Blackhawks try to rediscover 2010 team

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Blackhawks try to rediscover 2010 team

The Chicago Blackhawks thought they had it figured out. They thought they had found the right supporting cast, the right group of grit and veteran presence to balance the star power that has been in place for several seasons.

But for the second consecutive season the role players just didnt play enough of that role. And it looks like the Blackhawks will be working on that again in the offseason.

The Blackhawks tried to get a little wiser a little deeper and a little tougher when they signed defensemen Sean ODonnell, Steve Montador and Sami Lepisto, forwards Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo and goaltender Ray Emery entering this season. But whether it was due to injuries or an inadequate fit, it just didnt seem to work.

Its unlikely most of that group will return in 2012-13; and the Blackhawks getting the right ensemble next season is imperative.

Chemistry going forward should be a concern. When I say a concern, a priority, coach Joel Quenneville said Wednesday. When everybody pushingpulling together is a priority, that will make you stronger. I thought we addressed (our needs) last year. I thought they did a good job in that role, but I just think that every year is a different type of mix on our team.

The mix in the Cup season worked, obviously. The role players did their part, buoying the Blackhawks when their stars had rough nights or slumps. But the past two years, thats been missing. When the stars slumped, so did the team see their nine-game winless streak. The same happened last season.

Of the above group, Montador and Carcillo were injured for most of the seasons second half. Both are also signed or extended through the next several years. Emery, who signed a player tryout contract in the summer and then a one-year deal as training camp ended, is also set to return next season.

But the rest are probably gone. Brunette said Wednesday that the Blackhawks were moving in a different direction, and was not holding my breath that theyre going to call. It didnt help that his place on the team was never clearly defined.

The 40-year-old ODonnell was an on againoff again scratch. The same went for Lepisto. Mayers was a solid player all season but was suddenly a healthy scratch after Game 3 of the playoffs. Rumor swirled that Mayers was scratched because he didnt do anything to Raffi Torres, whos vicious hit on Marian Hossa has left the Blackhawks right wing a concussion; but Quenneville said that wasnt a factor at all.

Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik, who have been with the Blackhawks for two-plus seasons now, are also part of that support. And they were there in the postseason, Frolik especially. But both were ineffective in the regular season and talked about how that needs to change in 2012-13.

I had meetings (with the coaches), and they talked about consistency, Bickell said Wednesday. This year was a roller coaster, up and down. Come playoffs, I picked up my game and did what needed to do. What I did in the playoffs, I need to do at the start of the year next year.

All stars need a supporting cast. The Blackhawks thought they found the right one this season. Instead, theyll be searching for the right one for the third consecutive campaign.

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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AP

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.