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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

The Blackhawks have ruled Canada like Prime Minister Stephen Harper this season, compiling a 15-5 record (including playoffs) versus Canadian teams this season.

But this round’s matchup against the Vancouver Canucks will provide a much bigger challenge than Calgary in the first round. Chicago and Vancouver split the four game regular-season series with each team winning a game at home and away.

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, NBC Chicago Street Team
The rise of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise from obscurity to fan and media darling has been well documented. But there’s another (and even more positive ) story that also needs to be told. As bright as the present currently is, the future looks even better. The team’s leaders are a very young core of players whose best days are likely still in front of them. The most recent player to emerge is speedy left winger Kris Versteeg, one of three finalists for the 2009 Calder Trophy, given out annually to the league’s top rookie. Great at both ends of the ice, Versteeg has the chance to become the ninth Chicago player in team history to be awarded the Calder Trophy and joins teammates Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the third Blackhawk in the last two seasons voted a Calder Trophy finalist.

Versteeg led all NHL rookies with 31 assists as part of a youthful nucleus that’s set to meet the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference semi-finals. His four shorthanded goals (or “shorties”) were also tops among League rookies and fourth overall. “Playing on this team we’re exciting, we play hard for each other and Kane and Toews, they’ve kind of been through it before and they know what it takes to do it,” Versteeg said.

 (AP Photo/Frederick Breedon)

Patrick Kane captured the honor last season. Other past Blackhawks to earn the award are: Mike Karakas (1936), Carl Dahlstrom (1938), Ed Litzenberger (1955), William Hay (1960), Tony Esposito (1970), Steve Larmer (1983) and Ed Belfour (1991). “It’s been huge just to be nominated for it,” Versteeg stated. The winner announced June 18th. The other two finalists for the award:

-Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets. Named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for both November and December, he accomplished a four-game winning streak where he stopped 94 of 95 shots. As Columbus captured the first playoff berth in franchise history, Mason’s 10 shutouts led the League and his 2.29 goals against average was second only to Boston’s Tim Thomas (2.10).

-Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks. The second overall selection in the 2005 Draft, Ryan led all rookies with 31 goals and 57 points in just 64 games. Ryan earned Rookie of the Month honors for January with 11 goals and five assists in 14 games.

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

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

White Sox centerfielders are like Bulls post-players or Bears QBs prior to the Jay Cutler signing — there’s nothing close to a blue chip stock in the portfolio, so all you can do is take the collection of junk bonds you have, and try to maximize your return.

Thirty-one-year-old DeWayne Wise was a career minor leaguer for a reason, and there’s no reason to expect his game will significantly improve when he returns in 6-8 weeks from injury. He earned the job coming out of spring training simply because, as the Dave Matthews Band once put it, “we’ll make the best of what’s around.” Of course, the criticism Wise received from White Sox Nation this April was grossly unfair, because he never possessed the talent and potential of the guy who’s now stepped into his place.

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

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