Blackhawks

Random News of the Day: Sealing the deal

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Random News of the Day: Sealing the deal

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 8:26 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

I took it all for granted. But how was I to know that youd be letting go. Now it cuts like a knife. But it feels so right This wouldnt be the first time things have gone astray. Now youve thrown it all away. Now it cuts like a knife. Bryan Adams, Cuts Like A Knife (1983)

Leave it to one of Vancouvers finest rock stars to put it all into perspective.

Picture this. It's a night out at the bars. You and a few other guys decide to check out this hangout called "Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hey, its the place to hang out this time of year. So you go in, hoist a few, and start people watching. Right away, you notice this amazing girl who is getting chatted up by some dude. Hes a smooth talker, too. He's saying all the right things, she's laughing, they start dancingit seems like a match made in heaven.

This goes on for quite a while. Soon, closing time rolls around. However, this guy who was hitting it big with the hot girl starts having issues. He starts mumbling. He tells a bad joke. Then he spills a drink on her. He goes to ask for her number...and then realizes that he lost his cell phone. You try to feel bad for the guy but also feel like saying, "Hey, nice moves but you have to know how to close the deal."

That guy is the Vancouver Canucks.

READ: Sky-high again, Blackhawks eyeing 7th heaven

The Chicago Blackhawks could complete one of the most epic comebacks in professional sports history Tuesday night-- and contribute to a colossal collapse at the same time. Game 7 between the Hawks and Canucks can be seen on Comcast SportsNet at 9pm. But this will be more than just any old quarterfinal playoff game. One three teams in NHL history have come back from 3-0 deficits to win a playoff series: the 42 Maple Leafs bounced back against the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, the 75 Islanders stunned the Penguins in the second round and the Philadelphia Flyers shocked the Bruins last year in the Eastern Conference semis.

For Blackhawks fans, its all gravy this year. The Stanley Cup is already on the mantle. Why not see how much further the house money will go? But for Canucks fans, its something Pepto Bismol couldnt cure. During the last three games, the Blackhawks are resembling that guy that swoops in at the end of the night and gets the hot girls phone number. And theyve done this for two straight seasons nowpossibly going on three. Call it what you want, but dont blame the Blackhawks for exploiting a shaky situation. While the comeback story is intriguing for Chicago, the Vancouver story is nothing short of fascinating. When it comes to professional sports in British Columbia, its the Canucksand a lot of tumbleweeds after that. All eyes are on the guys in blue and green. Right now, the Canucks are the helpless insects. The Blackhawks -- not to mention the Vancouver fans and media -- are the little kid holding the magnifying glass directly over them on a hot, sunny day. And the heat is only going to intensify tonight.

READ: Bickell has wrist surgery, out 6-8 weeks

41 years of failurehave started to weigh on the heads of fans, the media and I think some of the players, Vancouver Sun hockey writer Ian Walker said on Mondays edition of Chicago Tribune Live. There is concern here in Vancouver.

And some of that pressure surfaced Monday in the Canucks locker room. During the scheduled media availability, goalie Roberto Luongo -- the donkey to the thousands of fans holding the tails and pins -- had to excuse himself from the cameras. A reporter asked if he was going to start in net Tuesday night. He called a time out to talk to the public relations guy on what he should say. After a moment, Luongo came back with, "I'm getting ready as if I'm playing. We're not worried where the series is. It's Game 7 and pretty exciting stuff and we've got to take a minute here to realize we're in a situation where we've got to work hard but also enjoy the experience."

Does that sound like a guy, an team, an organization thats ready to seal the deal?

READ: CSN sets new all-time Blackhawks TV ratings record

Things are so micromanaged, Walker added. Players dont know if theyre coming or going. In terms of where Luongos mind is, it seems to be anywhere but on the game right now. Theyre afraid of what to say to the media.

For the record, Luongo will start Tuesday night. But will it matter? I dont think it will. You might think the pressure to win is intense in New York, Chicago or Philadelphia -- but its a different beast in Vancouver. As the Canucks go, so do the fortunes of Vancouver sports fans. Its all or nothing. And the Canucks have proven that the pressure to win is just too much to overcome.

(cue QueenDavid Bowies Under Pressure)

To the Blackhawks: put Vancouver out of its misery. Get the girls phone number. Show Luongo and company how its done.

Its time to seal the deal.

Or something like that.

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

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USA TODAY

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

Ryan Hartman has been through this before. Back in December of 2012, he sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder but played through it because the Plymouth Whalers were in the middle of a playoff run. He waited until the offseason to have it surgically repaired and was cleared for contact just in time for him to attend his first training camp with the Blackhawks in September of 2013.

This time was a little different though.

Hartman had been acquired by the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in exchange for prospect Victor Ejdsell and a 2018 first- and fourth-round pick — a hefty price to pay — in hopes of serving as an additional spark plug for a Predators team looking to load up for a second consecutive Stanley Cup run.

So when Hartman was brushed by Nathan MacKinnon along the boards, lost his footing and fell on his left shoulder late in Game 4 of the first round against Colorado, he immediately knew something was up.

"It didn't feel great at all," said Hartman, who went straight to the dressing room and had team doctors pop it back into place. "I finished the game and was able to finish playoffs in like a modified sling, which sucked to play with, but it's playoffs. It's one of those things where there are many guys playing through injuries and I was one of them."

Hartman, who's been rehabbing and training in Chicago, received the green light to fully participate in hockey-related drills last Monday but was advised to delay his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut for one more week just to err on the side of caution. On Wednesday, he got back into a game-type setting and "felt good" after 50 minutes of action going up against former teammates Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.

Now he can fully focus on this upcoming season and amp up his on-ice training to a level he couldn't get to while recovering from shoulder surgery with training camp a month away.

Hartman was a restricted free agent this summer and recently re-signed with the Predators on a one-year deal worth $875,000. Clearly, he's betting on himself to bounce back to his rookie year form when he scored 19 goals and cash out on a larger paycheck down the line, even though he had multiple longer-term offers from the Predators.

"Yeah we talked, [GM David Poile] wants me to be there, I want to be there, we have a good relationship," Hartman said. "Obviously, he gave up a lot of stuff to take me and sees me in the future of the team and I see myself there too. There's a lot of little things that go into negotiations — if it's money wise or length — and there was a various amount [of offers] that was thrown out on both sides. With no [arbitration] rights, the best thing for me and my team was to bet on myself, take the year and go from there next year."

With that comes the pressure of having to earn another contract for the second straight year, which is also risky considering he's coming off an injury that sidelined him all summer. But that's just the way he wants it.

"Either way I want to play my best, if I have a contract or not for long-term," Hartman said. "There is the benefit of having security with long-term deals, but you see guys, in history, that sign these deals and maybe have a year or two of, not really being complacent, but just feeling satisfied. I don't like the feeling of being satisfied. I'm not saying that's why I took that contract over another contract, but it was a good month and a half of debating one of the other three [offers]. My family and my agent, we chose this was the best for me and the team as well."

It's easy to see why the Predators are happy with this deal, too. Hartman is better suited to play in a bottom-six role on a really good team but has the ability to play in the top-six if needed. A strong season out of him and they'll be happy to reward him with a longer-term offer next summer. It also means he'd be making an impact while making less than $1 million, and every contending team needs those contributions from their depth players.

Pull up the Predators' CapFriendly page and you'll notice generous contract after generous contract for a majority of their players, particularly their core group. Look no further than Ryan Ellis, who signed an eight-year extension on Tuesday that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million. He certainly left money on the table but elected to take less to follow the lead of everyone else in Nashville because the ultimate goal is to keep the band together.

"You look at Sidney Crosby, one of the best players in the league, isn't even making close to the most money in the league and that's a reason why they've won two Cups," Hartman said. "They have space, maybe not necessarily as much as the Preds do, but Poile's good at that, he's good at stressing winning, the importance of winning, and keeping a team together. Sometimes when you go year to year losing four or five players every summer, it takes a toll having to introduce yourself to new guys all the time. Keeping the same group is really beneficial."

The Predators won't have to do much introducing next month. They're essentially rolling back the same team that arguably would've reached the Stanley Cup Final if they had gotten past the Winnipeg Jets. Hartman will be an important part of that group, only this time he'll be there from the start.

"That's what I'm really excited for," he said. "It's tough coming in [halfway through the season], it kind of feels like ... it's your first time getting called up with the new team. You're adjusting, you're trying not to make a mistake, trying to earn a spot, per se, earn the respect of your peers, so having that and going through a playoff run and a Game 7, if you go through a Game 7 with anybody, it's a bond. The stuff you fight through and you play for each other, to be able to go through a training camp and the ups and downs throughout the whole season, it's going to be exciting. I fell in love with the group for the short time I was there and I'm excited to be there at the start of training camp."

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

Starting a dynasty means you have to identify a group of core players to build your team around. Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were those guys, along with Marian Hossa, who joined that mix later on.

You also need a mixture of young talent and strong veterans to fill out the depth to become successful. That's exactly what the Blackhawks had at the beginning of their dynasty and throughout.

On the first day of NHL free agency in 2008, the Blackhawks inked All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell to an eight-year deal, which solidified Chicago as a destination players wanted to commit to long term. That same year, Kris Versteeg emerged as the Blackhawks' third Calder Trophy candidate in two years, Martin Havlat and Andrew Ladd set a career high in points with 77 and 49, respectively, while youngsters Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien began to make a name for themselves as valuable pieces to the puzzle.

"Real good group of guys," Joel Quenneville said on Oct. 18, 2008. "I can say that it's the first time I walked in the room where, wow, I was impressed."

Six of the Blackhawks' Top 10 scorers in 2008-09 were aged 23 or younger. The average age for the other four? 27. The youth movement was real and they all contributed in a big way.