Sharp Out 3-4 Weeks; Is it Panic Time for Stan Bowman?

 

Patrick Sharp in pre-game warmups

After going largely unscathed on the injury front for the first half of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks have been getting bitten by the bug in a big way in recent weeks. You have Marcus Kruger out with a concussion (although he is skating now and should be back soon), Daniel Carcillo down with a knee injury that he sustained on his incredibly stupid hit on Tom Gilbert against Edmonton, and Steve Montador just came back from the injured reserve list. Although those guys are all supporting characters in the narrative the Hawks have written so far, one of the prime time players is going to have to be replaced with an understudy for a while.

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Training Camp Primer: Recapping & Grading the Blackhawks’ Offseason

In contrast to the 2010 off-season, the summer of 2011 was a relatively quiet one for the Chicago Blackhawks. Sure, there were still trades that took place and signings galore, but the attachment that fans felt to the players who had so recently won the Stanley Cup made it more difficult to see guys like Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien go to other places.

With more fans tuning in to see what the Blackhawks are up to as they prepare for the regular season, which is only 18 days away, The Sports Bank is here to give you a quick and dirty recap of all the moves that the Blackhawks have made since Alex Burrows swiped the puck from Chris Campoli and scored the series winner that sent Chicago home.

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Dale Tallon: Architect of Blackhawks Success

By Paul M. Banks

Heading into 2008-09, the season of Chicago Blackhawks renaissance, it was thought in certain circles that Hawks General Manager Dale Tallon could be on the way out.

Tallon was more Bill Wirtz’s guy than he was Rocky Wirtz’s guy. After NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman joined the Hawks organization (pronounced “organ-I-zation” in Canadian English) as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations, rumors swirled that Tallon might be replaced by Bowman’s son, assistant GM of Hockey Operations, Stan Bowman.

Today however, Tallon is sitting pretty as the blueprint for success he drafted has guided the Hawks much further along the postseason path than anyone expected. After advancing to their first Conference Final since 1995, (where they’re currently down 2-1 to the Detroit Red Wings), Tallon spoke about his team, the youngest in the league, climbing the ladder much faster than expected.

“The sooner the better is fine with me. I don’t want to wait any longer, it’s been fun and I’m proud of these kids, this is the greatest group of kids I’ve been around; on and off the ice,” Tallon said.

Tallon’s first season as GM was tumultuous. After the 2004–05 NHL season was canceled due to labor issues, a new collective bargaining agreement was signed. This created a new financial structure and many rule changes intended to yield higher scoring games. In response, Tallon reshaped the team, but most of his free agents never panned out and the Hawks finished 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.

However, since then he turned the Blackhawk franchise around (the Hawks are the only team in the NHL to improve their win total each of the past four years) by drafting young talents Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and also acquiring stars Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg. Tallon recently spoke about the traits possessed by his young nucleus. “Their impeccable character- they’re beyond their years as far as composure and intelligence…they’re way ahead of their time as far the mental aspect of it, their maturity impresses me,” Tallon said before later commenting on his team’s versatility:

“This is a team that can play any style, it you want to play it tough, we’ll play it tough, if you want to play speed, up-tempo, we’ll do that too. I think people underestimate how strong and resilient these kids are.” Chicago’s deep playoff run has been great for hockey ratings on television, and the NHL could certainly use this boost. Perhaps the Blackhawks’ rebirth, led in part by the young stars Dale Tallon drafted, will help improve the league’s damaged Q rating. Tallon spoke about the plethora of current young NHL stars.

“As hockey fans we’re in a great era right now. You see Crosby perform and Ovechkin and Malkin, and you see Backstrom in Washington and everyday we get to see Kane and Toews and don’t forget we’ve got some other young guys in Bolland, Brouwer, and Byfuglien, you can go down the list…we’re very fortunate in this era to be able to witness such young players excel at such a young age,” Tallon stated.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank