Great March Saviors in Hawks History

Whatcha gonna do, brother, when TeuvoMania runs wild on you? Hell, this lede is awful. I just wanted to use that sentence at some point. Anyway, as we prepare for Finnish Jesus to lead the Blackhawks to a third title in 5 years we need to pour one out for another European March call-up.

On this date in 2003 the Chicago Blackhawks found themselves 15 points out of a playoff spot with only 6 games left. They needed a HUGE boost to get into the playoffs as an 8th seed. It would have taken mass contraction, really, for the Hawks to get into the postseason. Regardless, general manager Mike Smith took it upon himself to upgrade the Blackhawks’ anemic offense after the trade deadline by bringing up KHL leading scorer and Russian import Alexander Radulov…

…’s brother, Igor.

Rad

Igor Radulov was drafted by Smith in the 3rd round of the 2000 NHL Draft. To be fair to Smith, the 2000 draft was pretty much crap. With that said, it was probably one of his worst drafts ever – not one player taken played a full NHL season. Yeesh.

Anyway, with the Hawks seeking a mathematically impossible playoff position, Smith brought up his leading scorer in the AHL to help head coach Brian Sutter’s team score goals. As we mentioned before, Radulov dressed for Chicago on this day in 2003.

I still have a ticket stub from this game and I remember it like it was a game that I went to and did not enjoy because it was bad. A cloudy, overcast day, I arrived at the United Center to see the Blackhawks take on the Mike Milbury-helmed New York Islanders. I was thrilled with the opportunity to see Chicago superstars Mike Eastwood, Sami Helenius, and Theo Fleury take on budding talents from Long Island like Mattias Weinhandl, Shawn Bates, and Aaron Asham.

Before the first commercial break the Blackhawks were down 3-0 after goals from Mark Parrish, Alexei Yashin, and some guy named Justin Papineau. Steve Passmore got yanked in favor of Craig Andersson (he had 2 s’s in his name at the time) at the conclusion of the first period after giving up 4 goals. Midway through the second period Chicago found themselves down five-rip. And then. IT WAS RADULOV TIME.

a_sutter_i

Skating on the left side with future hall of famers Tyler Arnason and Steve Sullivan, Igor Radulov said, “Enough of this shit. I’m taking over.” He scored his first career goal on the powerplay at the 7:38 mark. The United Center’s 11,903  fans (60% capacity) went nuts, probably. Momentum had swung in favor of the guys in white. It was on.

Radulov struck again just 13 seconds later to cut the Islanders’ lead to three and it appeared that Chicago had found its savior.

Radulov had probably spent years of his young life dreaming of escaping the cold, grey skies of Russia and coming to a great city like Chicago to save their hockey franchise and lead them to a Stanley Cup victory and reap all of the rewards and possibly get a boat to drive around Lake Michigan real fast and have parties on and maybe a sandwich named after him or something. And now, he was singlehandedly turning the tide of just his second career National Hockey League game. The second period finished 5-2 and it looked like Sutter’s boys were awake and ready.

The third period started off with a bang. The Islanders scored three goals in the first three minutes. IGORMANIA had subsided and New York ended up beating Chicago 9-2. Arron Asham had a 5 point night. Seriously. That guy had 5 points in one game.

Radulov would score 3 more goals in his next 5 games with the Blackhawks, giving Chicago fans hope that the Russian winger could at least be an offensive threat for years to come. Unfortunately, he ended up sucking the following year and wound up back in the KHL a short time later.

So, while you get ready for TevuoMania tonight, remember this: the organization you cheer for used to be run by complete idiots and the greatest hope that the Blackhawks had at one time was a guy who was drafted two spots ahead of Mike Rupp. Appreciate the Bowman.

In Teuvo’s name, Amen.

(This entire post was written after minor mouth surgery and under the influence of pain relievers.)

4 comments

  1. Steve from Glencoe

    Are you suggesting Mike Smith is an idiot? You seem like a knowledgable hockey fan. You do remember he drafted Keith, Seabrook, Buff and many others. It takes years to build a winner and those that call this Tallon’s team are not looking at the big picture.

  2. Tom Pauly

    Steve, your hatred for Dale Tallon is blinding you here. Mike Smith was an incompetent GM. Were you aware of the D-corps that I discussed in the piece? Awful. Alpo Suhonen was an awful head coaching decision. Mike Smith had time to positively improve the Blackhawks and he traded for players from a mediocre Maple Leafs team. Remember Gary Valk? How about trading budding defenseman Bryan McCabe for Alex Karpovtsev? Absolutely dreadful.

    Tallon’s draft record of players still in the NHL: Kruger, Smith, Hjalmarsson, Bolland, Bickell, Brouwer, Dowell, Skille, Kane, Toews. That’s not too bad, and considering he made a Ruutu for Ladd deal, signed John Madden, signed Marian Hossa, traded literally nothing for Sharp and Versteeg, I’d say he did an absolutely fine job as the Blackhawks GM.

    Regardless, that wasn’t the point of this post. But if you feel like crusading to the defense of Mike Smith on this page, you better bring some more ammo than, “He drafted x player.”

  3. Steve from Glencoe

    Smith was far from incompetent. He came in after Pulford and Wirtz drove the franchise into a brick wall. Somehow got the team into the Playoffs as you wrote. Keith in the 2nd round, Buff late in the draft and 23 players guys he drafted in his short tenure played at least an NHL game. 5 of them Cup Winners. 9 0f them still in the NHL. Lost the McCabe trade but do you remember Travis Moen for Holmqvist or the give away of Vrbata for Kevin Adams? During the era I too like many angry Hawk fans couldn’t understand what Smith was doing. Years later I ran into Smith at a Wolves game and asked him about what I thought was the absolute worst trade in modern Hawks history: Dumont and Gilmour for Grosek. Smith told me that Bill Wirtz told him that he had 48 hours to dump Gilmour’s salary and Buffalo was the only team that would do it. After going back and looking at the long term results of his drafting I think it is clear that he had a pretty big impact on where the Hawks are now. I think Rocky Wirtz is a pretty smart guy and it didn’t take long for him to fire Tallon which says a lot to me.

    • Tom Pauly

      Steve, aside from anecdotal evidence of the Grosek deal, having 9 players from your drafts in the NHL over the course of a bunch of years isn’t that great. Tallon has that number in the show right now. And the 23 guys played at least a game in the NHL isn’t a very good stat either, considering the teams.

      Smith led the Blackhawks through two of the worst drafts in franchise history, 2000 and 2001. He whiffed on 26 of 28 picks. And even the two guys who turned into things (Ruutu and Anderson) aren’t really high impact players. Anderson has been a roller coaster and Tuomo Ruutu has been a decent second liner. He missed on every single pick in 2000. All of them.

      And yes, I remember Moen for Holmqvist. That’s a wash. Travis Moen sucks. He’s never been a + possession player ever: http://www.extraskater.com/player/458/travis-moen

      Radim Vrbata isn’t that good either. His possession numbers are only okay for a guy who shoots the puck a billion times a year. That trade was definitely a loss for Chicago, but in terms of future issues, big deal.

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