Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya fitting in just fine with Stars

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Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya fitting in just fine with Stars

DALLAS – Moves can be tricky.

You’re being uprooted from familiar surroundings and, if you’re an athlete, from familiar teammates. For Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp, their latest moves led them to a team that is trying to return to past glory and feels it needed a few good pieces to add to their budding mix.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Sharp and Oduya have had a pretty smooth transition to the Dallas Stars, who are looking to get back to their Stanley Cup-competing days of the late 1990s and early 2000s. To that end the Stars have gotten off to a great start this season, leading the Central Division with 52 points. And their two newest members have been big parts of the success. Sharp entered Tuesday’s game against the Blackhawks with 11 goals – just five fewer than he had all last season – and 14 assists. Oduya has four goals and eight assists and is a plus-13.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

The two felt like a part of their latest team immediately.

“It’s a fun group to be added to,” Sharp said. “You can tell these guys really care about each other in the room, they’ve been together for a number of years, came up through the minor-league system together and it’s a fun locker room to be a part of. Training camp was good. It’s always nice, I feel, to switch teams in the offseason because you have that training camp to build chemistry with each other. So far so good.”

Oduya agreed, saying the Blackhawks and Stars having so much in common helped.

“It was as seamless of a transition you can get. I felt very comfortable, very at home,” Oduya said. “[There are] a lot of similarities, and the idea of playing fast-paced hockey and there are obviously a lot of skilled players. It’s just a fun way to approach the way you’re playing hockey.”

The Stars already had plenty of offense in their game. They needed to bolster their defense – the Stars allowed an average of more than three goals a game last season. That’s where Oduya has helped, and he said it was also everyone buying into playing as well without the puck as with it.

[RELATED: Blackhawks prep to see Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Stars]

“I think we talked about it early on, just the commitment,” he said. “Defense is a team effort and a team awareness, where you have to be responsible. It’s not just when the other team gets the puck but when you get the puck, too, to make the right plays, late in games, whatever it might be, blocking shots, or taking away some plays or whatever you have to do to win. The awareness has been there, we’ve been working on it every day.”

The Stars got Sharp and Oduya because of their championship pedigree. At first the two were more concerned with just fitting into the Stars’ room. Now, however, their leadership is more audible. It’s one more way they’ve transitioned to their new team just fine.

“As the season’s going on both of us are being more vocal in what we feel can help the team on and off the ice,” Sharp said. “We’re not taking credit for anything. It’s a good group and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

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.”