Q: How realistic are the chances for Stan Bowman to seriously consider trading for a No. 2 centerman in mid-season? Who do you expect would be the most likely players Bowman would go after and who would Bowman be willing to trade away? -- Niko (Chicago)
A: I think it’s very realistic. They should have plenty of cap space to make that kind of move, and they’re on record saying it’s part of their plan, if need be. It would be very hard for me to speculate on specific players because the pool would conceivably be wide open. Usually, I’d look at those centers with expiring contracts who reside on mediocre teams, but nothing says they can’t get a guy who is signed past 2011-2012. With Brian Campbell gone and so many new guys on one-year deals, there is room, despite the extension to Patrick Sharp. Bowman is also on record praising his crop of prospects at center, so more than likely an expiring contract would be the way to go. Another reader asks about Shane Doan. I’ve always liked him a lot. His contract is up after this season. If the Coyotes falter I would make a hard push for him. That’s the type of player who could put them over the top. As for who would go, there are plenty of prospects who could be included in a deal, from Jeremy Morin to the Hayes brothers. It just depends on what the other team’s needs are.
Q: I cannot wait for the season to start. Do you know if the Blackhawks will ever bring back the black alternate jerseys or are they sticking with the Winter Classic alternate look again this year? -- Andrew (Chicago)
A: The answer is neither. The Hawks are going with just two jerseys this season -- the home red and road white.
Q: Is it true Igor Makarov signed with a KHL team? All we heard about him the past few years from prospect camps and 2010 training camp was how skilled he was. Why didn't he catch on? – Keith (Waupaca, Wis.)
A: Yes, he did sign overseas. I mentioned in a few tweets/chats recently he was on the way out. Apparently, he didn’t have the best attitude. After not making the team last year out of training camp he pouted and didn’t exactly go down to the minors with the work ethic needed to return. It’s why he never got a call-up, I’m sure. From what I understand, he wanted out and back home almost immediately, and he finally got his wish. Too bad, he had some hands and was one of the darlings of last year’s camp.
Q: My take on the lines are Kane/Toews/Smith, Hossa/Sharp/Brunette, Frolik/Bolly/Bickell, Mayers/Kruger/Carcillo. Keith/Seabs, Hammer/Lepisto, Leddy/Montador. What are your projected lines? Also it seems as if we are going to have quite a few decent guys as health scratches. Reminds me of two years ago. -- Mike (Macomb, Ill.)
A: I’ve had this in some mailbags and chat sessions, but it’s been a while so let’s address again. I’m still of the belief they will open with Sharp at wing and move the centers up so Bolland is on the second line and Kruger is on the third -- at least to start the season. That leaves Mayers as the fourth-line center. So I see Sharp with Kane and Toews and Bolland with Hossa and Brunette and Kruger between Smith and Frolik. The fourth line will alternate with Bickell in there, and Rastislav Olesz is the wildcard. Someone won’t make the team since, with Smith and Kruger, that would make 24 contracts. The most a team can carry is 23. On defense, Leddy and Hjalmarsson will start as the Nos. 3 and 4. Montador is No. 5 and Lepisto/O’Donnell/Scott are the others.
Q: I recently watched videos of Daniel Carcillo's past fights in the NHL. While there's no doubt I like the intensity and toughness he brings, It still worries me that his penalty minutes will continue to hurt a penalty kill unit that was not impressive last year. How do you see the PK unit performing this season, and have there been any significant changes? -- Matt (Winnetka, Ill.)
A: It’s a good question. Carcillo says he’s learned, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Either way, they need to be better on the PK if they want to be an elite team. It’s interesting, the Hawks could have undoubtedly brought back John Madden, who has been known as a penalty-killing expert but basically chose Jamal Mayers instead. Both played under Joel Quenneville, and I believe he signed off on Mayers instead of Madden. I realize they aren’t the same player, but with Carcillo there I didn’t think they needed Mayers. Or vice versa. Mayers is a better skater than Madden, but Madden is a coach on the ice. Maybe that’s the problem.
Q: Honestly, who can afford to go to Hawks games? Eighty dollars for 300 level seats in the corners? Guess I'll have to watch at home or at the bar. It's too bad the diehards are getting priced out. The Sunday hockey fans and tourists provided some dead crowds last year. -- Greg (Oak Forest, Ill.)
A: I feel your pain. The prices are outrageous. By the way, I’m pretty sure the cheapest tickets in the 300 level are not $80 but I get your point. Pro sports is ridiculous. Its supply and demand, but if one player, just one time, said he’d take a million less if they reduced ticket prices he’d become a legend. Standing room only can be fun. Hey, any way to get in the building, right?
Q: Hey Jesse, can you talk about your expectations for Toews this year? Do you know what kind of training he's been doing? I am hoping for a run at the Hart trophy. Too much to ask for? -- Dave (Chicago)
A: While it would be very hard to accomplish, it’s not too much to ask for. This would be the season for him. He’ll never have a longer rest than he did this past summer, he had no known major injuries to heal and mentally he took about three months off. He told me at the convention he purposely stayed away from hockey until August so he would miss it. I imagine he’s revving up big time right about now. His game is almost complete with the final piece being a scoring touch which he found last season. He should have as good a shot as any but can he get to near 100 points? That’s the question because he’ll need near 100 points to have a shot. Power play points are huge to have that monster season so look at those numbers as things advance.
Q: With the all the talent on this team where does John Scott fit? – Will (Chicago)
A: I’m not sure that he does. They want him to start the season on defense but there are six or seven ahead of him. He could be a training camp casualty but my gut says he makes it because Quenneville wants as much toughness around as possible. Quenneville has been in his corner since day one so I think they want to give him every chance to succeed. Training camp will help sort that out.
Q: We know about the new faces, the new contracts, the main core, etc., what's been your favorite part of the offseason? What are you looking forward to in the first 6-8 weeks of the season? -- Zach (Bloomington, Ill.)
A: As a reporter or just an observer of the team I would say draft night in late June, in Minnesota, was pretty intense. First Campbell said no to a trade then yes. Then Troy Brouwer goes and all of a sudden the Hawks championship roster from just a season before had little remaining. Obviously, July 1 was intense as well but draft night was fun. I think a fast start would be what I’m looking for. I know “fast starts” are cliche but between the embarrassment of the first-round loss, squeaking into the playoffs and the slow start last year, I think they come out like gangbusters.
Q: Hey Jesse, where do you see Michael Frolik fitting in this year? The kid has a lot of talent and his play in the playoffs was outstanding last season. First and foremost, will he play wing or center? What line will he fall on? – Rodney (Chicago)
A: He’ll start at wing and only move to center on a need basis. As I wrote previously, I think he’s entrenched on the third line. He ended on a high note there, and there is no reason he can’t continue at that level. It takes some pressure off as well not having to carry the load in the top 6. I like him but I don’t love him yet. It seems plenty of players who line up next to Bolland -- as Frolik did in the playoffs -- come out smelling like roses. I want to see him do it for a full season in Chicago.