Mar 012015

PondStars_Lindbloom_2015Mar02Five veterans overlooked by Stan Bowman

By Rich Lindbloom

“Growing old is compulsory, growing up is optional.”

The picture above depicts five “experienced” (i.e. – old as dirt) players that Stan Bowman overlooked in his attempts to fill the Black Hole that was created by Kaner’s injury. It was taken in the backyard of Spencer Arena last Saturday, on a beautiful afternoon for outdoor hockey. Pictured above is my brother John, yours truly, Kirk, Stash and Don “McSorley” Blocker. Literally, there is over 280 years of hockey experience in that snapshot. While many of you may be cursing the lingering presence of Old Man Winter, I think it’s safe to say all five of us are hoping for a few more weeks of sub 32 temperatures. 

Kirk, who grew up in Michigan, is a die hard Wings fan. He’s part of our season ticket group, and actually claims the Hawks as his second favorite team-but there is no doubt where his allegiance lies. He’s been flooding his back yard for over 20 years now, and it gets a little bigger every season. I started playing there about 13 year ago. Our kids were obviously much smaller and to tell you the truth, I was pretty dominant on the ice at that point against the 9 to 12 year olds. Regrettably, the kids got older and faster, and I got older and slower. To overcome my diminishing skills, I had to resort to questionable tactics. As one of my son’s friends said after one afternoon, “Greg, your dad holds a lot.” (As the saying goes, “old age and treachery will beat youth and skill any day”)

The rink is Kirk’s baby now. He takes great pride in the best skating surface in Homewood, if not the entire south side. I jokingly asked him one time if he ever considered putting a cooling system under the ice. Surprisingly, he told me yes, but at over $20,000 his wife Jacquie put the kibosh on that idea.

Due to an arthritic hip, I’m the slowest of the bunch in that photo. Indeed, discretion has become the better part of valor in my game. However, skating outside in the cold, shedding jackets and sweatshirts as the action heats up, is such an exhilarating feeling. Throw in a few snowflakes and you’d have a Norman Rockwell painting. Try as we may to take it easy, it seems we still all possess that competitive edge that pushes us past the limits of our skating abilities. (there were quite a few of us who hit the deck last Saturday!) Who won and lost in my mind, always takes a back seat to no one getting seriously injured. More on that later…

In between reverse net, and four corners, we take out the tic tac toe board and take part in the skills competition. The bottom and middle three quadrants count for one point if you hit them, and the upper level counts for two points. Stash currently is tied for the backyard record with 8 points. This game gives me a new found appreciation for the marksmanship of NHL players – it seems so many shots glance in off a post. The most points I’ve ever accumulated is four, although if goalies had holes in their midsection, I’d be one hell of a goal scorer!

While he may have overlooked the veteran experience at Spencer Arena this past weekend, Stan Bowman pulled the trigger on two players who will certainly help plug the hole left by Kaner’s absence. As they say in the poker world, the Blackhawk organization is obviously “all in.” Acquiring the services of 5’10”, 194 pound Kimmo Timonen and 6′ 1″, 198 pound Antoine Vermette, even if only for the remainder of this season, greatly increased the Blakhawk’s post season fortunes. Vermette cost the Hawks a first round draft pick in 2015 and Klas Dahlbeck, a pretty steep price if you’re looking towards the future. It appears that Vermette is just a post season rental, unless major changes are made in the Hawks roster this summer. Timonen cost the Hawks a second round pick in 2015 and a conditional 4th round pick in 2016.

I’ll let the savants on the various blogs fill you in on their technical skills, but I know both have been highly sought after Fantasy Hockey players. Vermette is a face off whiz, averaging over 56%, finishing in the top ten in faceoffs both in 2012/13 and 2013/14. He was drafted 55th in the 2000 draft and at 6″1″, 198lbs, Antoine, (thankfully no relation to Antoine Rousell) brings some much needed size to the center position. His addition greatly increases Coach Q’s options as far as The Random Line Generator goes. I’m thinking Coach Q feels a little bit like a kid in a candy shop right about now. It’s pretty hard not to be excited about this pick up if you’re a Hawk fan.

Timonen, who is only a few years short of joining the five of us in the photo above at age 40, will greatly help solidify the Hawks blue line. He’s a Finn, and as I recall, Steve Konroyd once pointed out how fierce of competitors’ Finnish players can be. I know this is not exactly an advanced metric analysis of his game, but looking at some of his photos, he looks tough.

 KimmoTimo“You want some of this?!”

Kimmo was the 250th pick in the 1993 draft. He’s 5″10″, 194lbs, and brings a boat load of experience to the Hawks rear guard. If he remains healthy, and I trust the Hawks have investigated the blood clot issues, well, Keith, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook and Timonen is a pretty solid core in front of Cor-dawg. At the very least, it will relegate Rozsival to the third Hawk d-pairing, where he can be much more effective. And, he can he can be an effective interpreter for fellow Finn, Teuvo Teravainen. It’s no coincidence that Nordstrom and Kruger gel so well together.

Rozsival has been a steady punching bag for the Hawks woes as of late. To tell you the truth, I sort of like the toughness he brings to the equation – an area the Hawks are somewhat lacking. Fifth Feather wrote a great piece at the Committed Indian site this past week that brought out the quirky nature of success and failure in the NHL. He noted if you go back and look at last season, you’ll see Rozsival making the same mistakes he’s prone to this year. The difference is, when he makes a mistake this year, it ends up in the back of the net. However, he’s not quite ready to join us at the Spencer’s yet!

I recall Keith making two egregious turnovers against the Lightning, but he was bailed out by Darling in one instance and the buzzer on the second. There is no way Rozsival should be skating 21 minutes against Boston, but he won’t be the worst third pairing option we have when well rested.

The entire Hawk team looked a bit lethargic against the Lightning, after a bombastic victory over the Panthers the night before. I’ve read all year that Shaw is much more effective as a winger. If the Panther game was any indication, that observation is spot on. Both Shaw and Bickell played like they had a bug up their butts. In fact, they could become the “Of Mice and Men Line” if Coach Q keeps them together.

 OfMiceMenGeorge telling Lennie to “Hit Someone.”

Although the Hawks appeared to be outmatched against the Lightning, back to backs on the road are never a piece of cake. The Hawks actually played a fairly solid first period, with Ben Bishop weathering the storm on one power play in particular. The Hawks threw 5 of 6 shots against the 6’7″ backstop, to no avail. As the song goes, “With a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck…”

With a little bit of luck Patrick Sharp will start lighting the lamp. He currently has a .058 shooting %, the lowest of his career. The blog world has turned on Sharpie almost with as much enthusiasm as when they are bashing Rozsival. I found it somewhat incredible that so many Hawk fans are calling for his head on a platter. Just to make sure were talking about the same guy, here are Sharp’s statistics over the last six years;

2009/10 82 games – 66 points, 25 goals

2010/11 74 games – 71 points, 34 goals

2011/12 74 games – 69 points, 33 goals

2012/13 28 games – 20 points 6 goals

2013/14 82 games – 78 points, 34 goals

2014/15 49 games 32 points, 10 goals

Admittedly, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but will someone explain to me what the big rush is to jettison this consistent performer; one who was an integral part of the resurrection of Blackhawk fortunes for the past nine seasons. I guess it is true, familiarity breeds contempt. Trust me, Sharpie still has a lot of hockey left in him. Bowman must think so also.

After playing this weekend, it became rather obvious to me that I do not have a lot of hockey left in me. In a play being reviewed by the Department of Player Safety, my own brother took me down towards the end of our game. Replays showed him leaving his feet, obviously targeting my head. Only my turtle like quickness avoided a trip to the dark room. At Lassen’s afterwards over a few beers, he tells Stash that I was a tyrant when we were growing up, adding to the fact that the hit may have been premeditated.

Apparently he saw his chance to even the score for all the times I made him scream “uncle,” in our youth. While there is a good chance he’ll be suspended for at least one weekend, Stash, who was on his team, defended John, calling it a hockey play. Both of them are on my hit list next time they lace up my skates for me. (That’s right, with the bad hip, I have to have someone lace up my right boot – I know, pathetic.)

I landed on my stick, and it put a major lump on the side of my quadricep. I could not bend my leg backwards half an inch by the time I got home. Getting in my car, or putting on shoes and socks was a challenge Sunday morning to say the least. If I was on Stan Bowman’s short list of Kaner replacements, I’m sure my name has been scratched.

Well, the resurgent Hurricanes roll into town tonight. They’ve won three in a row and six out of their last ten. Cam Ward has played quite well after a rocky start this season. Daily Face Off has the following defensive parings for the Hawks; Seabrook/Timonen – Keith/Rozsival and Hjalmarsson/Rundblad. (Hopefully we’ll see more of 2 and 4 together as the game progresses) Timonen has already been penciled in to the top PP unit. Vermette will center the second line, between Sharp and Saad. Versteeg is bumped up to the Toews/Hossa line. Richards will center the “Of Mice and Men Line” while the Nordstrom/Kruger/Smith line gratefully remains together – they’ve played quite well together. Expect the Random Line Generator to be smoking tomorrow night.

Other important stuff:

Hossa’s clap bomb off the cross bar in the Panther game was close to be the second shot heard round the world. That shot definitely would have cracked the Liberty Bell.

Stamko’s blast to a 6″ x 6″ spot for the Lightning’s fourth goal was just plain sick. I’m guessing he would set the record at Spencer arena given the chance.

“The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.” Doug Larson

Can you recall a trading deadline in recent years that involved so many big names?

Nice job Mr Bowman.


Rich Lindbloom

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