Without games being played by the Chicago Blackhawks, I’m starting to get itchy for hockey. Then I remember that the Stanley Cup Playoff are about to begin and the itchiness goes away. It’s been a while since I’ve paid most of my attention in the NHL away from the Blackhawks, but with the new playoff system this year, I’m very intrigued to see how these Stanley Cup Playoffs shake down. What’s craziest to me is that there is a very possible chance that we could see a Boston-Toronto or Montreal-Boston Stanley Cup Final this year. Talk about throwback.
• As far as the Blackhawks go, the team made an addition to their goaltending depth yesterday, signing Swedish goaltender Arvid Söderblom to a two-year deal. There’s not too much to make of this deal just yet as Söderblom has played just one professional season overseas in a top-tier league. 22 games in the SHL this past season and they went well for Söderblom as he finished the year with Skellefteå with a 12-7-2 record, a .922 save-percentage and a 2.03 GAA, which ranked him second in the league.
• Söderblom is 21-years-old and just getting his first taste of top-tier pro hockey. He’ll be coming to the Blackhawks organization behind their trio of Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban, and Collin Delia next season and may even be behind a depth goaltender like Cale Morris, who played well at the AHL level as a rookie this season with the IceHogs. But even with the addition of Söderblom, Chicago still does not possess a true No.1 starting goalie in the NHL.
• With four goaltenders now on the books with NHL contracts, it appears the team may not be committed to upgrading the position via trade or free agency. If the Seattle expansion draft has anything in store for Chicago when they expose Subban and Delia, things may change. But for now, the position is still a question-mark, but smaller than it was a little less than a year ago.
• Speaking of Seattle, the expansion draft is coming up on July 21st. The team just recently signed their first-ever player with Luke Henman agreeing to a contract this week, but they are still looking for their first head coach.
Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft https://t.co/s3kQhjfLZW
— NBC ProHockeyTalk (@ProHockeyTalk) May 14, 2021
• Because this is the NHL, recycled names are already being floated around like recently fired coaches John Tortorella, Rick Tocchet, and David Quinn. But for my money, if we are talking recycled coaches in the league, Seattle would be smart to hire Gerard Gallant. Gallant was the first coach in Vegas Golden Knights history, so he’s been in this position before even though he hasn’t been a head coach of a team for longer than two and a half seasons. Although if the Kraken wanted to move on Gallant, they may be too late.
• Coaching changes are not coming to the Blackhawks this offseason, even though many in the fan community want them to happen. The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus sat down, in person, with Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton following the completion of the season and the exit interview process and talked with him about the 2021 season, his job so far in Chicago, and where he sees the team headed.
• One thing that stood out to me from the interview was Colliton’s assurance that he believes the team is on the right path to being elite again. From the article:
Laz: The absolute dumbest thing a coach or GM could do is say I have an X-year plan, so I’m not going to ask you for a timetable. But in your mind, do you think you have it mapped out? Stan keeps talking about getting back to the top of the mountain. You talk about when you’re an elite team, not if. Do you think you can see that future?
JC: No doubt. We’re going to be an elite team. I have total faith in that. And we’re on the right path. In Stan’s position, he’s got to look more broadly. I’m trying to push all the time. I mean, even this past year, we knew where we were at, we knew what the goal was as far as continuing to work toward the long term. But when we’re in a playoff spot in February and March, I’m pushing the team to see how far we can go. That’s what I should do. I’m challenging them to reach a level that they maybe don’t think they can get to.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But we have to try. And even if you fail, as long as you’re going about it the right way, that could be a huge step forward in the development of the team, of the players individually, of the coaches, as well. So I’m going to keep pushing, and we’re going to push next year again. We always want it quicker. If I can speed it up in any way, by developing the team, by developing the players individually, I’m going to do it. I don’t think anyone’s going to complain if we can speed up the process. But we can’t try to skip steps either. And that’s important. And as I’m coaching the team, and as I’m trying to win every night, I also have to be doing little things that make sure we’re developing the whole group for the future.
• He has a point…to a point. The “rebuild” hasn’t been a true rebuild for some time now. The Blackhawks for two and a half seasons were trying to piece together a pseudo-playoff contending team while still trying to play a mix of young and veteran players. It was not working. Over the past season, the “rebuild” looked more like a rebuild, especially at times this year when upwards of six, seven, eight rookies were in the lineup at a time.
• Where the Blackhawks ended up this season wasn’t surprising, but how they got there was. For a “year one” of a rebuilding process, this 2021 season wasn’t bad for Chicago. But, there’s a “rebuild” and there’s a REBUILD.
• If Chicago still has players like Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane, you’re not in a REBUILD. Tearing down the “One Goal” era of the Blackhawks seems to be off the table for Stan Bowman at this point and I don’t blame him from a PR perspective. It’s going to be a challenge to sell tickets and market the team without a true NHL star to point to as the future of the team. Alex DeBrincat is the closest the Blackhawks have behind those three remaining players from the Stanley Cup teams, but DeBrincat isn’t putting the same amount of butts in seats at the United Center.
• If the plan is to squeeze every bit out of Toews, Keith, and Kane that you can, the front office is going to need to do a much better job at identifying and securing top-tier talent to supplement those veterans and the young up-and-coming players that established themselves this season. But it will take time. Highly recommend checking out the full interview with Colliton to get his perspective on patience with the Blackhawks.
• Unfortunate news surrounding the Blackhawks players that will be playing at the IIHF World Championships this month as newly signed defenseman Jakub Galvas will not be playing with the Czech Republic after sustaining an injury in a different tournament.
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) May 14, 2021
• Chicago still has eight players confirmed for the World Championships in Riga, Latvia, set to start on May 21st.
• Around the league last night, the Colorado Avalanche claimed their place as the top team in the NHL regular season with a dominant win over the LA Kings.
— Altitude Sports Radio 92.5FM (@AltitudeSR) May 14, 2021
• It was a treat to watch former Blackhawks goalie and current Vegas Golden Knight Robin Lehner cheer for the Kings to pull off the upset last night, which would have kept Vegas’ hopes of clinching the top spot in the league alive.
• Colorado last won the President’s Trophy as the top team in the NHL regular season back in 2000-01, when they also last won the Stanley Cup. The team that has won the President’s Trophy has gone on to win the Stanley Cup eight times since it became an award in 1985-86. The last team to win the President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same year were the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks. So, HA!
• With the Avalanche clinching the top spot in the NHL, the Stanley Cup Playoff matchups are set!
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) May 14, 2021
• First-round winners: Maple Leafs, Oilers, Avalanche, Golden Knights, Penguins, Capitals, Hurricanes, Lightning.
• Take it to the bank. That’s all for today, have yourselves a great Friday!