Blackhawks

Chelios hopes to be welcomed back in Chicago

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Chelios hopes to be welcomed back in Chicago

Chris Chelios heard the cheers when he stood with his fellow U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductees at the Blackhawks game on Sunday night. But he figured it was a collaborative one and not so much for him.

Yeah, it was good. They set it up so it was bullet-proof, putting all of us together at the same time, Chelios said with a laugh.

Maybe, but it certainly sounded like that last rousing cheer, the one that came right after Chelios name was announced, was for him. It should have been, anyway. Because regardless of Chelios time with the Detroit Red Wings, he is still Chicagos own.

Chelios was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night, one night after he and the fellow inductees watched the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks in overtime at the United Center. The last time Chelios was there, on his own Heritage Night, there were boos.

He hopes eventually hes welcomed back completely.

I hope everyone can forgive me for the Detroit thing. I just wanted to play hockey and that was the best situation for me, he said. Im one of their own. I hope theyre proud of me for what I accomplished as a Chicago kid.

The Evergreen Park product should be remembered for the entire body of work: the Stanley Cups, the All-Star and Olympic appearances and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Oh, and that longevity that has fellow inductee Keith Tkachuk calling him the godfather of U.S. hockey.

But Chelios said he deserves only so much credit.

I dont kid myself. People always ask, How did you last so long? I was on great teams, he said. We won those Cups in Montreal then to come to Chicago when things were going great, went to the finals and then Detroit, that was unreal to be traded to a team that won two (more) Cups. I wouldnt have lasted that long if not for the skill level and success our teams had.

And last night, at least, those cheers seem to have been for him.

Last night saw about 30 friends I hadnt seen in 35 years, he said of his homecoming. Its amazing. They kept track of my career and how proud they were that one of their own had made it.

Chelios vs. Tkachuk

Chelios and Tkachuk have been long-time friends, but that didnt mean they didnt have their on-ice skirmishes. Tkachuk remembered one at the old Chicago Stadium in which Chelios just about choked the life out of him.

He got me in a headlock and I couldnt breathe, Tkachuk said. I thought I was going to croak there, I was down to my last breath. He was strong for a little guy. We battled all the time but were really good friends.

Chelios remembers that night, too.

I had him; he jumped in a scrum late and I got him. I saw his face turning colors and I let him go right at the last second, Chelios said. I couldve let him pass out if I wanted to and he knew it.

A compliment to Toews

Chelios talked of the comparisons made between his former teammate Steve Yzerman and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. And he sees plenty.

He could be (Yzermans) little brother or his kid, said Chelios, who has trained with Toews in some summers. Hes got that look. Hes great to watch. For a kid of his age, to wear the C and what hes done and how hes handled it, I love it. Hes going to be a great player for a long time.

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

If we're evaluating Stan Bowman's moves as a whole, we have to go back to July 1 when the 2018-19 season really started.

On that day, the Blackhawks announced three signings: Chris Kunitz (one year, $1 million), Brandon Manning (two years, $2.25 million cap hit) and Cam Ward (one year, $3 million). Not exactly splashy additions after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years — although, to be fair, it wasn't a great market to throw money around.

Eleven days later, the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that included top-nine winger Vinnie Hinostroza. Bowman acknowledged after the trade that he tried exploring every possible avenue before surrendering that the financial flexibility became more valuable.

But the trade might've put the team in a better position going into free agency had it been executed before July 1. Because of all that, Bowman's grade isn't looking great so far.

Then we get into the actual regular season.

The biggest move Bowman made was the coaching change on Nov. 6 in going from future Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville to Jeremy Colliton, which was a controversial decision in and of itself, especially the timing of it.

“There’s no perfect way to do things," Bowman admitted. "I think we made the best of it at the time. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta get through it. I think he’s gonna benefit from not only having a training camp next year but also we had this whole long stretch of a season. ... We’ve got a lot more things we want to get to, and I think we did a good job of — it’s a good start, but I’m sure Jeremy will tell you that we want to be way better next year and we’re gonna push our players to be better. We’re gonna try to do things differently. It’s not just taking this exact same program and we’ll start that. We want to do different things as well and enhance our team. I think there’s reason for hope there.”

Where did Bowman start to earn high marks? The roster tinkering, beginning in late November.

Perhaps recognizing that Nick Schmaltz wasn't progressing the way the team would have liked in a contract season, Bowman dealt him for a potential future second-line center in Dylan Strome and replenished the top-nine forward they lost in Hinostroza with Brendan Perlini, who showed flashes down the stretch. That's turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

The trade that was very clearly one-sided is the one Bowman pulled off with Peter Chiarelli, who was later relieved of his GM duties with the Edmonton Oilers.

Not only did Bowman acquire rugged winger Drake Caggiula, who became such a valuable part of the Blackhawks' second-half turnaround because he was a perfect complement for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line, but he unloaded the contract of Manning without having to retain salary or giving up an important piece of the roster. It essentially gave the Blackhawks an extra $2.25 million to work with this summer, which shouldn't go unnoticed when you look at how deep the 2019 free agent class is.

Bowman essentially undid the mistake he made and put the Blackhawks in an even better position going into this offseason by adding a useful player on top of it. So he certainly upped his overall grade.

Now it's time to spend the money he cleared in getting rid of the contracts of Hossa and Manning, and continue building around the current core.

"We're not going to bring the same group back," Bowman said. "That's clear. We don't do that really any year. There's changes to every team, even a team that ends up winning the Cup this year will have some different players. We're going to have some new players next year. What we're going to do is try to improve in the areas where our team needs some help and the way that looks isn't completely clear right now, but we have time over the next couple months to dive in and look at our team in greater detail and figure out how we're going to make that happen.

"There's obviously free agent signings, there's trades, there's growth from within. Those are the ways that your team improves from year to year and we're going to do that. So we're going to have some new players here next year for sure but we have a lot of players that are going to be back and I think a lot of the key guys who had good seasons they're coming back for sure, so we don't need across the board changes but we do need some new players."

Front office: B-

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