By Rich Lindbloom
While driving my son to skating practice recently, we passed a store that specialized in the sale of fancy rims for cars. Greg half jokingly said, “Dad, want to get some sweet rims for the Honda Odyssey?” I laughed and said, “Are you saying you want to pimp the van out?” It was then that he let me in on a little insight. Apparently, on most of the cars you see with the shiny chrome rims, the car is worth less than the rims. I’m not sure but he was probably insinuating the Odyssey, (which now has over 140,000 miles on it), needs a new look or needs to be traded in; preferably for a 2011 Camaro. However, as is the case with most of the cars I’ve owned in my life, all I require of them is that get me from point A to point B.
This humorous exchange with Greg got me thinking about the upcoming season for the Blackhawks. Have the changes we made in the offseason been enough to get us to point B, i.e. -at least another Conference Final appearance? Have we really improved the team or just added some fancy 210# rims-in other words, did we just pimp the team out? Before we buy into these changes, let’s kick the tires a few times. For those of you who know the difference between a starter and an alternator, you might even want to pop the hood and take a gander. Ready to go for a test spin. (That clunking noise? It’s nothing, turn the radio up.)
Any analysis of the off season trades needs to start with “Soupy.” The picture Sam Fels posted on the Second City Hockey web site of #51 Phantom carrying the puck alone by the Stanley Cup Playoff emblem evoked a forlorn feeling and a wistful remembrance of Campbell’s considerable contributions to our Champs. It depicted one of the things he did best; carry the puck up ice. Would we have won the Cup without him? You might as well be trying to figure out how “billions and billions of years of chance mutations in a primordial soup” explains how we got here. One thing for certain, Nashville had us on the ropes when the #51 car came back two weeks early from a broken clavicle. This despite Dr. Terry warning him he could be risking serious damage by coming back early.
While I’ll admit 5 more years at $7 million /yr was the equivalent of paying full sticker price, (and then some), there just aren’t many d-men available with the skills of Campbell. I’m not sure we’ve improved our defense all that much with Montador (Ole!) and O’Donnell (Drink up Shriners). Can either of them do the spin-o-rama; all you meatballs out there clamoring for toughness, did you ever think about that? Perhaps Brian’s greatest contributions were in the playoffs when he always seemed to elevate his game. If we don’t sign Campoli, (which to me became a question mark as soon as O’Donnell joined the squad), I don’t see us being stronger at the blue line. Hopefully I’ll be singing a different tune in October.
Obviously, Montador’s and O’Donnell’s biggest contribution will be on the penalty kill. At 211#’s and 234#’s respectively, I believe the there will be a much larger price to pay for parking in front of Corey. We should be a little stronger in that area, which is a good thing with the band of thugs Stan Bowman secured for this year’s squad. The Hawks were one of the least penalized teams in the league last year, something tells me that’s about to change. Our fourth line this year could quickly become known as the Rice Crispy Line. With Mayers, Carcillo and, oh what the hell-why not, Scott on the fourth line there should be a lot more “Snap, Crackle and Pop.” Seems we’ve gone from having a energy line to “I have a bug up my butt line.” Apparently the term “impact players” has taking on a whole new meaning for the 2011-12 Blackhawks.
Jamal Mayers is on his 5th team in five seasons. Admit it Hawk fans, how many of you knew anything about Mayers before the Hawks acquired him? I’m sure I’m not the only one who Googled his name. My first reaction to the Carcillo signing was nausea, followed by fits of depression and finally thoughts about jumping off the Sears Tower. (Willis Tower my butt.) My daughter Taylor summed up many of the Hawk fans initial reaction. With a pained and dumbfounded look on her face she said, “Why did we do that?”
One thing for certain, Carcillo is the type of character that will give us a never ending supply of things to write about. I actually miss trying to describe what it was Adam Burish did on the ice. Other than Kaner telling Thornton to “man up” after he was injured against the Hawks, there wasn’t a lot of chirping from the Hawks bench last year. In the 07-08 season with Phoenix, Carbomb collected 324 minutes in the time out box in only 57 games. (The Hawk’s Grabowski fans must be drooling about now.) Disciplined is not a word you will hear in the same sentence with Danny –boy. Last year he racked up 127 minutes while only averaging about 7.46 min/game of ice time. (He wisely ignored Scott’s invitation to dance on that Sunday morning game last year or he would have had 142 min. There would have been a 10 min misconduct as he had pummeled Dowel earlier in the game.) Carcillo is not the type of player who blends; when he’s on the ice you know it and you better keep your head up, just ask Carter about that.
Only time will tell how much our fourth line has improved this year. I’m not sure the possibility of Kopecky-Stalberg-Johnson needed a lot of improvement. Of course there is no way Kopecky would be making $3 million with the Hawks. Kopecks deal is a great example of why the Republicans should not cave in and give the Democrats another $2 trillion dollar credit card. Raise the Debt Limit, and the money will be spent – most likely unwisely. I’m still not a big proponent of the grit and toughness over speed and skill aspects of the game. Seems like the communist team in Motown has done pretty well focusing on speed, rather than the O’Reilly At The Bar type ruffians.
The one impact player we did pick up, might add more fun to the team despite being a Brunette. In 8 out of the last 11 seasons, Brunette has scored at least 50 points. The erstwhile Wild left winger should score between 50-60 points this year if paired with Tazer-man. He scored 83 points one season with Joe Sakic centering him. And who is it that Toews is often compared to? You don’t have to be an Einstein to deduce Andrew is in for a big year. He’s also very durable and consistent. He doesn’t exactly fit into the toughness mode that seemed to dominate our offseason acquisitions. However, in between trying to intimidate our opponents into submission, we will need to put the puck in the net once and awhile. Particularly worthy of note, check out Brunette’s playoff contributions. In three different postseason appearances he scored 13 points in 18 games, 9 points in 9 games and 8 points in 10 games. We won’t talk about his +/- until we see him play a little. Just a word of caution Andrew, #19 does not do well when the other team scores on his shift.
The other player the Hawks added, Brett McLean, has largely been written off by the blog site intelligentsia. However he tallied 40 pts in 05-06, 35 pts in 06-07 and 37 pts in 07-08. Not too shabby for a third or fourth line center. Looking at his career +/- may be wherein the downside resides. Should be one hell of a fun and competitive camp.
So what do you think-are we a better team? (Notice I didn’t say stronger, that’s rather apparent.) Is this team more than leans, tunes, curb feelers, air shocks, pegs and shiny bad boy chrome rims? One thing that is turning me off a little is the second year in a row of basically a team overhaul. Obviously, the engine and transmission is still in place. However, starting with Toews and Kane’s rookie year, it’s seemed like we had the same cast of “usual suspects’ for three years in a row. Stan Bowman’s new philosophy seems to be “parts is parts,” the grittier the better.
We still are in search of the coveted, ever elusive second line center that will “guarantee” us another Cup. Campbell > Montador and O’Donnell. Frolik and Campoli still need to be added. It appears Stan has a lot of faith in the youth developing in Rockford. The good thing is we’ll have some cap space left to make room for some midseason acquisitions should the car break down. A sort of “rattle, rattle, thunder, clutter, boom boom boom, don’t worry call the Stan-X man,” wild card. That pimped out car that appears to be the 11-12 Chicago Blackhawks-well let’s just hope it starts in the depths of winter.
And whether we win or lose is really not the point, is it? As L’Trimm so succinctly put it,
“They’re always adding speakers when they can find room,
Coz they know the girls like the guys with the cars that go boom.”
Girls have never been too thrilled with cars that just get you from Point A to Point B; trust me. And for those of you who think that you don’t need a fancy car if you have an enormous schwantzstookle, keep dreaming.