To go along with our '30 in 30' off-season feature, we'll be asking a blogger from each team some of the burning questions surrounding their club this summer.
RLD: 1. What is one reason why Duncan Keith should win the Norris? Tab Bamford: One? Hmmm... well, he was more effective the entire season than Doughty playing heavier minutes, while the simple difference between Keith and Green is that Keith plays defense. Keith was also a better even-strength contributor offensively than Green and Doughty.
RLD: 2. If you were Stan Bowman, who stays and who goes? TB: Strictly speaking in reference to players under contract, I would say (obviously) that Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, Brouwer, Kopecky and Dowell up front with Keith, Seabrook and Campbell on defense all stay. I think Byfuglien, Versteeg and Sopel are the odd guys out, and Huet goes to Rockford (unless Russia wants him). With regard to the free agents, the two that must stay are Niemi and Hjalmarsson. From there, I think it's a wild card if Eager, Burish, Skille and Ladd are back. To me, Ladd could be a big-time trade piece before the draft and is likely out of the Hawks' price range; he is arbitration eligible, however.
RLD: 3. How important is it to keep Patrick Sharp? TB: It's crucial because, despite recent additions like Olimb and Kruger, the Hawks don't have enough organizational depth to be looking for two centers. Sharp would probably stay the center on the second line next year, with Bolland again on the third and one of Olimb, Dowell or even perhaps Burish/Fraser (if they stay) as the fourth center. He's a veteran leader who's being grossly underpaid for the value he brings to the ice, and his contributions everywhere make him worth both Versteeg & Byfuglien if the choice is between those two or Sharp.
RLD: 4. Is Antti Niemi capable of being effective as the full-time starter (60+ starts)? TB: I don't think there's a 60-start goalie left in the current NHL other than maybe Marty Brodeur. I think the current roster dynamic you're seeing in the NHL is a 50-30 split, and I absolutely believe Niemi can be a 50-55 game starter for the Hawks. The key is who takes those other 30 starts, however, so Niemi isn't forced to be a 60-65 game starter before a deep playoff run.
RLD: 5. With the expected trades, which prospects do you see benefitting from the situation? TB: I think Bryan Bickell, Kyle Beach, Jake Dowell and one of Shawn LaLonde/Brian Connelly/JC Sawyer/Simon Danis-Pepin on the blue line will all get a chance to be a significant contributor in 2010-11. Depending on how he handles the situation, Beach might be a good pick for the Calder.Skille might see Chicago full time next year because, if he re-signs, his cap number will be more reasonable, but I think Beach is the wild card to watch.
We thank Tab for taking time out to answer these burning questions in Chicago! You can catch his work as a contributor over at Committed Indians, and I recommend following him on Twitter as well.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.