The IceHogs continue their quest for the Calder Cup tonight kicking off the 2nd round against the Wolves. These bitter interstate rivals should have no love lost in heated tilts with amped up physicality and competition that only the playoffs can breed.
While top players Lukas Reichel, Dylan McLaughlin, Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, and Arvid Soderblom are ones to watch, a vendetta-filled series could shine the spotlight on energy role players like Evan Barratt, Josiah Slavin, Mike Hardman, and D.J. Busdeker.
One such player who hasn't played since the second-to-last regular season game is Andrei Altybarmakian. He seems to be out with an undisclosed injury which is unfortunate as he is tailor made for the postseason comprised of literal battles all over the ice.
Keep an eye on Barratt especially as he is persona non grata for most opponents but the Wolves in particular. It's not uncommon for Barratt to be swarmed by virtually every opponent on the ice as he has a knack for being an irritant whether subtly or in your face.
Readers Q&A Mailbag
Now, onto the HockeyBuzz readers Q&A mailbag! Thank you to those who submitted questions!
Questions from Glenn H:
I wanted to see what you thought it would take to have the Hawks move Seth Jones? I do not see him as a #1 D nor has his play been worth the amount of money that he will get paid next year moving forward.
It would not surprise me if general manager Kyle Davidson hasn't had preliminary conversation with Seth Jones to see if he would be open to being traded after just one season in Chicago. His expiring contract has a modified NTC and his new 8-year deal has a full NMC.
Assuming Jones agrees to a trade, the Blackhawks would need to sweeten the pot such as retaining salary and/or adding assets that the other team may covet more than Davidson would want to part with. The Hawks could also take salary back to help the trade partner.
One could argue that Jones can't be traded because of his full NMC. Then again, the Hawks were able to move out Brent Seabrook who had a full NMC and Brian Campbell who had a modified NTC. And if a player wants out, then that may make it easier to work a trade.
The kicker is getting a good return in exchange for Jones and any other assets that need to be added by the Hawks. A trade with Jones as the centerpiece is likely one that the Hawks may need to lose as far as assets gained but win in terms of cap space freed up.
Is there a team in desperate need to reach the cap floor?
A list of such teams may not be known until all teams use trades and free agency to start purging their rosters of players they want to part ways with as well as add new players they covet or at least feel help them fill positional needs within the organization.
Also, do you think a Dylan Strome, Seth Jones & Kirby Dach trade to the New York Rangers for Jacob Trouba & Alexis Lafreniere & [Kevin] Shattenkirk's contract be workable/doable?
A blockbuster deal like the one you pitched is likely not in the cards but one with just Kirby Dach and Jones may be doable. Dylan Strome and Jones send too much salary to the other team so the Hawks would need to take a considerable amount back as well.
Questions from rayk1006:
Aside from promoting [Mike] Doneghey to replace [Mark] Kelley, aren't the Blackhawks going to replace some of their amateur and pro scouts since their drafting and trades have been mediocre at best?
I would imagine that new scouts will be brought in as needed rather than a massive overhaul. One thing to keep in mind is that Mark Kelley was perceived to be a roadblock as he got too complacent. It was the scouts who reported to him who complained about that.
With this in mind, for all we know, the scouts could be very good at what they do but their now former boss was not what they needed to get their voices heard so that the scouting department could be progressive and align with how the industry has evolved.
With so few skilled forwards in the system aren't the Blackhawks going to sign either [Jake] Wise or [Niklas] Nordgren even though right now they don't project as top 6 guys?
Jake Wise actually has one last year of NCAA eligibility so he could stay in college. He played much better after transfering from Boston University to Ohio State University as a senior. Could the Hawks use that 5th season as extra time to evaluate him?
On the one hand, he may have turned the corner this past season to exhibit more potential for the pros. But on the other hand, he may top out as a middle 6 forward with skill yet struggles with consistency in the NHL like Philipp Kurashev has so far.
Niklas Nordgren has been injury prone and forgettable ever since being drafted with Wise in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft. Skating is one of Nordgren's biggest issues which he doesn't compensate with other strengths that coaches like such as defense and compete level.
Not sure if the Hawks see either Wise or Nordgren as worth investing in as long-term projects. If they had to select one or the other, I would go all in on Wise over Nordgren given the former's greater hockey sense, defensive awareness, and compete level.
Do the Blackhawks use a tier system when compiling their draft board and rank prospects in groups? If not, wouldn't this help in terms of drafting more forwards at this point with a glut of D prospects?
I don't know enough about how exactly the Hawks create their draft board. However, what I do know is Davidson has already explicitly stated that compete level and speed are prioritized qualities when scouting whether for draftees, trade targets, or free agents.
As far as a drafting strategy, "best player available" will rule the day more often than not. That isn't to say that the Hawks shouldn't strategize around organizational deficiencies at certain positions. Thus, balance is needed between these distinct strategies.
Based on some of his comments, I think Seth Jones might be agreeable to a trade. If we paid $1.5-2 mil/yr of the new deal, would he be tradeable at $7.5-8 mil/yr or would they have to pay more?
I would agree that the Hawks are likely going to need to retain salary in order to ship out Jones assuming he is amenable to getting traded. By no way should the Hawks retain the maximum allowable at 50% ($4.25M AAV) so $1.5-$2M AAV does seem more reasonable.
As alluded to earlier, though, salary retention alone may not be enough to send Jones packing. The same could be said for Jonathan Toews if he waived his NMC and wanted out of the rebuild. Davidson may need to sweeten the pot for either or both Jones and Toews.
Questions from CTBlackhawkfan:
If you had to predict who are the 7 D in Chicago next year?
Assuming Jones remains in Chicago:
Jakub Galvas or Alec Regula
If Jones is shipped out:
Jakub Galvas and/or Alec Regula
1-2 veteran free agents on one-year deals
As you can see, I feel that the fate of younger brother Caleb depends on the fate of older brother Seth. Keeping Seth on board and happy could require Caleb to stick around. But if Seth is a goner, there may be little reason to keep Caleb in the fold.
And the 7 D in Rockford next season?
AHL veteran whether Ryan Stanton or someone else
Nicolas Beaudin could be trait bait but could also be given more time to develop. Wyatt Kalynuk (RFA) could be in a similar boat as Beaudin. And there's a slight chance that Nolan Allan and/or Ethan Del Mastro go pro rather than play one more year in juniors.
Questions from Chunk:
If, by some modern miracle, the Hawks defy all odds and are actually in a solid playoff spot at the TDL, what does KD do? Does he actually sell off high performing assets to get more high end assets? Or, does he go for playoff revenue?
So far Davidson seems firmly resolute in not only staying the course with a rebuild but also buckling down for the long haul. I don't think he agrees with Patrick Kane's comments that a rebuild can go quickly than what others may say. Plausible but unrealistic.
If that's the case, then I think Davidson won't let a playoff push change the goal of rebuilding. More specifically, I just don't see the Hawks becoming buyers all of a sudden. In other words -- win or lose -- they will play with what they brought.
Not that we have any say in the matter, but what do we have to see in order to evaluate the Jeff Greenberg hiring? I feel that most of his contributions will be invisible to anyone outside the organization.
I would have to agree that the value that Jeff Greenberg may bring to the franchise will be either invisible or indirectly measured. The fruits of his labor may be evident in the productivity and results of others in the organization who benefit from his work.
Who are those other beneficiaries in the organization? The scouting department is one. So is the player personnel staff who work with the pros and prospects. Then there are Greenberg's new colleagues who do what his boss Davidson used to do: manage the salary cap.
If the rest of the leaders on this team are sent packing (Toews, Kane, ADB), how does that affect the mentality of the rest of the team? They obviously know they are in a rebuild and are expected to not be good, but with those players gone, I [think] there may be a team benefit in that guys who currently defer would take it more upon themselves to be leaders, or take the shot, or speak up. I feel like everyone still just kind of stands around waiting for Kane and/or Toews to do something then they react.
There is merit to this perspective that Chunk shared. Teams with superstars will have youngsters and role players who will defer to them as the best players. That security blanket is good to have when developing but could it also stunt their growth as well?
One way to grow is to take risks and learn by doing rather than deferring to others to do the hard work. That isn't to say that youngsters can lead themselves. They still need veteran leadership. But do these veterans need to be the best players on the team?
Not necessarily. Although somewhat apples to oranges, look at the IceHogs: their veterans Garrett Mitchell, Ryan Stanton, and Dmitry Osipov are far from being the best players on the team. The value they bring is in their experience being a pro on and off the ice.
Questions from powerenforcer:
Do you think if the Blackhawks end up with the #1 pick in 2023 (and they pick Bedard) will that cause the organization to speed up the rebuild?
Do you think having a #1 either this draft or next could add pressure to rush a proper rebuild?
Short answer is no to both questions. Long answer is Davidson is proving to be true to his word so far by not wavering in a long-term rebuild to not just get the Blackhawks back to prominence in the NHL but keep them there in a sustainable fashion. Perennial dominance.
What a blue-chip talent like Connor Bedard would bring to the Hawks is just that: an elite talent to build around and not one to single-handedly resurrect the franchise. Kane and Toews didn't revive the Hawks on their own either. They needed a solid supporting cast, too.
So for a Bedard type of impact player to turn around Chicago's fortune, a core of additional impact players at forward, on the blueline, and in net is paramount. They collectively would benefit from growing together the right way and at the appropriate pace.
Questions from HawkintheD:
Do you see a scenario where Reichel starts the year in RFD or do you think it's a given he starts with the Big Club next season?
Yes, I do actually. As attractive as it would be for Lukas Reichel to secure a starting spot on the 2022-23 Blackhawks roster out of training camp, the team's top prospect still needs to earn that spot and thrive in it pretty much from the start of the season.
A litmus test would be whether or not Reichel excels in camp and in preseason games. If he struggles, there's no shame in letting him marinate a tad longer in Rockford whether for a week or a month. A half or full season in the AHL doesn't seem necessary, though.
A corollary question is what position should Reichel play in the NHL. One factor is what spots are open in the forward ranks. Yet, it may be best for his long-term development to start off on the wing (he plays LW and RW fairly well) then eventually graduate to center.
Seems like the potential is there to have as many as 4 of the RFD dman crew with the Hawks next season (Mitchell, Galvas, Regula, Vlasic). I can't see them resigning deHaan or Gus and Caleb can either be let walk or signed to another minimal deal to be a #7. So who goes (Murph, McCabe, Seth) or of the RFD guys which one stays to marinate a bit more?
I brainstormed possible D corps compositions in the response to a similar question posed by CTBlackhawkfan. What I didn't mention in that response is there is a possibility that Davidson shops Connor Murphy and/or Jake McCabe in addition to Seth Jones.
What I don't see is a scenario where all three veterans are gone. At least one stays and my gut says McCabe could be the one who remains as there could be a bigger market for RHD like Murphy and Jones. Obviously, Jones may be the hardest to move out of this trio.
Questions from DarthKane:
What route will the Blackhawks take with their goaltending? Will Kubalik and or Strome be used to acquire a goalie? Will KD decide to go the free agent route?
I don't see the Blackhawks going with a duo of current in-house options but instead just one of Kevin Lankinen, Collin Delia, or Soderblom. The other extreme is going with a clean slate and finding a starter and backup by way of trade and/or free agency.
Could Dominik Kubalik or Dylan Strome be exchanged for a goalie? Yes, quite possibly. The question then is whether one of them is sufficient enough to snag a starter. A backup may be more realistic or perhaps even an NHL-projectable netminder prospect.
A scenario that could play out is keeping Soderblom in Rockford to be the #1 there then re-sign Lankinen to be the Hawks starter or 1A and sign Finnish buddy Joonas Korpisalo as backup or 1B. Korpisalo isn't that much older than Lankinen but does have more experience.
It’s becoming increasingly important to have at least 3 goalies who can play in the NHL. Who will be the Hawks #3?
Soderblom should be the starter for the Hogs for most -- if not all -- of the 2022-23 season. He would by default be the Hawks 3rd string. Jaxson Stauber is under an NHL contract and will back up Soderblom. It's doubtful Delia is retained to be the #3.
See you on the boards!
Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, NBC Sports Chicago, The Athletic Chicago