On a special Thanksgiving Day edition, Pat Boyle and Slavko Bekovic give thanks for the last 11 seasons of Blackhawks hockey. From the way the city of Chicago embraced the franchise (7:00), to the evolution of Patrick Kane from 18-year-old talent to 30-year-old superstar (11:30), they touch on everything that has happened since the Blackhawks franchise was “rejuvenated and reinvigorated” in 2007.
Blackhawks fans have been spoiled by success over the last 11 seasons and there is much to be thankful for! However, the Blackhawks success has also proven costly (3:30) in the salary cap era because winning Stanley Cups means you have to pay players, and that makes longevity difficult in today’s NHL.
We asked the listeners of the Hawks Talk Podcast to tell us what they were thankful for and the resounding response was the return of Corey Crawford (14:25). Other responses were the return of Jonathan Toews to top form (17:00), the prominsing start to Henri Jokiharju’s career (21:00), and the health of Eddie Olczyk (25:45) allowing him to return to the broadcast booth.
As a bonus, Hawks fans are also thankful for the challenge the St. Louis Blues have had winning a Stanley Cup…but could there be a reunion with Joel Quenneville in St. Louis? The guys discuss the fit (23:30) and where Joel Quenneville might eventually end up.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
Blackhawks Talk Podcast
Here are five things Blackhawks fans should be thankful for this Thanksgiving:
1. Corey Crawford is healthy
When Crawford went down with a concussion last December, things went sideways for the Blackhawks. That was the start of their spiral. And then in the offseason, there was uncertainty whether Crawford would be ready for training camp this year and whether a return was even possible.
The Blackhawks are so dependent on what he brings to the table that it was hard for Chicago to go through hockey life without him. But, more importantly, Blackhawks fans should be thankful that he’s healthy and looks like his old self again. It's been a great comeback story.
2. The top guys are performing like it
It’s weird to see Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews reach the age of 30. Time is flying by from the time they were both considered rising superstars in Chicago.
But they're not on the downslide just yet. Kane and Toews are both off to terrific starts, and it's encouraging to see because it was an important year for the Blackhawks' top guys to prove that they are still capable of handling the load.
To go along with that, Brandon Saad looks better than he ever has since being traded back to Chicago and Alex DeBrincat has put himself in the conversation as a top player on this team.
3. The pipeline is replenished
After being aggressive at the trade deadline for a decade chasing three Stanley Cups, the Blackhawks have spent the past couple seasons replenishing their pipeline and it’s starting to look exciting for Chicago.
Henri Jokiharju is here and playing top-four minutes. Adam Boqvist could be next, and has a higher ceiling. Nicolas Beaudin and Ian Mitchell might not be far away, either. The second wave will soon be arriving.
4. Cap space and a loaded 2019 free agent class
The Blackhawks have an opportunity to make some noise this summer and bridge the gap between their younger players and core veterans. They had a chance to do so last summer, but the class wasn't nearly as deep, so they elected to make depth signings for the second year in a row.
It's hard to imagine this one playing out the same way. Just look at the firepower and depth of the 2019 unrestricted free agent class: Matt Duchene. Jordan Eberle. Jake Gardiner. Carl Hagelin. Kevin Hayes. Erik Karlsson. Anders Lee. Brock Nelson. Gustav Nyquist. Artemi Panarin. Joe Pavelski. Wayne Simmonds. Jeff Skinner. Eric Staal. Mark Stone.
And yes, the Blackhawks will have cap space to work with: Marian Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit is off the books and Cam Ward ($3 million), Marcus Kruger ($2.775 million), Jan Rutta ($2.25 million) and Chris Kunitz ($1 million) are among the players whose contracts expire at the end of the season. With the salary cap expected to increase and the Blackhawks already having more than $4 million in unused money, there's a chance to make a splash.
5. A high standard
In the early 2000s, nobody cared about the Blackhawks. And apathy is the worst.
But nobody has been more driven to turn the ship around than John McDonough, and Rocky Wirtz won’t settle for mediocrity either. This is an organization that is losing sleep over how it can get the Blackhawks back to the promised land because that’s the standard they’ve set for themselves.
Appreciate that. Be thankful for it. Because they care just as much as the fans do, which means they won't be satisfied until they get it right.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.