A little R&R could put Blackhawks back on top

458317.jpg

A little R&R could put Blackhawks back on top

Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 8:14 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

There will be no long postseason for the Chicago Blackhawks this spring. There will be no Stanley Cup celebration parade, no entire summer spent making appearances and no Cup hangover.

No, this summer the Blackhawks will have time to rest, recover and be get fully ready to go when the fall rolls around again. Theyll be hungry again, something that the Blackhawks say may have been missing when they started the 2010-11 campaign.

Its good in some ways, Patrick Kane said of the longer break. We want to keep playing but we had two months off after the big parade (last season). It really wasn't much time. I think for everyone, nice to have that summer.

Between parades, conventions and other Cup-related appearances, the Blackhawks had little down time last summer. And remember several top players were also at the Olympics. Thats a lot of winning and a lot of games.

So its no surprise that the Blackhawks energy levels werent at top speed in October. Their motivation had to be less, too, considering they had won everything a few months before that.

Coach Joel Quenneville expects the drive, energy and motivation will be there this fall.

We should all expect more from each other, he said. We talk about being in that playoff race from Game 1 to 82; it definitely takes a little bit out of your team. We would expect the excitement level to be there from the beginning (next season). Starts are critical.

And the Blackhawks didnt have a good one in 2010. So then they were fighting at the end, extending themselves to get to the playoffs. And despite their valiant effort to get to a Game 7 against the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks looked gassed by the end of that series.

I think we'll be able to see next year that rest definitely helped us, Jonathan Toews said. It does so much for you physically but most of all just being away from the game a little really helps you to get hungry and play well.

The Blackhawks will get a lot of things back this summer: their energy and their health being top among them. They should also have that hunger to go for another Cup run.

The message (at locker clean-out) was more or less that all 82 games matter. We were in that group of 4-6-8 teams fighting for a spot all year, and that's taxing on a team, Patrick Sharp said. The message is to come back next year excited to play hockey.

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

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

It’s been just over a month since the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in swift fashion. And as Patrick Kane told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning, the bitter taste hasn’t gone away.

“I think a lot of us didn’t figure we’d be in the situation we’re in right now,” Kane told Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet on Tuesday. “All of us can work this offseason to get better. It’s a long time to wait to get back to that opportunity to play in the playoffs again, so we’ll have a sour taste in our mouth for a while.”

The Nashville Predators, who made quick work of the Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night to earn the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Kane told WGN he’s been watching the playoffs and said Nashville “has a pretty good system going.”

“They come at you, they play aggressive. I don’t think any of us would be a big fan of the way they defend in the neutral zone, just sitting back and playing that 1-3-1. But at the same time they come at you,” said Kane, who added that the Blackhawks “weren’t even close in that (first-round) series.”

“Maybe we had a chance in Game 3 when we were up 2-0, but it was a clean sweep and that’s probably how it should’ve been,” he said. “So now it’s time to regroup.”

When the Blackhawks had their wrap-up media session on April 22, general manager Stan Bowman was asked if some players, having won three Stanley Cups since 2010, had lost some of the hunger. Bowman didn’t buy that and neither did Kane.

“Four sounds a lot better than three, right?” he said. “It’s a long time away and a lot of work, but sometimes you go through those situations and you realize you won three Cups and it’s almost like you’re going to be there again. That’s where the reality check is for us now, realizing how hard it is to get back in that situation, how hard it is to win a Cup or go deep in this league. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

On April 22, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vented his frustrations on the team’s all-too-abrupt exit from the postseason, adding that he and coach Joel Quenneville, “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

There will be plenty of decisions for the two to mull between now and September, when the Blackhawks convene for training camp. When it comes to the assistant head coach vacancy, however, that might need to be decided with a more one-sided approach. That choice ultimately should be made by Quenneville.

In a recent podcast, Pat Boyle and I discussed the Blackhawks’ need to work together on some upcoming decisions. But with the assistant coach, the head coach has to have the loudest voice. The head coach probably should even have the final vote. The relationship between coaches has to be there because they’re around each other constantly. They’ve got to be on the same page. There has to be trust from Day 1.

As for when the Blackhawks name that assistant, there appears to be nothing imminent. A source said Monday that the Blackhawks and Ulf Samuelsson have been in communication about the job — Chris Kuc of the Tribune first reported on Samuelsson on Sunday. On paper it looks like it would be a great fit. Samuelsson and Quenneville played several seasons together with the Hartford Whalers, along with current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The relationship with Samuelsson has been there for a long time and it would make for a smoother transition. It might also provide somewhat of a panacea for Quenneville after former assistant Mike Kitchen, whose friendship with Quenneville also went back to their playing days, was fired last month.

Earlier this month Bowman told the Sun-Times that Quenneville will have a big role in the Blackhawks’ finding their next assistant coach, with the final choice being a “joint collaboration.” We get that there’s an order to these things and everyone has to be in agreement with the final decision. But in the end the head coach has to be 100-percent happy with his immediate staff. So whoever the next assistant coach is, the decision has to be 100 percent Quenneville’s.