November Flashback: Proving 2010-11 Expectations Were A Bit Overblown


Back on Nov. 7, I wrote a column for Sam Fels’ wonderful creation The Committed Indian before the Blackhawks dropped to 7-8-1 with a 2-1 loss to Edmonton.

In my column titled, “10 Reasons Why the Blackhawks Can Repeat,” I shared my optimistic viewpoints skewed by a Stanley Cup run last season. I’ve decided to go back and breakdown what I wrote in November to what’s actually happened so far in 2010-11.

If you hate my guts, you’re going to want to share this with any and all of the electronic options available to you at the end of the post. I was wrong way more than I was right, though I don’t feel I’m anywhere near alone in most of these thoughts dating back five months.

Below are each of the reasons I wrote Nov. 7, with a detailed explanation and update to current times.

Have a blast.

Patrick Kane will start to give a damn

At the time, Kane had six goals and nine assists in 16 games. While he won’t match last season’s production of 88 points in 82 games, he’s still been a point-per-game player this year. Kane has 69 points (23 G, 46 A) through 69 games. He’s been an easy target for a lot of the Blackhawks’ struggles this season given his reputation, and no one can deny he’s looked aloof on the ice. However, the numbers don’t lie. Blame can be passed around a hell of a lot more places than in Kaner’s direction.

Marian Hossa is, well, Marian Hossa

Hossa’s career can be viewed a couple of different ways. He’s played less games his two seasons in Chicago than he has in any other season of his career. The injuries are annoying, to say the least, and it’s gotten to the point any time he looks even remotely in pain, people begin to freak out.

However, the reason for that is because he’s so damn good when he’s on the ice. Hossa started the season on fire, scoring seven times in the first seven games and adding four assists. The intangibles Hossa brings to the table – puck control, back-checking, intelligence – can be even more important than his scoring ability. He’s a threat on the ice and one of best two-way players in the league.

Hossa has just one extended stretch of pointless games — 7, from Oct. 20-Nov. 13. When he’s been healthy, he’s been a stud.

Patrick Sharp is extremely handsome … and good

Sharp stepped up this season to help make up for the depleted depth of the offseason cap dumps, and he was well on his way to eclipsing his career high of 36 goals set in the 2006-07 season when most people in Chicago had forgotten the city had a hockey team. Sharp scored 34 goals in 71 games, which is still tied for 8th in the NHL despite playing less games than anyone in the top 10.

The reason we’re all still hoping he can return for at least a couple of these last four games is because the Blackhawks are an average 3-3-0 in the six games without him. If he doesn’t return and ends up missing 10 games, we may be looking back at Sharp’s injury as one of the biggest reasons the Blackhawks fell apart down the stretch.

Jonathan Toews won’t let this crap continue

Here’s what I wrote back in November:

"I’m not talking about his performance on the ice – though the ‘Hawks could use some more offensive production from Tazer. I’m talking about that ‘C’ on his chest which he’s shown he’s well deserving of having. With all the new faces in the locker room, I’m assuming he’s simply waiting for the right time to start putting people in their place."

Toews obviously has been the most productive Blackhawk this season, even putting his name into contention for the Hart Trophy with career highs in goals (31) and assists (44). He put together a dominating two-month run with only four pointless games from Jan. 25-March 28, and the Blackhawks topped out with a season-high eight-game winning streak during that span.

Toews has led by example, exceeding standards and being the captain we all thought. He’s done everything he possibly can, from being dominant off the ice to calling out his teammates off of it. If the Blackhawks miss the postseason or have a short playoff run, it won’t be because of Toews.

Marty Turco may give you heart failure, but he’s a very serviceable goalie

While I still believe this to be the case, I wasn’t exactly thinking Corey Crawford would emerge to be the first ‘Hawk netminder to win 30 games since Jocelyn Thibault won 33 in 2001-02. Turco hasn’t made a start since Feb. 11, while Crawford’s 2.27 GAA ranks seventh in the NHL on his way to some votes for the Calder Trophy.

Boy is my face red.

Brian Campbell is back

Campbell missed the 13 games of the season after injuring his knee against Pittsburgh in a preseason game, and the Blackhawks defensive lineup was shuffled almost nightly without him. What changed after her returned?

Not much.

Joel Quenneville ended up playing mix and match with his defense at times this season, much like he does when he gets bored of the same lines. There’s no question the Blackhawks are better with Campbell. Often times he’s the best defenseman the ‘Hawks have, and he’s come a long way from being the fans’ whipping boy in 2008-09.

I really thought he was going to return and help in my next prediction …

Niklas Hjalmarsson will begin living up to his contract

Somewhere, right now as you’re reading this, Hammer is committing a careless, stupid, idiotic delay-of-game penalty. The fact that I could tell he had something wrong with him back in November and he’s still a major disappointment makes that 4-year, $14 million look like an absolute disaster.

At times, Hammer doesn’t even seem to know where he is on the ice or be able to contemplate a given situation. For instance, his DOG penalty Sunday was a matter of him having zero awareness. Hammer had plenty of time to move the puck around the boards or out of the zone in much more controlled matter. Instead, he blindly backhanded the puck into the stands, leading to Vincent Lecavalier’s game-winner.

His partnering with Campbell made me believe the veteran would help Hammer rediscover his previous level of play which earned him the offer sheet from San Jose. Instead, Hammer may have even regressed.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will play like the best D tandem in the NHL

This is quite embarrassing. And it’s even more embarrassing because these two ended up being split at points during the season. Keith is an absolute shell of the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman who seemingly could do no wrong in 2009-10. His decision-making is sub-par, and I’m being nice. He’s hit roughly 102, 492 shins with his point shots, and he’s been holding onto the puck too long in his own zone all season, leading to turnovers and more goals-against. His passing makes me believe I should get an assist for farting.

The defense part? Oh. His positioning on the penalty kill has been atrocious and he’s been beaten into the zone and blown past by forwards so often I’m actually starting to get used to it.

As for Seabrook, he hasn’t had a stellar season but it’s been enough to say overall he’s been the Blackhawks’ best defenseman. He’s made his far share of terrible decisions and has been caught insanely out of position – See: Sunday – but Seabs earned his extension and the money it comes with. If only his partner didn’t play he went blind during the offseason.

Everything will fall into place by mid-January

By “fall into place” I meant “not get any better.” That’s a lie.

Since the original Nov. 7 column through Jan. 15, the Blackhawks went 16-10-3 and were 24-18-4 overall. Not exactly what I could call “falling into place.”

The only thing the ‘Hawks proved by this point is they would be consistently average throughout most of the season aside from the aforementioned eight-game winning streak. With the core group still intact, Campbell and Hossa back healthy and the Circus Trip out of the way, I really believe mid-January was a reasonable expectation for the Blackhawks to begin their accent toward the top of the Western Conference. Damnit.

No matter what, this team will be dangerous come June

Part of me is sticking with what I wrote in November: “Put a defending Stanley Cup champion in the playoffs and anything can happen.”

The other part of me just slapped that part of me.

Truth be told, many of teams have advanced in the playoffs as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in each conference. Even back in the days of divisional playoffs, fourth-place teams made runs – See: North Stars over President’s Trophy-winning Blackhawks, 1991.

Right now, with Sharp and Dave Bolland out and the lackluster efforts the past two games, I can’t call this team “dangerous.” There’s too much that needs to be figured out in the next eight days until the playoffs begin.

I guess that’s why we play the games. Let’s see what happens.

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