Strangers No More: Getting to Know Second City Hockey

Matt: And also I change my answer? After Kane's arrest we definitely have used up all good karma... oops

Editor's Note: Sometimes timing can be a funny thing. This post was meant to run last week and it likely would have been duly forgotten amidst the blockbuster Justin Pogge trade. Of course, that was before Patrick "20 Cent" Kane showed that you can take the boy out of Buffalo but you can't take the Buffalo out of the boy. Anyway, the purpose of this post is the get to know some of our SBN brethren. Second City Hockey is the network's Chicago Blackhawks blog and we sent them five questions in order to find out a bit more about what makes them tick and whether we should worry about the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. They've posted a similar story on their site so head on over and find out what they wanted to know about the Leafs. Also note that the first question was asked before Kane's newfound fiscal responsibility kicked in. I guess he's not that confident of making the bonuses needed to complement his pittance of a base salary.

The Hawks have been in the news a lot lately and not entirely for the greatest reasons. Between Stan Bowman's coup d'etat, Martin Havlat's angry twittering, and Dale Tallon's inability to use a fax machine do you ever get the feeling that all of the momentum of the last two years might have used up all of the team's good karma? Also, can you see the strings on Stan or is Scotty technologically advanced enough to use a remote control?

McClure:  While this summer has been one non-stop excuse to chain smoke, the fact remains that even in spite of Hossa's surgery, that this could very well be the best Hawks team that any of us have seen in our lifetimes (All of us are approximately 26-28). And all the good karma of the last two years amounted to jack and shit in the hardware department for the Hawks. If you want to skate with the big boys and declare yourself a cup contender, then you're going to be scrutinized like one. And if all this off season's drama leads to a parade down West Madison St. next June, then I'll gladly accept what has been happening this summer.

Sam: Ugh, don't even get me started.  I wouldn't say that the good karma has been used, but the honeymoon is most certainly over, and the brass has pretty much used all their leeway.  From what I can tell, most Hawks fans were less than pleased at the way Tallon was removed and Stan moved in.  Havlat's angry twittering didn't phase most (he still hadn't convinced a lot of Hawks fans after only one season of excellence, though he did this one) and we got the better player anyway.  The contract thing wasn't ever a big deal as some made it out to be, as it only led to an overpayment to Versteeg, and it's debatable by how much.  But the GM bloodless-coup really got on people's tits.  It was so ham-handed and smacked of arrogance from McDonough, and now that the organization has done pretty much everything outside the rink it can, it will simply be judged by on-ice performance.  If things don't go as well as expected, you'll have a lot of angry Hawks fans around here, and they can be an unpleasant bunch.  Think the Beer-n-Brawl from the Simpsons.

Scotty has actually adopted the man-behind-the-curtain method, he's got a pretty complex machine built in the Hawks front office.  You should see this thing, it might even run Tiger.  However, that scares a lot of us, because while he has no peer as a coach, Bowman's record as a GM and talent-evaluator is spotty at best.  Ask Buffalo.

Matthew:  Good karma is great – but it might only take you to the Western Conference Finals.  It’s a bit tired how every fanbase (except maybe Detroit and St. Louis) is just “glad to see the Hawks back”.  I’m not saying we don’t appreciate it but I’m ready for the Hawks to just be a good hockey team rather than the comeback story that everyone (rightly) focused on.  I’m over it – time to move on.

As for Scotty – I guess we’ll see how well he does.  Tallon was good as some of the aspects of the job but not great at others.  Scotty has a much better situation coming into the job than Tallon and with Cheveldayoff now helping him out there’s plenty to look forward to. 

David Bolland - 5 years, $3.375M per season: Explain.


McClure:  I'm sure Sam will have far much more to offer here, but even after one year, it's become pretty apparent that there's not a lot Dave Bolland can't do in the role of a second line center (just don't ask him to man the point on a power play). He provided shut down defense when necessary (just ask Jarome Iginla), distributed the puck to Martin Havlat, propelling him to leading the team in points, and scored meaningful goals. While the track record is short with just one full season under his belt, the pedigree is there, as Bolland's junior numbers on a line with Rob Schremp are simply eye-popping, and with a reasonable shot to be centering either Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, or Kris Versteeg, there's no reason to believe that his offensive numbers will only increase in the coming years, particularly with John Madden now taking some of the defensive pressure off of Bolland this year. While it looks like overpayment now, the Hawks are banking on this contract being a bargain in the latter years of it, and such is the reality given the current setup of the CBA as it relates to entry-level deals and restricted free agency.

Sam:  Um....yeah, not sure we can.  Tallon's biggest weakness was as a negotiator, which is apparently Stan Bowman's strength.  Tallon could never balance offering a player a contract based one what he did or what he will do, always leaning too far to one of those sides.  There are few who doubt around here that Bolland is going to be an excellent, two-way #2 center, and eventually that contract is going to look a bargain.  However, that doesn't mean he needed to get it now.  As an RFA, for another team to sign him to an offer sheet that big or larger, would have meant an assload of draft picks coming the other way as compensation.  It's highly doubtful anyone would have ponies that up, and Fabulous Weapon probably couldn't have gotten more than 2 mil in arbitration.  But this organization has such a horrible history with players getting to arbitration and the acrimony involved, I think they want to do everything to avoid it.  Come back to this question in two years.
 
Matthew:  We’ll have to see.  Bolland is one of those players that don’t really stand out to you unless you’re watching the Hawks every game.  So right now it sure seems to everyone he’s being overpaid but if he can continue to improve he might even start to get some Selke consideration.  According to Behindthenet.ca, Bolland’s QUALCOMP rating was .088 which is second highest in the league (behind his frequent linemate Andrew Ladd).   If you haven’t noticed it yet, trust us, Bolland is good. 

A couple of former Blackhawks in Ed Belfour and Jeremy Roenick recently joined St. Louis/retired. They were huge pieces of the team that was swept in the Stanley Cup Final. Obviously I have no idea what it's like to have gone to the Final and lost but I assume I wouldn't survive the emotional trauma so maybe you could share how you did it? And on a happier note, any great memories of Eddie (besides his booziness) and JR (besides his boorishness)?


McClure:  Honestly, their departures seem like a lifetime ago. While their recent activities offer some time to reflect on their time in a Blackhawks sweater, and respect their accomplishments, as was noted in the answer to the previous question, there is simply too much to think about with the present iteration of this team to spend being wistful about players, ownership, and an era that are long gone. While the teams of the early to mid 90s were fun to watch, and had opportunities to bring a championship home, I find it's best to not lose sight of the fact those teams did not actually win anything, and this franchise still has the longest active Cup drought.
 
Sam:  My thoughts on JR have been shared quite extensively on our site.  As for Eddie, the best memory for me is in the old Stadium one night when the Sabers were lighting him up, so he charged out of the crease to level Pat LaFontaine on a dump in, setting off a mass brawl.  Frankly, didn't we all want to pummel LaFontaine?
As for getting over losing the Final when I was 11?  Check my bar tabs to this day....

Matthew:  I was lucky enough (I guess) to still be living outside Washington DC in 1992 and hadn’t really become a huge hockey fan yet, plus I was only 10.  I was far more concerned with the Washington Redskins and their march to the Super Bowl.  In fact I was so naïve that at the time I thought Mark Rypien was a great quarterback – a fact that I firmly believed in til I was about 17 actually.  It wasn’t really til a few years later that I discovered players like Roenick and fell into the trap of becoming a Hawk fan.. so I came in right when things really started to go downhill… smart move huh?  And part of the great memories with JR is his boorishness.. and we’re all fans of boozing so The Eagle is just fine by us. 

Most of the people here are aware that the St. Louis Game Time guys write their own programs because we adopted them against the Canucks but despite becoming Blackhawks fans the next round not as many know about The Committed Indian. When did you guys start it up and what kind of magazine would you say it is? And is it as nice as our magazine?


McClure:  As a completely biased contributor to Sam's pet project, I can say with utter confidence that it is far and away the best fan-made renegade gameday program that I have ever worked for.

Sam:  The Committed Indian started this past season, carrying the torch from The Blue Line which had gone away about eight years ago.  It's preface is that it's a game program for every Hawks home game, but it's oh-so much more.  It's acerbic, vulgar, crude, satirical, and overall funny as hell (I can say that because I write it).  Only in our program would we give a picture of Stalin the label of "Mike Keenan".  It's also where you'll find the Dustin Byfuglien Guide To Half-Assing Your Job and Adam Burish-Motivational Speaker which contained the line, "Gonna be an Islamic Ass-tapping Crusade!"  That tells you everything you need to know.

Nice?  Any publication where the term "fuckwad" appears no less than three times per issue probably can't be described as nice.
Matthew:  It’s a beautiful publication – even when it’s covered in Sam’s blood..

How do you guys avoid getting shit on for not having won a Cup since 1961? You guys had Bill Wirtz and everyone wept for you poor poor Hawks fans suffering under a terrible owner. Meanwhile, we had Harold Ballard and those same jerk fans were saying that we deserved him. Do you guys send Christmas cards out to other fanbases or have barbecues in the summer? Why do es no one chant "SIX-TY-ONE" (aside from the awkwardness)?


McClure:  I have no idea. It may be a function of the team completely falling off the radar both in this city, and around the league due to its ineptitude during a period when both the Rangers and Red Wings halted their long-standing droughts. Until recently, Toronto has been more competitive within their conference, and, as everyone falls all over themselves to point out, it is a hockey mad market, which amplifies things on both fronts. If things continue to progress here, but yields no championships, the hew and cry will certainly become nearly as loud as that for the Leafs.

Sam:  This is a good question and one I haven't ever really considered.  Part of it has to do with Wirtz and the fact he never let us be a factor.  Because of that, there weren't a lot of hilarious near-misses that led us to be well-known, like the Red Sox or Cubs (sigh).  Also, the Hawks were so far down the list here in local popularity, there wasn't a lot of outlets printing and screaming, "Woe is us" because no one cared (you lot take care of that enough).  However, with the team's return to prominence, if they don't wrangle a Cup in the next few years, you'll be hearing more and more of that "1961" stuff.

Matthew:  Maybe the chant just isn’t as catchy as yours? 

A huge thank you to Matthew, Sam, and McClure for taking the time to partake in this exercise. We obviously want to thank them for the Blackhawks' elimination of the Canucks last Spring. We'll be organising a field trip for the November 13th game which will be a rematch of the Wendel Clark Night game when the evil denizens of Chicago ruined the celebrations.

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