Blackhawks

Loud Hawks already passing chemistry test

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Loud Hawks already passing chemistry test

DENVER -- Patrick Sharp has noticed the increased "noise" level with these Chicago Blackhawks.

"We were just flying over from Phoenix (and later) sitting on the bus there's a lot of hooting and hollering. A lot of guys are having fun with each other and it's just two weeks into the season," Sharp said. "That's a good sign. The chemistry's there."

And apparently, so is the fun again.

The Blackhawks are halfway through their first road trip, a two-game stint that wraps up Thursday night when they play the Colorado Avalanche. The road is a good time for longtime team members and new acquisitions to gel, to get to know each other. But with this year's group of Blackhawks, that camaraderie was evident on and off the ice before they even hit the road.

"It feels comfortable. There's no separation between new players and players that have been here for a while," Jonathan Toews said recently. "We haven't spent a lot of time on the road but everyone's getting to know each other pretty well whether hanging around or outside the rink. There's a togetherness and we're feeling that on the ice, too."

That feeling was missing for most of last season. The Blackhawks didn't have a bad locker room in 2010-11, they just had a quiet one. A too-quiet one. The massive turnover was one reason, the youth on the roster was another. Guys were young and unsure where they even fit into the lineup and probably not confident in piping up.

The latest "new guys" aren't new to the NHL. Their games and personalities were established well before they joined the Blackhawks. So now, as much as the Blackhawks have balance on the ice they have personality off it. And everyone is appreciating the more energetic and talkative room.

"You go back a couple years ago, guys enjoyed being around each other. This group is a lot more vocal," coach Joel Quenneville said. "There's a lot more noise on the buses and planes we didn't see last year and that's a good thing. It'll probably get more entertaining and amusing as we go along."

There's no doubt this is a different room this season. You see it and hear it when you walk in; these guys talk, they joke, they make themselves heard. And if they're doing that during the practice days, they're probably doing it more during game intermissions, too.

The newest Blackhawks have felt welcome from the start. Sean O'Donnell enjoyed a good-natured ribbing from his new teammates when he turned 40 last week. Daniel Carcillo has certainly added to the room's buzz. Jamal Mayers said it's easy for the veterans to mesh with these Blackhawks.

"The leadership group here was already established. We just want to be pieces of the puzzle," he said. "The honest truth is you just want to be authentic and yourself and do the things you have your whole career. You just come into the room and be yourself."

The Blackhawks have found their voices again. The "noise" is back, and it's a welcome sound.

Briefly

Corey Crawford will start against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

Marian Hossa came out of Wednesday night's game fine after missing Saturday with an upper-body injury. He was practicing again on Thursday.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”