The trading of Robert Lang has hung a cloud of uncertainty over the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2008 preseason. What was supposed to be a time of anticipation and great expectations has been overrun in the night by questions and a fear of the unknown.
Trading Lang was a big move. A veteran presence and a great center, Lang was supposed to be an integral part of the Blackhawks' supposed success in the 2008-2009 season. The initial shock of the trade has many ‘Hawks fans questioning the move by GM Dale Talon.
But when the dust clears, many will see a new face of the Blackhawks—something directly stemming from the trade of Robert Lang.
All ‘Hawks fans remember the turning point of the previous season. Denny Savard’s ‘Commit to the Indian’ speech was a call to arms for all members of the Chicago Blackhawks to get back to playing hockey the Chicago way—physical, blue-collar, grinding hockey first, fancy skill hockey second.
That’s how Savard played, and he wants everyone who honors the legacy of the Chicago Blackhawks by putting on the sweater to play that way.
What most don’t remember about that speech is that there were two players, not called out by name, that were obviously the targets of the tirade. Only one of them remains—and many in Chicago believe that his days are also numbered.
Robert Lang was one of those players. The problem was that he didn’t honestly believe he was part of that selective group. But Denny Savard had put the writing on the wall, and then out in the open. The trade was a culmination of Lang’s time in Chicago. He was not a Denny Savard player—and for Savard and Tallon, it is their way or the highway.
Lang was an alternate captain last year, yet at the beginning of the season, Jonathan Toews—who can’t buy a beer in the US—was named captain. Most knew that this was going to happen after Toews became the vocal leader of the team, specifically by calling players out during a loss to Florida—but the subtext of the situation was that Denny Savard took a 20-year old with one year of NHL experience to lead his team over a 37 year old highly respected veteran.
Savard wants his captain to lead by example on the ice as well as leading in the dressing room. Lang might be the elder statesman—but his style of hockey was, again, a complete clash with the Hockey Hall of Famer’s.
This leaves the Blackhawks in a situation with two number-one goalies, no number-two center, and a clear decree of the type of hockey that is going to be played in Chicago from here on out. With the talent the Blackhawks have, the Lang trade might turn out to be genius—but for now, uncertainties remain.
Bolland, Kontiola and Aliu will battle it out for the second-line center spot, with the second-place finisher sequestered to the third line and third place given a bus trip to Rockford.
But the real beauty of the situation is that the players know what kind of play they have to exhibit to make the team. This trade was a firm kick in the ass for the Blackhawks youth and veterans alike. Savard has put down his foot—and if you don’t like where it is placed, Denny has a plane ticket out of town waiting for you.
It’s a new era of Blackhawks hockey on the west side of Chicago. But before the grand unveiling can happen at the madhouse on Madison, Denny Savard is holding rehearsals at training camp. Only the tough and angry need try out.