Lightning's Steve Thomas remembers the Blackhawks roar


Lightning's Steve Thomas remembers the Blackhawks roar

He may blend in as one of the Tampa Bay Lightning's assistant coaches, but when the name Steve 'Stumpy' Thomas is heard by Blackhawks fans, heads turn. He played more than 1,200 games for five teams during his NHL career, which included seven years in Chicago.

Now, in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time — his first as a coach — Thomas looked back at his time in the Windy City.

"I had the opportunity to play in the Old Stadium, and I had the opportunity to play in the United Center, so we had some good teams," Thomas told CSN Chicago last week in Tampa Bay. "I played with the likes of Denis Savard, Steve Larmer, Doug Wilson, some of the great players that have ever played in the organization. I have fond, fond memories."

Thomas made plenty of friends during his 20-year playing career. Former teammate Adam Creighton was with him for stops with both the Blackhawks and Islanders. The two combined for 74 goals in the 1989-90 season with Chicago.

"He was probably my closest buddy there. But we were such a real close team. With Mike Keenan there we wanted no other way than to have a close bunch of guys, and we were," he said. "We were pretty successful."

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One of the many highlights in his career was being part of the tradition of the National Anthem at the old Chicago Stadium.

"Whether it was in postseason or whether it was during the regular season, you just had a chill run down your spine every single time because it was so loud," he said. You didn't even think a building could be so loud. And that just jacked you up for the first 10 minutes of a game. And I know that a lot of teams that came into our building just wanted to weather the storm for the first five, seven, 10 minutes. They brought that over to the United Center.

"Now it's just over the top in there. It's a great place to play and if you can't get ready to play in that building, you shouldn't be in the game."

Thomas reached the Conference Final with the Blackhawks in back-to-back seasons, but couldn't get past the Oilers and Flames, respectively.

After stops with the Islanders, Devils, and Maple Leafs, Thomas landed back in Chicago as a free agent in 2001.

In March 2003 at the trade deadline, the 39-year old forward was sent to Anaheim. Three months later he found himself playing in his only Stanley Cup Final. The New Jersey Devils outlasted the Ducks in seven games, and Thomas hung up the skates one year later after a season in Detroit.

"We were the No. 8 seed and went and got in the Final and lost in Game 7, so that was a tough pill to swallow," he said. "It was my 19th year in the league nad it was the only time I had a chance to be in the Stanley Cup Final."

Twelve years after reaching his first Final, he's back again with a chance to raise the Stanley Cup. He joined the Lightning in 2010 monitoring player development, and was named an assistant coach in 2012. While the excitement is still there being two wins away from the ultimate goal, he says it's different being here as a coach compared to a player.

"You feel like you've added, you've contributed in a different way, and it's just as satisfying for me to be able to sit here at the end of this series and say we did everything we could to win a Cup," he said, "and hopefully we win one. If we don't, then we'll have no regrets from it."

With the series tied 2-2, it's going to be a battle for either team to win two more games.

As for Thomas' take on the outcome, may the best team win.

John Schippman is the Assistant News Director and Blackhawks Producer at Comcast SportsNet Chicago. You can follow John on Twitter at @JOHNSHIP99.

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.