Between on and off-the-ice stories, it has been an active summer for the Chicago Blackhawks. The on-ice stuff has the club looking like a Stanley Cup Playoffs contender for the 2021-22 season, something that most of us did not expect prior to the trades for Seth Jones and Marc-André Fleury happening.
For Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton, this season presents an opportunity for him to finally show, in a full 82-game season (we hope), that the organization made the right call making him the successor to Joel Quenneville behind the bench.
In his first three seasons at the helm, Colliton is 86-83-24 with the Blackhawks but has yet to coach in a normal situation after being an early-season replacement in 2018-19, having the season cut-short in 2019-20, and having the modified 2020-21 season this past year.
In the latest edition of the NBC Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Colliton talks with Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis about the offseason he has had personally, the moves the Blackhawks have made, and the new expectations for the club in the 2021-22 season, plus much more. I highly recommend listening to the full interview.
🚨 New #Blackhawks Talk Podcast 🚨
Jeremy Colliton weighs in on offseason moves, how Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury change the dynamic of the team, heightened expectations and much more.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) August 20, 2021
Talking about the moves made this offseason by Chicago, Colliton hit on all the major names like Fleury, Jones, and Jake McCabe:
On Jones – We think really highly of Seth. He’s still a young guy and he has done a lot in his career already. Sometimes you forget that he still has years left and, to me, you can always keep developing. There’s still a lot of “elite level” left in him…The skating, the size, he can absorb a lot of minutes and can play all situations. As one guy, he adds so much depth to the back-end just by his presence.
On McCabe – He’s a guy we’ve been aware of for a while. I thought he played his best hockey that I’ve seen from him this past season (before being hurt). Very good skater, moves the puck well, he plays physical and is able to get stops in the D-zone. We’ve added some experience, mobility, size and physicality to our back-end.
On Fleury – I got to play with Marc when we were younger at the World Juniors, so I’ve known him since then, but you talk to anyone and you hear about his tremendous character, tremendous work ethic and energy, he’s a great guy to be around. He brings that energy and fire to the team.
Fleury, Jones, and McCabe (and Tyler Johnson as well) all had leadership roles with their previous teams. Colliton talks in the episode about having that leadership and veteran experience around the younger, up-and-coming core group of players. Being surround by the quality of players that the Blackhawks have is hopefully going to lead to great competition within the team from what Colliton is expecting.
When talking about the Blackhawks and leadership, of course you have to talk about team Captain Jonathan Toews. You know by now, Toews missed all of last season due to what is called a “Chronic Immune Response Syndrome.” But we have seen Toews return to the ice this summer in Chicago, and he says his hope and expectation is to work to being ready for the season on night one. As for Colliton, he is “hopeful” Toews can return and be healthy:
Everyone wants to see him play. He’s such a big part of what we are trying to do. When he’s healthy, he can have a huge impact on our team and help us win. First and foremost, we just want him to feel good and be excited to come to the rink and be able to play at that level. He holds himself to such a high standard, he needs to be feeling good to be able to play…I have no expectations. We are hopeful, want him to play and are excited about that possibility, but we need to give it time.
Toews has been seen around the team much more this summer than he had been all of last season and prior to training camp in the winter. After hanging around at Alex DeBrincat’s wedding and at Lollapalooza with teammates, Colliton reiterates in the episode how much Toews’ presence off the ice with the team means to the Blackhawks.
After the moves made this offseason and with the possibility of a healthy Toews coming back to the lineup, the expectations for the Blackhawks have changed from the end of last season to the start of this upcoming season. Once talking about “rebuilding,” the moves made this offseason have signaled a clear message, to me at least, that the Blackhawks are done with the idea of “rebuilding.” But the new, higher expectations for the 2021-22 season are welcomed by Colliton:
We should expect more from ourselves and from the group. We still had high expectations within the dressing room (last season) and we had stretches last year where we played at a really high level. We found out that we have a bunch of guys who can play at this level. It is just who can sustain it, what level can they get to, and how long can they sustain that. We added a bunch of guys that increase the standard. That’s exciting. You want that pressure because that means you should be able to do something…That’s what you want as a competitor.
Be sure to listen to the full interview with Boyle and Roumeliotis as Colliton also touches on topics like the goaltending situation, who will be a part of the leadership group, the so-called “rebuilding” process, and what is left on his “to-do” list for the offseason, plus much more.