Marko Dano gets another shot at Blackhawks' top line


Marko Dano gets another shot at Blackhawks' top line

The Blackhawks started training camp thinking Marko Dano, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa could be their top line entering the season.

It wasn’t. But after several weeks of trying pretty much everybody at that left-wing spot, the Blackhawks will take another shot with what looked promising in mid-September.

Dano practiced with Toews and Hossa on Friday, and it looks like he’ll get his first regular-season shot at helping the Blackhawks find their first-line answer. For Dano, who was recalled on Nov. 2 after starting the regular season with the Rockford IceHogs, it’s a second opportunity.

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“It’s good to be back with them on the same line and yeah, they’re trying to find someone to play on the first line and now I’m getting a chance,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity for me and we played well in training camp at Notre Dame and now hopefully it’s going to work again. I’ll just go there, have fun with them and hopefully it’s going to work.”

The 20-year-old forward was there in September, back when coach Joel Quenneville said, “that’s the lottery spot when you get to play on that line.” Apparently it should have been called the “lottery” spot for a different reason: the Blackhawks have constantly been pulling a new number out of the bag in the hopes of finding a winner.

Nothing has stuck. Teuvo Teravainen, Ryan Garbutt, Andrew Shaw, Viktor Tikhonov and Bryan Bickell have all taken top-line whirls as the Blackhawks look find something, anything similar to what second liners Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have done.

So now it’s Dano’s turn.

“We’ve tried everybody so far – not everybody but just about. So he gets an opportunity,” Quenneville said. “Whether it’s the line as a group, no matter what part, we’re looking to find some predictability, stability, consistent scoring. That’s the one line that’s traditionally been effective and you can count on for some production. Hopefully we can get something besides Arty’s line going.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It doesn’t sound like the most overwhelming endorsement but, hey, why not? Dano was noticeable against New Jersey on Thursday night, more aggressive than he’s been in previous games. He’s not out there for the physical game but he had four hits anyway against the Devils.

“I was trying to bring more energy on the ice and just play better than the games before. I think that’s the key to throw the body out there, play faster and do the simple plays,” Dano said. “I tried to do it last night and I’m going to keep working hard and do it the next game too.”

The Blackhawks have several issues they’re trying to work out. One is finding a top-line combination that works for more than a game. Dano was the guy the Blackhawks envisioned as part of that line in September. Now they’ll give it another look in the hopes it sticks.

“He has some nice hands, he has some finish to his game. Still think his overall game – we've got to continue to work on that area. But he made some nice plays last night; almost scored a goal as well,” Quenneville said. “But playing with those guys, hopefully there's some production.”

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


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.”