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Bowman: Hawks have areas for improvement

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Bowman: Hawks have areas for improvement

NEWARK, N.J. Stan Bowman talked with a few of his fellow NHL general managers on Wednesday, including Tampa Bays Steve Yzerman and the Florida Panthers Dale Tallon. No, it wasnt tradebarter talk. But theres no time like the present to start the friendly banter.

Bowman was one of many GMs participating in a brief meeting in New York on Wednesday. The meeting was to talk about some potential rule changes as well; but it also lays some light groundwork for trade chatter.

A couple guys I spoke to said well talk over the next couple of weeks, but there was nothing of substance, really, said Bowman, who added hes not looking for anything specific for this Blackhawks team this offseason.

We have a lot of good components in place already. Were just looking to get better and that can be shown in a couple of different ways, he said. We have some ideas but we havent decided, definitively, where were going with it yet.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks coaching staff is still minus an assistant after Mike Haviland was fired earlier this month. Bowman said its a focus, but the team is not in a tremendous hurry to hire a new assistant.

The important thing is to get it right; its not about doing it fast, said Bowman. Weve got some ideas on how to handle it, and were going to dive back into that in a few weeks.

It was ultimately coach Joel Quennevilles decision to fire Haviland; Quenneville spoke of dysfunction that had to be addressed at the time, but didnt elaborate on it much. Bowman didnt expand upon it much more, either, on Wednesday.

I dont want to live in the past, he said. Joel addressed it, put it succinctly that were trying to improve, ad thats what it comes down to. He agreed with me that we could be better, and thats a big part of it as well.

So now it comes down to that improvement aspect. The Blackhawks stars have continued to be just that these past two seasons, for the most part. The supporting cast is where the team has struggled, as attempts to conjure up the same magical group that won the Cup in 2010 has faltered. One way or another, the Blackhawks need to find that chemistry again, top to bottom.

Well look at adding, be it new faces or substantial players from other teams. Thats one way to improve. The other way is from within, Bowman said. Your own players can step their games up and coaches can get more out of them. You add all those up, theyre areas for improvement.

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

As they prepare for the season, it's time to start looking in depth at what the Bears could look like in 2020.

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis are joined by one of the smartest minds in football media, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, to discuss and predict what the Bears look like in 2020. The group discusses the QB competition, will the Bears defense improve or regress, and what should Matt Nagy do in terms of his scheme this year.

(2:40) - Nick Foles should be the starter in 2020

(7:45) - Matt Nagy needs to be more predictable in play calling

(15:30) - Have the Bears used and embraced analytics

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(22:10) - How easy is the Bears schedule and what will be their record at the end of the season?

(31:00) - Why you should watch the Bears in 2020

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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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.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

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.