I hate to pick on one guy, but besides his size, what good does Mark Bell bring to the team? He takes bad penalties, has poor shot selection, and seems lazy and out of position often. Shouldn't he be in front of the net instead of Fleury or Sullivan? How about bringing up Arx, Valk, or one of the Russians? He needs a wake up call! -- Gregg Neibauer, Cincinnati
Gregg, I hate to disagree with you, but I think Mark Bell has turned into a serviceable player. He's become a dependable penalty killer, has some scoring ability and is one of the few guys on this team willing to drop his gloves and protect a teammate. He's a third-line guy, no question about it, but there are other players on this team that I would move first. As for bringing up other guys--I'm all for seeing what Igor Radulov and Mikhail Yakubov can do at the NHL level. Yakubov has to improve his work habits. Garry Valk has nothing left and if you mean Reto Van Arx, he's no longer in the organization. Plus, Bell would have to clear waivers in order to go to Norfolk and I doubt that would happen.
With the trade deadline looming (March 11) and the Hawks desperately in need of more offense, do you see the team possibly pulling a deal for Jerome Iginla of Calgary since Alexei Kovalev is obviously out of the question? -- Desmond Dozier, Chicago
Desmond, the short answer is no. I'm afraid as an organization, the Hawks don't have the vision to see what a player like Iginla can mean for this team, nor the guts to make the deal. The Hawks certainly have the kind of players that Calgary is looking for and as much as I like Steve McCarthy, Kyle Clader and Mark Bell, those kind of players can be developed. Players such as Iginla are special and don't come around very often. I would even part with one of the so-called prospects. The Hawks can talk all they want about how Tuomo Ruutu is going to be a great player, but all it is is talk, and they haven't backed it up by even signing him. He's still an unknown, Iginla is proven. Plus, if there is concern over the contract, it only has one year left. He'll make $7.5 million next season. No question that's a lot of money. But would you rather give the money to a proven scorer who can also hit and be a franchise player--he's just 25--or give it to two or three players that are underachieving? And with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming, he may end up being a $4.5-5 million player.
What are the chances of the Hawks making a move for someone like Sean Burke to spell Thibault once in a while during the playoff run? What about some players like Ziggy Palffy (Kings) or Kristian Huselius (Panthers) to improve the scoring in case Daze doesn't make it back 100 percent? --Phil, St. Louis
Phil, much of my previous answer can apply to your question as well. I don't expect the Hawks to be buyers at the deadline. The way things are going, I'm expecting them to try and unload some veterans--Phil Housley, Lyle Odelein perhaps--that will probably not be back next season anyway.
Am I the only one that has noticed the Hawks recent decline correlates with the return of Jon Klemm? The Hawks had a 14-game point streak with Klemm out of the lineup. What have they done since? Instead of sitting McCarthy, I believe it's time for Klemm to sit. Do you agree? Thanks for your time. -- Rich Ott, Surprise, Ariz.
Rich, it's an interesting observation that I hadn't thought of until you mentioned it. Klemm has had a so-so year at best. Clearly he's not a No. 1 defenseman capable of playing 25-30 minutes a night. The Hawks don't have someone like that and need to look for that kind of player in the draft and develop one. Maybe it's Anton Babchuk. As for sitting him instead of a Steve McCarthy, I think Steve McCarthy should be playing every night somewhere between 17-20 minutes. But Brian Sutter, despite what he says, appears to have a short-leash on the younger players while giving his veterans the benefit of all the doubts.
In a recent column, you mentioned a debate in the Hawks' front office about whether Leighton or Andersson is a better goaltending prospect. Could you please expand on that and give us your view? -- Jim Schwartz, Huntington Woods, Mich.
At least publicly, every time Michael Leighton is mentioned to Mike Smith, he's quick to say that they're not sure who is going to be a better NHL goalie--Leighton or Andersson. Andersson played four periods at the NHL level, but Sutter has talked about how well he played. Jim, they may be saying that just to keep a fire lit under Leighton, who they think may have slipped a bit reading all his glowing reviews. Or they may actually believe Andersson is as good a prospect. If that's the case, then it's hard to explain why Andersson played four periods and Leighton played five games. But there are a lot of things about this season that are hard to explain.