Calling it a career: Brian Campbell retires, joins Blackhawks front office

Calling it a career: Brian Campbell retires, joins Blackhawks front office

When Brian Campbell returned to the Blackhawks last summer he made it clear that he wanted to stay and raise his family in Chicago. Campbell’s playing days are officially over, but his time with the Blackhawks is not.  

Campbell announced his retirement on the Steve Cochran Show on WGN Radio 720 on Monday morning, adding that he’ll join the business side of the Blackhawks. The team said Campbell will be working with the Blackhawks “in the marketing community and [with] youth hockey initiatives.”

The veteran defenseman had two stints with the Blackhawks. He was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team before he was traded to the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2011. Campbell signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks last July.

The 38-year-old Campbell said the decision to retire was a bittersweet one.

“The first time you say it out loud, it hurts, but I’m excited,” Campbell said of his upcoming off-ice work with the Blackhawks. “I know I could play physically. Mentally I’m done with it a little bit. It’s a grind. I played 18 years now of pro hockey, I’m tired and a little done with that. I have two little girls… I’m going to be putting them in the forefront a little more. That’s what I looked at.

“I’m excited to stay with the Blackhawks, that’s the No. 1 thing I wanted to do,” Campbell continued. “I’m going in to work on the business side. I want to learn and grow with it. I’ll work my way up in that organization. There’s a lot of good people, so I’m excited for that opportunity.”

Returning to Chicago was key for Campbell last summer. It’s where he and his family call home. To stay here with the Blackhawks in an off-ice capacity is the perfect finale for him.

“That’s why I came back, that’s why I want to be part of the organization. Leadership has been good to me,” Campbell said. “I’ve worked hard and that’s what I want to do is continue to grow, the fans to get more excited. It’s just fitting. for me. It worked out perfectly.”

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya is headed to the Eastern Conference.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. The contract could be worth up to $1.25 million with incentives.

Oduya, who the Blackhawks re-acquired prior to the trade deadline last season from the Dallas Stars, finished with two goals and seven assists in 52 games between the two teams.

It comes to no one's surprise that the Blackhawks didn't re-sign the veteran defenseman.

After being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Nashville Predators, Stan Bowman has made it clear the Blackhawks are headed in a different direction, and their offseason has been plenty of busy so far. Headline deals included trading Oduya's linemate Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for 24-year-old defenseman Connor Murphy and re-acquiring Brandon Saad from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

Oduya heads to a Senators team which got ousted in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.