Hockey Is Back! Chicago's Expectations, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Hockey Is Back! Chicago’s Expectations, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Get hyped. The 2021-22 NHL season is finally upon us! After the long/short offseason, the summer of ending the rebuild in Chicago, and the return of Jonathan Toews to the Blackhawks, hockey in Chicago is just over 30 hours away. But the NHL drops the puck on this season in just about eight hours.

•   Compared to what I felt like going into last season, I am lightyears ahead for this season when it comes to watching the Blackhawks.

•   What better way to celebrate the start of the new season than by also celebrating some Blackhawks birthdays? A Happy 22nd Birthday to Philipp Kurashev and a Happy 28th Birthday to Jake McCabe!

•   Kurashev was technically left off the Blackhawks’ opening night roster yesterday at the roster deadline, but he is expected to be recalled back to Chicago’s roster and likely into the opening night lineup later today once Andrew Shaw’s contract is placed on LTIR.

•   The same goes for MacKenzie Entwistle. You can find the full roster that will open the 2021-22 season in Chicago here:

•   Here’s an interesting breakdown from CapFriendly on how all of the NHL rosters were constructed. The Blackhawks are tied for the most players on their opening night roster that were acquired via trades.

•   They could take the outright lead from Vegas once Entwistle, who was acquired from Arizona in a trade, is added to the roster.

•   No matter how the roster was created, it feels like a much more competitive team heading into this season than it did last season. According to the models made by The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn, the Blackhawks are going to be in the hunt for the postseason, but will ultimately fall short.

•   But that is why the games are played on the ice and not on the computers. Although, I do. see the Blackhawks likely falling into that same range this season. Contending but not getting over the hump. I would love to be wrong, of course.

•   In their previews of the Eastern and Western Conference teams heading into the season, Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman touched on the Blackhawks and Friedman casually mentioned that there is potential for Dylan Strome to be moved.

•   It’s not a new idea. Strome has been a player that many thought might be on the move last season or in the offseason. But he’ll start the season with the Blackhawks, playing a much more limited role than he had maybe expected to following his career-best season in 2018-19. Something to keep an eye on as the season gets started will be how Strome is used and how he responds in that role.

•   Brandon Hagel joined Joe Brand and Chris Boden on WGN Radio last night, previewing the upcoming season. They asked the hard-hitting questions that are on the minds of all Blackhawks fans, including who was the song selector during the team’s karaoke session after Alex DeBrincat’s wedding this summer. Hagel took the credit/blame for their rendition of “Stacy’s Mom.” But I suspect maybe it wasn’t Hagel after all…

•   I think the team might have a locker room victory song on their hands.

•   We’ve talked about “hockey culture” a number of times and the way things need to change and improve. Bauer Hockey, one of the biggest hockey equipment companies in the world, has started an initiative to be a part of the change, including a change in their logo which they say “acknowledges hockey’s evolution,” “serves as a beacon of inclusivity,” and “represents the pursuit to shift hockey culture.” They used Patrick Kane in their logo reveal video.

•   From a Blackhawks fan perspective, this is a sweet video of Kane’s stick-handling ability. From any other perspective other than a Chicago one, this video and message completely miss the mark for what Bauer is trying to do. A team and player that have been at the center of controversial and problematic lawsuits in recent years (and currently) do not scream “Inclusivity” “Evolution” and shifting hockey culture to anyone who is not a Blackhawks fan. Even Blackhawks fans can see the sad irony of the video.

•   If you’re looking for more information on the topics that Bauer is trying to address, but in a more proper way, I highly recommend checking out Evan Moore and Jashvina Shah’s new book, “Game Misconduct: Hockey’s Toxic Culture and How to Fix It.”

•   I have my copy ready.

•   Speaking of the evolution of the game, the AHL will have ten female referees and linespeople this season for the first time in league history.

•   This will likely pave the wave for female referees and linespeople to make their way to the NHL soon. Awesome to see.

•   Every now and then, I am reminded how young some of these NHL players are. But Chris Johnston didn’t have to remind me of this again.

•   The youth movement in the NHL is alive and well.

•   Including Montreal’s Nick Suzuki, who just got paid this morning.

•   The deal may seem premature and a lot of money to commit, but it’s similar to Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov’s deal (8x$7.775M) and both of those players are going to be long-term pieces to their franchises, so it makes sense. The league is trending younger and younger every year.

•   Speaking of the Hurricanes, they just casually happen to mention that Sebastian Aho and Martin Nečas played a round of golf with Harry Styles. You know, as one does.

•   Paired with the NHL using Justin Bieber to promote the start of the new season on ESPN and TNT, the league is making a much larger and visible push to attract a younger viewing audience and make the game more enjoyable to attract new fans.

•   Case and point, the new Bleacher Report “Open Ice” outlet is trying to capture that “new school” feel. I think they’re nailing it so far.

•   I’m hyped.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Tuesday and the opening of the NHL season tonight! Blackhawks hockey begins tomorrow!

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Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.