In The Red Morning Light

I've always loved you.

First, I'd apologize for the Kings of Leon reference, but that's actually a song from when they were good, and believe me, there was a time when they were.

Now that that's out of the way, I wanted to write a post to see how things looked the next day, in the hopes that I might feel better or at least different. If I do, it's only slightly. But there were some thoughts I thought needed to be flushed out more, and I can certainly do that. Whenever I do a wrap, I always debate expediency vs. dissection, and whether a more considered view is better on that night vs. the more passionate pieces that come the night of games. I feel like you are always owed a wrap on the night, but sometimes that's not a good idea. But I feel last night was a perfect occasion to write something while still burning with the emotion of frustration and disappointment, because that's where we all were.

While some have lumped me in with the more pessimistic crowd on this site, I think I am separate from them in a key way. While I feel as though they looked at the roster at the beginning of the season and made their decision -- or more likely just took up a contradictory position for the fuck of it and now have just rolled a seven --, my frustration comes from seeing a massive underachievement from this squad. When I look at this on paper, I still think this might be the fourth or fifth best team in the Conference, and maybe even better than that. Their current position does not reflect the talent that has been constructed. Maybe you can prove otherwise, but you'd be hard pressed. And most of the numbers prove that. Their goal differential is fourth in the West, and so massively above anyone else sitting outside the playoff picture it's hard to take. Same goes for shot differential. These don't tell a complete story, but they tell a strong one, don't they?

In fact, if most of the season looked like last night, where the top line does all the work and the rest can't come through, I'd probably be ok with it. Sure, injuries and cohesion have been a problem. But when this year started, my calibration on what the Hawks would and could be was based on their top players taking another step forward. I thought Toews would be doing what Ryan Kesler is. I thought Kane would be threatening 100 points. I thought Hossa would be that Hossa we saw in October. I didn't know Dave Bolland was going to take half the season off. Patrick Sharp is putting up the goal numbers I thought we needed, but that's been balanced by a defensive indifference and an aversion to being a center that I didn't see coming. I didn't know Duncan Keith would be Keith Brown, and then spread his disease to Brent Seabrook. I certainly didn't see the penalty kill having all the coherence of Roberto Benigni in "Night On Earth".

In all honesty, I don't think the bottom of the roster has been as bad as people would like to think. If we're just comparing regular season numbers, not playoffs, Bryan Bickell has pretty much given the Hawks everything Byfuglien did during the regular season. Sure, Fernando Pisani isn't Andrew Ladd, and Viktor Stalberg or Jack Skille didn't come close to being Kris Versteeg.  I get it. But Jake Dowell has been a way better fourth line center than we had last year. And Corey Crawford has been better than a lot of us thought he would be, that should have eaten up some of that gap. And again, I thought the core of this team would do a better job and making up for it, and they've stayed pretty much at the same level as before, save Keith. It's a fine level, they're still borderline elite players, but didn't we expect more?

Most of all, last night's wrap came off as angry, where this morning I'm just whatever is right past desperation. On paper, I still see a team that should be able to rip off seven wins in a row. I honestly do, on paper. But then I watch them on the ice and the difference is so clear, I'm almost speechless. And I can't keep waiting. Too many girls have broken our hearts when you keep waiting (and guys I'm sure).  While everything indicates that this team should market correct itself, the eye test just tells you different. And that really shouldn't be.

-As for this Kane story, let's ignore the Deadspin aspect of it (for those who deride it as merely a tabloid website, I don't read it for that, but much more that there is some really excellent writing on there at times. Sadly, perhaps their best writer, Katie Baker, is leaving to join whatever unholy mess Bill Simmons is currently constructing, and we may lose her forever). McClure, Killion, and I get emails or tweets or stories told to us all the time about what this guy was doing where and the like. We may offhandedly joke about some things, but we rarely share them. But like other media members, though we aren't media, were saying yesterday, the sheer volume of the stuff we hear about Patrick Kane is alarming. You may think it's just a 22-year old kid stretching his legs, but I side on a kid completely out of control. And it's some scary stuff we hear about him. Maybe you justify it with his play on the ice, and he can be so dominant. But I'm not sure the two things share more than just a tangential relationship. What's disappointing is that he told us things would change after the arrest. And then he told us things would change after the limo. And I think it says a lot that you read that story, and most of us went, "Yeah, sounds about right." Kane can complain about the rep he has, but it's one he has created. It's his fault. And I don't think he realizes how it got to be that way, or he doesn't care if he does. And that's what scares me most, because this could end up real badly one day, and I mean real badly.

Maybe he is Mickey Mantle, and can roll it out there after a night on the floor and be one of the game's best (and Mantle's career wasn't derailed by his lifestyle so much as having his knee turned into pasta by a Yankee Stadium storm drain, though the booze didn't help). And I don't doubt Kane loves hockey. But along with the worry I feel for where this might go, I see a kid taking the game and his talents for granted, and I just can't reconcile with that.

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