Blackhawks Kids for Real in Chicago

December 21st, 2008

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quennelville must think at times he is running a day care center for rich kids. They all get along, they all go to the rink together, hang together, go to movies together. The coach says this is one of the main keys to their success so far this season since he took over the coaching from former Hawk Denis Savard a few games into the season.


Quennelville is a great coach with experience across the league and is known to be a players coach, who at all times plays the players that work hard for him and is up front and honest. Tough love at times with his players, who demands that they come to the rink ready to play and put forth a days work. Mike Danton told me when he played for Joel that he wanted to go hard for him just because of how straight up and demanding he was and that you could feel that Joel cared about your development as a  player. So in saying that, Joel would be  perfect for a group that is mostly made up of kids mixed with the odd veteran here and there.


Leading this team is a player that I have in my top 10 best players in the NHL if you were starting a team right now in my Frosty’s Favorites section for December. Patrick Kane is a 20 yr old cocky kid from Buffalo, NY who has backed it up with his play scoring 16 Goals including an unreal back hand shelf goal last night in Vancouver. Kane leads the team in points at 20 yrs of age, he has so much upside and is not a big kid listed at a generous 5″10, 175. He will have to continue to grow and get stronger to withstand the pressure from the top D he will see night after night. But so far so good for the American born all star who dazzles on the ice with his head for the game and accurate shot.

Canadian born kids Patrick Sharp who must feel like an old man next to the other kid stars on the roster at age 26 is second in team scoring with 18 goals and 29 points. Third is 20 yr old Jonathan Toews who at 20 is the captain of the Blackhawks and the face of the franchise. Toews who was the former star for Canada at the World Jr Championships not too long ago scoring goal after goal in the shootout, has scored 9 times but has 26 points. Toews you can just tell by watching and listening to him speak is a good kid that will develop into a great leader, even though he can’t order a beer yet in his hockey hometown of Chicago.


The elder statesmen on the team D Brian Campbell who shocked the NHL signing as a free agent with the Hawks this past summer in a lucrative deal that saw him leave the San Jose Sharks. The team that traded for him from Buffalo where he started his career. Campbell himself at 29 yrs old is a fast jump in the play type D who can skate, pass and has a great vision on the ice. Excellent mesh for the young stars upfront, Campbell leads the D with 23 points on the season.

But perhaps the best thing for the Hawks is they have two great young other D who play against the other teams top line as a shutdown unit freeing up Campbell to use his offensive flare against other lines. Duncan Kieth 25 plays with the younger 23 yr old Brent Seabrook and together they form a strong unit with all of the Hawks D. They play a very solid jump into the rush system that adds the 4th man making their attack very dangerous.


This is probably the most shocking stat the Hawks sit 3rd in the Western Conference in points (43) behind only the veteran Detroit Red Wings and  San Jose Sharks. The Hawks use two goalies as their number 1’s.  Khabibulin and free agent pick up Huet have combined to get this, to share the number one duties to the tune of each playing 16 games and both with over 900 save % on the season. Hawks are close to unbeatable at home where they have a 10-1-4 record on top of being 8-1-1 in their last 10. Including their recent run through Western Canada  where they beat the Oilers, Flames and then last night the Canucks all in their own buildings. Impressive to say the least for any team but especially for two 20 yr old kids leading the way upfront.

The Hawks have a great coach for young players, they have scored the second most goals in the Conference  (114) and seem like world beaters right now.  Look at this team in a few years and they will be Stanley Cup contenders,  if they are not already.

Now from the very good, we will go to the very bad Atlanta Thrashers organization. Forget that they get no one in their building to watch games, forgot that they have fired a ton of coaches and have zero stability with players or coaches since they came into the league.

Look no further than the guy in charge since they broke ground, and ask yourself how the hell has he still got a General Managers job in the National Hockey league. Smoke and mirrors? Benefiting from ownership changes I suppose is the best guess how Don Waddell still has his job after hiring Dan Marr former Leafs trainer as his head scout in charge of Player Development.

Between Waddell as the GM who along with his top scout pick the 1st rounders in their drafts, which are absolutely critical to the teams growth and development. Ask the Hawks where they would be without player finder former GM Rick Dudley in Chicago. He just finds players and always has, coach Joel Quennelville said as much last night that the Hawks young players are the work of the talented player evaluator Dudley. So Waddell hires a former Leafs trainer turned scout that has not aside from two obvious no brainer picks made years ago, made very good picks. The two have not made strong picks or hung on to develop those picks for Atlanta. Those drafts were  because of their poor records always very high picks.


So to be fair lets go through the Waddel drafts in 1999 they drafted Patrick Stefan remember him? He is now out of the NHL and previously traded away by Waddell. Part of the GM & his head scouts job is to find players that will be there for the long haul not with standing injury.

Then the no brainer picks that every team knew about hardly had anything to do with scouting were when they picked in 2000 & 2001 Dany Heatley who has gone on to be a great scorer in the NHL, too bad Waddell traded him away and he is scoring goals for the Ottawa Senators not the challenged Thrashers. The 2001 pick is their current unhappy Russian born IIya Kovalchuk who will leave at the first chance he gets when he becomes a free agent unless Waddell trades him away before that happens.

Then their track record goes back to the Stefan draft, in 2003 they choose Braydon Coburn who plays in the NHL just not for Atlanta, Coburn plies his trade for the Flyer’s. Another loss in Atlanta’s department why do they keep trading away these draft picks when teams are suppose to build within the draft and develop those draft picks themselves over time? Not trade them away when they are decent to good players, develop them.

2004 Boris Valabik the D from OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, big strong kid who actually this time plays for the Thrashers, but again his development has not been great as on most nights he is not in the lineup and is their 7th D.

2005 Hold on to your skate boots because this one is what gets scouts fired in the NHL. But not if your the Thrashers I suppose. The player is none other than Alex Bourret! Who is that? EXACTLY who is he is the question, he is a player with problems off the ice who really obviously must have been either a different player or fooled the Atlanta brass in his interviews prior to the draft in 05. Bourret is playing in the AHL barley because he has been most times either in the dog house or out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. All this for yet again another organization in Phoenix. Bourret plays for the San Antonio farm club of the Coyotes. So there is a complete wasted pick which you cannot afford to do if your the Atlanta Thrashers. You can bet Waddell and his trusted head scout Dany Marr hide the pictures of the 3 of them standing on stage smiling at the 2005 draft.


Now the jury is out and I do not want to say anything about the next two kids drafted by the brass in Atlanta because they are still young enough or hopefully lucky enough to get traded away from the Thrashers. They are Bryan Little and Spencer Machacek in 2006 & 2007 respectively.

The Thrashers need to make changes at the top this much is obvious to anyone around hockey. I wonder if Rick Dudley is available to take another GM job! Not a bad scout ask the Blackhawks!

For Hockey God I’m Dave Frost