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24 CHICAGO Blackhawks
Kostya Kennedy
October 08, 2001
Coach Brian Sutter, an exacting man who took over the job last spring, has both a pessimistic side and a gift for hyperbole, traits that led him to arrive at training camp last month and declare, "There is nothing that has gone on here that is acceptable."
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October 08, 2001

24 Chicago Blackhawks

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Insider

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

FORWARDS

15

Top six have tons of ability; then a big drop-off

DEFENSE

26

Klemm will help, but still not enough talent

GOALTENDING

28

Thibault must control rebounds better

SPECIAL TEAMS

21

Plenty of firepower, but PP needs a quarterback

MANAGEMENT

18

New coach Sutter should get underachievers going

Coach Brian Sutter, an exacting man who took over the job last spring, has both a pessimistic side and a gift for hyperbole, traits that led him to arrive at training camp last month and declare, "There is nothing that has gone on here that is acceptable."

Sutter wasn't referring to his team's history, which was quite acceptable as recently as the 1996-97 season. Since then, however, the mismanaged Hawks have failed to reach the playoffs and have had eight coaches. Nothing has worked. Two years ago, under blustery coach Lorne Molleken, the goon-heavy Blackhawks beat the tar out of everyone, amassed the second-highest penalty-minute total in the NHL and lost 39 games. Last year, under soft-tempered Alpo Suhonen, the Hawks treated opponents too gently, allowed a conference-high 246 goals and lost 40 games. Says general manager Mike Smith of Suhonen's brief reign, "We were an easy team to play against."

That also means "not hard to beat," a description the Blackhawks will fit again. While Sutter has reintroduced a hard-hitting style ("Recess is over," says right wing Tony Amonte), Chicago did little to improve in the off-season. Only a nifty collection of skilled forwards that includes Amonte (34 goals last year) and right wing Steve Sullivan (34) provides any reason for optimism.

Goalie Jocelyn Thibault, 26, has eye-catching acrobatic skills, but his inconsistency resulted in an .895 save percentage last year, the worst among full-time starting goalies. Once again Thibault will try to overcome an inadequate defense, a Hawks weakness that was underscored by their off-season signing of Jon Klemm, formerly of the Avalanche. Klemm brings the rough checking style that Sutter favors, but he has difficulty clearing the puck and is better suited to a supporting role than to being the linchpin Chicago wants him to be. The Hawks have less confidence in Boris Mironov, who last year bumbled to a five-goal, 17-assist,-14 performance. As Chicago's season unraveled, fans heckled Mironov mercilessly. Sutter tried to come to Mironov's defense last month but could muster only what, at best, was a backhanded compliment: "Boris was no worse than the rest of the team last year."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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