Blackhawks

Why Blackhawks' Marian Hossa should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer

Why Blackhawks' Marian Hossa should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer

For the first time ever, the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee will converse and conduct its voting on the Class of 2020 virtually and electronically, not face-to-face. The process will take place over a two-day period on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the inductees being announced Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. CT.

The maximum number of players that can be elected each year is six — four male and two female — and a player must be retired three years in order to be eligible. Any candidate that receives more than 75 percent of votes — or at least 14 votes from the 18 members — will be inducted.

And Marian Hossa should be one of them.

While he's technically still on an NHL roster — his contract with the Arizona Coyotes expires following the 2020-21 season — the league ruled Hossa eligible because he hasn't played hockey in three seasons and publicly stated he has no plans to do so again, given his medical condition. 

Hossa won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and is the only player in NHL history to reach the Stanley Cup Final in three consecutive seasons with three different teams. He racked up 1,134 points in 1,309 games across 19 seasons with five different clubs, scored at least 30 goals in eight of those seasons, 40 goals three times, and was the 80th player in league history to hit the 1,000-point mark.

A first-round draft pick (No. 12 overall) by the Ottawa Senators in 1997, Hossa was a big-time point producer at every level but became more known for being one of the best two-way forwards in the game as his NHL career evolved. And yet he still finished with 525 goals, which ranks No. 35 all-time. For reference, Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita sits at 32nd with 541 goals.

Hossa also ranks 30th all-time in playoff points with 149 in 205 games. Twenty of the 29 players above him were first-ballot Hall of Famers, and the only two active players ahead of him — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — are slam dunks to be as well. Now, it's only fair to note that Hossa's 0.727 points-per-game average ranks 151st among players with at least 50 playoff points, but there's something to be said about longevity, too.

The only legitimate argument against Hossa is the fact he doesn't have many individual awards on his resumé.

Aside from finishing second in the Calder Trophy voting during his rookie campaign, Hossa drew consistent Lady Byng and Selke Trophy votes throughout his career, but his top finishes were fourth and fifth, respectively. He did, however, finish in the Top-10 in Hart Trophy voting twice, which is nothing to sneeze at as a winger.

But the lack of individual accomplishments shouldn't completely discount his chances of getting in on the first try. Ask any former teammate, coach or executive about Hossa and they'll speak glowingly of what he brought to the table both on and off the ice. He wasn't the flashiest player, but Hossa was the ultimate pro and a proven winner.

"One of those players that really set the table of playing the right way," Joel Quenneville told NBC Sports Chicago in January. "And as a coach, you couldn't ask for a guy that demonstrates exactly what your message is on how we want to play structurally, in all zones, all situations. Protects the puck, keeps the puck, tough to take it away from him. It was like, 'OK, this is the perfect player.'"

SportsTalk Live Podcast: SportsTalk Live says farewell

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: SportsTalk Live says farewell

David Haugh, Jesse Rogers and Mark Potash join David Kaplan on the final episode of SportsTalk Live.

They talk the Blackhawks-Oilers series and what comes next, Luis Robert's chances at MVP, and Cubs chances at the championship.

Plus, David Kaplan says farewell to SportsTalk Live after the show was on the air for over 16 years.

Listen here or below.

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Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.

“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”

“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.

Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?

The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.

Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.

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Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985. 

All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.

The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.

"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."

Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.

Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.

"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."

One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.

“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.

"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."

It sure does.

Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.