Blackhawks, John Torchetti (sort of) together again


Blackhawks, John Torchetti (sort of) together again

MINNEAPOLIS – John Torchetti got a few messages from the Blackhawks when he was named the Minnesota Wild’s interim coach. Nice gestures from his former bosses.

“I had some great texts, from Joel [Quenneville] and [team president] John McDonough wishing me good luck except for when we play them,” Torchetti said on Saturday. “So it’s a big game. But for us, I want to see where we’re at.”

A few years ago Torchetti was standing with the Blackhawks, hoisting that Stanley Cup that broke the franchise’s long drought without it. On Sunday afternoon he’ll be behind the other bench.

The former Blackhawks associate coach is currently the Minnesota Wild’s interim coach, getting the nod after the Wild fired head coach Mike Yeo last week. Playing his former team is a thrill, but Torchetti has bigger concerns at the moment.

“Yeah, it’s exciting. It’ll be fun to see the guys back on the ice,” Torchetti said. “But after the puck drops it is just another game, you know?”

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Torchetti was part of the Blackhawks’ coaching staff from 2007 to 2010, when he joined the Atlanta Thrashers. During his time there Torchetti brought life to the Blackhawks’ power play. He also let Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane spread their wings on the ice.

“He brought a lot to our power play. He made things simple for us, never overcomplicated things. He allowed our skill to go out there and make things happen offensively, 5-on-5 and the power play as well,” Jonathan Toews said. “I guess that team is looking for a change. We know they’ll be a different team, especially in that game, knowing what they’ve been through lately.”

Kane agreed.

“He’s one of those guys that I only have good things to say about,” he said. “Our power play was effective when he was here; he was one of those guys that brought me and Tazer on the ice early in our careers before practice to work on some things. Good offensive mind for the game and I really liked him as a person, too.”

[MORE: Blackhawks’ power play is sizzling again]

Torchetti was named interim coach of a Wild team that was sinking fast in the Central Division; the Wild had lost eight in a row and 13 of their previous 14 when Yeo was fired. Since Torchetti took over the Wild have won three in a row heading into this weekend’s division game on a very grand stage.

Justin Fontaine said he’s learned plenty from Torchetti, be it in his time with the Wild or during his minor-league days – Torchetti coached the Houston Aeros during Fontaine’s time there.

“He’s a real energetic guy,” Fontaine said. “You can tell how much he cares about the game. He’s great with systems. He taught me a lot about pro hockey coming from college, and how to adapt to this style of play and pro hockey all around. I have a lot of praise for Torts. He’s been a good coach for me. Even coming in and sparking the team here and going over a lot of things, we have a lot more energy on the bench, a lot more communication and it’s been going in the right direction.”

Jason Zucker said there is a difference between the Torchetti and Yeo’s approaches.

[RELATED: President Barack Obama honors Blackhawks for Stanley Cup victory]

“Every coach is a little different. Nobody’s going to be the same. Torch is a little bit more vocal and … animated. Yeo was a lot more controlled in the way he went about things,” Zucker said. “But everyone has their own way of doing things, and there’s no right or wrong or good or bad with that.”

The Blackhawks are very familiar with their foe and its new coach. The Wild coach is, in turn, familiar with the Blackhawks’ system and their core group of players. They once did a lot of great things together. They’ll be friendly again soon enough but right now, Torchetti is focused on trying to help the Wild turn a season around again.

“I love the game. You have to play with a lot of passion and play with detail and execute. For me, I’m all about the players. My job is to make you a better hockey player and that’s what it’s all about moving forward,” Torchetti said. “I look forward to coaching every day and seeing my players on the ice, then seeing the product work on the ice. That’s the best part about teaching: there’s no ceiling to it.”

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut


Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!