Blackhawks

Cody Franson’s wait pays off as he gets his deal with Blackhawks

Cody Franson’s wait pays off as he gets his deal with Blackhawks

Once again, Cody Franson had to wait to find out his fate with a team. Once again, it had a happy ending.

Franson signed a one-year deal worth a reported $1 million on Wednesday. The 30-year-old defenseman gives the Blackhawks a steady presence and a much-needed, right-handed shot on the blue line.

When the Blackhawks signed Franson to a player tryout prior to training camp, it was expected he’d sign a deal once Marian Hossa’s placement on long-term injured reserve freed up the necessary cap space. Still, Franson wasn’t assuming anything.

“As far as having a good idea [of it happening], when you don’t have a contract there’s no real time to have a good idea,” Franson said with a laugh. “But I thought my exhibition games went well, practices have been going well. I thought I’ve been doing what I could to give myself this opportunity and luckily it played out.”

Franson talked earlier in camp about having to be patient with potential contracts. In this case he had no choice, as the Blackhawks had to wait for the NHL to rule on Hossa. If Wednesday’s practice was any indication, Franson will pair with Jordan Oesterle in the Blackhawks’ season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Coach Joel Quenneville said Franson has brought what the Blackhawks were looking for from the start of camp.

“He showed us a lot,” Quenneville said. “I like his poise out there, got a good stick and shoots the puck extremely well. I like his size and his leadership qualities. He’s been a good fit with that experience and he’s excited about being here and it’s a great opportunity for us as well.”

Franson has fit into the Blackhawks’ room well. It helps that he already knew a few of the players — he and Jonathan Toews played together at World Juniors and he lives in the same area as Brent Seabrook and Jordin Tootoo in the offseason. As far as the Blackhawks’ system, he adjusted easily to that as well.

“That’s one of the things about having an experienced group and guys like this and guys that have been around for so long and have had so much success is. It’s kind of a system without even needing explaining. If you do have questions, you can ask guys because they’ve done it so much that they’re like having coaches,” he said. “It’s been a smooth transition for myself. It’s been easy to pick up and I’m excited to get going.”

Franson had to wait again for a contract, and there was ultimately no guarantee it would happen. But the odds were in his favor and thanks to a strong camp, the wait is over.

“It definitely allows you to take a bit of a deeper breath,” he said. “It’s nice to have that done, out of the way with, and be able to just focus on the regular season and getting off on the right foot here.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
 
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
 
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
 
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
 
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks’ first tripping came barely a minute into the game. Then came another one. And another. And another. And another. Despite welcoming one of their fastest players back into the lineup, the Blackhawks were overall flat-footed and playing catch-up all night, be it on the ice or on the scoreboard, to the St. Louis Blues.

Nick Schmaltz returned but the effect on the second line and the Blackhawks overall wasn’t immediate. Instead the Blackhawks looked sluggish. Their offensive opportunities were few – a one and done here and there but no sustained zone time or pressure on Blues goaltender Jake Allen – their passing was off and they were on the defensive all night.

And then there were the tripping penalties. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held up through it, nullifying all five Blues power-play opportunities. But the Blues found other ways to inflict their damage.

“They played well and we were brutal,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a bad start, a bad middle and even [though] it was a little excited at the end it wasn’t very good. That’s as close to brutal as you can get.”

The Blackhawks’ last three games have common themes: they’re outshot for a good part of the game, they’re giving up a good amount of quality shots and then the urgency hits them midway through the third period. For the third consecutive contest the Blackhawks scored two goals late and in two of those three games it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough for two periods. If you take any positives out of this game, it’s the way we played in the third,” Patrick Kane said. “At least we know we can do it. Just gotta do it before our backs are against the wall.”

Why it’s taking the Blackhawks so long to get going, however, is the question. Obviously the Blackhawks’ late third-period pushes show how capable they are of producing when necessary. Said Alex DeBrincat, who assisted on Ryan Hartman’s goal late in regulation, “If we’re would’ve been crashing the net like that all game it may have been a different story.”

But they didn’t. The Blackhawks welcomed back a teammate that’s injected speed into their lineup but the team was once again stumbling out of the gate.

“We’re supposed to be out there, giving our all every minute we’re out there and every shift, go out there and take it a shift at a time and give it all you got every shift,” Hartman said. “We have four lines that can roll so there’s no excuse for not going out there and putting all your energy out there for a shift and getting ready for the next one.”