Blackhawks

Brandon Saad doesn't view bump to fourth line as demotion even though Blackhawks are looking for more

Brandon Saad doesn't view bump to fourth line as demotion even though Blackhawks are looking for more

The Blackhawks loaded up the first two lines to open the season in an effort to jumpstart the offense, and they've certainly gotten that with 18 goals through four games.

Ten of those goals have come from the top line of Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kahun and Jonathan Toews. Four of them have come from Patrick Kane, with Nick Schmaltz recording just as many assists.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, has one point through four games playing on the second line. He had two prime scoring chances in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild, which included a breakaway. But much like a year ago, he's not getting the results.

Saad was demoted to the fourth line during Friday's practice playing alongside David Kampf and Marcus Kruger, while rookie Alexandre Fortin jumped into that left wing spot next to Kane and Schmaltz after an impressive debut.

Asked what he's looking for from Saad, coach Joel Quenneville didn't hesitate.

"More," he said. "With [Fortin] going to that line, he brings that speed. I thought he had some good things we saw last night that he can bring to the team. Saad needs a little bit more consistency with the puck. Losing pucks, we want to make sure, if you are going to lose it, there’s still another level of keeping the puck and not ending it there in that situation. That’s one area he can be better.

"But I still think there’s production there. He's had some looks. We’re looking for more of the finished product, as we saw those situations come up last year, as well. Krugs’ line always seems to generate something. That line can have more of a purpose defensively and can be an effective line because they usually get some top lines and sometimes they can be exposed in some situations."

But Saad doesn't necessarily see it as a demotion.

"I think it's just having balance throughout the team," he said. "We have a lot of good players. Just because I'm in that role, we want to play well defensively, but also I think we can contribute with a lot of offensive plays too. We're all skilled players and all got a knack for the net, so I don't see us shy of scoring any goals."

Still, zero goals through four games can't sit well a player of his caliber especially when you consider he scored six goals through the first six games last season and still finished with only 18 across 82 games.

"You always want to produce and help the team win," Saad said. "The biggest thing for me is playing both ends of the ice, but obviously you want to produce as well. I've always had pretty good success at that. Not the top of the league, but still enough to contribute to win hockey games. That's the type of player I want to be and obviously it's been a little bit of a slow start, but I think I've had some positive things and you've just got to keep improving."

The challenge with this entire situation is that there's no doubt Saad is more effective when playing in a top-six role with offensively skilled players. But the Blackhawks have no choice but to send a message when the production simply hasn't been there. It would also send the wrong message to the team by continuing to reward a player with more ice time when somebody else may be more deserving of it for the time being.

For better or worse, Saad hasn't changed his mindset one way or the other and won't going forward, no matter what his role may be.

"Regardless of where you're at, you can't change your attitude or mindset," Saad said. "You've got to come to work every day and have that success.

"When we're winning, it's pretty easy to stay positive. But obviously with losing like last night, it's definitely tough and something you think about a little bit more. At the end of the day, it's just coming to work every day, improving every day and just keep doing what you're doing."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Connor Murphy interview and narrowing down potential draft candidates at No. 3 for Blackhawks

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Connor Murphy interview and narrowing down potential draft candidates at No. 3 for Blackhawks

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Connor Murphy joins the show to break down the Blackhawks' man-on-man defensive zone coverage, how the team stayed together during the long losing skids and do the young players have a strong voice in the locker room?

Pat Boyle is then joined by Slavko Bekovic and Charlie Roumeliotis to discuss what the Blackhawks may be thinking with the No. 3 overall pick and narrow the field to three potential candidates. Should the Blackhawks draft for need or best available player?

Plus, the guys provide an update on how the Blackhawks are performing at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

0:45 – Connor Murphy joins the podcast

2:00 – Murphy’s summer so far

2:35 – Murphy’s off-ice training regimen

3:35 – Murphy evaluates his season

5:05 – Murphy on comeback from injury

6:30 – Murphy explains the Hawks d-zone coverage

10:00 – Murphy’s conversations with father Gord Murphy

12:10 – Murphy on making it through tough times last season

13:10 – Murphy on unity between vets and youth

14:25 – Murphy’s goals for the future

17:00 – Hawks draft prospects one month out from NHL Draft

19:30 – Byram’s stock up while Podkolzin’s stock down

21:00 – Should Blackhawks draft for need and improve now?

26:25 – Future of the Blackhawks blue-line

33:15 – Blackhawks replenishing the prospect pipeline

35:45 – Our top 3 prospects for the No. 3 pick

41:05 – How the Blackhawks are doing at the IIHF World Championship

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Blackhawks mailbag: Trade probabilities and playoff chances in 2019-20

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks mailbag: Trade probabilities and playoff chances in 2019-20

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition.

Based off of your conversations with Craig Button, Mark Kelley, Mark Eaton, etc. [on the Hawks Talk Podcast] which draft prospect makes the most sense to take at number 3?

Hey Charlie! Who do you believe the Blackhawks are gonna pick third overall and why?

We're almost a month away from the NHL Draft in Vancouver and the Blackhawks have had more than five weeks to prepare for who they might take at No. 3 overall. The organization held scouting meetings in the first week of May and Blackhawks Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley joined the Hawks Talk Podcast and touched on whether they're leaning a certain direction yet.

"We don't," he said. "Stan [Bowman] and I, we haven't even asked that question of each other. I think we both trust the process."

The Blackhawks have conducted most of their on-ice research at this point. Now it's more about gathering second and third layer information and diving into their personal backgrounds, which they will do at the NHL Scouting Combine from May 27-June 1 in Buffalo when they sit down and interview all the top prospects.

But getting back to the original question(s): If we had to narrow the field right now, 17-year-old standout defenseman Bowen Byram and USA star center and Illinois native Alex Turcotte might be separating themselves as the favorites to be taken at No. 3. Byram is as complete of a defenseman as they come and Turcotte is a potential future first-line two-way center. Both of those players would make sense for different reasons.

Hi Charlie! Could Hawks get a dman and/or top 9 forward through trade from a cap troubled team like Lightning, Pittsburgh instead of potential overpaying a free agent?

There are always pros and cons to everything. In free agency, there's the risk of overpaying and being locked into a long-term contract that could make life challenging in a salary cap world. On the flip side, dipping into the trade market means you have to give up assets. 

The Blackhawks have spent the past three years trying to replenish their farm system because they spent the previous decade using that ammo to go for it all. The only way it makes sense for the Blackhawks to acquire a top-four defenseman or top-six forward is if it's for a player that could impact the team in both the short term and long term, and is on an affordable long-term contract.

That being said, the Blackhawks should absolutely explore what's out there because there's an urgency to get things turned around as soon as possible.

With the signing of Dahlstrom & Koekkoek and the expected signing of Forsling, do you think the Blackhawks make a trade involving a defenseman before the draft? Especially with all the recent hype of Bowen Byram. Seems like there are more expendable dmen than ever right now.

If the Blackhawks believe Byram is the best player available at No. 3, they will take him and "worry" about the logjam of defensemen prospects the next day. Even if they don't draft Byram, it's hard to see a path for their Big Four blue line chips (Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist, Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell) to break in around the same time — or with the team, at all — simply because the math doesn't work. There aren't enough roster spots available.

We're of the mindset that the Blackhawks should continue to develop them under their own roof because their value increases as they become more NHL ready and if they're developed properly. If they see a deal that benefits the team now and four-plus years from now, the Blackhawks will pull the trigger on something like that if or whenever it ever crosses their desk. Whether that could come before or after the draft, who knows.

1) Was Toews not invited to play for Team Canada or did he decline? 

2) Can Kane and DeBrincat help USA to Gold this year? 

3) Any chance or rumors of draft day trades? Up or down?

Brandon,

1) Team Canada likely reached out, but Jonathan Toews has accomplished everything there is to internationally so it's completely understandable if he respectfully passed on the opportunity. Two Olympic gold medals, two gold medals at the World Junior Championships, a gold medal at the World Cup and another gold at the IIHF World Championship. He's paid his dues. And at 31 years old, rest and recovery are more important than adding more mileage on his body.

2) This is probably the deepest team USA has fielded. And it started with Patrick Kane committing as captain for the second straight year. They have the center depth (Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Jack Hughes and Luke Glendening), high-end defensemen (Noah Hanifin, Quinn Hughes, Ryan Suter and Zach Werenski) and firepower on the wing (Alex DeBrincat, Johnny Gaudreau, Kane and James van Riemsdyk) to make a deep run. The biggest question mark is whether or not their goaltending (Thatcher Demko and Cory Schneider) can hold up their end of the bargain. 

3) It's safe to say there is less than a 1 percent chance that the Blackhawks trade up from No. 3. The Devils are trying to re-sign Taylor Hall and trading out of the No. 1 spot and losing out on Jack Hughes would be inexcusable. And the Rangers, who hold the No. 2 pick and are expected to have their hand in some marquee free agents this summer, could speed up their rebuilding process by adding Kaapo Kakko, who's dominating the IIHF World Championship right now.

Trading back, although unlikely, is an interesting possibility and one to consider only if you're fixated on a player and can guarantee that he'll still be on the board a couple picks later. The other part of the equation is finding a team that's hungry enough to both jump up and give up the assets to do it. But we shouldn't spend too much time on this. It would take a lot for the Blackhawks to want to move out of No. 3 in general.

Will the Hawks be a playoff team this year?

The Blackhawks missed the playoffs this season by only six points despite everything that went on: a midseason coaching change, Corey Crawford missing action with another concussion and two eight-game losing streaks. But that may have been more about the top-heavy Western Conference, with the Colorado Avalanche securing the second wildcard spot at 90 points. The bar will likely be heightened next season.

If the Blackhawks want to avoid a three-year playoff drought, things need to change, such as overall possession numbers, team defense and the penalty kill. And if they play their cards right this summer, it can: No. 3 overall pick, financial flexibility they haven't had before with Bowman in charge and a full training camp under head coach Jeremy Colliton to get on the same page.

The Blackhawks also need teams above them to take a step back, which is possible when you factor in the question marks surrounding Nashville and Winnipeg in the Central Division after first-round exits this spring. Every year there are surprises in this category. That's hockey.

Early prediction: Playoff hockey will return to Chicago next season.

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