Blackhawks

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

* “Don’t look to the past anymore. It’s great to think you can recapture the magic with former players but years go by and times change.”

The sentences you see above were written by yours truly after the Blackhawks were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round in April. And for the most part, I stand by the message. The Blackhawks kept going back to their alumni well for solutions but, for the most part, it wasn’t working. But there’s always an exception to the rule, always one asterisk that can be applied in every situation (as we’ve done here).

In this case, that exception is Brandon Saad.

This isn’t someone who played with the Blackhawks five or more years ago. This isn’t a player who’s in his 30s. This isn’t a player who’s at the end of his career. This is a player in his prime, a 24-year-old who has a whole lot of game remaining and a whole lot of familiarity with this group, especially captain Jonathan Toews.

By the way, anyone else struck by the irony that the same Saad deal that the Blackhawks couldn’t afford two years ago is now one that fits perfectly, and will be really beneficial in two seasons when they don’t have to worry about trying to re-sign Artemi Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent?

Anyway, back to revisiting the past. General manager Stan Bowman admitted that he was hoping to bring Saad back into the fold at some point, although talks for this particular deal didn’t heat up until the past few days.

“Certainly it was a tough move a couple of years ago to have to make that trade [of Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015]," Bowman said. “Today my conversation had a much different tone. Brandon’s coming back and that chemistry is there right away and intensity and the way he plays. His all-around game is second to none.”

Saad said he wondered if he’d end up with the Blackhawks again at some point in his career.

“The day I was traded I talked with Stan and you part ways, but it’s a small league and there are always opportunities. It was definitely a thought in my mind possibly ending up in Chicago,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d happen this soon but that’s just the way it happened. It’s exciting to be back somewhere I’m comfortable, somewhere I know and an organization that’s had success.”

Yes, the Blackhawks went back to their alumni well. But instead of getting an aging veteran they’ve reacquired a kid in his prime. Every situation can come with an asterisk. This is one exception that will turn out well for the Blackhawks. 

Blackhawks mailbag: Defensive challenges and happy campers

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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.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks find 'Energy Line' before they hit the Vegas Strip

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks find 'Energy Line' before they hit the Vegas Strip

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Tracey Myers discuss the "Energy Line" of Lance Bouma, Tommy Wingels and John Hayden.

The also look at how video replay hasn’t gone the Hawks' way this season and the dangerous hit that Ryan Hartman received from Zack Kassian.

They also preview the matchup with the surprise of the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the issues the expansion team has in net.

Take a listen below: