Blackhawks

How the Blackhawks turned disaster into domination

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How the Blackhawks turned disaster into domination

The mood in the Blackhawks locker room after their 9-2 loss to Edmonton in November was understandably angry and frustrated.

It was an ugly loss in every sense, a big wake-up call for a Blackhawks team that was up and down through November. And its one that got the Blackhawks talking to their coaches and amongst themselves.

Apparently, those were some productive talks.

The Blackhawks head into Monday nights game against the Edmonton Oilers a much different and better team. They are 12-4-1 since that awful game and have the most points in the league with 52. The Blackhawks had several tough games in November, but the one in Edmonton set off the alarm bells.

Sometimes it takes a game like that where you take a step back and analyze things, defenseman Duncan Keith said. Our team games been great since then; weve played well. Sometimes games like that, they can just get out of hand. The next thing you know the scores bad. But we definitely took a lot of notice there.

Coach Joel Quenneville refers to that loss as a whatever-you-want-to-call-it type of game; the most negative word you use (to describe it).

The media questioned if the Blackhawks should still take their mid Circus-trip excursion to Las Vegas after such a loss. They did, and apparently the time away from the game and talking about the previous one helped.

Looking back, it was probably a good thing to talk about what was going on, Patrick Sharp said. I still think our best game of the season was that 1-0 loss to San Jose right after the Edmonton game. Maybe it was a good thing it happened.

The Blackhawks did seem to derive some lessons from that game. Their record since then proves they heeded them. The differences between the team in November and the team now are evident, and in a good way. The Blackhawks played with the team mentality the rest of that Circus Trip, going 2-1-0 on the back end of it. And they carried that into December, which was a very productive month for them.

We realized as a team that we needed to bring it every night, Jamal Mayers said. Were still a work in progress, still searching and we can still get better.

Perhaps it was a turning point. Maybe it was just the Blackhawks going through the November pains. Their travel schedule during that month was brutal and they were still integrating a couple of new players. That game was nevertheless a wakeup call, and the Blackhawks responded to it.

Were coming together as a team now, Keith said. I still think weve got a lot of room for improvement. But you can definitely feel it in the dressing room. Our chemistrys clicking now.

Watch live: Kirby Dach's Blackhawks introductory press conference

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Watch live: Kirby Dach's Blackhawks introductory press conference

The Blackhawks made a franchise-altering move over the weekend, selecting center Kirby Dach third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Monday, the Blackhawks are holding an introductory press conference for Dach, 18, at the United Center. Here's the important information for those looking to tune-in to the big event:

Time: 11 a.m. CT

Television: NBC Sports Chicago (see channel finder)

Stream: NBCSportsChicago.com or the MyTeams app

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Evaluating where things stand for Blackhawks as negotiating window opens for NHL free agents

Evaluating where things stand for Blackhawks as negotiating window opens for NHL free agents

VANCOUVER — For more than two months, the Blackhawks had been primarily focused on the 2019 NHL Draft because the hockey gods gifted them with the No. 3 overall pick and a chance to speed up the retooling process in a significant way. They used that selection on Kirby Dach, a 6-foot-4, 198-pound right-handed shot center who’s projected to be a future first-liner for many years to come.

But now all the attention has shifted to Sunday, when the negotiating window for NHL free agents opened up. And the Blackhawks are expected to be one of the more active teams throughout this process as they prepare for July 1.

With the NHL and NHLPA officially setting the salary cap ceiling for the 2019-20 season at $81.5 million — a $2 million increase from last season but $1.5 million less than the original projection — general managers can finally calculate their financial plans internally as they approach the legal tampering period. The Blackhawks aren’t one of those teams where they’re living and dying by how much the upper limit fluctuates, but it’s still noteworthy that they’re projected to have $16.5 million in cap space, according to Cap Friendly.

However, that does not include the potential new deals for their restricted free agents. 

Stan Bowman said after Saturday’s draft that Brendan Perlini will be re-signed. Dylan Sikura is expected to be as well, as is Gustav Forsling. John Quenneville, who was acquired for John Hayden, is also a RFA and is expected to receive a qualifying offer but it’s unclear whether he’ll factor into the Blackhawks’ plans next season. So they don’t have an unlimited supply of money to spend.

But they certainly have enough to add an impact-type player.

Over the last month, the Blackhawks have been linked to Kevin Hayes (before his rights were traded to Philadelphia and signed a seven-year, $50 million deal), New York Islanders captain Anders Lee and six-time 30-goal scorer Corey Perry, to name a few. That indicates the Blackhawks are in the market for a middle tier player, not the upper (sorry Chicago, but the Artemi Panarin homecoming always has been a pipe dream).

The other option is to continue exploring the trade market.

The Blackhawks already acquired defenseman Olli Maatta, but that was a deal executed because it didn't require subtracting a key piece of the roster. It really could come down to whether the Blackhawks want to handpick who they want via trade and give up the assets to do it or potentially overpay — both in dollar amount and term — on the open market, which could present challenges down the road when Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and even Erik Gustafsson — depending on if he fits into the budget — are due new deals.

If it's the former, the Blackhawks prefer overpaying for the right player — somebody like Perry or Joe Pavelski on a shorter-term deal despite a higher cap hit would be ideal to help bridge the gap as far as responsibilities put on the younger players. If it’s the latter, the Blackhawks will pull off a trade for a high-end player only if it makes sense for the short term and long term because the offseason is a time to enhance the roster for both.

Bowman doesn’t know exactly how the next few weeks are going to play out, but you can bet that he’ll have his phone attached to his ear looking for ways to improve the roster and help turn the Blackhawks into a consistent playoff contender again. 

“We have a good position right now,” Bowman said. “For next season, we're in a better place than most teams. After that, it's hard to say, because we don't know what the cap will be a year from now and we've got a couple players that are going to graduate to new contracts a year from now. Not a lot of free agents take one-year contracts, so that's the thing — if you're going to sign a free agent, you've got to look at what's going to be the implication two years down the road. So from that perspective, trades might be more appealing to us than necessarily adding a top free agent. We're going to have some new players for next year, but I don't know if it's going to be free agents or through trades.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.