Feb 072012

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go, downtown” – Petula Clark

It was sometime around 1989 that I had the great fortune of seeing the two virtuoso’s pictured above. It was probably the highlight of an evening that held great expectations for me. I had asked a young damsel out on, sort of, a blind date. She was a great setter on this co-rec volleyball team I played on. After deliberating at length whether or not I should ask her out, I finally picked up the phone and nervously inquired if she had any plans for the evening. She wanted to know where we were going, however I told her it would have to remain a surprise. I did give her a hint, I told her it involved going “downtown.” As Petula Clark sang in that wonderful song, I was hoping we’d be “listening to the rhythm of the gentle bossa nova;” that we’d be “dancing with them too, before the night was over.”

The thing I like about Jazz is that it’s so complex and unpredictable. It can vary from the “blow any note that pops into your head,” to a fusillade of notes melded together in a magical rhythmic moment, a moment that seems to be a brief respite from the often times violent storm of individualism. I guess it resembles love in many ways. Of course, my date for that night badgered me relentlessly during dinner as we made small talk. Despite her incessant questioning, I didn’t give in and soon we were heading “Downtown” where the lights are much brighter. Little did the object of my amorous pursuit realize, we were about to see McCoy Tyner and Freddie Hubbard at the Moulin Rouge.

The idea came to me in the morning as I read an article by, I think, Howard Reich in the Tribune extolling these two jazz greats. I recall Terri Hemmert of WXRT playing McCoy Tyner tunes as we headed home from hockey games on Sunday night during her Jazz Transfusion show. All I knew about the real McCoy was he was an amazing pianist. How could I possibly go wrong?! At any rate, the questioning picked up in earnest as we approached the bright lights of the big city. Just before the curve I finally relented and gave her a hint; “We’re going to the Fairmont Hotel.”

“I’m not getting a room with you!” she shrieked. It was then that I finally relented and told her of my clandestine plans. (Actually, when I told my boss about this the following Monday he said he would have immediately pulled the car over and told her to get out!) The show itself exceeded my expectations, and I had a hard time keeping my toes still and from not banging on an imaginary drum. McCoy was smoking and till this day, I’ve never heard a more dulcet sound than that which came out of Freddie’s horn. I’m pretty sure my date would have rather of seen Petula Clark, as I noticed her enthusiasm for jazz left something to be desired.

We left when the show was over and went to Dick’s Last Resort over at Navy Pier for a night cap. (All the bra’s hanging on the wall behind the bar probably only confirmed her suspicion of my salacious intent.) I could sense that it was time to call it an evening and we headed to the car. As we walked she suddenly stopped by a blue car, (I had a hot metallic blue Thunderbird Turbo Coupe at the time), and said a few things.  I thought to myself, “Hmmm maybe I’m getting somewhere.” Finally, I’m not sure if it was the company or the hour, she aggravatingly said, “Would you open the door!” In a classic Pink Panther moment all I could say was, “This is ‘not’ my car.”

And you think the Hawks are screwed up at the moment. Anyone adjusting their expectations for the Hawks yet?

While it’s not 12 O’clock yet, clearly all is not well. I actually went to bed mad on Thursday night. It’s bad enough losing, let alone getting humiliated by the Edmonton throng. Really, you need to develop a new cheer. The “we want ten” (especially when you only have 8 – I presume the Oiler fans can count to ten), is really starting to get annoying. I’m not insinuating that Gagner and Beelzebub made a pact, but clearly something other worldly was going down at Rexall Place. Even ex-Hawk Cam Barker rubbed salt in the wound with a floater that seemingly paralyzed a discombobulated Corey Crawford.  Cam also treated us to one of the more humorous moments this season when he panicked at the blue line as Kaner flew down the left boards. Cam did his best impersonation of a 40 year adult learning to skate for the first time, (you know-the one clinging to the boards for dear life), ending up on his fanny as Kane began to weave his magic.

Perhaps Barker’s failed attempt at a Choctaw leading, into a Triple Lutz, was the beginning of the Blackhawks death spiral that evening. Clearly any fan or player watching had to think at that moment, “I feel sorry for Edmonton, this could get ugly in a hurry.” Actually, it did get ugly, but it was the Hawks who found themselves on the wrong side of the ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall.” What transpired the rest of the evening would have made The Exorcist look like an episode of Barney in comparison?

I think the only reason I didn’t go to bed with about five minutes to go is that I wanted to listen to Steve Konroyd try to make sense out of it all. I think he mentioned defensive responsibility among a few other things. Even the normally imperturbable Konroyd appeared ticked off at the dismal effort. After the 8th goal, shamefully, the thought that Coach Q should just pull the guys off the ice and head to the locker room entered my agitated mind. As I walked the dogs around the block after the game, I found myself humming the Hall and Oates song, “What went wrong?”

First off, I’m reminded of a Ronald Reagan quote; ‘Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other end.” Defensive responsibility was not a word one would associate with the Hawks that evening. In fact you might say, “They done messed their pants.” It just might be part of our goal tending dilemma. For one reason or another the game digressed into a high paced game of pond hockey. As things spun out of control, I couldn’t help but reflect on something vancitydan from the nucksmisconduct.com website wrote. He mentioned very sarcastically that the Oilers are not the reincarnation of Gretzky and Messier; (yet). He pointed out Taylor Hall, the Oilers best player, likes to cherry pick. I hadn’t noticed that in prior games so decided to keep an eye on that observation.

Much to my chagrin, with the Hawks ahead 2-0 and counting, Sam Gagner threaded the needle on a long pass to Taylor Hall at our blue line. With a 2-0 lead, wouldn’t you think our defensive pairing, which at the time was Seabs and Keith, would notice that Hall had snuck behind them? I know a lot of fans blame Crawford for letting in a weak goal. However, I think they underestimate Hall’s abilities and dismiss the obvious lack of defensive discipline that led to the leak in the dike. As the fable goes, the Dutch quickly ran out of school boys to stick their fingers in the leaks that began to spring up.

There were a total of 88 shots on net in Edmonton, 47 by the Hawks. The refereeing was the exact opposite of the Vancouver game, when the zebra’s for the most part were invisible. In the Oiler contest it seemed penalties were called based on the pure randomness of the lottery system – it certainly was not conducive to a smooth flow in the game. Things got so bad, by the end of the game Coach Q threw Scott, Mayers, Bickell, Shaw and Montador out on the ice together. What’s that old saying, “If you can’t beat them, beat the hell out of them.” Eddie Olczyk seemed to enjoy this moment of meat headedness. Perhaps as a former player, getting beat in the fashion the Hawks did, required some sort of response. Sam Gagner should have been sent a clear message that 8 points against us was enough for one night. The way things were going that night though, John Scott would have probably had his lunch handed to him.

The Calgary game was a vast improvement defensively over Thursday’s sad affair, although it seemed our run and gun offense went into hibernation. Whatever Q said to the lads, they came out with a much higher focus on defense against the desperate Flames. I saw Keith, Hjarmal’s, O’Donnell and Montador all throw solid checks behind our goal line. The lack of hitting someone certainly has been an ongoing criticism of our defense this year. If the opposing forwards know they are not going to be punished for venturing past our deepest defenses, they are going to throw a lot more caution to the wind. It was one of the most physical games I’ve seen from the d-corps this year. As the song goes, “Let me hear your body talk.”

Personally, I liked the changes Q made to the defensive pairings. O’D and Hjarmal’s seemed to work. Even Leddy and Monty were solid. I’m not as big of critic of Leddy as some, but he could turn out to be more effective bum slaying on our third pairing. The current lineup could also lead to a less of a work load on Marlboro 72. O’Donnell, when not overused, has been quite effective for the most part, although he does seem to play best when he’s fresh. He definitely adds a little of the much vaunted “sandpaper” everyone was so excited about early on in the season. I’m not sure what the Calgary player did that flipped on the “I’ll kick your ass” switch when O’D blasted that Flame forward, but we need a little anger from our back end now and then. I probably would be singing a different song if the ref would have sent Sean to the time out box- although from a Chicago viewpoint it was a good example of the ref just letting the boys play!

Another glowing positive from the ongoing nightmares in Alberta was the solid play of #88. I really don’t get all the criticism of Kaner being propagated by the sports writers and many fans. Anyone with half a brain would realize that the skills Patrick possess come around about once every 25 years or so. Trade Kaner for a goalie? I want to kill people who suggest such total nonsense – literally kill them, chop their heads off, burn them at the stake, Chinese water torture them, kill, kill, kill.

Consider this you total and complete nincompoops, the following four players are all being considered to replace the soft game that Kane brings to the ice. Corey Perry, 40pts, -9; Jarome Iginla –will I ever learn to spell this guys name right- 41pts, -7; Zach Parise 46pts, -2; Rick Nash 34pts, -21. To many, anyone one of these players would be a vast improvement over Patty cake and his 44pts and +9 totals. Not included in Kaner’s totals are all the prime chances he’s generated that weren’t buried by his teammates. Anyone who even suggests that Kaner be traded for a goaltender should be executed on the spot. Are you kidding me?

Frolik/Bolland and Bickell actually showed signs of life in Calgary also. Very active, they were perhaps are best line against a stifling defensive effort by the hard working Calgary team on Friday. The word stymied came to mind a lot as I watched our offense try to generate scoring chances. It seemed a lot of the game, especially the second period, we had a hard time getting the puck out of our zone and when we did we usually passed it to Bouwmeester and he’d promptly send the puck deep into our zone, starting the vicious cycle all over again. It was a bit like watching Sisyphus roll that boulder up the hill. Unfortunately for Frolik, his 4 minute high sticking penalty overshadowed all the good things he did on the ice. Hopefully Coach Q saw them and will keep this line together for another game.

Reading the blogs and beat writers, it’s obvious that the frustration is reaching a boiling point. I have two cures for that. First, realize we will go on another winning streak. Does anyone realize the much ballyhooed Boston Bruins have lost 6 out of their last 10? This is, by most everyone’s standards, the most dominant team in the league. I guess some of the weaker teams in the leagues aren’t so weak, eh. Secondly, there’s a fellow by the name of “Tuke” who posts on the secondcityhcockey.com site who really came up with a good solution to our considerable angst.

Basically he said “I’m going to start treating this team like the 07 team, a time when my hopes, but not my expectations, were so high.” Back then we could enjoy the game because we were more of an underdog. Winning the Stanley Cup wasn’t expected.  Hell, we just wanted to make the 8th spot in the playoffs. Tuke noted that he realizes this team is not near as good as the Stanley Cup Champ team, although other than the goaltending, I think I might disagree with that. Actually, we had goaltending issues that year also, issues that were finally resolved by the time the playoffs rolled around. Many pundits predicted our goaltending was too weak to contend for the Cup that year. I bring this up again to remind anyone out there that trading Kane for a goalie would be the biggest mistake the Hawks have made since raising beer prices to $8/bottle. If we’re that desperate, we got a decent back up in Switzerland – yodel-ay-eee-oooo.

Much like the damsel who wanted to know where we were going on that blind date over 20 years ago, Blackhawk fans are demanding answers though. We want to know where we’re going and be certain we have all the pieces in place necessary to at least make it there. If the truth be known, anything less than a deep playoff run would not meet our expectations.

I fully expected to have more than one date with the girl who would not “get a room” with me at the Fairmont Hotel. Instead, another beautiful girl walked into a gym a short time after – I recall saying as I gazed at her standing in the door way, “Hmmm, I wonder who that is?” Some twenty years later, I still marvel at the great fortune of what I perceived to be a catastrophe at the time. Often times what might appear as an unmitigated disaster, is actually a blessing in disguise. It just might be a little harder to see during a five game losing streak.

Could these times that try the Blackhawk faithful’s souls actually prove beneficial in April? Do you think MCoy Tyner or Freddie Hubbard worry when they miss a note? (How the hell would you know?) I think there’s a lot more positive than negative-we’re only a shutout away from getting things turned around.

Until then, damn it Blackhawks, “would you open the door, err I mean win a game!”

Rich Lindbloom

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