By Chris Block
Big weekend starts tonight as both the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs are in action twice this weekend.
Blackhawks host Colorado at the UC tonight. I’m on recap duty for this one so that should be fun. The Boston Bruins then come to town on Sunday afternoon for what should be another entertaining game against a top Eastern Conference opponent, the third in eight days at home for the Hawks.
Rockford is in Cleveland this weekend for a two-game set Friday and Saturday against the Lake Erie Monsters, who are the Colorado Avalanche minor league affiliate. The IceHogs missed out on an opportunity to move back into first place in the MidWest division on Wednesday when they were shut-out at home by San Antonio, 4-0. The IceHogs were terrible in that game until the third period when they outshot San Antonio 20-5, but by then it was far too late. Later that night Milwaukee earned a point in an OT loss at Grand Rapids, so Milwaukee sits 2 points up on Rockford. Both teams have played 52 games at this point, though Milwaukee is idle tonight.
–I was absolutely crushed Sunday morning as I walked into the United Center and got the news that Steve Montador had passed away overnight. Montador was 35.
I covered wrestling for many years and became good friends with guys who would go on to die at an early age or take their own life, but now that I’m a bit older, you get a different feeling when someone dies young whose just a shade younger than you.
I had the pleasure of covering Montador in Rockford and speaking with him in his time with the organization. He was just honest and passionate about the game when we spoke. He was just a great person. That’s all there really is to say. Its sad that his career ended the way it did and again now that he’s gone.
–Last Sunday’s Committed Indian column on the Hawks recent recalls and some players who’ve been passed on recently that some have asked about is up in PDF form here.
Also, if you missed our 2015 Blackhawks Prospect rankings, it’s here. I think I’ll finally have time this weekend to finish all the full length bios for posting here on the site. That’s my goal. The delay has really come from my decision to write bios on every prospect, whether they ranked in the top 25 or not. With work and traveling and a lot of other things going on, there hasn’t been a lot of time to devote to that project but I have to get that done soon now that I’m about four months away from having to do it all over again ahead of the draft.
–Patrick Sharp has just 1 point in the past 9 games (0g 1a, -7) since a 4 assist night in Anaheim on January 30th. His minutes have taken a tumble of late too, as he’s been skating with Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith the past two games. Sharp skated 16:50 and registered four shots Wednesday against the Red Wings. Though it included overtime, that was roughly four minutes more than Sharp had skated in the previous two games against Pittsburgh (also an OT game) and New Jersey.
Anyone notice over the past 12 games, Brad Richards has 0 goals and 2 assists, all the while skating with Patrick Kane? He’s also a minus-5 over that run. He’s also under 50 percent at the dot during that time and all when Joel Quenneville isn’t really running him too hard. I know, a lot of people, as they should, are concerned about the 5-6 defense spots right now, but the Hawks certainly can’t be confident in what they have down the middle right now. Richards is a slow starter and he fades hard in his recent years. With the way Shaw has been playing, an upgrade may be needed.
Marian Hossa has 7 goals, 2 assists in the past 6 games. Quenneville has really been riding that 36-year old hot hand of late too. When the streak began, Hossa skated 15:30 in his two-goal performance on 2/8 at St. Louis. Since, Hossa’s averaging 21:20 per game. In the six games leading up to, and including 2/8, Hossa was averaging 17:48 per outing. Not only is Hossa getting more minutes of late, I’ve also noticed his shifts are going on longer, which isn’t a huge concern in the short term, but the longer that goes on it’ll be to his detriment.
Yale’s John Hayden was suspended 1-game by ECAC Hockey last Saturday for a high hit on Jeff Taylor of Union College during the third period of a game on February 13. You can see the hit here.
Hayden launched himself into the hit on Taylor along the boards, low in the Union zone as Taylor was about to play the puck. Taylor also suffered a cut above his left eye, the result of the cage of his face mask being jammed into his head on the hit. Yale won that game in Schenectady, NY at Union College, on Friday night, 2-0. The hit went un-penalized and later Hayden would rub salt into the wound in potting an empty-net goal with 34 seconds left in regulation. Hayden sat out Yale’s 4-1 win at R.P.I. in Troy, NY on Valentine’s Day in serving the suspension.
He’s eligible to return to Yale’s lineup this weekend as the Bulldogs skate at Quinnipac on Friday and at Princeton on Saturday.
Yale vs Quinnipac on Friday will be broadcast on TSN2 in Canada and SNY (DirecTV ch 639) at 6pm central. Quinnipac sits comfortably in first-place right now in the ECAC. Yale is in 3rd put just one point ahead of rival, Harvard. Princeton is the worst team in the ECAC with just 2 wins inside the conference this season and just 4 victories overall. This week’s USCHO poll ranks Yale 13th in the country. North Dakota (20-6-3) moved ahead of Minnesota State this week into the top spot in the D-1 Men’s poll. North Dakota also plays on TV tonight, on CBS Sports Network versus Western Michigan at 6pm central.
TRADE WINDS PICKING UP
I don’t know if Curtis Glencross makes sense for the Hawks at this point, over, or at the cost of upgrading the defense, but the Calgary Flames have been scouting Rockford quite a lot lately. This past weekend Calgary dispatched two different members of hockey ops, including their assistant GM to the IceHogs-Oklahoma City game. OKC is Edmonton’s AHL affiliate this year. Anything’s possible, but Calgary dealing for Oilers’ prospects at this point doesn’t make much sense. Glencross is unhappy in Calgary and his contract is up in June, so he’s likely to get moved at the deadline in spite of Calgary’s position as a Wild Card hopeful. Sportsnet’s Roger Millions and Elliotte Friedman reported today that Glencross has drawn interest from “up to 15 teams” but his list of teams he would accept a trade to at this point is fewer, between 5 and 7, according to Friedman. Those 15 suspected teams figure to be all playoff current playoff teams, and perhaps one or two on the borderline, because the cost of acquiring Glencross will come at the expense of a higher round draft pick, and perhaps also a prospect. And with his contract up in June, it’s a price a team with an uncertain playoff-standing is unlikely to pay. So, if that 15 team speculation is correct, it would figure that the Hawks are in that group as a team that’s at least kicking the tires at this point. However, I think the price for Glencross at this point in time (and maybe moreso now that this is out there) is too rich for the Hawks’ blood
Andrew Shaw’s name being bandied around would make more logical sense to me had the Hawks, or Joel Quenneville, spent more time this year grooming a young player to take the third line or fourth line center spot. The only guy who fits that former mold is Teuvo Teravainen, and he’s been playing right wing since his most recent demotion to Rockford. You could read into Marcus Kruger skating with Sharp this past week if you’re so inclined, but Kruger has never shown a consistent knack offensively. Shaw’s not having a great season, but he has added value in the sense that he moved up to the Kane line last spring and had success there when that was needed. To me, Shaw’s not a guy you should undervalue right now unless you have a plan to immediately upgrade the center position because history tells us Brad Richards will fade, and fade badly, the further the playoffs go. Again, another reason Chicago should be adding to the center depth, not subtracting, or ignoring the possibilities that are right under their collective noses.
OTHER HAWKS NOTES
The local media was all over the Trevor van Riemsdyk is skating again story this week, but I wouldn’t get too excited about that. van Riemsdyk is probably four weeks away from getting medically cleared and once he does he’s headed to Rockford for an undetermined conditioning stint. That puts his potential return to the Hawks lineup somewhere around the final week of the season at the earliest. At this point I think the Hawks are looking at it as they’ll be getting a guy back around playoff time who adds to their depth and is someone who they’re confident in when he’s healthy. But I do believe the focus prior to the trade deadline is to add a depth defenseman and whatever they get out of TVR the rest of this season is gravy. They do like him moving forward and so there’s probably an apprehension to pushing him too hard and risking a setback or catastrophic injury.
DYLAN OLSEN UPDATE
Questions are swirling about Dylan Olsen’s current National Hockey League status.
Olsen was placed on waivers by the Florida Panthers back on January 29th. He cleared the process and the very next day the Panthers tried to reassign Olsen to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. It’s been three weeks and Olsen has yet to report to San Antonio.
Officially, the Panthers are saying Olsen was sent home for “personal reasons.” Also officially, Olsen still technically remains on the Florida Panthers’ roster because he never made it to San Antonio.
It’s an odd situation that I’m sure we’ll know more about in the coming weeks.
A lot of talk the past couple days about Steve Moses, who set the KHL record this week for goals in a single KHL season. Moses recorded his 36 goal of the season, the new record, on a successful penalty shot attempt on Wednesday. In his final two seasons (2010-12) at college, Moses scored 36 goals in 76 games.
Moses, who turns 26 in August, is reportedly drawing interest from several NHL teams now as his Jokerit contract nears its end at the completion of this season.
While it’s unlikely Moses winds up here, there are some strong connections to the Blackhawks. Moses is only 5’9” but is built well to his frame and is a very good skater. His game is offense, so he has to play in the top nine wherever he lands.
Moses was recruited to take part in summer prospect camps with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2011 while he was in college at the University of New Hampshire. Moses is good friends with James van Riemsdyk and played alongside Trevor van Riemsdyk in Moses’ final season at UNH, when he served as an alternate captain.
This is the third season Moses has played for Jokerit, a Finnish club based in Helsinki that just joined the KHL this year. Moses was a teammate of Teuvo Teravainen the two seasons prior to this year and the two were sometimes linemates.
Odds are Moses winds up in Columbus or Toronto, but certainly somewhere a team can guarantee him a spot on the NHL roster somewhere in their top nine, or at least afford to give him a one-way with the risk of Moses not panning out.
Blue Jackets’ general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was the GM of Jokerit when Moses signed to play there in 2012 after graduating at UNH. So, the Blue Jackets figure to be the front-runners for Moses, who has only played 9 total games of pro hockey in North America, a brief stint he had with the Connecticut Whale on an Amateur Try-Out deal in the spring of 2012 after coming out of college. Moses had 2 goals in eight regular season AHL games and appeared in one playoff game for the then Whale, the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers.
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT CHANGES
—Adrian Aucoin, who had been working in the Blackhawks player development cast, is no longer with the organization. Aucoin, 41, announced his retirement from professional hockey in November 19, 2013, but in reality, by that time he had already been working for the Blackhawks for two months. Aucoin finished his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2012-13, his 7th National Hockey League stop. In 1,108 regular season games, Aucoin notched 121 goals, 399 points, served as Blackhawks’ team captain and was a part of the Phoenix Coyotes’ team that eliminated the Hawks in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs.
Taking Aucoin’s spot is Anders Sorensen, 39, who the Hawks have worked with loosely for a few years, Sorensen being a coach in Sweden the Hawks have sent prospects to train with the past few summers. This change happened earlier this season. Sorensen coached Blackhawks’ 2013 draft pick Robin Press. Sorensen also coaches the Chicago Mission program that Gino Cavallini (St. Louis Blues), Bob Nardella (Chicago Wolves, Italy-Olympics), John Varga (Capitals draft pick), Justin Lewandowski (Chicago Steel & Ferris St) and Greg Tam all also a part of out of Seven Bridges in Woodridge.
Rockford-born, and former NHL defenseman Dennis Vaske (NY Islanders) is the head director and coaches for the Chicago Fury program out of the Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park.
Sean Berens (Fremd H.S., Michigan St) and Steve Maltais (Chicago Wolves) coach the Team Illinois program out of Crystal Lake. Ryan Hartman also went to Fremd in Palatine. Berens was an undersized forward in the era of clutching and grabbing. Because of that, he went undrafted and really was never given a shot by an NHL organization, thus bounced around the IHL (including a stop with the Wolves one season) before playing in Europe a handful of years before retiring. Berens was a star at Michigan State (1994-98) where he played with Anson Carter, Shawn Horcoff, Mike Watt (not the Ball hog or tugboat, Mike Watt), Mike Weaver (current Montreal Canadien) and Mike York.
Former Blackhawk Steve Sullivan is now coaching a AAA program out of Phoenix, the Jr. Coyotes, which his kids also play for.
–I should also add some color to the news we broke here before the season when it came to the Hawks adding to their pro scouting staff.
The main duties of Mike Grier, Derek Booth and Mike Mottau are to scout post-draft prospects playing at the amateur level still. The idea here was the Hawks felt they had a hole in their scouting when it came to their knowledge of other team’s prospects at the pre-pro levels. It’s a great idea because prospects get thrown into deals all the time. Obviously its advantageous to have a database of notes on another team’s prospects when a name comes up in trade talks as opposed to then having to send a scout or two on an emergency assignment to get a game or two’s notes on said player before determining value or accepting that prospect as part of a deal. The Hawks obviously can afford the additional staff and since this is a copycat league (though the Hawks aren’t the first team to put focus in this area), I’d expect other teams to follow suit.