Blackhawks

Blackhawks mailbag: LTIR, looking for defense, libations and more

Blackhawks mailbag: LTIR, looking for defense, libations and more

It’s been a long summer, hasn’t it? This is what a brief postseason run will do to you: by July you’re feeling antsy, you’re missing hockey and you’re counting the days until the puck droppeths again. We feel your pain, people.

The offseason continues but, for the time being, it looks like the Blackhawks are done tinkering with their lineup. It’s been a jaw-dropping summer for the Blackhawks. General manager Stan Bowman said on April 22 that there would be changes, and he wasn’t kidding. Still, a lot of questions remain about this roster as the season nears.

As you can imagine, what happens with Marian Hossa’s cap hit is still a hot topic. We’ll take Sandra Muer’s question on that front.

I joked with an Arizona-based scribe that if the Coyotes didn’t take Hossa’s contract, who would? All kidding aside, I don’t think the Blackhawks are going to find any takers on this one. Arizona is looking to improve and not just be a place where bad contracts go to die. The most likely option is still the Blackhawks putting Hossa on long-term injured reserve soon after the season begins.

They absolutely have to address defense, as far as I’m concerned. That’s where they’re feeling the loss the most. My question is, who will they find at that point to help them? I wasn’t surprised they didn’t land any of the big free-agent fishes; they were all going to demand too high a price for the cash-strapped Blackhawks to pay. Come early October, maybe they find someone who didn’t fit into another team’s plans. If they decide to go with what they have in the system, giving some young players an opportunity, this could be a season of blue-line growing pains.

Now, onto the rest of the mailbag:

Artemi Panarin’s trade has nothing to do with Hossa or the relief his LTIR will likely provide. It has everything to do with the Blackhawks wanting and needing to get a power forward back in the lineup, especially one who can bring stability to that top line with Jonathan Toews. You want to acquire Brandon Saad? You have to give up something, so here we are. And on paper, I still say this deal is a smart one.

I’m not sure there’s much improvement anywhere. Just based on their recent history, the Blackhawks have done well in finding backup goaltenders the past few seasons, so if they think Anton Forsberg is ready, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt right now. They’ve added bodies at forward but let’s see who makes an impact.

The Blackhawks added to their goaltending depth this summer with Anton Forsberg and Jean-Sébastien Bérubé, so they’re set there. General manager Stan Bowman sees Forsberg as the backup right now. Going for a veteran doesn’t always yield great results. Look at the Blackhawks’ goaltending acquisitions since the summer of 2010. Unproven coming in: Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, and both did well. Veterans: Ray Emery (great), Marty Turco and Nikolai Khabibulin (neither worked).

If Alex DeBrincat makes the team he can play anywhere, but left wing is his natural position. As former Erie Otters coach Kris Knoblauch told me this summer DeBrincat, “was voted first all-star team right winger, and probably played five games on right wing.”

As of right now, I think the Blackhawks are a bubble team. Again, the biggest concern is at defense. The Central Division is going to be tough. We all saw what the Nashville Predators did. Is this the start of something for them or do they have a hiccup coming off that long postseason run? I’m very interested to see what the Dallas Stars do; this isn’t the first time they’ve done major offseason tinkering but they made a significant (and necessary) upgrade at goaltending. If they can stay healthy this season, they could be the Central’s team to beat. And while we’re on the subject of where the Blackhawks potentially end up in the standings…

Roster-wise, I’m not sure how full on a rebuild can be done with this team. No matter what happens this season, the Blackhawks have the same contract issues next summer as they do this one: a lot of full no-movement clauses. But if the Blackhawks miss the playoffs there will be changes. They would more likely be front office or coaching.

According to Capfriendly.com (again, a valuable resource that should be bookmarked by every hockey fan), the Blackhawks are approximately $35,000 over the $75 million salary cap. They can spend 10 percent over the cap as long as they’re at/under the cap by opening night.

No idea when it will happen but I would think Seattle would be a good possibility. Plus, it’s a selfish wish on my part: the only time I’ve been in Seattle is at the airport, connecting between Vancouver and Chicago.

https://twitter.com/gowritealready/status/884410186663940096

Not that I know of, outside of YouTube of course. Although with rare exception I was never into watching full games from the past. Always felt if I did, I should probably play “Glory Days” faintly in the background.

The Blackhawks haven’t announced anything on that yet but yes, I expect them to be there at some point during training camp. Last year they scrubbed it due to half the team being at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.

No, I don’t. It was a worthwhile shot to take last season, especially with Campbell taking a significant pay cut to come back here. But it didn’t have the desired effect on the ice. The Blackhawks need to get younger on defense, so I don’t see him returning.

We addressed the last question above (either they find someone later this summer/early fall or go as is). I’d pick Nick Schmaltz as a guy who needs to take a big step forward. He did alright for a rookie, especially once he got back from a midseason stint in Rockford. But he should be stronger this season. With holes in the lineup, expectations will grow for everyone remaining, him included. As for the breakout player, it would be easy to say Alex DeBrincat because everyone wants it to be DeBrincat. But surprises usually come out of training camp. Alexandre Fortin had a good one last fall and was on the bubble. Does he take bigger strides this camp?

If you’ve been a fan for any amount of time you’ve had to adjust to watching the Blackhawks without Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi, Brian Campbell, Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen, Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, among others. All former-player reunions aside, losing guys has been part of pretty much every Blackhawks season since they started winning Stanley Cups again. It is what it is. You’ll be OK.

I’m off to Paris again, for sure. Past that I haven’t decided yet. That’s the beauty of train travel in Europe: you can decide last minute and still probably find a good deal. 

Truth be told, I never liked that show. I always thought it was overrated. Watched the first season, got bored, and outside of the random times it’s on while I’m awaiting an appointment, I never watched it again. That’s a very long answer to your very short question, but there you go.

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It’s probably faster to answer which wines I haven’t been sampling. It’s summer, so if I’m eating outdoors it’s rosé time. I highly recommend Cote des Roses, a wonderfully light rosé in a gorgeous bottle. I’ve been sampling Malbecs again because I never stray too far from them. Don Miguel Gascon is a favorite. I’ll still enjoy an Old Fashioned now and then but that seems more a fall/winter option.

Glad you brought that up. A huge thank you to all of you who gave recommendations when I asked earlier this summer. The ones I’ve read thus far have been outstanding. I highly recommend “Shadow of the Wind” and “Finding Jake.” Just finished reading “Proof of Heaven.”

Don’t make me choose.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan McNeil join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

Corey Crawford is reportedly suffering vertigo-like symptoms and there’s a chance he might not return this season. Are the Blackhawks playoff chances gone if he doesn’t come back?

Plus, the guys talk Bears coaches, preview Conference Championship weekend and Jesse discusses if the Cubs are saving their money for next winter’s big free agent class.

Listen to the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been tight-lipped about Corey Crawford's status ever since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, and it's fueled rampant speculation on social media about what's really going on. That came to an end on Tuesday when Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's growing concern within the organization that its star goaltender could miss the remainder of the season with vertigo-like symptoms. (Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday to clarify it's post-concussion syndrome).

And while there's at least some clarity surrounding Crawford's condition, it's opened up more questions about what the Blackhawks may do going forward.

On Monday we broke down the unfavorable playoff picture for the Blackhawks going into the bye week, which was a glaring concern in and of itself. Add in the possibility that Crawford could be sidelined for the rest of the campaign and those chances absolutely diminish.

So what course of action should the Blackhawks take ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline? That's where the tricky part comes in.

Because of the nature of Crawford's injury, the Blackhawks aren't at a point right now where they want to put him on long-term injured reserve because that would require him to miss a minimum of 10 games or 24 days, and they're still holding out hope that he could come back within that timeframe. The problem with it is that nobody really knows. It could be days, weeks or months, and putting a restriction on that doesn't make much sense in the middle of a playoff run even though it would open up significant cap space.

Which brings us to our next point. There are certainly some decent rental goaltenders (Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta, to name a few) on the market if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, but that might not be the wisest thing to do.

Given their spot in the standings and the chances Crawford could return, why risk giving up future assets for a playoff run that may not happen? It would be different if the Blackhawks wanted to add some insurance for the stretch run and postseason, but there's no guarantee it'll happen.

If the Blackhawks did, however, want to go that route, they would need to act quickly because there's no point in waiting closer to the deadline. Every point is crucial from here on out.

Perhaps the best and most logical idea is to stand pat.

Let it ride with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass and hope they can hold the fort down until a potential Crawford return. Let the young guys continue to grow. Maybe add a defenseman to patch up the back end, but don't empty the tank. There's no reason to. The Blackhawks are hoping to sign highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura after his college season ends, which would serve as a deadline acquisition by itself.

It will be tempting for the Blackhawks to be aggressive at the trade deadline in the wake of Crawford's injury, and they're surely already having these discussions as they continue to explore the different avenues. But this might be a rare case where doing nothing is the right way to go.