Do you think that Nathan Dempsey will be a regular this year and will he get time on the power play? --Mike Spriggs, Markham, Ontario
Mike,I'm surprised Dempsey hasn't played more thus far. Along with Phil Housley he is the best skater on the Hawks' defensive corps, and with the way the games are being officiated, it's more important than ever to have a swift-skating blueline group.
Dempsey's not as strong on the defensive end as a Steve Poapst and he's not as physical, which is a trait that Brian Sutter likes to have in his D-men. The Hawks have eight defensemen, which is probably one too many and someone will likely go to Norfolk when Eric Daze returns.
I think the next two weeks, once the Hawks start playing more often, will determine which defenseman goes down. I'm sure Dempsey will be moved into the regular rotation. The question is, with Housley, is there a need for another offensive defenseman? That's a question Sutter and Mike Smith will have to answer.
I've read a lot about the promise and future of Tuomo Ruuttu. Since he won't be with the team this year, in your opinion who are some of the prospects who could be up with the Hawks this season and make a contribution? How far away are Radulov and Yakubov from contributing? --Ron Eisenhart, Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Ron,there are some people--I won't mention who but his picture appears on the right of this page--who wouldn't mind seeing Igor Radulov and Mikhail Yakubov in Chicago right now along with a couple other players that are in Norfolk.
It would surprise no one if both are up at some point toward the end of the season. But Mike Smith has made it clear that these two specifically are in Norfolk to learn how to play at the NHL level. They want them to be factors every night and on every shift and learn how to play defensively.
FYI: Yakubov was a healthy scratch the other night in Norfolk. Both are going to be NHL players, probably as early as next year. The Hawks don't feel they need to rush the process.
The Blackhawks are not on local TV? --Garry Pokin, Chicago
Garry,new in town? The Hawks were last on free local TV when the NHL was a quarter of the size it is now. They are still the only team in the league that doesn't televise their home games. When the Stadium was packed and even in the early years of the United Center when they were averaging over 20,000, it was hard to argue the philosophy, but professional sports doesn't have the same hold on the public it did even 10 years ago. There are too many other things to do for people and, at some point, the Hawks will have to market themselves the way other entertainment properties do and that will include a different philosophy regarding televising their games.
From watching the preseason games, it looked like Michael Leighton was playing better then both Thibault and Passmore. I understand that it was only the preseason, but if he keeps up his level of play, what are the chances of him being on the Hawks' roster by the end of the year? --Matt, Chicago
Matt,if Leighton continues to play in Norfolk the way he did in the preseason, it will put some pressure on both Thibault and Passmore. If those two play well, Leighton will stay put and go into next season having a legitimate right to fight for not only a roster spot but for the No. 1 job. Thibault will be in the last year of his contract next season. Should one falter this season, Leighton may get a call, but if he comes up, they want him to play and not sit on the bench.
Interesting spin on the Zhamnov captaincy. Isn't it accurate to say that 70 percent of the Hawks fans who voted wanted someone other than Zhamnov? --Jim Armstrong, Rockford, Ill.
Jim,that would be accurate. It would also be accurate to say that over 80 percent wanted someone other than Lyle Odelein, or Jon Klemm or someone else. Poll numbers can be twisted any way you'd like.
But the fact that just 70 percent wanted someone other than Zhamnov, as opposed to 90 or 95 percent, which would have been the case four or five years ago, is significant.
Thanks for the questions.