I managed to score some 100-level tickets to the Blackhawks Training Camp Festival on eBay, so the little missus and I moseyed on down to take our place among the 15,000 or so at the UC (the crowd was announced at 18,000 but I’m confident not everybody showed up) to see Lord Stanley’s Cup glisten in the spotlights and watch the season officially get underway.
I didn’t take notes, I didn’t take (many) pictures, but I wanted to pass along some observations on a few players from watching the first practice, all of the first scrimmage, and half of the second scrimmage. There is good, there is bad, but there is very little ugly. Unless you count Jeff Taffe. Yeeesshh…
Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews: Both have come to camp in shape, and on their game. This is unsurprising for Captain Serious, but Kane has reportedly spent his summer waist deep in blondes and Bacardi. You’d never know: he looked as fresh as he did last October. Had a back-and-forth break-away battle with Turco and deked him out of his dental work at one point.
Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa: Still getting their legs under them. They didn’t look bad, but they didn’t stand out either.
Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell: These are two of the wingers to slot into the open slots on the third and fourth lines. It’s obvious that they are a step ahead of their fellow minor-league compatriots.
Viktor Stalberg: Good looking kid. That’s all I can contribute. No evidence of the reported “Swedish Rocket” speed. My wife thought he skated a lot like me. Can’t say I disagree…
Igor Makarov: If this kid continues to deliver like he did in Prospect Camp, the Rookie Tournament and the day I saw, it will be difficult to deny him a roster spot. He doesn’t stand out on the ice like a Patrick Kane, he just comes out of nowhere and delivers the goods.
Kyle Beach: I still don’t see what the fuss is about. At Prospect Camp he stood out like Pam Anderson at a PTA meeting. With the big boys, he’s nothing special.
Jeremy Morin: Not this year, sorry. Needs to grow up.
Ludvig Rensfeldt: Plays even bigger than 6’ 3”, and already has a handle on the North American game. Not this year, but soon.
David Gilbert: Feisty little fucker, and quick feet. Needs work on stick handling and puck control, but not a throw-away.
Duncan Keith: New teeth, no beard, shorter hair, in shape, and on his game.
Brent Seabrook: Does not appear to be in shape yet.
Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Hendry, Nick Boynton: About what you’d expect.
John Scott: Jesus H. Christ on a cracker, this guy’s a friggin’ MONSTER!
Simon Danis-Pepin: Seriously, why is this guy here, and what could the Hawks possibly see in him?
Joe Palmer, Alec Richards: Toledo fodder.
Hannu Toivonen: Not, I repeat, NOT going to challenge for the backup spot. And if Crawford goes down with an injury, we need to trade for a solid back-up. This kid isn’t anywhere NEAR ready.
Marty Turco: Okay, yeah, it was the first day. But if what I saw was what we can expect all year, we’ll struggle to make the playoffs. I want to like this guy. We’re stuck with him, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, for now. But he did precisely *nothing* to instill confidence in Blackhawks fans on Saturday.
Corey Crawford: This is the bright light on the horizon. He was head and shoulders above *any* goaltender on the ice, period. The kid sees the ice well, predicts how a play will develop, has good rebound control, doesn’t get jumpy under pressure, fights for every single save, and is a formidable target in net. If Turco can’t handle the load, I can see Crawford handling it just fine.
We’ll see how much of this plays out during the pre-season, and if we see any trades materialize before opening day this all takes on a whole new flavor. The roster I’m not worried about, there should be only a handful of actual “kids” suiting up for the game against Colorado. The rest falls on Coach Q, whose mustache looked ready for another championship season!