Chicago Blackhawks

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!

Brandon Saad back in veteran-like form for Blackhawks

saad-924.jpg
USA TODAY

Brandon Saad back in veteran-like form for Blackhawks

Brandon Saad seems like more of an NHL veteran than he is. From his size to his composed style of play to what he’s already accomplished at this level, Saad gives off that vibe that he’s been around much longer than he actually has. Even his teammates forget that.

“You think he may be 27, 28 years old. He’s only 24 years old. He’s still a young kid,” Patrick Kane said. “Guys like [Ryan] Hartman and [Vinnie] Hinostroza are only 23 so he’s not much older than them, even though he might seem it. He’s got a great future.”

Saad’s future is once again being played out in Chicago and he couldn’t feel better about returning. Back in a familiar city and a familiar spot on the ice – alongside Jonathan Toews – Saad is ready to reignite the top line with Toews and Richard Panik. Outside of some scrimmages the line hasn’t gotten much of a chance to see where things are yet – their first preseason game was against Columbus on Saturday. But Saad said things are coming together.

“It was still [Toews’] first game back and my first time with him but we’re pretty familiar with each other. I don’t think it’ll take long at all,” he said following the team’s first practice at Notre Dame on Sunday. “Any time you come from a five-month summer into the season your timing’s always a little off, and then with a new player going back to a familiar player, I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Toews recognized Saad’s desire to be a big part of this team when the left wing was a rookie. That drive hasn’t diminished.

“His rookie year I kept saying you could see that intangible quality in him, that he wanted to get better every single night,” Toews said. “You see players with raw, physical talent and ability but don’t take it upon themselves to be one of the guys every single night. Saader was showing that right away and you could tell he was just going to get better and better.”

The powerful part of Saad’s game the Blackhawks missed the most was evident in his first preseason contest back with him, against Detroit on Thursday. The Red Wings didn’t have their top squad but Saad was nevertheless dominant, recording a hat trick in which all three goals were within a few feet of the net. The top line has had that element here and there the past two seasons but no doubt felt Saad’s absence.

“He’s a high-end player or potential player that should develop into a regular scorer and who knows what he could do,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think there’s room where maybe he could go to a better level as far as production goes, because he gets so many looks around the net with his quickness and the way he protects the puck and the way he can shoot it.”

Saad reaching another level. Again, you see what he’s done so far and you forget that he’s only 24. He still has a lot of time – and potential – ahead of him.

“He’s stepping in here knowing he’ll be one of those guys heavily keyed upon for us,” Toews said. “And he’s ready for that and excited for it.”

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”