Five takeaways from day 1 of Blackhawks training camp

Five takeaways from day 1 of Blackhawks training camp

The Blackhawks opened up training camp at Fifth Third Arena on Friday morning. Here are five takeaways from the first day of action:

1) Dach is docked

Training Camp opened with the news that Kirby Dach is in the concussion protocol.  Dach was injured after taking a hit in the Traverse City tournament finale on Tuesday. It’s impossible to predict a timetable for concussion recovery, but if he is out for an extended period, his chances of making the team would go down dramatically.

2) de Haan long shot to start season 

Defenseman Calvin de Haan is expected to be out two to three weeks (groin strain/shoulder surgery recovery). That timeline suggests de Haan would miss all of training camp and would likely not be available for the opener in Prague.

3) Shaw next to Kane?

The offseason changes have certainly impacted the locker room. Andrew Shaw’s locker is once again next to Patrick Kane’s stall. This will produce plenty of chirping and media congestion that rivals the Edens at rush hour. The two were also together on the same line on Friday. Kane said: “I've always really liked playing with Shawzy. He works hard, gets pucks back. Plays a pretty simple game, gets to the net, creates a lot of space out there. Good first day.”

4) Captain Motivated 

Jonathan Toews has already produced a resume that will land him in the Hall of Fame someday. He enters his 13th season in the NHL after putting up career-best offensive numbers a year ago. So, what did Toews think about being snubbed by NHL Network's list of the current Top 20 Centers in the game and does he use it as motivation? 

“Honestly, kind of, yeah,” said the Blackhawks captain. “If I saw my name at the top of the list, I wouldn’t really key on it too much. But the fact that it’s been a few years since our team has had playoff success, you kind of start losing a little bit of that focus and attention again. It’s not what’s important, but there’s no doubt in the back of your mind you want to prove yourself as one of the best players in the league and on your team. So when you see that, I think it definitely sinks in a little bit, for sure.”

5) Most competitive camp in the last decade?

Over the last decade, the Blackhawks have produced three cups, plenty of salary cap headaches and very few roster spots that are up for grabs at the start of a season. That is not the case for this training camp. Two years of failing to make the playoffs and a bevy of offseason moves has set the table for the most competitive camp in recent memory, especially at forward.

“We have a lot of depth, a lot of players. You can make an argument that 9 or 10 guys could be on the team,” GM Stan Bowman said. “Now, that's not going to be the case. There's going to be some good players that don't start the season here. But that's not to say that they won't be here two weeks later." He added that there is a “group of players we know they're going to be here all season but there's other players that are constantly trying to prove that they are the guy and I think that competition is going to help our team.”

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Alex DeBrincat joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team


Alex DeBrincat joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Throughout the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Chicago will be unveiling its Blackhawks All-Decade Team. The roster will feature the 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and two goaltenders that made the biggest impact on the franchise from the 2010 through 2019 seasons.

Less than two and a half seasons was all we needed to see from Alex DeBrincat, a highly-skilled and crafty winger for the Blackhawks, who's usually looking to shoot instead of pass. 

DeBrincat was one of the biggest steals from the NHL Draft in recent years. The Hawks taking him in the second round, No. 39 overall, of the 2016 draft changed the way teams selected players.

There's been less hesitation for GMs to pick forwards around DeBrincat's height (5-foot-7) if they're point-producing machines with strong vision and skating. Right out of the gate, the 21-year-old recorded 28 goals for his rookie campaign during the 2017-18 season and followed it up with 41 last year.

"The Cat" has seen a dip in production tallying 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 32 games so far this season, but expect that to pick up.

DeBrincat has utilized his size in being able to sneak by defensemen and find open areas in the offensive zone like the left circle, where he's rifled in a lot of his goals with the Hawks. The Farmington Hills, Mich. native has 151 points (77 goals, 74 assists) in 196 games with Chicago.

He hasn't hoisted the cup or even played one playoff game yet with the Blackhawks, but if/when he does reach the postseason in his career, he'll be a reason why his team got there and will surely be a difference maker.

Alex's chemistry (and interesting friendship) with old Erie Otter (OHL) pal Dylan Strome, as well as with Patrick Kane, amplify the forward's strengths and make him even more fun to watch. 

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Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward


Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

ST. LOUIS — One year ago today, the Blackhawks were enjoying an off-day after snapping their second eight-game losing streak of the season with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Adjustments were still being made under new head coach Jeremy Colliton, but there was at least some optimism that light would be at the end of the tunnel once they all got on the same page.

The Blackhawks have an off-day on Friday, but they’re in a much different place this time around. And not in a good way.

After losing for the ninth time in 12 games (3-7-2) and third straight (0-2-1), the Blackhawks are making standings watching irrelevant in Chicago in a year where it shouldn’t be. Their playoff chances are slipping away quicker than an odd-man rush and nobody wants to start looking ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft class because they shouldn’t be in this position again.

The inconsistency issues are real, the injuries continue to mount, the losses are getting uglier and the schedule is only getting tougher. The Blackhawks aren’t just losing hockey games. They’re not even giving themselves a chance. 

In their last six losses, the Blackhawks have been outscored 29-11 for a minus-18 goal differential. They’ve given up at least five goals in four of them and have one regulation win since Nov. 17.

And it’s hard to see how it can get better.

The easiest in-season change to make when a team with playoff expectations is underperforming is to change the voice and message the players are listening to. But the Blackhawks played that card last season.

In 2015-16, the Blackhawks deservedly earned a pass for running out of gas in the first round after coming off a season in which they captured a third Stanley Cup in six years.

In 2016-17, the Blackhawks called being swept in the first round by Nashville as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a "wake-up call" and promised changes.

In 2017-18, the Blackhawks pointed to Corey Crawford’s season-ending injury in December as a reason for their second-half spiral.

In 2018-19, the Blackhawks preached patience after making a coaching change for the first time in 10 years.

In 2019-20, there is no excuse. The Blackhawks had another long offseason to get it right and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were coming off career statistical seasons at age 30. The roster is better but the product on the ice hasn’t changed.

The tide eventually might turn for the Blackhawks, but right now it's difficult to see a path for how it will.

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