By Rich Lindbloom
In his book, Perpetual Euphoria, Pascal Bruckner invites us to consider what he termed our “pitiless idol of happiness.” Mr. Bruckner noted “We can be un-afflicted without being euphoric. Amid great havoc we can have moments of unprecedented ecstasy.” (The 6-3 comeback win over the Predators for instance) Pausing to reflect on a season that perhaps is defined so far by the words “great havoc,” on the surface I think I was a lot happier last year when we were 20 games above .500 at this juncture in the season.
I’m convinced people jump on the band wagons in various sports to get a fix of happiness – a jolt of ephemeral joy. After the fix wears off, we tend to search for the next “high” that we are convinced only winning can produce. Where do you go after you win the Stanley Cup? Winning can be a very elusive, false idol. As we are starting to experience, happiness junkies in sports tend to suffer severe withdrawal symptoms when things head south. They try their hardest to remain optimistic, but soon are reduced to a fault finding bag of complaints. (Wah! I want my Maypo.) On the other hand, Chicago Cub fans are an anomaly – and would no doubt fall into a category Mr. Bruckner calls “magnificent sufferers.” Hawk fans, that could very well be our fate this year.
Consider Euripides insightful observation:
Happiness is brief
It will not stay.
God batters at its sails
So, in a season that has left us precariously close to the dreaded abyss of “un-happiness” let me ask you; how are those “moments of unprecedented ecstasy” working out for you? With 26 games remaining on the “regular season” schedule, there are 9 teams within 6 points of third place in our Conference. Two of those teams have been red hot –San Jose (9-0-1) and Calgary (8-1-1) – it’s highly unlikely that they’ll keep that pace up, although Niemi is starting to get freaky again. For one of the best sports writers in Chicago to state if we had lost to Edmonton the season would be over, well as Mark Twain once wrote, “The report of my death is greatly exaggerated.”
A player who in general seems to bring no happiness to the four feathered faithful is the #82 car; no matter what he does. I realize I could be tarred and feathered for saying this, but Kopeck’s assist on Kaner’s first goal vs. Edmonton was Gretzky-ish. I believe he also feathered the pass to Brent Seabrook that sent #7 in all alone. The Eastern Bloc trio, 81/82/67 should spend some quality time frolicking about the opposition’s zone. The Skille/Frolic trade did cause me to wonder two things. First, would Skille had been more effective on the left wing; secondly would he have fared better if he had been placed on our first or second lines?
Before you call me a lunatic, consider this; Skille probably averaged less than 9min/game and had 96 hits. One sports writer noted that Florida had added a little sandpaper to their team. The hit total puts him in the lead on the Panthers team by 20 hits! In his first game with the Panthers, Black Jack had 10 hits. Like the Robot contraption in the classic movie Master of Disguise, it’s rather apparent Jack “Likes to hit.” (“Who is your daddy?” – Pistachio) He was also fifth on the Hawks in shots attempted, despite no PP time. You can say what you want about the #20 car, but you have to admit, if nothing else he was active.
Salak appears to be a nice bonus in this trade from what I’ve read. He’s leading the league in save % in Sweden’s premier league. That reminds me of a story of a friend who briefly spent time at a tournament in the land of blondes and bad jokes. (Maybe that’s where the term “Dumb Swede” emanates from?) My friend was the only goalie for a team that represented the U.S. in a tournament called The World Police and Fire Games that is held every two years at different locations around the world. That year the games were held in Stockholm.
In his first game, in the “weakest” division, he faced 84 shots from a amateur team from Finland. As Liam succinctly put it, “It was brutal.” Two more games produced similar results. At least he could claim a moral victory by limiting the opposition to under 12 goals. Funny thing though – this is a story that Liam can tell the rest of his life. I doubt if the opposition who lit him up like a Roman Candle can even remember the game. (Although every time I see that Tony-O commercial for Binny’s where the girl keeps amplifying the horn, I think about Liam and his shell shocked nerves.)
While the results were somewhat brutal on this past road trip, there were many bright spots. That is if you could get by the “winning is everything” mantra currently being shouted in Wisconsin. I think we’re really going to like the “Trabant” line. There was a lot of talking taking place on the bench between Hossa/Kopecky/Frolik. More than once I thought I saw Coach Q say, “Speak in English.”(Pretty sure they were discussing Q’s garish looking ties.) One thing for sure, this line will have to produce for the Hawks if we are to secure a playoff spot.
After a cursory glance, I like what I see. By the way, I’ll take Marian Hossa at 80% over most the players on the Hawks roster. He has the ability to put us over the top, despite experiencing some scoring struggles as of late. You would have a hard time convincing me there is a better penalty killer in the league. His offensive struggles lately remind me of a player I drafted #1 in my Fantasy League, Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk has been brutally ineffective for most of this season. To give you an example, in early January I offered to trade him for Byfuglien – and was turned down!! I don’t know if you saw his game winner against Toronto last week, but for me it was the goal of the season. It literally looked like they pushed a fast forward button on the review as he exploded out of his own zone. His legs were pumping faster than fists in the Islander/Penguin game! My point is, be patient with the #81 car – his time will come. As I recall, he had a pretty important goal against Nashville last year.
Our top line, 88/19/10, has been on fire. What a joy, (even in bitter defeats – two of which had a great helping hand from reviews in Toronto – what are they smoking in that booth?), it is to watch Patrick Kane. This line has been amassing points almost as fast as the Finnish team my friend Liam faced. Anyone finding fault with this line needs to have their head examined – Corsi ratings be damned! Our third line is looking pretty solid also with Bolland, Brouwer and Bickell. Do B a good Bee.
Also, Leddy and Keith for some unfathomable reason seems to be working, although I’m sure I’m in the minority on that one. Obviously the #8 car can be challenged when fighting for pucks along the boards – but his poise with the puck is very encouraging. He doesn’t look to dump or bang it out, this kid wants to create something. Is his spot on our defense corps premature? Probably, but I certainly like him better than Nick Boynton. I don’t mean to pick on the #24 car, but I’ll take 8 cylinders over 6 cylinders any day. As much as I would have liked to seen it, if Scott would have scored on that breakaway, I think Coach Q would have dressed him for the rest of the season if it went in. Blessings do come in many forms.
By the way, I kind of liked a pissed off Duncan Keith!
Steve Konroyd made a great observation after the Coyote game. He talked about the “ebb and flow” of a hockey game. To me, this was a much better way to explain what so many people decry as taking our foot off the gas pedal. The Stars top players, Richards and Erickson, our 6th and 13th in the league in scoring. This is just me thinking again, but it’s probably safe to say they will dominate the puck once and awhile. While we all would have liked 8 points on this lengthy road trip, five of the teams had winning records and four of them are at least 10 games over .500. I was quite pleased with our effort in Phoenix, especially after the disheartening loss against the Stars. That game had all the makings of a disaster waiting to happen. You can moan about the results thus far, but this team is far from throwing in the towel. This season has all the earmarks of an ending to a Rocky movie.
In closing, I wanted to bring up an observation that didn’t necessarily bring a pretty picture in my mind. A friend asked, “I wonder what Hjalmarsson’s body looks like when he disrobes.” (not all the way you perverts.) Can you imagine the black and blue marks, welts and swollen areas on that lad? The #4 car is sort of a poster boy for the struggles that so far has been the 2010/2011 season. The good news is “he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”
I recently read, “We are born naked, wet and hungry. Then it gets worse.” However, things appear to be looking up for this delusional fan. Believe it or not, we got the rest of the league right where we want them – shaking in their boots. As iron sharpens iron, the struggles we’ve been through this year is forging us into a strong contender come post season. Just the thought of that is bringing me a moment of unprecedented ecstasy.
For all you disgruntled fans about to foolishly jump off the wagon, take hope in a verse from the Book of James. It’s where he describes a biblical, magnificent sufferer: “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job.”