The Blackhawks had arguably the busiest summer of any NHL team not named Seattle by upgrading their roster through blockbuster trades and free-agent signings ahead of the 2021-22 season.
We're nearly one month away from the start of training camp and the excitement level within the organization is evident. Just ask head coach Jeremy Colliton.
"The whole summer, it's really exciting when you think about the moves that were made," Colliton said on the latest episode of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast. "To me, it's as excited as I've ever been just thinking about the team the last couple weeks and getting ready for training camp."
The Blackhawks, most notably, acquired Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury, two-time Stanley Cup champion Tyler Johnson, four-time All-Star defenseman Seth Jones and signed top-four defenseman Jake McCabe.
Jones was the first big fish to land in Chicago, immediately giving the Blackhawks a perennial No. 1 defenseman for years to come.
"We think really highly of Seth,” Colliton said. “There's a lot of hockey left in him. He's still a young guy. He’s done a lot in his career already, so sometimes you forget that he's still got years of ... I think, to me, you can keep developing throughout your career, but he's 26 years old. There's a lot of elite level left in him and just excited to have a chance to work with him.”
Fleury was the other big name to follow. He's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer one day and is coming off one of his best seasons ever, even at age 36.
Colliton and Fleury were teammates with Team Canada at the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship that won gold, and the Blackhawks head coach knows his presence alone changes the dynamic of the group both on and off the ice.
"Whoever you talk to about him, old teammates or coaches or whatever, and I was able to have that experience when I was younger, just tremendous character, tremendous work ethic, energy, personality," Colliton said. "He's a great guy to be around. He brings that energy and fire to the team. Really excited about what he can bring to our group and help our other young goalies."
Over the next few weeks, Fleury, Jones and the rest of the team will start trickling back to Chicago to gear up for the season, if they haven't already done so. And you expect a motivated group to report.
"I've talked to almost all the guys — if I haven't talked to everyone, I will soon — and there's a tremendous level of excitement about what's been done," Colliton said. "Stan's done a fantastic job, the rest of the management group's done a fantastic job putting the pieces in place and now it's up to us to come ready in training camp and with excitement and passion and we've got to put it together and perform.
"That's what you want, as a competitor. We're excited to build on last year, but also it's with a bunch of new guys. It's going to be a new group and you want to see how that plays out."
While the moves on paper don't necessarily guarantee the Blackhawks a playoff spot, Colliton welcomes the heightened expectations for the team.
"We should expect more from ourselves and from the group," Colliton said. "Last year we did play a lot of young players. I mean, we still had high expectations within the dressing room and I think for large stretches of the year we played at a really high level. Ultimately what we did is, we found out we've got a bunch of guys who can play at this level. It's just, who can sustain it? What level can they get to? And how long can they sustain it?
"And now with adding a bunch of guys, we've increased the standard, so we should expect ... we should have a higher standard now. And that's exciting. You want that pressure. That means you have a chance to do something."