Happy New Year, everyone!
Yesterday, the Blackhawks lost in their 6th Winter Classic/Outdoor Game to the Boston Bruins 4-2. This puts them at a 1-5 record in these games.
The good/bad news is the way the Hawks have been trending in the standings, they are not as big of a draw as they once were, thus their run of Winter Games should come to an end for a while here.
I have been to a couple of these outdoor games; my favourite was the Wrigley Field matchup vs. the Red Wings in 2009.
These games are fun but as our friend Al Cimaglia says, these games are more of a distraction for the team than anything.
It was amazing to see 76K+ (2nd most attended outdoor game) yesterday and the ice and weather held up so a success – other than the scoresheet if you're a Hawks fan – for the NHL.
The Hawks take on the Islanders tomorrow night as they head back indoors to look to get back into the "W" column.
Overall, this Hawks team still has holes, but have looked a lot better as of late. They are playing more like a team and tightened up their game in all zones under Colliton.
The special teams (sans yesterday's performance) have been better of late. The Hawks PP especially has picked it up with 5 goals in their last 4 games and look at lot better overall.
A couple of notes before I get into the yearend mailbag – Rockford IceHogs:
* Rockford IceHogs lost 2-1 to the Griffins on New Year's Eve. They currently sit 6th in the conference which doesn't sound amazing, but there are only 7 points that separate them from the 1st place Chicago Wolves.
They really need to get on a streak here if they hope to get in and try to replicate last year's playoff magic.
They should get some help in the form of a veteran defenceman in Jason Garrison. The 34-year old was signed to a 1-year deal by Edmonton after impressing them during his PTO in training camp.
After being acquired in the Manning/Caggiula deal the other day, he was promptly put on waivers for the purpose of being sent to the AHL.
He will join an already crowded defence in Rockford that Derek King will have to navigate. If he has the right attitude (which I have no reason to believe he won't), he will act as the IceHogs' Cody Franson of last season.
Franson was an integral part of the ‘Hogs playoff run and was really looked up to by a lot of younger players. A true professional.
On the World Junior Hockey Championship front:
* I was able to catch the Canada vs. Czech Republic game on December 29th. It was a 5-1 Canada win. The Hawks had 3 prospects playing in that game:
~ Ian Mitchell – has been playing in a top 4 role with PK time. He looked solid on this night. He skates really well and is very vocal on the ice. I can see why he was awarded the "A" by his coach Tim Hunter. A smart player that will likely be signing his entry-level deal this spring or summer. I suspect he heads to Rockford next year and challenges for a spot in 2020-21.
~ Mackenzie Entwhistle – this young man has been a treat to watch this tournament. He's accepted his role as a depth skater and PK specialist. He isn't' the fastest player out there, but he makes up for that with his relentless work ethic. He scored a key goal in this game and I had an amazing view of it. Love the way he plays the game. He turns 20-years old this summer, so I suspect he will be in Rockford as well. His skill set of being a bigger, physical centre would be a breath of fresh air to this Hawks team in a couple years. He's also a right-handed shot and has been relied upon to take important defensive faceoffs for Team Canada this tournament.
~ Jakub Galvas – he played on the top pairing and didn't look out of place vs. the Canadians. He didn't stand out but didn't seem to make any egregious mistakes against a very good team, so there's that. I'm not sure what his future holds with the Hawks and I know they would like to see what he could do in North America eventually, however, there is a massive logjam on defence right now within the organization.
The WJHC kick back off today with the elimination games – here are the games/times:
* KAZ v. DEN (2pm) <- no CHI players
* SUI v. SWE (4pm) <- Kurashev, Boqvist
* FIN v. CAN (6pm) <- Jokiharju, Entwhistle, Mitchell
* CZE v. USA (8pm) <- Galvas, Barratt
* SVK v. RUS (10pm) <- no CHI players
~ all times in EST
Now, as promised, Year-End Mailbag time. Thanks for all of your questions:
Matt_Ahrens: If the stars aligned and everything went AS EXPECTED for the development of the prospects & young guys and for the decline of the veterans, by when do you think the Blackhawks would be Stanley Cup Contenders again?
JL: Stanley Cup Contenders? Hmmm… that's hard to say, but realistically you would want to capitalize on the play Kane, Toews, Keith and Crawford (if healthy) in the next 3 years when they are still impact players. Their play would have to be off the charts + the next wave/supporting players (DeBrincat, Strome, Jokiharju, etc) would have to take it to the next level ++ in the next couple years you would need 2-3 ADDITIONAL impact players (ie. Boqvist, Mitchell, Beaudin, Barratt, Entwhistle, etc) to come in and play out of their minds.
Short answer? I don't know but there's a lot of "ifs" listed above. I think the first step is becoming playoff contenders first, then evaluate their Stanley Cup ambitions (despite what the front office is saying).
HawkintheD: When Jokiharju comes back from WJ's, which dman gets sent back to RFD? Dahlstrom? With Murphy and Forsling back and CD playing well for the most part, the Hawks D is already shaping up better to start next season than how it looked to begin this one.
JL: This question kind of answered itself with the recent move to trade Manning and send Garrison to Rockford. I would say Jokiharju will slide back in and Forsling and/or Dahlstrom would be rotating in and out. You may also start to see the odd Seabrook scratch.
ObeseOprah: Who gets moved at the deadline for picks and prospects?
Scott1977: Question who gets traded and do you Keith being traded at the tdl or sooner or not at all? What would a trade look like if the Hawks do trade Keith or AA?
JL: OO and Scott, I put your questions together as you're both curious about moves at the deadline.
I think the main candidates would be (in no particular order): Anisimov, Kruger, Kunitz, Hayden, Martinsen, Keith, Garrison, Davidson, Rutta, Forsberg.
I won't go through them all, and there might be some surprises on there, but keep in mind that Stan is looking at the team(s) next year – that includes Rockford. If they don't anticipate signing Forsberg and get something at the TDL, maybe they move him.
Also, yes, I know Chris Kunitz has a NMC but would the 39-year old veteran turn down a chance at another cup or to be reunited with, let's say Sidney Crosby and the Penguins?
As for Keith, boy that's a tricky one. The Hawks are really admitting that they are in this rebuild for the long haul if they move #2.
Keith's play has been less than desirable this season (and much of last) and I'm not convinced it's a physical thing. Is he just ready for a change of scenery? Would he welcome a trade out west to be closer to family at this point in his career?
Stan, Jeremy and Co. would love him to stick around and play at that high level they are used to seeing to help this next wave of defenders, but if his heart isn't in it to be a "teacher" then there is no other choice in my opinion than to move him.
If Keith was moved, I think you would want to see a real solid NHL defenceman coming back, a legit prospect and a high pick.
In the case of Anisimov, his play has been inspiring as of late. He is versatile and proven and would be a nice pick up for someone for the playoffs. He does come with a hefty price tag though, so I can see a player-for-player trade (ie. Anisimov for Boone Jenner) or if a team has cap space and really like AA, then a mid-round pick + prospect maybe.
tvetter: If we trade Keith (we better get a huge return), would Murphy as a 3/4 and Seabrook (untradable) as a 6/7 provide enough leadership to bring the young d prospects along?
JL: I addressed some of the potential Keith options above, but in my opinion, no. I think the Hawks need to go out and get another top 4 defenceman to help stabilize this next wave of young D. Then Stan and Co. isn't tempted to bring a guy like Adam Boqvist to the NHL too early. This is why I wanted a guy like de Haan, Moore, Cole, etc. on a multi-year deal because I knew they would be needed.
If Keith is moved, let's hope a veteran dman is coming back and/or Stan finds a good one on the open market.
Chunk: 1) With the volume of D-prospects that we have, do you think TDL moves will concentrate on forward/goalie moves, or is it still simply best available?
2) The Hawks seem to be very heavy on prospects right now and light on actual NHL talent. Do you see them moving further in this direction, or moving some of the prospects for more established talent to try and turn things around quicker with Toews/Kane still on the team?
JL: 1) Yes, I believe Stan would like to ship out some defenceman and focus on fast, younger talent, primarily up front at forward. They need some spark plug type players as well (hurry up Barratt and Entwhistle) so they might look to bring in role players that could fit in longer-term. Goaltending is an interesting one obviously with Crawford's injury. I wouldn't be completely shocked if they landed a goalie with term if they believe Corey is done.
2) That's usually what happens to teams who were as good as the Hawks were for over a decade. They either traded away high picks or selected late in the first round. This trend will not continue obviously with where they are in the standings.
I think they hold onto a majority of these players and go shopping on July 1st for an impact winger and defenceman versus moving a bunch of prospects for established players. They finally have cap space, it would be irresponsible to sell the farm instead of using it.
Powerenforcer: Do you think Seabs can/will be the 1st Captain of the Seattle Franchise? And, what are the chances Q becomes the 1st coach of that team?
JL: I called that a while back that Coach Q heads to Seattle. His buddy Dave Tippett might have beat him to the punch though as he was hired by Seattle as a Senior Advisor. I still think Quenneville goes to Philadelphia.
Seabrook is a guy that you would love (still) as a Captain in the room. He's a fierce competitor who knows what it takes to win. However, his play has dropped so much that I think there will be other options out there for Seattle. My guess is he retires a Blackhawk unless he suggests a trade (similar to Keith, maybe he wants to head back out West) and the Hawks do him a solid and take on a bad contract (ie. Lucic, Eriksson) to make it happen.
StLBravesFan: Mailbag question - we (and I mean "we", not just Stan and Co.) think we've got good prospects in the system - and some in the Show....
But how do they really compare against other team's young'ins? Are front offices and fans in other cities as happy (or at least optimistic) about their teams' futures? What do the pros say?
Probably unanswerable at this point.
JL: It's very difficult to say at this point. I think most teams fall in love with their own players, especially if they put their neck out to select or resign these guys.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic had the Blackhawks ranked 14th in the league as of August 30th, 2019. I would say due to some unexpected performances by guys like Barratt, Entwhistle, Kurashev etc. they might be moving up a little bit.
I Am The Breadman: 1) Do you think any of our prospects, showcased or not, sign with us in 2019 after World Juniors or the hockey season? I know we're in a tough contract limit situation, so that would necessitate moves as well.
2) You said Seabs was on the move, has the conversation switched to Keith? Is it both? What teams are involved in the talk(s)?
3) When we start selling off players, core or not, who should get called-up from Rock first? Faces we've already seen, or give new guys a chance?
JL: 1) I think the contract limit will shake out over the offseason. It normally does. In terms of who I think could sign? Mitchell, Kurashev, Barratt and Galvas are the only ones not signed, I can see Mitchell and Barratt signing first. Kurashev's play has really launched him up the chart, but he just turned 19 in October and might be best to play another year in the QMJHL, so no rush there.
2) I had heard Seabs could be on the move, but it's been quiet on that front lately. I did hear whispers about Keith during that time as well. I think his name will come up more because of his play and contract. If they want to move Keith, he is very tradeable. Seabs, not so much. It will have to be a retained salary or bad contract in return type of deal.
3) I think the first guys getting called up will not necessarily be the ones playing the best. Jeremy Colliton knows that team well and a guy like Victor Ejdsell might get a shot soon. He played so well down the stretch last year for JC, plus the Hawks need to see what they have in him.
On D, I think we may see Raddysh, Hillman or Carlsson. I guess it will all depend on who's dealt or if there are any injuries.
Lastly, I wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you who come to read and comment. I don't do this for money or all of the crazy fame (sarcasm), I do it because I enjoy it.
Let's have an amazing 2019 and to all of you "lurkers" out there, please comment away. We won't bite.
If you know a Blackhawks fan that doesn't read here regularly, please directed them this way. I'd love to grow our community as much as possible to add a different perspective and make some new friends along the way.
See ya out there,