John, that's the question I've been asking for the last couple years and it's even harder now because teams can no longer offer all the money in the world to free agents. I maintain that very soon--if they haven't already--all the general managers who were crying for a salary cap are going to regret it. It's the old saying, be careful what you wish for. If you are the Hawks or Columbus and you can only offer a player a maximum salary, and San Jose or Colorado or Philadelphia or even Toronto can offer the same amount, where is that player going to go? He's going to go to the team that has the best chance of playing in the post-season. Now, there may be other factors at work, such as more ice-time and a greater role within a team, that teams such as the Hawks can offer, but as much as I would like to see him come to Chicago, I don't envision Patrik Elias wearing the Indian Head next season.
That being said, if the cap rises to $45 million and if the NHL continues to make money and the cap starts creeping toward the $50 million mark, then we're not very far off from where we were before the lockout, which means there are going to be teams--many of them probably--that won't be able to spend with the big clubs, cap or no cap. Which then begs the question, "What was the purpose of the lockout?"
Do you think the Blackhawks are going to leave Chicago? It looks like no one cares about them. I doubt anyone would even notice if they left town. Do you think the NHL might think this would be a good move to help improve the NHL? --Mark Ziccarelli, Downers Grove, Ill.
Mark, no, the Hawks are not leaving Chicago. First, this is the third-largest market and the NHL has to be here. Second, the Wirtz family will not sell the team and if it did, where would a new owner move them and why on earth would the league allow a franchise to move out of this market?
Now, that doesn't mean the league wouldn't mind the Wirtz's selling, even if it was a majority stake. No one will ever say it publicly, but you don't need to be a genius to figure out that the league can't be thrilled with what's happened here and how it hurts them as a whole to have a team in this size of a market ignored.
But what can they do? Whether you like the way the team is run or not, the fact remains that the Wirtz family owns the team and with that can run it as they see fit. There's not a whole lot the league can do and the only thing fans can do is not support them. Not a good option, but that's about all there is.
Hi, Bob, last week coach Yawney said that the Hawks have three players for the top 2 lines--Calder, Ruutu and Vrbata. So I miss Mark Bell, who has nearly the same numbers as Kyle Calder this season. Does this mean that Bell and Eric Daze are out? Will Daze announce his retirement? Keep up the good coverage of the Hawks! Greetings from Germany. --Martin Walter, Moenchengladbach, Germany
Martin, guten morgen, or tag. That's the extent of my high school German and that's probably wrong. First, yes, Eric Daze is likely finished. He's missed too much time and probably needs another surgery and that's not even guaranteed to help. It's too bad, he's a quality person and when healthy a great player who could have thrived with all the special teams play in the NHL now.
Mark Bell is the proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle. Ideally, he should be a second-line center or winger. Yes, his numbers were comparable to Kyle Calders but, to be honest, I'm not sure either is a top-six forward. I'm not sure what to make of Calder's numbers since so many of those goals and points came after the Olympics--when the games meant nothing. When the Hawks needed production to stay in the playoff chase--the first two months of the season--he was nowhere to be found. Now, Trent Yawney will say that it took Calder a long time to adjust to the way the game was played and officiated. Perhaps we should give him a mulligan. But what if that's not the case? Depending on who the other two players are on the wing, Calder could play on the top two lines because of his work ethic and his ability in front of the net. He's not a sniper and probably should have twice as many goals as he does with the chances he gets, though.
Bell should have had 35 goals this season, no question. His problem is he's not the fleetest skater on the ice and there are too many times when you just don't notice him. I think there are times when he's not sure whether he should be a physical player or a finesse player and he becomes immobilized trying to figure it out. Yawney thinks he's at his best when he's physical, which means he may be better suited to the wing. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if one or both are offered in some sort of trade package this summer. Bell is asked about by a lot of teams. Calder is beloved by the Sr. VP, so it would have to be an unbelievable deal to get him. But I think both have to take that next step for this team to go forward. They are part of the so-called "core" group of players they want to build around. If this is as good as they are going to be, then they are probably third-line players on playoff teams.
Bob, have you ever thought about doing an article on all the ex-Hawks currently thriving on other teams in the NHL? You could probably come up with a true All-Star team. --Jim Johnson, Indianapolis
Jim, funny, I do think about that every time I see Ethan Moreau or J.P. Dumont play. Or Steve Sullivan. Or Steve McCarthy. Or Michael Nylander. Or Chris Chelios. Or Keith Carney.
Saw you mention to a fan in Colorado how he'll "always be a Hawks fan." Well here's one native Chicagoan who has permanently given up on the Hawks (but I remain a die-hard Cubs, Bears, and Bulls fan). I'm now a Sharks fan through and through. Here's a franchise that actually gives a hoot about the fans and strives to put a quality product on the ice at every opportunity -- something "Dollar" Bill Wirtz and his family haven't been willing to do for too many years. --Win Reis, San Mateo, Calif.
Win, I can understand your feelings for the Sharks, it is a first-class organization all the way with a bold general manager whom I believe spent some time in Chicago as a decent defenseman ... So you're saying then that if the Hawks ever turn it around and become an upper echelon team in the NHL, you will still renounce your former fandom? I don't believe it. It's been said there are only two things in life we can't change--our social security number and teams we grew up rooting for.
Perhaps one day that will be put to the test. Meantime, go Sharks, I wouldn't mind spending a week or so out there covering the Stanley Cup finals.
Bob, thank you for telling things like they are and not being in bed with the organization. What realistic chance is there that the ownership will change in the near future? Clearly, the Wirtz family can make more money elsewhere and has no idea what hockey even is, let alone how to run a team that is supposedly playing it. --Michael Pastko, Mundelein, Ill.
Michael, near future, meaning within the next 10 years? I would say zero. I think the big question that faces this organization--after, 'How do they become relevant again?'--is what happens when the children take over? The assumption is at some point, Peter Wirtz will inherit the presidency. What, if any, changes will he make? I honestly can't answer that question and I'm not sure anyone can. On many occasions this past season, I requested an interview with Peter--with whom I consider myself to be friendly--to do a "future of the Hawks" type story and every time I was told he was unavailable or out of town or whatever. Peter is very sensitive to doing anything that would upstage his father. So we really don't know what will change. I think, out of respect for Mr. Wirtz, nothing would change immediately, perhaps not even the TV policy. Some believe that Peter will bring a breath of fresh air and much needed changes, others think it won't be any different and that the same was said about Mr. Wirtz when his father passed and it turned out to be more of the same.