Part of me wishes I had no ammo to write something like this. A calm off-season would’ve been nice. But nothing worth having ever comes easy, right?
Last season, the ‘Hawks signed Marian Hossa to a monster deal and let Martin Havlat walk. They let Nikolai Khabibulin walk and gave the reigns to Cristobal Huet. They even botched the initial offers to their restricted free agents. That led to The Blackhawks’ Off-Season Drama: Seinfeld Style, Part I.
After losing a good chunk of a Stanley Cup championship team, it’s only fitting I do this again and relate the Blackhawks’ off-season to the greatest T.V. show of all-time.
In no particular order of the events that occurred, here’s Part II:
√ “You see, this is what I do with women. I start out too strong, now I have to become real. That’s when it all falls apart.”
Antti Niemi came out of nowhere. He saw more ice time driving the Zamboni than he did dressed in pads for his Finnish team. Then, Dale Tallon came along and found him. It’s a great story, and when he began succeeding for the Blackhawks everyone thought the franchise had something great for years to come.
Then, reality set in. It’s a funny thing — hockey players like to be paid. Weird how they like money, eh? Niemi is no different. Shit got real, and now Niemi is pondering his next move rather than getting ready to defend the Stanley Cup he helped bring to Chicago for the first time in 49 years.
Well whoopy-woo. I’ll start crying later. Sorry, Antti, but I’m on the Marty Turco bandwagon now.
√ “Have you ever been through an audit? It’s hell. It’s the financial equivalent of a complete rectal examination.”
We’ve been crunching numbers and discussing the salary cap situation dating back to … hell, before this season even started. David Haugh finally did something useful and talked with Stan Bowman for a bit rather than make his own bullshit assumptions like the rest of the meatball part of the fan base.
It’s been a wild ride this summer, no question. Bowman has been criticized so often over the past few months it’s amazing he hasn’t been hung from the Michael Jordan statue yet. You upset Bowman kept Dave Bolland, who has a bad back, in favor of Dustin Byfuglien? Well, do you think the other 29 GMs don’t know Bolland has a bad back? Do you think only people in Chicago know he has a bad back? Do you really think his value was higher than Byfuglien, who netted Bowman a first- and second-round pick?
The amount of work Bowman put into getting this team under the cap (pending Huet’s demotion/deportation) while keeping the central core of The Champs together should be commended. Bowman won a goddamn Stanley Cup. Maybe give the guy the benefit of the doubt and let the ‘Hawks play a few games before everyone starts shitting themselves.
√ “What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?! He had 30 home runs, over 100 RBIs last year! He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell you’re doin’!”
This is the way of thinking for every meatball if they were sitting in front of Bowman. The trades of Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg obviously weren’t popular with those fans who only got cable around the time the playoffs started. Here’s what I wrote at one point of the season about Byfuglien:
"Dustin Byfuglien shocked the living shit out of every Blackhawks fan with his display of skill we all knew he had, yet rarely seems to show. Snagging a loose puck in his own zone, skated 300 MPH down the left boards, fought off a defender with one arm while dragging the puck with the other, turned in front of Lundqvist then shot it five hole for the game-winner while falling down. Jubilation ensued."
That was back on Dec. 10. From then through roughly May, Blackhawks fans were privy to the underachieving Byfuglien.
And Versteeg? Here’s a glimpse of a whole piece I wrote on him back on Jan. 26:
"This is Versteeg’s second five-plus game scoreless streak of the season, and he’s gone scoreless in at least three-game bunches in three other stretches. This for a guy coming off a nine-game scoring streak. At the very least, his consistency hasn’t been something to brag about."
I’m not saying Bowman reads Blackhawk Up, nor am I saying I can do his job by any means. The point is that if some short blonde guy who drinks too much sitting up in Section 326 can see this shit, I’m assuming Bowman did, too. Get over it.
√ “Nobody drives like me. Nobody. I’m doing things in this car, you have no idea they’re going on.”
This is Bowman’s response to all the meatballs. Go ahead, criticize. But he’s doing so much behind the scenes that neither you nor I know or even understand. I’ll say it again: The Blackhawks will be under the salary cap with one of the best core groups of players in the entire NHL. Shut up.
√ “People don’t turn down money. It’s what separates us from the animals.”
Blame Doug Wilson all you want, but Niklas Hjalmarsson signing that offer sheet was about getting his green. I’m sure Hammer never thought he’d get an offer like that this season. When Wilson and the Sharks came along with a ton of cash, Hammer did everything he should’ve done. No matter the outcome, Hammer would’ve been playing with one of the best teams in the Western Conference — and getting paid handsomely to do so.
Granted, it made the ‘Hawks even more cap-strapped. But can you blame the guy? We all would’ve done the same thing. Sign the sheet, play for a good team and get paid no matter what.
√ “You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You’re telling the world, ‘I give up. I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.'”
Huet pretty much looked like a he’d given up in March. The poor guy actually has a good amount of talent to be a solid goaltender in the NHL. The problem? He’s a flippin’ head case. Now, the Blackhawks have given him, his agent and his $5.625 million cap hit permission to seek another team. It’s just a matter of where Huet will end up. The only thing for sure is that he won’t be wearing the Indian head at the start of the season.
√ “It’s one day. Half a day, really. I mean you subtract showers and meals, it’s like twenty minutes.”
No matter what type of ‘Hawks fan you are or how you’ve viewed this off-season to date, we can all share in one thing: We’re all looking forward to hockey season!