Exhausted Mayers happy to see lockout's end

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Exhausted Mayers happy to see lockout's end

Jamal Mayers was feeling all the emotions of the lockouts end on Sunday: Joy knowing that hockey will return to action soon enough, relief that at least some of the season was salvaged and exhaustion after participating in those marathon negotiating sessions in New York this weekend.

MORE: NHL lockout comes to an end

I joked a few times that it was like getting a crash-course MBA, said the Blackhawks forward, who landed back in Chicago after a long and ultimately deal-making weekend in New York. It was definitely an unbelievable experience, something Ill never forget. There are so many different components and elements that are interrelated. I learned a lot on how these things work.

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Both sides finally did get it to work this weekend in New York, as they agreed on a framework for a new collective bargaining agreement in the wee hours of Sunday morning. It wasnt easy. A 13-hour day meeting with a mediator on Friday, then a 16-hour day of small and big meetings that culminated in the late-night (make that early-morning) deal.

Mayers, talking about that final day, said it was impossible to describe the process to anyone who wasnt there.

We decided to go into small-group meetings, created some momentum and probably went back and forth on different things seven or eight times over the course of (Saturday) night and (Sunday) morning, said Mayers, who also participated in the ownerplayer meetings in December. The reality was, we only had a few issues remaining, although they were very important.

Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who was logging serious hours going between the two parties on Friday and meeting with them together on SaturdaySunday has been praised for his part in getting this done. Mayers said Beckenbaugh deserves every bit of it.

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I dont think we couldve gotten the deal done, quite frankly, without him, Mayers said. With such few major issues remaining, he was able to pull out of each side what was there and make a determination on how to proceed. His approach worked and we were able to give on some things on both sides and come to an agreement.

Now that the deal is just about done, both sides focus on the tasks at hand: getting back to hockey, and getting back into the fans good graces.

Obviously were nothing without the fans, and obviously theyre hurt, Mayers said. We have the most passionate fans out there. My hope is they come back and support us, and our job is to have a good product on the ice. The reality is, its going to be some unbelievable hockey. Whether its 48 or 50 games, its going to be a sprint to get to the playoffs. The hockeys going to be intense and exciting; guys are ready and have been skating here all along preparing for this. Im happy its not for naught and we get to do what we love for the fans.

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Its been a draining few months of a lockout and it was one intense negotiating weekend in New York. For Mayers, it was an interesting experience. And it finally led to a much-needed conclusion.

I was glad I was a part of it and its something Ill carry with me after Im done playing, Mayers said. The guys there really helped. We didnt always agree, but everyone was very respectful and gave their opinion. Its tough when youre trying to represent 700 guys. Im exhausted, but Im definitely glad I was part of the process.

For Andrew Ladd, chance to play for a contender trumps money

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For Andrew Ladd, chance to play for a contender trumps money

Andrew Ladd’s second stint in Chicago was, in some ways, like his first one.

He had good teammates and enjoyed being around them again. He had nothing but good things to say about the organization that welcomed him here for the second time in his career.

The only difference was the abrupt postseason ending.

“It’s disappointing, for sure,” Ladd said during Wednesday’s wrap-up interviews. “You bring your family here and move your whole life. You want to make a run for it, make it worthwhile. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.”

Ladd’s stay with the Blackhawks is likely to be a brief one. They traded for the veteran, who was part of their 2010 Stanley Cup team, figuring he could be a key piece for another run. It wasn’t to be. Ladd had a quiet postseason, recording just two points in the Blackhawks’ seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues.

“It was a tight series, could’ve gone either way and that’s life,” he said. “You move on. Just happy to have the opportunity to come back and be a part of this group again.”

Ladd has reached that point in his career where he can look at the big picture. He’s won two Cups, one with the Blackhawks and the other with the Carolina Hurricanes. His family grew by another member earlier this month; Ladd brought his his son Walker Gordon, born April 14, home on Tuesday.

“It was a good day after what happened in St. Louis,” Ladd said. “It kind of put things in perspective when you can come home and take your mind off everything else.”

As for Ladd’s continuing hockey career, he said it’s not about getting the lucrative contract anymore as much as it’s about playing for a winner.

“I think I’m at the point in my career where I can make decisions based on being in a good situation. At the end of the day it’s not all about money for me. It’s about being in a good place for my family and being on a team that’s going to contend every year,” Ladd said. “You’d be crazy not to want to be a part of this group and this organization. We’ll see what happens.”

Chances are the Blackhawks and Ladd will not be together in the near future. The Blackhawks are once again facing a salary-cap crunch and, if there is a high-priority signee for them, it’s Andrew Shaw. Even that possibility is a tough one.

Still, Ladd’s not ruling anything out. Ladd’s latest playoff run with the Blackhawks was much shorter than he or they would have liked. But the Blackhawks have the pieces to contend again, and Ladd wouldn’t mind being a part of it.

“Every guy’s at a different point in his career in terms of what he wants to accomplish, whether he has a family or he’s getting on later in his career and wants to be part of a contender,” Ladd said. “There are a lot of things that go into that. You evaluate that individually and try to make the best decision possible for yourself and for your family. At the end of the day, you try to do whatever’s possible to be a part of a group and an organization like this.”

Blackhawks: Corey Crawford not among Vezina Trophy finalists

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Blackhawks: Corey Crawford not among Vezina Trophy finalists

Corey Crawford was not among the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, annually awarded to the league's top goaltender, the National Hockey League announced Wednesday.

Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop, Washington's Braden Holtby and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick were named candidates, which is voted on by the 30 general managers.

Bishop was named a finalist for the second time in his career after finishing third in 2013-14 while Quick is also a two-time nominee after earning a second-place finish in 2011-12.

Holtby, who tied an NHL record this season with 48 wins, is a first-time finalist.

Crawford set a career high with 35 wins, which was tied for fourth-best this season, despite missing one month with an upper-body injury. The Blackhawks netminder recorded a .924 save percentage, 2.37 goals against average and led the league with seven shutouts.

The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 22 at the 2016 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

 

Blackhawks have offseason to get past 'tough feeling' of early playoff exit

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Blackhawks have offseason to get past 'tough feeling' of early playoff exit

It probably took until today, when the Blackhawks had their closing meetings, their final wrap-up interviews with the media.

Their postseason, their shortest since 2012, is really over.

“It's just one of those real empty feelings. It still kind of feels like maybe we have a couple days off and then we'll get back to saying again,” Patrick Kane said. “Pretty tough feeling. A lot of us love showing up to the rink, playing hockey and getting ready for a game especially this time of year. It'll be tough to watch and see someone else win the award this year.”

The Blackhawks felt they had the pieces in place for another long playoff run, possibly even being the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in the late 1990s. It wasn’t to be, but general manager Stan Bowman said it wasn’t for lack of trying.

"Certainly proud of the effort we gave,” he said. “We played (the Blues) 12 times this year, 11 of the games were one-goal games. So obviously it was a very even series. When you play a good team like that sometimes you come out on the short end, not through lack of effort. But your goal is to win, and when you don't you're disappointed.”

The Blackhawks entered this season a little depleted following another post-Cup, salary-cap purge. There were deficiencies at forward and defense that hadn’t been there in recent seasons. Still, the Blackhawks thought they had enough to go on another run, especially after getting Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann at the deadline. But the four-line consistency that’s long been a part of the Blackhawks was missing. Young defensemen had up-and-down moments throughout the season, so the onus remained on Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

“It’s been a long, long time (since) we finished this early. Before the trade deadline, when we picked up new guys, we were excited and we said we could go far again. Obviously St. Louis played great hockey. We fought back and (lost) Game 7 by one goal,” Hossa said. “It’s tough to lose in the first round. But on the other hand, now it’s over, everybody’s going to have a good, long summer to recharge and be fresher for next year, the next push.”

Indeed, the Blackhawks will get ample time to rest and recuperate. They haven’t had much time to do either over these last three years, and you wonder if playing that much hockey caught up with some of the core players. Most of that core will return. Maybe Andrew Shaw is gone, as the team’s financial situation will make it tough to keep him. But there are still plenty remaining, and the extra rest could help them make sure this long offseason isn’t repeated.

“Get some rest now, try to recover as best we can and get ready for next year,” Seabrook said. “We know we’ve got a good team going into next season and a chance to compete, so we want to have a long playoff next year.”