I apologize, but I've gone back and edited a portion of this. It was written last night between beers and grad school assignments. I know I may have just bastardized this piece in a George Lucas Special Edition fashion, but I swear, It was my original intent to have the computer animated aliens in there, I just didn't have the budget for them the first time!
conventional wisdom in the world of hockey is a common thing, and not necessarily all that difficult to acquire. In today's world of 24 hour sports media coverage conventional sports wisdom is, in fact, so common, with every "expert analyst" chipping in his or her own pearl, that like common sense these days, real hockey wisdom is actually quite rare.
An old pearl of sports wisdom would have you believe that pitching wins World Series and Goaltending wins Stanley Cups.
However, much like every presidential State of the Union Address, this pearl contains only half-truths and beautiful lies.
If it were true (that championship hockey teams require elite netminders), then Miika Kiprusoff and Ed Luongo would have entire wings of their summer homes dedicated simply to housing their replica Cups and Conn Smythe trophies. However, Kiprusoff and the Flames are still trying to figure out how in the hell they actually MADE it to a Final, and apply that knowledge in an effort not to get pasted in the first round. Meanwhile, Luongo still hasn't calculated the quantity of sodium chloride that needs to be tossed over his shoulder in order to counteract the jinx he places on his team by growing out his playoff beard in November. In reality, the four cup winners since the latest lockout present an interesting case, not in the least bit because they challenge the conventional wisdom.
Marc-Andre Fleury is the most interesting to me, because, well, the hype surrounding him is mostly over-exageration and complete bullshit. His career numbers pay heed to his status as a proficient, serviceable goalie, and nothing more. The .908 SV% he posted enroute to Pittsburgh's cup hoisting last year is, well extremely average. Fleury like Huet, benifits from the skaters he has infront him. The Penguins won last year primarily because of the four shifts of fowards and three defensive pairings they put on the ice in front of Fluery.
Jeremy Roenick's comments, while perhaps honest and more likely an attempt to avoid being pegged a "Hawks Homer," seem nothing more than a reflection of the media finding it necessary to dig up something to bitch about on an otherwise solid team. Or, very possibly, Roenick acted on behalf of the oh-so-selfish human nature that Nietszche argues is in all of us: he really doesn't want Captain Marvelous and the crew to do what he could not, hoist a cup for the indian head.
And we all know LeBrun, Burnside, Buccigross and the fuckheads at ESPN are in the business of selling copies of their magazine above all else. What better way to stir up drama than to tell everyone in America's third largest city "THIS IS WHY YOUR TEAM WON'T WIN!"
Actually, thank god I don't have access to Chicago's local media anymore, I don't think I could handle it.
What is most puzzling to me [why the Blackhawks have suddenly become fertile soil for media bashing] is that only weeks ago this team was the subject of pure, unbridled, and dare I say, jubilant hyperboly. Why everyone has suddenly rescinded their praise, jumped of the Blackhawk Bus as quickly as they drunkly stumbled onto it, puzzles me for two major reasons:
1) The Blackhawks, quite frankly, have deserved most of their hyperbolic praise. We've seen Duncan Keith turn into Niklas Lidstrom during the meer course of an offseason. Patrick Kane's development as a future Hart Award Winner looks to be, well, ahead of schedule, despite off-ice shenanigans. Jonathan Toews, another slow start and an early season injury appear to have stunted his growth on the scorer's sheet, however, his maturation as an exemplary leader, his ability to win a draw on demand and his presence on the forecheck (D-men who've matched up against our first line so far this year are STILL seeing no. 19 in their nightmares) have made him a first rate captian in the NHL.
2) The Blackhawks have done nothing to deserve such a backlash against them. Last time I checked they still had 78 points, and over the course of four head to head games they revealed the San Jose Sharks for what they are: a team that struggles to find the back of the net without their wonder triplets from Canada or Joe Pavelski on the ice, a team that is woefully thin at the blueline, and a team that simply does not have the killer instinct of a champion. And do I really need to reference a certain game against the Calgary Flames last October? I think that should lay to rest any questions about our team's killer instinct.
Perhaps Kaner has inspired the hate. His escapades with a cabbie in Buffalo and women/men (you make the call) in Vancouver notwithstanding, he continues to amaze on the ice and recieve adulation in the locker room and from the fans.
Brian Campbell has been a target of hate seemingly ever since he arrived in Chicago. Perhaps this latest wave of criticism against the hawks can be chalked up to frustrated columnists who just can't stand the fact that this year Soup might actually be living up to his contract. He's a top ten defenseman in the NHL, look at the numbers yourself if you don't believe me. Didn't we pay him to be a top ten defenseman? Yet anything goes wrong, and its another diatribe about Campbell and his contract.
The Huet bashing has come to the point of nasuea. Look I don't even particularly like the guy myself, but he wears the indian head, he plays hard with that sweater on, and that's all he has to do to be part of Chicago's hockey family. Now, if only more of the tribe would live up to their end of the bargain and actually ROOT for the guy, instead of salavating at the mouth everytime he screws up. Cristobal Huet is, after all, a proficient, serviceable goalie. Just like Marc-Andre Fleury. Huet's career numbers prove that much. Carolina won a cup with Gerber, Anahiem won a cup with Giguere, Detroit won a cup with Osgood, Pittsburgh won a cup with Fleury, and we can win a cup with Huet.
If the Blackhawks win this year, it will be because of the same things that have gotten them 37 wins to this point in the season, smothering other teams and shelling the opposing goalie with vulcanized rubber. Come play off time, Huet undoubtedly will cost the Hawks a game here, or a game there, but not an entire 7 game series. In a seven game series I like the men of four feathers in a matchup against, well anyone. I know there are no guaruntees in sports. Well, there are a couple. I can guaruntee that every time the Hawks take the ice I will be ponied up to the bar, several empty bottles of PBR rattling around infront me, rooting on the Hawks in my Toews jersey that probably doesn't get washed nearly enough for how often I wear it. However, I still like the Blackhawks chances, that's why this year I'm a little drunker and my Toews Jersey is a little riper.
A Blackhawks Fan in exile in Missoula, MT