With the Penguins and Blackhawks set to square off tonight, we thought it would be fun to check in with some Chicago fans and get some insight on the other side.
Joining us today is friend of the site, Sam, from Faxes from Uncle Dale.
We threw a few questions his way to see what he thinks is going on in Chicago with the Blackhawks and get a little perspective from the other side.
1. What’s the deal with Chicago getting the band back together?
It's a touch strange, isn't it? I think there's multiple parts to it. One, Joel Quenneville used to get a massive say in personnel decisions. So one, he's convinced his system is something along the lines of the Mike Martz route tree and only former players will ever understand it. Secondly, he has his pets and will bend over backwards to keep or get them back. So that's how you end up with Versteeg and Oduya and Ladd, which didn't work. However, the moves this summer aren't quite in the same fashion. Brandon Saad is just a better player than Artemi Panarin, and more of what they needed. Younger as well. GM Stan Bowman almost certainly never wanted to deal Saad, but Q and others in the front office weren't totally convinced of his "toughness" (I'm not fucking kidding, it's ridiculous). Because they were coming off a third Cup, they had pull and off Saad went thanks to the cap problems. Well, after two first-round exits it's most certainly Stan's show only now, so he got Saad back. Sharp was dirt-cheap and a rebound-candidate, though it does smack a little of placating fans and selling some tickets. But still, it's an odd thing they keep doing.
2. A follow-up here….do you think it’s going to work?
Saad yes. No question. He's one of the better even-strength scorers in the league, already has built-in chemistry with either Toews or Garbage Dick (Kane). If Toews has any kind of bounce-back year (no guarantee), Saad will get to play with two centers better than anything he had in Ohio. He could really break out points-wise.
Sharp is more questionable. He's coming off hip-surgery, which for a 35-year-old hockey player is near a death sentence. Most likely, he's not going to get to play with Kane most of the year, which is good and bad. It's good because in his first stint here Sharp had a habit of posting up on the left side of the ice and simply waiting for Kane to hit his tape. Away from him he's forced to play a much more rounded game. The question is can he at this age and condition. He's looked good in preseason. But preseason is preseason.
3. How much will losing Artemi Panarin hurt? How does his game differ from Brandon Saad?
Not as much as people think. Once Panarin signed his extension last year, his game basically became Sharp's references above. He was a spot-up shooter waiting for a kick out from the lane for a corner three (read: one-time from the circle). You won't find a better release in the game than Panarin's, but that's all he was playing for. When playing with Kane, perhaps the best passer in the league, that will get you 30 goals. It won't in Columbus. Panarin does have more of an all-around game when he's bothered, but Saad has it all the time. He should improve Toews's game immensely, because quite frankly Toews can't be the first forechecker in the zone and maintain his defensive duties like he used to. He had to the past couple years because Hossa just couldn't quite get there anymore and Panik isn't that guy either. Saad's one-man breakout through the neutral zone should be a godsend.
4. Will Chicago ever get out from under Brent Seabrook’s contract before it ends?
Skeptical. While I always believe you can find at least one idiot GM in the NHL to take any contract, this one is pretty bad. If it's going to happen, it has to happen soon. Bowman has shown he's not afraid to deal sacred cows this summer in punting Hjalmarsson, so I guess it's more possible than before. For it to happen Connor Murphy and Michal Kempny would have to prove to be replacements (which they could) and even then they'd have to find another right-handed d-man (maybe that's Jan Rutta, but we're a long way from that). Seabrook would also have to waive a NMC. I would look for next offseason if this is going to happen.
5. If you were sentenced to death row and were facing execution, what would your last meal be?
I'll go totally Chicago with this: Big combo sandwich from Al's beef here in town, dipped, with sweet peppers, and a boatload of fries.
Much thanks to Sam for hopping over to our side for a bit. For the other side of the coin, you can see our perspective on things over at their site later on today.