Blackhawks mailbag: On trades, TvR and travel destinations

Blackhawks mailbag: On trades, TvR and travel destinations

And now, the end is near…

The Blackhawks’ bye week is just about done. While I sit and wonder how the heck it went this quickly, another “end” doth approacheth: the trade deadline.

We’re less than two weeks away from the March 1 deadline, and not surprisingly, there are some questions about that.

https://twitter.com/alarson2201/status/831947870324588549

When Stan Bowman talked to us prior to the Blackhawks’ game in San Jose on Jan. 31, he said he’d be perfectly fine going ahead with this team the way it was. Asked specifically about acquiring a left wing for the top line, he said, “I’m not expecting a big addition like that.”

He said the same thing to Elliotte Friedman in Friedman’s recent 30 Thoughts column. Bowman likes how the Blackhawks’ younger players are progressing and has confidence in them. Since we talked to Bowman, the Blackhawks have gone 5-1. Their four-line rotation is coming together. They played better defense as they went. Corey Crawford is returning to form. Does he stand pat? Tweak? Splash? I’m saying no to a big-splash move. That costs you a lot and the Blackhawks want to hang on to draft picks (they’re hosting the 2017 NHL Draft and it’s no secret they want it to be their showcase). I still won’t be surprised if there’s a tweak, just a little something to bolster the forward depth. Anything more than that is too costly and runs the risk of disrupting chemistry, which I believe is as good as it’s been in several seasons.

Now onto the rest of the mailbag:

This is a question better answered in the offseason, but I’ll give it a shot. Darling is one more player who has said he wants to stay with the Blackhawks. Unlike the others, he grew up around here. BUT, let’s remember something else: if Darling keeps having a great season, he may want to get a shot at a No. 1 job elsewhere. It would be understandable, and I’m sure the Blackhawks will try and do something that works for both parties. Again, we’re a few months away from anything happening there so let’s revisit later.

UPDATED ANSWER. This is the beauty of the internet: you can refresh parts of the mailbag easily. On Thursday evening the Blackhawks recalled Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero from the Rockford IceHogs. No surprise on Schmaltz. As I said in my original answer prior to the moves, Schmaltz is finding his game and that top line with he, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik was playing well before the bye week. Also as previously said, not a shock that Gustav Forsling stays in Rockford, too. Blackhawks have seven defensemen now and the previous attempts at rotating eight just weren’t working. According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks currently have $3.226 million in cap space and will have nearly $4.2 million in cap space at the trade deadline.

I once thought that myself. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe they’d like a Marcus Kruger, who brings a lot of two-way ability to the table. Let’s also remember that Ryan Hartman is now exposed to the expansion draft. A young kid having a surprising rookie season, can mix it up if necessary (although he’s moving away from that) and is good at getting under opponents’ skin. That could be tempting for Vegas.

I’ll be curious to see what he does with the pairings, mainly with Michal Kempny. I’m going to assume Kempny will play more down the stretch. Maybe Michal Rozsival gets in now and then coming off his injury, but you’ve got to move forward with Kempny. As far as pairings, unless there are issues down the stretch I don’t see him changing much. As much as coach Joel Quenneville does change things up when things aren’t going well, he stays put when they are.

Lot of good ones. I’m a sucker for a great view, which is why I miss Rexall Place and still love Bell Centre and yes, the Scotiabank Saddledome (sorry, Laz). I’m also a huge fan of Madison Square Garden since it’s renovation. Not too high up, not too far back. The worst view is Prudential Arena. I joke that you’re so far up in the arena that you’re above the tree line. Seriously, there’s going to come a day when I see clouds below me in that arena.

I’m convinced he already knows English and is just avoiding us. Remember earlier this season when Panarin came out of the penalty box to score the overtime winner against the St. Louis Blues? I was talking to Patrick Kane about Panarin following that game and Panarin referred to himself as a “ninja” before leaving the room. I’m just waiting for the day I find out he speaks better English than I do.

Pokka is part of a deep pool of defensemen. He’s in Rockford right now because other guys are ahead of him, and that’s all there is to it. The Blackhawks don’t have to do anything with him other than let him keep playing with the IceHogs.

I would absolutely love to attend one of the Slams, although not sure I’d want to cover it. I’d want to be part of that excitement as a spectator. So much of my enthusiasm over sports has been killed out of me because of this job, that I’d like to rekindle some of it.

I haven’t gone to many out there but one I still love is Imagery Winery in Sonoma. Their labels are works from local artists and their wines are outstanding. Big fan.

First, it’s all about the food. It’s always all about the food. The sports in most of the stops is awesome, as are the people. Especially in Canada. Those people freeze their tails off for nine months out of the year and yet are the friendliest people on the planet. But I’m digressing. Montreal and Vancouver will always be two of the favorites for all of those categories you list. I love sushi, and Vancouver with sushi restaurants is like a U.S. city with Starbucks: there’s one on every corner. The differences are the sushi places aren’t overpriced and the product is good.

I’ve been to France twice, Italy once and haven’t been to Spain yet. And likely going to France again. So there it is.

It’s wine and hockey, man. Whatever your preference!

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below.