Blackhawks

Change has to come for struggling Blackhawks

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Change has to come for struggling Blackhawks

At 35,000 feet on the road back from Phoenix to Chicago, the Sam Cooke classic, A Change is Gonna Come was playing on the old iPod shuffle.

Its appropriate, really. Because as the Chicago Blackhawks muddle through their eight-game winless streak, a change has gotta come. And at this point, it may have to be a drastic change.

The Blackhawks are past the struggling point. This may be more of a reeling point. And when a team that many including its bosses pegged for a long playoff run is suddenly in danger of falling out of the top eight, somethings got to give.

So what will the Blackhawks do? Will there be a coaching change? Do they need a major acquisition? Do they make an eye-popping, multi-player deal?

Only time will tell, but you have to think something has to happen soon.

Firing a head coach during a big slump is nothing new. Its already been done, what, six times this season? Sometimes it works, as with St. Louis bringing in Ken Hitchcock. But it may not be the right move for the Blackhawks right now. Yes, coach Joel Quenneville changes lines at a furious rate, probably too often. But at this point his dismissal would be a temporary salve, a band aid on a gaping gash.

And if the Blackhawks make one big move before the trade deadline, would a top-four defenseman solve all the team-defense ills? Likely not. No, it may take making a big move, and it may have to be for a goaltender.

General manager Stan Bowman said he was confident in his goaltenders, but that was on Feb. 3, before the Blackhawks lost four more in a row. Between Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, neither of whom have proven to be a true No. 1 this season, they gave up 14 goals in those four games.

The trading markets probably going to be a tough one. Its going to take giving up something to get something. It may singe a little, but it cant hurt any more than an eight-game winless streak.

The Blackhawks didnt expect this kind of skid. Theyre doing everything they can to hold onto a playoff spot, but they need a jolt and they need it fast. This is going to be a true test for them, be it players, coaches or team brass.

A Change is Gonna Come. It has to.

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

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USA TODAY

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.