Oh, what a ride. I remember cursing the very name of Gary Bettman and wondering if this hockey season would ever take place. When the finality of the strike came, it was actually exhausting.
One thing I find, is that hockey fans are so much more passionate about their sport than any other sport. It is the only sport that I find, that fans are deeply engrossed in. From the level of Juniors, to the AHL minor leagues, to the draft, to the free agent signings, to the trades, to the festivities between the season.
As the season started, we had no idea what we were in store for. The Hawks barely made any changes in the off season. So, you could say that the free agent signings weren't big splashes, by any means. Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank coming to team surely wasn't going to change the forecast of this team...was it?
The season started and the losses NEVER came. By the midway point of the strike shortened season, the Hawks were 21-0-3, and teams were already so far behind them, it was really a cost to the end. In fact, the Hawks rested almost their entire team the last game of the season, (losing it to St. Louis) when they could have tried to play and win another one for the books......but why? They already had sewn up the President's trophy,...so no need. They ended the season with an astounding 36-7-5 record, and the only move they made at the trade deadline was a "healthy scratch" Michal Handzus. Michal was not even playing in San Jose, and by the end of the season was the center for the Hawks 2nd line. OMG!
Hawks fans, (and I surely am no different),...or even worse, CHICAGO fans, are used to losing. SO, we don't like to do a whole lot of trash talking. We will beat up our own team,...then love them dearly the next day. It's our nature to be pessimistic. So, now the playoffs start.
Hawks beat up, a pretty much, undermanned WILD team against the Hawks. They stole game 3, but the Hawks made that a habit throughout the playoff series, that game 3, they'd win only if they could put forth little...or LESS effort...However, they lost all of those games,...because YES, this was the playoffs and even the less skilled teams would give everything they had to try and win in the playoffs.
The Hawks then got their hands full when they met a Detroit team, that was really as gutsy, as gritty, as determined as the Hawks to win. It took every single ounce of energy to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the last 3 games and carry the Hawks forward to the WCF series. Can you say overtime thriller in game 7? Exactly what had happened. Hawks escaped with their lives.
In every series, the Hawks had to hear how wonderful the other teams goaltending was as Corey Crawford got beat up by every medium out there by all types of reporters...including Chicago media to be honest. Corey was thought to be a "soft" goaltender. Well, he proved not to be so soft. He was supposed to be the reason they would lose against God Almighty Jonathan Quick. Well,...that didn't happen as the Hawks didn't allow Quick to stand on his head,...er,...or should I say, walk on water.
Every series the Hawks seemed destined to end the series with THRILLERS. Brent Seabrook's OT winner against Detroit, Patrick Kane's O.T. winner (hat trick) against L.A. and the dramatic 17 seconds goals from Bickell and Bolland that sealed the Cup. They appeared destined to win.
The Hawks had to already say "good bye" to 2 of their Hawks,...Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik. If you review my older written articles, I saw this coming. I didn't know how this was going to be done, but I could see that writing on the wall.
Unfortunately, Dave Bolland was a fan favorite. No matter how bad his regular season was, he was there for the playoffs. He will be sorely missed by fans. Thanks for the wonderful memories Bolly!!!!
Frolik was one of the hardest working guys on the ice,...but as I stated before, that once he had the puck, he couldn't score if the net was the size of a barn. (which makes his shoot out goals all the more surprising). He was clueless once he had the puck. He was tenacious on the PK which made his value increase (so, one would think). However, we do appreciate him on our team, and a few wonderful years served here. Well done Fro!
Others most likely to go,...Well I am willing to bet that Stalberg leaves (>90% is how good I am feeling about that),... and we are NOT sad to see "the fastest man on skates" leave. He did his job, but it's time to 'bon vayage Stally'.
We just found out that today that 10 year Goalie coach: Stephane Waite has departed and gone to Montreal. Thanks for the 10 years and 2 Stanley Cup Champion goalies that your tutelage has produced. We were honored to have you here. Thanks again Stephane!
Jamal Mayers...I think coaching may be in your near future. Thanks for the 2 years of wonderful service.
I cannot say goodbye to Rozsival or Kruger or Emery. They are still working out things. I haven't heard anything about Rosie, but I have heard things that the Hawks are close to a deal with Razor and Kruger also.
So, as the Hawks get ready to head into the off season, I will be spending the time looking at free agents, the AHL Icehogs and who is ready to come up, the trades in the NHL, and prep myself for a grand 2013-14 season.