Blackhawks mailbag: Is the Toews and Kane pairing working out?

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Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane greet Marian Hossa after Hossa scored his 500th career goal on Oct. 18 against the Flyers. (Getty Images)

The NHL schedule-makers are cruel people, and have the Blackhawks in beautiful Vancouver for the second end of a back-to-back for the third straight year. Time is short to explore probably my favorite city on the road, so let’s jump right into your questions.

xthrubyx ‏@HrubyThruby

Are we [expletive deleted] done with this Kane and Toews [expletive deleted] yet? #HeyLaz

For years, I’ve been bombarded with people asking me why Joel Quenneville won’t put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line together. Now that they’ve been together for 11 games, everyone wants them split up again.

While it’s certainly true that Toews and Kane haven’t exactly been making magic together — the constantly revolving door of left wingers hasn’t helped — the Hawks hardly have been flailing. Since the two superstars were put on the same line on Oct. 28, the Hawks are 8-1-2. And the two have been producing at a decent rate — Toews hasn’t scored in five games, but he has four goals and six assists in those 11 games, while Kane has four goals and seven assists. Friday night in Calgary — a game which triggered this question — definitely was an off night for the line. But while it hasn’t set the world on fire, it’s hardly been a dumpster fire.

But it’d be foolish to split them apart now, while Marian Hossa is playing like he’s 27, not 37. Hossa has taken Kane’s spot alongside Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov and has been a scoring machine. He has nine goals in the 11 games he’s played with the Russians, and 10 for the season. Hossa didn’t score his 10th goal last season until Feb. 6. If you split up Toews and Kane, the only place to put Kane is back on the second line. And it’d be insane to take Hossa off that line until (unless?) he cools down significantly.

Mike Dundas ‏@mdundas44

#heylaz why does Crow wear dark pads on the road and whites at home? Is he fashion conscious? #diva

I’ve asked Corey Crawford about this a couple of times, and he says he just likes the way it looks — black pads with the home uniforms, white pads with the road whites. When he first went to the black pads last year, I figured there had to be a strategic reason — perhaps it’s harder for opposing players or referees to spot a loose puck in the crease. On the other hand, the black pads make any opening stand out to a shooter. But Crawford just likes the way it looks.

“Black looks good with Chicago red,” Crawford said in September. “I just switch it up. I find it looks better.”

Jocelyn Hopkinson ‏@Jhop_4

#HeyLaz has Hossa found the fountain of youth playing with Panarin? He’s turned the clock back so far this year.

Here’s the thing about Hossa — he didn’t look bad last season. He was still always around the net, still had the puck on his stick, still remarkably quick on the back check, tracking down forwards barely half his age. He just couldn’t score. The puck just wouldn’t go in. That, combined with the incessant talk about his 500th goal — I wrote a story about that in the preseason last year! — might have gotten into his head a bit. Even a Hall of Famer can start doubting himself on the ice.

And don’t forget, nobody benefitted more from the long summer than Hossa, who got a chance to rest his body and his mind after going deep in the playoffs six times in the previous eight seasons. He looks like he can play forever. Which is good, because he’s basically signed until the end of time.

Ryan Gill ‏@LicenseToGill

Better Pearl Jam song? Corduroy or Better Man? #HeyLaz

This is like asking me if I prefer a Klondike Puck or a punch in the throat. Corduroy might be the best pure rock song of the last quarter century. Better Man is your opportunity to go to the bathroom during the show. I mean, it’s fine. It’s a fine song. It’s just one of the most overplayed songs in human history, so I’m a bit weary of it. Corduroy forever.

Oh, what’s that? You want my Top 10 Pearl Jam songs? No? Too bad. Off the top of my head:

1. Off He Goes

2. Rearviewmirror

3. Corduroy

4. Hail Hail

5. Present Tense

6. Last Exit

7. Love Boat Captain

8. Porch

9. Undone

10. In Hiding

And there probably are about three dozen songs tied for 11th.

Mark Nutile ‏@manutile

#HeyLaz can u get to the bottom of why the Hawks always feel they need to make 43 passes before they shoot on a 5 on 3

Funny you should ask — I just wrote about that today.

Joel T. Bennett ‏@joelben

#HeyLaz Out of the rooks, who would you pick to play with Kane and Toews on the top line? I think Vinnie has been solid so far.

I still believe Tyler Motte is the best fit up there. Think of the two guys who played up there over the last handful of years — Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp. Motte doesn’t quite have the speed of those guys, but he plays a two-way game that nicely complements Toews, he works hard in the corners to fish out pucks for his linemates, and he seems to be the most polished of the rookies offensively. He’s a finisher. And that’s what playmakers such as Toews and Kane need — a finisher.

Hinostroza has shown flashes of that ability and certainly has that high-end speed and hustle, but I don’t quite know if he has the hands to play on that line just yet. Hartman has looked good up there at times, too, but like Andrew Shaw before him, he’s more valuable as a third-liner than a top-liner.

DebZee_19 ‏@dazych71j

Did you hold a ‘moment of silence’ for the end of the Klondike Puck? #HeyLaz

No. I held a moment of blood-curdling screams followed by a moment of loud, uncontrollable sobbing followed by a moment of desperate wailing followed by a moment of angry wall-punching.

Kayla Marie Carbone ‏@BigTimeKayla

I know we’re less than 20 games in, but which teams have been the biggest surprise so far? Biggest disappointment? #HeyLaz

I’m not sure anyone had the Columbus Blue Jackets playing this well; 7-1-1 in their last nine. They were a trendy pick last season, then fell flat on their faces. I spent the World Cup criticizing John Tortorella for his archaic coaching style, but he deserves credit for putting more of an emphasis on offense and shot attempts, not just defense and shot-blocking.

As for disappointments, I had the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final, so obviously I’m surprised at their middling start. It’s still relatively early, however, and the Central Division isn’t nearly as imposing as it’s been in recent seasons. I still don’t have much faith in Pekka Rinne, but if the Predators can reel off a few wins in a row in the near future, they’ll be right back in the mix.

Laurie O. ‏@mrsoz87

#HeyLaz Do they still pass the belt after games? If so, can you start telling us who gets it?

They still do, yes. Ryan Hartman got it Friday night in Calgary.

Aileen @aileenwithan_a

#heylaz when interviewing a player through a translator, do most people address the player directly? seems rude to do otherwise

It’s an interesting dynamic when we’re talking to Artemi Panarin or Michal Kempny through an interpreter. When it’s a one-on-one setting, I always address the player directly. But when it’s a group interview, you’ll often hear reporters telling the interpreter, “Ask him if…” I find that a little off-putting, but everyone seems to handle it differently. I am always amused, however, when reporters have their recorders in front of Panarin, and not the interpreter.

Luis Martin ‏@theponzischeme

#HeyLaz whats your fav part about traveling to Canada? Is Tim Hortons as good as they say or is it all hype? Their president is also good eh?

Tim Hortons is fine. It’s not as good as Dunkin Donuts — YOU HEARD ME, HOCKEY WORLD — but it’s fine. There’s a lot to like about Canada. Nice airports, friendly people, a killer exchange rate, Nestea available everywhere, the list goes on and on. If they hadn’t gotten rid of the Klondike Puck, I might have just stayed up here.

Чикаго Человек ‏@chikagochelovek

#HeyLaz Which was the better Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince of Bel Air?

Definitely Janet Hubert. No contest.

elena ‏@werenskis

Most fun team to watch besides Chicago? #heylaz & additional question, will you be my best friend.

Team North America. Since that’s sadly not an option, Edmonton and Toronto might be the next best things right now. Also, yes. Can you help me move a couch when I get back next week?

Alyssa Lorraine ‏@lyssa323

#HeyLaz as of right now, who do you see as the most likely candidates to get taken from the Hawks in the expansion draft?

Looking at the way the Hawks roster is currently built, either Trevor van Riemsdyk or Marcus Kruger appears the likeliest candidates to be taken in the expansion draft. Toews, Kane, Hossa, Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson all have no-movement clauses and must be protected. And most of the young guys are exempt, including Panarin. Theoretically, if the Hawks extended Richard Panik’s contract at some point during the year, he would be an option to be taken, too.

A Kruger selection by Las Vegas would hurt — his cap hit is too high, but he’s still very valuable — but it also would open up a little more than $3 million a year, which the Hawks desperately need as they try to fit Panarin into their long-term plans.

AJ ‏@AirTrafficAJ

#HeyLaz Yield or No Code?

No Code is my favorite Pearl Jam album. Hail Hail, In My Tree, Smile, Off He Goes, Red Mosquito, Present Tense — man, what an album. Love Yield, too, and was lucky enough to hear it played front to back in Milwaukee last year.

Ryan K ‏@Roadkill823

Which arena is your favorite to visit in the league? #HeyLaz

Subjectively, I love seeing games at Madison Square Garden in New York, the Bell Centre in Montreal, and MTS Centre in Winnipeg. Objectively, I believe the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul is the best arena in the league.

KiKi ‏@Kiki0947

#HeyLaz do your wear ear protection at games to prevent hearing loss?

No, but I probably should. After hundreds of pregame warmups, I’m like an aging rock star after spending too many shows in front of the speakers.

Tom T. (via email)

What is the Hawks’ protocol for when they use Scott Darling instead of Crawford? Is it primarily when they have back-to-back games? What other considerations like density of schedule and hot-hand considerations go into it, if you are aware?

Crawford, like a lot of goalies, likes to play a lot. Remember, as a rookie in 2010-11, he made 36 straight starts, including seven back-to-back sets. That was unusual, obviously, but Darling rarely gets a start outside of back-to-back sets, or if Crawford is injured. Every now and then, if the schedule is extremely heavy and the matchup allows for it, Quenneville will give Crawford an extra start and use Darling outside of a back-to-back. But the basic rule of thumb is if Crawford is healthy and the Hawks aren’t playing for a second straight night, it’s his net.

Kevin Ford ‏@KFord1957

Crystal ball time! Where do you see this team, with these youngsters, in 3 years? #HeyLaz

Three years ago, the following people were on the Hawks roster at some point: Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Nick Leddy, Ben Smith, Michal Handzus, Johnny Oduya, Bryan Bickell, Brandon Bollig, Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Sheldon Brookbank, Peter Regin, Michael Kostka, Joakim Nordstrom, Matt Carey, Jimmy Hayes, Teuvo Teravainen, Brad Mills, David Rundblad, Nikolai Khabibulin, Antti Raanta and Kent Simpson.

So I have no idea.


Twitter: @marklazerus

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