounces), and we’ll soon be whistling Dixie. I can’t believe it, I wrote a whole article and didn’t mention John Scott!