Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

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Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

Stop us if youve heard us say this before: the power play was a big issue this season for the Blackhawks. And on Wednesday, as the team headed for another long summer, the possible problems were bandied about.

It was about the coaches and what they couldve done to fix it.

It was about the players, and how they needed to execute it.

But for the players, it was about the big guy in front of the net or, more to the point, the big guy who wasnt in front of the net.

As the Blackhawks ponder a lot of off-season questions, one has to be about fixing the power play. And the players may be onto something; the days of having that big body in front of the net have dissipated for the Blackhawks. Theyre fine with perimeter stars, not so bad on the point. But down in front? A little help might be needed.

Obviously, any good power play has a guy in front of the net all the time, Duncan Keith said. You look at Detroit and their power play and (Tomas) Holmstroms been there for the last 10 years, sitting in front of the net.

Those Red Wings are also out of the playoffs in the first round, but their power play probably wasnt the reason why; it was ranked seventh this regular season. The Blackhawks used to have those guys, with Tomas Kopecky and Troy Brouwer being the latest who were lost to free agencytraded before this season began.

We have a lot of identity on that PP, if you look at the guys on there that put up points. But Kaners talked about having that front-net presence being huge for us, Dave Bolland said. Its big to have that goalie screen and have a big body in front. Goalies hate it. Thats probably one of the main things.

Is that the only issue with the power play? Probably not. The Blackhawks still seemed to get too caught up in setting up the power play instead of going on the attack immediately. There was a good deal of waiting and passing, and faceoffs were also an issue at times.

Its probably a combination of several things, Keith said. I think for one thing, our confidence was probably a factor. Wed get going, get on a bad start and it almost got in our heads. For whatever reason, I dont know why. Theres no reason for it with the talent we have. I know I could be better at it, help it out. Thats an area I think Ive done well on in the past but its an area I think I can help out in personally.

Coach Joel Quenneville said, Ill absorb responsibility for ineffectiveness for the most part. But players do as well. Theyre the ones who execute it and they get the quality time. Sharing that going forward has to be important.

But a big guy in front certainly would help create opposite goaltender frustration, create a screen, create a quick chance at firing back rebounds. Maybe it comes from within; Bryan Bickell could be a good option there, or perhaps Viktor Stalberg. He said hed do whatever it takes to get on the power play. Or maybe the Blackhawks need to get that in free agency.

One way or another, the Blackhawks need to find answers on the power play. It was big when they won in past postseasons, and theyll need it to win in future ones.

Blackhawks agree to terms with Spencer Abbott on one-year deal

Blackhawks agree to terms with Spencer Abbott on one-year deal

The Blackhawks have agreed to terms with forward Spencer Abbott on a one-year deal, the team announced Friday.

The 28-year-old winger scored 14 goals and 21 assists in 42 games last season with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Hockey League. He also tallied one assist in nine postseason games.

Abbott is familiar with the Blackhawks organization, spending some time during the 2014-15 season with the Rockford IceHogs, where he appeared in 19 games and registered 12 goals and nine assists. He also recorded three goals and three assists in eight playoff games.

Abbott will likely begin the season in Rockford, but gives the Blackhawks some depth up front at a low cost.

Blackhawks place David Rundblad on buyout waivers

Blackhawks place David Rundblad on buyout waivers

David Rundblad’s time with the Blackhawks looks to be all but over.

The Blackhawks placed Rundblad on buyout waivers, as first reported by Pierre LeBrun, on Friday. Rundblad was set to make $1.05 million this season; with buyout waivers, the Blackhawks would take a cap hit of $133,333 this season and $183,333 next season.

General manager Stan Bowman said Rundblad is looking for opportunity elsewhere.

“I think he’s looking to maybe pursue other opportunities, whether in the NHL or Europe, I can’t speak for him,” Bowman said. “He’s still a young guy and he wants to get back to playing a lot of hockey and that’s why he wanted to go to Europe mid-season. We were willing to honor that request. We’ll let him find a spot where he knows he’ll be a regular player every day.”

Rundblad was never an every-day player for the Blackhawks. While he had some offensive upside, Rundblad struggled defensively. Last season he played nine regular-season games with the Blackhawks and 10 with the Rockford IceHogs. He also spent a portion of last season with the ZSC Lions (Switzerland) before returning to the Blackhawks organization.

“He has a bright future. We wish him well. But it’s hard as a guy trying to establish yourself in the NHL if you don’t play a lot of minutes,” Bowman said. “But I think we’ll see David back in the NHL in a few years. I think he wants to find a better fit where he’ll play a lot.”

He’s back: Blackhawks sign Brian Campbell

He’s back: Blackhawks sign Brian Campbell

For Brian Campbell, it was pretty simple.

He wanted to come back to Chicago. He makes his offseason home here, wants to continue to raise his young family here and is incredibly familiar with the team here. All it was going to take was a decent, not decadent, salary.

Campbell got that, and now he’s back to try and win another Stanley Cup.

Campbell signed a one-year deal worth a reported $2 million with the Blackhawks not long after the NHL free agency window opened on Friday. For Campbell, the chance to come back to Chicago was too tempting and worth turning down other, more lucrative offers.

“It’s where my heart is, where I want to play,” said Campbell via conference call. “The last time when I was a free agent, money played a factor. This time it was about what was best for me and my family. I have two young daughters; one is going into preschool. I’ve been welcomed into the neighborhood I live in. It’s just where I wanted to be, where my heart was. It just makes our life perfect. We’re ecstatic about being here.”

It’s a good, affordable deal, just like the one the Blackhawks signed Brad Richards to entering the 2014-15 season. Unlike with Richards, there shouldn’t be much adjustment time for Campbell. While the Blackhawks’ roster has changed plenty since Campbell was traded, the core is still fairly intact.

General manager Stan Bowman said at the draft last weekend that he wouldn’t rule out getting a veteran defenseman. Now he has Campbell back in the fold and it didn’t take long to convince him to return.

“The fact it came together so quickly, seemed it was a place Brian wanted to be,” Bowman said. “No question that Brian had a tremendous season this past year and several good years, leading up to this year. I’m sure he had other opportunities. Speaks to what person Brian is. He’s a winner. He believes in our organization and our chances last year. Nice to know he wants to be part of what we’re doing in Chicago. Familiarity with the coach and some players here. We’re excited he chose Chicago.”

Campbell’s return helps a defense that missed Johnny Oduya last season. Whether or not he plays as big a role as he did in Florida, or even in his first stint with Chicago, remains to be seen but Campbell believes he can still be a top-minute guy. His durability has been proven; the 37-year-old Campbell has played in every regular-season game with the Florida Panthers since he joined them in the 2011-12 season.

“I have a lot left in the tank,” Campbell said. “There are no egos here for me. It’s doing what’s best to win. I know how old I am but I definitely don’t feel that old. I led the Panthers in minutes last season but I’m definitely fine with less minutes as well. Whatever they want I’m more than happy to contribute.”

With the Campbell deal done the Blackhawks have around $3.2 million in cap space, per generalfanager.com. The Blackhawks may not do a whole lot else regarding free agency. Bowman said the Blackhawks could get a “role-type player,” but getting Campbell was their top priority.

The Blackhawks needed to bolster their defense. Campbell wanted to come “home.” It worked out. Now to see if Campbell is once again the defenseman the Blackhawks need.

“I call Chicago home. My wife grew up here and we’re excited to raise our two daughters here,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t be happier to play for my hometown team now.”