Blackhawk's Q & A with a Guest!
Most people think of NHL hockey as a joke. To lose a whole season to the greed and petty squabblings of group of spoiled rich people soured a great many people here in the lower 48 to the big league. And since it's return, the NHL has taken some odd steps in trying to restore its casual fan interest including changing rules to increase scoring and having the players walk around town to give away tickets.
(How would you like to be an elite athlete that has to barter for his meals? "Oh, please come see our games. Hey here's some free tickets. And don't forget to tell them that Nicky sent you." Seems like a righteous retribution if you ask me.)
But last season's playoff were still a source of joy for fans of competition. There's not a much more intense scene than that of a playoff hockey game; every hit is harder, every pass is crisper, every save is more clutch. There are no gimme's in playoff hockey.
Unfortunately for fans of the Chicago Blackhawks, playoff hockey is like a distant memory. Gone are the glory days of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Eddie Belfour and Chris Chelios. Lately the limp likes of Eric Daze, Jocelyn Thibault and Alexei Zhamnov have offered fans a view of what it means to be called the dregs of the league.
Back in the day, the firing of a Blackhawks' head coach would lead all the local sports shows, be front page news of the local newspapers, and be prime water cooler gossip; today it was the third story on television, the fifth page in the paper and a survey of multiple Chicago sports blogs provided nary a note on the situation.
But despite the crap-fest offered by Bill Wirtz and company, the Blackhawks still have fans, and fervent ones at that. And I've asked one of the most fervent to join me in a sit-down concerning the recent and very under-reported firing of Trent Yawney. Michael Miller, the most knowledgeable Hawks' fan I've read and the purveyor of the best Blackhawk fan site I've ever found (check out his comprehensive message boards...and honestly, there aren't many Hawks' sites out there), WirtzSucks.com, graciously granted my request to talk Tallon, Yawney and Savard.Below follows our Q & A...
F&F: Let's get this thing started nice and simple, what the hell was Dale Tallon thinking when he fired Trent?
Michael Miller: I suppose he was thinking about his own future as General Manager and how SOMEONE had to take the fall for this season sooner or later. I wouldn't doubt if he had a white-haired devil over his shoulder saying "It's either him or you. You decide." Personally, I think Dale should take more of the blame than he has. By no means is this fiasco all Yawney's fault.
F&F: Tallon's Wirtz-like demons aside, what did Trent Yawney do wrong?
Michael Miller: I hear people complain that Yawney messed with the lines too much or he didn't show enough emotion or that he refused to hold people accountable for bad play or that he depended too much on the veterans to lead the team as opposed to doing it himself, etc. Perhaps there's some truth to all of that but the guy could only play with the cards he was dealt. It wasn't his fault that Ruutu, Handzus, Havlat, and Khabibulin went down. I think the main thing he did wrong was take a job in which he was guaranteed to fail. Aside from that, I believe he did everything he could to make the best of a bad situation - a situation that wasn't his fault to begin with.
F&F: You mentioned that Yawney was guaranteed to fail. Why do you think that and why, without major personnel change, wouldn't Savvy be guaranteed the same failure?
Michael Miller: Honestly? I think Savard is guaranteed to fail. History pretty much tells us that the Blackhawk head-coaching job is a virtual career killer (similar to the Cubs manager spot.) The 'Hawks just dont have the talent needed to win in the NHL. That's not necessarily's Yawney's fault or Savard's (and not totally Tallon's fault either.) There's a plan in place and several solid drafts have definitely given reason for a more optimistic future. But history tends to repeat itself over and over with this organization. Somehow, someway, they'll find ways to screw it up.
Vorobiev and Yak-me-ov were 2 highly touted picks. Both are gone and Vorobiev was pretty much screwed over. Before that, Ty Jones was a cant miss prospect. There was talk of a great team being built around Daze and Ethan Moreau (until Moreau was traded.) Mccarthy, Bell, Calder, Arnason, Babchuk were all highly touted kids. All are gone.
A couple of years ago, this team was stacked with goaltending talent and prospects. That's been depleted in Tallon's tenure.
Sure they've drafted well to replace those guys - but there are no guarantees and draft picks are a crap-shoot: some will succeed. Most will fail. Hell. Most will be GONE by the time they get close to their prime.
From a fan's point of view - it's absolutely a "I'll believe when I see it" scenario. Until proven otherwise, the status quo will remain the same.
F&F: In my eyes there was improvement. They seemed to adapt well to the new rules and, until the injuries occurred, were scoring at a rate not seen since the Bobby Hull days. Yawney, a coach in the organization for 6+ years, in my eyes led that improvement. Or was it really replacement coach (and power-play orchestrater not to mention Hawks hero) Denis Savard's doing, and what will Savvy do that Yawney couldn't?
Michael Miller: I think you'll see a couple of things happen with Savard at the helm now.
One, there usually seems to be an initial boost in everyone's game when a new coach comes on board. Although it may not necessarily translate to wins (as the upcoming schedule is pretty tough.)
Two, as you mentioned, Savard took over the PP this year and there's been a noticeable difference, compared to the last few seasons, in the set up of plays. THAT, for sure, is a result of Savvy as opposed to Yawney.
Finally, and probably most important, Savard will benefit with the timing of Havlat's return. Havlat's not a god by any means, but he seemed to be a key spark in the early.
F&F: Elaborate a little for me (you somewhat addressed this answering the first question)...the inconsistency of the younger players, the injuries to the front line players, aren't these just excuses for the poor Tallon free agent choices of former Hawk Matthew Barnaby and current Hawks Adrian Aucoin and Nikolai Khabibulin, two of the most overrated players in recent Hawks history?
Michael Miller: I don't think the injuries are 'excuses'. When the top line and #1 goalie go down - it's a huge hit for any team. But the lack of depth, and perhaps overly high expectations on the kids, came back to bite the Blackhawks on the ass. Tallon's mistake in this regard was putting $20 or million of the precious salary cap money to 4 guys: Aucoin, Havlat, Khabibulin and Lapointe. He had to overpay, though, to some extent just to get free agents to come to Chicago. But a lack of wiggle room with the cap space and mere fact that players don't want to come to the train-wreck in Chicago hindered any possible efforts on Tallon's part.
I agree with the idea of not trading away one of the kids (Seabrook, Keith, Barker, etc.) for what would ultimately be a band-aid for this season. But there has to be other options than rotating AHL-caliber players in the lineup.
Maybe to free up some money, he has to SPEND money. Trade Khabibulin (or Aucoin), but agree to pay part of the contract. That way you get something decent in return and save a bit of room on the salary cap. It'll "cost" him a bit, but it would be worth it.
F&F: Okay last question...if hell freezes over and Bill Wirtz sells the team what the heck will you do with your domain name?
Michael Miller: I was actually relying on Peter (Wirtz) taking over and then his kids and then their kids....
But if the team actually get sold? I'll probably drink myself to death in celebration.
F&F: I'll make sure to join you if it does!
(Editor's Note: The banner at the top of this post is taken directly from WirtzSucks.com. All rights to said banner are reserved by WirtzSucks.com.)