Where Are We My Good Friends, Standing At The Quarter Pole
After the weekend designed by Beezlebub in Alberta, the Hawks passed the quarter pole of the season. While it's easy to let the past two games color everything we think about the Men of Four Feathers, that's not the best way to go about it. Two games do not render everything that happened in the previous 19 meaningless, just as when a team is winning six or seven in a row is not indicative of a historical powerhouse. Let's hand out some quarter pole awards, and then take the overall outlook.
MVP: Patrick Kane - While Marian Hossa will merit some consideration, and Jonathan Toews certainly has to be part of the discussion, neither of those are adjusting to a new position and flourishing while there. Kaner is. We all kind of guffawed when it was brought up that the Hawks were going to try Humpty Hump in the middle, but none of us are doing so now. Kane's even been diligent in his own end, and though he's hardly Datsyuk over there his scoring at the other end cancels out whatever deficiencies he may have in that aspect. There's a reason that Kane is in the top 25 in Behind The Net Rating, and would probably be higher if not for the puke-session in Alberta. There have been games that Kane has simply dominated on every shift, and we hardly saw that last year. There have been nights when every other line has been wonky, and Kane and Hossa carried the team through those.
Runner up: Marian Hossa
Biggest Surprise: Marcus Kruger - You could easily put Nick Leddy here, and I wouldn't have much of an argument against. But Leddy showed flashes last year of being a fine player. We openly scoffed at Kruger and "The Plan All Along" tag he unfortunately had to carry from Stan Bowman. Kruger had an awful camp, and started the season in Rockford. Since his call up, he's gotten better every game. While his numbers don't tell much of a story, and he still can be physically dong-whipped along the boards, he hasn't shown a fear of going to the net, been solid in his own end as well, and seems to get better every game. He still sucks at faceoffs, but like Kane has Sharp on his wing to make up for that, Dream Warrior has Jamal Mayers with him to mitigate that.
Runner up: Nick Leddy
Biggest Disappointment: Bryan Bickell - I'm sure there are plenty of options in people's minds here. In no particular order would be Steve Montador, Andrew Brunette, Michael Frolik, possibly even Joel Quenneville. However, each has had a few games of at least competence. But it's the same refrain with Bickell. After finally showing a willingness to play to his size during last year's playoffs, Bicks had to be called out during camp for not doing so. He started the season ok, and then completely fell back into the abyss of last year's disappointing form. He's been a healthy scratch once, is probably headed there again. He's not providing what the Hawks lack, and that's a hint of a power forward. You'd think he learned the lessons of last year, but hasn't. Bicks may spend a lot of time watching Optimus Grind taking his time.
Runner Up: Niklas Hjalmarsson
Outlook: While it may be a struggle to try and be positive after our eyeballs bleeding through the weekend, in the end it's two games. Or it has the possibility of just being two games depending on the response. It's not the Capitals 3-7 rot at the moment, it's not the Bruins losing six in a row earlier in the year, or anything like that. The Hawks still hover around the top of the Conference even with the warts we knew were there, and that are eminently fixable. Sure, the schedule hasn't been as hard as it will be, but the Hawks racked up the number of points you'd want when the schedule is offering them for discount prices. While everyone is bemoaning the apparent lack of depth that Brent Seabrook's injury has apparently exposed, I don't think that's what it is. Montador and Lepisto are fine when skating a third pairing role. Not so much when asked to do more. That's still an improvement on last season when Nick Boynton and whatever other joker couldn't even take the 3rd pairing role. The bottom six have some issues at the moment, but most of those will be fixed when Dave Bolland is healthy and interested again, whenever that may be.
While I along with you await the response this week from the weekend, looking it overall Hawks fans probably have more to be happy about then angry about, all the while cautious and patient about how the holes (that aren't gaping) get fixed either internally or externally. I get the feeling the Sharks very well may rue how bad the Hawks were in Alberta, because I think they're the ones who are going to pay for it.