Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - United Center. First Period.
Patrick Kane moves toward the boards, and is tripped up falling awkwardly into said barrier. Gets up slowly, wincing in pain and is helped to the dressing room. He does not return to the game. Can anyone imagine the Blackhawks winning a championship without the league's leading scorer? Ugh.
|Patrick Kane (USA Today)|
Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - Advocate Center. News breaks during Hawks game.
Derrick Rose reports pain in his right knee. Further examination determines torn meniscus. Surgery. Out for an extended period of time, maybe the season. This after the news of Kane leaving the game is like a sucker punch to the "lower body". The Bulls, were tied for first in the Central Division with Cleveland. Now the former #1 pick and Chicago native Rose is out again. Double ugh.
|Derrick Rose (CBS Sports)|
Lets fast forward to present day, and what we know.
Kane had surgery to repair a broken left clavicle, and is out for up to 12 weeks. To those mathematically challenged like myself, it's 3 months. That means the playoffs could be in doubt for #88. Can the Hawks hoist the Stanley Cup without the dynamic scorer. I think we need to delve into that.
The placement of Kane on long term injury (LTI) allows GM Stan Bowman a little more cap flexibility. Without getting into the technical finances, Bowman can now acquire a player that maybe he couldn't have before the injury. While I'd rather have Kane than some of the other names out there, at least the Hawks can try to better themselves in the meantime. According to "The Fourth Period" the Hawks remain interested in Arizona winger Antoine Vermette and Calgary forward Curtis Glencross. Vermette has scored 13 goals, and has 22 assists good for 35 points. Glencross has 9 goals and 19 assists for 28 points. The two players combined have one less point, 63, than Kane has 64 (27 goals, 37 assists). Both players are 32 years old.
Even if the Hawks don't acquire a little scoring help, they do have a talented roster. Think of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and now with Kris Versteeg stepping up the scoring punch, it may not be as devastating as we thought. It will come down to shoring up the defense to me.
The Hawks have fire power with the above mentioned names, but the blue line to me has been the problem and disappointment to this time in the season. I wish I had a dollar for every Johnny Oduya turnover in the middle of the ice. I'll take a quarter for each of the David Runblad miscues as well. I might be able to have a nice night on the town with those two windfalls. The other defensive key for the Hawks to sustain themselves in the absence of Kane is goaltending. Corey Crawford will need to be somewhere between where he's playing now, and the guy that guided the Hawks to the Stanley Cup in 2013 (should have been the Conn Smythe winner).
Obviously this will be a tough road to the Cup without Kane, but I wouldn't ever bet against the grit and determination of Toews, and the coaching ability of Joel Quenneville. The West is tough, so getting there will not be easy. I'm still a glass half full guy.
Now as far as Rose is concerned, am I the only one who feels like the team will be ok without him? Come on, the core of this team (Gibson, Butler, Noah) have probably played more games without Rose than with him over the last few years, and have been able to contend in the East. These guys are more used to seeing Rose in a suit, than suited up to play with them. This should not be a mental blow, this should be a "same old song" situation for the group.
This year the team has a little more inside presence with Pau Gasol and his constant double-doubles, and a more efficient Jimmy Butler, who is averaging over 20 points a game. Tony Snell is starting to emerge, Aaron Brooks is adding 10 points a game and Nikola Mirotic is starting to find his stride in the NBA. There is talk of adding Nate Robinson to the mix, the guy that starred for the Bulls in the 2012-2013 season, was bought out by the Celtics and is a free agent.
As I stated with the Hawks, the Bulls will have to find a way to compensate for Rose's scoring ability, but it's the defense that has been a disappointment for the team this season. The Bulls are giving up 98.7 points per game, which is just 12th in the NBA. Tom Thibodeau has stressed defense since he took over the Bulls, and the highest opponent's points per game a team under Thib's has allowed is 92.9, in 2012. Defense to me will be a bigger priority for this team if it wants to win the conference and get into the NBA championship picture.
Obviously you'd rather have a guy like Rose in your lineup to compete with the LeBron James' of the world, but he may not be there. Rose has not had a track record of returning early from injury, so let's just say he's out for the season, something that could be a reality. It's a reality that is far too real to Bulls fans.
Hang in there fans, and remember if it gets too tough for you to take, and the Hawks and Bulls go into a tailspin without their two superstars, baseball season starts in a little over a month!
Andy Masur is a freelance broadcaster with over 15 years of MLB and NCAA Hoops play-by-play to his credit. Andy is an amateur photographer and occasional blogger. You can follow Andy on twitter at @Andy_Masur1 and keep up to date with him on his personal website, www.andy-masur.com.