Nov 262010
 

[Update] Corey Crawford is starting in goal for the Hawks today at Anaheim. (Twitter.com/ChrisKuc)

Defenseman Garnet Exelby agreed to a two-way (NHL/AHL) contract with the Blackhawks yesterday.  As a necessary procedural thing, the Blackhawks then had to place Exelby on 24-hour waivers.  Once Exelby passes through his contract then becomes official.  If another team were to claim Exelby by 11am today, that team would then assume his new contract.

According to a CapGeek.com report this morning, Exelby’s contract is valued at the league-minimum $500,000 at the NHL level, and $105,000 in the AHL.

Exelby, 29, signed a professional tryout contract with the Rockford IceHogs on October 8th and was named team captain twenty-eight days later.

While a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization last season, Exelby appeared in 51 games with the Leafs, registering 1 goal and 3 assists.  He was then in the final year of a three-year contract that paid him $1.725M.

This season, Exelby has appeared in 18 of the IceHogs 19 games (only missing the team’s opener the day after he signed).  So far Exelby has no points and owns a minus-4 overall plus/minus rating.

Exelby is a physical, stay-at-home defenseman.  He’s not the fleetest of foot but he gets to where he needs to be and typically plays within his known limitations.  Exelby is a part of Rockford’s go-to crew of penalty killers and is almost never used on the power play. Continue reading »

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Nov 232010
 

TTMI~Radio returns tonight at 8pm (central).  We’ll try to make sense of these Blackhawks, and the Rockford IceHogs inconsistencies, part one of the ‘Circus Trip’ and look ahead to this week’s games with the three California teams.  We may have a special guest but it isn’t confirmed.

— Dustin Byfuglien is acquitting himself quite well so far in Atlanta.

Byfuglien ranks 3rd among NHL defenseman in scoring with 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in 21 games.  Nicklas Lidstrom and John-Michael Liles are tied for first, each with 20 points.  Byfuglien (E), Ron Hainsey (E) and Brent Sopel (+3) are the only three Thrasher defenseman not in the negative in the plus/minus category.  Byfuglien is currently paired with Tobias Enstrom.  Byfuglien is tied with Steven Stamkos and Rick Nash for most game-winning goals (4).  And he’s tied with Ilya Kovalchuk at the top of the board in overtime goals with two.

For comparison’s sake:

Dustin Byfuglien: 21gp, 7g, 12a, 19pts, E +/-, $3,000,000
Dave Bolland:  17gp, 1g, 3a,  4pts, +2 +/-, $3,375,000

Rockford IceHogs notes:

— Following the impressive 1-0, Hannu Toivonen-led victory on Thursday in Winnipeg, the IceHogs dropped Friday’s rematch with Manitoba 3-1 before 14,134 fans at MTS Centre.  After flying back to Chicago on Saturday and busing back to Rockford for the night, the IceHogs traveled to Peoria on Sunday where they battled hard but lost a 3-2 shootout decision to the Rivermen.  I did a combined recap of these two games Sunday night, which I’ll post on the site once I figure out how to undo the laptop. Continue reading »

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Nov 152010
 

First off a few notes on Rockford from the weekend.  The IceHogs dropped both games in San Antonio against the Coyotes’ farm team Thursday and Friday.  I’ll have more details later today after I have a chance to watch Thursday’s game.

Thursday was reported to be a lackluster affair.  Rockford lost 1-0.  Alec Richards stopped 37 shots in the loss.

Friday, which I have seen, wasn’t much different until the final twenty minutes.  The IceHogs entered the third period down 3-1 after giving up three even-strength goals (though one effectively was a power play tally – more on that in a moment) but were unable to overcome the whole they dug in the middle frame.

The story of Friday’s game was head coach Bill Peters‘ decision to bench Kyle Beach for the entire third period.  Beach took two penalties in the second period.  The first, a roughing minor after a whistle aside the San Antonio goal.  Beach had tried a wrap-around attempt but was thwarted by Chicago product Al Montoya.  With Beach whacking away for a potential rebound, he was aggressively shoved away by a Rampage defender.  Beach, unhappy with this, came back swinging and punched (glove on) the San Antonio player twice in the mouth.   Later in the period Beach was given an unsportsmanlike minor for saying too much as it appeared.  Just as that penalty expired and Beach was stepping out of the box, Mathieu Beaudoin scored to give his team a 2-1 lead.  Beach did not see the ice after that.

Whatever the motivation, Rockford came out for the third period a newly inspired bunch and carried the play for the most part.  Nick Leddy fired a slap shot through traffic and past a Hugh Jessiman screen to trim the deficit to 3-2 three minutes and twenty seconds into the period.  But the Hogs couldn’t solve Montoya again despite 14 third period shots and a late 6 on 4 power play with Alec Richards pulled from his net. Continue reading »

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Nov 092010
 

First off, I’d like to thank Buddy Oakes of Preds On The Glass for having me on his radio show last night.  We talked for about an hour and a half about the Blackhawks, Predators, head shots and what can be done to prevent such hits and some of the injuries that result from those.  If you’re a Twitter-er and ever need a Predators fix, you should follow Buddy.  His other guest last night was Mark from another Predators site, TheViewFrom111.  I jumped on about ten minutes in.  A direct link to listen to last night’s show is here

And after you listen to that, and if you haven’t had your fill of my flu-ridden twang, TheThirdManIn~Radio returns tonight, Live at 8pm central at BlogTalkRadio.com/TheThirdManIn.   No guest tonight.  We’ll have plenty of news, notes and perspective from the two Rockford IceHogs games of the past weekend; Which Rockford prospects are close to helping, who isn’t and who doesn’t belong in the AHL.  I had a chance to take in both games; losses, on Saturday and Sunday.  We’ll get to many more of your emails.  If you have a question or topic you’d like to hear addressed on the show, send me an email at radio@TheThirdManIn.com or ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com with “radio show” included in the subject and we’ll get to it on the show….  I actually have an insightful and useful fantasy hockey segment tonight.  Unlike the one I spewed from the crack of my backside last Tuesday.  Professional operation we have here.  Of course we’ll discuss what’s wrong with the Hawks.  What needs to change and small alterations to be made to turn things around?  We’re also shooting straight on what Jack Skille can do if he wants to become an effective, permanent NHLer.

— My intention was to do another full IceHogs postgame report Sunday night after their game with Peoria, however, with travel, work and being ridden with sick and overdoses of over-the-counter anti-flu medicines, Sunday’s game recap dropped off my radar.  If you missed my detailed report of Saturday’s demoralizing 3-1 loss to Manitoba, click here.

Instead, I’ll share the bullet points from Sunday’s 5-1 loss at Carver Arena in Peoria. Continue reading »

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Oct 052010
 

On Monday, the Blackhawks assigned Jeremy Morin to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.  The decision ends an apparent late pre-season competition between Morin and 24-year old Vitkor Stalberg for a spot on left wing.

In the off season, Morin, 19, was acquired from Atlanta in the deal that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to the Thrashers.  Viktor Stalberg was the key return in the trade in which the Hawks sent Kris Versteeg to Toronto.

In the final exhibition game Sunday versus the Blues, Stalberg skated just under 9 minutes for coach Joel Quenneville, while Morin played 13:18 including several shifts on the power play.  Both were credited with two hits.  Morin registered two shots to Stalberg’s one.  Each picked up an assist while Morin finished a minus-1 and Stalberg a plus-1.  Morin’s effort leading to Marian Hossa’s deflection-goal during a second-period power play was a highlight of the game.  Afterwards, Quenneville called Morin’s night “okay.”

The move of Morin to the AHL trims the Blackhawks roster down to the maximum of 23 with the injury to Brian Campbell and demotion of goaltender Hannu Toivonen having previously gone down over the weekend.

Here’s how the opening night roster stacks up: (lines speculative)

Troy Brouwer – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Tomas Kopecky – Patrick Sharp – Patrick Kane
Viktor Stalberg – Dave Bolland – Fernando Pisani
Bryan Bickell – Ryan Potulny – Jack Skille
Jake Dowell

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Nick Leddy
Jordan Hendry – Nick Boynton
John Scott (W/D) – Jassen Cullimore

Marty Turco
Corey Crawford

Injured: Brian Campbell (sprained right knee; out 4-5 weeks)

Jack Skille (arm) is at this point still considered questionable for Thursday’s opener in Colorado.  Skille has said he thinks he’ll be ready.

Cullimore is still around in case the Hawks get cold feet with the Nick Leddy experiment or it simply doesn’t work out.  Cullimore had a better camp than most everyone is willing to give him credit for and while it may seem unfathomable to some, Cullimore is still a better option for Quenneville than rookies like Ivan Vishnevskiy or Brian Connelly.

If Skille can’t go Thursday, its very possible John Scott will dress as the 12th forward and Cullimore as the 6th-D against the Avalanche.  Remember, Nick Boynton will be serving a one-game suspension Thursday night for his throat-slashing gesture in the first exhibition game on September 22 in Winnipeg against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With Jake Dowell dressing the final two preseason games and Ryan Potulny watching those contests from the stands, it would stand to reason Dowell is getting the call to center the fourth line in Game 1 of 82.  Or, both Dowell and Potulny dress  (if Skille is out) in game one and Scott stands in as the 6th defenseman.

While Jordan Hendry didn’t do much this exhibition season to gain many’s confidence in his ability to anchor the third defensive pairing, the 5-6 duo needs the additional mobility neither Boynton or Scott can provide.  Thus, Hendry could have a longer rope.

In regards to the Morin demotion….

I think you’d be troubled to find a single person who felt Viktor Stalberg out-performed Jeremy Morin during the exhibition contests.  If this were a legitimate one vs one competition, Stalberg would be the player headed to the AHL.  But this obviously wasn’t.

There’s also not much to the notion Morin was a casualty of salary cap considerations.  While Morin’s 2010-11 potential performance bonuses total $170,000 more than Stalberg’s, those would be covered under the entry-level bonus cushion.  Also, Morin’s base salary and preliminary cap hit is $70,000 less than Stalberg’s.  So Morin’s preliminary hit is more favorable than Stalberg’s.  And if Morin were to stick all year at the NHL level and meet all his marks for those bonuses, I’m sure the Blackhawks wouldn’t mind.

More likely, if the cap figured into Morin’s case at all, is apparent inclusion of Nick Leddy on the opening night roster.  Leddy’s base salary according to numbers listed on CapGeek.com is $900,000.  Leddy also does not have attainable performance bonuses this season.  With Leddy in the mix on the Hawks’ blue line, the Hawks only have space for minimum sized contracts for the time being.  If Brian Campbell had not been injured Friday in the game with Pittsburgh, Leddy probably would not have made the team and Morin may have been rewarded with an early trial with the Hawks.

With Leddy in the picture, Morin had to beat out Stalberg since the contracts of Bickell, Skille, Potulny, Dowell, and even John Scott are all closer to the league minimum.  And ultimately, Morin doesn’t have to clear waivers while most of those players do, and that’s why Morin was never really in competition for a spot with anyone but Stalberg.  However, once Viktor Stalberg hits the 20 games played mark this season, he becomes waiver-eligible.  So you can see the pressure is on Stalberg to get going early or he could be headed to Rockford sooner than later after all.  Morin won’t become waiver-eligible until the 2014-15 season, or when he hits 160 NHL games played.

Stan Bowman, may also be looking to delay the passing of Jassen Cullimore through waivers until a few days after the season begins and teams set their initial rosters in case there would happen to be interest in him.  And there very well could be if you consider losing another veteran blue liner (Cullimore) would hurt the Hawks to a degree.  He hasn’t had a bad camp either.  While I’m pretty positive he’s not someone Bowman wants to see in any regularity in a Hawks uniform, Cullimore, who turns 38 in December, is still a veteran who could give the Hawks some minutes in a pinch and also has value skating with the young kids in Rockford.

While I don’t find the Morin cut as any great injustice, it is slightly disconcerting to see Bowman’s slight of Morin.  That said, Stalberg can erase those thoughts in a hurry if he gets off to a quick start this week.  And by all accounts, Morin is a determined, intelligent kid and this probably won’t set him back any.  He could also use the experience of a season in the AHL to learn the intricacies of the pro game and continued improvement on his skating.  He was only in the running for a spot this year to begin with because the Hawks’ depth up front so poor.

Stalberg posted 9 goals and 14 points in 40 games with the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs last season.  In Chicago, he’s greeted, yes, with more-accomplished teammates, but also with greater expectations.  The early returns simply won’t do.  Stalberg will find himself on the outs soon enough if he can’t find the net and help provide some offense on one of the top three lines.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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Sep 172010
 

Some quick notes in the passing calm before the storm:

For any of those interested in joining our site’s NHL 2010-11 Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey league, please email me asap and I’ll get you the info you’ll need to sign up.  Invites were sent out yesterday to all those involved in last year’s league but we are filling the league on a first-come first-serve basis.

Entry into the league is free.  First-prize to our league winner this season will be two tickets to a 2011-12 Blackhawk home game (and not SRO seating).  Since I’ll be competing in the league as well, should I win (and considering my performance in this league last season, the odds tread somewhere far below overwhelming) the prize will go to the second-place finisher.

We limit the leagues to 10 teams.  We run live drafts (or you can pre-rank your draft sheet and have Yahoo! select your team for you) and head-to-head weekly matchups with standard scoring and a 6-team playoff format.  It looks like we’ll be running two leagues so there will be spots available even if we see a full-return of last year’s players.

First-time players are welcome but we caution you to consider for everyone’s enjoyment of the league, that we want serious players only.  Managing a team in fantasy hockey isn’t as complicated as baseball.  It’s about as simple as football since you can login to your account and in just a few minutes set your lineups for an entire week if you so choose.  Scoring is charted weekly from Monday through Sunday.

So, if you’re interested or would like more information, or you were in last year’s league and didn’t receive and invite from me for some reason, email me asap at ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com and I’ll get that out to you.  Due to my hectic schedule it does not appear like we’ll be able to attempt another live draft party this year.

**************************************************

We’ve received a lot of great feedback on the past month or so of TTMI~Radio shows.  Our ‘lost’ 50th episode with player-agent Scott Norton, which would have been one of our better shows were it not for the layers of audio problems that night, will remain lost in audio form for the time being as I’ve had no success restoring it to a reasonably listenable level.  I will, however, finally have the time this weekend to transcribe the interview and post Norton’s interview here on the site.  Excerpts will first be available here on Saturday.  Scott gave us a lot of great insight into the business of hockey, social media and the road ahead for the NHLPA.  He also dropped some interesting info on the negotiations for his client and now-ex Chicago prospect Billy Sweatt this summer with the Canucks, Maple Leafs and originally the Blackhawks. 

A note on the upcoming schedule for TheThirdManIn~Radio:

Our next two shows will be this coming Monday, September 20th @ 8pm central and then again the following Monday, September 27th at the same time.

Starting on October 5th, our regular weekly show moves to Tuesday nights @ 8pm and will remain there through the end of November.

At that point, due to the Blackhawks having Monday’s essentially clear aside from two late starts out West, TTMI~Radio will return to Monday nights through the end of January when the Hawks’ schedule gets cluttered and our show most-likely will begin to bounce around week-to-week.

The current plan is to run more than one show a week, but not tape as long.  As many people have noted to me, such as in my most-recent appearance on the HockeeNight PuckCast, anything much-longer than an hour is too long.  As you’ve probably noticed, our guest list is expanding and we’ll also be doing more special interviews, email bag shows and breaking-news audio when necessary.

The feedback I’ve received on recent shows with John from the Fifth Feather, the LA Kings writer at MayorsManor.com and our tremendous hour-long interview with former Blackhawk Steve Ludzik has been outstanding and we hope to continue to bring you more of the same.  I’ll discuss some of the feedback further on Monday’s podcast. Continue reading »

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Jul 182010
 

Marian Hossa was married in Slovakia on Saturday.  Story and pics here.  (thanks to reader Dave for link) 

— While the Blackhawks have made no official announcement yet, Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times reported Thursday that Jack Skille has agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him $600,000.  This is roughly a 29% pay decrease from his entry-level contract.  We talked about this on Thursday’s TTMI~Radio. 

Skille received a qualifying offer (standard 1-year offer at 110% rate of prior year’s salary) in late June but chose to negotiate down to give himself a more cap-friendly contract.  Because of it, Skille is now an odds-on favorite to make the NHL club.  His speed and shooting ability still make the 23 year old an enticing prospect, but he’s never shown an ability to apply those tools in the NHL, the way he has in the minors.  Before Viktor Stalberg‘s arrival, Skille was the natural replacement for Versteeg.  Skille can throw his weight around, but its not his strength and he’s been overwhelmed going that route when with the Hawks.  He figures in as a third-line guy, which means he has to score.  Trouble is, as a shooter, he’s predictable and one-dimensional.  To be successful, he must go into the danger areas and score dirty goals.  He did a better job of that last year than ever before, when he was mostly a perimeter player.  Depending on how close Stan Bowman cuts his roster under the cap, training camp may still wind down to a battle between Kyle Beach and Skille for that third-line spot.  Skille isn’t a fourth line player and Beach will start in Rockford if he cant win a spot with the top three lines.

— According to published reports, and also still unannounced, Russian winger Igor Makarov, 22, signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Hawks last week.  His cap hit (unconfirmed) is said to be $552,000.  Makarov needs a little work and will start in the AHL with Rockford.  He was an exciting prospect, but his progression has been stunted in limited playing time in the KHL the past two seasons.  Makarov will turn 23 in September.  In the times I’ve seen him, he’s shown to have a great shot and reasonably quick release.  There are a lot of politics involved in who does and who doesn’t get ice time in Russia, but you’d think if Makarov’s talents were at the level of an NHL-er or at least a top prospect, he’d have been given much more playing time. Continue reading »

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