One Month In, What Do We Know?
Well, nothing really. You can't figure out all that much from just October. But there are some trends started.
-We worried that the Hawks wouldn't be as lucky this season with injuries as they were last year. We got slapped right across the face with that fish. 2/3rds of the top line and 2/3rds for the 4th line have all missed significant time, along with Seabrook. Luckily, the only one that seems to be long term now is Burish, as the Hossa clock is winding down as well. If Toews didn't worsen his concussion with that suit on Friday, he's probably gonna go on Thursday. Eager is skating again, so he's not that far away. Hopefully, the worst is over, but you never know.
-The Amazing Cristobal can be very good, and he can be very bad. As long as he settles closer to the former than the latter, things will be fine.
-As Matt said, Kris Versteeg is making the three of us look like morons (yes it's not all that hard to do. Just put something shiny in front of us or in front of an attractive girl, we'll do the rest). I know he was top of my list for first forward to go in The Great Salary Cull that is coming, because of his seemingly low hockey IQ and possible peaking. Yeah, well, whoops. He's been the Hawks second best forward, everywhere, and playing smart too. He's even been a weapon on the PK, creating shorthanded chances that has to keep the opponent on their heels. He's really the only other playmaking forward the Hawks have other than Kane. Finding a spot for him when Hossa gets back will be tough, but doable, and it may be on his wing. The answers aren't so clear for...
-Patrick Sharp. I don't care what his numbers say, or about his game winning goal on Friday. Since the Edmonton game, Shooter has been next to invisible. He's reverted to the floating we saw last year, waiting for Kane to hit his tape. Sadly, he hasn't played with Kane all season. His performance on Friday started off shambolic, with turnovers and apparent shying from contact. I'm almost disappointed he got rewarded by -- wait for it -- Kane finding his tape. You can't argue with Sharp, you can get real rich waiting for #88 to do that. But I'm wondering if Shooter hasn't become our own Cammalleri or Jason Blake. Whatever it is, I want to see a big jump in play from Sharp, and quite sharpish, if you'll allow me an awful pun.
-Tomas Kopecky doesn't do anything. I mean at all.
-Fingers crossed John Madden has enough gas in the tank to play like this through June. I already am wondering how Thornton or Zetterberg or Jokinen or Sedin will react to having this wolverine in their grill for an entire series.
-Duncan Keith is having a weird year. As we pointed out in the Indian, his Corsi rating for the year is one of the worst on the team. But his +/- and Behind The Net Rating are both positive, and he's obviously having his best offensive start. The only thing I can glean from this is that the shots taken against the Hawks when Keith is on the ice aren't going in -- though there are way more of them -- and the ones takes by the Hawks when Keith is on the ice are going in at a much higher rate. It's early, these numbers could be skewed by one or two bad games, and Seabrook's aren't as bad. But it was a category Keith was very positive in last year, and isn't now.
-Thanks to Huet's bad start, people have forgotten they're supposed to hate Brian Campbell. Which is fine, because he's been excellent.
-The power play is still quite the mess, and sadly the changes the coaches made resulted in a goal on Friday, even though they made NO SENSE. Versteeg and Kane on the same unit, even though they do the same thing, followed by Keith and Campbell on the points on one unit and Buff and Barker on another, meaning both pairings were comprised of players who do the same thing. This is topped by a Kopecky being involved at all. With a week of practice and Toews back, they should sort this out.
-Finally, I'm really tempted to cancel free speech when it comes to Patrick Kane. I just can't fathom how anyone can't be blown away by this kid's play this year, and what you could possibly complain about. He's backchecking, fighting through checks to make plays, creating chances off a forecheck, and absolutely dominating shifts, periods, and games when he gets time. But go ahead and do it anyway, it's hilarious for the rest of us.