Aug 172011

Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times has a quick Q&A with Dan Carcillo here.

Jahns asked Carcillo to describe himself away from the ice.  Carcillo said what pretty much every one of his former teammates will say, and its that he’s “pretty much the exact opposite.”  (Opposite, that is, of a loose cannon. My words)

Carcillo: “If something irks me or gets me upset, I usually take it out on the ice.”

That explains a lot.

–Former Blackhawk goaltender Jimmy Waite is the new goaltending coach for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL).  Waite is the younger brother of current Blackhawks’ goaltending coach Stephane Waite.  Jimmy, who is now 42, continued his playing career in Europe until retiring at age 40.  He returns to coach the team he played junior hockey with, the same Chicoutimi organization Waite was playing for when the Hawks drafted him 8th overall in 1987 NHL Draft.  The president of the current day Sagueneens is Guy Carbonneau.

–Apparently there is a site in Europe pushing a rumor saying David Aebischer will be traded to Fribourg-Gotteron soon and Cristobal Huet is out attributing me as the source.  That’s not even close to what I wrote.

–The Maple Leafs revealed their roster for the round-robin rookie camp tournament taking place September 10 – 13 in Oshawa.  The Blackhawks, Senators and Penguins are the other teams involved.

Jeremy Roenick reenacts famous “Swingers” scene. [Yahoo!]

–For those who missed our note the other day, yesterday, August 16, marked the 15-year anniversary of the trade that sent Jeremy Roenick to Phoenix for Alexei Zhamnov.

In that swap, the Hawks also got Craig Mills and a 1st rounder who turned out to be Ty Jones.  Mills was sold as a guy in the mold of Roenick, though a right winger.  Mills appeared in 27 (ironically) games over three seasons with Chicago.  He had three points total and never scored an NHL goal.

I don’t know whose idea it was, but Jones was doomed the day he put first put on his official Blackhawks sweater.  Of all the jersey numbers he could choose, #27 got stitched on his.  It was too much pressure to put on the kid and another subtle slap on Roenick fans.  The Blackhawks made Jones the 16th pick in the 1997 Draft.  Scott Hannan and Brendan Morrow are the only notable first rounders who went after Jones.  Chicago’s first pick came at #13.  They chose Dan Cleary, missing Marian Hossa (to Ottawa) by one pick.

From talking with fans yesterday, I think time has blurred some people’s memory of how that trade went down.  It was no shock.  While it was then and will remain, in hindsight, a terrible decision made by the franchise, the Roenick trade came as no surprise.  He had essentially said “goodbye” to the fans in his own way after the ’96 Avalanche playoff series.  He knew he was gone and he essentially forced his own exit.  The story of him seeking a long-term contract extension had been a story virtually the entire season leading up to that off season.  Roenick had done something that no other Blackhawk had ever survived through – he challenged the old man upstairs in the media and on the Blackhawks own post game radio shows.   Roenick was brash, wanted his deserved pay day (in seven years with Chicago, Roenick made a shade under five million in all), but had gone about it in a way that had Bill Wirtz incensed.  Perhaps Roenick knew he’d never get what he wanted from Wirtz even if he negotiated privately and in good faith?  Still, he didn’t do himself any favors.  Hawks fans had already seen their tickets costs on a steady incline in the mid-90’s and Roenick wanted a 300-400% raise from the $1.4M he earned in ’95-96.

By the time August had rolled around, many fans, and even a Blackhawks’ writer or two had convinced themselves the trade was the right thing to do.  Tony Amonte and Eric Daze were snipers who needed a set-up man.  Roenick wasn’t a traditional passing center, he was more of a goal scorer and puck hog.  Many had begun to wonder if the team could win with him leading it, similar to how some are asking that question about Alexander Ovechkin today.  (Unfair in both cases in my estimation)  And you could see Roenick was having trouble with his own identity and career longevity.  After all, Roenick had not been the same since the ’95 Derian Hatcher hit.

The ’95 Blackhawks were no doubt a more complete team than the one that lost to Pittsburgh in the ’92 Final.  But when Roenick took the knee-on-knee collision from Hatcher on national television on the first Sunday afternoon in April, the Hawks were tremendously weakened.  Four days later, in an act of desperation, the Hawks reacquired Denis Savard from Tampa Bay.  Wear and tear and a reduced role in Tampa had taken its toll on Savard but the move gave the 34-year old new life.  Savard was amazing.  Roenick did return in the second round of that playoff against Vancouver, but he was noticeably laboring.  Its impossible to say but without Roenick’s typical spark and relying entirely too much on Savard’s waning magic, the Hawks didn’t have enough for Detroit in the Conference Finals, though the five game series was extremely tight.

The sad thing about August 16, 1996 is that it was the beginning of the end and the unmendable fracturing of a great nucleus of Blackhawks.  Roenick was the heart and soul of the team.  With him went the team’s identity.  Most everyone knew it.  The rest would come to accept it a year later.  In that way, the swap was not unlike the Oilers trading Mark Messier (minus the five Cups and one still ahead of him).  The Oilers got Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice and Louie Debrusk (Nicholls and Debrusk would go on to be Hawks at points later on) in that deal and from then it took Edmonton years to recover.  There were mitigating circumstances in each case but from a fan perspective, neither trade should have happened.

After all the posturing with Roenick, and then the trade, Wirtz still had a contract to work out with his new Russian magic man.  J.R. inked a 5-year $20 million deal with Phoenix after holding out until mid-October.  Zhamnov did the same with Chicago and settled four days later to the tune of 5-years and $15 mil.  Five million in that NHL economy was like twelve now, but still, over five years that’s not much to pinch when you’re talking about losing the face of your brand over the savings.

–The AHL confirmed they will release their regular season schedule this week without indicating which day.  You’d think they’d do it by Thursday so it could make the Friday papers.  The holdup on this is partially due to the Manitoba franchise moving to St. Johns, Newfoundland.  They’ll be known as the IceCaps.  Not only did the team jump cities in June, it also jumps to the Eastern conference.  Charlotte was chosen to move compensate the West.  The other major factor this summer is a new AHL mandate that prevents any team from playing four games in five days, something Rockford did twice in February last season, and once in March.  Other yearly obstacles include having to yield to the making of the NBA schedule and the three-draft review and finalization process.  In an ideal world, the AHL schedule would come out during the first week of August (since the NBA didn’t release until July 19th this summer), but since the system allows 30 AHL general managers to propose changes in the middle of July, early August is pushing it.

I don’t know anything more on the IceHogs’ schedule than what has been put out so far.  Their home opener is October 8th, same night and time as the Blackhawks home opener.  Rockford also released the following home dates; Nov 12, Nov 23, Dec 3, Dec 17 and Jan 20.

That November 12th home game is also the date of the planned IceHogs’ alumni game.

Rockford is now in what is known as the Mid-West division with Charlotte, Chicago, Milwaukee and Peoria.

But here’s an interesting nugget in regards to the Chicago Wolves’ ’11-12 slate.    There’s a distinct imbalance that could effect the Mid-West division if the Abbotsford Heat happen to be very good, or the opposite.

Abbotsford is in the newly formatted West Division (in the Western conference).  Abbotsford plays each of the Mid-West division teams twice at home and twice on the road, with the exception of the Wolves.  Abbotsford will play Chicago eight times in ’11-12, four times in each team’s building.

Geography and air travel would be the probable reason for this.  Abbotsford is an hour drive, southeast of Vancouver and fifteen minutes from the U.S. border.

–When mentioning the two IceHogs’ coaching hires the other day, I forgot to note the hiring of new video coach Matt Prefontaine.  He takes over for the departing Chris Noel, who is the son of Winnipeg Jets’ head coach Claude Noel.  Prefontaine worked with the IceHogs last season as the studio pre/post game and intermission host on IceHogs’ radio broadcasts.  On occasion he also did some color work during games alongside play-by-play voice Mike Peck.  Prefontaine is a Winnipeg native.

–The latest PuckCast from HockeeNight with special guest Adam Proteau of The Hockey News.  Great show and well-worth the listen give the topic covered and news of Rick Rypien’s death breaking during that discussion.  This show had to set the record for least amount of Forklift ever on a PuckCast.  Unless I missed it there wasn’t even a standard mid-90’s Rangers reference.

I haven’t seen it yet, but The Hockey News 2011-12 Yearbook and predictions are out.  THN has the Hawks finishing 3rd in the Western Conference but reaching the Finals and losing to…. the Washington Capitals.

–Still the best Blackhawks’ line I’ve ever personally watched

I want some of those brownies Jay Feaster’s eating.

–Blackhawks birthdays today… August 17th

Ron “Chico” Maki is 72…. Nelson Emerson turns 44…. And new Washington Capitals winger Troy Brouwer is 26.

Ronald Maki was one of the best unsung Blackhawks during the team’s great heyday of the sixties and early 70’s.  Maki spent all 16 of his professional seasons with the Blackhawk organization (1960-76).  As the story goes, he got the nickname “Chico” from his mother, who was a big Marx Brothers fan.

While his name appears on the Cup for the Blackhawks ’61 Championship, Maki did not appear in a regular season game that year, and just one in the playoffs and not the final.  In that ’60-61 season, Maki was down with Blackhawk farm team Buffalo, earning himself the AHL rookie of the year honor.  Although Maki’s face appeared on a special-series Coca-Cola bottle caps in ’61-62, commemorating the ’61 champions, he spent the majority of that season with the Buffalo Bisons as well.

Maki’s game came to prominence in the mid-sixties when he moved up to the right wing on a line with Phil Esposito and Bobby Hull.  Maki was an all-purpose kind of winger who did a lot of the dirty work in the corners for Hull and Esposito.  He was also an underrated set-up man and one of the Hawks’ top penalty-killers.

Chico’s personal-best season came in ’70-71 (the year Chicago was dispatched to the West division, away from the five other Original Six franchises, yet somehow Vancouver debuted in the East), a year Maki posted his career-high in goals (22) and matched his best point total (48) he’d previously set in ’65-66 while on the Hull-Esposito line.  Maki posted another 6 goals and 11 points in the playoffs that year, that ’71 team which essentially handed the Montreal Canadiens the Stanley Cup.

Bobby Hull’s 1,000th point came on a Chico Maki goal, Dec 12, 1971.

Maki had experience playing with Hull in junior hockey, on the St. Catherines Tee-Pees.  There, Chico also skated with the likes of Stan Mikita, Pat Stapleton and Vic Hadfield.  With the Tee-Pees, Maki also played with future teammate, goaltender Denis Dejordy and Roger Crozier, who would go on to win the Conn Smythe as the goalie of the Red Wings in ’66, even though Detroit lost the series to Montreal 4 games to 2.

Maki suffered a lot of personal turmoil away from the ice during the latter stages of his career.  Just before Christmas of 1972, his younger brother Wayne, who briefly played with Chico on the Hawks, was diagnosed with a brain tumor while playing for the Canucks.  At that point Wayne was forced out of hockey and died a year and a half later.

On his farm in the summer of ’74, shortly after his brother’s death, Chico was operating a combine machine that severed his 11-year old son’s foot.  Maki took the ’74-75 season off to aid in his son’s recuperation.  He returned to the Blackhawks the following season but age and the layoff caught up to him.  Maki played in just 22 games, without managing a goal and eventually retired at age 36.

The Maki’s are often mentioned when brother-tandems are mentioned in Blackhawks’ history along side the Hull’s, Bentley’s, Conacher’s and Sutter’s.  While they did skate on the same line for some time, Wayne on left wing and “Chico” both at center and the right wing, during the ’67-68 season (the first without Glenn Hall), it was the lone season they played together.   The Maki’s were on the same team for about the same amount of time as the Larmer’s, and a little less than any two Sutter brothers were simultaneously (Brent/Rich).

Nelson Emerson was one of those players who earlier in his career had often killed the Hawks.  So they acquired him in late December of 1998.  That was the deal that sent Paul Coffey to Carolina after just ten games as a Blackhawk.

It was essentially a salary dump that saved Bill Wirtz $1.2 million.  Coffey was traded to Chicago from Philadelphia at the ’98 Draft in Buffalo.  The Hawks were coming off a 73 point season and 5th place finish.  They’d been two years removed from Jeremy Roenick and a year and a half from Ed Belfour.  The franchise on the decline and everyone knew it.  The fan favorites were gone and the offense had nothing after Amonte-Zhamnov and Daze.  Jeff Hackett was actually very good in net at that time, and the defense was still very good but Gary Suter, Eric Weinrich and Chelios (so we thought) were winding down.

Knowing his team, and more importantly his ticket-buying fan base, was in need of a kick-start, Bill Wirtz set out to spend some dough.  While he dropped $18 million over three years on Doug Gilmour to set up a formidable one-two punch down the middle with Zhamnov, Wirtz dropped the ball on free agent Brett Hull.  The Golden Jet’s son signed instead with Dallas for three years and $17 million, taking less of it up front as well to sign with the Stars after 11 years and 527 goals with the St. Louis Blues.

The acquisition of Coffey was more about bringing in a name Blackhawks fans would know in hoping Coffey’s legacy built in Cup runs with the Oilers, Penguins and Red Wings would be an added attraction at the gates.  It wasn’t.   Coffey wasn’t thrilled about the trade to begin with but was talked into the move by Gilmour and Chelios.  During his brief tenure with the Hawks, I don’t know that I’ve seen a player who wanted less to do with physical contact than Coffey.  About the only thing he was being asked to do was run the power play and even that didn’t go too well.  Coffey also didn’t mesh well with rookie head coach Dirk Graham.  Yes, Wirtz spent all that money in free agency and then hired a head coach with absolutely no coach experience at any level.  The Hawks started that season by losing 15 of their first 22 games and by Thanksgiving, they were essentially out of the playoff picture.  So Coffey got shipped off to Carolina for Emerson and Graham was eventually fired in favor of assistant coach Lorne Molleken.  Keep in mind, Graham’s staff also included Denis Savard, who himself less than a year’s experience as an assistant.

And, well yeah, Emerson didn’t work out much either.  He stuck around for just under three months, scoring 4 goals in 27 games before he was a deadline acquisition for first-place Ottawa.

It’s funny.  In one of the final fights of Coffey’s career, he beat up Jocelyn Lemieux.  This was while Coffey was with Detroit and five years before he came to the Hawks.  That’s one thing most people seem to forget about Coffey, he could actually handle himself when he wanted to.  He was certainly no heavyweight for sure, but he wasn’t a slouch.

–A few minor league signings….

Judd Blackwater, who dressed in 9 games for the IceHogs during the ’08-09 season, signed with the Las Vegas Wranglers (ECHL) on Tuesday.  Blackwater starred under Bill Peters’ Memorial Cup championship squad in 2008.  Others on that team included Jared Cowen, Jared Spurgeon, Drayson Bowman and goalie Dustin Tokarski (TBL).

Mike Hedden, who was one-game PTO signing for Rockford on March 30 when injuries (Beach, Makarov, Leblanc, Morin) and Evan Brophey’s season-ending suspension decimated Rockford’s roster for a game in Cleveland.  On Tuesday Hedden, 26, signed a one-year AHL contract with the Texas Stars.

Repeating what he mentioned a few days ago, Andy Bohmbach also signed with a new team.  Bohmbach was on an AHL deal with Rockford last season but spent most of the season with Toledo.  The former Wisconsin Badger has signed with the Adirondack Phantoms  (AHL).

And finally, on Tuesday the New York Rangers signed center/right wing Andre Deveaux to a two-way contract.  Deveaux spent the ’10-11 season with the Chicago Wolves on an AHL contract after coming over from the Toronto organization.  It was Deveaux’s second go-round with the Wolves having been a member of the 2008 Calder Cup champion squad.  He was originally a 6th round draft pick of Montreal in the 2002 Entry Draft.  The 6-3, 240 pound forward is coming off a career year with the Wolves where he scored 23 goals, 23 assists in 73 games.  Deveaux had been an enforcer for pretty much his entire career until getting an opportunity to develop his game with the Toronto Marlies.  Deveaux did appear in 22 games with the Maple Leafs over two seasons.  In those games he managed one assist and 75 penalty minutes.  Deveaux’s an emotional skater who likes to hit and stir the pot.  Can’t imagine the IceHogs will miss Deveaux.

–Antti Miettinen has signed with the Kazan Ak Bars in the KHL.

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