Mar 022014

IholdOn“I – Hold – On”

“It’s just an old beat up truck,
some say I should trade up
Now that I got some jangle in my pocket.
But what they don’t understand
Is it’s the miles makes the man.
I wouldn’t trade that thing for a rocket.
What they don’t know is my dad and me-
We drove her out to Tennessee
And she’s still here and now he’s gone
So I hold on,” – Dierks Bentley

By Rich Lindbloom

When is the last time you heard someone say, “That new country song blew my socks off?” Well, all I can say is, “Cousin Stanley, fetch the corn liquor jar!”

I have about an hour commute nowadays to and from work. Needless to say, I tend to flip around from station to station. I tend to go from XRT, to The Drive, to Conservative talk shows and their messed up second cousin, Progressive talk radio, to Lite 94.7, to K-Love and Moody. Now you can probably begin to understand why my thoughts tend to be as mixed up as Pedro’s breakfast.

I finally struck gold the other night when I switched to US 99 and heard a song that immediately had me reaching for the volume dial on the radio. I don’t know a lot about Dierks Bentley; I do know this song will be played as long as Country Music is played over the air waves. The song contains a catchy melody, that deep country vocal, and a story that has the ability to stir emotion in even the most hardened of us. I think even Tazer might shed a tear on this one.

It’s a song about what’s important in life – the memories we cling to as we motor down that old lonesome, dusty road. The remembrances of people, places and things that we accumulate in this “sloppy, raggedy ass” old thing we call life, as Dennis Trudell once put it. If you get a chance, Google it; just make sure you have a good grip on your socks!

The song made me think about the two players ultimately responsible for the rebirth of hockey in the city of Chicago. Without these two, would there be two new banners hanging in the rafters? Would there be throngs of middle aged men who look like they probably couldn’t stand on double rudders wearing Kaner jerseys? Would the United Center have gone from half full to a packed house -night after night after night? Would ticket prices have gone from $10 to $48 in the Peanut Gallery? Would the local newspapers actually put the Hawks on the front page of the sport section? Any of you ever notice how many cars there are with Blackhawk stickers or license plates on the road?

No, I don’t believe any of this could have transpired without the two bedrocks that joined the team in the 2005/06 season. What’s that you say, our prima donna, Chevy Boys didn’t join the team until 2007/08?  Lindbloom, everyone knows Patty Cake and Captain Psycho didn’t join the team until then – do your homework man! Without Toews and Kane none of this would have been possible; I beg to differ.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook made the Blackhawk roster out of training camp in 2005/06. Keith-age 21 and Seabrook-age 19 at the time joined the team after the one year hiatus of professional hockey. Now I know there have been some great defensive tandems in Blackhawk lore – Vasko/Pilotte, White/Stapleton, Maggy/Jarret, Wilson/Murray, Sopel/Hendry, for example. Simply put however, the Blackhawk organization struck gold when they drafted Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. I don’t believe they fought crime together in the NHL until the 2007/08 season on a regular basis. Like peanut butter and jelly, soup and sandwich, or beer and beer, the two have been mostly inseparable ever since.

As I continue to enjoy this incredible wave of Blackhawk hockey over the last 7 years, I can’t help but to start wondering how long it can go on. Think about it for a second – 2 and 7 are playing in their 9th NHL season already. That’s a lot of water over the bridge, as they say. Sure, there are always some young burgeoning stars ready and more than willing to fill the void. However, parings like Keith and Seabs come around once in a blue moon. Not that Coach Q hasn’t forced them into a trial separation now and again, but when push comes to shove, he’s never afraid to resort to this safety blanket. It’s his personal binky. Simply put, they are the Elmer’s glue responsible for battening down the hatches on the Hawks good fortune.

The first thing I noticed about Keith in 2005 was his skating ability and somewhat small size for a d-man. Not surprisingly, the Duncster averaged 23 min/game his rookie year! Of course, that number has only gone up as the years have gone by. Q likes to ride that horse hard. The first thing I noticed about Seabrook is that he looked like Eddie Munster on the Munsters;

 SeabsYouthCoachSeab’s as a youth with his Coach Q doll

I’m much more of an eye test observer than cold, hard statistics hockey fan. Even a casual fan would quickly be able to see their considerable contributions to the team’s success. For you Freakonomic fans out there though, let’s take a gander at the numbers. For simplification purposes, I’m just going to focus on three categories – +/-, Points and Penalty Minutes;

Norris Keith                                                     Eddie (wrong way) Seabrook

                          +/-   Points   PIM                              +/-   Points   PIM

2005/06               -11     21        79                             +5      32         69

2006/07               0        32        76                             -6      24        104

2007/08               +30    32        56                           +13    32        90

2008/09               +33    44        60                          +23    26       62

2009/10               +24    69        51                           +20    30       59

2010/11               -1       45        22                               0      48        47

2011/12               +15    40        42                             +21   34        22

2012/13               +16    27        31                             +12   20        23

2013/14               +19    48        10                             +25   35        16

Two Stanley Cup Championships                    Two Stanley Cup Championships
Two Olympic gold medals                               One Olympic gold medal
Two World Junior Championships

(One quick observation here; can d-men win the Lady Bing award? Can you imagine the uproar in Vancouver if Keith won the Lady Bing?)

Hawk fans, it might be awhile before we see a tandem like this again. I bring this up because I hear more and more criticism of Seabrook. Brent is still averaging almost 22 minutes/game. (Keith is around 24 this season) For someone who many fans are ready to put out to pasture, Seabrook’s numbers are way above average this season. Has he slowed down a half step – the eye test says yes. However with a water bug like Keith backing him up, he doesn’t have to be the fastest man on the ice. Seabs is currently 18th in the league with 130 hits. If you ask me, they make a perfect combination-the muscle and the hustle.

In the games against St. Louis this year, Seabrook has made it his personal mission to knock David Backes into the middle of next week. Very few Hawk defensemen want to take that necessary role on. Certainly that is not Keith’s game. While Keith is out there doing his best Evgeny Plyushchenko imitation, Seabs is kicking ass and taking names. Seabrook also possesses a pretty wicked slapshot, a shot that usually is on net. (Perhaps Keith’s only weakness is he would have a hard time hitting the broad side of a barn with his slapper. Although he can nail a shin pad from a mile away!) Seab’s is always the first man in when our opponents try to take liberties with our skilled players. I’m pretty sure those guys appreciate having a big brother on the ice with them.

When Keith and Seabs joined the team, here’s a list of the other d-men for the Hawks; Babchuk, Barinka, Karpovtsev, Quint, Berard, Dempsey, Strudwick, McCarthy, Vandermeer, Poapst, Robidas (how’d we let him get away?). I’m pretty sure none of those players will have their numbers hoisted to the rafters any time soon. Actually Big Buff joined the Hawks in 2005/06 also, playing 25 games. I’m not sure who the GM was at that time; whoever it was seemed to be focusing on strengthening our blue line. I’d have to say “Mission accomplished” in that regards.

So the million dollar question is do #2 and #7 retire as Blackhawks? In this day and age it is very rare for a player to stay with one team his whole career.  I’m quite certain most of the intelligent Hawk fans, and I think you know who you are, would not hesitate to make a Ryan Kesler for Seabrook trade. After watching the Olympics, there did seem to be a chemistry between Kane and Darth Vader. Rumors have been circulating about Andrew Ladd also.

After all, nine years is a long time. Perhaps the tread on the tires of that old pickup truck is wearing a little thin. Yet, in the back of my mind I keep returning to 2005/06, when Blackhawk hockey began to rise from the ashes. A time when two young kids were handed the task of thwarting the greatest players in the NHL, night after night. Clearly, the “Not in my kitchen” mindset of #2 and #7 set the stage for two Stanley Cups.

I’ve said it before, but for whatever reason hockey players tend to become like family to us. The memories of their effort and bravery on the ice stick with us. Sort of like Dierks Bentley’ memories of trips in that old beat up pickup truck that he and his dad took.

Brent and Duncan thanks for the ride, I don’t believe it’s time to jettison you yet. Indeed, as Dierks Bentley sings, “I – HOLD – ON.”

Other important stuff:

Seabs, Brent, Biscuit, Dude, Dawg… next time I lavish you with high encomium, would you try not to shoot the puck into your own net! Do you realize you make it look like I have no clue what I’m talking about when you do something like that.

Although the more I think about it, where was Crawford on that shot? Did he decide to take a coffee break at that moment. Seriously, the puck is dead center in front of the net, and Crow is a no show. I’m beginning to think we should have made the Kane for Miller swap when we had a chance.

Other than letting Seabrook’s blast get buy, Mr. Big was incredible last night.

Looks like Jeremy Morin is going to get a legitimate chance to play in the NHL with the injury to Big Hoss. At least that’s what I’d do, but then again I still think that Seab’s is good.

In a way, I hate to see Morin leave the IceHogs at this juncture. The Hogs have been gelling lately and it’s been fun watching the goings on down at the farm. I’m sure more than a few of us would be heading to Rockford if they make the playoffs.

Anyone who attended the game on Saturday, well, keep your ticket stubs. It is actual proof that you are certifiably nuts.

Patrick Kane’s pass to Versteeg was absolutely beauteous. I’m pretty sure that is why Wayne Gretzky once said he was one of two players in the NHL he would pay to watch. Maybe Mike Milbury needs to revisit his statement after the loss to Finland that Kane needed to take a long hard look in the mirror. It sure would have been nice if that puck that clanged off the post or the other shot that hit Fleury in the mask, had gone in. I smell a hat trick for Kaner just around the corner.

It seems to me the Blues gave up a lot for a goalie who is not all that much better than Halak. They should have at least demanded that John Scott was thrown in the deal-he would have blended quite well with the rest of the Blues meatballs. St. Louis lost their last two games by 1-0 scores. Why was goaltending such a big issue for them? Yes Alice, it gets curiouser and curiouser.

I was elated when I heard that Steve Ott was traded to the Eastern conference this past season. Having to face that douche-nozzle extraordinaire only two times in a season, left most of the Western Conference ecstatic. Ott is the typical player you love to hate unless he’s on your team. Then of course he’s a hard-nosed hockey player. Players like him are why Brandon Bollig is on the Hawks roster.

It seemed to me Brandon Bollig wanted “to go” last night. Nothing like showcasing your pugilistic skills before a National audience.

I’m not positive about many things in life, but there is no doubt in my mind that Keith and Seabs will be plying their trades in Hollywood long before the Chevy Boys. I loved Mirabelle’s astute comment posted at the web site; “I think the whole world wins when hockey players try to act.” I’m still not sure if the Kaner and Tazer commercial, where they try to look tough, is serious or an attempt at humor.

I think Chris Block is finally starting to see things may way. As long as I’ve known him, he has for the most part never blamed a loss on the refs. (Blasphemy!)  In his last recap of the Hogs, in a very tempered manner, Chris pointed out some of the zebra’s inconsistencies, especially in the AHL. I believe it will only be a matter of time before he’s hollering, “Ref you stink,” from the press box in Rockford! (I knew I was right all along.)

Thanks for the great IceHog recaps, Chris.

Finally, a little anecdote about my first Blackhawk jersey: I received it for Christmas the season the Hawks won the Stanley Cup. My daughter picked it out and without a doubt knew whose name to put on it, #2 Keith. (I would proudly wear a Seabrook jersey also.) At any rate, Taylor and Nathalie took the sweater to get it signed by Keith at a Hawks practice. My wife had a friend who had entrance into the locker room. When he asked him to sign it, Keith said, “I’m not supposed to do that.” He convinced Keith to sign it and in a harried voice Duncan said, “Who do I sign it to?” George panicked because he couldn’t remember my name and Keith was running out of patience. George blurted out, “Taylor.” So to make a long story short, my first Hawk jersey ever has Keith’s signature on it. It says “To Taylor, Best Wishes Duncan Keith #2.”

WellThatsFineMess“Well, that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into Ollie.”

Rich Lindbloom

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