Blackhawks

Jordin Tootoo ready for postseason opportunity with Blackhawks

Jordin Tootoo ready for postseason opportunity with Blackhawks

Jordin Tootoo was part of that Nashville Predators-Blackhawks series in 2010. Ask him what he remembers from those six games, and he gives a what-do-you-think smile.

"Marian Hossa taking a five-minute major, coming out of the penalty box and scoring the OT winner," Tootoo said with a laugh. "Basically sums it up."

Sure, that memory ranks high for many regardless of allegiance. But that series was also the start of a great, intense rivalry between the two teams, something that will resume on Thursday.

"Lot of emotions. Lot of battles, and that's what playoff hockey is all about. I think over the years, you create that energy and I think every guy wants to be a part of something special," he said. "I could remember when we tried to play the Blackhawks, it was going to be a battle. It's fun hockey."

Fast forward to the present day and for Tootoo, this series is about a few things. It's about facing his former team, with whom he started his career, went through some rough times and then started to get his life back together.

It's also about reality: at 34, Tootoo doesn't know how many more chances at a Stanley Cup he'll get. He wants to make the most of this one.

Tootoo will be part of the Blackhawks' fourth-line rotation when they open their first-round series against the Predators on Thursday night. He has been in and out of the lineup this season but has been good when he's played. His last game against the Predators, in which he scored his first goal with the Blackhawks, was one of his best of the season.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Tootoo has been a team-first guy all season.

"It's gotta be an exciting time for him. He has a great history there and certainly brought a lot to our team this year. He's been very well liked and accepted by his teammates, brings an element to our team you need at times and applied it at the perfect moments this year," Quenneville said. "He's worked hard as the season progressed and gives us an option to have that type of guy in our lineup. As we go along here, we'll see. But certainly put him in a position to start with us. You need that type of guy. He knows the role, job description and importance. We're looking forward for him to be a part of it."

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Tootoo has garnered teammates' respect, be it his work ethic – he's usually the first guy on the ice at practice – to his words. Tootoo gave a second-intermission pep talk prior to the Blackhawks scoring five third-period goals to beat the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3, on March 19. As far as being in the postseason lineup (at least for now), Tootoo is ready for the chance.

"At this point in my career, everything is a bonus here," Tootoo said. "But it's a business. For me, I try to use every day to get better both on and off the ice. It's a privilege to play this game and (this is) the best time of year – to be playing in the playoffs."

Nashville will always be a special part of Tootoo's life. He started his NHL career there, spent eight seasons there, began his now six years of sobriety there. Right now, however, the drive for the Stanley Cup looms larger. 
 
"I think personally, for me, you want to have a bit more bite, and I'm definitely going to have that," Tootoo said. "I played a lot of years in Nashville. I have great memories there. But I'm a Blackhawk now and I'm going to do whatever it takes."

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition. 

Why did we gave up on Henri so fast?

The question isn’t why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast? It’s why did they sell him without receiving an immediate impact-type player in return, whether that came in the form of a package or not?

The Blackhawks were always going to use their surplus of defensemen prospects as trade ammo to patch up a need elsewhere. Alex Nylander could turn into a fine player, but he’s far from a sure thing. It seems like, for whatever reason, he’s struggling to take the next step and the Blackhawks find themselves hoping that he can turn into the player he was supposed to become when he was taken No. 8 overall in 2016.

With moving out Jokiharu does that mean someone like Boqvist or Beaudin is more likely to be ready to step in possibly sometime this season?

The Jokiharju trade certainly opens the door for one of those prospects to emerge from the pack, and we could see a glimpse of them as soon as this season.

After four years in the QMJHL, Beaudin will turn pro and start the season in Rockford if he doesn’t make the Blackhawks out of training camp. And according to our friend Scott Powers of The Athletic, it’s looking more like Boqvist might turn pro also after one year in the OHL.

If that’s the case, both of those prospects will be readily available for a call-up at any point. Beaudin is likely still a year away. Boqvist is the interesting one because he turned heads at training camp last season and gave the Blackhawks something to think about when they were trimming their 23-man roster.

If Boqvist excels in the AHL and the Blackhawks have a spot for him, the former No. 8 overall pick in 2018 is only a phone call away from a call-up and that could be tempting if an offensive jolt from the backend is needed.

Does the arrival of Nylander hinder the potential chance of Dach making the roster out of camp?

The Blackhawks aren’t going to keep Kirby Dach off the roster because the math squeezes him out. If he does his part to force the management group into keeping him on the team, the Blackhawks will figure out how to shuffle the cards later.

But the Nylander acquisition does add to the competition up front in general and Dach figures to be part of that mix. The challenging part is that you have to think Dach is battling for a top-nine spot. The Blackhawks won't keep him on the roster all season because he's the 11th- or 12th-best forward. They'd want him playing decent minutes in the NHL, and if he's not doing that, they'll send him back to the WHL to do it.

The ‘Hawks currently have 10 forwards (excluding Perlini) locked into a roster spot. Kubalik & Sikura are expected to round out the forwards, but who else do you think has a strong chance to make the team? Nylander? Saarela? Wedin? Quenneville? Looks less likely for Dach.

Good question, and something we’ve been writing and talking about on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast for the past several weeks. The Blackhawks like having internal competition and continue to note that you need to be 14, 15, 16 forwards deep to be successful in today's NHL.

But the reality is, the extra forwards in this scenario should be taking steps forward in helping the team right now and not serving as 13th forwards. You have to think Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Sikura will be on the Opening Day roster, but that doesn't seem like a given as of right now. The fact that Nylander could play left wing or right wing helps his case. Anton Wedin is an intriguing candidate. John Quenneville will definitely get a look. Where does Brendan Perlini factor into the plans?

It's too early to tell because it still feels like there could be some more tweaks coming between now and training camp.

Who do you see taking the first line LW position and the second line RW position for the majority of the year?

In Tuesday's conference call explaining the Alex Nylander-Henri Jokiharju trade, GM Stan Bowman hinted that the Blackhawks are likely to start the season with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the first line and Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome on the second. And the question is who’s going to play left wing on the first and right wing on the second.

Andrew Shaw sticks out as somebody who could get an immediate look. Brandon Saad finished the season on the third line and was effective in that role but maybe he gets another shot also. Of course, Drake Caggiula worked so well with Kane and Toews but he’s probably better suited in a bottom-six role.

If Nylander makes the team out of training camp, he could be the wildcard. He's the kind of player who should play in the top-six with other offensively-skilled players to maximize his talent but he hasn't earned that opportunity yet. Kubalik, however, has after his breakout season offensively in the Swiss league and at the international level. And like they did with Dominik Kahun last season, the Blackhawks could look to put him in the best possible position to succeed off the bat.

If we're projecting right now, I could see these combos as the first two lines to open camp: Kubalik-Toews-Kane and DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw. 

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Blackhawks announce star-studded attendees list for 12th annual fan convention

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AP

Blackhawks announce star-studded attendees list for 12th annual fan convention

The 12th annual Blackhawks Convention will take place from July 26-28 at the Hilton Chicago, and the team announced a star-studded attendees list on Thursday:

PLAYERS

  • Artem Anisimov
  • Drake Caggiula
  • Carl Dahlstrom
  • Alex DeBrincat
  • Calvin de Haan
  • David Kampf
  • Patrick Kane
  • Slater Koekkoek
  • Robin Lehner
  • Olli Maatta
  • Connor Murphy
  • Brendan Perlini
  • Brandon Saad
  • Brent Seabrook
  • Andrew Shaw
  • Dylan Strome
  • Jonathan Toews

 

ALUMNI

  • Murray Bannerman
  • Ed Belfour
  • Bryan Bickell
  • Dave Bolland
  • Brandon Bollig
  • Ted Bulley
  • Adam Burish
  • Brian Campbell
  • Chris Chelios
  • Eric Daze
  • Tony Esposito
  • Doug Gilmour
  • Stu Grimson
  • Bobby Hull
  • Dennis Hull
  • Steve Konroyd
  • Cliff Koroll
  • Steve Larmer
  • Jamal Mayers
  • Troy Murray
  • Bernie Nicholls
  • Eddie Olczyk
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Phil Russell
  • Denis Savard
  • John Scott
  • Patrick Sharp
  • Pat Stapleton
  • Kris Versteeg — signed AHL contract with Rockford IceHogs

 

PROSPECTS

  • Nicolas Beaudin
  • Adam Boqvist
  • Kirby Dach
  • Collin Delia
  • Mackenzie Entwistle
  • Alexandre Fortin
  • Dennis Gilbert
  • Brandon Hagel
  • Mikael Hakkarainen
  • Reese Johnson
  • Chad Krys
  • Philipp Kurashev
  • John Quenneville
  • Aleksi Saarela
  • Tim Soderlund

 

COACHES

  • Sheldon Brookbank
  • Jeremy Colliton
  • Marc Crawford
  • Tomas Mitell
  • Jimmy Waite

 

BROADCASTERS

  • Chris Boden
  • Steve Konroyd (note: also included in alumni above)
  • Troy Murray (note: also included in alumni above)
  • Eddie Olczyk (note: also included in alumni above)
  • John Wiedeman

 

Among the notable players not attending: Erik Gustafsson and Duncan Keith, respectively. Newly-signed forward Ryan Carpenter and prospect Alex Nylander also will not be in attendance.

New additions Calvin de Haan, Robin Lehner, Olli Maatta and fan favorite Andrew Shaw will be in attendance, as will No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach.

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