Everyone is talking about Seth Jones and Marc-André Fleury as the new Blackhawks players who will transform Chicago into a Stanley Cup Playoff contender. But while I agree, I think a player everyone is sleeping on as a new addition to the roster that will have a significant impact is defenseman Jake McCabe. Signed this summer to a four-year deal, McCabe is coming to Chicago, a city he and his family has called their offseason home for about six years, looking for a fresh start with a new-look Blackhawks squad.
McCabe recently joined Pay Boyle on the NBC Sports Blackhawks Talk podcast to discuss his recovery from a knee injury that ended his 2020-21 season with the Sabres, his expectations with his new club, and what living and playing in Chicago means to him, among many other topics.
You can find the full interview here:
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) September 10, 2021
McCabe, who went down in February with a knee injury that ended his season in Buffalo, said he has been skating at “full-go” for about two months and is expected to be a full participant in Chicago’s upcoming training camp. Already on the ice this summer with the likes of Marc-André Fleury, Alec Regula, Riley Stillman, Connor Murphy, and Lukas Reichel ahead of camp opening, McCabe says that even though he is a new guy to the team, he’s comfortable with the route to the rink already and it helps having played with some of his new teammates in the past.
While playing in the U.S. Development Program, McCabe played with Connor Murphy and Seth Jones before, two players who he will likely see a lot of ice-time with this season in the new-look defensive rotation for the Blackhawks. One of the focal points for the Blackhawks this season will be the play of the defense after losing Duncan Keith, Adam Boqvist, and Nikita Zadorov from last season.
Head coach Jeremy Colliton’s defensive system has been criticized since he took over as head coach, and rightly so since the Blackhawks have been one of the worst team’s in the league when it comes to shot-suppression and defensive breakdowns in coverage. A “luxury” McCabe says he’s had is the chance to play with a variety of head coaches in his NHL career and play in different systems. The importance with a new system, as McCabe says, is to be on the same-page with whoever you are with on the ice and that his focus will be getting the puck off the opposition and turning the play out of the defensive zone as fast as possible. A solid strategy, if you ask me.
As I mentioned, McCabe and his wife, who is from the Chicagoland-area, have lived in the city in the offseason for about the past six years, having stayed in River North, Old Town, and now in Lincoln Park as McCabe says (Michael: Hey! I live in Lincoln Park!). He’s from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he met his wife, too. With a budding family, McCabe talks about how he had envisioned playing closer to his and his wife’s families over the years and now it is coming to fruition.
A motivating factor for the former Badger now playing in Chicago is that he is a huge Cubs fan and watched the 2016 World Series from afar. Seeing the Cubs and Blackhawks championship parades has driven McCabe to want to experience the same in the city, now that he is with the Blackhawks, and playing in “the best venue in hockey” as he says of the United Center.
I think we can all hope for the same.
I highly recommend listening to the full podcast interview with McCabe as he touches on more topics like growing the game of hockey through the new TV deals with ESPN and Turner Sports, as well as his ideas for a team-building trip before the season starts.