Blackhawks

Bowman on Toews, trades, and his new job

552168.jpg

Bowman on Toews, trades, and his new job

Blackhawks vice president and general manager Stan Bowman was a guest on "NHL Live" on NHL Network Wednesday afternoon, and backed up what head coach Joel Quenneville told the media the previous two days concerning the severity of what appears to be a hand or wrist injury Jonathan Toews sustained last weekend, forcing him to miss Tuesday's loss to Nashville.

"Most likely," Bowman replied when asked if the captain would be ready after the All-Star break. "It's certainly not a long-term injury. We'll see how he does with a little bit of work on the injury. We have a long road trip coming up, starting in Vancouver next Tuesday and we're targeting him to play in that game, and he's on track to hopefully be ready by then."

As for his assessment of his team, Bowman told co-hosts Deb Placey and Ken Daneyko fourth in the division and sixth in the conference isn't good enough.

"I think there's room for improvement" Bowman said. "We've had a good first 50 games for our group. We've put ourselves in a decent position going forward. There's four teams in our division who are on pace for 100 points, which is hard to believe, really. We have a lot of games against those teams. We're looking to improve our overall consistency. I think when our team plays to our level, like when we've gone on some winning streaks this year, we're very tough to beat, but there's other times we've struggled.

"We're looking to improve our team through trades, but as you can see, there's not a lot happening on that front. A lot of talking, but I think it will speed up a little bit as we get closer to the deadline. But right now, it's a wait-and-see approach, and trying to find answers from within."

Bowman was then asked how aggressive he's been looking to deal, and reiterated what he's recently told the Chicago media about where he's looking to upgrade.

"I've talked to a lot of general managers over the last few weeks, going back to December, just trying to get an idea of what they're looking to do and I've tried to make it clear what we're trying to do," he said. "Right now, we're seeing a slowdown because there's nobody really ready to sacrifice their season yet and start trading away their valuable players. I've had a lot of conversations and letting people know we're willing to trade but there's nothing happening at the moment.

"In general, you can never be too deep at the center ice position. We've got a lot of young players who've stepped in and helped us this year, but I think having depth there is important. Same thing with defense. We've got eight defensemen with us right now who I think all can play. We've got a couple kids in the minors whom we're high on and could also contribute, but if you're looking for that proven NHL defenseman, that's something we have to look at."

The NHL trade deadline is Monday, February 27th, at 2 p.m., Chicago time.

Bowman was a guest primarily to discuss being added by USA Hockey to the U.S. Mens National Team Advisory Group in leading the selection of American-born players for international competitions. He'll join a panel that already includes Toronto's Brian Burke, Philadelphia's Paul Holmgren, Dean Lombardi of Los Angeles, Nashville's David Poile, Ray Shero of Pittsburgh and former Atlanta Thrashers executive Don Waddell.

"I'm very thrilled to have the opportunity to help out any way I can," said Bowman. "They did a phenomenal job in the team they prepared for Vancouver, coming so close to the gold medal. We're certainly aiming to repeat that performance, but it's not an easy task. There's a lot of players to evaluate and try to assemble to compete against the other great countries. It's an opportunity for me to be exposed to different things and contribute to not only the Olympic team, but the World Championship team."

The next event for which Bowman and the six others will need to assemble a team for is the IIHF World Championships May 4-20 in Helsinki and Stockholm.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

10-24_knights_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Blackhawks mailbag: Defensive challenges and happy campers

seabrook-1023.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks mailbag: Defensive challenges and happy campers

The Blackhawks entered this season with the same mantra they have countless others: get off to a good start and save yourself a point chase at the end of the season.

My first season on the beat was probably the Blackhawks’ best lesson lately on what happens when you’re scrambling late; they just about missed the playoffs, losing to Detroit in the regular-season finale and needing Minnesota to beat Dallas to get into the postseason. And while the overall results have been a mixed bag, their opening record (5-2-2) isn’t shabby.

Still, there are questions regarding where the Blackhawks are and where they’re heading. To that end (yeah, we’re finally getting to the point of this whole spiel), we bring you this week’s mailbag:

The Blackhawks’ happiness with Tanner Kero was partly because of Kero’s work last season. But in terms of comparing to other centers, Kero’s emergence had more to do with replacing Dennis Rasmussen than it did Marcus Kruger – Kero re-signed with the Blackhawks around the same time talks reportedly went awry between the team and Rasmussen. Anyway, back to Kero. I don’t think it’s so much what he’s not doing as what Tommy Wingels is doing in that fourth-line spot. The Blackhawks originally envisioned Wingels at wing but he has previous experience at center and his work there has been pretty good. Saturday night’s game certainly helps, be it for Wingels alone or keeping that fourth line together (he, John Hayden and Lance Bouma, who scored the game-winner). Don’t be surprised if there’s some rotation there, though.

Maybe, although either of those guys will likely still be rotating in/out with another player. Just depends on how much the Blackhawks want those guys playing constantly (I would guess that would be the case with rookie Matthew Highmore more than Hinostroza).

We all know this contract, all know how it hamstrings the Blackhawks for a while. But in the immediate future, what can you do? Fellow scribe Mark Lazerus has asked a few times about Seabrook’s place in the lineup and coach Joel Quenneville has demurred. Granted, we’re guessing general manager Stan Bowman doesn’t want Seabrook out of the lineup, either. Seabrook’s leadership skills are tremendous; to a man, the Blackhawks will say how vocal he is. His past work, especially in the playoffs, speaks for itself. It depends on how things progress as the season goes but I don’t foresee Seabrook coming out of the lineup right now. Speaking of Seabrook…

Highly doubt it. The asking price won’t be just one guy for another. And with any trade talk I remind everyone to see a player’s NMC status. Seabrook has a full no movement clause.

Nope, he’s not going anywhere, as the traveling media confirmed with Quenneville on Monday afternoon in Las Vegas. I had to be reminded that DeBrincat was nearing that deadline on Sunday, his status not coming up in conversations with Quenneville and Stan Bowman like it did when Brandon Saad made the team at 19. DeBrincat has made such an impression that it was going to take something extraordinary for the Blackhawks to reassign him. DeBrincat has found his place in the lineup and whether or not he’s been scoring he’s been good. So here, he remains.

You don’t trade him. The Blackhawks are where they are right now due in large part to their goaltending, especially Crawford. There have been, what, two games in which the Blackhawks dominated? So no, you don’t trade Crawford.

We’re quite a while from the trade deadline, so let’s tap the breaks on any talk about what the Blackhawks may do several months from now. As far as Murphy’s current status, no, I don’t believe his job is in jeopardy. Again, part of this is the eight-defensemen situation. But it’s also getting Murphy more ingrained in the system. I talked to Dave Tippett, Murphy’s former coach, a few weeks ago. He said, “we put him into situations he may not have been ready for [with Arizona], but he always continued to improve in those situations. He still has a lot of growing to do but he’s a very dedicated athlete and I think there’s a lot of upside there.” It’s easy to look at who the Blackhawks traded away for Murphy and Murphy’s contract and say, “yeah, he should be an everyday guy.” He should be at some point but considering what I mentioned above, I’m not surprised he isn’t right now. Speaking of defensemen rotating in and out of the lineup…

Yeah, I’m still not a big fan of the eight-defensemen set, for the reason you just mentioned. I wrote about the Blackhawks’ defensive juggling act on Sunday and, while I still think it’s tough to do I believe the Blackhawks will stay with it for a while. I list some reasons in Sunday’s story, which is linked above. So far (judging from outward appearances) the defensemen seem to be on board with the changes. I’m just curious to see how long they can keep the balance to where no one is sitting too long. That’s always the challenge.

Signing Cody Franson was part of the short-term plan regarding the long-term injured reserve funds. I think the Blackhawks just let things play out now for a while. You’re not going to make a move based on the first month of the season.

Yeah, someday I will stop writing about the power play’s woes but it won’t be today. I personally don’t think it’s the personnel. Whenever we talk about this it’s usually the same culprits: lack of movement, not enough shots and net-front traffic. I still say a strong penalty kill is more important and if the Blackhawks’ 5-on-5 scoring increases the power-play concerns fade. But it has cost them, so it’s certainly a concern.

I wouldn’t take the stern expressions as a sign of unhappiness. I’ve seen them plenty of times arriving at an arena looking like that; just focused before a game.

Going to go with a B-plus mainly because they came out of those first eight games with a pretty solid record. Granted, goaltending deserves a massive pat on the back for that. But it’s still early and I still figure the lines will get rolling at some point. Penalty kill has been very good and power play absolutely has to get better.