Blackhawks Mailbag: Will Hawks make another move before trade deadline?


Blackhawks Mailbag: Will Hawks make another move before trade deadline?

As we begin this latest mailbag, a quick message from us to you: we wish you all a very happy, healthy and Merry Christmas. This is the time of year when the emphasis is on family, on helping others and on giving.

Yet, we’re still in the midst of hockey season. And in our latest mailbag the not-so-surprising questions were at the top of some lists: what will the Blackhawks be receiving, either now or at the trade deadline?

Well, let’s first get general manager Stan Bowman’s thoughts. He was asked if any other moves were coming after the Blackhawks got Rob Scuderi for Trevor Daley earlier this month:

“I’m really not looking at the deadline here. It’s mid-December,” he said at the time. “We’ve got a lot of hockey to be played and things change over time so whether it’s play or injuries, or certain other players emerging, we’re trying to stay focused. We’ve got a new player in the lineup here and we’ll see how that kind of settles down, but not really focused on moves. I guess that’ll pick up as we get going here and get closer to the deadline itself.”

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My two cents, I’m sure the Blackhawks will do something. One of the aspects about the Scuderi-Daley deal was the Blackhawks got some cap space out of it. Bowman said that was key. The Blackhawks haven’t had much wiggle room the last few seasons, so this gives them that when the trade deadline rolls around on Feb. 29. You look at what they’ve done the last few deadlines (last year a special case, certainly, with Patrick Kane’s LTIR status providing a ton of cash): they’ve done all right.

Now, let’s get to the rest of the mailbag. My apologies for those I don’t address this time. 

I think Crawford’s been great lately. The guy won seven of his last nine starts, and that included three shutouts. Around the time his hot streak started Crawford talked about getting complacent when he wasn’t playing well. He never went into detail of what led to that complacency, but there’s no doubt he snapped out of it.

I thought he was fine. I think there are times he gets hesitant around the blue line with his passes. That’s not a good place to be overthinking. And his penalty was a bad-timing one: the Blackhawks had a pretty good deal of momentum at the time. Overall, though, the Blackhawks have to be thrilled with what the kid’s done to this point. He’s been a tremendous addition. 

I’m throwing these two together. First, on Bickell: if the Blackhawks choose to send Bickell down again they’d have to go through waivers again, like they did before the season began in October. At this moment, I’m not sure if they’d do that but we’ll see.

As for Dano, I’ve said this before and cannot stress this enough: this is a 21-year-old kid with tons of potential but we have to tap (perhaps slam) the brakes on what’s expected of him now. I wish I could throw out the stats from Columbus last year because I think too many are assuming he would just do the same, or be even better, this season. He’s learning, and as Bowman said recently, they want Dano playing big minutes and in many situations. Right now, he wouldn’t do that in Chicago. Where do you fit him among the top six right now? Perhaps he gets in the top nine, but then we’re back to him not playing the necessary minutes. To trot out the line that Bowman told us with Teuvo Teravainen two seasons ago, everyone has to be patient. I think that worked out fine.

I’ll take the 2015 Cup team. I remember coach Joel Quenneville saying this year’s Cup was probably the toughest one to attain. A trying series vs. Nashville (I know they had that in 2010, too) with goalie changes and a tough, low-scoring series against the Tampa Bay Lightning gives the 2015 team my vote.

I don’t know if I’d say the Blackhawks are inconsistent right now. They won seven of their last 10 heading into the break. As far as big games, they’ve won some of those, too, as well as some games they probably shouldn’t have won (please see Buffalo). The Blackhawks don’t have the greatest road record (6-7-3) but many of those losses came earlier this season, when the Blackhawks were definitely struggling with inconsistency and a lineup that hadn’t come together yet. Regarding the potential “hangover” with points left on the table early? Perhaps. But I still think what they’ve done lately has helped tremendously.

Well, right now there wouldn’t be any changes due to the roster freeze and the fact that Hartman is suspended the next three games for Rockford. Mashinter didn’t play much the other night against Dallas, so who knows if the Blackhawks swap guys once the freeze is over. Hartman was up here earlier. I seem to remember his first game being pretty good but then things got quiet.

You got part of it in your answer: it’s going to depend on need and on what players are standing out in Rockford. Right now, I see the roster standing pretty pat once the freeze ends. There hasn’t been a dire need; the one the team did have recently was filling Marcus Kruger’s place, and Phillip Danault is doing just fine at that.

[MORE: Blackhawks in good shape heading into Christmas break]

There are a lot of good parts of the job. I love covering the game, love the travel and I’ve been fortunate to cover some pretty impressive events, even before I covered the Blackhawks. Worst parts are the travel (anyone who’s spent more than an hour in an airport knows it gets to you after a while) and how much you miss in life. You miss birthdays, some holidays, dinners, get-togethers, dates, all of that. I’m lucky that many in my life understand the job and the hours, but you still hate having to say “no” so often.

I’m not going to delve into off-the-record conversations or anything like that, because they’re off the record. I guess my favorite times would be on the road, when (if) I can get away from the rink and from the computer for a while: dinners, walking around a city, anything like that.

One can only hope. If nothing else, it can be a honing device for The Schwartz. 

Please don’t make me choose.

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.