Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

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Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
9:18 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

So it looks like there will be just one 19-year-old helping the Blackhawks begin defense of their Stanley Cup Thursday night in Denver after Jeremy Morin was sent back to Rockford of the AHL for a little more seasoning. Nick Leddy may have been there along with him if not for Brian Campbell's sprained knee, but that injury created more of a need to fill what Campbell usually brings to the blue line.

Both Leddy and Morin showed their capability of playing at the highest level the last two weeks. It's now the former Golden Gopher's task to prove he has staying power going against a full NHL lineup, gameplanning against the Hawks' style in hostile environments, and under the great expectations when the champs are in their very own building.

Morin's game seemed to plateau a bit during the second week of games, but it was still pretty solid. If, in fact, a roster spot came down to him against Viktor Stalberg, the latter seemed to gradually pick up his game toward the end of camp. Provided Morin, Kyle Beach and a couple of others on the cusp take care of business in Rockford, they're a phone call away, something the 3rd- and 4th-line guys here will be well aware of.

How quickly and effectively the new faces mesh into their roles will be the ongoing storyline to watch the next six months. There are sure to be bumps in the road, and I think most Hawks fans are smart enough not to expect the kind of franchise-record regular season numbers their team put up last season. While this team wants to - and believes it can - win every night, the bigger picture will be about how effective that depth will be by the time April rolls around. By then, Morin could very well be a part of that mix.

Alright, so now it's time to get those preseason predictions on the record that we can all look back on in April and laugh at:

The Hawks will at least finish in the top four in the West for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

I see Detroit gunning for it all this year, and edging the Hawks out in the Central. To do that, their deep but aging roster must stay healthier than last season (it has to, right?), and sophomore goalie Jimmy Howard can't slump. The others in the top four will again be San Jose and Vancouver. The Sharks still haven't replaced Rob Blake (though they tried with Niklas Hjalmarsson) and have their share of post-season ghosts. Speaking of which, the Canucks have playoff skeletons in their closet, too, courtesy of the Hawks. We'll give them the regular season conference title based on the moves they made to improve their defense and depth. We'll even crown them Stanley Cup favorite in the West based on their roster. They then have to convince us that crown isn't too heavy, and Roberto Luongo has no excuses for any playoff flameouts now that he's not wearing the "C" and now that Dustin Byfuglien won't be standing in front of him for an entire series. I'm not sure if he - and they - can, once the Real Season begins. All bets are off, and if the Hawks are healthy and found answers for all four lines, I don't believe any team would want to face the defending champs.

For my other four playoff teams in the West - once the annual mad scramble for seeding and spots settles April 10 - I'll go with the Kings, Blues, Predators, and....hmmm...OK...Avalanche. I won't bother with a specific order, but that should be enough to put on record. It was between Colorado and Phoenix. Ilya Bryzgalov or free agent-to-be Craig Anderson? What leaned me in the Lanche's direction was their young core (where have we heard that?) that was key to their surprising success last year, taking the next step. I like St. Louis' young talent that took a dip last year (ya listenin', Colorado?) to rebound and start to grow into their potential while Jaroslav Halak guards the net. And I'm thinking Barry Trotz coaches around the continued lack of offensive firepower in Nashville to get his team in behind Pekka Rinne and that pesky Preds "system." Yes, four teams from the Central in the West's top eight.

So there it is. Now, never go back and look at this again.
Remember: "Stanley's Summer Vacation" Saturday night at 6 on CSN for some yet-to-be-seen footage from our coverage of Jonathan Toews's and Patrick Kane's days with the Cup this summer. Then, an hour-long "Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live," beginning at 6:30 from the United Center concouse, ahead of the banner-raising ceremony and the home opener against Detroit

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”