Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.

Blackhawks still stunned, 'embarrassed' by quick exit

Blackhawks still stunned, 'embarrassed' by quick exit

The Blackhawks convened on Saturday for their annual locker clean-out/player evaluation day. It was a day that came a lot quicker than they expected, and two days after being swept out of the postseason, the bitter feelings hadn’t diminished a bit.

“Yeah, it’s embarrassing,” Duncan Keith said. “When you go into the playoffs you expect a long run and all of a sudden you’re out four straight. There’s no other way to describe it. Shocked, embarrassing, to me those are the words.”

There really wasn’t much to say on Saturday, as the Blackhawks still tried to figure out what went wrong in their lopsided series loss to the Nashville Predators. It wasn’t about losing that Stanley Cup-winning feeling, they said. But there was no doubt the Predators were the hungrier team; that, nobody among the Blackhawks denied.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Patrick Kane said of the Predators wanting it more. “If you watch that series or re-watch games, they seem like the faster team, the hungrier team. Maybe we were in a situation where we were maybe looking past a team like Nashville and thinking that we were going to go on, and it was going to be an easy series and we were just getting ourselves ready for what was to come down the road. It’s easy to say all of this stuff now, but I guess if you look back and watch the games, you could say they wanted it a bit more.”

Marian Hossa agreed.

“You know, there’s something right about it,” he said of Kane’s assessment. “In the regular season we had games where we beat them and maybe he’s right. But you have to give them so much credit because they gave us a hard time to try and make something happen. I don’t remember a series ending so early like this in my career and so few goals. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

It’s tough because any resemblance between the Blackhawks who garnered 109 regular-season points and the Blackhawks in that first-round series was purely coincidental. It was night and day.

“I think everyone thought they were at their best and it was the exact opposite. I think we’re missing what we had all year and it showed. It showed and against a team that maybe payed or had one of the best defensive efforts I’ve seen. They were all over the ice and it was a tough series to play in, especially when you expect so much,” Corey Crawford said. “We just weren’t the same team. I think anyone who was watching could pretty much see that.”

There was plenty of blame to go around and all among the Blackhawks, be it the brass or the coaches or the players, took their share of it. General manager Stan Bowman said it fell on him to field the best team. Coach Joel Quenneville said it was up to him to have the Blackhawks ready. Individual players pointed to what they didn’t do. But what’s done is done for this season. The Blackhawks failed, and while they say and know they need to move on, this will stay with them for a while.

“It’s not the fact that we lost. It’s how we lost I think when you look at it. I’m embarrassed — the way we played,” Brent Seabrook said. “It’s going to be a tough summer and that’s about it.”

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

The end came quicker than most of us expected on Thursday night when the Blackhawks were swept by the Nashville Predators, their second first-round exit in as many seasons.

Where do the Blackhawks go from here? General manager Stan Bowman, coach Joel Quenneville and Blackhawks players will address the media on Saturday as part of their locker clean-out day. Before they do, a few thoughts on the abrupt end of this season and the look ahead.

1. Quenneville taking the blame is wrong. Quenneville said it was on him that the Blackhawks didn't reach the necessary level in the postseason, that he didn't find "whatever buttons you have to push." As a coach he's responsible for finding the right combinations, for recognizing a player's strengths and weaknesses and adjusting accordingly. But when it comes to realizing it's the postseason and you've got to play that much better? That's on the players. These are grown men with very robust annual paychecks that serve as reminders on how they're supposed to play, especially during the postseason. Quenneville is responsible for certain things. Making sure a player's appetite to win is there in April is not one of them.

2. It wasn't about the goalie. There are still a few (albeit very few) who think if Scott Darling would've been in net at some point against the Predators, there would've been a different outcome. Well, we'll apply the same logic there as we did with Corey Crawford: Unless the Blackhawks' goaltenders were going to score some goals themselves, it didn't matter. Crawford wasn't the problem. Out of this four-game mess, he was probably the most consistent player. You get a slight argument on Game 3, but not much past that. The Blackhawks scored three goals in four games. They had more goals in the first game of this series two years ago.

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3. Don't look to the past anymore. On paper, both the Brian Campbell signing and Johnny Oduya re-acquisition looked like good ideas. Neither cost much. Neither were expected to be the go-to guys. But neither ended up being what the Blackhawks needed. This is the fourth time since 2013 the Blackhawks have brought back guys from previous Stanley Cup teams (Campbell, Oduya, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg), but the moves usually didn't bring the desired results. It's great to think you can recapture the magic with former players, but years go by and times change.

4. Be ready for changes. Don't expect front-office changes. What Bowman and Quenneville have done over the past few seasons is tremendous, especially in the salary-cap era. While this result is shocking and beyond disappointing, it's not reason enough to start dismantling the brain trust. Roster changes, however, won't be a surprise. They never are with this team. It would be a surprise if either Oduya or Campbell are back. Do they consider moving a bigger contract? Maybe, but that depends on having a willing trade partner and the player (likely) having to OK it. But the Blackhawks have to start looking forward more.

5. Take heart in the future. The Blackhawks got a glimpse into what the next generation can bring this season, and most of it is good. Ryan Hartman had an outstanding rookie season. Nick Schmaltz had the growing pains that accompany a player making the jump from college straight to the pros, but the skill is there and he should keep developing. Tyler Motte was outstanding at the start of the season. If he can reach pre-injury levels again this fall, he'll be valuable. Let's not forget Alex DeBrincat, who put up an astounding 127 points and set and/or tied a few Ontario Hockey League records with the Erie Otters this season. He's been great in the playoffs, too, with 22 points through 11 games.