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Hey, Bob, don't you think that blaming Alex Zhamnov and Alexander Karpovtsev in recent discussions is unfair and based on the simple fact that they are not North Americans? Zhamnov is the only world-class player in Chicago. Granted, he doesn't score too many goals, but that's simply because he has major defensive responsibilities. Any coach he played for thanks the Almighty for having him on his team. Recently, Scotty Bowman singled him out as one of the best centers on the team. And still some people want him out. Are you kidding me? And Karpovtsev is injured so often because he blocks shots for the TEAM. Any North American would be praised for that. Sutter plays him in every critical situation. Now let's look at Steve McCarthy's stats: 126 games played, 3 goals, 12 assists, -12 rating. I didn't hear a single word of disapproval from the fans about him. --Steve, Huntsville, Ala.
Steve, let's start with Zhamnov. He's the Hawks highest-paid player at $4.5 million this season. Would you consider him someone that can dominate a game? Someone that can put a team on his back and lift it to victory? Look at the numbers. Since his rookie year, they have gone down nearly every season. He is a perfect No. 2 center, excellent defensively and very good offensively. He is miscast as a No. 1 and he knows it. This isn't entirely his fault as he's being asked to replace one of the all-time fan favorites in Jeremy Roenick. That's not easy, especially for someone as private as Zhamnov. But, he's the captain of this team. Where was he last season when the Mironov episode happened? He didn't want to talk about it. Where was he when the Fleury incident happened in Columbus? What part did he play in keeping the team together? Apparently not much. Then he's arrested for DUI last March and he's yet to make a statement or apologize for that. More needs to be expected from a captain and the highest-paid player on the team. If he doesn't want that responsibility, then give up the captaincy and take a pay cut. Until then, he needs to be held to a higher standard and it doesn't matter what nationality he is.
As far as Karpovtsev, he has yet to play more than 65 games in a season since coming to Chicago. He makes $3.1 million. Again, no one held a gun to the Hawks' head to sign him. But he's making the money. He refuses to play hurt, whether the injury is major or not. That annoys some of his teammates. Yes, he blocks shots. But sometimes discretion is better than valor. He is a good defensively, but everyone knows that it's just a matter of time before he's going to be out a week or two with some ailment that other players would play through. I'm not being critical because he's not North American. I could care less where players come from, as long as they play hard and try to earn their money.
Hey Bob, could you tell me whatever became of Big Bob Probert -- the most exciting hockey player of all time? The last I heard was that he had to go into a NHL sponsored rehab center last year. I hope he knows that all of his fans miss his style of play, and we wish him well in life and in his recovery. Thanks. -- Jeffery Ford, East Lansing, Mich.
Jeffery, last I heard, Probie moved back to Windsor and is doing some scouting of junior teams. Since he is not an active player, his U.S. visa is no longer valid and his legal troubles in the past keep him from entering the States.
Why is the Hawks power play so poor every year? Is it Sutter? Savard? --Bob Rose, Princeton, N.J.
Bob, a major problem is the philosophy--trying too hard for the perfect play instead of just getting the puck on net and looking for rebounds. A major problem is the people playing it. They don't have a Doug Wilson-type quarterback out there on the blueline. Steve Sullivan is probably better suited along the half-boards. The hope is that Bryan Berard can be the QB, but he's going to need some help.
Hello Bob. It was a short time ago I e-mailed you regarding Deron Quint. I have not heard about him lately. If he were able to get more playing time he would be able to produce some results, but if he does not play how can he put up the numbers? He led the Blue Jackets for two years in ice time and look at his numbers. --Tom Schulte, Rochester, N.H.
Tom, last season, Quint had 17 points in over 50 games in Phoenix--not exactly Norris Trophy numbers. He hasn't shown much in practice to force his way into the lineup and he hasn't done much when he's in the lineup to keep him there.
Bob, I know the Hawks need some offensive weapons, however, I also believe they need a big enforcer. Do you think Jody Shelley could be pried away from Columbus? I think Chicago fans would really take to him (not to mention his smaller teammates). --Van VanDeWalker, Macon, Ga.
Van, I'm not sure that fighting is as much a factor in today's game that they have to go out and get someone like Shelley. Obviously you would like to have someone that can play a little as well. I think Mark Bell kind of fills that role. Jody Shelley would play, what, 5-6 minutes a game? How much would he contribute other than fighting? I don't think it would be much.
Hi Bob. I am sure Tuomo Ruutu will live up to all of the hype of signing with the Blackhawks. But, being somewhat new to the NHL, I can't figure out why some of the rookies who have done really well don't get more attention/press. For instance, Brett McLean had to work his way up the ranks to get a shot at the NHL. From what I've learned, most kids that have to go through all of the levels of minor leagues never get that chance. But, it seems he and others have gotten overlooked because they were not high draft picks. Is that really how things work? --Nancy Yovan, Avon, Ohio
Nancy, in some aspects, yes, that's how it works. High draft picks get the benefit of the doubt and the attention because they have done something in their junior career to warrant it. That's not to say the Brett McLeans or Travis Moens of the world should be ignored. But, how good the Hawks are going to be in the coming years is going to depend a lot more on how Ruutu develops than on how McLean progresses. McLean will play a role, but as not big.
What's the deal with Bryan Berard's eye? Can he see out of the one eye? Is he legally blind in the one eye? Just curious. It makes for an interesting story and could be inspirational for some. --Chris, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Chris, Brian is basically playing world-class hockey in the best league in the world with one eye. It is an amazing story just to make it back to the NHL, let alone play as well as he does.
Bob, is there a hockey writer in this city who'll ever drum up the courage to ask Brian Sutter why he lavishes ice time on Karpovtsev and, now, Igor Korolev? These are two of the poorest players in the NHL -- let alone on the Hawks. Yet, for some reason, Sutter is never compelled to defend his treatment of Karpovtsev as a No. 1 defenseman and his egregious award of significant power-play time to Korolev, who ranks among the team's least creative and least effective forwards. You watch this team every night, aren't you as perplexed as the fans? --John L., Chicago
John, yes, very perplexed. I have asked and I've reported Brian's answers. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, on a team full of inexperienced players, Korolev and Karpovtsev have been around the block a couple hundred times. I have no problem with Karpovtsev playing a regular shift on defense. I don't like him on the power play. Korolev is a fourth-line center who should get 2-3 shifts a period and maybe some penalty-killing time, unless they can find someone better. That's just my opinion.
The Hawks are having trouble scoring goals, and every time Jeremy Roenick is in town he talks about how much he loved being a Blackhawk. What are the chances of seeing him in a Hawk uniform now that Mike Smith is gone? --Randy Folta, Houston
Randy, I wouldn't hold your breath on that happening again. But you never know. If J.R. wanted to end his career where it began and Dale Tallon and he can come to some sort of agreement in a couple years, it may happen. I think it would be a long shot though.
Bob, I recently was watching a game and saw a penalty shot called on a play when the player was tripped but was able to get a shot on goal. I thought one of the qualifications for a penalty shot was that the player was prevented from shooting? --Bob, Crystal Lake, Ill.
Bob, calling penalty shots is a discretionary call. The criteria are that a player must be denied "a reasonable chance to score." He could still get a shot off, but the referee can decide that he would have gotten a better shot had he not been hooked, tripped or slashed.