Many countries and cultures have already celebrated Thanksgiving already -- last month for our Canadian brothers and sisters -- and the U.S. holiday is tomorrow so I thought I’d take this time to write about what I’m thankful for regarding the Blackhawks franchise.
In no order of significance:
1. Transparency with the state and approach of the team.
No more pushing an agenda that is no longer realistic. No more putting all the eggs in the core’s basket. No more peddling narratives that were driven more by marketing than on-ice performance.
As a fan, I deeply appreciate the transparent approach that management has taken this offseason and that I hope continues over time with a heavy dose of accountability.
In time, we should ideally see dividends as they manufacture a sustainably competitive brand of hockey and an inclusive environment in all facets of the organization.
2. Homage and respect to Native American connections.
While it may seem ironic stating this in a Thanksgiving blog, it’s not that bad when reflecting on the origin of this tradition in the U.S. and not what it evolved to be after the early 1620s.
Thanksgiving isn’t just about giving thanks but also paying homage and respect to those who have given their help. It’s also a holiday focused on hospitality and taking care of others.
With that in mind, the franchise is taking steps in a better direction to start paying proper homage and respect to its Native American roots and relationships.
(Let’s discuss and debate the name and logo for another time and space.)
3. Kendall Coyne Schofield as a trailblazer for women in the NHL.
Earlier in the week, the Hawks named Kendall Coyne Schofield its first-ever female coach as she was named a player development coach to work with prospects in Rockford.
In addition to prospect development, Coyne will also be a youth hockey growth specialist to open up more doors particularly for girls who want to play the sport.
This hire underscores the revolution towards youth and innovation. A way to achieve this is by diversifying the workforce. Coyne in the fold starts to put the team’s money where its mouth is.
4. The long awaited youth movement.
The youth movement is finally here -- or at least formally announced as Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton have claimed that it has been underway for a few years already.
What this means is not just injecting youth into the roster now but also making sure there is a sustainable pipeline of impact players rather than over relying on a select core.
The pipeline requires astute drafting plus meticulous development before prospects go pro. Thus, it’s imperative that the scouting and player development units are on point.
5. Commitment to defending and competing, at least on paper.
Two key elements of the new direction of the team are committing to defense and competing across the full ice sheet. No passengers, no coasting, and no puck watching.
The additions of Mattias Janmark, Lucas Wallmark, and Nikita Zadorov illustrate that desire to integrate and build from these aspirational strengths.
Easier said than done, though. It remains to be seen if the entire lineup can crank out a complete effort game in and game out. Yet, the goal is to play this way at least.
6. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are still going strong.
Jonathan Toews seems to have found his second wind after posting a career year in 2018-19 and was having a solid encore in last year’s pandemic-shortened season.
Patrick Kane just keeps getting better with age reaching new levels of phenomenal performance. What’s even more amazing is he does this without elite linemates.
With both core forwards still playing at a high level in their young 30s, they will continue to be leaned on to lead the team and role model a winning atmosphere.
7. Kirby Dach as the future MVP and franchise player.
Kirby Dach isn’t a distant 3rd after Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko went 1st and 2nd overall in the 2019 draft as he’s stating his case to possibly be best in class when all is said and done.
Hughes may be a future Art Ross candidate and Kakko could be a major cog in the Rangers resurgence but Dach could very well be the MVP on the balance of their careers.
It’s hard to tab Dach as a franchise player when Kane is still the best player on the team but Kirby seems to be showing glimpses of reaching that status at some point.
8. The budding young D corps.
What once was a barren prospect pool has increasingly grown in potency headlined by the young D corps built mainly through the draft. Ian Mitchell could prove to be top dog.
There's more blueline intrigue with Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson, Chad Krys, Wyatt Kalynuk, Alec Regula, Alex Vlasic, Jakub Galvas, Slava Demin, and Wyatt Kaiser.
Not all of them will make it and there simply aren’t enough spots but the point is having as many lottery tickets as possible because only a few need to stick then move the rest.
9. Battle royale for goalie roles.
While a goalie in his prime would have been nice as the starter, that simply isn’t in the cards financially. Neither was keeping Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner (i.e. AAV and/or term).
The next option is to go young which fits the youth movement. I for one am excited to see what the Hawks have in Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, and Matt Tomkins.
This foursome will take their lumps and it’s sure to be a roller coaster. Who knows, a viable starter and/or backup could eventually emerge from this goalie battle.
10. Gold mine in European free agency.
At least with forwards -- not so much with D-men -- the Hawks have hit gold with coveted European free agents Artemi Panarin, Dominik Kahun, and Dominik Kubalik.
Cashing in big with these free agent rookies is the equivalent of having 1st round picks advance straight from the draft to the NHL. Panarin, Kahun, and Kubalik never played in the AHL.
Pius Suter could be the 4th experienced first year Blackhawk to make that jump from an impact player overseas to an impact player in the best league in the world.
For those celebrating, have a safe and festive Thanksgiving. Peace, yo.
See you on the boards!