Chicago Blackhawks

Ian Cole weighs in on what went wrong for Blackhawks and chances of a Penguins three-peat

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AP

Ian Cole weighs in on what went wrong for Blackhawks and chances of a Penguins three-peat

Ian Cole is well familiar with the Blackhawks and the success they have experienced over the last decade.

He's seen in first-hand after spending his first four and a half NHL seasons in the same division as them with the St. Louis Blues before getting traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the deadline of the 2014-15 season.

Like the rest of the hockey community, Cole was shocked to see the Blackhawks get ousted in four games during their first-round series against the eventual Western Conference champion Nashville Predators. But he also understands how taxing it is to play deep into the playoffs on an annual basis, especially when three of them have ended with parades in late June.

"It was definitely surprising because of the caliber players that they have and how good they've been for so long," Cole said at the Chicago Hockey Charity Classic in Geneva last weekend. "But you certainly can sympathize with the fatigue that builds up after playing that many games for that long. How many? Six, seven, eight years now where they've played a lot of hockey.

"Then again, you saw the run that Nashville went on, how well they were playing and they were a buzzsaw for sure. They went through a lot of teams that people didn't give them a chance on. You come up against a hot team, maybe you don't play your best, even for a team like the Hawks you can lose."

While there are a combination of reasons for the Blackhawks' quick exit, one of them may also be attributed to the big gap between the core veterans that have won multiple Stanley Cups and the first- and second-year players with little-to-no playoff experience. 

There was no in between. It wasn't noticeable in the regular season, but it certainly showed in the postseason when the stars weren't at their best.

Coming together and being associated as one unit will be key for the Blackhawks returning to glory, and Patrick Kane training with Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza in Chicago this summer is a great step towards wanting to make that happen.

"Experience helps for sure," Cole said. "I don't think that it's something you want to overlook, but at the same time the guys that were there that didn't have that playoff experience certainly contributed during the regular season, were very, very good hockey players and are very good hockey players, and will continue to be very good hockey players in the future.

"I think their future is really bright. Last year was a hiccup for a really, really good hockey team. I think next year they'll be right back at it. I can't see any other outcome in that."

The Penguins went through a similar situation when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2008, won it in 2009, and followed that up by winning only one playoff series over the next three seasons. 

A big part of the culture change is when Mike Sullivan took over as head coach in December of 2015. He helped lead the Penguins to two Stanley Cups in an 18-month span, and became just the second head coach in league history to win back-to-back titles in his first two seasons with a franchise.

Rewind a few months back though, and it was actually his third straight year of getting a ring. Sullivan served as a player development coach for the Blackhawks during the 2014-15 Stanley Cup campaign, where he studied individual players and the team as a whole.

Being a behind-the-scenes coach for a championship-winning organization was important for Sullivan's coaching career, and he hasn't been shy about carrying over many of the lessons he learned in his brief stint with the Blackhawks to Pittsburgh.

"He certainly speaks to our defensemen about Duncan Keith and what he does, and Brent Seabrook and what he does, and seeing them close up and how they perform and play in certain situations," Cole said of Sullivan. "He can certainly relate those to us. And it's not anything that you can't find out watching video. There are no secrets, but when you do have that personal experience, you can certainly draw from that and he does.

"A team that has had as much success as the Blackhawks, I think you'd be foolish to not try to learn from what they've done to be successful. And I'm sure teams will try to learn from what we did when we were successful."

Finally getting back on the ice last week to prepare for the upcoming season after another shortened summer, Cole and the Penguins have turned the page and are looking to do something no team has accomplished since the early 1980s: a three-peat.

"It's actually funny, because as soon as we won the second one, people were saying, 'Let's go for three!'" Cole said. "There are some short summers and there's a lot of built up fatigue. You can definitely feel it from the second year of the playoffs as opposed to the first year. There's a lot more fatigue and you certainly hit that wall a lot quicker. ... But it's just one of those things that you have to battle through.

"You're paid to win hockey games and you ultimately want to win the Stanley Cup every single year. Any goal short of that is a mistake. So that's going to be our goal."

But is it actually realistic?

"People said that back-to-back wasn't necessarily realistic based on the history of it," Cole said. "We would love to make it happen. If there's a team that could do it, I think it's us. We all want to make it happen, we all want to go down in the history books that can win three, heck four, go match the Islanders. Can it happen? Who knows. But we're certainly going to try."

Brandon Saad to be next featured guest on Inside Look

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Brandon Saad to be next featured guest on Inside Look

“Inside Look presented by Cadillac,” hosted by CSN’s Pat Boyle and featuring Brandon Saad to debut Monday, August 14 at 7:00 PM CT

CSN live stream available on CSNChicago.com/WatchLive  or via the NBC Sports app

CSNChicago.com to provide additional web-exclusive coverage of ‘Inside Look,’ including extended video clips

Chicago, IL (August 10, 2017) – CSN Chicago (CSN), the home for the most games and most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, continues to delve into the lives of some of the biggest names in Chicago sports with its candid, monthly, one-on-one interview series Inside Look presented by Cadillac

Debuting Monday, August 14 at 7:00 PM CT, CSN’s Pat Boyle hosts an exclusive one-on-one interview with two-time Stanley Cup champion/2016 NHL All-Star/returning Blackhawks fan favorite BRANDON SAAD.  NOTE: Live stream of this program will also be available at CSNChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app to authenticated CSN Chicago subscribers. 

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Saad was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (43rd) and quickly made his presence known in his rookie season (the 2013 Blackhawks Stanley Cup title year) by finishing third overall in the Calder Memorial Trophy rookie of the year voting.  Following the team’s 2015 Stanley Cup championship, Saad was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In two seasons with Columbus, Saad racked up 55 goals and 106 points and earned his first All-Star appearance in ’16.  The great news for Blackhawks fans: the versatile left winger will be returning to Chicago this season with huge aspirations of winning his third Stanley Cup title. 

In this edition of “Inside Look,” Saad discusses everything from growing up in Pittsburgh and his early years involved in youth hockey, his transition from playing in the juniors to the NHL, being traded to Columbus/being traded back to Chicago, his favorite nickname, and much more.  

In addition, viewers are urged to check out CSN’s website, CSNChicago.com, for additional interview content never before seen on TV.  Fans will also be able to watch every Inside Look guest interview online after it debuts on CSN.  CSN will also re-air Inside Look with Brandon Saad on the following dates/times: Tue, Aug. 15 at 11:00 PM - Wed, Aug. 16 at 4:30 PM (on CSN+HD) - Fri, Aug. 18 at NOON - Sun, Aug. 20 at 3:30 PM (on CSN+HD) - Thu, Aug. 24 at 4:00 PM (on CSN+HD) - Fri, Aug. 25 at 6:00 AM (on CSN+HD) - Sat, Aug. 26 at 1:00 AM PM (on CSN+HD) & Thu, Aug. 31 at 6:00 AM (on CSN+HD). (Schedule subject to change)

Note the following quotes from Inside Look with Brandon Saad presented by Cadillac premiering Monday, August 14 at 7:00 PM on CSN:

Saad on being traded to Columbus following the team’s 2015 Stanley Cup Championship:

“Coming off a cup win you have that relationship with all the players, it's my first time getting traded, so that's all new for me, you see the business side of it quickly, and it's bitter at first, it's tough... you just have to move on and as you move on you realize it's a business and it's just part of the game

Saad on being traded back to the Blackhawks this summer:

"I was shocked at first. You get the phone call, you don't expect anything and then you hear you're traded…not only traded, but traded back to Chicago.  It was shocking, but going back to a familiar place and a place where I had success, it was just pure excitement after that.”

Saad on his favorite nickname:

"The one that sticks out is ‘SaadFather.’ When I first heard that, it was pretty funny…they're all good though. I can't remember what came from what person but they're all pretty funny and special to me.”

Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk diagnosed with cancer

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AP

Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk diagnosed with cancer

The Blackhawks anounced Tuesday afternoon broadcaster Eddie Olczyk has been diagnosed with colon cancer.

The 50-year-old serves as the color analyst for Blackhawks games on CSN as well as NHL on NBC and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Olczyk released a statement Tuesday:

I have been diagnosed with a form of colon cancer and am currently undergoing treatment for the disease. I have been working with outstanding health care professionals and expect to be back in the broadcast booth after I complete my treatment. Having the support and encouragement from my family, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, NBC Sports and all my friends and fans means the world to me and will give me continued strength to beat this. My family and I appreciate privacy during this time as we focus our attention on my treatments.

Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry released a statement as well summing up the situation:

Last week, Eddie Olczyk was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent a surgical procedure to remove the tumor. He is recovering well from the procedure and will be undergoing further treatment in the coming weeks, including chemotherapy. We look forward to his return to good health after the completion of his treatment.

Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough provided a statement on behalf of the organization:

Eddie Olczyk is a treasured member of the Chicago Blackhawks family and we will be supportive of him as he fights this disease. We encourage our fans to keep him in their thoughts as we all look forward to having him back in good health as soon as possible.

Olczyk is wildly popular among fans and is a Chicago guy through and through. He grew up in Palos Heights, Ill., went to Brother Rice Catholic High School and was drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round of the 1984 Draft. He played with the Hawks from 1984-87 and came back to the Windy City for the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons after stops in Toronto, Winnipeg, New York, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Olczyk family at this time.