Hawk Talk: Blackhawks sour as favorites

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Hawk Talk: Blackhawks sour as favorites

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
5:00 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Everyone and his brother may not be picking the Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup over the Philadelphia Flyers, but even the contrarians will acknowledge the series stacks up favoring Chicago.

Just dont go trying to sell that suit of clothes to the Redshirts themselves.

Honestly, it feels like just another seriesthats the way we have to approach it, Blackhawks forward Adam Burish said. Its two kind of cocky teams playing each other. The media tells us were favorites, but we dont care.

Teammate Brian Campbell also shifted the focus on favorites to the fellas asking the questions: We dont feel like were favoritesthats for you media to talk about. Weve just played them one time.

And by way of deflating Chicago as favorites, that one game this season is a smart tact to take. Hosting the Hawks last March 13, Philadelphia played its best game of the season to that point, keeping pace with every high-flying Chicago stride. The game went from bad to tragic when first Scott Hartnell tied the game with just 2:04 remaining, and then Chris Pronger snuck backdoor and took a sweet cross-ice feed from Claude Giroux for the buzzer-beater.

That was our most frustrating loss, all year long, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, the memory of the lost points still singing his stache a touch. It was a tough pill to swallow.

But the loss may have been a cautionary tale for Chicago. It in fact foreshadowed a couple weeks worth of true floundering by the Blackhawks, enduring their worst stretch of the season late in March, as the playoffs loomed.

We did snap out of it, Blackhawks alternacap John Madden said. It was tough to weather. I, for oneand I think everybody else in the Blackhawks dressing room as wellwas tired of learning lessons. The season was starting to drag. We might have been guilty of looking too far ahead and not taking care of the business in front of us.

That March game was uncharacteristic in that there were more than twice as many shots (75) as hits (34), which touches on a couple of things. First of all, theres no way the Flyers can get lured into playing such a style vs. Chicago in the Stanley Cup, particularly not in a feeling-out Game 1. Second, if Philadelphia does hope to run with the high-flying Hawks, its going to be a short series.

That said, theres little that will convince the Blackhawks they are the team to beat for title.

Were not favorites, not in our terms, Chicago forward Troy Brouwer said. Theyre obviously a good team that knows what its like to be desperate, to play hard every night. We havent has as much exposure to that.

Indicative of how grounded the Blackhawks are is that even the most confident of the Redshirts, forward Kris Versteeg, who scored Chicagos first goal in the 3-2 loss at Wachovia Center a couple of months ago, wouldnt bite the favorites bait.

Thats a compliment that people are giving you, to call you the favorites, Steeger said. But it doesnt mean much to us. The league is so close, theres so much parity. Perhaps the very worst of the teams in the East arent very good, but otherwise the top eight in both conferences are all strong teams. You dont make it this far without being a favorite.

Besides, the colorful Burish has figured out one way that Philadelphia has the edge over his Blackhawks.

They have a cooler story than we do, he said. They got into the playoffs on a shootout. Even we cant match that.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer took the pregame spin, part of the Blackhawks’ “One More Shift” series on Friday night. High above him at the United Center hang several retired Blackhawks numbers.

As of now, Larmer’s No. 28 isn’t among them, but he’s OK with that.

“I think that really is reserved for very special people,” Larmer said.

OK, but isn’t he one of those in the Blackhawks’ history?

“Thank you, but I think that Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito and Denis Savard and Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote are kind of in a league of their own,” he said.

Many would say the same about Larmer, who ranks fourth in Blackhawks history with 923 points, third in goals (406) and fifth in assists (517). Over his entire NHL career Larmer played in 1,006 regular-season games, recording 1,012 points. But whether or not his number is retired by the Blackhawks, coming back for events, including Friday’s, is a treat.

“It’s nerve-wracking and it’s going to be fun,” Larmer said prior to his spin on the ice. “It’s really quite an honor and a surprise to me to be able to do this and I just, it’s a great organization and they’ve always been great to me. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Larmer put together a stellar career. Many believe it deserves a retired number here – and maybe more. Blackhawks play-by-play man Pat Foley, when accepting the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in November of 2014, spoke immediately on how Larmer should be in the hall, too.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I’ve been fortunate enough to call Blackhawks hockey for over a third of the games they’ve ever played and I’ve never seen a better two-way player come through here,” Foley said that day about Larmer. “When Steve Larmer left Chicago and went to New York, it’s no coincidence that shortly thereafter, they won the Stanley Cup.”

Larmer laughed when reminded of Foley’s speech.

“Well, Pat’s a good friend,” Larmer said with a smile. “He’s always been a good friend. For the last 35 years, since the early 1980s when he was doing radio and TV back then and we all traveled together and hung out together and it was one good group. It’s fun. I mean, Pat’s always been a big supporter and a really good friend.”

Larmer would’ve loved to have hoisted the Stanley Cup during his time with the Blackhawks. Coming as close as they did in 1992 stayed with him for a bit – and it hurt.

“That stung deeply. Because you’re starting to get older and you’re thinking, ‘oh my God, that was it, that was the chance and it’s freaking gone,’ right? It’s never going to happen again,” Larmer recalled. “I’m not one of those guys who happened along and all of a sudden you’re on a team and you win like the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. We lost out to the team that always won, right? It was disappointing that way. But when you get to that point and you have that run, then we lost to Pittsburgh, that stuck with me for a year in a half. I couldn’t let it go. It was always in the back of my mind. You’re out there playing and you’re sitting on the bench and still thinking about that.”

So when Larmer got another chance with the New York Rangers – he was dealt there in a three-way deal involving the Rangers, Blackhawks and Hartford Whalers – it meant everything.

“The neat thing about going to New York is it gave me another chance to play with some great players and have that opportunity to win and finally get over that hump,” he said. “It was a neat city to win in and to be able to play with guys like Mark Messier and Leach and all those players was a lot of fun.”

Larmer put up fantastic numbers in his career. He got to hoist a Cup near the end of his career. His number should be in the rafters to commemorate that great career.

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the NHL's salary cap could stay flat next year, reports ESPN's Craig Custance.

Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed at the latest NHL's Board of Governors meeting that the projected ceiling for the 2017-18 campaign could be an increase between zero and $2 million, which isn't exactly encouraging considering the projection at this time of year is normally an optimistic one.

That means the salary cap may be closer to — or at — the $73 million it's at right now.

In the last four years, the cap has increased by $4.3 million in 2013-14, $4.7 million in 2014-15, $2.4 million in 2015-16 and $1.6 million in 2016-17. The number continues to descend, and it affects big-budget teams like the Blackhawks the most.

It makes it especially difficult for the Blackhawks to navigate because they own two of the highest paid players in the league in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom carry a $10.5 million cap hit through 2022-23. It's a great problem to have, though.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

According to capfriendly.com, Chicago currently has $60.6 million tied up to 14 players — eight forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender — next season. If the cap stays the same, that means the Blackhawks must fill out the rest of their roster with fewer than $13 million to work with and still have to sign Artemi Panarin to a long-term extension.

And they may need to move salary to do it, with the potential cap overages crunching things even more.

On the open market, Panarin would probably be able to earn Vladimir Tarasenko money — a seven-year deal that carries a $7.5 million cap hit — but if he prefers to remain in Chicago, the contract would likely be in the range of Johnny Gaudreau's six-year deal with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

With the expansion draft looming, the Blackhawks know they're going to lose a player to Las Vegas in the offseason. The two likely candidates, as it stands, are Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and the former would free up $3 million in cap space while the latter $825,000.

If that won't get the job done, the Blackhawks may be forced to part ways with a core player such as Brent Seabrook and his eight-year, $55 million contract, although he has a full no-movement clause until 2021-22 and it would be very hard to imagine since you're trying to maximize your current championship window.

Anything is possible, however, after seeing promising young guys like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw shipped out of Chicago due to a tight budget.

It's a challenge general manager Stan Bowman has certainly already been thinking about, and a stagnant salary cap doesn't make things any easier.