Tag Archives: Brandon Saad

Chicago Blackhawks – Deconstruction to a Picasso?


Image result for picasso cubism paintings

Chicago, IL — Pablo Picasso is one of the foremost twentieth century creative minds. His visionary art pushed the artistic envelope more than any other.

Not only did Picasso explore more different types of styles with his periods of Blue, Rose, African, Cubism, Classism & Surrealism but he employed different mediums as well.

Picasso used not only painting but sculpting, collage and ceramics this also illustrates an ingenuity with flexibility to change.

The Chicago Blackhawks can only hope to achieve some of this type of creativity and success with their recent changes.

Think the Picasso Bull deconstruction when thinking of the Blackhawks right now and Stan Bowman may only be on plate 4 in his abstract deconstruction.

What the final picture will be who knows. One can only hope it ends with a silver Cup.

Part of the deconstruction was the trading of Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad which will definitely give the Hawks a much different look.

There is no question part of what will be leaving with Panarin is 20 offensive points but what the Hawks will gain is more of a two way play with Saad which hopefully leads to better possession numbers.

The other benefit to Saad’s game is he also had more D-zone starts as opposed to Panarin which gives the Hawks more flexibility as well with lines and players.

The other thing losing Panarin his points coming from the power play.

This leaves a spot there as well along the left half wall which will most likely be filled by Patrick Sharp.

Welcome back Patrick Sharp. I have no question about Sharp’s hip injury and his ability to be ready come day one.

I am a little more concerned with his concussions and I hope this is not an issue going forward as no one really understands what goes on with this.

For this reason I would prefer to see Sharp on the third line rather than the second line with more exposure being with Patrick Kane.

There is the possiblity of getting more hits with more visibility but we shall see how this plays out.

I’ve got to say Sharp has a great attitude any young player should watch him and learn. Sharp also brings more speed up front.

What will be missed is Hossa in a lot of different areas. He had 26 G and 19 A last year.

The Hawks are looking for Nick Schmaltz, Tomas Jurco  and maybe some youth in Alex DeBrincat or Graham Knott or Alex Fortin to step up and surprise. All of this will have to be sorted through come training camp.

With the Hossa departure it should not be forgotten his work on the power play and penalty kill which both Saad and Sharp should help with these.

Speaking of special teams in particular the penalty kill had a rough start and really never recovered due to the poor start.

With the departure of Kruger, Hossa, Rasmussen and probably Desi an entirely different look for Pk will be forthcoming. Sharp, Saad and newcomer Tommy Wingels can all fill in on the PK.

Speaking of which Stan Bowman really has changed the bottom six look with bringing in Tommy Wingels from Ottawa and Lance Bouma from Calgary both bring more physicality and direct straight line play. Hopefully more net front presence than what the Hawks have had as well.

How the bottom six shakes out will be interesting Bouma, Jurco, Hinostroza, Dauphin, Hayden will all be vying for spots in camp which again should be interesting to watch how this develops.

My concern is at the face off dot because outside of Jonathan Toews there is no one even now at center that is over 50%.

Coaching here will be the key. Wingels, Sharp and Bouma can all play center so we shall see who can improve here.

Perhaps though the scariest part of this deconstruction is the defense.

Outside of Keith and Seabrook there is a tremendous leap of faith that younger unproven guys can step up and in without giving up too much.

Eyes will be on Connor Murphy who will have to fill in for a great dman in Hjalmarsson leaving fair or not.

Murphy is more physical and younger but it remains to be seen what and how all the changes on the back end will affect the overall team defense.

Murphy, Rutta, Kempny, Forsling, Gustafsson and Jordan Oesterle like the forwards will all get their shot to show what they can bring and make the Hawks see they can’t do without them.

Toss in the Hawks also have new assistant coaches and you really aren’t sure if we have the next Picasso masterpiece or dogs playing poker poster.

To go from a known substance in how it looks and how it feels to an unknown new look that makes the surreal esthetically pleasing takes guts and skilled craftsmanship.

Unlike art tho sports depends on elements outside the artists control, making this endeavor extremely bold.

Only time will tell but one has to have faith and believe these decisions will work out the best maybe not this year but in the long run.

Question is can the critics (fans) see the vision or end game if there is no initial success to their standards?

If the Hawks make another first round exit or heaven forbid don’t even make the playoffs what changes will then be made and where? To the front office, coaching, players?

It’s scary to deconstruct for everyone but it is probably the least scary for the fans because they know they’ll be back the following year regardless of how the team does.

The others can’t say the same which should provide plenty of motivation this year.

So Hawks fans if your feeling scared or unsure remember, to forge into greatness risks always need to be taken especially if they’re not initially understood.

In season changes and finer brush strokes also can be applied as well. Another thing you can never say the Chicago Blackhawks are dull or uninventive that’s for sure.
 

image is Picasso Cubism period

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Chicago Blackhawks – Stan Bowman what did you do?


Chicago, IL — Hot time, summer in the city. Yes it is time for block parties, beach volleyball, outdoor concerts, sailing with the smell of tanning lotions and barbecue in the air. Should be a fun time right?

Well not necessarily if you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan. This past few days have been a whirlwind of changes.

It took me until now to process everything that happened and that is not even counting we had a draft here as well.

Several things you can say about the GM of the Chicago Blackhawks Stan Bowman:

1) He is a man of his word

2) He’s all business first

3) He has the audacity of youth.

Stan Bowman vowed changes would come at his post season presser and boy he was not joking.

I think as fans we all knew changes would come down the pike just maybe not these moves which are either suicidal or genius. Only time will tell on this but I am leaning toward the latter.

Bowman I believe has said in the past he doesn’t get attached to players and he was not lying here either.

Stan reminds me of a professional assassin think Daniel Craig James Bond.

He is vigilantly ready if needed to swing his sword despite the cold breeze it may generate afterwards and the finality that ensues with potential repercussions.

I mean this as a compliment it takes a great deal of strength to do this for the greater good of team to put head before heart.

Us fans usually put heart before head but if there is any fan base that has had to get used to losing beloved players it’s Blackhawks fans.

I slowly am becoming detached not sure that is good or not. I try now to look at the business of hockey but I hate it.

He made moves which are bold and yet at the end of the day because of these changes we are still not sure and either is he how the results will be and that is what is scary – the unknown.

The team definitely got younger, faster, bigger and more like the direction the NHL is going in and for that you have to applaud him.

To lose three key players like Marian Hossa, Nik Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin is gut wrenching but when I take my heart (believe me that is difficult I love these guys) and look logically and on paper all of these moves make sense for a cap strapped team.

Let’s look at the forward situation first.

The first tumble down the rabbit hole of change came with the Marian Hossa announcement that he would not be playing this year due to medical reasons and I have to say I still have not wrapped my head around the fact we may have seen Hossa play hockey in a Blackhawks uni for the last time already.

With Hossa’s departure that leaves a huge void for a two-way playing winger and also someone who can play on the PK too which no doubt factored into the trade of Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad 2.0 excursion.

Believe me Hossa brings so much more than that and again not sure Saad or anyone can fill those skates or if it’s even fair to ask them to.

I adore Artemi Panarin but Saad brings a different look to the team.

He is more a two -way player w blazing speed as we have all seen and in this new NHL everything is about speed and North/South play inside the dots and getting to the net.

There is no question in my mind the Hawks will miss Panarin’s offensive brilliance and I wish him the best of everything, that boy was thrill for sure both on and off the ice.

Someone or a committee of someones need to fill this offence void and it’s a big one points wise and the chemistry that 2nd line had.

If I look logically Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad and whoever is with them will have a lot of pressure on them to help fill this void.

All eyes right now are on Toews who for two years has let’s be honest not been good for the contract he has. Yes I’m putting that out there as a challenge to 19 and his line because I know they can step up and will.

You have to think also part of dealing Panarin was the hope that Schmaltz, Hayden, Hartman, Jurco, Panik and I will throw in Alex DeBrincat and Graham Knott can come in and help fill the points production deficit when Hossa & Panarin left.

DeBrincat and Knott may need time in the AHL but don’t be surprised if they make the team straight out.

DeBrincat is small but that boy has grit in him and so much skill offensively.

Knott is just huge and fast and skilled if he can get to the net with his big frame goals will be scored I guarantee.

Now will they need time to ripen and grow of course that is also why the Hawks wisely hired Asst. Coach Don Granato. Boy he is going to be one busy man with all the youth and schooling them up.

I have no doubts whoever plays with Patrick Kane will be all the better for it.

It sounds like it will be Schmaltz who gets first crack all I can say is get Kane the puck and get to the net or open ice and just follow his lead and you’ll be fine. If you have a shot don’t think take it especially if it’s open to the net.

The other forward gotten in trades was Laurent Dauphin from AZ. Dauphin think Kruger/Danault like which one has to think will be Kruger’s replacement and see him gone as well for cap reasons.

Dauphin is a projected 3rd line Center with good speed and two – way play and a lot cheaper than Kruger. He will be a RFA next year and I believe his cap hit is only in the 750K range this year and he is only 22 yrs old and also plays on the PK.

The Hawks definitely got younger, bigger and faster and I see them doing even more moves with moving Kruger out and maybe bringing in another winger depending on how the kids above do or possibly another contract gets moved out so brace yourselves for more possible sword swings Hawks fans.

Now onto the Defense and boy this one is difficult.

Losing a warrior like Hammer is going to be hard to replace.

The Hawks some what started earlier with signing Kempny and Rutta from Czech Republic which I already said in another blog I really like these two guys but they will need to get NHL ready with the speed and skill that NHL shooters have again this is where Granato and Samuelsson will have a big impact.

The big factor will be Connor Murphy that was exchanged in the Hammer trade from Arizona.

His contract goes to 2022 so that was a big consideration here along with he is only 24 yrs old. He brings physicality and great skating ability also he has a great first pass out of the dzone.

What you lose though is a warrior who was a shot blocker, team player and tough physically. Murphy I believe has already had some health issues so we shall see how that plays out.

The Hawks are placing a lot on young Dmen but they have Keith and Seabrook to look to for guidance and I can’t think of two guys any better to learn from and get coached up from.

So the Hawks have lost in 72 hrs a HOF All Star Winger, a Gagarin Cup Champion/Calder Trophy Winger and a 3X Stanley Cup Defenseman yeah Chicago it is ok to cry, throw things or just get sick to your stomach.

What the Hawks gained remains to be seen and how it will all come together and the moves that are yet to be made.

One thing we know for sure is this team will certainly be a lot different from the one last year come October.

The good thing is they don’t need to really come together immediately its 2018 they need to but stay close in 2017 til they figure it all out.

Coaching up these young players will be the key this year for sure. Coach Quenneville and his staff are certainly going to earn their pay checks this year.

Change is a difficult thing for everyone and again it only reinforces to me one day what’s left of this core 2,7,19 & 88 will no longer be on the Hawks and will retire.

What we are seeing now is a slow transition and if you hated like me seeing 81, 72 & 4 gone it could be worse at least some of the core is still here and there is still a small window the next 2-3 years to get another Cup here at least that is what I am telling myself.

Did Stan Bowman make this team better in the long run?

Hard to say there is a lot of work still to be done by all but I do think in the long run these were the right moves no matter how much my heart hates them and probably needed to be made with a new youth infused NHL if you want to compete.

It took guts to make these moves for sure.

Still Bowman will be looked at and questioned if the Hawks don’t even make the playoffs this year or are bounced again early which is a good possibility with all the young players on the team.

It is now on the shoulders of the coaches and the players to step up and in whether the Hawks succeed or fall this year Hawks fans will support we may fuss and question but only because we are fans and want the team to do well.

I will close with these from those far more eloquent than I:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Globalizing


Chicago, IL — We are only three weeks away from training camp so it is time to talk hockey again, specifically NHL Chicago Blackhawks hockey. Speaking personally I have never been more ready for this season to begin.

In fact it is rare that I focus on the next year when my team is in the middle of trying to win another Stanley Cup. That scenario though is exactly what happened when the Blackhawks announced back in spring, they had signed Artemi Panarin from the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg team.

I could hardly contain myself, was I reading the reports right? Was I in a Hawkey fantasy land? Was I just wishful thinking? Was this for real?

For those Blackhawks fans that follow religiously the IIHF World Juniors, Artemi Panarin is a name they should be very familiar with and we all know the skill and potential that he brings.

Yes I know it was on larger ice however, there are certain skills that translate like vision, stickhandling & scoring I. Q.

Panarin posses all of these. Sure there will be an adjustment period but, given Panarin is experienced and has played on the highest international stages you would have to think he will be able to master the NHL transition better than say a 20 year old.

Panarin’s biggest challenge will be the pace and lack of space one is given in the NHL. Give him time he’ll figure it out like another young European prospect Teuvo Teravainen.

As Hawks fans we saw with Teuvo him develop right before our eyes in the playoffs and he only got better as the playoffs went along. Panarin like Teravainen has a high hockey intelligence and will make adjustments when needed.

Panarin will also need to be mindful of the defensive zone but as a winger his responsibilities will be less than if he was a center. My understanding is Panarin will definitely be slotted as a winger not a center which, I think is best at least to begin with.

Teravainen may in fact be moved to center which, I guess we will find out come training camp. Teravainen certainly has played that position before and has at Blackhawks prospect camps in the past so it is not something he will be unfamiliar with. His two way game is overshadowed by his high end offense.

Also coming from the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg team is countryman Viktor Tikhonov a former Arizona Coyotes prospect that was drafted in 2008 28th overall. He was passed on his first two times of eligibility like Andrew Shaw and we see how that turned out.

Viktor is another winger but brings with him size. He may not crack the lineup on a regular basis we will have to see how this goes but he has a better opportunity with the Blackhawks than he did with Coyotes. He will certainly be given every opportunity to make the line-up.

Nothing against the developement and training staff in Arizona but the Blackhawks staff is the best in the business and will work with Viktor if there are any short comings and the Hawks will know how and when to utilize Tikhonov’s skills.

For those that attended this past Blackhawks convention or were able to catch it on the Hawks website or via steaming when it was live Viktor is seemingly a very thoughtful, charming young man who will have no trouble making the transition to the western life and language as he has lived in the United States before so his concentration can just be on the ice and adapting to the NHL.

Viktor probably needs to concentrate on his skating and speed to stay in the Hawks lineup. Let’s face it, the Hawks are a team built on these two skills so to have good speed, doesn’t need to be blinding, and being strong on your skates will go along way to keep you in the Hawks lineup.

Tikhonov is more of a two-way player which should serve him well as we all know coach Q loves you to be defensively responsible in your own end. On the Blackhawks he doesn’t necessarily need to be an offensive dynamo which is a huge difference from the Coyotes.

While it was a surprise that Brandon Saad will no longer be in a Blackhawks uniform it was amazing who Stan Bowman was able to get back in return.

Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano came to the Hawks in the Saad trade and if things project out as expected Bowman was able to secure a 2nd line Center in Anisimov who is younger than Brad Richards with more miles left on the tires and is a better two-way forward.

Stan Bowman thinks Anisimov is the answer at 2nd line center otherwise he would not have given him an extension for five years. Anisimov is an excellent two-way hockey player.

He has struggled at times with consistency but on the Hawks that may not be an issue given the talent surrounding him. His offensive potential may be ignited particularly if he has Panarin and hopefully Patrick Kane on either side. Woo buddy look out he may reach his offensive potential.

The hidden gem in this deal was Marko Dano who was basically the Columbus Blue Jackets Teuvo Teravainen. Dano is offensively talented with a shot that makes him a lethal scorer maybe a better scoring threat than Brandon Saad. Dano is also a very good skater.

Dano needs to work on his two-way game but let’s not forget Saad become a solid two-way player due to his linemates of Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews and it’s already been well documented Dano is set to learn and clone from Hossa his countryman.

If, and that’s a big if, Dano can crack that first line he will be in a perfect position to improve his two-way game and learn from two of the best all around hockey players in the world in 19 & 81. If he can do this night in and night out he’ll learn fast.

While most of the Hawks new forward additions are more offensively inclined and people worry about two-way play suffering lets not forget the Hawks still have some pretty solid defenseman like Keith, Seabrook & Hjalmarsson.

You remember the three that anchored that defense to a third Cup and couldn’t possibly sustain all that playing time and physical punishment.

Yeah those guys will be back. Oh that goalie no one ever respects who just keeps racking up Jennings trophys and Stanley Cup Championships, Yeah that’s right Chicago, Corey Crawford will be back as well.

Honestly the transition will be the hardest for Panarin coming from a different ice surface, culture with language obstacles and cultural differences but Panarin has stated he wants to push himself both on and off the ice.

Will this be a challenge and change for sure but, he is coming to a city that is so diverse and has something to offer for everyone to enjoy and partake in and on the ice..

He is coming to a team that has the best players in the world to watch and learn from and hopefully they can learn from Panarin & Tikhonov as well who come in bringing a fresh, new insight to the game.

My only suggestion for all the offensive players mind your two-way game and your play along the boards as wingers be strong on the puck with no turnovers and get to the oppositions front of the net/slot area and pick up garbage and you’ll be fine.

Now there are other new players to the Hawks as well from Dallas, free agent signings and NCAA prospects but this blog was just focused on the international changes in another blog I will discuss those.

The Hawks have gotten younger for sure which may serve them well if they are to make another run deep in the playoffs. We all know how hard it is to repeat as a SC champion.

It has not been done since 1997-98 of course by the Detroit Red Wings. hmmm wasn’t that team composed of a lot of European players too? I’m just saying.

All I know is it is very exciting thinking about the line combinations, skills, development and all the possibilities that we may see on the ice.

Is it October yet?

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Chicago Blackhawks – with the 27th pick select…


Chicago, IL — Now that the 2013-14 season is in the books it is time to think about next year and the future. Stan Bowman is I’m sure.

The upcoming resigning of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane has never made it more imperative to make sure that there is a sufficient supply of upcoming youngsters for some time so these two franchise players stay in the Indianhead jersey til they physically can not skate any more. Stan, that is what Chicago wants, so please make it so. Which means in order to afford what these two will deserve they will need to have young skill surrounding them in the pipeline to stay within the cap.

Now that the playoffs are over we know where the Hawks will be selecting. Unless the Hawks make trades or draft day trades they currently have the following picks:

Rd 1 – 27th pick overall
Rd 2- none pick to Phoenix Coyotes for David Rundblad and Matthieu Brisbois
Rd 3- 62nd & 88th the extra pick is from the Florida Panthers as part of the Brandon Pirri trade.
Rd 4- 93rd pick is actually from the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Dave Bolland trade. Chicago’s own pick was sent to the NY Islanders for Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Rd 5 – 141st & 148th the extra pick is from the San Jose Sharks as part of draft picks trades done in 2013 draft day.
Rd 6- 178th pick
Rd 7-208th pick

Without a 2nd round pick it is very important that the first round selection is a good one. Not that you can not pick up good players in later rounds but it is important to get your higher rounds right for your team. That being said let’s take a look at the potential candidates that will be available with the 27th overall pick. The focus here is on who would fit the Hawks organization the best.

These names could go anywhere from as high as 17th. Remember Teuvo Teravainen and Brandon Saad went much lower and fell to the Blackhawks. They fell not because they weren’t valued but teams scouts assess differently so it is possible for higher picks to fall if the player does not fit the organizations skills assessment and need. Some teams value size,some speed, some versatility you get the idea, with that here we go.

Alex Tuch,RW – Not sure this one will be there for the Blackhawks but this is a a pure power forward with excellent forechecking skills. He also has size at 6’3″ he’s a big American boy. The scouting reports on him is he has one of the heaviest shots in the draft.

Nikita Scherbak,RW – This Russian who is skilled, skilled & skilled would fit perfectly with the Hawks. The problem is he is Russian and could opt for the KHL but his set up skills and overall offensive upside maybe enough to take a gamble on. Scouting reports say he has good mobility and some slick hands hmm sounds like a couple of other Hawks. His size is decent at 6’1″ and his overall skills maybe too much to ignore.

Conner Bleackley,C – This 6′ Canadian has the triple crown of hockey, size, skill & strenth. He is a 200′ ft forward that does not mind getting dirty with good hockey sense. He opens up passing lanes & is a leader to boot. He was named captain of his Red Deer Rebels team. He needs to work on skating speed but other than that he is NHL ready. He has also been described as a hard worker. How could any team pass on this combo.

Nick Schmaltz,RW – This is a 5’11” American that has all around skills. He is a good 200′ player with play making abilities. He is low key but paired with dynamic offensive players of which the Hawks have plenty this kid could thrive. He is also a local kid from WI as we saw last draft the Hawks like local kids when they selected Ryan Hartman.

John Quenneville,C – yes that Quenneville. He is the 2nd cousin of Chicago Blackhawks’ head coach which may make for some sticky situations but this kid has the goods to deliver. Scouting reports say the kid has a nose for the net which the Hawks could use more of. He does everything well with good size already at 6′ and 182lbs.

This draft is not said to be particularly good for defenseman so I don’t see the Hawks taking any early. There is a good American goalie Thatcher Demko that could be available at 27th pick but again I don’t see the Blackhawks taking a goalie early.

Other than winning the Stanley Cup I can’t think of a more exciting time in a franchises season or one more filled with promise for fans. Stan Bowman and Mark Kelly Director of amateur scouting have done very well in the past and there is no reason to think their impeccable record will stop now. Happy Drafting.

Information was compiled from Hockey Futures – http://www.Hockeyfutures.com , Elite Prospects – http://www.eliteprospects.com, NHL draft center –www.NHL.com ; The Hockey News -www.thehockeynews.com

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Chicago Blackhawks – Metamorphosis of a team


Chicago, IL – “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” – Viktor Frankl 1

If you look at the Chicago Blackhawks roster, there does not seem to be much change at all in personnel.  There appears to be only a couple of changes on the blue line with off season acquisitions of Sheldon Brookbank and Mikhal Rozsival.  Upon further examination the team has the same players but oh how they have changed.

KaneHossa

Patrick Kane has stated he has something to prove and wants to be “The Guy”. Whatever it is his focus is singular and clearly on the ice. Fueled by trade rumors Kane is out to prove his detractors clearly know nothing of what they speak. We all have seen his skill and talent so it is hard to believe he has another level but he has. While it is early in the season he is playing more consistently and has even more patience with the puck which is good news for his linemates and bad news for the opposition.  He currently leads his team with 7 points (2G, 4A) in four games.

Marian Hossa like Kane also has something to prove. Hossa wants to prove to everyone that he has fully recovered from his concussion last year and proving it he is. He is currently leading the team in goals with 5 goals in 4 games. Guess you could say Hossa is back to his old self thankfully.  Hossa stayed in Chicago and practiced with some of his team mates due to his recovering from concussion.  Hossa is also playing with an edge maybe even a little bit of anger at being knocked out of the playoffs by the dirty Raffi Torres hit.

Bolly

Dave Bolland is now playing the second line center role which is a different approach to his normal third line center role. Bolland now has an opportunity to concentrate on the offensive part of his game. He also has an upgrade in line mates to the Patricks. Bolland’s hidden offensive talents will now be given an opportunity to shine. He is cashing in on that opportunity with 2G and 1A in four games. With Bolland stepping up offensively this could be a major change with more offensive skill up front like the Hawks were lacking in that department.

Corey Crawford like Kane is showing more focus and definitely has something to prove if you listen to the media after last years first round playoff exit. He recently revealed to the local media he has changed his pre-game routine and it is paying off. He no longer plays pre-game soccer with the boys. He now stays to himself and focuses on his preparation and focus for the game. If Crawford can regain his rookie form this may be the most significant change on the team.  Crawford at ease

Daniel Carcillo is a changed man and has gone all Zen on us. He revealed to WGN Radio that due to his off season injury he had much time to, if you will look at the man in the mirror and he did not particularly like what he was seeing. Carcillo decided to make a change in how he approaches the game and focus more on hockey and less on being an enforcer. Carcillo was also slated on the top line with Toews and Hossa, unfortunately Carcillo is once again injured but in that first game he played in there was a much more calm Carcillo. Carcillo always had skill he just chose not to highlight that side of his game. Meditation is a wonderful thing that we should all insert in our lives.

Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell, Nik Hjalmarsson, Michael Frolik all spent time in Europe during the NHL lockout in different leagues and the changes and improvements in the games shows. Some of these guys are also in the final years of their contracts which also provides motivation. All of them are much more confident and their hockey IQ is at another level. If all of these guys stay at this other level that will make it much easier for the Hawks to roll four lines and bring overall balance to the team.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are not logging as much ice time which is a good thing. These guys will stay fresher down the stretch and if the Hawks make a playoff run this pay immediate dividends. Keith is playing like a man possessed again dare we say back to his Norris Trophy form – so far yes. Maybe Keith also feels he has something to prove and the chip is back on his shoulders.

Brandon Saad  as a rookie in the NHL it can be overwhelming but Saad has looked at home on the first line with Toews and Hossa. Saad was ready to fill in after Carcillo went down. He is playing with a steadiness beyond his years. You have no worries that he will make a crucial mistake with the puck because he is so balanced and solid in his skates.  He has not tallied the score sheets yet but it is only a matter of time. He wants to prove he belongs with the big boys .

Nick Leddy, Brandon Bollig ,Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger have all had to adapt to the NHL game pace but having spent time in Rockford has kept them in game shape. The biggest adjustment for them is to play on the edge but not over and not take bad penalties. Shaw is being given third line center duties between Stalberg and Bickell which is a huge opportunity for him.

HawkslearningJPG

The Blackhawks will lose at some point but with their new-found patience and confidence there is no worry they will bounce back. The roster is the same but the demeanor, attitude and growth of this team is different. The skills have always been there but now the focus is more defined.

The Blackhawks have always had a good team since winning the cup in 2010,  but like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon there is a new maturity and confidence this team now exudes. Whether it is that they feel they have something to prove or having their livelihood taken from them temporarily, it is evident these Hawks are ready to fly beautifully onto another level maybe both on and off the ice.

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1.

  • Viktor Frankl from Man’s search for meaning

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Chicago Blackhawks – Going Camping


Chicago, IL — With the Blackhawks prospect camp running this week, the Hawks are hoping that they may hit the jackpot with some of these young hockey players. Free Agency may not have played out the way they exactly wanted til this point but there is still plenty to be optimistic about the future and these kids are why.

There are so many potential stars in this years’ camp it is almost hard to know who and what to look for. The Hawks are rich at the forward positions and the rich got richer in the past two years drafts. Landing Saad & Teravainen in the slots the Hawks had is a coo. All of their picks will be in attendance so go check out the future of the Hawks. There are several prospects that I will be watching.

From the 2011 draft I will be looking at Brandon Saad and what I’ll be looking at is now that he has played with the big club and had a monster year in juniors alot will be expected from him. The Hawks were very fortunate indeed that Saad was even left at the 43rd pick in round two. He was projected to go in the first round at the 23rd spot. The stars aligned very well for the Hawks.

I’m expecting he should stand out amongst the rest of the prospects who have not had NHL experience. I look for Saad this year to make the starting line-up of the Hawks as a top six forward. Whether Saad is flanking Toews on the left-wing or playing opposite Marian Hossa, he should contribute solid two-way play this year for the Hawks. Look for #43.

Mark McNeill who was the Blackhawks first overall pick last year at 18 is very intriguing. Could Mark be the 2nd line center that the Hawks have been looking for? He could just be. Mark will have a lot of work to do to impress and make the coach’s feel comfortable to put him is such a key role. To crack a top six spot on the Hawks will be hard but not impossible.  I will be watching #11 and see how he does in camp.

He is a big physical player that should be ready for the NHL. I will focus on his defensive play and faceoff skills. He will also have to battle Marcus Krueger as well once the Hawks open their training camp with the veterans. Krueger is solid defensively so this should be interesting. It is also possible one of them makes 2nd line and the other 4th line center. If McNeill can do solid work in the dot who knows he may make the team. McNeill is definitely one to keep your eyes on.

Phillip Danault is another first round pick from the 2011 draft that is probably a dark horse to make the team this year. He may just surprise everyone and pull an Andrew Shaw and exceed everyone’s expectations. His work ethic is top shelf and character too so anything is possible. Danault also loves to play in front of the net and could provide the Hawks with that net front presence that the need. Coaches always love dedication and hard work so Danault could be right in the mix so keep your eyes on #4.

From this years’ draft all eyes will be on first rounder Teuvo Teravainen who will be donning the #29 jersey. Anyone who cites Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Kane as their role models is someone you’re going to want to watch. Because of the run on defensemen the Hawks became benefactors in getting such a skilled forward. I’m interested in seeing his puck handling skills which according to scouts is already NHL ready. Look for this kid to dazzle in camp. He has played professionally in Europe on the Finnish Elite team Jokerit so his skills should be NHL ready it just a question of his size.

Teuvo will probably not make the Hawks this year due to his size and needing to still physically develop but that doesn’t mean he will not thrill the locals at camp.

At the forward position also look for Kevin Hayes (Jimmy Hayes brother) who was drafted in 2010 to also make a push at center. Chris Calnan who is the nephew of Jeremy Roenick, and plays a power forward style is a very good forechecker which the Hawks are in need of. Calnan will either play in college or juniors this year but look for him down the road.

On the defensive side of the puck, the Hawks have fewer prospects but there are some to keep an eye on.

Klas Dahlbeck is a big Swedish defenseman who is playing in the SEL he will be sporting the #64. He is a good skater and adept at breakout passing which the Hawks love their defensemen to do.  I doubt Klas will break the Hawks lineup yet what I will be looking for with him is his stick work when defending and his gap control.  Not known to be physical despite his size but is considered a defensive defensemen. I would love to see how he defends against McNeill and Saad if he can stop them he might just be NHL ready.

Adam Clendening is the opposite of Dahlbeck in that he would be considered an offensive defenseman. I will be looking for his shot from the point which scouts have highly touted. This could be a weapon the Hawks could use on the power play. He has excellent puck moving and skating abilities and finesse for a big blueliner. Another Boston U recruit the coaches will be taking a long look at Clendening. Look for #8.

Look for and you probably won’t miss Victor Svedberg at 6”9” which is Chara like sizing so he will stand out on the ice. Dillion Fournier will not be participating due to injury.

The Goalies in camp will probably not make the Hawks team but they will be interesting to watch as well. They all have good size at 6’2” or higher. Mac Carruth, Kent Simpson, Matt Tompkins and Johan Mattson and the big boy at 6’5” Brandon Whitney should be interesting.

There is a lot of promise in the Hawks prospect system and while not all of these prospects will make the NHL some of them will and will provide some excitement at the United Center for years to come.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Part V playing GM with the forward positions and taking center stage


Chicago, IL — I said I would look at the Hawks if Patrick Kane were their 2nd line center. In this installment I will. Now while it is unknown as to the health status of Marian Hossa, it is  Hossa on the right-wing who would fit in best on this line in my opinion. I’m going to make the assumption that Marian Hossa return from injury because quit frankly that is what I want. Let’s take a look at options currently outside of the Hawks’ system.

UFA’s

LW – big name UFA’s Zach Parise, Alex Semin, Ray Whitney, Andrei Kostitsyn,

More likely –

  • Dustin Penner- LAK cap 4.250 solid two-way player who had pedestrian numbers in the regular season but really stepped up his game in the playoffs. Penners regular season numbers were lower than Bryan Bickells. His price tag maybe too high now that the Kings have gone this deep in the playoffs.
  • Travis Moen –mtl cp 1.5, same as Penner number were worse than Bickell during regular season
  • Ruslan Fedotenko NYR cap 1.4 ditto

RW – big names UFA’s Shane Doan, Ales Hemsky, Brad  Boyes

  • P.A. Parentau NyI cap 1.250, interesting 20 goal scorer would add offensive punch but the defensive part of his game is lacking but for the right terms and price he could be an interesting option.
  • Davey Jones avs cap 2.5 good numbers with 20/17 37 point totals. High s% of 14.7 so he could finish. Could be an interesting choice. He has size and is only 27 yrs old. Defensive part of game is the ? but then again Avs are not a good team. He is a consideration but is not better than Stalberg.

RFA – Jaime Benn LW Dal, Kris Versteeg RW FLA, S Kostitsyn LW NAS, James Neal LW PIT & David  Perron, LW STL; None of these will be leaving their teams maybe Kostitsyn but look for the rest to sign back with their current teams and with Kostitsyn being with Nashville they are not likely to want to deal with the Hawks.

Rick Nash wants out of Columbus 7.8 cap hit and Blue Jackets would want more than the Hawks would be willing to give in return. So enjoy all the Nash talk over the summer I do not see him coming to Chicago because the Hawks would probably have to give up a player from the core to get him and that’s not going to happen.

If I were Stan I would take a pass on all of these UFA’s/RFA’s and look either to my own bench or the youth that I had previously drafted as a solution. I think the Hawks have enough talent at wing to balance a line with Kane and Hossa. So who are these winged flyers that the Hawks could plug-in on that line with those two superstars? Let’s take a look

Blackhawks Prospects

Left Wingers

  • Brandon Saad – is probably going to make the Hawks and most likely going to see top 6 or even 1st line minutes. He has the potential to be a power forward. He had a monster year with the Saginaw Spirits where he logged 76 p – 34G/42A +35 in regular season then added 8G & 9A in the playoffs. He has a salary cap hit of 897k and is on a two-way contract. The Hawks will give him as serious look and every opportunity to make the team. I would put him as the front-runner of all the LW prospects unless there was a surprise in training camp.
  • Jeremy Morin – 4th overall in scoring on the Rockford IceHogs with 40P 18G/22A +9.  He is on a two-way contract for 886K til 2014. He is a hard-nosed scraper like Shaw.  He missed out last year’s camp and beginning of IceHogs season due to a concussion which had him sidelined for 9 months. It is Morins’ time to shine but he will need to really work to make the Hawks keep him. He was drafted in the 2nd rd by Atlanta in 2009 as part of Byfuglien, Eager, Sopel trade from the Thrashers. He has a good chance to make the team but there is a lot of competition and he has to really shine.
  • Kyle Beach – This could be Beach’s last stand to make the big club or be traded. Beach is a big body at 6”3” 208 lbs but has yet to crack the team with his inconsistency. Taken in the 2008 draft 1rd 11th overall Beach is on verge of being a bust unless he can impress in training camp this year. He is currently on a two-way contract for 1.170 and will be a RFA next year so the time is now to move him and try to get something for him if the Hawks feel he can not make the team.  Out for 5 months with shoulder injury but there is no denying his offensive potential whether it will ever be reached is the question. Beach’s size is a plus but in order to make the Hawks he will have to really play and impress the coaches like his hockey life depended on it. Because it does.

Saad , Morin and Beach will all be given a shot to make the team at LW. Out of the three I believe Saad has the best shot at making the team. He was not sidelined with injuries like Morin and Beach. Saad paired on a line with Hossa at RW and Kane at Center could provide enough power on that 2nd line. He has a solid two-way game. I know it is hard not to look over and see those two stars and just be in awe. Saad has to play like he owns that left-wing and not worry about who he is playing with. Play your game kid, be solid defensively and don’t turn the puck over in your end or in the neutral zone and the rest will come. Don’t worry about the offence. After all,  say what you want about Kane he is still one of the best set up men in the game and with him on your line you will get plenty of offensive chances.

Right Wingers

  • Ben Smith is the most likely to make the Hawks. Hampered by injuries, he only played in 38 games with 31p 15/16 +2. Still he had very good numbers considering his time. He has a great shooting percentage, highest on the team with 18%. If he is to make the Hawks he will probably be on the 4th line with Kruger centering. If any one should wear an Indianhead jersey this year it should be Smitty after he beat Sedin to bag that goal past Bobby Lou to send the Hawks to a game seven in 2011. Work your tail off boy because every fan in Chicago wants to see you wear that jersey next year.
  • Rustislav Olesz,   What to do with Olesz who has a huge salary 3.125 mil contract signed until 2014. The Hawks would love to unload this salary but can’t.  I don’t see any team taking him on. Remember he was part of the Brian Campbell deal with Florida Panthers. When the Panthers took on Campbell’s big contract the Hawks had to take Olesz’s contract which was still smaller than Campbells.  He was third on IceHogs last year in points with 41 points 17 G/24A  +7 in 50 games.  Good shooting % at 11 which speaks to his accuracy and finish. He has tons of talent and potential but seems to wither on NHL ice whether in Chicago or Florida.  He was drafted 1rd 7th overall in 2004 but has never reached that potential. Olesz is an offensive threat from anywhere on the ice, but he is streaky and his consistency could use work. I’m sure he will be brought into camp again this year. Now whether or not he stays that’s the question & whether or not the Hawks can move him that’s the bigger question. I think the Hawks will be stuck with Olesz so they need to try to get everything out of him they can. If he could come in & replace Kane at RW it could be a huge push for the Hawks but everything depends on Olesz.
  • Jimmy Hayes, 6’6 220 lbs out of Boston College is the big forward the Hawks need. He was taken in the 2008 2nd rd draft. He along with Andrew Shaw sparked the Hawks when they needed it most in 2011. The problem with Hayes was that he sort of dropped off towards the end of the season and in the playoffs was on the bench. Still Hayes has the size and good offensive instincts. He could be that big net front presence that has been missing from the Hawks.  He has the potential to be a 20+ goal scorer but has to work on overall consistency and come to every game focused and ready to drill the opponents. His size makes him very attractive and if he can’t make the Hawks he could be used in a trade.  He will have to come to camp prepared to battle.

While I think Olesz has more natural skill than Smith, I also think Smith will work harder and take advantage of every moment he has to impress the Hawks coaching staff. Out of these two I look for Smith to make the team but I wouldn’t discount Olesz’s skills. Jimmy Hayes’ size and offensive abilities could make him the most likely to make the team. Not all three of these will make the team so someone will be used in a trade with Olesz contract either Smith or Hayes will likely be used as trade bait or spend most of the year in Rockford. I see the options being  if Smith can’t make the club I would say he will be traded because of his RFA contract being up or Hayes seeing most of 2012-13 in Rockford. It all depends on who steps up in training camp and who wants it more.

The Blackhawks had a couple of UFA’s that are likely not to be returning. Andrew Brunette LW, 2mil salary cap hit showed last year he was too slow for this team and might retire. Brandon Morrison C 1.25 salary cap was virtually silent most of the time so don’t look for him to be returning to the Hawks. Just this week they signed Jamal Mayers RW for 600K which is pretty cheap. It was a little surprising given it is taking a roster spot and his sitting on the bench during the majority of the playoffs. It also could signal the Hawks are really looking to beef up on the forward lines. I’m not sure where this leaves Brandon Bollig  LW who is a RFA this year and as of yet is not signed. I personally would have went the Bollig route because of the age factor and I think Bollig has more offensive potential. I don’t see the Hawks keeping both. So maybe they will package Bollig in a trade.

Blackhawks wingers returning no matter what

Patrick Sharp is going nowhere except to Johnnys’ ice house for practices and the UC for games. While 2011-12 was not his best he was battling injury all year. Sharp is too valuable to give up and he is part of the core and signed through 2017.

So far I have not mentioned rookie sensation Andrew Shaw RW or Daniel Carcillo LW because these two will be dawning the red, black and white in Chicago for 2012. Daniel Carcillo was resigned by Stan Bowman to the surprise of many. Really it is not too surprising and he was signed pretty cheap. When the carbomb was in the Hawks lineup they were winning handily. It was when Carcillo went out on a suspension and eventual injury that the Hawks had problems. Carcillo is a gamble no question but, he can open up the ice for Kane or Toews and has some skill of his own especially if he is on a line with that kind of talent. Carcillo has a deceiving backhand and don’t discount his presence around the net. He also is solid defensively. In only 28 games he was a +10. He seems to have good chemistry with Kane on the ice.

He needs to just reign himself in and push his game to the edge but not over. If he can do that he may yet be Stan Bowman’s biggest coo. I’m a Carcillo fan, I want him to do well and I think he has the talent to shine but he must adapt his style of play to the new NHL rules with sheriff Brendan Shanahan if he is to really thrive. If he can’t he may find the NHL moving on without him. Carcillo is being given a golden opportunity here in Chicago. Can you image being on a line with Kane and Hossa or Toews and Sharp?  I just hope he can check himself and take advantage of this chance.  If he can it could pay huge dividends for both him and the Blackhawks.

Andrew Shaw what is there to say. This kid was like a dream come true for the Hawks last year. He is hungry, skilled and has the hockey IQ to again be an impact with this team. He is fearless and has the grit and the grind that this team needs. Look for him to spend time on the Bolland line in 2012. Look for him in the dirty areas around the net and in the corners. Shaw is a bargain with his entry-level contract of only 565K and the best part is he is signed until 2014. Welcome to the big leagues Shawzer you wear that warriors head well.

Blackhawks wingers that likely will not return or used for trade bait

Viktor Stalberg RW – cap 875K will be UFA in 2013, trade value could not be higher than it is right now. Half of Stalbergs’ goals were against CBJ but he has shown improvement. The question for Stan is was 2011-12 the tip of the Stalberg potential iceberg or did he just have an unusually good year? There is no question he has world-class speed but he does need to work on defensive parts of his game and he is still developing. He was 5th in point leaders on team but disappeared in PO’s 43 points 22G/21A +6. PO – 2 assists. Stalberg last year was like found money for the Hawks. I bet the Toronto Maple Leafs are kicking themselves now with the Versteeg trade. No Versteeg and no Stalberg. The 26ys old has good size and needs to use his speed and physicality more. In time with coaching and development on the defensive side of the puck, he could become a very solid two-way power forward. This makes him a valuable trading chip. I would listen to all offers since Stalberg will be a UFA next year and will probably be getting a hefty increase but I would not let go of him easily or without a lot in return if I was GM. His potential is limitless and I like him paired with Kruger on a line or possibly with Toews and Sharp on the first line which could bring his numbers even higher.

Michael Frolik RW– cap 2.33 hit is very very high for a 4th line winger. He was drafted in first round 10th overall as Jonathan Toews 1st rd 3rd overall in 2006. While it is not fair to compare the two it is human nature. To say Frolik has not reached his potential would be an understatement. Frolik was picked ahead of Claude Giroux can you imagine that. What I guess I’m saying is people saw something in Frolik but he has yet to deliver. Frolik was part of the Jack Skille trade with the Florida Panthers. He had 15 points 5/10 -10 during the regular season in 63 games played.  He stepped up in the playoffs with 2 goals and 1 assist and at the IIHF worlds. Maybe Frolik is on the verge of becoming an impact player and maybe not.  Frolik needs confidence & coaching on the defensive side of his game. He is only 24 yrs old decent size but needs to bulk up to be a power forward. Frolik’s contract could make him difficult if not downright impossible to move. The Hawks I think believed he would one day bust out into that 1st rd 10th overall pick player but it has yet to happen. I’m not sure what the problem is with Frolik but if I could move him I would. He may get a better opportunity elsewhere.

Byran Bickell LW – cap 541K will be UFA in 2013 needs to play more physical but is a steal and can still develop on the Bolland line. He ended the regular season with 24 points 9/15 -3 rating. He really stepped up in the playoffs with 2 goals and took his game to another level. He too is still developing and took a step back from the 2010 – 11 season where he had double the points with 43. The Hawks need to figure out why that happened. He is only 26 yrs old and with good size but must learn to use his size effectively. Look at Dustin Brown of the LA Kings. If Bickell could learn to use his size to finish checks and deliver legal big hits he could be a monster. He has a wicked wrist shot that is deceiving as well. I would keep him around especially on the Bolland line with Andrew Shaw. That line last year worked well together. I want more from Bickell, more goals, more assists, more hits, more takeaways because I know he can do it.

So if the Hawks go with Kane at center look for him to have Hossa on his right side to provide stability and a good two-way game. That leaves the left-wing open on that line. If this line is to succeed it needs a solid defensive player or some muscle in my opinion. Kane has to work on the defensive side of the puck and improve his skills here otherwise this line will be in trouble.

Saad, Morin, Beach, Carcillo, Bickell and Bollig are the options.  I don’t think they would put Sharp here because that would weaken the Toews line too much. Bickell will be on the Bolland line period. In my opinion out of all of these the most likely candidate is Carcillo because of his chemistry with Kane and he is NHL ready. He also could open up the ice for Hossa and Kane and get filthy in front of the net. The other alternative would be to have Saad on this line, which could make for a monster line if the kid can step up and not be star struck. There is no question Saad has more offensive potential than Carcillo but he also does not have the bite. It was that bite that the Hawks missed and have missed up front. My first option would be Carcillo then Saad unless in camp someone really shines.

Not all of these forwards will make the Hawks squad some will be sent back to Rockford and some traded. Finding the right balance and chemistry is elusive.  If there is one thing though that the Hawks should have learned since 2010 is how important the surrounding cast is and the balance among all four lines. If the Hawks are to regain their 2010 Stanley Cup winning form it is essential that all forward lines are equally capable of scoring as they are of stopping an opponent’s top lines.  There is no question the strength of this team is in its skilled forwards up front. This makes getting the lines right with the correct personnel I think imperative on them getting another cup.

In the next segment I will be taking a look at the defense and who is staying who is potentially going and who the trade partners could be and what we could get in return. Til then happy puck drops.

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