What If Toews Wasn’t A Blackhawk?

As I watched on Monday night while Jonathan Toews returned to action and helped lead the Hawks to victory, a story came to mind. This tale has been around but awhile back it was confirmed for me by someone who is a reliable source and was close to the situation. 

Many people credit Dale Tallon for being a huge part of the Blackhawk rebirth which led to a Stanley Cup victory, and justly so. The cornerstone for the Hawks rebuilding process was Toews, who was chosen by Tallon in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. 

As the story goes the Hawks captain almost never made it to Chicago. If Bill Wirtz would have had his way Toews probably wouldn’t be a Blackhawk. Fortunately for Hawk fans Tallon wouldn’t budge on his strong opinion of Toews. 

Others in the organization wanted to draft Phil Kessel when the Hawks were to select third. Tallon wouldn’t be swayed by those who preferred the flashier Kessel. The lure of a big goal scorer and increased ticket sales were most likely the reason for their preference. 

Without a shadow of a doubt, Tallon’s biggest accomplishment was selecting Toews. If he backed off and made any other choice the Stanley Cup would not be in Chicago today.  

No disrespect to Kessel, but if all 30 general managers voted the overwhelming preference would be Toews. Actually Kessel would probably receive one vote by default, and the other 29 would go to the Hawks’ captain. Toews makes everyone better and has an overwhelming will to win which is not often found even in the finest players. 

Look no further for confirmation as to the difference Toews makes when absent from the lineup. When Toews is out injured the Blackhawks are a dismal 9-17. 

Onto LA and beyond… 

The Blackhawks put together the most impressive 40 minutes of hockey in quite awhile and captured a well deserved victory in Los Angeles. Leading the charge were the best players, those who must be counted on to bring their “A” game every night. 

It won’t be very long before Blackhawk fans have a good idea if their favorite team will have a firm shot at a playoff birth. The overriding  question is whether the team can consistently play the correct style of play without committing costly turnovers and taking poor penalties. 

After the opening period in LA the Hawks displayed the correct style against the Kings.Goals were scored by going to the net and individual battles were won. At this point mistakes won’t be tolerated as Joel Quenneville has a healthy roster for the first time in quite awhile. 

Although the season is half over Hawk players are still searching for the correct balance. 

Some players still try to do too much, or forget the game situation. Their inexperience shows at times and mistakes can’t always be absorbed. 

For example, Jack Skille shouldn’t turn over the puck inside the opponent’s blueline late in a period of a close game. Skill made an ill advised play and before one could blink Ryan Smyth scored and the Kings evened the game at two. That could have been a crushing goal but the Hawks bounced back…This time. 

Skille should know better and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was given another night off.  Quenneville won’t tolerate mistakes and now he can sit players if need be. The Hawks head coach can’t afford to be patient any longer.

A bright spot for this season has been Corey Crawford.  

The young goalie will have to stay solid for the Hawks to make the playoffs. He has shown the ability to bounce back from poor goals and appears very confident. Crawford should help the Hawks win games they shouldn’t as every point will matter. Crawford will also help absorb some of the miscues. 

The Dallas Stars can play a gritty game with speed and skill. Tonight the Hawks will need a complete effort to start the four game homestand off with a victory. 

Quenneville is hoping from now on mistakes will be limited, and he’s glad Tallon didn’t change his mind. 

Al’s Shots 

The audio clip below is of a XM interview with Jamie Shalley from Tuesday evening.

11-01-04-ICE CAP Uncle Al

Jamie and I discussed the Toews story as well as his influence on the team. We looked ahead at the Hawks schedule, shared some thoughts on the Dylan Olsen signing and other possible additions.

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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Al, excellent piece…you asked earlier in the season which player the Hawks could least afford to lose…the answer looks unequivocally like “Jonathan Toews”.

    If one wants to look at what constitutes a Most Valuable Player, Toews is that and more.

    He has become what Jean Beliveau was to the great Montreal Canadiens teams…and there is much in Toews’ game that reminds one of Beliveau.

    Every game’s a big game now, and as you have been saying all year, there is little or no room for unforced errors.

    Q has been saying the same thing from Day One.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    PS Jamie picks some rockin’ sounds for the XMCast intro…a little Paul Butterfield this time?

  3. Al Cimaglia says:

    According to various reports…

    For Tonight….

    Crawford starts

    Skille out

    Dowell out again.

    Scott in…

    Take a few deep breaths…Would be my suggestion.

    • djd says:

      Clearly, Q is trying to get Skille’s attention. As for Jake, well, Sharp in at center again isn’t such a bad thing. Seems to me he produces more from that position whether he likes playing it or not.

      Yes, Al, keep that intro. Way cool!

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        I think the plan should stay…Hossa-Toews….Sharp-Kane. Other players can be moved around.

        Kopecky has bonus stored away and he added a few with his two points the other night.

        • djd says:

          Agree, on the lines except I like Brouwer up front with JT and Hossa. Time for Kane and Hossa to pick it up

          Curious to see how the officiating breaks tonight, after Marc Crawford bent a few ears the last time these teams played—and rightly so I might add.

        • Dave Morris says:

          Al, to underline some of the points you made in the podcast…and to add a few:

          > Q will sit players who make ‘brain cramp’ mistakes like Skille made vs the Kings
          >I suspect Dowell’s benching might be a discipline issue rather than an on-ice issue
          >Kopecky gets a lot of heat from writers and fans, but *he* was the one throwing himself into the front of the net to spring Hossa loose for that big goal in LA
          >Bickell and Brouwer have to bring some extra bite to their play, *every* game.

          I wonder what kind of trades Bowman might be thinking about…there’s a big young centerman in Ottawa for sale, for under a million and a UFA to boot. Peter Regin. I have watched him for the past few years and he has real potential that will never be developed with the fractious situation that is the Sens.

          Your thoughts on possible acquisitions? I know you like Montador.

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            I defer to u on the Sens but I do like Carkner…but he is a valuable commodity at only $700,000 through next year.

            I think Kopecky fell at the correct time ….He tries but should not be near the dot or get 2nd line minutes.

            Here is the list of teams the Hawks will target in no particular order…

            Sabres, Hurricanes, Habs, Sens and maybe the Islanders and Oilers.

    • Josh Mack says:

      Ugh, Scott back in? What, is Q afraid Burish is going to stir up trouble?

    • Living the Cup says:

      I think I’ll hold my breath until the game is over.

      IMO if Q goes with Scott over Dowell (who surely could play a wing position if he had to, Scott after all is playing out of his regular position also) he is courting disaster, as in a Blawkhawks loss.

      There is no excuse for not icing your best team at this point. Sit Skille and bring in Dowell – fine but not Scott.

      If that’s what he does it must be something personal between Q and Dowell or Q has not been watching the improved play of the Hawks (including the 3rd period where they have previously stunk) without Scott in the line up.

      The two are not coincidences.

      I know there are other factors like Toews etc. but the the Hawks were better than ANA in the 3rd without Toews.

      The equation to me is simple – No Scott = improved play.

  4. rock says:

    Kopecky gets heat because he makes stupid Skille plays yet had some kind of horse shoe up his butt that lets him get away with it (hawks not getting burnt to bad ie goal against) then making some crazy deliberate/not deliberate pass to set up Sharp or Hoss for a goal. Its maddening to watch…

    I think they will try to solve any wing issues in house via Morin or a grinder like Smith or Klinkhammer…

    Center is another question, are they looking for a difference maker or defensively responsible face-off guru?

    Price point is an issue there obviously and I don’t see them as having any movable assets (to make room for significant player) with the exception of Sharp and its against the CBA to trade the third leading goal scorer in the league.

    • Dave Morris says:

      Rock>you just explained the possible reason for TomoKop’s skating style… ;-)

      ‘Difference makers’ or ‘faceoff gurus’ at the budget StanBow has, might be expecting too much. But there are some good values out there among pending UFA centermen.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Sharp is locked up through next year…He goes nowhere.

      Getting a really good 2nd line center will be a priority this summer.

  5. Fred Poulin says:

    I have always been a big fan of Toews, he’s a great player! I also likes him because he speaks perfect French since his mother is from Beauce, Quebec, about one-hour from where I live!

  6. pricey says:

    Nice little story, Al. I’ve never heard that before.

    Dave- I was thinking of Regin the other day, the young Dane has some wheels that would work well with Sharp and Kane on his wings. If Fisher wasn’t so pricey, I’d prefer him since he has a good edge to his game and plays good defense to boot.

    Speaking of Ottawa, what about Phillips? He is an upcoming UFA that could be snagged for a relatively cheap price. He would bring some stability to the Boynton/Cullimore/Hendry 3rd pairing

    No one ever knows whats going on with Bryan Murray and Co.

    One thing about Bowman, is he seems cheap, which I don’t mind currently. I don’t mind him targeting some middle of the pack guys but I don’t want him to give up the farm that he has collected right now.

    • Dave Morris says:

      Pricey>Phillips is a 3.5mil hit…
      http://www.nhlnumbers.com/teams/OTT?year=2011

      I like Phillips for his toughness, smarts and experience, but Al likes Matt Carkner for his toughness and his cap hit (700K), and I agree.

      Having seen the Sens often (and this team’s perpetual dysfunction makes watching the Blackhawks a breeze) here in Ottawa, I would say Carkner and Regin are the ‘best buys’.

      Chris Kelly is Dave Bolland without the back problems.

      As you say, it’s impossible to figure out what and why Bryan Murray is thinking.

      • Dave Morris says:

        PS Leddy and Morin get the bronze with Team Junior USA.

        PPS to Pricey>Fisher is a 4.2Mil hit. (!)

        • pricey says:

          Oh yah, Fisher is way to much, as I said. He’s just a guy in Ottawa I’ve always liked. Hard nosed with some hands, who can score surrounded by the right guys.

          Again, I know there is no way the Hawks could take that salary.

          I agree with Carkner. He’s a straight up 3rd pairing guy with enough defensive skill, who also knows and plays his role. Much like Montador, who you mentioned as well.

  7. Adam F says:

    Thanks for the story Al. I get the shivers thinking about Phil Kessel being drafted instead of Toews. Luckily that wasn’t the case. I’m one of the believers that Tallon still hasn’t gotten a lot of the credit for building such a good team. Stories like that one just reinforce how good (an yes, lucky) Tallon was.

    J.Giles suits you as far as intro music goes. I don’t know if you still follow Peter Wolf but he released an album last year “Midnight Souvenirs” that’s quite enjoyable. His 2003′s “Sleepless” is just awesome and is one of my favorites.

    Go Hawks and I’ll table my Why do Skille and Dowell get benched for mistakes and -9 and plummeting Thomas Kopecky gets promoted to top 6 status for another day…

    Mikita Bobblehead doll time!!!!!

    Adam

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      I love harmonica and that song is one of the best.

      I didn’t know Wolf had a new album.

      As far as Tallon …He was an excellent judge of young talent….not so good with UFA signings.

      At that time Tallon had to stand tall to take Toews and it was good he did….Otherwise the Hawks wouldn’t be have accomplished what they have.

  8. Al Cimaglia says:

    We will have time to talk about this further but…

    There are too many players here with the same profile… and some in Rockford who may not be nearly as good as the message board GM’s thought.

  9. Chicago32 says:

    Hey Al, nice article.

    This year I feel Brouwer, Skille, Stalberg, and Bickell are mostly similar players. Big, fast, and wingers, but not so skilled and consistent enough for a permanent top 6 role (which we need) and not gritty nor defensive minded enough to play a bottom 6 role (again something that we need). I’ll try to package some of them for some more grit and nastiness.

    I love Brouwer but I feel Bickell can probaly replace his production and I feel we can get something good for Brouwer.

    • Dave Morris says:

      Al, Chicago32> that sounds about right…’too many players with the same profile’…’not skilled or consistent enough for Top 6, not gritty enough for bottom 6.’

      We’ve been discussing trade probabilities for some time…seems to be getting closer and closer to decision time.

  10. Living the Cup says:

    I hate sounding like a broken record and I take no satisfaction in being right but I’m hanging that loss on Q for dressing Scott over Dowell particularly but also Skille.

    If Q were a player he should be sat for his bone headed decision the way he sat Skille for his his bone headed turnover the other night.

    In a game where the Hawks PK couldn’t stop the Dallas PP once including the GWG Dowell could have provided Q with another option on the PK. Clearly his first options weren’t working.

    Isn’t it the coach’s job to get the most out of his roster?

    If Q doesn’t view the Hawks playoff situation as serious enough to warrant his best possible team on the ice then maybe some of the players don’t either.

    You have to wonder about the message being sent by Q?

    If it’s an ego thing (a personal conflict with Dowell perhaps) then that’s not good. If it’s that he really believes the team is better with Scott in the line up over Dowell or Skille that also is not good.

    He should be benched for a game but that won’t happen. I’d be wondering as a player what’s behind his decision and that’s also not good.

  11. Al Cimaglia says:

    Cullimore was just assigned to Rockford…

    Something could be brewing.

    • djd says:

      Agree, Al. If it is true that Leddy is going to be recalled over say, Exelby, then I’m inclined to think that he is being showcased. They don’t need Leddy’s game on D. Of course, they could be thinking of trading Hjalmarsson and want to see how Leddy fits in. Interesting …

      • Dave Morris says:

        DJD>I would be surprised if the Hawks are thinking of trading Leddy…I tend to think they are looking to bring in an affordable vet to pair with him on D. Or seeing where Leddy is at. Maybe management is looking at bringing Olsen up as well.

        Young or not, those two are upgrades over Cully and Boynton.

        • djd says:

          You may be right, Dave. I realized after the above post that Nik can’t be traded for a year because his RFA offer this past summer was matched by the ‘hawks. Leddy has a larger cap hit than either of Cullimore and Boynton does he not?

          I’m more inclined to think that Olsen may be the one to stick and that they are now viewing Leddy—with all of his potential— as a tradeable asset.

  12. Living the Cup says:

    I think they are trying to upgrade their 3rd pairing in house, seeing what they have.

    At best Leddy can do the job. At worst he can’t and they’ll know for sure that they need to find a #5 D man elsewhere.

    It’ll be interesting to see if it’s Leddy paired with Hendry or Boynton.

    I think Hendry is deserving but who knows with Q right now.

    I feel for Culli – really it should be Boynton going down.

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