Power To The People: Second City Hockey's Season Preview - Hossbollah

See, now this feels like the first genuine post of the new season for me. I'm even airing out the Keith jersey. And listening to Mastodon. Don't say there isn't a training camp for us either. God, now I'm excited. It took some serious restraint to not rush out and buy NHL 12 last night, I had like a stoner's urge for Reese's Pieces for it. But I didn't. We'll see how long that dam holds. Anyway, enough stream of consciousness, I have one question and one combined one to get to today. First, from Bob LeDonne:

Where have all the cowboys gone?

I consulted an authority on the subject, a Mr. Willie Nelson, and once the smoke cleared he gave me these words:

Cowboys are secretly, frequently fond of each other.

So there's your answer. Anyway, on to the hockey stuff...

A combined effort from PDiggy and Next Game:

Assuming that Marian Hossa is healthy, will his attempt at a return to 40 goals mostly depend on what center he plays with, or have we seen an indelible change to his offensive output in the last two years?

Are we a deep enough team again to reach that goal if Hossa ‘only’ scores 25-30?

Does Hossa need to approach the 40 goal plateau in order for the team to be successful? (i.e. win the cup)

Boy, I've spent countless blog posts and Indian pages (different than My back pages) dissecting Marian Hossa. No question he's just about the most unique player I think I've seen in my lifetime wearing the Red and Black. I can't remember a player who could be so gifted offensively, make scoring look so easy at times, and backcheck with such ferocity. And yet, Panda always seems to leave us wanting a bit more. For a comedian, that's a good thing. For a scoring winger? Not quite.

There are tons of factors on each side of the debate as to whether Hossa's 40-goal days are behind him or whether he just hasn't had the chance here. Here are some cold hard facts, and that's a good starting point. In '09-'10, Hossa's goal-rate was about .42. He only played 57 games, so over 80 games that's 33 goals. Last year, that rate dipped to .38, or 30 over a full season. Now, both of those numbers are a dip from his .54 rate in his only year on The Planet of Scum.

But all three seasons are different, aren't they? Maybe not as much as you'd think. First of all, he was healthy for that year in Detroit, until the end at least. He played 74 games. He also played them on either Henrik Zetterberg's or Pavel Datsyuk's wing, and as much as I love Patrick Sharp, that's a step above. In his first year on Lake Michigan, Hossa's injury problems were basically kept to the polar ends of the season. In the regular season, he was pretty consistent, never going more than six games without scoring, and even when he did that he poured in four in two right after. Last season, with injuries dotting his campaign, we saw a much more see-saw season. MVP-like in October, stone cold in the middle, pretty fiery at the end. The biggest factor in all of this seems to be health.

What we also can't forget is that Hossa had an added trip to the Final with the Penguins ratcheting up his odometer the year the Hawks last missed the playoffs. That was another 20 games of playoff hockey added to the legs. Essentially, Hossa hasn't gotten a summer off since 2007, or at least a full one. Throw in an Olympic tournament, and that's close to four straight years of playing. Maybe that debt is too much to pay off, or maybe this extended break is exactly what he needed.

Which brings us to the question of center. For the most part, Hossa has only skated on Toews's or Sharp's wing (there was a brief interlude with Bolland there but not an extended one). His best hockey has come on a line with Toews for a couple reasons: One, Hossa doesn't always have to win the puck when skating with Marvel, because Johnny does enough of that himself. And second, Tazer is a better passer than Sharp (left-handed as well). Sharp, even at center, is shoot-first by some margin.

But the most likely scenario this year is that Sharp is on a wing with Daydream Nation, especially now that he'll miss camp which will give Marcus Kruger every opportunity to wing that second center job. Which probably means Hossa won't see a leap in center quality. While everyone says Kruger is an Adam Oates-type and is pass first, it seems unlikely that a rookie is going to make that big of a splash .So it's probably another season of Hossa creating mostly for himself.

What could boost Hossa's goal total though is a competent second power play unit. In his first year, 10-19-88 manned the forward spots while Keith and Seabrook were at the points, and on the second unit it was basically Hossa and Campbell with three mismatched pieces. Last season, when Sharp moved to the point, Hossa got to run with the top dogs. But everything was geared to either setting up Sharp or Seabrook from the point, or Kane dishing from his off-wing, leaving Hossa to only crash the crease. That's not necessarily the best part of his game. A second unit that could conceivably sport Leddy, Montador, Bolland, and probably Frolik would help more.

To the point of the question, now that this has become a full-fledged manifesto, the Hawks don't need Hossa to score 40 if some non-out there possibilities come about. A jump from Michael Frolik from last year, and a healthy year from Bolland. Just those two things should give the Hawks at least seven guys with 20 goals (Sharp, Kane, Toews, Bolland Hossa, Frolik, Brunette). And that's assuming a step back from Bickell or a non-surprise from Stalberg or the like. The Hawks shouldn't struggle for scoring at all.

To end all this, I don't think Hossa cracks 40 this year. Kruger just isn't going to be enough, and I don't see him getting enough time with Toews. But I do think he gets 30, the added rest letting some things heal and providing a full season from #81. The real question is will he be a disappointment in the spring, which has been here for two straight years. That will depend on the development of Kruger and whether he is truly healthy. I say he'll be a force in April and May this time.