The Saga Of @martinhavlat

In May, Martin Havlat went wild for the Blackhawks. Monday, he'll just be a Wild player.

In May, Martin Havlat went wild for the Blackhawks. Monday, he'll just be a Wild player.

In May, Martin Havlat scored an unbelievable game-winning goal in overtime to defeat the Calgary Flames in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I caught the following photo on my Blackberry just after he hit gold:

Havlat

Havlat played three seasons for the Blackhawks, coming in with all the promise of a rising star in the league taking a chance on a struggling franchise. His red hair and beard made him the perfect emblem for the rising phoenix fans hoped the franchise would become with him leading the way.

There was never a question about the talent with Havlat; he had been an electrifying forward in Ottawa and got the puck to the back of the net better than anyone the Hawks had put on the ice since perhaps Tony Amonte.

But in his first season in Chicago, Havlat was injured for a good part of the season. He would only play in 56 games, but scored 25 goals. He teased the Hawks’ fans with his skill, but spent too many games watching in street clothes.

Hopes were that, in 2007-08, Havlat would become a mentor for an emerging young roster. The Hawks would promote two babies, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, to the big time to start the season and many observers thought they could be the perfect teenage compliments to Havlat.

The kids would have loved to have played with him more, but Havlat was injured again. Havlat only managed to play in 35 games that second season in Chicago, but still found a way to score ten goals. The Hawks missed the playoffs by a narrow margin, and hopes were again that, if Havlat could stay healthy, the Hawks could maybe make the playoffs.

Havlat only had a three year deal with the Hawks, so 2008-09 was his last chance to give the fans a full season. He did that, getting on the ice for 81 games. Between the maturation of Toews and Kane, a better roster, and Havlat being healthy, Chicago finally got some magic on the ice.

In a full, healthy season, Havlat contributed 77 points. Fans were split on whether or not the Hawks should bring back the popular wing; fans never questioned his ability, but the cost and health concerns were why the decision was taxing.

As the summer began, the Blackhawks claimed to be trying to work out a contract with Havlat. Because Toews, Kane, and Duncan Keith need new paper after the 2009-10 season, the organization didn’t want to lock themselves into a longer term deal with Havlat. The organization’s preference was a one-year deal.

When the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement, the Hawks shocked the hockey world by instead reaching out to, and winning, Detroit’s leading goal scorer from last year, Marian Hossa. Despite the Hawks public stance that they wanted to maintain flexibility with the salary cap long term, Hossa got an enormous deal that will, in theory, pay him into his 40s.

Adios, Marty... Hello Marian!

Adios, Marty... Hello Marian!

It’s safe to say Havlat felt burned by the Hossa signing. What followed, though, was unexpected.

Havlat, the model of professional composure during his tenure with the Hawks, started blasting John MacDonough and Hawks management on Twitter. Between his own rejection and the removal of Dale Tallon as General Manager, Havlat took every opportunity to get his shots in at the expense of his former team.

Many in the media began postulating that how Havlat was handled by management, specifically by Stan Bowman, could end up hurting the Hawks attempts to negotiate long-term contracts with Toews and Kane, who looked up to Havlat.

But as Havlat’s online rants continued, and he landed in Minnesota with the Wild, it became clear that Havlat, not the Hawks, stood to lose in their divorce. And so far this season, the production on the ice has shown that to be true.

The Blackhawks are in first place, despite being without Hossa until mid-November. Meanwhile, Havlat and the Wild are in last place in the Northwest Division with a 3-7-0 record (6 points).

Havlat hasn’t rewarded Minnesota for giving him the contract he desired, either. He’s already missed two of the Wild’s 10 games, and is -8 on the season with only five points to show for his action so far.

So as he returns to Chicago on Monday night, it’ll be interesting to see what @martinhavlat has to say for himself. It will also be interesting to hear how the fans greet their departed favorite son.

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2 Responses to The Saga Of @martinhavlat

  1. I lost a lot of respect for Marty over the summer when he blasted management but he felt as though he was more deserving of that contract than Hossa (which Havlat doesn’t). Early in the 2009/2010 season we have seen Havlat already go down once and has really not done much to help his team on the offensive end.

    And I don’t care for the argument (from Havlat supporters) that Havlat has nothing around him but who was around him in the 06-07 season when he was with the ‘Hawks?

    Radim Vrbata? Jeff Hamilton? Denis Arkhipov? A past his prime Peter Bondra?

    No a bunch of all-stars and he was still able to produce.

    I still like Marty and I want him to have a long career but hopefully not successful against the ‘Hawks

  2. Tab Bamford says:

    Yeah, I agree with you that Havlat supporters, like lots of fans in Chicago, become blind to many of the realities of the situation. The reality for Havlat was that he had played more than 80 games once in a decade and wanted elite money after a 77-point season. You don’t win championships and stay on top for a long time by giving long term deals to players who can’t stay on the ice. Which is the pathetic irony of the Hossa situation; the Hawks sign him because he can stay healthy, and then he’s under the knife for shoulder surgery.

    The Wild roster reminds me a lot of the Hawks from about 1999 until 2006… lots of high ceiling, huge question players who can’t stay healthy and might not ever gel.

    Whomever made the schedule for this season did the Blackhawks a HUGE favor with Nashville every other game and Minnesota in town. But that just means the hard games are coming later in the year… Gotta get points when you can. Tonight’s important.

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