Blackhawks mailbag: Trade rumors abound

Blackhawks mailbag: Trade rumors abound

We interrupt this mid-January Blackhawks mailbag for an important announcement:

We are reaching that time of the season when trade rumors abound. There will be names galore, some that could make sense, some that will make absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the latter will get as much attention in some circles as the former. That's the way this time of year goes.

One more note: On any name that's bandied about right now, check where his team is in the standings. If it's close to reaching a postseason spot, tap the brakes until things shake out a little more. I know, kids, I know: patience is not a virtue for many people, let alone Twitter. It'll all be OK.

With all that said onto the mailbag which, as you can imagine, asks a few trade-centric questions.

I agree on not trading the first-round draft pick. The Blackhawks have done that in the past but, with the draft in Chicago this summer, they’re going to want to hold onto that as well as a good amount of draft picks. This is their showcase.

I agreed with Jamal Mayers on CSN's latest podcast that the Blackhawks will likely look for someone with no term left on his contract past this season. I know there's been mention of guys with several years and big cap hits remaining on their deals, but how do the Blackhawks do that, especially with Artemi Panarin's new contract also kicking in next season? They'd have to get rid of a big contract and most of their big contracts also have no movement clauses.

Piggybacking off the last question, I do believe the Blackhawks have to do something to bolster their forward depth. They need someone who has some experience but won't cost them a lot (easy for me to say). Who that guy is right now, I'm not sure (don't worry, I'll be doing one of these in February, too). I wouldn't go for a Jarome Iginla or Shane Doan, as much as I like both of those guys. The Blackhawks don't have the forward depth to take a chance on a player who, while he may have been great several years ago, may not have much left now.

I've got three thoughts on this one.

First, the Dallas Stars fall into the above-mentioned category regarding potential playoffs. Despite a slew of injuries and inconsistent play, the Stars are 11th in the Western Conference but are just two points out of a playoff spot.

Second, Sharp has struggled with his health this season, as concussions have led to two lengthy absences.

Third, and this is my biggest question: Can you go home again? The Blackhawks have brought back Cup winners a few times, from Kris Versteeg to Andrew Ladd to Brian Campbell. Versteeg’s return here was up and down, Campbell's has been OK (there have been a few healthy scratches in there) and Ladd's didn’t work at all. Yes, six years passed from when Ladd left to when he returned; a lot changes over six years. But the bottom line is the attempt to rekindle line magic between Ladd and Jonathan Toews failed. Just wonder if this would go the same way.

We talked to Jonathan Toews on Tuesday morning and he said the back is not the issue. I don't believe it's another injury. The problem is, I don't know what the problem is. Toews has snapped out of these slumps before but this one seems to be lingering. I'm sure the confidence is shaken; how can it not be? We're all human, and even the best question themselves at times. I still think Toews will find the offense again but I don't think his current performances have anything to do with an injury.

Let's address Toews’ faceoff percentage first: it's fine. For the season, he's winning 57.5 percent of his faceoffs, good for sixth in the NHL. Outside of that awful Washington game, he's been around 50 percent or better in recent games.

Regarding Kruger, it's tough to say. The Blackhawks are looking for more balance and more scoring, and if those two categories don't improve the changes will continue regardless of who's in the lineup. Does coach Joel Quenneville go back to the third line that was working before Kruger was hurt (when he was with Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik)? He could. Just depends on how the Blackhawks are trending when Kruger does return.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

They could. Whether or not they do, I'm not sure yet. The Blackhawks did that with Brandon Saad back in the spring of 2012 once the Saginaw Spirit’s season ended. He played in two postseason games. My opinion, if the Blackhawks did it with anyone it would be DeBrincat. Even if he doesn't play, it’s a good chance to be around and practice with the team.

I know what you're referring to and all that article said was Vanek could be a possibility. As of Wednesday, the Red Wings are 14th in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. Sounds like they’re out of it, until you see they’re only four points from eighth place. As I said above, some of these teams are going to want to see where they are in a few weeks. As for cost, I wouldn't give up much past a pick, maybe two, but not high ones.

As of now, according to Cap Friendly, Hartman is eligible for the expansion draft. As far as the likelihood that Las Vegas takes him, it’s possible. It depends on what Vegas wants and needs. The Blackhawks, like everyone else, will lose one (and only one) player. Will Vegas want defensemen? Will they want a two-way player? But absolutely, Hartman would be available.

I'm guessing I've had a few of those and, to my recollection, I didn't dislike them. Honestly, I'm not as much of a wine aficionado as I've led the Twitter world to believe. Pinot noirs aren't my favorite (pretty light), love Malbecs, most French and Italian wines and you really have to talk me into a Chardonnay (I do like the ones that are out of steel drums now; just not a fan of the oak taste). Cheers!

Playing close to home a special experience for Hartman, Hinostroza families

Playing close to home a special experience for Hartman, Hinostroza families

DENVER — When Ryan Hartman went to Michigan at age 16 to play with the U.S. National Development Team, his father Craig moved the whole family there, too. Craig wanted Ryan to stay close with his brother, who's several years younger.

The move was worthwhile but not easy. Craig traveled back and forth to Chicago for his work, and the stay in Michigan, originally expected to be two years, turned into four when Ryan played for the Plymouth Whalers.

Now when the Hartmans want to see Ryan, whether it was in Rockford last season or in Chicago this season, it's less than an hour away from their West Dundee home.

"Either transition's been great because I've been seeing him a lot, taking care of his dog when he's on the road," Craig said. "It's pretty cool when he comes and sees his little brother play hockey. It's pretty amazing to have him home. If he's in any other city, he'd be gone. It's special to have him here."

For many of the fathers currently on the Blackhawks' dads trip, this excursion is one of maybe a handful of times they'll get to see their sons play in a season. But for Craig Hartman and Rick Hinostroza, Vinnie Hinostroza's dad, their sons play for the hometown team. They get to see them at least half of the season. And for both of them, it's an incredible feeling.

"It's pretty unbelievable to be able to just drive, depending on how traffic is, it could take us a little over an hour to get there. But just to be able to be home in 35 minutes and we get to sit and talk to him after a game or go out to dinner, things like that," Rick Hinostroza said. "It's really nice, and we'll take it as long as we can."

Craig and Rick are also enjoying their first dads trip, which began in Denver and now goes to Boston. Ryan Hartman said it's been a great experience for him and his father.

"It's my first year here and (it's a chance) for him to be able to see what we go through on the road, so he has a better idea of what I'm doing when I'm gone all the time. I'm sure it's good for him to be here and see that," Hartman said. "And just being on the road with him, it's a cool experience. I'm glad to have him here."

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Vinnie Hinostroza said this was the first hockey trip he'd been on with his dad since his midget hockey days.

"It's so special to bring him along, where he used to bring me and pay for the hotels and everything. It's nice he gets to enjoy this," Hinostroza said. "It's special for us to have them here. They sacrifice so much for us growing up, taking us on hockey trips."

Rick Hinostroza got his first taste of how his son travels on this trip. The elder Hinostroza was impressed, from the charter jet to the hospitality that wasn't the usual commercial-flight can of soda and bag of pretzels.

"The attendants going back and forth, asking if I wanted something to eat and here you have this list, a choice of all this stuff. I'm used to the attendant coming around with the cart and you get what you get when you get it," he said. "To be exposed to that and see just how the organization treats the families and players, it's pretty neat. It's really surreal."

But as important as playing in hometown Chicago is for Hartman and Hinostroza's parents, it means so much to the players as well.

"It's a blessing, really, having them so close," said Ryan, who sees his younger brother play hockey whenever he can. "It's nice. You don't have to plan a trip for them to come, and you don't have to be waiting for the next time you're going to see them. Sometimes there are off days when I go home and relax with them. It's definitely nice to have."

The latest Blackhawks' dads trip will end this weekend. Most of the fathers will head back to their respective homes, most of which are a good distance from Chicago. For the Hartmans and Hinostrozas, the return to Chicago means being back home and continuing to live the dream of watching their sons play here.

"I've gotten to meet a lot of fathers and having a nice time," Craig Hartman said. "It's fantastic. Growing up in the city — I was born probably about 15 blocks from the UC — being part of this and having my kid play with the Blackhawks, it's crazy."

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

DENVER – Well, that was a wild one, wasn’t it?

We’ll spare you the gory-to-glorious details (most of which are in the game story, anyway). So instead, let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 6-4 victory over Colorado.

1. Great night for the rookies. The Blackhawks’ newest players were their most prolific players on Tuesday night. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals. Tanner Kero did too, and added an assist. Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. All of these experiences are great learning curves for the Blackhawks’ youth, and coach Joel Quenneville likes how they’re progressing, not just with scoring but with their overall games. “That’s the part that’ll make them better players and us a better team is playing the right way defensively, being responsible, putting the puck in good areas and going hard to the net.”

2. Top line still too quiet. Line changes were made but the results remained the same, especially for the Blackhawks’ top trio. Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik were up there with Jonathan Toews in this one, but still nada. The three had a combined three shots for the game. Many of you have asked if Toews is still dealing with that back injury. On Tuesday morning he said, “no, it’s been really good, actually.” Still, there’s something up with a top line that, regardless of combination, just can’t get anything going.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

3. Terrible second period. The Blackhawks came out of the first in great shape and with a 2-1 lead. But things got messy in the second period. Be it the inability to clear or get the puck deep in the Avs’ zone, the Blackhawks made mistakes. The Avs capitalized, scoring three goals in the second including two in a 63-second span. Outside of Tanner Kero’s goal, the Blackhawks had a forgettable second period. The Avalanche outscored them 3-1 and outshot them 8-4 in the second.

4. Faceoffs lost. The Blackhawks did not do well in this department, winning just 23 percent of their faceoffs. It didn’t cost them the game but they certainly need better nights than they got on Tuesday.

5. Corey Crawford gets through it. Crawford was stellar prior to his appendectomy but hasn’t been at that level since. Quenneville said he considered pulling Crawford during this one but decided to keep him in. Quenneville’s still happy with his goaltending – again, the Blackhawks aren’t where they are right now without it this season. But he said Crawford could be better than he was on Tuesday.