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The 2013 Chicago Blackhawks Live Chicago Tough — And Earn A Stanley Cup!

Posted by sportsmaven on June 24, 2013

We are Chicago….we are not known for our championships from our major professional sports teams. We have lost more than we won, that is if we even make the playoffs, which we typically don’t. A Chicago sports fan is a breed accustomed to disappointment and despair and wait until next years. It is nights like tonight that Chicago fans appreciate and love more than any other sports fans in any other city in the world. Tonight, our Chicago Blackhawks completed the fan’s dream — bringing a championship home to the City of Chicago.

A Chicago sports fan is personified by Blackhawks F Andrew Shaw. In tonight’s Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Shaw took a puck to the face, appeared to be knocked out cold on the ice. Yet he stood up, got his stitches in his cheek and his eye. Bleeding throughout the game, he just kept coming and coming. Win or lose, he was going all out. He was a warrior tonight, wearing the pride of Chicago on his bloody sweater. If the Bruins rallied around Boston Strong, the Blackhawks and all sports fans were Chicago Tough. It describes our fans, our athletes, and the persona of a city that leaves it all on the table, ice, court or field.  That’s how we roll, win or lose.

Tonight, we in Chicago can go to bed, awake in the morning and call ourselves champions along with our beloved Blackhawks. Win or lose, we would still be Chicago Tough. Put an asterisk on our season or leave it off.  Either way, we are tough and can roll with it.  Tonight, the Cup comes back home to Chicago.  And I’m glad to be part of it in any meaningful way.

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The Chicago Blackhawks Are Now Scotty Bowman’s Team

Posted by sportsmaven on September 16, 2009

At the beginning of the week, the Chicago Blackhawks opened their fall training camp with some new faces in key places.  The most prominent new face is that of newly installed General Manager Stan Bowman.  Behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows is the true architect and face of the organization, the stature of William Scott Bowman, or “Scotty” as he’s affectionately known.  The senior Bowman was hired in July, 2008 as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations for the Chicago Blackhawks.  Since that day, owner Rocky Wirtz and team president John McDonough have wisely, but not always smoothly, turned the reins of the hockey operations over to the 9-time Stanley Cup champion coach.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

The first big move was a somewhat awkward firing of then-Coach Denis Savard and subsequential hiring of current Coach Joel Quenneville just four games into the 2008-2009 season.  It was a move that had to be made, but it certainly wasn’t made with grace nor good timing.  The last move?  The “re-assignment” of former GM Dale Tallon coupled with the promotion of  Stan to General Manager on July 14th, another move that was a correct move to make, but another  plagued with awkwardness and questionable timing.  Bowman has molded this young Blackhawks team much in the same mold as his Stanley Cup winning teams in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Montreal.  In his brief tenure in Chicago, the elder Bowman has displayed his biggest asset — being able to adapt to the needs of the game today and fit personnel and coaching to those needs.

With his replacement of Tallon with his son, Stan, Bowman has again brought in new wave thinking to an organization that is desperately trying to escape it’s tractor beam-like grip of the glory days of it’s past.  The younger Bowman ushers in a new, modern era in Blackhawks lore, a man whose off-ice managmement, negotiating, and analytic skills more than make up for lack of hockey playing experience. Tallon’s apparent administrative miscues were the final nails in his coffin, closing his tenure as Blackhawks GM.

The elder Bowman has filled in the hockey part of the equation, engineering the signing of  RW Marian Hossa to a 12-year free agent deal, as well as the signings of C Tomas Kopecky from the Detroit Red Wings and C John Madden from the New Jersey Devils.  Bowman has worked to install his winning philosophy of big, skilled two-way players that can stretch the ice and play his aggressive, pounding style of play and infusing the talent base with Stanley Cup winning players to round out the up and coming Blackhawks team.

As the Blackhawks finish day 3 of training camp, the team carries the stamp and personal marks of Scotty Bowman, from top to bottom.  Wirtz, McDonough and Bowman have shown that throughout the awkwardness of their moves, they are indeed dedicated and focused on bringing a Stanley Cup Championship to Chicago as soon as humanly possible.  By hiring a 9-time Stanley Cup winning coach to architect that championship, the Blackhawks mean business.  If Bowman is half as good an architect as he is a coach, the Chicago Blackhawks are in for a Stanley Cup type treat.

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Did Chicago Blackhawks Give Dale Tallon A Raw Deal?

Posted by sportsmaven on July 15, 2009

The actual move was shockingly abrupt.  Not a hint was stirring for a mid-summer change.  But then it happened, swiftly and decisively.  The move left no doubt about who is in control of this Original Six franchise.  But as alarmingly quickly the Dale Tallon “re-assignment” has happened, this move was in the works the day the Chicago Blackhawks hired Scotty Bowman as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations.  Bowman’s son, Stan has been an assistant to the GM for the Blackhawks for the past 3 years and seemed heir apparent to the Blackhawks GM job.  With Scotty in the fold, it marked a changing of the guard on the hockey operations side of the business and it started the clock ticking on GM Dale Tallon’s tenure in the organizational hierarchy.  Some believe the firing was undeserved.  It may be a sign of how the Blackhawks will now conduct business in their focused quest for a Stanley Cup Championship.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Whatever is thought of the Tallon replacement, it definitely came across as Blackhawks President John McDonough further stamping his imprint on the organization.  McDonough certainly has earned the right to make the changes he felt necessary to continue the impressive ascent of an Original Six franchise that was in complete disarray prior to his arrival.  McDonough skillfully danced around tough questions regarding the change in management, citing differing approaches and the botched contract paperwork for the 8 Blackhawk free-agents as impetus for the change.  Like any other GM, Tallon did some good things and not so good things.  Both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune point out Tallon’s good and bad moves as a means to evaluating his effectiveness as Blackhawks GM.

Did the Chicago Blackhawks give Dale Tallon a raw deal with his re-assignment? I don’t think the move was surprising, as the writing was on the wall for the past season when the senior Bowman entered the fold.  Was the timing suspect?  Potentially, it was, given the move was made in advance of the Chicago Blackhawks Fan Convention, which begins this Friday.  That should give fans fuel to continue questioning the move for the remainder of the summer.  The paperwork snafu was the final straw, providing the perfect opportunity to make that change now heading off  a more potentially messy divorce closer to the beginning of the upcoming hockey season.

Along with the manner in which former Blackhawk great and coach Denis Savard was summarily dismissed at the beginning of last season, it seems that the Blackhawks may be perceived as insensitive.  The fact that both Savard and Tallon were offered and accepted other positions within the organization softens the blows tremendously and proves that the organization has made inroads with keeping former key players in their fold in their quest to win a Stanley Cup.

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Chicago Blackhawks Season Goes From Disaster To Dire

Posted by sportsmaven on May 25, 2009

Three weeks of training camp.  Eighty-two regular season games.  Sixteen playoff games.  What has been a remarkable, rise from the ashes, success beyond our wildest dreams of seasons, has all of a sudden become a disaster and now, with the season precariously hanging by a thread, it has become a dire situation for the Chicago Blackhawks.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Detroit Red Wings are the New York Yankees of the National Hockey League.  They are the defending Stanley Cup champions.  They are also the deepest, most talented team in the playoffs — battle tested, championship brazen.  They were missing 3 of their top players, C Kris Draper, captain D Nicklas Lidstrom, and leading scorer C Pavel Datsyuk.  They never missed a beat.  In contrast, the Blackhawks were missing only one player, G Nikolai Khabibulin, and that made all the difference in the world.

After today’s 6-1 drubbing of the Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the mighty Red Wings are once again in the drivers seat headed to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Where does that leave the Chicago Blackhawks?  They must now sweep the Red Wings in a 3 game series to keep their season alive, a task that’s nearly insurmountable.  The Blackhawks have been resilient all season.  They have been remarkably resilient in the playoffs.  But returning to Detroit carrying a 3-1 deficit against the best team in the NHL is a bit too much to ask.

It’s Sunday evening and Chicago Blackhawks fans are digesting the aftermath of this afternoon’s game, quelling the sting of a disastrous loss, resisting the notion that the season has already been wildly successful, beyond what anyone had imagined.  After all, making the playoffs was the goal and that was accomplished.  After all, with each win, and each preceding series victory, wanting more for the Blackhawks at this point could be construed as being  greedy.

So what do the Chicago Blackhawks need to do to get back into this series?  Three things they will need to get back into the series are:

1.  Take each game one at a time.  Game 5 is the most important game of the series.  You can’t look past that and you can’t have one thought about Game 6 until Game 5 is in the win column.  Game plan for that one game.  It’s a one game season now.  Win that, it’s another one game season, and so forth.

2.  The young Blackhawks need to play with more composure and maturity.  The Red Wings are a veteran, championship team.  They set the tone for this series with their hard checks and pinpoint rushes to the net.  The Blackhawks need to put the RW Martin Havlat hit behind them and play the type of game that got them this far.  Regardless of what Hawks Coach Joel Quenneville said about the referees, this game was lost when the Blackhawks abandoned their strategy to adopt a more physical, retalitory stance against the Wings.  It played right into the Red Wings strengths and the Hawks didn’t have the firepower to counter.

3.  It’s imperitave to get a full strength Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Havlat back.  Havlat has been a marked man in these playoffs.  Both the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks pounded Havlat, trying to get him out of his game.  Havlat has been the Hawks catalyst, most clutch offensive performer of the playoffs.  It’s no surprise the Red Wings are bodying him up in this series.  Havlat has managed to avoid injury until now.  He will need to be at full strength for the Hawks to compete.  The loss of Khabibulin was probably the most brutal loss of all.  G Cristobal Huet was inadequately prepared to play and it showed.  If Khabibulin is out for Game 5, the Hawks are going home.  If he is back and ready to go, they have a fighting chance.

The Chicago Blackhawks are down to their final strike and the veteran Red Wings smell blood in the water.  The character of this Chicago Blackhawks team will be tested on Wednesday in Detroit.  The only question: will the young upstart live to fight another day?  By Thursday morning, we’ll all know……

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Do The Chicago Blackhawks Keep Both Khabibulin And Huet?

Posted by sportsmaven on February 9, 2009

The most pressing question that the Chicago Blackhawks face in the near short term is whether to keep a pair of goalies, mainly Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet.  The goalie position for the Blackhawks has been an ongoing sticky issue since Huet was signed as a free agent in the off-season.  Many thought the signing was the end of the line for Khabibulin in Chicago.  The Blackhawks were close to the salary cap and had over 20% of their budget wrapped up in goaltenders.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

I believe the Blackhawks intention was to trade Khabibulin before the season began, but there were no takers and the Hawks were not going to give Khabibulin away just to get rid of him.  The pre-season and early regular season was a showcase for Khabibulin and he did not disappoint.  Khabibulin was incredible in comparison to the last 3 previous lackluster seasons , starting out hot, mixing in the occasional cool game.  He had a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.  He was not going to go down without a fight.

Huet, on the other hand, started out a bit slower, with the team winning only 3 of his 10 games in goal.  Huet gave up 6 goals to the San Jose Sharks on 11/26 in a loss.  Huet spent the bulk of the early season on the bench watching Khabibulin.  In December, Huet made the most of his playing time, at one stretch, winning 7 of 9 games to close the calendar year on a hot streak, but that ended abruptly in the Blackhawks 6-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the New Year’s Day 2009 NHL Winter Classic.

Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville has been playing the hot hand in goal and that strategy seems to be working well for a very young team that is navigating it’s way through the unfamiliar waters of competing for a playoff spot in a tough NHL Western Conference.

The questions of late have focused on the possible trade intentions of Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon and the rapidly approaching March 4th NHL trade deadline.  Tallon wanted to move Khabibulin since the pre-season, but at this point,  does he look to move Khabibulin again?  With the way the Blackhawks have been playing, the last thing Tallon wants to do is upset the delicate balance of a team that is steaming towards what could be the second post-season appearance since 1997-98 season. Khabibulin can ride a playoff hot streak about as good as anyone out there and veteran goaltending is a huge plus for going deep in the playoffs.

Look for Tallon to make a trade elsewhere, maybe picking up a veteran scorer or a second line center, as the Blackhawks start focusing in on moving to the third seed in the NHL Western Conference playoff race.

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