It's been a week. First, the Blackhawks win the biggest at the draft lottery going from 12th to 3rd and then immediately after, playoff hockey kicked off.
There has been some great game 1's so far. I'm digging the Winnipeg/St. Louis series the most so far but haven't been able to watch every series so far.
Which series are you going to be following?
Well, I promised you a year-end mailbag edition, and it was delayed due to the lottery winnings, but without further ado… here we go:
Brad Vandenberk: Justin are the hawks seriously going to go with Colliton next season and not look at some other options out there ??
JL: Yes, they will be going into the 2019-20 season with Colliton. I think the consensus by most was that Colliton was thrown into the fire this season. If the Hawks were going to fire Quenneville, they should have done it in the offseason to give Coach JC a full training camp.
Bowman mentioned it, and Colliton even admitted himself – they didn't have time to practice. Watching video will only go so far.
They go in the season with Colliton as the guy and give him a fair shot to do it his way from the beginning.
Chunk: What coaching changes (if any) do you expect given that JC was basically handed his assistants this year?
JL: My thinking is that Jeremy Colliton will bring in another assistant coach and Don Granato will move back upstairs as their "eyes in the sky".
JC already got one of his main dudes in Sheldon Brookbank, but I think we may see an experienced assistant come in (maybe by the request of Bowman) to help stabilize the young staff of Colliton/Brookbank/Granato.
BWMChiFan: Chance of Entwhistle making the Hawks next year?
JL: Sure, there's a chance, however, it's a crowded group up front. My question would be: is Entwistle a centre or wing?
The thinking is if the Hawks see him as a centre in the NHL, it would serve him best to head to the AHL and play the position there for a year or so and then come up.
Playing centre in the NHL is extremely difficult and there aren't many at 20 years old that can do it successfully.
Regardless of what happens, he's been a great addition to the pipeline and I'm excited to see what he looks like in prospect and training camp.
boilermaker100: Odds on signing Kabulik, will he make the team in October and potential linemates?
JL: I'm 99% certain that Kubalik will be signing in Chicago. The announcement should come out after the World Championships when everything calms down for him.
It's too early to tell on his linemates, but he does have a great one-time shot from the RW. Wouldn't he look great on a line with Strome and DeBrincat?
BM100: Possible top 4D additions and potential pairings?
JL: Excellent question! I will have an entire blog on this next week so you will have to wait.
BM100: Who backs up Crow next year and if he is not resigned after next year or decides to retire who's the #1 goalie going forward? (Personally not sold on Delia yet,)
JL: Delia appears to be in line to serve as the back up next year. In terms, of Crawford's status with the team after his contract is up, I think that's all in the air due to his health.
I like Delia and think he needs to play a lot to be effective. The problem is, he needs to have a better team in front of him to at least have a decent shot at progressing. The volume of shots and so many in the high-danger areas will eventually make most goalies look terrible.
breadbag: A few things that come to mind if you have room.
Would you look to extend Crawford past next season if he is willing to extend 2 years at 3.5M AAV? i.e. 2x7 Mil
JL: I would be very wary of signing Crawford to another contract. It makes me cringe because I'd rather have a healthy Crow more than most goalies out there but I just don't think the Hawks can bank on him.
Now, ask me again if Corey strings together 55 games next year with no health issues.
BB: If the Hawks trade Gus during the summer, what return do you see? Comparable trades in recent seasons?
JL: Hmmm… great question. The Gustafsson dilemma will be one we touch on a lot this offseason I imagine.
If Gustafsson can be traded for a more proven 2-way defender that has shutdown capability, I think you might have something. I think if Gustafsson is moved, he's moved in a package for something larger (I'll take Trouba, please).
BB: Assuming JC is still the coach next season, what do you think will be the biggest adjustment we'll see on the ice?
JL: Honestly, this might be a weird answer, but I think the biggest adjustment on the ice will be mental. The emotional toll of firing Quenneville took a lot out of that team. However, as the season went on, they were reborn and a new team emerged – one that was having fun again and one that had new chemistry building. Colliton can continue that momentum as he appears to be very good at communicating on/off the ice, as well as on-the-fly with all his players.
BB: Which 3 players currently on the team are most likely to be involved trades during the offseason.
JL: I'll go with Anisimov, Gustafsson, Hayden
BB: Does Toews have more to give? He is 30 and had a solid season, but knowing the Hawks are on the outside looking in, what are the chances he finds a way to elevate his game further in the off-season. i.e. more of what helped him during the last off-season?
JL: I think Toews gave all the Hawks needed him to give. The only area I would say is his defensive game. He's slipped in that area in my opinion since his Selke days.
35Tony0: Do you think Perlini has more trade value now than when he came to the Hawks?
Personally, I would re-up him and keep him.
JL: Perlini is 22-years old and is the exact build of a dominant NHL player in 2019; he's big and fast. Whether his brain can catch up is another question.
You will see him resigned to a 1 or 2-year deal and the Hawks have the benefit of Colliton and the young staff really working with him through training camp and the season.
The biggest change I would like to see would be for him to use his body a little more. Not necessarily body checking everything that moves, but just using his frame to protect the puck and win more 50/50 battles.
DarthKane: How does Stan fix a penalty kills that was so bad? 1 or 2 new guys might not be enough.
JL: I think Stan will be tweaking bottom 6 a little and within that, I think you see a strong 2-way/PK player brought in. A guy like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare; don't worry about that he's 34-years old… the dude is a coach's dream on the PK.
Then there is the defence. The Hawks will add at least 1 D to the mix and he better be able to play on the PK. I think Jokiharju could help there as well.
Finally, I think the scheme can be tweaked, but it will come down to commitment. Working as a unit and jumping in front of shots for your goalies and clearing the puck.
There's no way it can be as bad as last year so there's only one way to go.
Thanks, everyone for the questions and thanks for following along all season!
I definitely don't do this for the money and fame; it's you people that keep me writing on here. It was great to see out Blackhawks community grow even stronger over the year. Thanks again!
See ya out there.