Blackhawks

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

NHL.com names Blackhawks "Franchise of the Decade"

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USA Today

NHL.com names Blackhawks "Franchise of the Decade"

We all knew the 2010s were good to the Hawks and their fans, this salute is just the cherry on the sundae. There's no arguing that with three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, 2015) in six seasons, they're incredibly deserving of the title.

Chicago ended a 49-year Stanley Cup drought in 2010 and captured first place in the Central Division in 2010, 2013 and 2016. The Hawks also won the President's Trophy awarded to the team with the most points in the NHL in 2013 after starting the season 21-0-3. 

Who can forgot moments like beating the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the 2013 Western Conference Final after trailing the series 3-1, Kane's Game 6 overtime goal in 2010 to snag the cup, 17 seconds and winning it on home ice in 2015.

"It's been special," Jonathan Toews told NHL.com. "At the end of the day it's not easy, it's a lot of hard work. A lot of teammates and friends have come through this locker room and left to play for other teams or retire -- there's always a different scenario -- but I'm pretty thankful for what I've been able to be a part of. For me, Chicago has become a home. You're around the city, people are thanking you for the championships and that will never get old. Great memories and obviously a pretty special time when were able to make those Cup runs."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Should Kane & Toews continue to be on the same line?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Should Kane & Toews continue to be on the same line?

Host Pat Boyle is joined by Blackhawks Insider Charlie Roumeliotis, and NBCS Chicago producer Slavko Bekovic as they debate the nuclear line of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, have the Hawks found their identity as a team, predictions for the next few games as the Hawks head to the bye week.

(1:00) - Hawks forced to use Kane and Toews on the same line

(6:15) - Dominik Kubalik is doing well with Kane and Toews

(9:55) - Colliton doesn't have a healthy roster right now

(14:12) - What is the identity of this team?

(17:18) - Maybe the Hawks have a chance at a Wildcard spot

(20:24) - Kirby Dach is getting opportunities on the power play

(23:48) - How will the Hawks play vs the Panthers and Joel Quenneville?

(26:30) - Predictions on the next few gamesListen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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