Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Five Reasons the Hawks Won't Win the Stanley Cup

I stirred myself up a bit re-reading my blog today (hey, somebody has to keep the page view numbers up) and felt an urge to write again. I know I said "wake me in April" just yesterday about the NHL, but I've got a couple more stones to throw. The league's "best" team right now is the Chicago Blackhawks and all the hockey pundits are smiling as if they've just let loose a huge fart and blamed it successfully on someone else -- they called it. They all said the Wings would be too tired, too old, too every-excuse-in-the-book to compete for the Central Division again this season and the fresh new Hawks would reign. Well, statistics and standings say those smug, so-called experts are right on the money. I say they're still wrong.

If the Blackhawks hold on to win the first non-Detroit Central Division title in many years -- still a big 'if' in my book -- there's a huge mountain to climb afterward that they have no chance to summit: Lord Stanley's Cup. These Blackhawks won't win it. Here's why.
  • Cristobal Huet. He's never shown he can be counted on in the playoffs and his stats this season are ridiculously misleading. He has the seventh-best GAA in the league at 2.17, but that's all Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook's doing. The better stat to look at is his 26th-best .908 save percentage. That's not going to get any better this year and it'll get worse in the playoffs. Huet is a headcase and he can't bail out his defense when they make a mistake. Goaltending is the most important piece of the puzzle in a Cup run, and the Hawks don't have it.
  • Marian Hossa. Sounds like sour grapes, doesn't it? Well, I won't deny that seeing him in a Hawk uniform or a Hawk headline makes me cringe a bit, but the motivation to have him on this list is warranted. Hossa was a no-show in last year's playoffs for the mighty Wings. He hid behind Zetterberg and Datsyuk and Franzen, and he'll do the same behind Toews and Kane and Sharp. The Hawks will count on him for points and he won't produce. He's not a clutch player; I learned that much last year when he disappeared in the two biggest games of his life (games six and seven of last year's finals). He's driving himself crazy trying to coast his way to a Cup, but a championship is earned (except of course in the Penguins' case). Hossa's lackadaisical playoff play will sink the Hawks.
  • Joel Quenneville. The guy's got a great resume, good rapport with his players and one helluva mustache, but that won't get you sippin' out of Stanley. Here's an interesting comparison for you. Quenneville-coached teams in the playoffs since 1996 have won nine series -- he beat the Kings, Coyotes, Sharks, Stars, Blackhawks, Stars, Wild, Flames, and Canucks. Quenneville-coached teams in the playoffs since 1996 have lost 10 series -- he faltered against Detroit, Detroit, Dallas, San Jose, Colorado, Detroit, Vancouver, Anaheim, Detroit and Detroit. Six of the teams he lost to went on to win Stanley Cups. None of the teams he's defeated strikes me as a legitimate contender. Translation: he can't win the big one. He's hockey's Marty Schottenheimer; he'll win plenty of games for ya and getcha into the playoffs, but don't plan on raising any banners the following season.
  • Jonathan Toews. One of the few players on the Hawks that I like and respect, Toews is a great player and has many great years ahead of him. But he's 21 years old and he'll be called upon to lead his team to a championship. Somehow, I don't see that ridiculous outcome happening two years in a row. Youth is tricky to judge, but in almost all cases, the veteran teams win out. I hope that bodes well for the Wings, but even if it doesn't, I can see other teams stepping in to level the chances of Toews and his baby Hawks.
  • Common sense and experience. A team two years removed from the league basement doesn't win a Stanley Cup. Maybe a Super Bowl or an NBA title, but not a Stanley Cup. The road is too long, too tough, too much for a bunch of young punks to break through that quickly. And they are a group of young punks: the only guy on their roster with his name on the Cup is John Madden, the Eastern-Conference version of Kris Draper.
It all adds up to one thing: they're just not there yet. Chicago hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1961 -- that's 48 years for you English majors out there -- and that drought will stay dry for another season. As I see it, they'll be lucky to make it back to the conference finals. Go Wings.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Twenty Ten

Happy New Year. It's been more than a month since my last post and there's no legitimate reason why. I've been writing constantly, though mostly in journal/grad-school essay form, and I've had a ridiculous amount of time on my hands during my 45-day winter break from school that ends in two weeks, but I haven't touched the blog and rarely read others anymore. I haven't read the Chief in months and I never make the usual trip down the blogroll to see what others are saying about the Red Wings' season anymore. (I still read the Triple Deke, but who doesn't? Those guys not only write hilarious and consistent posts, but now they're providing video entertainment too. A Blogger's Gold Standard, I say). Perhaps it's shame from not ever writing about the Wings anymore, but mostly it's just the fact that I'm getting a little sick of the NHL. Not hockey, not the Red Wings, not Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Lidstrom and Draper and all my favorites, but the NHL. I'm sick of everyone's infatuation with Crosby and Ovechkin. I'm sick of Pierre McGuire and NHL on NBC. I'm sick of everyone crowning the Blackhawks and the Sharks already. I'm sick of the injuries and call-ups the Wings are forced to use day in and day out. I'm sick of the Avalanche doing well despite a team no one thought could compete prior to the season. This season is just annoying. So, since it irritates me, it's hard to follow it the same way I usually do. Go Wings as usual, but with the exception of the Olympics, I say don't wake me til April.

Now that we have that squared away, I'll start by addressing the new year. It's 2010. That's twenty-ten or two-thousand-and-ten. I have no idea what I'll be doing in four months time. That prospect is slightly terrifying, but I'm 21 years old (22 come St. Patty's Day) and need not worry about the future just yet. I figure if I read enough books, write enough stories and make the most of my days, I'll find a way to make ends meet and enjoy my time doing it. Jobs are scarce, graduates are panicking. I could certainly fall right in line with that fear -- and I've had bouts of that thinking just about every day I've been home this winter -- but I'm going to make my main goal of 2010 to stay calm, take what comes my way and live. Just live. Sounds like something a hairy happy hippie might say, man, but that doesn't mean I'm going to throw my best shirts in a bowl of tie-dye and groove to the Dead's greatest hits. No; it's just a choice. I figure I won't have too many other periods of life where things are this good or this free, so why not just sit back and enjoy it.

Quick hits on some topics that have passed me by in my blogging absence:
  • The whole Tiger Woods situation surprised me. I'll admit it: the guy's an idiot for what he did. But it changes nothing about why I idolized him, why I still do. He plays golf really, really well, and I admire that. I love the game and I love watching him play it with unmatched skill. Maybe some will say that's ignorant, but I never really planned on taking notes about relationships or character from professional athletes. Seems like a road with more bad endings than good ones.
  • Pete Carroll's decision to leave USC for the NFL's Seahawks is a puzzling one. I really liked Carroll at USC and I don't understand his motive for leaving. Perhaps he'd like to feel what it's like to screw up a football program again rather than rebuild a contender.
  • The Colts were stupid to rest their starters and lose their last two games. A team's objective is to win games at any cost. I think it's stupid for a coach to ever think otherwise; it doesn't matter what you've wrapped up already. You play to win the game. It's that simple. You don't play for the Super Bowl. You play to win every down, every minute, every quarter, every game. That's the whole idea. When you lose sight of that by resting guys who don't need resting, you send the wrong message.
I'm all out of words, ideas and rants for the evening. I might be back soon or I might be gone another month. Hard to say without any real inclination of what each day will bring. I've resolved to read 100 books this year and I've already finished three through the first 10 days, but it'd be nice to get some suggestions in the comments for some others if you feel so inclined. Goodnight.