As the All-Star break ends and the Blackhawks hit the home stretch, let’s dive right into the questions.
#HeyLaz What’s the biggest thing the Hawks must do to make it to/stay alive in the playoffs?
Well, making the playoffs isn’t a concern. Never really was, because, frankly, the Central Division isn’t quite as amazing as we all thought it was going to be. Winnipeg is really disappointing. I thought for sure that there would be six genuine playoff-level teams in the Central, but it’s just not the case.
As for staying alive in the playoffs, I still think they need a little more depth at forward. If they can somehow land a top-six forward, preferably a left wing (I might be alone on this, but I think Kris Versteeg is a really intriguing option who can fit right in), that would allow Andrew Shaw to move back to his more traditional role on the third or fourth line. Not that Shaw hasn’t been good on the top line — he absolutely has been — but his presence on the wing among the bottom-six makes the Hawks a better team. Think about how crucial that fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Shaw was during the postseason last year.
If the Hawks can’t bring in a top-six winger, they still need a depth forward. Even with Kruger due to come back around the start of the postseason (remember, he can also play wing if the Hawks want to stick with Dennis Rasmussen on the fourth line; Phil Danault isn’t going anywhere), you don’t want to be leaning on Richard Panik and Jiri Sekac in key roles. They should be the fallback options, not the first choices.
I got plenty of questions about the trade deadline. Hopefully that answers most of them.
Emily Seto @emmers712
Is Rob Scuderi capable of playing playoff-level defense for the Hawks as needed this year? #HeyLaz
The key to your question is “as needed.” If all goes according to plan, and everyone stays healthy, it’s unlikely Scuderi sees much ice time, if any, during the playoffs. Michal Rozsival proved in 2013 and again in the first two rounds last year that he’s a gamer, and come the postseason, is a solid third-pairing guy. Having him rotate with Scuderi for the next few months will keep Rozsival fresh for the playoffs, when the Hawks likely will lean on him every game.
And besides, the Hawks won the Stanley Cup with four defensemen last year. The third pairing, whoever is on it, won’t be asked to shoulder a heavy load.
Aladdin Sane @crazylenny
#HeyLaz I don’t think I’ve ever seen your Twitter banner before. What’s the backstory on the prop plane flight? Looks fun!
That’s from a few years ago, back in my Post-Tribune days. The Gary Air Show would always invite a few local journalists to take flights and write about the experience as a way of hyping the show. That was me in a Soviet-era Yak. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done. We did barrel rolls, loops, and a sudden aborted landing about 10 feet off the ground, peeling off, up and away. It was amazing. My friend, Guy Rhodes, a brilliant photographer, was in another Yak, and got that picture of me.
christine perry @christinep401
If you could send any non-all-star player to the all-star game, who would it be? ie: John Scott #HeyLaz
This isn’t in the spirit of the John Scott thing, but I’d like to see Niklas Hjalmarsson get in. He might just be the best defensive defenseman in the NHL — at the very least, he’s in the conversation. Jon Cooper said it best in Tampa: You don’t realize how good he is until you play against him (or, in my case, see him play every night).
Kate from Perth @illieface
#HeyLaz would you ever come to [Australia] to cover the hockey exhibitions games we have here in the offseason if a chance came up?
If you’re paying, I’m on my way.
rosy pi rate @rosy_pirate
#HeyLaz Do you think the Blackhawks will host a You Can Play Night or do something similar to the Oilers’ #PrideTape, too?
I haven’t inquired about it, but I’d certainly love to see it. It’s terrific to see the NHL on the forefront when it comes to inclusion in sports.
Matt Mosconi @mosconml
@MarkLazerus #HeyLaz what does Q think of Panik and Sekac? They seem promising but I’m afraid they could quickly enter the Q doghouse.
I also got a lot of questions about the two new guys, so I’ll try to answer them in one shot.
Even after scoring in consecutive games, Richard Panik certainly didn’t endear himself to Quenneville by oversleeping and missing the bus to the morning skate in Florida last week. Quenneville was barely able to contain his disgust, and it can be difficult for a player to reverse a negative first impression. It’s far too early to tell with Sekac, especially considering he didn’t travel to Carolina because of an illness. Remember, he was basically acquired in a cap-move, as Stan Bowman freed himself from one more year of Ryan Garbutt’s contract. He wasn’t acquired to be a difference-maker. If he proves to be one, that’s just a bonus.
I look at it this way. If the Hawks are expecting a couple of castoffs from other teams to put them over the top, then they’re in trouble. There are enough options within the organization, and there is enough cap space to work with, that Panik and Sekac should be complementary role players, at most. If they end up surprising us all, hey, that’s great. But anything else is unrealistic.
#HeyLaz how do the Hawks decide who goes head-to-head in the battle drills? Is it coaches pick or is it a name out of a hat type?
They basically just line up in two columns, and whoever you get, you get. Bryan Bickell has joked about counting the guys ahead of him to make sure he doesn’t draw Marian Hossa. Because nobody’s beating Marian Hossa in a battle drill. Even in practice.
Janet Miller @TUSoccerMom
#heylaz How much trust has Q given TVR in placing him with 32 & 47 on rotation.
I think Quenneville is more comfortable with Trevor van Riemsdyk on that third pairing than he was with him on the second pairing. The fact that Quenneville was so quick to elevate Erik Gustafsson ahead of van Riemsdyk is proof of that. With three workhorses in Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook, it’s not hard for Quenneville to shelter his third pairing, and put them in favorable situations during games. Van Riemsdyk is young, and still technically a rookie. There’s a lot to like about him looking forward. He’s a good No. 5. He wasn’t yet a great No. 4.
#HeyLaz I know the outcome of games don’t matter to you, but isn’t it more fun to cover a team who win as much as the Hawks do?
Well, it goes both ways. If the Hawks are winning, it means more people are excited about them, which means more people are reading my stories. As a raging egomaniac, I’m all for that. And even after the long grind of a regular season, covering the playoffs is always a blast. I’ve been very fortunate to cover three straight Stanley Cup finals.
The flip side, of course, is that dominant teams tend to be relatively drama-free. And as a sportswriter, that can get a little dull. The Hawks have been so good for so long now, that it’d be disingenuous of me to try to make to big of a big deal out of what we all know from experience are mere minor bumps in the road (like an occasionally struggling power play, or three losses in four games, or an ever-tinkering head coach). And I won’t lie, during the Hawks’ 12-game win streak, I started to run out of interesting ways to approach games. It was basically, ho hum, another one.
I’ve covered all sorts of teams at just about every level. Pretty good is fun. Truly awful is fun in its own way, because it’s usually utter chaos. Dominant can be fun, but can get old. The only thing you really don’t want is to cover a team just on the bad side of mediocre — when there’s no real hope for the team or the fans, but they’re not bad enough to be interesting. They’re just… there. That’s just as much a purgatory for a beat writer as it is for a fan.
#HeyLaz Kings in 7 again this year?
Well, we’ll see what the prediction will be if it comes to that. But it’s getting tougher and tougher to imagine the Western Conference coming down to anything other than Hawks-Kings. The Dallas Stars are going to be real good for a real long time, but I think they’re in that 2008-09 Hawks mode, where they might need a year of postseason experience to take that next step. Can they beat the Hawks four times in seven games? Maybe. But as of now, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Kings-Hawks? Now that’s a true toss-up. The rubber match. I’ll say this much: If it does come down to that, and it’s half as amazing as the 2014 Western Conference final was, we’re in for a treat.
Josh Cooper @JoshuaCooper
#heylaz, How amazing is the Mets’ re-signing of Yoenis?
I believe the proper spelling is Amazin’, Josh.
Carlos A @CAA_50
Thoughts on Crawford and the Vezina trophy? Possible contender? Could he finally be considered elite? #HeyLaz
The narrative is slowly shifting on Crawford. I’ve mentioned this before, but in the fall of 2013, three months after Crawford won a Stanley Cup, a radio host in Toronto asked me if the Hawks could win a Stanley Cup with Corey Crawford in net. I was flabbergasted. Over the past two seasons, Chicago has finally come around on Crawford, and he has only a handful of delusional detractors among the Hawks fan base. After he won a second Cup last spring, the hockey world outside of Chicago seemed to grudgingly accept that he’s actually a pretty darn good goaltender. And over the past two months, he’s started to work his way into that Vezina discussion. It’s easy to say Crawford has been the beneficiary of playing behind one of the best shot-suppressing teams in hockey. But anyone who saw him repeatedly bail out his teammates throughout December and January knows better.
The Vezina is Braden Holtby’s to lose, and rightfully so. Roberto Luongo can make a strong case, too. But Crawford has forced his way into the discussion, and if he keeps this up, could find himself a finalist in the spring.
William L @willseph83
#HeyLaz what’s your favorite meal when on the road? Also, best food city?
This is way too difficult a question. Top lunch spots are Cossetta in St. Paul (chickenparm sandwich), Sam LaGrassa’s in Boston (anything), and Hobby’s Deli (pastrami sandwich and matzo ball soup) in Newark. Top dinner spots are secret. Sorry. Scour my Twitter feed and you might find a few of them.
But honestly? My favorite meal when I’m on the road? Pizza Suprema near Madison Square Garden. You might find me there for lunch and dinner every day I’m in New York. Not just real pizza. The best real pizza.
Kayla Marie Carbone @BigTimeKayla
Top 3 favorite songs from @HamiltonMusical? Or top 5 because let’s be real, they’re all great. #HeyLaz
Why not ask me which of my kids I like best? Jeez. OK, fine. Here are my top five, based on how much I enjoy singing along to them (I’ve been laughed at at a red light more than a few times while spitting out, “I’m past patiently waiting, I’m passionately smashing every expectation, every action’s an act of creation!”
1. Wait For It
(All my life, my dream job has been to sing Javert’s “Stars” on Broadway. It has company now.)
2. Right-Hand Man
4. Washington On Your Side
5. My Shot
There’s like a 20-way tie for sixth, by the way. You’re a monster for making me choose.
#heylaz you thought Panarin would score around 15 goals and 25 assists, do you think anyone saw him being this successful?
Certainly not, including the Hawks. Everyone knew he had talent, but it usually takes time for that talent to translate in the bigger, stronger, faster, tighter NHL. Panarin didn’t have a training camp, didn’t speak the language, and didn’t have any experience on an NHL ice surface. And he’s been brilliant. I think the most surprising thing is how competent he is defensively. I kind of assumed he was an all-offense guy based on the reports, and that he’d be a liability defensively. But he isn’t. Yes, he benefits from playing on a line with Patrick Kane. But Kane has benefitted just as much from playing on a line with Panarin. They complement each other beautifully. You can tell they just think the game the same way.
loaded gun @keithbroook
#HeyLaz quietest nhl arena?
It’s a cop-out answer, but it truly depends on the game. I’ve been to games in Glendale that were jumping like crazy with Hawks fans in town for spring training, and I’ve been to games in Glendale that were quiet as a library. Same can be said for BB&T Center in Florida and PNC Arena in Carolina and just about anywhere else. The Hawks-Leafs game in Toronto a couple weeks ago was deathly silent. And the United Center tends to be morgue-like for much of the first period, unless the Hawks score early. Its cavernous nature doesn’t help. I honestly think the national anthem takes so much out of the crowd that they have nothing left for the opening minutes of the game. It’s a weird thing. Like just about any arena, it really just depends on the game.
Mike Young @MichaelT_24
Do you think Zoolander 2 will be dumb enough to be considered a decent sequel to the epic first one? #heylaz #schoolforants
I love the original Zoolander so much, that I’m both petrified and excited to see the new one. Anchorman 2 was a disappointment. Dumb And Dumber To was pretty awful. I’m wary. Hopeful, but wary.
#HeyLaz would the NHL and NHPLA ever considered expanding the roster / cap in the spring like baseball does in September?
That’s already the case. There is no salary cap in the playoffs. It’s why the Hawks were able to trade for Antoine Vermette and still activate Patrick Kane for the first round. The roster sheet in the playoffs is often comically long, with all the Black Aces called up from the minors to get a taste of playoff life listed among the scratches.
Do the new players go through a “intro to media 101” course because they all seem to have the buzz words down. #HeyLaz
I’m not sure if the Hawks provide media coaching every year, but they have done it in the past. It’s why players know to always wear a Hawks cap during an interview, and always have a shirt on when a camera is present. At some point in their hockey careers, most players have received some level of media training at the junior level, college level, or pro level. But here’s an interesting look at how the culture of the sport breeds blandness.
Emily Seto @emmers712
When the team is traveling, does someone organize meals & off-ice hangouts and/or do players each do their own things? #HeyLaz
The players do their own things, for the most part, usually going out in groups of three or four. If they’re visiting a team with an old teammate on it, sometimes the dinners can get a little larger. There are rookie dinners and other team-bonding nights, but for the most part, the players are generally left to their own devices when it comes to going out.
Am I the only who holds their breath when the goalie goes behind the net to play the puck? #HeyLaz
Hardly. It’s only a matter of time before the Hawks tether their goalies to the goalposts like Milhouse.
Patricia Heins @pattiheins
#heylaz how long was Panarin in KHL? I’ve read 2 to 8 (!) years
He spent parts of seven seasons in the KHL, including five full seasons. Remember, he’s 24 years old, and he was 18 when he first reached the KHL. It’s one reason Detroit Red Wings fans are miffed that Panarin is considered a rookie, when fellow Calder Trophy candidate Dylan Larkin is five years younger than him.
J Dub @TheFijiWolf
#HeyLaz Why don’t all NHL teams pay salaries in US dollars so we don’t have stupid cap uncertainty related to exchange rates?
All NHL players are paid in American dollars. The problem is, much of the revenue comes from Canada, in terms of ticket sales and TV deals. And that money is Canadian. So when the loonie is devalued, it makes a dent in the all-important hockey-related revenue.
#HeyLaz 16 different varieties of Klondike bars at the local Jewel but no Pucks. Any you recommend?
No. Until Klondike brings the glory and majesty of the Klondike Puck to the United States, I believe all Americans should boycott them completely. This is not a moment, it’s the movement.