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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Haydar gone? Wolves will suffer

Nearly half-way through the season, with 36 games in the book, the Chicago Wolves looked poised to enter the 2007 post-season with the most highly skilled team in franchise history. Eleven games lost, eight in regulation play and 53 points place the Wolves in second place, currently, in the league.

Yet there are problems, particularly with the netminders, Michael Garnett and Fred Braithewaite. Combined they have given up a combined 120 points through the year-end, which is more goals against a team for all but four of the AHL teams. And, the Wolves have spent a great deal of time in the sinbin, exceeded by only three teams.

Carrying the Wolves in the first half were the line of Darren Haydar, Jason Krog and the rookie Brent Sterling. Together, the three have notched 180 points, although Krog was called up to Atlanta on December 14th. Earlier, I’d asked if a second line could develop, perhaps centered on Derek MacKenzie. However, MacKenzie was himself called up to Atlanta on December 21st. In the nine games played since Krog was called up, the Haydar and Sterling combination has continued to dominate the offense of the Wolves, being on the ice for 27 of the 43 goals scored in that stretch, including all the goals against the Peoria Rivermen on December 29th.

In the same period, it appears the Wolves have hit their toughest stretch of the season, winning six, but dropping one in regulation and two more in shoot outs. Haydar, during this period set an AHL record for most consecutive games with a point, registering a goal and an assist for 34-straight games with a point Only eight professional players have exceeded that total, led by Wayne Gretzky with 51 games during the 1983-4 season (a tip of the hat to the Peoria Journal Star’s Dave Eminian for that stat).

So, why is Darren Haydar still in the AHL? Why not play in the NHL for Atlanta? This afternoon, a rumor started on the Chicago Wolves discussion board that Haydar is going up. Fans have furiously called the thread starter a liar. But, it will happen, if not this weekend, sometime soon. Darren Haydar will leave Chicago to play for the Atlanta Thrashers in their march, perhaps, to the Stanley Cup.

There were brief mentions of Haydar’s feat in the Chicago MMO. But, sadly, hockey is not on the horizon for the writers at the major papers or the city’s electronic news outlets. Haydar will be the joy of Atlanta fans and many in this hockey community will not have realized he was ever here.

If Haydar has to clear waivers, waivers being a way, if he is returned to Chicago, for another NHL team to pick him up instead, it is very unlikely Chicago will see him play here for many months, if ever again. The decision on whether he must clear waivers will be determined based on why Atlanta sends for him. For example, playing in Atlanta in place of an injured player would provide protection to Haydar from waivers.

So, Haydar is probably headed to Atlanta, perhaps this weekend, but soon. One of the next call ups will probably be Brent Sterling, sending the entire line to Atlanta. Good for them. Bad for the Wolves.

To do the math, alluded to above, without this line, Chicago would only have scored 16 points in the last nine games, there would have been 29 goals against. Even though others are stepping up, the production will drop dramatically, backed by a weak set in the pipes.

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