DeJordy proved last season that he is an excellent goalie, but he is the type who needs work. Hall could probably hold out for two years and retain his great reflexes; DeJordy must sharpen his with action. Since missing camp he has been sharpening up in regular games at the team's expense, and he has become the most maligned hockey player in Chicago. As a result, Denis has lost much of his natural enthusiasm and humor.
"I'm more tense," he admits, "knowing that Glenn is gone and I have to play every game. Last year if one of us felt tight, he could go to Billy and sit out a few games. Now I can't. And I know what people are saying about me. But, don't worry; I'll have an answer for them—at the right time."
The right time should arrive when the Hawks' best offensive weapon, the Scooter Line, finally begins producing. The early season has been a nightmare for hockey's Most Valuable Player, Center Stan Mikita. Last year, when he tied the NHL point-scoring record (97), Stan got five goals and 11 assists in the first nine games. After nine games this year he had exactly one assist. And last week this man, who collected $11,000 in award money in the spring, found $500 deducted from his paycheck—a fine for indifferent play. Left Wing Mohns has been badly hurt and has played little, and Wharram alone is very good but not a one-man line.
Bobby Hull is a one-man line when he has to be. He has done everything possible to carry his club. He contributes his goal per game, and with any help at all he could get the Hawks going. Even if his efforts remain futile he seems certain to break his own record of 54 goals. The longer schedule and weaker opponents in the new division make 60 goals seem likely and 70 quite possible.
But behind Hull everything has gone sour, and Reay has been forced to juggle his lines constantly to combat injuries and ineffectiveness. Unfortunately, the Hawks are peculiarly set in their styles; they are not the kind of players who will work equally well in any combination. When Eric Nesterenko was needed on Bobby's line, for example, younger brother Dennis Hull had trouble on the third line without veteran Eric's passes. Mikita, who likes to work clever passes to both sides, cannot center for Bobby, who needs many passes to his side. Other forwards have similar difficulties switching lines—but Reay has no choice. He has to try something.
When Bobby's right wing, Chico Maki, recovers from an appendectomy in a few weeks, things should improve. When Mikita and Mohns hit their stride, when Marotte learns more and Matt Ravlich comes back to aid the defense, the Hawks should again be a good team. But not a superior one. There are big holes, especially on the third line, and there is no one to fill them. For the first time in years, the Chicago farm system has come up dry. "The kids have been the biggest disappointment," said one veteran. "If it weren't for expansion, not one of them would be in the NHL." The rookies have not only been ineffective but also annoyingly docile. "You expect kids to at least be hungry," said another Hawk. "But do you know that not one of them even hit anybody in camp?"
The Chicago team leaders are so good that they may be able to carry the weak members, but the entire Eastern Division of the NHL is improved enough to scare the Hawks a little. "When I argued about my salary with Ivan," said Pit Martin, "I said I wanted what I would have been paid in Boston. He said I could take less because here I would be sure to get the playoff money for the next few years. Right now I wonder how sure he is about making the playoffs." Martin hesitated. "Come to think of it," he said after a moment, "how sure can any of us be?"