Hawks still soul-searching after humiliation

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Hawks still soul-searching after humiliation

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted 8:08 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Joel Quenneville couldnt figure it out. Neither could Jonathan Toews. Nobody could, really.

Minutes after suffering their worst loss of the season, all standings and precious-points-needed considered, several members of the Chicago Blackhawks were at a loss to figure out why their effort against the Dallas Stars was so bad.

Or why it was not there at all.

Im not a psychologist. I dont know why we decided to pack it in like that, Toews said after the lopsided 5-0 loss. Im not pointing fingers at anyone, including myself. Our best players have to be our best players and we werent tonight. And everyone followed suit.

On Thursday morning both the Blackhawks and Stars said about the same thing. It was a big game on Thursday night. There was a lot riding on that game. Problem is, only one team actually showed that on the ice.

Its one game, an important one and we didnt give ourselves a chance to get in. Thats the tough part, Quenneville said. We go back to the Calgary game a while ago. We were flat and not competing. Tonight, its tough to give a good answer why.

Now if Quenneville was talking about that terrible loss in Calgary in November, theres some excuse. The Blackhawks were still finding their way, still getting used to a lot of new pieces in their post-Cup reconstruction puzzle. If he was talking about the last loss in Calgary, it was a poor effort just days after the Blackhawks played one of their best against Vancouver, despite losing 4-3.

If the Blackhawks lose to Dallas like they did in Vancouver in early February, they could probably live with it. They wouldve lost the good fight, lost trying to the end. But thats not how Thursday went. It was one sided from the start, with the Blackhawks showing more frustration than fight.

As defenseman Brent Seabrook said we just werent very good tonight, right from the start. We didnt come out hungry enough.

True. But why that hunger was absent was a mystery.

This is not the way we wanted to start this (road trip), especially when we have a lot of time and rest between games. Theres no excuse for that, Toews said. We shouldnt forget about this one too quick.

So how do the Blackhawks respond to Thursdays letdown? Do they think about it? Do they get it out of their heads as quickly as possible? One way or another, do they learn from it?

Were going to be in the desert a couple days to dwell on this, Marty Turco said. Im not sure how itll pan out, but Im pretty sure by the drop of the puck Sunday, its going to be a different team (game) from us.

The Blackhawks will end Friday night as they did Thursday, sitting seventh in the Western Conference. Vancouver hosts Phoenix tonight, but those two teams that are already ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings. The nail biting begins again on Saturday, with a full slate of fellow conference scratchers and clawers playing.

There was no good explanation for Thursdays mess. There does, however, have to be a strong response to it.

A couple of guys consider themselves leaders of this team, whether they wear a letter or not, and we werent good enough tonight, Toews said. Those guys, and we know who we are, will respond. And the rest of the guys will follow. Thats how our team works.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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.”