Here we are again for the second straight year. Another first round exit from the playoffs. In my opinion, this one hurts a little more than last year’s exit. Even though we lost to the Canucks, we barely made the playoffs and no one expected them to go far. This season, however, I knew we didn’t have enough to win the Cup, but I thought for sure we would be able to get past Phoenix. During the regular season, we were able to get past some of our weaknesses and still make a good push into the playoffs. However, our weaknesses were exposed in the first round and now everyone is dusting off the golf clubs. There are quite a few things the Hawks need to do in order to be back in the running for the Cup next season. In this post, I will address management, coaches, and players. BE ADVISED! As a fan of sports, we all have our own opinions on things. I’m sure there will be stuff you agree with me on and stuff that you don’t. This is my honest opinion on how to make a Cup run for the 2012-2013 season (hoping that there is no lockout).
First off, we have the management. I have defended Bowman in the past. This past off-season I thought Bowman made some great moves. Pulling off a trade with Florida to get Brian Campbell off the books I thought was huge! Don’t get me wrong, I have always thought Campbell was a pretty good defenseman, however, his contract was crazy high and it was very difficult for the Hawks to make any kind of changes that were much needed at other positions. After this went down at the draft, the Hawks had a pretty solid draft. Picking up a few players that I thought would be in the NHL within the next year or two. With quite a bit of money available, I was quite excited for free agency. Stan brought in a few good pick-ups at the time. Jamal Mayers was a great, aggressive 4th line veteran that was needed. Andrew Brunette was the one I was most excited for before the season. I knew he was older, but he was a go-to-the-net kind of player which was exactly what the Hawks were missing last season. The one free agent I definitely questioned was Daniel Carcillo. Bringing in Ray Emery for a try-out for back-up goaltender was great as well. Here lies a problem, however. All the pick-ups during free agency were signed for one year deals and cheap money. There was plenty of money leftover to bring in a true second-line center. At the beginning of the season, it was known that we needed a second-line center. That never came about. Hawks made two trades near the deadline. We acquired Brendan Morrison and Johnny Oduya. The Oduya trade was great due to the fact that we needed more depth on defense. I did not understand the Morrison trade due to the fact that we already had Mayers. I will give my opinion about these players later on in the post.
Bowman has a lot to do this off-season. And, if you ask me, this will determine if he stays or goes. We need to add better depth of defense. We need a TRUE second line center. I am actually listening to the “End of the Season Media” as I type this. It sounds as if Bowman is sold on Kane playing center again next season. Congrats, Bowman. You have just made your first mistake of the offseason. I’m okay with Kane filling in every once in a while, but he’s not a full-time center. Bowman also needs to add some bigger bodies and ones that will cause a lot of traffic in front of the net. He has a lot of work cut out for him this offseason.
Let’s move on to coaching. First order of business. FIRE MIKE KITCHEN! Mike Kitchen is responsible for our awful powerplay and mediocre penalty kill. He does not have a good track record, and now is the time to get rid of him before it gets even worse. It sounds like it is up to Q to take care of his coaching staff. If I was Bowman, my first question would be if he plans on firing Mike Kitchen. If the answer is no, Q needs to be fire as well. Q has also been known to have a short shelf life. He usually has a few good years, and then it’s downhill from there. The problem is that Q is not willing to change. The only changes he makes is line changes. Sometimes you have to adjust to how teams are playing in order to score on them. Take for instance Nashville. They play an extremely boring, but extremely effective style. We have always had a rough time with other teams that are like that as well. How in the hell has he not come up with a style of play to counter that?! Now, I’m not saying to fire Q right now, but a lot of changes need to be made on his part as well. If this is not done, then yes, I will bring back my fire Q stance. By the way, love Haviland and wouldn’t be surprised if another team tries to talk to him about a head coaching job once again in this offseason.
And finally, let’s talk about the players. Where do I even begin? Let’s start with the “core” players. If it wasn’t for his injury, Toews would be a finalist for the Hart Trophy. Toews was on track for having his best season of his career numbers wise. He was doing everything on the ice and it showed every single night. Sharp was excellent throughout the season as well. He disappeared come playoff time, but that was almost the entire “core”. Hossa is still in his prime and one of the best two-way hockey players in the entire league. There were plenty of times during the season, especially during the 9-game losing streak, when it looked like he was the only player who never gave up. I hope he gets better and is ready to play come the beginning of next season. Kane just seemed completely off most of the season. He filled in okay at center and made some magic from time to time with Hossa. The main thing about Kane is that he needs to get tougher. He gets bumped off the puck way too much. Especially since he likes to play around with it so much, he needs more strength to help prevent turnovers. Keith had, yet, another underwhelming year. His numbers are not what we expect from him and his defense wasn’t as solid as it has been in the past few years. Seabrook is the new #1 defenseman in my opinion. He hits, blocks shots, and takes any shot at the net that he can. He has improved a lot from last season and I think he will only continue to get even better.
This was the year to be a rookie with the Hawks. Due to injuries, players from Rockford got plenty of chances to show what they could do in the NHL. Let’s start off with the ones that spent quite a bit of time with the team. Jimmy Hayes is everything we want in the future. He is a big guy who brings some aggressiveness and traffic to the net. He will turn into a solid player within the next year or two. Dylan Olsen brought a lot to the defense depth. I really liked what I saw from this kid and would be surprised if he isn’t on the roster day one next season. Brandon Bollig brought some energy to the team. He stood up and fought when he needed to. We also saw the kind of shot he has in the playoffs. Once he starts getting more regular season playing time, we will see what he is really made of. That brings us to Andrew Shaw. #shawfacts took over Chicago on twitter during his time on the Hawks. He made quite an impression and instantly became a fan favorite. He brought a lot of energy to the team and I look forward to watching him grow on the Hawks. I will make a quick mention of Saad here considering he started the season making the team. He is going to be a GREAT player in the next couple of years. He needs to spend some time in Rockford getting his game together, but I foresee great things to come out of him in the future.
Bolland was typical Bolland. He shows up when he feels like it, but really shows up when he does. He seemed to have some chemistry with Hayes at certain points in the year, so it would be nice to see if that can be brought back. Bickell started to show who he is during the playoffs. If he can continue to play the way he did in the playoffs, I say to keep him in the roster. Michael Frolik is so tough to judge. He plays some great two-way hockey. He was a really impressive on the defensive side of things, but struggled when it came to scoring. If he can figure out how to finish, there is no reason he can’t be a 20+ goal scorer. Stalberg really showed what he can do this season. He has amazing speed and can put the puck in the net. He disappeared in the playoffs, but showed that he has the potential to become a Hossa-like player. Jamal Mayers came in a did what he was supposed to do. Play tough, fight when needed, and make something happen on the ice every once in a while. Couldn’t of asked for a better 4th line center. Morrison was useless. It was an awful trade and wasn’t needed. I don’t care that he scored in Game 4. He was a useless trade that did nothing for the Hawks. My biggest surprise was Carcillo. Before Car-Bomb got injured and was out the rest of the season, he was showing that he could actually play hockey. He could play on any line and help make something happen. I am looking forward to him coming back healthy and adding depth to this team next season. Hjalmarsson had his moments this season. He is still one of the best shot blockers on the team, but he just needs to start playing all around better. He has shown that he can be aggressive, but he needs to be this way all the time. Hopefully he will address that before next season. Can’t give Montador too much of a grade this season. He spent a lot of it injured and hopefully he can stay healthy next season. Oduya was a great pickup! He was terrible in the Phoenix series, but he really showed what he is made of and I think he would make a great 3rd line defenseman next season. And that brings us to Leddy. This kid is going to be a new Campbell type player. In 2 or 3 years. He is still too young to be playing the minutes he is playing. It is taking a lot out of him and you all saw it in the playoffs. He was awful down the stretch and very inconsistent all season. He has the potential, but needs time to improve.
Goaltender was not up to expectations this season. First of all, the Hawks did not record a single shutout the entire season. There were a few times they were close, but it never happened. That pretty much sums it all up. Crawford had his second year slump and leaves us wondering if he will bounce back or be another Steve Mason. Too many times he did hurt us with giving up easy goals, such as OT in Games 3 and 4. It will be interesting to see what happens. Razor was a great back-up. But that is all Razor is. He cannot fill the full-time role, but I am excited to have him back next season backing up whoever will be in goal.
Well, I think this wrap-up is long enough. After the playoffs, I will give a rundown on who I think should be signed, traded, or sent down to Rockford. Even though the Hawks season is over, we have plenty of hockey still to watch! It is still going to be an exciting Stanley Cup finals! Enjoy the rest of the playoffs everyone and I’ll be back afterwards!