Hawk Talk: Consistently inconsistent

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Hawk Talk: Consistently inconsistent

Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
5:05 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

If Jeremy Morin's trip back to Rockford Monday means Dave Bolland is back from injury Wednesday, the Blackhawks will have all hands on deck for the first time this season. And they'll be out of excuses.

Not that they're making any inside the locker room. They admit to their mediocrity, which is proven by their record. Sunday's loss to Edmonton was light years better than their previous loss to the Oilers nine days earlier. Less humiliating, but more frustrating. Those baby faces will go into opponents' rinks a year or two from now and provide headaches, but there's no way that team should march into the United Center right now and deny the defending champs any points, twice, in less than a week and a half.

Joel Quenneville's squad did a good enough job most of the night from an effort and responsibility standpoint. Most of the night isn't working for them right now. The NHL's busiest team the opening month is on an 82-point pace. That won't make the playoffs in the West. And with the way things are going at home, the upcoming circus trip out west just might be circled on the calendar as a welcome getaway.

Brian Campbell's calm but accurate postgame critique about the lack of consistent focus and effort -- including practice habits carrying over into games -- were welcome words, and he's only had an up-close view of it for a couple of weeks.

There were chances to put the game away in the first five minutes of the second period, but the league's second-best power play going into the game couldn't light it up versus the league's worst penalty kill. Then, when your best players are spending time trying to kill three penalties in an 11-minute span late in the second and early in the third period with a one-goal lead, it adds to the degree of difficulty. In their six home losses, the Blackhawks have been outscored 11-3 in the third period.

On the "up" side so far, Viktor Stalberg seems to be improving every game, and while they didn't connect Sunday like they did the night before in Atlanta, playing the left side with Toews and Kane is a promising combination. He also got more physical over the weekend and is showing much more overall presence when he's on the ice.

Two players whose consistent effort and hard play, in general, shouldn't be overlooked, even though the offensive results have been limited, are Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. The former's had enough offensive chances playing much of the time with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, but those pucks that haven't gone in as often as he'd like isn't for lack of paying the price in the dirty areas. Skille's burst and willingness to sacrifice in those same spots has impressed coaches and teammates, even though his scoring history has yet to come through. He hasn't let that frustration affect his work ethic.

Jake Dowell's held up his end of the bargain centering the fourth line alongside a carousel of wingers. But this team's best players still need to be their best players, which hasn't occurred often enough.

Finally, the Hawks' overall goals-against average of 3.00 ranks in the bottom third of the NHL to begin the week. While that reflects somewhat poorly on the numbers for Marty Turco and Corey Crawford, who've been victims of a handful of painful, quirky goals, I'd hate to think where the team might be without some important saves they've made at critical times through the first 17 games.

This team isn't alone "fighting it" at this point. All you have to do is look to the East, where the Hawks' Cup predecessor is having trouble with consistency. Pittsburgh's been battling different issues (including a terrible start by Marc-Andre Fleury and the absence of Jordan Staal), but they sit at 7-7-1. You wouldn't think they'll be on the outside looking in come April, just as you wouldn't expect the same of the Blackhawks.

But with all the points the champs have already left on the table, they'll need to find a different level soon, starting with the very basics and commitment pointed out inside the locker room after Sunday's latest loss, by one of their own.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Blackhawks among teams in contention to land Jimmy Vesey

Blackhawks among teams in contention to land Jimmy Vesey

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said at the ninth annual Blackhawks Convention that he's prepared to enter the 2016-17 season with the roster as currently constructed, but there could be one more addition coming, and an impactful one at that.

Coveted free agent forward Jimmy Vesey will hit the open market on Aug. 15, and the Blackhawks are reportedly among the short list of teams set to meet with him when he's eligible to speak with other clubs next month.

"Chicago will be a team we want to talk to on Aug. 15," Vesey's agent Peter Donatelli told Scott Powers of The Athletic over the phone Monday. "Chicago will be on the list, but it shouldn't be read as they're ahead of anyone else.

"He really has no idea where he's going to be. It's going to be up to the teams to sell him. ... Yes, [we have criteria], but we're interested in what the teams say rather than telling the teams what they have to say."

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Vesey is currently property of the Buffalo Sabres after the Nashville Predators, who originally drafted him with the No. 66 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, traded the 23-year-old left winger's negotiating rights in June for a 2016 third-round selection when it became apparent the two sides wouldn't be able to hammer out a deal.

What makes Vesey and Chicago a perfect match for each other is there's a legitimate spot open in the top-six to potentially play alongside Jonathan Toews, and because Vesey would be signing an entry-level contract, the maximum allowable salary is $925,000 per year, which benefits the cap-strapped Blackhawks.

Vesey is a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist, and captured the award as the best player in college hockey last season after scoring 24 goals and adding 22 assists in 33 games with Harvard University, where he played four years.

The previous two Hobey Baker Award winners are Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames (2014) and Jack Eichel of the Sabres (2015), so the possibility of Vesey landing in Chicago could immediately give the Blackhawks another dynamic scoring option.

CSN to air five Blackhawks preseason games

CSN to air five Blackhawks preseason games

The Blackhawks announced their 2016 preseason television broadcast schedule on Tuesday, and you can catch five of the six total contests here on Comcast SportsNet. 

The Blackhawks will open their preseason slate on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. on CSN Plus when the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins come to town. Their six-game slate comes against just three opponents as they will face the Penguins, Blues and Red Wings twice over the span of two weeks. 

Ticket information for the 2016 preseason will be announced at a later date. 

Here is the Blackhawks' full preseason television broadcast schedule:

David Rundblad, Blackhawks mutually part ways

David Rundblad, Blackhawks mutually part ways

The Blackhawks and David Rundblad have mutually agreed to terminate the defenseman’s contract, as generalfanager.com reported on Monday night.

With the contract terminated, the Blackhawks will not carry any type of Rundblad-related cap hit. If the Blackhawks had bought out Rundblad, they would have carried a $133,333 cap hit this season and a $183,333 the next season.

Per generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks now have approximately $2.3 million in cap space.

Rundblad was placed on waivers on July 1. The defenseman spent part of the 2015-16 season playing in Switzerland. He returned to the Blackhawks last spring and played in three of the team’s seven playoff games against the St. Louis Blues.

But Rundblad could never find a consistent place in the Blackhawks’ lineup. General manager Stan Bowman talked in July of Rundblad wanting a fresh start.

“He’s still a young guy, wants to get back to playing a lot of hockey and that’s why he wanted to go to Europe mid-season. We were willing to honor that request. We’ll let him find a spot where he knows he’ll be a regular player every day,” Bowman said in July. “He has a bright future. We wish him well. But it’s hard as a guy trying to establish yourself in the NHL if you don’t play a lot of minutes. But I think we’ll see David back in the NHL in a few years. I think he wants to find a better fit where he’ll play a lot.”