Michael Wagner's Chicago Blackhawks Q&A Series: Chris Kuc

Michael Wagner@MichaelDWagnerSenior Analyst IOctober 30, 2008

After a long layoff my Chicago Blackhawks Q&A series is back and today I have Chris Kuc, the Chicago Blackhawks writer for the Chicago Tribune. In this Q&A Chris Kuc will discuss Jonathan Toews' slow start, Dustin Byfuglien and much much more. Hope you enjoy

Disclaimer: This Q&A took place before the Chicago Blachawks/Edmonton Oilers game and there is a "somewhat" repetitive question on Dustin Byfuglien.


MW: Why do you think the Blackhawks struggled so early?

CK: The Hawks are a young team and are still trying to establish their identity. When a team is young it's going to win some games it shouldn't and lose some it should. The first two games in New York and Washington, respectively, were tough because they were the home openers for each and both teams and their fans were fired up.


MW: Why do you think Denis Savard was fired so early into the season?

CK:I believe management, Scotty Bowman especially, didn't believe Savard had the experience and knowledge to guide the team to the playoffs. The timing was curious, of course, because management knew what it had in Savard during the summer and should have done it then if they were going to make a move. In my opinion, Savard deserved better treatment.


MW: Is Joel Quenneville a good fit as coach for the Blackhawks?

CK: He will be. He's more of a technical coach who is better at the X's and O's of the game than Savard. He needs to get his message across to a team that had a lot of guys who liked Savard and are used to playing under more of a "players' coach."


MW: Under Quenneville do you think this is a better hockey team than under Savard?

CK: I'm not sure better is the word I'd use, but I believe the team will go further under Quenneville than it would have under Savard.


MW: Has Campbell, in your opinion, been a good addition to this hockey team?

CK:Oh, yes. Certainly. Every time I see him play I think he's the best players on the ice. His offensive skills are creating more chances and once the power play starts clicking you'll see the kidn of impact he can have.

MW:Jonathan Toews only has 3 points heading into the game versus Edmonton, why do you think he has struggled for the Blackhawks in the early going?

CK: I'm not a big believer in luck, but I think he's had a bit of it. He's creating chances and has an opportunity to score every night. I don't agree with some who are saying he's struggling because he's captain at such a young age. Once he scores I think you'll see the floodgates open and he'll be the type of scorer he was last season.


MW: Who or what have you been most impressed with in the early going?

CK: Kris Versteeg has been very impressive. And, boy, they needed him. The Hawks were short (probably still are) a top forward and he's filled in nicely. Being on a line with Patrick Kane and Toews is a big advantage with the skills they have. Still, at his size, Versteeg has shown toughness and a very good touch.


MW: Who or what has been the biggest disappointment?

CK: I'd say Dustin Byfuglien. After scoring 19 goals last season and having the whole summer to get into the mind-set of a winger, I'm surprised at his lack of output. I'd also like to see him use his size more to lay some checks into opponents.


MW: What is going on with Dustin Byfuglien?

CK: I mentioned some of this earlier, but I think he got off to a slow start after missing time in training camp and is just now getting up to speed. I wish he used his slap shot a bit more than trying to beat guys with wrist shots.

Certainly, they need him to play more physical. I talked to him today (Oct. 30) and he said he feels 100 percent and that he just needs one goal to break out of this.


MW: Patrick Sharp as their number two center the entire season?

CK: No, I'm not. I believe Dale Tallon is still looking to move Nikolai Khabibulin and once he does there will be enough room under the salary cap to acquire a no. 2 center. Everyone--from Savard to Tallon to Quenneville to Sharp himself--knows he's better at the wing than at center.


MW: Lately there has been talk about the Blackhawks scouting the New York Islander's Mike Comrie. Do you think that there is any truth to this or just hockey bloggers getting very antsy?

CK: A little of both. Comrie has under-achieved for a bad Islanders team and there's no secret the Hawks need another center. Anyone who's out there is probably someone Tallon has thought about.

The thing with some of the bloggers is, they throw things out there and if they don't stick it's no bit deal. Don't read too much into what they say unless they have a proven track record of getting things right.


MW: So far who do you think has been the better goal-tender, Huet or Khabibulin?

CK: Khabibulin by a long shot. I know Huet had the shutout against Edmonton but that was the best game the Hawks played as a team. Khabibulin has kept the Hawks in every game he's played--even when they've had an off night as a team.
MW: Why did the Blackhawks chose to demote Jack Skille?

CK: They believe that Versteeg and Troy Brouwer are more ready to play in the NHL. They are also better fits in the lineup as of now. Skille needs to be a top-six forward so they won't play him on the third or fourth lines until he's more capable of handling that role.

MW: Many say the Troy Brouwer's biggest weakness is his skating, then why is he going to be paired with Havlat and Sharp?

CK: Brouwer worked very hard on his skating and appears a bit faster this season. He's a good fit there because he can bang in front of the net and pick up rebounds from the more skilled Havlat and Sharp.

Neither of those guys are big bodies who bang in the corners or battle in front of the net like Brouwer can. Brouwer is another guy who once he gets one they shohld flow a bit more. He's going to be an asset in front of the net on the power play, especially.


For now this will be my final Q&A as I do not have anymore interviews lined up, but hopefully, in the next few months, I will be able to resurrect this series.

I would like to thank Chris Kuc and all the sports writers that I have interviewed. I would also like to thank everyone for reading my articles and making this series a success.


My Previous Q&A's:

John Buccigross from ESPN

Tim Sassone from the Daily Herald

Len Ziehm from the Chicago Sun-Times


    Sun Setting on Blackhawks’ Toews, Kane, Keith?

    Chicago Blackhawks logo
    Chicago Blackhawks

    Sun Setting on Blackhawks’ Toews, Kane, Keith?

    Tom Castro
    via The Hockey Writers

    Conn Smythe: It Is Fleury's to Lose

    NHL logo

    Conn Smythe: It Is Fleury's to Lose

    Adam Gretz
    via ProHockeyTalk

    Looking at McPhee's Strategic Moves

    NHL logo

    Looking at McPhee's Strategic Moves

    Sean Leahy
    via ProHockeyTalk

    After ’20 Long, Dry Years,’ Caps Are Finally Back

    NHL logo

    After ’20 Long, Dry Years,’ Caps Are Finally Back

    Joey Alfieri
    via ProHockeyTalk