Blackhawks

Enforcer deaths an eye-opener for current Hawks

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Enforcer deaths an eye-opener for current Hawks

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
Posted: 10:57 a.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSNREAD: Sharp to miss 3-4 weeks after surgeryREAD: Roster mirrors 2010 Cup champs?WATCH: Younger Toews joins Blackhawks

Andrew Brunette was as touched by the NHL players deaths this summer as much as anyone. It stung that much more because he was a former teammate of Derek Boogaard, one of three enforcers who left us way too early.

The deaths of Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak in such a short time span made it clear: being an NHL fighter isnt just a physically tough job, but mentally and emotionally as well.

And this summers tragic consequences can no longer be ignored.

We cant just sweep it under the carpet. Its something we really need to take a hard look at, the Chicago Blackhawks forward said Monday. We have to open the lines of communication and players have to be willing to listen and speak.

And therein lies the most important lesson of this tragic summer: if a player feels hes in trouble, I need help needs to be part of his vernacular.

No, its not easy to admit, whether its an NHL tough guy or anyone else who has a certain level of pride and would rather just put the stiff upper lip forward. But the consequences of silence, or help not coming in time, has proven deadly.

Blackhawks enforcer John Scott, also a former Boogaard teammate, has struggled with the fighters life. He said his wife is his sounding board but that doesnt stop his family from worrying. But talk, he said, is a big help.

It just comes with the job and you have to talk about it, he said. Wade (Belak) sounded like a fun-loving guy. But worry and fear gets to you, and I guess he couldnt talk about it, let it out. Its better to talk than to keep it balled up inside. But its something to keep your eye on. Obviously I dont want it to happen to me.

New Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers doesnt put himself into the enforcer category if Im in a fight its more a reactionary thing when Im mad or upset. He said he cant imagine the toll it takes on those who rely on fighting to stay in the lineup.

Those guys have to fight when theyre not mad and to think about it the night before, I dont know. That sounds like a tough job, said Mayers. Its awful. You think about them during this time and it certainly raises a lot of questions as to the Why?

Three players are gone too soon, the Why? for them unanswered. Current and former enforcers can learn from this anyone that carries a mental or emotional burden of any kind can learn from this. Talking can be healing. It can also be lifesaving.

The awareness level of players has to be much higher than it has been, Brunette said. This has been a real eye-opener.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

Kirby Dach was taken by the Blackhawks with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft on Friday.

On Monday, the Blackhawks introduced him to the city of Chicago. Dach took his first trip to Chicago for his introductory press conference.

Later in the day, the Canadian threw out the first pitch at the Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Dach didn't throw a strike, but it wasn't a blooper reel pitch either.

Watch Dach's first pitch in the video above.

 

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