If You Can Keep Your Head While All Those Around You...
We're used to the Hawks setting the insanity pole, so today was quite the departure. On a July 1st where several teams -- Philly, Florida, Washington, Buffalo -- went dancing around the maypole with their pants on their head, the Hawks steadily went about solving some of their needs in a controlled, responsible manner. I'm still a little flummoxed by it all.
The day started with the news of Jamal Mayers coming to town. This caused some to lose their mud, but let's dial it in. Mayers cost $550k, so that's hardly a risk. He could find a home on the 4th line, and if nothing else he will return that unit to being an energy line. Mayers can still hit and stir things up, if he can still get there (wait and see on that one). Again, a low if no-risk signing. If he can't hack it he's easily stored at Rockford. $550k does not guarantee him a roster spot on opening night.
The day turned upward less than an hour later when Sean O'Donnell decided to come to town. O.D.'s role is yet to be clearly defined, and hinges on whether Chris Campoli stops asking for several planets in compensation for his play. If Campoli returns, O.D. will a depth d-man who can provide veteran leadership in the room. Also in this scenario, Nick Leddy just might have to earn himself ice time, as no one will complain with a 2nd pairing of Campoli-Hammer and a 3rd of Montador-O'Donnell. If Leddy does earn his stripes, then it also means we'll only see John Scott on defense in the case of injury disaster. If Campoli does not return, O'Donnell is your #6 with Leddy and your resident meatbag on the penalty kill. He will bring more snarl that already got an upgrade from the addition of Montador.
The Hawks day capped off, so far, with their biggest coup of bringing in Andrew Brunette from Minnesota for a scant $2M for one year. While Brunette is getting close to early-bird dinners, he provides something the Hawks simply don't have. He's a big body who does his best work below the circles and net and can finish in close. I'm already putting him on the 2nd power play unit. Yes, the wheels aren't there, but they never were, and his brain should get him where he needs to be. I'm hoping he's on the left of Sharp and Kaner -- The Good Time Boys -- and after seasons of 22, 25, and 18 goals with some pretty piss poor Minnesota teams, I don't think 25 is out of reach again for Bruno.
So where are the Hawks after the past couple days?
The penalty kill is already better - Montador and O'Donnell will see to that. More shots will get blocked, more players cleared out of the crease, more rebounds cleared. Corey Crawford is probably having a martini right about now.
More importantly, the room is better - It's quite clear that the Hawks suffered from not having a veteran voice around to call out the kids on their either naive or stubborn bullshit last season. They just got three. Jonathan Toews will have some help.
Yes, they're slightly older - Which is not a bad thing. The average age of this team is now 26.2. it's not like they'll be keeping walkers next to the tape. And everyone who the hopes really hinge on, not just the contributors, are all under 29.
They're slower - Can't ignore this one, and it could get worse if Campoli doesn't come back. But they'll still have plenty of fleet of foot if Leddy is on the 2nd pair, and how much speed do you really need on the third pairing? The Hawks won a Cup with Hendry and Sopel, so apparently not much if the other two pairs are firing (still a big if right now). Bruno's a plodder for sure, but it's not his role to burn by guys. And whoever his linemates are, they'll probably be pretty fast.
So what's left? The Hawks still need a fourth line center and another Top 6 forward. They have 7.8 in space, but if we boot Kruger and Olesz out of there, which we hope they do, that goes up to 11.7. Frolik and Campoli and Stalberg are still twisting in the wind, something's gotta get done there. I won't be upset if only the 4th line center and current RFAs are re-signed and Stan waits until midseason to get the other forward. There's nothing left on the open market, offer sheets get messy, and we don't know what's available via trade.
All in all, a pretty good day.