Chris Kunitz on retirement and transitioning to new role with Blackhawks


Chris Kunitz on retirement and transitioning to new role with Blackhawks

After 15 seasons in the NHL, Chris Kunitz announced his retirement on Tuesday and joined the Blackhawks organization as a player development adviser. The four-time Stanley Cup winner said he started contemplating hanging up the skates and moving onto his post-playing career chapter during the exit interviews in April, and there was mutual interest between Kunitz and the Blackhawks on bringing him into the hockey operations department.

"We knew that ... I wasn't going to be playing that much farther into my career," Kunitz said on a Wednesday morning conference call. "We like the Chicago area, my wife being from here, and we thought that that would be a great way to transition into a different phase of life, still wanting to be at home with the kids and not be full time and things like that. We found a way to be able to find a position to make that work and hopefully it works for both sides."

Kunitz called his position "unique" and something that's going to evolve over time. For now, he knows he'll be part of the Blackhawks' staff meetings and will share as much knowledge as he can throughout that process. He also will assist the coaching staff with the Rockford IceHogs, which will be a good opportunity to do so when the Blackhawks are on the road. 

Kunitz observed all five days of Blackhawks development camp, and was seen chatting with Jeremy Colliton on many occasions. The coaching change in November was difficult for the players, particularly those who spent the last 10 years playing one way under Joel Quenneville, but Kunitz acknowledged that Colliton is a bright, young head coach who immediately gained respect of the locker room.

"I think change is hard for anybody," Kunitz said. "For a guy like myself, I've had numerous coaches but you learn that it doesn't matter what the gentleman's age is that's coming into the room, they're there for the greater good of the team. I was impressed with the way Jeremy could come in and control the room. Obviously he doesn't have the distinct background that a guy like Q has when he walked in there, but I think the knowledge of the game and the way he portrayed it and the way he thought about it really resonated with myself and the way I wanted to play the game."

As far as what Kunitz will miss the most about his playing career, winning four Stanley Cups certainly sticks out. But it's the journey and the little things that helped accomplish those goals that can't be matched outside the trenches.

"I think it's competing," Kunitz said. "You've done it for so long, you go out there and you battle and get in a little scrum in front of the net or whatever it is in some random game in December and you can go out there and compete and look back at your bench and know that not every day is going to be perfect, you can still fight through together as a team. So I think trying to duplicate that when you're not playing anymore is going to be really tough.

"I don't think most guys are going to miss skating in the summer, the working out to try and withstain a long season but I think it's those little moments that you're on the bench or you're on the ice that you rally around each other and have that fire growing inside you to be at your best, that's something that I don't think you can ever get back but I'm sure I'll miss those things the most."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Jeremy Colliton has tried to dismiss any notion that forward lines in preseason games or practice groups in training camp give any indication as to what the Blackhawks might look like come October 4 in Prague. But with only two preseason games remaining – one of which could very well be the Rockford IceHogs against the Boston Bruins – it would be quite a shock to see the lines shuffled much before the team heads overseas.

“To me, it’s becoming more clear what our lineup is going to look like,” Colliton said after a 3-2 overtime win over an abbreviated Bruins squad on Saturday. “I think we’re getting what we want out of training camp here.”

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews look like a safe bet to once again start the season on the top line, with Alexander Nylander getting the first look on the left wing. On the second line, the combination of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat look like they will have Andrew Shaw pestering opponents and opening up some ice for them.

Where the Blackhawks hope to see a major improvement is in the bottom six, where the team struggled to generate offense last season. Stan Bowman’s additions this summer seem to have the Blackhawks in much better position to not have to rely so heavily on their top two lines or top power play unit.

The third line looks fairly set with Brandon Saad on the left wing and Dominik Kubalik on the right wing. David Kampf looks like the favorite to center that line, but the Blackhawks did give Anton Wedin a look there against the Bruins, and he delivered a primary assist on Saad’s goal.

“I think he plays with a lot of energy and he’s a conscientious player. I think he works hard. Both sides of the puck, he’s got a little bit of skill. He’s a strong skater,” Colliton said of Wedin. “I thought he did well, I liked that line. I thought Saad was excellent.”

The fourth line of Drake Caggiula, Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith earned high praise as well.

“I thought that Carpenter line with Smith and Caggiula was really good, really effective for us,” Kane said. “I think that’s something we might have been missing a little bit last year. Good to see them going, seems like that could be a fun line to watch.”

When the Blackhawks’ season ended this past April, Colliton said he wanted to rely less on Kane and use his star in a more “targeted” way. If the third and fourth lines can generate some scoring, or at the very least some offensive zone time, it could go a long way in getting the Blackhawks into a position to confidently roll four lines.

“We have so much more depth, definitely. There’s no question,” Colliton said. “To have the opportunity to move guys up at times, they should be fresh and ready to make a difference further up the lineup. We have competition, which I think is a good formula for us.”

So, while Colliton may try to play coy on forward lines and defense pairings, Kane has much less to hide.

“That was pretty much our lineup, or close to our lineup, so we’re trying to identify the way we want to play,” Kane said. “Obviously, I think we had some spurts tonight where we did that well and some other times where we struggled a little bit. It’s early in the season, we’re still trying to figure it out.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.


Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

USA Today

Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

After making a first wave of roster cuts to pare their roster down from 55 to 49, the Blackhawks announced a more significant second round Saturday afternoon.

Per the team, forwards Dylan Sikura, Matthew Highmore, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Alexandre Fortin, Reese Johnson, MacKenzie Entwistle, defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Joni Tuulola, Lucas Carlsson and goaltender Matt Tomkins have all been assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Blackhawks roster now consists of 33 players: 18 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders. 

The news comes just hours before the Blackhawks square off with the Bruins in the team's fourth game of the preseason Saturday night.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.