Homer dreams of playing Columbus every night.
The Dizzying Highs
- Rocksteady - Not just an original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain, but an adjective that could easily be used to describe the play of Brent Seabrook. Without checking every Hawk's plus-minus so far this month, it's probably safe to say that Seabs +4 leads the team in 2012. Seabrook's point production isn't what it was last year, but the struggling powerplay isn't doing him any favors in that department. Every once and a while though, Seabs will remind you what kind of offensive upside that he has; his blast over Howards glove hand a couple weeks ago was a thing of beauty. Simply put, Brent Seabrook is the Dcorps' Jonathan Toews; he doesn't make many mistakes, and when he does, he refuses to allow one to snowball into many.
- The Jimmy - Ths one might be a bit of a stretch, as he's probably more in the creamy middles than the dizzying highs, but the bar is pretty low right now anyway. Of all the young players that have made the jump to the big club for any length of time this season, Jimmy Hayes has been the most successfull to date. Hayes continues to bring the size and physicality that this team lacks at the forward position, and he's done it while showing decent hockey sense and good hands in tight. "Hey Coach, Jimmy's been working hard lately, and Jimmy's played pretty good so far. Jimmy wants to keep skating with Hossa, and Jimmy likes being the net presence on the powerplay. You just let Jimmy know what he needs to do to stay up here in the big city, because Jimmy doesn't like it in Rockford. Also, Jimmy's going to need you to up his per diem a bit. It seems unfair to Jimmy that little Patrick Kane gets just as much food money as Jimmy does."
- Johnny on the Dot - Toews' scoring pace has dropped off a bit recently, but he continues to carry this team to competence in the faceoff circle. Toews is currently 3rd in the league in Faceoffs taken (860), and 1st in faceoff win percentage (61.5%), and that win percentage is 3.4% higher than the next closest player with over 600 draws taken.
The Terrifying Lows
- Nick Leddy - I don't care how flawed the plus-minus statistic is, or how unlucky Nick Leddy has been lately, his -9 over the last four games is just plain ugly. It's true that a little help from both the backchecking forwards and his D partners could probably cut that number by 4 or 5, but Leddy certainly is making his fair share of mistakes lately. Stan Bowman could make things easier on the kid by bringing in the bottom pairing/4-5-6 swing defenseman that this team really needs. Getting Nick Leddy off of the PK by February 28th should be a priority, and the hope is that a move like this will have a positive impact on his overall game. Whether significant additions are made to this team or not, Leddy and Hammer are going to have to be better than they've been if the Hawks are going to win the Central Division.
- Patrick Kane - I wrote in the 12/21 Committed Indian that I had recently become frustrated with Kaner's somewhat inconsistent offensive production, and things have only gotten worse since then (5 points in his last 9). Kane is still getting chances, and he's hardly "invisible" on most nights, but the scoring needs to be there or the minuses are going to start to pile up. HumptyHump hasn't had back-to-back games with a plus rating since the first week of December, and what once was as high as a +12 rating, has dropped down to +5. Kane is another player who's point production is going down with the Titanic that is the home powerplay, but hopefully we'll start seeing more great even strength plays like the game tying goal in philly and the sweet assist to stalberg last night.
- Special Teams - Ah, the old standby. The Hawks' combined special teams percentage currently sits at 96.3, good for 24th in the league. The powerplay is just 1 for its last 23, and the "1" was the soft goal that Conklin gave up to Bolland on Sunday. The penalty kill occasionally has its good nights, but that might not continue if Crawford doesn't shore up his rebound control. Special teams success isn't necessarily the best indicator of a team's potential (EDM 5th in the league, NYI 7th, SJS 27th), but it's not to be dismissed as unimportant either. The eye test tells me that special teams performance has cost the Hawks more points than it has gained them, and correction of this issue could prove to be a key to surviving a tough 2nd half schedule. If the issue here really is coaching, I hear that Dave Toub guy is a free agent.
The Creamy Middles
- Marian Hossa - After an 8 game point streak, there was nowhere to go but down for Big Hoss, but he's kept things pretty steady lately, with 5 points in his last seven. Due to the injuries to Kruger and now Sharp, Hossa's had to deal with several different linemates over the last handful of games, but it's yet to bring down the overall level of his play. If Hoss stays healthy, the potential acquisition of a 2nd line center could determine whether or not Hossa is the first Blackhawk to crack the 90 point mark since JR in 93-94.