Myers: Hawks have been able to weather the storm

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Myers: Hawks have been able to weather the storm

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
10:50 a.m.
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

First I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas. I hope its a good one for all of you.

Now with that in mind, I would be remiss if I didnt bring some good news: the Chicago Blackhawks are 6-3-1 since Nov. 30, the day after they lost Marian Hossa to his lower body injury and six days before they would lose Patrick Kane to a left ankle injury. Not so bad for a group missing the teams sorry, make that two of the NHLs premiere players. As of Christmas Day, the Blackhawks are seventh in the Western Conference with 41 points. No, theyre not right in the midst of the top 8; but considering No. 1 Detroit has 46 points, theyre right in the thick of it.

Welcome to the Western Conference, where the standings seem to change on a minute-by-minute basis. Its always tight in the West but this year its been unbelievably suffocating.
But I digress

So how have the Blackhawks been able to weather the storm sans Hossa and Kane? After months of talking about getting away from too pretty, too stylish hockey, they actually have. Their play lately has no bells, no whistles and no worrying about dazzling the home crowd. Call it nuts-and-bolts hockey, hard-hat hockey, blue-collar hockey, it all comes down to the same important point: the Blackhawks have won more a heck of a lot more than theyve lost without two of their top players.

Certainly the Blackhawks have had their eye-rolling moments through this stretch please see both games against the Colorado Avalanche, especially the one in Denver. But lately the Blackhawks have gotten back to playing complete games with everyone on board.

Corey Crawford has been great in net, stopping everything from the mundane to the mammoth. By the way, is it too early to say he should be among the NHLs three stars for December? Somewhere after that Crosby guy, of course. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are back to their old selves, and Brian Campbell has been stellar. Goals have come from everyone, from top liners to checking liners to fourth liners (shameless plug: please see my Hawk Talk from Thursday). And the Blackhawks havent played with fire: theyve played clean hockey, avoiding penalties and killing them off.

More comfort and joy is on the way, folks. If the injured parties arent back for the Blackhawks Dec. 26 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, they should return soon after that. December could have been a big bag of ugly for the Blackhawks without Hossa and Kane. Instead, theres been more reasons to celebrate than not. And with two of the Blackhawks top stars soon returning, the New Year could be pretty happy, too.

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words. Finding out his good friend, former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired not long after the Blackhawks’ postseason ended, frustrated him.

“That day, I was not happy. I was a little disappointed,” Quenneville said on Thursday. “We lost a great coach and somebody I had been working with for a long time. It was tough and we’ve moved on now, but I wasn’t excited at the moment.”

In moving on the Blackhawks have revamped their coaching staff, adding another old friend and teammate of Quenneville’s in Ulf Samuelsson and a former member of his St. Louis staff in Don Granato. Quenneville said Samuelsson will take over Kitchen’s responsibilities while Granato will handle a number of tasks.

“Whether he’s pre-scout, helping Kevin [Dineen], helping Ulfie, helping me. He’s helping the young guys like Stan [Bowman] said,” Quenneville said. “We have input with all areas and all coaches and it’s a fun thing, drawing up practices or talking to guys, preparing meetings and evaluating performances. But I think he’s excited to be a part of that as well and Ulfie, he’ll be doing something he’s been doing and he’s excited to work with some of our defense as well.”

As far as the Blackhawks’ defensive style, Quenneville doesn’t foresee it changing.

“I think there are some areas how it ended or after a playoff series, there’s always some tweaks we like to do in games, in playoffs or in series," Quenneville said. "It’s obviously disappointing. But I think there’s a lot of positive things we accomplished last year and how we played without the puck, I don’t think that was too much of an issue.

"But we have a defense that can play both ways and we still want offense from our defensive part of our game. That’d be one of our strengths. But when it’s time to defend, how we want to play in our own end without the puck is something that’ll be very close to how we play.”

Kruger’s situation

There’s been plenty of talk regarding Marcus Kruger, and whether or not he’ll remain with the Blackhawks. Whatever the future holds for the center, general manager Stan Bowman wouldn’t say on Thursday.

“Yeah, there have been a lot of these rumors around, but Marcus is no different than any other player. I’m not going to comment on rumors out there, but people are stating it as if it’s a fact,” Bowman said of Kruger being at the center of trade rumors. “There’s a lot of speculation, but it’s not fair to the players for me to be commenting on what’s been rumored out there. I don’t really have anything to add on that front.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was Vegas’ selection in Wednesday night’s expansion draft. But a source said it’s still possible the Blackhawks trade Kruger to the Golden Knights.

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

When the news came down that Marian Hossa would miss the 2017-18 season, most first thoughts were about his health. But it was only natural to look at the business implications, and the possibility of Hossa going on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

That would solve the Blackhawks’ cap issues, right? That would give them more money to spend, right? Well, not exactly. See, the LTIR can be a bit complicated. It can also be tricky to explain. And right now, even Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is trying to figure out how this all develops for the team.

“I think there’s a little bit of a misconception on the LTI provision in the salary cap, and understandably so. It’s very complicated. It’s not as simple or as easy as people think it to be,” Bowman said on Thursday, the day before the Blackhawks hosted the 2017 NHL Draft. “I don’t want to get into too many details because it’s hard to explain it all, but there’s a couple different ways it can work.

"You can use offseason LTI and in-season LTI and there’s drawbacks to both, and there’s limitations the way that the league handles those things. It’s not as simple as people might think that we just have this ability to suddenly replace Marian with another player. It’s way more involved than that.”

Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below the $75 million ceiling when the regular season begins. Of the offseason and in-season LTI options, Bowman told CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd that if the Blackhawks choose the latter, "Marian has to count to start the season with his full amount."

It’s not about the Blackhawks finding a guy this summer that makes an equal cap it to Hossa.

“If you did that you would be essentially starting the year with an inability to make any transactions," Bowman said. "And that’s why, it’s a harder discussion to have because you’ve got to give you examples of if this happens. But it just doesn’t work that way. I wish it were that simple, but it’s not. It’s a much more complicated provision than people think. It’s not some easy cap solution where we just go sign a player for the same amount and off we go. It’s much more problematic than that.”

The NHL will be looking at the situation, although there doesn’t seem to be anything that would keep the Blackhawks from putting Hossa on LTIR. Bowman wasn’t concerned about it.

Still, the Blackhawks will still be doing their share of offseason math.

“I know how it works. What’s going to happen is a different question," Bowman said. "You don’t make those decisions overnight, but I think that understandably there’s probably a lot of confusion, because it’s not your job to run the salary cap for a team. So, I can get why you don’t know all the little details, and it is a very intricate provision in the CBA. So, we understand it. We’ve used LTI before, so it’s not like it’s something we’ve never been faced with. It’s just a factor that we’ll get through.”