Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Patient Marcus Kruger finally arrives in Chicago

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Blackhawks: Patient Marcus Kruger finally arrives in Chicago

Marcus Kruger had to wait a little longer to get back to Chicago. He couldn’t obtain a visa until he signed his latest contract, a one-year deal he inked earlier this month.

So being patient was important, right?

“Yeah, I think I already got some practice there,” Kruger said with a smile on Saturday night. “So it was OK to wait that extra week.”

Indeed, Kruger had to be a very patient man this offseason, as he waited for the Blackhawks to figure out their salary-cap issues to make room for his new contract. He finally got that deal on Sept. 11. It wasn’t the long-term deal that he and his agent, JP Barry, had hoped for when the summer began. But Kruger, who has now won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, said he’ll take the short-term one.

[MORE: Brent Seabrook agrees to long-term extension with Blackhawks] 

“I knew the deal from the beginning. I know the situation here and everything, [that] it might be hard,” he said. “I’m happy to sign here again and be a part of this team and this organization again.”

General manager Stan Bowman said he could talk to Kruger and his agent about a longer deal at some point this season.

“I think we both wanted to do a longer-term deal, just weren’t able to fit it in. Luckily he understood that and he wanted to be here. That says a lot for what Marcus is like as a person,” Bowman said during Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. “During the year, you’re allowed to sign extensions when you get into January. We’ll hopefully have talks then and we’ll see where the cap is at, and what would work. But our goal is to keep him here.”

Kruger said he kept working out and skating in Sweden during the visa process – “I was fortunate to skate with my former team there, the junior team, so I’m thankful for that.”

Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t expect Kruger to be rusty.

“He’s a hard working type guy; he was skating in Sweden before he got back, waiting to get over here. He looked real good,” Quenneville said. “He’s really excited about being back on the ice [Friday] with his teammates. I’m sure he’ll be excited about playing these last two games.”

Teammates were anticipating his return.

“We’ll give him a hard time for taking so long to get back,” Andrew Shaw said. “But it’ll be good to see him and have him on the ice with us.”

Kruger’s become a vital part of this group. He, Shaw and Andrew Desjardins proved a great fourth-line combination in the postseason and Kruger continued to hone his all-around game, from 5-on-5 to penalty killing to face-offs. If he could expand on that role this season, perhaps even move up a line or two, that’s fine with him.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the 2015-16 Blackhawks season!]

“You always want to get better. That’s my goal every year to get better than the past, and I want to play more and do more for this team and do everything I can,” he said. “That’s my mindset coming into this year, to get better and hopefully I can earn that ice time and earn those chances, too.”

Kruger has practiced the past few days and is expected to play in the Blackhawks’ final two preseason games (Thursday at St. Louis and Oct. 3 vs. the Dallas Stars). Since he’s on a one-year deal, he’ll probably be waiting until next summer to see if he gets another deal, perhaps a long-term one this time. Again, he’s willing to be patient. He’s had plenty of practice at it.

“I’ve got a one-year deal and I’ll try to do my best to maybe in the future get another deal,” he said. “So that’s what I’m aiming for this year and have a good year and I think everything else will sort out.”

BRIEFLY

— The Blackhawks assigned forwards Ryan Haggerty, Mark McNeill, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp and defenseman Ville Pokka to the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday afternoon. They also released forwards Chris DeSousa and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, defenseman Kirill Gotovets and goaltenders Mac Carruth and Mark Visentin from training camp. The Blackhawks’ active roster is now at 38.

— The Blackhawks beat the Blues 3-1 on Saturday. Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal.

 

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

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

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”