Bob Foltman on the Hawks

I know about the upcoming league negotiations and Bill Wirtz's pocketbook being locked in a safe. But with the Hawks current injury problems with Zhamnov and Daze, couldn't the Hawks sign a one-year deal with any of the dozen or so unsigned free agents? Supposedly the Hawks like Sergei Berezin; he's available. Wouldn't Adam Oates or Adam Graves help boost our ability to score? I'm all for rebuilding with youth, but if the Hawks can't score enough to compete and we're hopelessly out of contention by the end of November, who will really care about the potential of Tuomo Ruutu? --Peter Mark, Dallas

Peter, I would think that of the three that you mentioned, Berezin would be the most help. But since we're almost a month into the season and he hasn't signed, I'm guessing he's either asking for too much money or too long a contract. Plus, Hawks GM Mike Smith does not want to bring someone in that is going to eat up ice-time for someone such as Igor Radulov, Pavel Vorobiev or Tyler Arnason. The problem that this organization has had for years is that it looks for quick fixes just to make the playoffs, instead of sticking to a rebuilding plan that may make them an elite team. It involves patience and perhaps another year of not making the playoffs.

Where is the Hawks' nastiness? This is hockey not figure skating! We obviously lack in overall talent when lined up against some of the more superior teams, so why not kick their butts? Check, check, check them until they have second thoughts about handling the puck. You don't see many receivers crossing the middle in football with their heads up, so why not instill the same "knock you out" mentality in hockey? --Karl Benjamin, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Karl, the lack of nastiness is certainly something that coach Brian Sutter has been lamenting as well. Aside from Ruutu, none of the top nine forwards are very physical. Scott Nichol is certainly a physical player and Ryan VandenBussche and Jason Strudwick are as well. But it can't be a waltz to the penalty box either, it has to be smart and physical and sometimes VandenBussche, Nichol and Strudwick cross the line.

Bob, this team obviously needs a couple of vets on defense. Why doesn't Smith make a run at Bryan Berard or someone else? The defense is going to hurt this team all year. Witness Atlanta [7-2 loss] on Oct. 18. --Mike Jackson, San Diego

Mike, Bryan Berard wants $2 million, which is why he's still sitting at home. Again, the Hawks are not going to go out and bring in someone who wants a two- or three-year contract that they are going to be stuck with when they have five solid defensive prospects in Norfolk. Anton Babchuk is going to be called up sometime this season. He is a future No. 1 defenseman. Duncan Keith, Michal Barinka and Vladmir Gusev are all waiting in Norfolk still learning the pro game and Brent Seabrook isn't that far off either. Be patient.

I visit my girlfriend in Chicago and she has eight nephews. None has interest in the Blackhawks, but are diehard White Sox and Bears fans. This HAS to do with no games on local TV. True? The Hawks are losing a chance to build a foundation of young fans. You NEED to get the games on local TV to gain support. --Paul Hayward, Riviera Beach, Md.

Paul, first of all, do they like hockey to begin with? Do they have an interest in other teams and watch games on ESPN? If so, then, yes, the home TV blackout can be a factor. But there are still about 46 Hawk games on TV this season. The policy is bad; no one will argue that. It severely damages the Hawks ability to market themselves, no question. But until they put a product on the ice that is consistently among the upper echelon in the league, having games on TV isn't going to change much. And as long as Bill Wirtz owns this team, home games are not going to be on TV.

Despite his All-Star appearance last season, I still feel that Jocelyn Thibault gets himself out of position too often when he goes down to block a shot. I would think that at this time his trade value would be at it's highest. Do you believe that he could be traded for a scoring forward and/or a #1 defenseman? Do you believe that a combo of Leighton/Anderson/Passmore would be sufficient for the Blackhawks this year? Maybe enough to get into the playoffs? --Woz, Brookfield, Ill.

Woz, I don't think it would have been a bad idea to trade Thibault over the summer and play Leighton and Anderson each 41 games this season. I don't think they could have gotten a bona fide No. 1 defenseman because teams don't trade those players. They are harder to find than good goaltenders. They possibly could have gotten a good young forward and maybe a No. 1 draft pick. Personally, I don't think the playoffs were an attainable goal this season, and as I've said, that's not such a bad thing. It's two or three years down the road that people have to watch.

Do you feel that the Hawks are getting on the right track with all the youngsters, or is this going to be another rebuilding process that gets us nowhere? --Brian Stock, San Diego

Brian, the only way to know if these kids are going to be good is to play them consistently. Right now, I think they are on the right track, but there is no way of knowing until they play a couple years together. The worst thing the Hawks can do right now is to feel they "must" make the playoffs this season. They made the playoffs two years ago and where did it get them? It takes time to build a consistently elite team and it involves developing a core group of players. That process has just begun and it's going to take a couple years. Will they become Stanley Cup contenders? Who knows? But this is the way it's done, not by going out and signing every free agent that's available.