Campbell sees differences in Hawks, Panthers

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Campbell sees differences in Hawks, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. Theres a good feeling brewing in South Florida.

Kris Versteeg is living on a golf course and waking up to see palm trees outside his window every day. Brian Campbell likes his new surroundings, too, even though hell still call Chicago his summer home.

The Panthers are trying to turn their franchise around, and former Blackhawks Campbell, Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille are looking to help that cause.

Versteeg, who had an assist on Thursday night in the Blackhawks shootout victory, now has a team-leading 12 points. Campbell is just behind him with 11 points, all assists.

Said Campbell of the Panthers environment, were not walking on eggshells around here. Its, Go play hockey and work hard and have a lot of fun. Thats the best thing with Dale Tallon. You can say what you want to say, express your opinion and youre not walking around intimidated by anyone or scared to go out and do something. Its a great atmosphere.

Campbell said a good attitude has helped the Panthers thus far.

Its changed a lot, he said. We want to be a playoff team and we have the potential to do that. Theres a new attitude of whats expected of all of us. We have a lot of depth, lines that can go and work hard and we can roll them over. You need that in this league.

Versteeg said the Panthers have let a few points get away this season they are now 6-5-1 with 14 points but that the team is going in the right direction.

Weve given away a lot of points already, which is kind of scary. We couldve been at the top of our division but thats a lot of shoulda, coulda, wouldas, he said. Its about finding our game now, getting leads and not giving them away.

The Panthers have been sporting very young, inexperienced teams for a few seasons. And the former Blackhawks bring a confidence and Cup-proven swagger that could rub off on the newer players.

As for the bonds to that Cup-winning team, those never break.

Im always going to be a Blackhawk. Theyll always be in my heart, Versteeg said. You cant forget about what got you here and the route you took. But starting there and now, I look forward to being a Panther.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How do Friday's blockbuster deals impact the Blackhawks going forward

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How do Friday's blockbuster deals impact the Blackhawks going forward

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Tracey Myers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the Blackhawks' blockbuster deals involving Niklas Hjalmarsson being dealt to Arizona and re-acquiring Brandon Saad from Columbus in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

They also discuss what it means for the team going forward, and whether it's a precursor to bigger deals to come.

Listen to the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast below.

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

* “Don’t look to the past anymore. It’s great to think you can recapture the magic with former players but years go by and times change.”

The sentences you see above were written by yours truly after the Blackhawks were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round in April. And for the most part, I stand by the message. The Blackhawks kept going back to their alumni well for solutions but, for the most part, it wasn’t working. But there’s always an exception to the rule, always one asterisk that can be applied in every situation (as we’ve done here).

In this case, that exception is Brandon Saad.

This isn’t someone who played with the Blackhawks five or more years ago. This isn’t a player who’s in his 30s. This isn’t a player who’s at the end of his career. This is a player in his prime, a 24-year-old who has a whole lot of game remaining and a whole lot of familiarity with this group, especially captain Jonathan Toews.

By the way, anyone else struck by the irony that the same Saad deal that the Blackhawks couldn’t afford two years ago is now one that fits perfectly, and will be really beneficial in two seasons when they don’t have to worry about trying to re-sign Artemi Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent?

Anyway, back to revisiting the past. General manager Stan Bowman admitted that he was hoping to bring Saad back into the fold at some point, although talks for this particular deal didn’t heat up until the past few days.

“Certainly it was a tough move a couple of years ago to have to make that trade [of Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015]," Bowman said. “Today my conversation had a much different tone. Brandon’s coming back and that chemistry is there right away and intensity and the way he plays. His all-around game is second to none.”

Saad said he wondered if he’d end up with the Blackhawks again at some point in his career.

“The day I was traded I talked with Stan and you part ways, but it’s a small league and there are always opportunities. It was definitely a thought in my mind possibly ending up in Chicago,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d happen this soon but that’s just the way it happened. It’s exciting to be back somewhere I’m comfortable, somewhere I know and an organization that’s had success.”

Yes, the Blackhawks went back to their alumni well. But instead of getting an aging veteran they’ve reacquired a kid in his prime. Every situation can come with an asterisk. This is one exception that will turn out well for the Blackhawks.