Blackhawks

Gustav Forsling making a big impression on Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks

Gustav Forsling making a big impression on Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville got his first good training-camp look at Gustav Forsling on Friday night, when the team was in Pittsburgh. It was a good one.

“He immediately impressed me [Friday], his poise his patience, his play recognition, he’s positionally aware, moves extremely well…. I was very happy with his game,” Quenneville said on Saturday. “The timing of him coming along in our organization, how fast he progresses will be determined with how he plays and how things work out. But certainly, I see a real nice defenseman and he could be one of those guys who could be really good.”

The Swedish defenseman, who played 22 minutes, 33 seconds and recorded an assist in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, is making a big impression right now. Quenneville praised him, saying he had a special game on Saturday. So did general manager Stan Bowman and assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The immediate problem is this: with the defensive depth restored on the Blackhawks, can he make this roster right now?

“Well, I got here two years ago and I don’t think anyone expected [Trevor van Riemsdyk] to step into our lineup, either,” assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. “What I’ve seen it’s a performance-based organization. If he earns a role, we’ll find a spot for him.”

Forsling is well aware of the situation.

“I mean, we have a lot of good [defensemen] so it’s going to be tough,” Forsling said. “But I’m just trying to do my best and see how it goes.”

As written previously, the top six are fairly set: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Kempny. If the Blackhawks choose to carry eight defensemen, and that’s always possible if the cap space allows it, Forsling could be part of the mix. Then again, if Forsling is only here for part-time work, would that be productive for his development?

“We're certainly going to see how he plays in these exhibition games. Whether he (would be) benefitted from going to Sweden? That's a great league, so if he does end up back there, he's going to continue to grow his game. But we haven't made that decision yet. We want to see how things go here,” Bowman said. “A lot can change in a couple weeks, in terms of health of players and how they play. We haven't determined that, but if he's not here I think Sweden's a great development league for him.”

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The immediate future may mean a return trip to Sweden for Forsling. But given the impression he’s made and his potential, a long-term future with the Blackhawks looks good.

“We like the depth of our blue line. We’re deeper than we’ve been in past years. The openings aren’t what they are up front. But over the course of a season, that position is definitely important and you always have to go deep at certain times,” Quenneville said. “How it plays out, initially, there’s time to be sorting that out. But we like the upside he brings and potentially, once he shows he’s a regular, he’s only going to get better off that.”

BRIEFLY

 

— Prior to the game the Blackhawks assigned forward Kyle Baun, and defensemen Dillon Fournier, Carl Dahlstrom, and Nolan Valleau to the Rockford IceHogs. They also released forward Alex DeBrincat and Graham Knott, who will head to their respective junior teams (DeBrincat to the Erie Otters, Knott to the Niagara IceDogs). The team’s active roster now at 25 forwards, 13 defensemen and five goaltenders.

— Quenneville, who’s back after serving as assistant coach for Team Canada, talked of the World Cup of Hockey being “a great experience.” He especially appreciated the end of Game 2 against Team Europe; Brad Marchand scored the game- and tournament-winning goal with 43 seconds remaining in regulation. “Certainly, the ending reminded me of Boston, Game 6 [in 2013],” he said. “Definitely a fun way to go out.”

— The Blackhawks will be taking a young lineup to Detroit for Sunday’s game. “Not a lot of experienced guys going,” Quenneville said.

— Quenneville said Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford and Marian Hossa will join the Blackhawks at training camp either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday:

1. Dominik Kubalik's big night

The Blackhawks acquired Kubalik's rights from the Los Angeles Kings in January for a fifth-round pick. And this could end up looking like a steal when it's all said and done.

GM Stan Bowman said in April that he expects Kubalik to be a solid offensive player for the Blackhawks this season, and the 24-year-old Czech native showed why.

Kubalik found the back of the net twice in his preseason debut, with the second one displaying his absolute rocket of a shot. That's his strength and he's going to be a player to watch for the Blackhawks this season and someone who certainly helped his case as the team looks to finalize its Opening Night roster in the coming weeks.

2. Hello, Philip Holm

The Blackhawks made a low-key signing in August when they agreed to a one-year deal with Holm, a 27-year-old Swedish defenseman who spent the 2018-19 season in the KHL. He might've been the most noticeable player on the ice in Detroit.

Holm scored a goal, added an assist, and led all skaters with 11 shot attempts (six on goal). He also registered a hit and one takeaway, and logged a game-high 21:58 of ice time. Add him to the list of guys who find themselves among the pool of players vying for everyday roster spots.

3. Robin Lehner and Kevin Lankinen split duties

Collin Delia started and finished the preseason opener in Washington, and the plan was for Lehner to do the same in Detroit but the coaching staff called an audible and decided to share the duties between he and Lankinen.

Lehner started the game and was sharp early on before allowing a goal to Red Wings forward Matt Puempel, which Lehner would've liked to have back. The second goal was a fluky one that was put in by his own player. There was nothing Lehner could do. He stopped 15 of 17 shots for a save percentage of .882, but overall it was a successful debut.

Lankinen replaced Lehner near the halfway mark of the second period and he was immediately tested. He faced 10 shots in the first 7:08, which included a Red Wings power play. Lankinen gave up two goals on 21 shots and finished with a .905 save percentage. He was good.

4. DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw trio effective

The Red Wings didn't dress any of their top players so this should be taken with a grain of salt, but the line of Alex DeBrincat, Andrew Shaw and Dylan Strome showed some good chemistry together. Shaw and Strome each recorded an assist, and the trio generated three scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

DeBrincat, Shaw and Strome were also on the first power play unit together and recorded eight shot attempts (four on goal) and were on the ice for Kubalik's power-play goal that tied the game up at 3-3.

Note: DeBrincat had an injury scare in the final seconds of the first period when he got the worst of a knee-on-knee collison. He wasn't on the bench to start the second period, but he only missed a shift before returning.

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The NHLPA is continuing its deal with the CBA—here’s what that means

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USA Today

The NHLPA is continuing its deal with the CBA—here’s what that means

It was announced on Monday the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) has decided to continue its contract with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The CBA sets out the terms and conditions of employment for professional hockey players playing in the NHL, according to the CBA’s website. The current agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA was ratified in January of 2013 and is set to last ten years, expiring in September 2022. The NHL and the NHLPA had the opportunity to opt-out of the deal but have decided to remain for the duration of the agreement.

"While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement. "We have been having discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue."

The current CBA came about after a four-month lockout in 2013. Under this agreement, the league has grown in revenue, alongside adding the Vegas Golden Knights to the league in the 2017-18 season. There are plans to add a 32nd team to the league for the 2021-22 season in Seattle.

Why was the CBA under contention? While NHL players have benefited under this agreement, many feel frustrated by the escrow system. Under this system, a percentage of players’ salaries are withheld every season to cover potential owner shortfalls. A portion of this is refunded to the players at the end of season.

Where do the Blackhawks stand on the issue? Captain Jonathan Toews isn’t a huge fan. In 2018, he told ESPN about his dissatisfaction with the escrow system, saying "the No. 1 thing fans don't know about is that we're paying 10 to 20% [of our salary] in escrow every year."

NHL players would also like to revisit the current resolution on international play. Specifically, players would like the NHL to break for them to go to the Olympics. NHL players were noticeably absent from the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, which ended a streak of five Olympic games with NHL players participating. This matter won’t be easy to fix before the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. The NHL will have to make deals with both the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The main takeaway from the NHLPA sticking with the current CBA is that they’re deciding to keep the peace, avoiding another lockout. Fans and players alike will just have to wait and see how the chips will fall in the next few years in the league.

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