Well, the Hawks bowed out quite meekly in the first round of the playoffs this week. With Mike Smith stealing the two wins that Corey Crawford didn’t gift-wrap coupled with some key players (Patrick Sharp, I’m looking at you) last being seen on a milk carton and losing one of the game’s best two-way players in Marian Hossa, it all added up to a big wet fart that smelled worse than it felt. As disappointing as things turned out, it’s a damn sight better than what we saw before the resurgence of 5 years ago. To paraphrase some old Roman dude, “I’ve come to bury the Hawks, not to praise them.” Here’s my end-of-season/playoff report card. No punches pulled, no gilding the lily, no tarting it up.

FORWARDS

Jonathan Toews…Until a concussion cost Captain Serious 23 games, he was showing the hockey world again what a special player he continues to be. Averaging basically a point-per-game (for you hockey noobs, that’s a great rate of scoring), winning over 60% of his faceoffs (this is a FANTASTIC percentage), continuing to be a dynamic defensive player and cementing his place as an elite player and leader, Johnny was in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league’s MVP. Even though he likely wasn’t 100% upon his return, he was a factor in the series vs. Phoenix. Hopefully, his noggin is okay and his career isn’t affected by the concussion. GRADE….A

Patrick Kane
…Coming off wrist surgery in the off-season, there was some question about his being ready for the season. All he did was play all 82 games, one of only two Hawks to suit up every night. Shuttling between wing and center all year, he had a down year, points-wise, but if his wingers could have buried half the chances he served them, his point total would be much higher. He’s a work-in-progress defensively, but did show lots of improvement in that area and stepped up in Toews’s absence into a leadership role. Only 23, he’s a key player in our future. GRADE….B

Marian Hossa…Big Hoss led the Hawks in scoring with 77 points this year and played his usual excellent two-way game. One of the game’s best defensive forwards (he only had 20 penalty minutes this year, remarkable for such an active player in his defensive end), he did have some stretches where he wasn’t very visible, but over the 81 games he played, he was a serious plus. We can only hope he’s fully recovered from Raffi Torres’s dirty playoff hit. A true core player, we need him to come back healthy. GRADE….A

Patrick Sharp….Until a playoff vanishing act that would make Houdini ask “How did you do that?” Sharpie led the team in goals with 33 and was his usual dynamic sniping self. I wish I had an answer for his playoff no-show, but I don’t. Chalk it up to being a new dad and not getting any sleep. That’s what I’m going with. GRADE…B-

Viktor Stalberg
…Quite possibly the handsomest guy on the Hawks, the incredibly skilled Swede had a career season with 22 goals and 43 points and did it for under a million bucks. He looked better as the season wore on and he gained confidence. At times, he was the best player on the ice on either team. His elite speed created numerous scoring chances all season and we can only hope he continues to trend upward in 2012-13. He could be a real difference maker for us. GRADE…C+

Dave Bolland…Why is it that we all expect more from this guy? Only 25, it seems like he’s been a Hawk forever. He played 76 games and scored 19 goals, but after the job he did in the 2010 playoffs, I think anything he ever does might be a disappointment. It may not be fair, but I don’t make the rules. If we can deal him and his $3M+ cap hit, so be it. We can replace a guy who probably will never be that 2nd line center we desire. GRADE…C-

Andrew Brunette…Brought in to provide a big body in front of the net and leadership presence, he did one admirably and failed at the other. He proved too slow to keep up with the speedy Hawk forwards and never really found a place to call his own on any line. We all had hoped to squeeze whatever last drops of hockey goodness he had out of him, but that well proved to be dry. He shan’t return. GRADE…D-

Marcus Kruger….While he may never gain enough size to be a great player, he showed he can be pretty damned good on the 4th line as a defensive center. Smart, quick and always in the right spot, he has proved to be pretty durable and has a nice head for the game. We certainly can do worse than him and at only 22 years old, his future is with the Hawks. GRADE….C

Bryan Bickell….Easily the most frustrating Hawks player this season. Big, tough, fast with a great wrist shot, he pulled a Claude Rains for most of the season before coming to life against Phoenix. Every Hawks fan wanted this guy gone before the trade deadline and if they say they didn’t, they’re lying to you. He has too much talent to give up on so quickly and will be back next year, hopefully finally seeing what hard work all year can do. GRADE…D

Andrew Shaw….Easily the best story of the year. Signed to an entry-level deal during the season after being a 5th round draft choice after being undrafted in THREE previous drafts, Shaw blasted into Chicago like a breath of fresh air with an attitude and instantly became a fan favorite. His hustle won fans. His grit won fans. His determination won fans. Everything this kid did won us over more and more. Andrew Shaw proved that there is more to playing the game than measurable talent. Heart and desire, while cliché, matter. Pluswhise, #shawfacts ruled Twitter for a time, which speaks volumes about his impact. GRADE…A+

Michael Frolik….Works his ass off, battles in the corner, fills lanes with an active stick, couldn’t buy a goal if he had a bag of gold dust for a nutsack. All that is well and good, but for $3M per year, we need him to find his 20 goal-a-year form he showed early in his career. GRADE….D++

Jamal Mayers
….One of the “grit guys” Bowman brought in for a one-year deal, he provided what he was signed for. His character and work ethic were solid all season. Not sure if he’ll be back, but he was a solid player for us. GRADE….C+

Daniel Carcillo
….Carbomb, brought in as another “grit guy”, but one with actual hockey skills showed he can really play the game well. Of course, the fact that he’s a tremendous turd, a reckless player and a target for refs every time he’s on the ice proved costly and ended up costing him the season with a wrecked knee he did to himself with a dirty hit on another player. Re-signed for 2 years while in rehab, I’m not sure where he’s going to fit next season. GRADE…Incomplete

Jimmy Hayes….Did fairly well in limited time, he’s another youngster with a nice future here. You can’t teach size and Big Jimmy has it in spades. I look forward to his big ass in front of the net for a long time. GRADE….C

DEFENSEMEN

Duncan Keith….Brilliant at times, pedestrian at others, looked like a clueless fuck at others. If Bickell is the most frustrating Hawk player, Duncs is easily #2, simply because we KNOW how good he can be. Remember when he was the best defenseman in the world? Of course you do, because it was only two years ago when he won Olympic gold and was a stalwart for Team Canada, won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. There isn’t anything he can’t do on the ice, but he has struggled with consistency. He needs to become at least 85% of that player again. GRADE….B-

Brent Seabrook….This season, Seabs became the undisputed best d-man on the team. Big, fast and a bruising hitter, he blossomed into the player we hoped he’d become. He finally started to unleash that bomb of a shot of his more often and piled up the ice time without any significant reduction in effectiveness. A true blueline stalwart, Seabs would thrive in any era. GRADE…A

Nick Leddy….At an age where his peers are still playing college hockey (Leddy turned 21 late in the season), he was thrust into a role that was too big for him. Even so, he played in all 82 games and scored 37 points, a solid season in those respects. What he needs is about 15 lbs of muscle and plenty of ice time and experience to become the player he can be. Fans really shit on him all season, deservedly so at times, but those same people will be cheering wildly for him once he improves on those rough areas. GRADE….C

Niklas Hjalmarsson
….He’s regressed since his first two seasons, when he looked every bit the next mainstay on the blueline. When we matched San Jose’s offer sheet, it was seen by most as a necessary move to keep a building block. Since then, he’s done nothing to warrant the move, giving the second-guessers plenty of ammo. For the money he makes…over $3M per year….we need more than ONE goal and a buttload of shotblocks. Simply put, if he’s moved this off-season, it won’t make many Hawks fans sad unless he blossoms elsewhere. Then, the third-guessers will go hog wild. GRADE….D-

Sean O’Donnell….Brought in to be a depth defenseman, he only played 51 games and looked to have almost nothing left. He did have some solid games, but simply couldn’t sustain any sort of solid play. He won’t return. GRADE….F

Johnny Oduya…..A fantastic addition at the trade deadline, he was a disaster in the playoffs and it’s up in the air as to whether he’ll return. I like the guy, but we have other d-men that have a similar skill-set….fast, agile, not very big or physical. If he stays, someone else has to go and vice-versa. At least he was sort of cheap in that trade. GRADE….C

Steve Montador….A concussion wrecked his season and he never looked comfortable before that. Hopefully, he’s healthy and can find a groove with us because we need him to be the player we signed him to be. He was actually more effective as a forward on the power play. That’s as surprising as the fact that one of my daughters puts ketchup on her hot dogs. *throws up in my own mouth* GRADE….D-

Dylan Olsen
….Another young guy who didn’t get a whole lot of consistent playing time, he should get a long look in camp to take one of the bottom pairing spots. He’s gotta be better than O’Donnell, right? GRADE….Incomplete, but with promise

Sami Lepisto
….Spent much of the season in Q’s doghouse. Not sure why, since he was better than O’Donnell who got into 51 games. He must have made fun of Q’s coachstache. GRADE….D-

GOALTENDING

Corey Crawford….I’m not sure where to start with this guy. When he’s on, he’s dynamite and impregnable. Like he was in games 3 and 4, he kept us in the games and looked as confident as a cow a vegan convention. Of course, he could turn on a dime and shit the bed like he did in those same two games. For a team to win the Cup, the goalie needs to be able to steal a game here and there. Antti Niemi did it in 2010….game 1 against San Jose comes to mind….and Crawford needs to be able to do the same. A summer of busting his ass with a goalie coach should help greatly, but how dedicated he is remains to be seen. GRADE….C+

Ray Emery….His return from a possible career-ending hip injury was rewarded by a roster spot with the Hawks and was our team’s nominee for the Masterson Trophy, given to the NHL player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Having a guy that respected on the roster is always a good thing and when he stepped in during a Crawford slump that lasted forever, he played well enough to steal a game or two for us when we were desperate for some wins. His overall numbers weren’t outstanding, but he did his job as a backup…be a pro, be ready to play, don’t bitch about not playing, and mentor the kid who you’re backing up. He is a credit to the game of hockey. GRADE…B

I’m not sure what the off-season will bring, but in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying another 6 weeks or so of the NHL playoffs. All we can hope for is a solid off-season for Bowman and the regained health of out walking wounded. Things are never as bad as they seem when you’re at your lowest and the playoff loss certainly applies here. Getting 101 points in the beastly-tough Western conference isn’t like we were terrible all over the ice and up and down the roster. A few key additions and subtractions will help our chances this time next season. Onward!!

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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    Pretty stellar work here… he shots and scores, or in your case…denied! Only thought Oduya was really good in season, absolute pig slippin in slop in the playoffs. Good play / cheap soup replacement / …the bigger problem is too much put on Keith/Sebs Later

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