Sure, you’ve already read every single season preview on every single other blog – but you haven’t read “The Only Preview That Matters” where we give you more prognostication-per-pixel than anyone else. Today I’m joined by BlackhawkUp writer Frank “The Rat Trick” Rekas and our newest addition to the team, Kelly Twomey.
Without further ado, let’s get right to the questions so you have time to dust off that Jeff Hackett jersey and grab a cold one before tonight’s season opener.
What Blackhawks players over-perform/underperform?
Overperform? John Scott, in that he will perform more times than zero, which is too many.
As far as underperforming, I’m sadly going to go with Dave Bolland. There are 2 facts about Dave Bolland that Hawks fans just have to reconcile: 1) Injuries are almost always going to be a concern, and 2) Playoff Dave Bolland is just a different animal than Regular Season Dave Bolland. But as long as the Hawks get the right part of #2 when they need him, and #1 isn’t a concern too late in the year, I’ll take it.
I know many expect Keith to bounce back this year, but I think he’ll do more than that. I’ve shown in the past that Keith’s performance last year wasn’t as bad as the numbers stated. North-South his game was fine and his team-high Corsi rating bears that out. It was in the attacking zone that was hesitant and struggled. I was more than happy to see him off the 1st unit PP.
That said, Keith may be a “new style” defender, but he’s got old school toughness and pride. He’ll be out to prove something this year. If he continues where he left off in the Vancouver series – and what he showed this preseason – he’s gonna be a beast. He even looked confident on the PP. A return to the 1st unit PP unit and easier zone starts and competition while paired with Leddy should aid his scoring more than any other time in his career, including 2010 when he played mostly in a shutdown role. I say Keith returns to Norris form, leads the team in Plus/Minus, and scores 15+ goals.
Olesz will be more useful than expected and will bounce around on the top 3 lines in a utility role. He’ll steal Bickell’s numbers from last year.
And I’ll throw Bickell, Montador and Seabrook in the underperform category. I don’t expect Bickell to near 17 goals again, and if Bolland is injured for any extent, that line will struggle. There’s also a good chance in my opinion he loses his slot to Olesz and drops to the 4th line. I think Monty will do fine in a 4-5 D-man role, but will underperform based only on fan expectations. And Seabs will be solid, but his numbers will fall back slightly if he’s often paired with Hjalmarsson in a strictly shutdown role.
How many games does Kane play at center?
I’m among the few, but I really don’t see this Kane at center thing going too poorly. Those who cite Kane’s defensive liabilities are obviously correct, but it isn’t like he was playing tough minutes on the wing anyway. Q’s going to get Kaner his favorable matchups whenever possible. And because I’ll certainly be wrong about all of that, 4 games.
I might be in the minority here but I hope less than 10. I really like Kaner on the wing and would prefer to see him shooting more instead of passing more which is often expected of a centerman. He’s got a great shot, and I think his freedom on the wing will better utilize his speed and quickness. Plus don’t you have to play more defense as a center?
Kane at center will be “a thing.” That line’s scoring rate will make up for any of Kane’s defensive shortcomings. Plus, it solves way too many problems, the main one being a playmaking center for Hossa. If Kane can keep his FO% above 45%, I expect we’ll see him at center for at least 40-50 games. Maybe the scenery changes near the trade deadline, but Q would love to have this option in his back pocket. Kane gets to 90 pts. Hossa, 35 goals.
PP, PK predictions?
Whichever unit Haviland is working with at the time will be in the top 5. Meanwhile, Mike Kitchen takes piano lessons instead of attending special teams practice.
I’m sticking to my predictions from over the summer. The Hawks PP will spent most of the season in the top 3. They picked up a Sopel-esque PKer in O’Donnell, but if he’s not dressed for a majority of the season, he won’t be help much there. And they didn’t grab the 4th line PK center I was hoping for AGAIN. Still Montador and Lepisto should provide a vast improvement over last year’s defense. I say they improve to top 10 in the league on the PK.
Does John Scott score a goal?
Good lord, I hope not. That would mean he’s on the ice.
Not even in practice.
I need him to score a goal to get rid of the damned #DIV/0! errors in my spreadsheets. The Hawks team slogan is Scott’s personal quest: “One Goal.” I say he gets it – but promptly trips over his own skates in his moment of glory. Q, in an effort to “play the hot hand” follows by dressing Scott for the next five games.
Predictions for the new guys:
Brunette: I think Andrew Brunette is going to be a solid addition to this team from a couple aspects. Known for his hard work and going to the “dirty” areas, he’s hopefully going to be that guy that gives us the goals in front of the net that can be game changers, besides being able to dig the puck out of the corners. Also, he provides that veteran presence on the top lines that was sorely missing last season. Probably the best pickup by Stan of the offseason. He’ll be the “scoring” version of John Madden.
Olesz: I am quite familiar with this man and I honestly have no idea what the Hawks are getting. Is he a player that gets better because of the talent that’s around him, or is he a player that was just overvalued? In his years as a Panther he was streaky, usually having huge scoring droughts. I believe a couple years ago he went 32 consecutive games without a point. He’s able to play physical and work the corners, but I’m not sure that’s his game. Also he’s very prone to injury having only played 75 games once in his career. He has one move for the shootout which was typically unsuccessful, causing me to nickname it the “Rusty backhander”. I’m hoping a change of scenery works for him, but honestly, I think a younger player in the system will be a better and less expensive option.
Montador: I like Monty. I think he’s certainly an upgrade from Boynton and Hendry, and plays a smarter physical game. Just a typical stay at home defenseman, but a guy that won’t embarrass you if he takes an offensive chance. Solid pickup by Stan.
Brunette: I think he’ll be a decent addition, put up 15 goals in the regular season, and once someone explains to him what “playoffs” are (he came from the Wild so I’m assuming he doesn’t know), he’ll have a heck of a spring as well.
Olesz: I think he’ll wildly exceed expectations but much of that’s because we’ve expected nothing of him.
Montador: I miss Brian Campbell. Wait, what was the question?
Will the Hawks have any valid individual trophy candidates this season?
Norris: Duncan Keith. Rested, interested, and ready for a recovery from the inconsistent play of last season.
Selke: Honestly I thought Jonathan Toews should have won it last season. Let’s go back to giving this away to the person that is the BEST defensive forward, inspite of offensive numbers. He takes our important faceoffs, kills penalties and gets top minutes, and works about as hard if not harder than anyone in the league. Show me a number one center that backchecks and is as defensive minded as Johnny that still has offensive skill. So yes, he gets it this year.
Selke: I think Toews will be a finalist for the Selke, but I don’t think he’ll win it (Datsyuk does it again, if I’m grasping at straws).
Who has the better FO%, Toews or Kane?
Toews will finish 4th in the league in FO%. Kane will be 4th on the team in FO%.
I’m really not sure why I threw this in as a question. Kane will be much better than expected, but Toews just keeps getting better.
Over/under on Kane’s FO%?
About 12 times the number of articles on Deadspin about something he did that isn’t really a big deal but everyone will make a big deal about because oh my god a 20-something millionaire athlete out drinking oh the humanity. (46%)
Over 47%. Frank, by default, can have everything in between.
Does Emery last the full season?
I don’t think so. Ideally, Salak proves himself further in the AHL and they trade Emery for… something.
If he’s even just decent, he’ll be in Chicago. You have to always prepare for the worst if you want to go deep into the playoffs. Hawks need the extra depth at goaltender “just in case.” They’d lose Emery to waivers if they sent him down and Salak will be up come playoff time anyways.
How do Kopecky, Brouwer, and Campbell do on their new teams?
Big things are expected for Campbell and Kopecky in Florida. Already Kopecky has been seeing time on the second line as well as the second power play unit. Now before you go nuts, realize that Florida has no big body physical player, and Tomas is likely to take that Tomas Holmstrom role. As for Soupy, he’s expected to quarterback the power play and be the puck moving defenseman the Panthers have never had. He’ll have a great year in Florida. As for Brouwer I was kinda sad to see him leave, especially when Olesz came over. While Troy had his bad moments, he had some pretty good ones too. I just don’t see him as a fit in Washington.
I’m still up in the air on whether I think Florida’s a playoff team. I hope they are. Of the 3, though, I think Brouwer will have the biggest impact.
No way Campbell puts up the Plus/Minus numbers in Florida like he had in Chicago. Even though he’ll be used in the same role, his zone starts won’t be as easy and his quality of teammates will be lower. He’ll get his points though. Kopecky somehow will too, but he’ll double his team-worst Plus/Minus from last year and be a -26. If Brouwer continues to get time on Ovechkin’s line, he’ll obviously put up career numbers. But in reality, I have no idea what the Capitals were thinking and Boudreau will spend most of the season trying to figure out where to play him. Sound familiar? He’s going to be a very expensive 4th liner. In all fairness though, it shows Washington’s depth this year.
Hawks final standings points for the season?
Frank: 108 Kelly: 102 John: 107
Hawks place in the division?
Frank: 1st Kelly: 2nd John: 1st
In the conference?
Frank: 2nd Kelly: 5th John: 3rd (they didn’t acquire all that “grit” to focus on the Presidents’ Trophy)
How far will the Hawk go in the postseason?
I don’t believe in jinxes, therefore I’m predicting another Stanley Cup. Well rested, new blood, and a hungry attitude get us there.
Is “farther than Vancouver” an acceptable answer? The Nucks will get knocked off by LA, and if the Hawks can get past San Jose, they’ll beat the Kings on the way to the Finals. If the Hawks don’t beat the Sharks, LA-SJ could be one hell of a fun series to watch, although San Jose would finally figure out How the West Was Won.
What teams make it to the Stanley Cup Finals?
If Tomas Vokoun plays the way I know he can, I’m envisioning a Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks Final.
If Sid’s healthy, Pittsburg meets and beats the Western Conference champs. If not, Washington gets an invitation to the wedding, but not to the reception.
Stanley Cup winner?
Penguins. Assuming Crosby comes back healthy, he will have had a little extra time off and come back pretty well rested, which will come in handy in the spring. Remember how beat down he was when the Pens won the Cup? If he picks up where he left off last year, man alive. Not even Spinal Tap can handle that dude when he’s cranked up to 11.
I also like Pittsburgh’s chances, but there’s no way they get the majority vote on a Blackhawks blog. And since it’s the Chicago way, I’ll even cast two in absentia ballots for Brian and Neal – and you can’t veto a 4/5ths majority. Hawks win! Hawks win!
Stop the presses! We have a late addition ladies and gentleman. Brian Donohue has chosen to throw his hat in the ring. He has also volunteered to compete in a cage match against John Scott between periods 1 and 2 tomorrow night at the UC in an effort to help Scott justify his place on the team. As long as he chooses the “while on skates” option, I’m sure he’ll do fine. Here are his predictions:
Hawks who over-perform? Underperform? Over: Leddy, Hossa. Under: Montador.
How many games does Kane play at center? 40.
If Kane plays at least half the season at center, what combo scores more: Kane-Hossa or Toews-Sharp? Toews-Sharp.
PP, PK predictions? PP #5, PK #15.
Does John Scott score a goal? Sure hope not.
Predictions for the new guys: Brunette? 22 goals. Olesz? 12G, dizzy from line generator. He’s just “a guy.” Montador? 20 pts, serviceable.
Do the Hawks have a valid Norris candidate this season? Really Alan?
Art Ross? No.
Selke? Really Alan?
Who has the better FO%, Toews or Kane? Toews
Over/under on Kane’s FO%? 50%
Will there be a goalie debate again this year? Yes. If so, between whom? Many teams not in Chicago.
Does Emery last the full season? No.
Will Bickell-Bolland-Frolik be the most consistent line this year (in terms of TOI together)? Yes. If so, will they live up to the expectations set last year? Didn’t Frolik kinda suck last year? And Bollland for the first 20 games? Expectations are tricky. Whose expectations? They will meet mine, barring injury.
How do Kopecky, Brouwer, and Campbell do on their new teams? Kopecky and Brouwer will do the same as here, ok. Campbell will have a very different role, which should be interesting. I suspect he’ll put up more points than the last couple years, but his defense won’t look as good against stiffer competition.
Who, if anyone would you like to see the Hawks acquire before trade deadline? Beats the hell out of me. McClure at SCH mentioned Grabovski, which would be yummm. There are some other “free agent centers to be” on possible also-rans. Ollie Jokinen? Saku Koivu if the Ducks fall on their ass? How low do you go? Jason Arnott?
Hawks points for the season? 105.
Hawks place in the division? 1st, but it’ll be a horse race unless Stan hits a home run filing the missing link.
In the conference? 3rd.
How far will the Hawk go in the postseason? WCF at least. After that, it’s up for grabs.
What teams make it to the Stanley Cup Finals? Total realm of wild ass guess here. Let’s say, San Jose and Washington – call it The Year of The Overdue.
Stanley Cup winner? Sharks. Brent Burns is the difference.
And with that, if you’re still with us, your preseason is finally complete.
Drop the puck.