Category Archives: NHL

The Future For The Chicago Blackhawks

Whenever a team would win three cups in seven years, you would think that their franchise is set for a long while, right? Well, the future for players and coaches of the Chicago Blackhawks could be in jeopardy.

On April 20th, the Blackhawks were shockingly swept by 2nd Wild Card Nashville Predators for another first round exit. Last year, Chicago lost in seven games to their rival St. Louis Blues in the first round, who made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the San Jose Sharks. The Blues were an impressive team last year, dominating the physicality, speed, and playmaking of every game. Although the Hawks took the series to seven games, no one expected the then-defending Champs to be ousted in the first round. While last year’s elimination was disappointing, that doesn’t compare to this year’s embarrassment.

On March 19th, the Blackhawks clinched yet another playoff spot, and would later clinch the Western Conference. Looking back on it, we clinched it too early, in my opinion. With around a week left of the regular season, we decided to rest/limit their star players for the playoffs. While Kane, Toews, and Panarin were getting some playing time, stars like goaltender Corey Crawford and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson were absent from the ice. In the last four games of the regular season, the Blackhawks went 0-3-1, losing to three teams that were not in playoff contention. That worried me. Why? Because their eventual first-round opponent was still fighting for a playoff spot.

Yes, we clinched the Western Conference. But while we were taking it easy leading into the playoffs, the Nashville Predators were fighting with the Los Angeles Kings for the last playoff spot. They never took their foot off the gas pedal, while Chicago had been in cruise control for an entire week. Then the playoffs started, and their first round was against the Preds. The majority of NHL analysts were picking Chicago to move on to the next round, citing their previous playoff experiences. But everyone, including myself, underestimated Nashville’s grit and determination to get revenge on the Blackhawks, who eliminated them in the 2015 playoffs. Goaltender Pekka Rinne shut out Chicago in the first two games to take an early 2-0 series lead. With Chicago having home-ice advantage in the playoffs, one never would expect the Blackhawks to lose two games at the United Center, one of the loudest arenas in the league. Heading into Nashville, the fans were rowdy and the atmosphere is electric. Chicago has been down in series before against some of the toughest teams in the league. But there was something about this Nashville Predators team this year that the Hawks couldn’t solve.

The shot-blocking abilities from essentially every player on the roster frustrated players like Toews, Kane, Panarin, and Marian Hossa. Looking at the stats after every period, the shots on goal were extremely lopsided. Secondly, the defensive pressure of Nashville prevented Chicago from generating any scoring chances, especially in the middle zone. The Blackhawks would end up dumping and chasing the puck, only to, in the end, turn the puck over. Lastly, the Predators’ speed killed Chicago. The aging defensemen on the Hawks couldn’t keep up with the young defensive pairings that the Predators had to offer. The odd-man rushes became natural to them, and the Blackhawks were getting outplayed in every aspect. After such an amazing regular season, they flop in the playoffs and get swept, ending their season short yet again.

Not only were the fans upset and frustrated by another sudden exit, but so was general manager Stan Bowman. He called their postseason efforts a “complete failure” and was “frustrated and angry” after getting swept in the first round. Chicago was one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. A few days later, Bowman fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, who was teammates with coach Joel Quenneville from 1979-1983 and was also an assistant under Quenneville with the Blues from 1998-2003. Next up was backup goaltender and 2015 first-round hero Scott Darling, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. As of May 20th, no other trades or cuts have been made. As far as extensions, winger Richard Panik has agreed to a two-year deal, having career-high numbers last season on the same line as Toews.

What will the future hold for the Chicago Blackhawks? Will any key stars be in danger of getting traded? How will this year’s expansion draft change the roster? How will Bowman approach the rest of the offseason? As the days, weeks, and months go on, we shall see.

Matt Hrncar

Team to Watch Out For: San Jose Sharks

With the regular season wrapping up soon and the playoffs right around the corner, plenty of teams are still fighting for a playoff spot. Some may only be a few points away from a  wild card, while some are getting their golf clubs ready for the upcoming offseason. But there are some teams who are hungry for a shot at Lord Stanley, especially this Western Conference powerhouse. They have never won the Stanley Cup, which makes them more hungry every year. Pacific Division, watch out for the San Jose Sharks.

Ever since the ’03-04 season, the San Jose Sharks have been an incredibly skilled and tough team; not only in its division but to the rest of the league. From clinching a wild card a few years to the President’s Trophy in 2009, this team has always stuck around in the postseason to compete for the grand trophy.

Along with an outstanding fan base, becoming the first franchise based in the San Francisco area in 1990, San Jose has some All Star players on their roster. In 1997, they drafted Patrick Marleau, who today is the all-time Sharks leader in goals, even-strength goals, power play goals, points, shots and games played.

In the 2003 Draft, they drafted current Captain, Joe Pavelski. Pavelski is a constant offensive threat, ranking towards the top every year regarding goals scored and power play goals scored. During the 05-06 season, they acquired superstar Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins, who is the Sharks all-time leader in assists and one of the highest-scoring players ever in the NHL.

With the 9th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, the Sharks drafted Logan Couture, who in is rookie year, became the franchise leader in goals scored and is currently an Alternate Captain for the team. In 2011, the Sharks traded for big defenseman Brent Burns, who is a 4-time All Star and is the leading candidate for the Norris Trophy this season.

The Sharks parted ways with Todd McLellan, who coached from 2008-2015 and led them to the playoffs 6 consecutive years. San Jose, who originally was in playoff contention, lost to Western Conference teams down the stretch, causing them to miss the playoffs. Fans restless, players’ temper on the rise, the franchise had to think of something to save their team. Last year, they hired Peter DeBoer, former New Jersey Devils coach, while also picking up key players in forward Joel Ward and star goaltender Martin Jones. To everyone’s surprise, the Sharks made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, but unfortunately they fell to Pittsburgh.

With the playoffs looming, the Sharks look to capture the Pacific Division title for the first time since the 2010-11 season. The Los Angeles Kings are fighting for a playoff spot being down a few points, and the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames are behind San Jose, so everyone is keeping the race close. But one thing is for certain: when the Sharks are hot, they’re hot.

Watch out, NHL.

Raised in a competitive family, sports has been the majority of my life. Not only playing but watching as well. Born in Oak Lawn, IL (suburb of Chicago), I tend to have a bias, but I try to keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching and talking sports.

Twitter: @ChiTownGuy24

Recap of NHL Trade Deadline

Just like the offseason, major sports offer unpredictable moves and shocking outcomes before the trade deadline; hockey never fails to disappoint. With the small salary cap that teams have, some transactions have to be made, whether it’s sending players to a playoff-caliber team or getting rid of players that didn’t match up to the skill level they once promised. After all the chaos, let’s break down the major stories that happened before the trade deadline:

Dallas Sends Patrick Eaves to Anaheim

After a surprisingly successful year last year and a Coach of the Year nomination for Lindy Ruff, the Dallas Stars have been a huge disappointment this year. Second to last in the Central division (thanks to the last-place fails of Colorado), the Stars have decided to send some of their star players to playoff teams. First off, they sent right-winger Patrick Eaves to the physical Anaheim Ducks, who are tied for second in the Pacific Division with the red-hot Calgary Flames.


Kings, Lightning Swap Goalies

For the start of the season, it was very rough for the Los Angeles Kings: they lost their star goaltender in Jonathon Quick, and quickly caught the “Carey Price Effect” from last season, where nothing seemed to go right with the team. They’re one of the last teams in the conference, they lack confidence, and everything just seemed to be in a downward spiral. Then later on, towards the All Star Break, backup goalie Peter Budaj picked it up and vaulted the Kings up the Pacific division. But when L.A. found out Quick was healthy, they quickly acted on doing something before the deadline. Them and Tampa Bay decided to swap goaltenders in Budaj and (surprisingly) TB starter Ben Bishop, sending Bishop to Anaheim. At the time, Tampa Bay was down in the standings of the competitive Atlantic division, and wanted to give their goalie a chance to see the playoffs again. Now,  the Lightning are right on the edge of snatching a Wild Card spot, while the Kings are also on the edge of getting a W.C.


Stars Break Up Benn Brothers, Send Jordie to Montreal

The Dallas Stars get a young defenseman and a fourth round pick, so who did they give up? Jordie Benn. So much for the Benn Brothers being together. As stated above, the Stars are in rebuilding mode and getting rid of some of their top guys. With literally no chance of making the playoffs, they send physical defenseman Jordie Benn to the Montreal Canadiens. That should make the Atlantic division more interesting; especially with Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw, a healthy Carey Price, and now Jordie Benn on the same team.


St. Louis Sends Another Big-Named Star to Washington

St. Louis wants to focus on the youth of their roster, or try to make Vladimir Tarasenko its true Captain. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, like former teammate TJ Oshie a few seasons ago, was traded to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a first round pick and a few players. As much as I hate St. Louis (being a Blackhawks fan), getting young players and draft picks helps pave the way for the future. In baseball, my White Sox did that this past offseason, and as much as I hated seeing Chris Sale and Adam Eaton go, it’s all about paving the way for the young stars.


Chicago Brings Back Another Fan Favorite, Stanley Cup Winner

No, not Patrick Sharp (sadly). To prevent another shortage of defensemen during their Cup run, the Chicago Blackhawks brought back defenseman Johnny Oduya. Oduya left the Blackhawks after winning the championship in 2015, so he hasn’t been gone for that long. He still probably needed a quick refresher on the playbook of the ingenious Coach Q. Also known for being a great shot-blocker, he should give Hjalmarsson a break. Plus, the Oduya jokes never get old.


Los Angeles Want to Give Future HOF a Chance To Win The Cup

There’s no doubt Jarome Iginla is going to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s only a matter of time until he decides to retire, then he will be in the HOF in no time. But before he decides to call it a career, Los Angeles and Colorado wanted to give Iginla a legit chance to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time. Colorado sent Jarome Iginla in exchange for a 2018 draft pick because at this point for the Avalanche, they need to rebuild…. and rebuild badly. Just finally reaching the 40-point mark, Colorado, I’m sure, is looking forward to the offseason more than any other team. As for Iginla, I hope he gets a chance to touch the Cup one day… just not with the Kings.

Matt Hrncar

Raised in a competitive family, sports has been the majority of my life. Not only playing but watching as well. Born in Oak Lawn, IL (suburb of Chicago), I tend to have a bias, but I try to keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching and talking sports.

2016 NHL Offseason Recap

With preseason just about a month away, there was a lot that happened in the last few months in the world of the National Hockey League. Every offseason, there are signings, trades, or relocations that seem to surprise us. Well, 2016 was no different.

NHL Puts Las Vegas On The Map. Yes, you read that right. Come the 2017-2018 season, Las Vegas will have its very own hockey team. What makes this really special for hockey fans is the fact that this will be the first professional sports team based out of Las Vegas. They will play with the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings as part of the Pacific Division in the Western Conference. The team name, logo, colors and uniforms will all be unveiled next month, so keep your eyes peeled.

lv nhl

The Dallas Stars extend the Benn Brothers. Jamie Benn, an MVP candidate last season,  has been the face of the franchise since 2009, and nothing would make the management more happy than to make him a Star for life. While he signs an 8 year/$76 million deal, brother D-man Jordie gets a 3 year/$3.3 million deal.

Aaron Ekblad staying with the Florida Panthers for eight more years. With a run of postseason success lately and a new logo recently released, the Florida Panthers want defenseman Ekblad to be a part of it. He has proven himself worthy of the hefty contract worth $60 million, and will once again try to get Florida even closer to Lord Stanley this upcoming season with Jaromir Jagr coming back for yet another season.

Tampa Bay keeping one of their defensive weapons for a while. Victor Hedman, a clear defensive threat for the Tampa Bay Lightning, agreed to an 8 year/$63 million deal this past offseason, keeping the Bolts clear front-runners for the Cup. They always appear to be Atlantic Division favorites, and with Hedman staying, nothing will change.

Blues clean house, trade Brouwer and Captain Backes. As a Blackhawks fan, nothing upset me more last postseason than Troy Brouwer (former Blackhawks & 2010 Cup champion) lit us up and advanced to the next round. Not only on the Blues did he hurt us, but back when he was a Washington Capital, he scored the GWG in the Stadium Series. He got sent off to the Calgary Flames, while longtime captain David Backes signs a long-term deal with the Boston Bruins. St. Louis is cleaning house, surprisingly, especially after a trip to the Western Conference finals. But then again, anything can happen in the offseason.

Backes

Hurricane Favorite Signs With Minnesota For 3 Years. The captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, Eric Staal, has left the team, and signed with the Minnesota Wild for 3 years/$10.5 million. With Carolina recently getting former Blackhawks Teuvo Teravanien and Bryan Bickell, you would think they would trending in the right direction. But for Staal, he sees Minnesota as a possible playoff team next year. With Bruce Boudreau as the new coach, who knows?

Islanders Lose Big Star to Buffalo. Kyle Okposo, who has been with the New York Islanders for the last nine seasons, has signed with the Buffalo Sabres for a 7 year/$42 million deal. With that deal, Okposo becomes one of the highest paid wingers in the league, and with New York always in the playoff picture, it comes as no surprise.

Edmonton Gain One, But Lose One. Free agent Milan Lucic (formerly of the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings) signed a 7 year/$42 million deal, keeping him in the same division as his last team in LA. While Edmonton grabs a big forward in Lucic, they lose one of their top rising stars in Taylor Hall going to New Jersey. Call it rebuilding, retooling, whatever. In my opinion, the Oilers haven’t been the same since Wayne Gretzky left.

Chicago Brings Back 2010 Cup Favorite, Extend Two Others. Anyone would want to take a pay-cut to go to a Stanley Cup favorite, especially Chicago. For a 2010 winner, Brian Campbell didn’t hesitate. For a year, $2.2 million deal, the defenseman will see if he can bring Lord Stanley back. As for those already part of the team, Chicago extended D Michael Rozsival and young forward Brandon Mashinter for a year each.

Stamkos Sweepstakes Stays In Tampa Bay. Sorry other teams. Steven Stamkos is staying with his team for 8 years, $68 million. The Captain will most likely be a Bolt for life.

stamkos

Subban & Weber Switch Teams, Shock the World. I honestly did not see this coming. Montreal fan favorite, P.K. Subban, and Nashville Predator captain, Shea Weber have swapped teams. They’re both defensemen, but it’s going to be strange seeing Subban in a Predator uniform, and Weber in a Montreal uniform.

Split_Trade

Andrew Shaw The Latest Victim In Chicago’s Salary Cap Crisis. I loved Shaw. He was an incredible player who gave it his all every time he was on the ice. He was an instigator, a fighter, and more importantly a scorer. As a 2x Stanley Cup champ, he will take his talents off to Montreal, to join Carey Price and Shea Weber in their quest to dominate the Eastern Conference.

Anaheim Goalie Off to Toronto in Maple Leafs’ Effort to Rebuild. Frederik Andersen is taking his goalie abilities to Toronto, where he has signed a 5 year/$25 million deal. The Maple Leafs, with an experienced coach in Mike Babcock, will look to get themselves back in the playoff picture with promising prospects, a skilled goaltender, and a Cup-winning coach to take on the rest of the Eastern conference.

With all that, bring on the 2016-2017 NHL season.

matt

Matt Hrncar

Raised in a competitive family, sports has been the majority of my life. Not only playing but watching as well. Born in Oak Lawn, IL (suburb of Chicago), I tend to have a bias, but I try to keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching and talking sports.

Twitter: @ChiTownGuy24