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Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Red Wings’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

On July 1st, “Canada Day” or that nation’s version of Independence Day, the Chicago Blackhawks made the biggest headlines in the NHL when the league officially opened its free agency period. I wanted to see what they did the rest of the week before analyzing their personnel moves- because nothing in life happens in a vacuum.

The Losses:

Leaving the Chicago Blackawks were winger Martin Havlat, who collected a six-year, $30 million deal from the Minnesota Wild. Havlat, who led the Hawks in scoring last season with 29 goals and 48 assists and was one of the most crucial players in the long playoff run, left on (possibly) somewhat bitter terms, as evidenced by his tweets on Wednesday night:

“Excited to be in Minny where I was welcomed and appreciated by management”

“The real story about what happened in Chicago [will] come out”

“There’s something to be said for loyalty and honor”

Stay tuned. Havlat has one of the best “following to followers ratio” I’ve ever seen: 12 to 7,832. Also among the departed were veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton, four years and $15 million), center Sammy Pahlsson (Columbus, 3 years $7.95 million) and defenceman Matt Walker (Tampa Bay, 4 years $6.8 million).

khabibulin2Matt Walker, no he’s not the drummer from Filter who later joined the Smashing Pumpkins, is a serviceable but not spectacular blue-liner who may find more minutes in Tampa.

The Additions:

The Hawks signed two-time Stanley Cup Champion and 10-year National Hockey League center John Madden to a one-year contract. No, this isn’t the annoying,  still-wondering-why-he-has-a-job-on-television football broadcaster who loves Mexican food and only travels by bus.

Madden, 36, has spent his entire career with the New Jersey Devils, helping the organization reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last nine seasons. The Barrie, Ontario native captured the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2001, given annually to the National Hockey League’s best defensive forward, and was the runner-up in 2003, 2004, and 2008.

But the big prize was right wing Marian Hossa, even though I find the 12 year contract to be more than a bit extravagant.

“To add Marian, an elite and world-class player, and Tomas, a Stanley Cup Champion, to our exciting young core reinforces our commitment to try to win the Stanley Cup,” Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon said. Last season, Hossa, 30, led the Red Wings in goals (40) and finished third in points (71) during the regular season before chipping in 15 points (6G, 9A) while appearing in all 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Hossa is (somewhat dubiously) known as the guy who played on the Stanley Cup runner-up team the past two seasons. This “feat” is newsworthy when you consider you had the same two teams (Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins) playing each other both years, and a different team won each year.

The Hawks also snatched away from Detroit center Tomas Kopecky (TAW-mahsh, koh-PEHTS-kee) He finished second on the team with 109 hits. But I don’t think the Hawks are done dealing yet- And I have a feeling the next signing will be a defenseman. The same position they focused their draft on. So don’t judge the +/- of this offseason just yet.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team One of the weirdest aspects of a rivalry is when a player changes teams, and goes to his former team’s bitterest of rivals. 

Even though he’s been wearing a Detroit Red Wings(who currently lead the Stanley Cup Finals 2-1)  sweater now for 9 years when Chris Chelios was in town last week you just had to root for him. Even despite  his  contributing to the Blackhawks demise. If you didn’t then you fit in to Jerry Seinfeld’s “sports fans are rooting for clothes” routine.

(We’re currently seeing the same thing with Joe Crede leaving the Sox for the Twins) Rivalries are all about black-versus-white, but when it comes to situations like this, it’s actually a shade of grey. With an injury to all-world defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, as well as his back-up Ericcson, Chelios got his chance to contribute during the Western Conference Finals. Doing the ceremonial puck drop that game was Bob Probert another guy who played for both the Red Wings and Hawks. Chelios spoke about the playoff atmosphere:

“I had a good feeling when it was Proby, because he played for the Wings and the Hawks, everything they’ve done from the marketing to the bringing back the veterans Bobby Hull, Mikita. It’s good to see them back in the building, I’m playing hockey for one reason: because I grew up watching the Hawks,” the Evergreen Park native said.

Chelios commented after the game about how the roar has been restored in Chicago hockey. “It reminded me of being in the old stadium. It’s different when you’re on the other team, but I feed off of that and I think our team likes the atmosphere,” Chelly said.

The 47 year old University of Wisconsin-Madison alum is the second oldest player in league history (he’s older than his coach Mike Babcock) to Gordie Howe. Is this finally it for him?

“Everybody’s trying to get rid of me, it’s crazy, but they’ll miss me when I’m gone, so I’ll stay around as long as someone wants me, I love playing,” Chelios said.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

In Kane and Sharp, the Chicago Blackhawks possess two young star forwards named Patrick. “Sharpie” the lesser known of the two, is having a much better Western Conference Finals than “Kaner.” Down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings, the Hawks will need both of them, (and more reinforcements) to be on their A game if Chicago is going to stand any chance of advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. Sharp is often overshadowed by Kane, the 2008 Calder Memorial Trophy winner and face-of-the-franchise, but it was Sharpie who was on pace to lead the team in goals this season before being sidelined by injury down the stretch.
Kaner is having a rough series, sporting an ugly -7 in the +/- department, and he didn’t even make it onto the score sheet until notching a game 4 assist. Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock talked about how his team shut down Kane.

“Till today we always played Nick (All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom) against him. Today, we didn’t have that option so we just try to play a really good five man unit and limit their touches the best we can. I think Osgood did a good job, but you’re never going to shut a guy like that down totally with the amount of skill level he has. I thought the other night in game three even though he didn’t get on the sheet, I thought that line with Byufglien and Toews dominated the shifts territorally- just couldn’t get the puck in the net,” Babcock saidkane_8x10

As ugly as the 6-1 game four home loss to Detroit was, both young stars have breakout game performances in their recent memory.
Before entering this current slump, Kane recorded his first career hat trick in game 6 of the Western Conference Seminfinals, in eliminating the Vancouver Canucks. After the exciting 7-5 win, Kane told the media the criticisms from Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell fired him up. “I got a wake-up call from old Willie Mitchell over there. He made some comments saying I couldn’t play five on five, I don’t know if you want to fire up a player like that. I scored three goals five-on-five, so you’ll have to ask him about that one,” Kane said.
Friday night, Sharp was the number one star of the conference finals’ game three with two goals, including the overtime game winner. That was pretty exciting to be in the building at that point, I’ve had some double overtime ones in the minors but, it was pretty loud when the puck went in and it was exciting,” Sharp said in describing perhaps the biggest night of his career. Both Patricks will need to have more games like that as Chicago faces elimination.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Heading into 2008-09, the season of Chicago Blackhawks renaissance, it was thought in certain circles that Hawks General Manager Dale Tallon could be on the way out. Tallon was more Bill Wirtz’s guy than he was Rocky Wirtz’s guy. After NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman joined the Hawks organization (pronounced “organ-I-zation” in Canadian English) as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations, rumors swirled that Tallon might be replaced by Bowman’s son, assistant GM of Hockey Operations, Stan Bowman.
Today however, Tallon is sitting pretty as the blueprint for success he drafted has guided the Hawks much further along the postseason path than anyone expected. After advancing to their first Conference Final since 1995, (where they’re currently down 2-1 to the Red Wings), Tallon spoke about his team, the youngest in the league, climbing the ladder much faster than expectedtallon

“The sooner the better is fine with me. I don’t want to wait any longer, it’s been fun and I’m proud of these kids, this is the greatest group of kids I’ve been around; on and off the ice,” Tallon said.

Tallon’s first season as GM was tumultuous. After the 2004–05 NHL season was canceled due to labor issues, a new collective bargaining agreement was signed. This created a new financial structure and many rule changes intended to yield higher scoring games. In response, Tallon reshaped the team, but most of his free agents never panned out and the Hawks finished 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.

However, since then he turned the Blackhawk franchise around (the Hawks are the only team in the NHL to improve their win total each of the past four years) by drafting young talents Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and also acquiring stars Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg. Tallon recently spoke about the traits possessed by his young nucleus. “Their impeccable character- they’re beyond their years as far as composure and intelligence…they’re way ahead of their time as far the mental aspect of it, their maturity impresses me,” Tallon said before later commenting on his team’s versatility:

“This is a team that can play any style, it you want to play it tough, we’ll play it tough, if you want to play speed, up-tempo, we’ll do that too. I think people underestimate how strong and resilient these kids are.” Chicago’s deep playoff run has been great for hockey ratings on television, and the NHL could certainly use this boost. Perhaps the Blackhawks’ rebirth, led in part by the young stars Dale Tallon drafted, will help improve the league’s damaged Q rating. Tallon spoke about the plethora of current young NHL stars.

“As hockey fans we’re in a great era right now. You see Crosby perform and Ovechkin and Malkin, and you see Backstrom in Washington and everyday we get to see Kane and Toews and don’t forget we’ve got some other young guys in Bolland, Brouwer, and Byfuglien, you can go down the list…we’re very fortunate in this era to be able to witness such young players excel at such a young age,” Tallon stated.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Being a fan of Chicago sports can sometimes be as character building as walking outside for long distances in January.

With Northwestern’s tournament bubble officially bursting last weekend, baseball getting ready to kick off, and the NHL playoffs commencing the week after, it’s a fine time to revisit the long-suffering dry spells that are Chicago’s very own.

Before reading on, please do remember this George Michael lyric from his Wham! days: “There’s no comfort in the truth, pain is all you’ll find.”

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago Blackhawks top scorer Patrick Kane, along with teammate Jonathan Toews, was recently voted to start for the Western Conference in the NHL All-Star Game on the 25th. Together, the two young forwards serve as poster children for a revitalized franchise that leads the league in attendance and merchandise sales and team that is third in the league in scoring. “Kaner” recently answered questions about this banner season on conference call.patrick-kane52

He mentioned fellow Hawks currently flying under the radar. “I would probably have to say Patrick Sharp. With the Blackhawks, you mention names, you always hear about Kane and Toews, Campbell. Duncan Keith goes unnoticed. He is probably one of the biggest underdogs on the team, Sharpy, too. They never seem to get enough recognition, them two. It’s a shame they were not on the All-Star ballot. Duncan made it last year and Sharpy had 36 goals last year and he has 20 already. He’s a great goal scorer and definitely an All-Star in this league. Definitely those two guys are underappreciated,” Kane said.

Although the Hawks have been winning a lot of games lately, they still struggle against their hated rivals, the Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings. Kaner spoke about the Wings’ postseason run last year:

“Guys like Zetterberg, Datsyuk; they are so fun to watch. You have a guy like Franzen who is scoring all these goals. It was fun to see a team with so much skill win where in the past it’s been teams like the Ducks who were kind of real physical and had a couple big lines that dominated down low,” Kane said before describing how different his sophomore season in Chicago has been from his rookie year.

“I think last year coming in, you’re just so happy to be in the NHL. Started playing a couple games and you realize the building is empty and you want to do something to try to fill it up. It’s amazing how quickly it’s happened. You look at the team, it’s pretty much been a total 180 from where we were at the beginning of last year. It’s unbelievable. Obviously the credit goes to the players, the management, Dale Tallon, Denis Savard obviously, Joel Quenneville, John McDonough, Rocky Wirtz, guys like that that have really helped turn us around and it’s just fun to be a Blackhawk right now.”

Paul M. Banks is a contributor for The Washington Times and founder of the webzine The Sports Bank.net

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago Blackhawks top scorer Patrick Kane headed to the locker room with a knee injury during the first period of Tuesday night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, but returned to action in the second. January 1, the Blackhawks’ franchise (and perfectly healthy) player will, along with his teammates, host the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field, in NHL Winter Classic 2009. (noon on NBC)

 Earlier this week, “Kaner” answered questions about the outdoor battle with the Wings on conference call. winterclassiclogo

“This year it seems to be really high-scoring and real close games. Both games have gone to a shootout, one was 6-5, another 5-4. That’s what the fans want to see. They want to see a lot of goals and a lot of up-tempo, a lot of skill in the game and two fast teams…Every game against the Red Wings is important, especially when we are trying to chase them right now,” he said regarding the team’s bitter rival.

Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who played in the ’08 Winter Classic gave Kaner some advice about playing in the game. “I think it’s probably going to be a little frustrating out there. The ice is going to be a little different. They are going to have to fix it up a little bit more than you do in a regular game. The game is going to be longer. Sometimes you get cold out there and you’ve got to deal with that too,” Kane said.

Kane will unveil and use personally-designed skates and stick during the Winter Classic. Only 88 skates and 88 sticks were created for this special event and Kane, the only player wearing them, will personally sign and auction off a portion of the limited edition product to raise money for breast Cancer research.

“The skates and stick are the colors of the Blackhawks and should go well with the uniform, but at the same time, it’s a little bit of showtime,” Kane said. “Hopefully when I step out onto the ice, people will say ‘Oh wow, look at the skates Kane’s wearing.’ You know the old saying, ‘Look good, feel good, play good’” Kane said before adding, “It’s really exciting to look at a skate and design it to exactly how you want it to be made. To be able to give back to the community makes the whole experience even more special.”

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank 

Usually when prominent government and business leaders descend upon Wrigley Field to discuss a game being played there, the temperature’s more likely to be near 90 than zero. However, the second annual NHL Winter Classic is no ordinary game; neither are the bread and circuses surrounding it. Mayor Richard Daley, joined by Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks President John McDonough, and Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney came to Wrigley Monday for a special press event in advance of the much-anticipated outdoor regular-season game between the Hawks and their bitter rival, the Detroit Red Wings, on New Year’s Day. daleyhawksjeryse

On a day with the temperature and wind-chill more suited for the Yukon Territories than Chicago, Daley and the execs toured the current field’s infrastructure, led by the NHL’s Don Renzulli (Senior Vice President of Events), and Dan Craig (Facilities Operations Manager). This is the team transforming Wrigley Field, one of baseball’s cathedrals, into a hockey experience.

Following the tour, a fedora-clad Daley and the executives talked about the event in a nice WARM Wrigley Field press room. After the speeches, Rocky presented Hizzoner with a special Winter Classic jersey with “Daley 09″ stitched on the back.

“As the first hockey game to be played at Wrigley Field, this game is already part of Chicago sports history,” Daley said.

The Hawks are both the NHL’s hottest team with seven straight wins and the current leader in home attendance. They will play the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings for a record 701st time. No other NHL series can boast of as many meetings as this one. In the NFL, the record is held by the hometown Bears and Green Bay Packers. Wirtz appropriately drew an analogy between the two rivalries when describing the upcoming Winter Classic’s atmosphere.

“I also want to thank all those Chicago Bears fans who are going to be out watching the Bears beat Green Bay today, because that’s going to be much like the Chicago Blackhawks fans who are going to be following the Blackhawks on a day like today,” Wirtz said.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Jonathan Toews (pronounced “tay-ves”) was named Blackhawks team captain this past summer, therefore becoming the youngest player in the NHL to currently serve in that capacity and the third youngest player in NHL history to receive that honor. Last season he finished third in Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) voting while teammate Patrick Kane won the award. Toews however, led all NHL rookies in goals. He was second on the Hawks in that category and third on the team in assists.

I spoke with Toews just after a three-star performance that included an assist and a game-winning goal over the powerful Anaheim Ducks. The 4-2 win resulted from a furious comeback in which the Hawks found themselves down 2-1 late in the third period. “I think there’s a lot of games where we’re down in the third, especially thinking back to the game in Toronto where we came back and games like that give you confidence and we knew we could win this game all along with whatever it takes; going to overtime if necessary,” Jonathan said.toews_300

Toews later commented on the superb play of surprising rookie Kris Versteeg, the team’s third leading scorer. “He’s been incredible. Some guys come of the gate hard as a rookie and play their best hockey right away and it then it kind of dies out, but that hasn’t been the case for him. Every single night he’s doing something and he’s proved he belongs at the top with the skill players in the scheme,” Toews proclaimed.

The Blackhawks started their annual circus trip successfully, before going cold and dropping the last three. Toews talked about how big the home win was as they head into a huge road game against their acrimonious rival and division leader, the Detroit Red Wings. “We definitely would have had a sinking feeling if we came up on the short side, didn’t want to lose four in a row. We told ourselves in this locker room that great teams, those that hang in there and make the playoffs at the end of the year can manage those little slides and little tough streaks, so I think we did a good job of battling back,” he said.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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