Taxi Squad Returning? Embracing The Grind, The Most Traded Player Is... and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Taxi Squad Returning? Embracing The Grind, The Most Traded Player Is… and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

So what is everyone doing without the hockey they had planned to watch leading up to the Holidays? Tonight was supposed to be the Blackhawks’ last game before the break, taking on the Dallas Stars looking for quick revenge after losing in overtime in their previous meeting over the weekend. That is obviously not happening.

•   Here’s where the league stands with COVID as of yesterday afternoon.

•   19% of rosters and only six teams unaffected by the rapid spread through the league. The pause was the right move to make. I’m still skeptical of what is to come when the league hopes to resume as usual on December 27. But we shall see.

•   In the meantime, some teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs have donated the food that was supposed to be used for games that got postponed to local food banks.

•   File that under things you love to see.

•   Something we might see when the league returns to action is the reimplementation of the Taxi Squads. According to reports, the league and NHLPA are discussing that and other measures to help teams field properly competitive rosters and lineups, should they still be affected by COVID cases.

•   Can’t imagine the Rockford IceHogs would be too thrilled to see a number of their top players put on Taxi Squads. Also wouldn’t think the Blackhawks would want players like Lukas Reichel, Alex Nylander, or Ian Mitchell just sitting on the Taxi Squad, doing nothing.

•   The idea was floated to me by Joe Olmo of WIFR In Rockford of using the NBA model and allowing teams to sign players to emergency contracts to deal with COVID absences. There are plenty of talented players sitting at home that would love to have a chance to play in the NHL again and probably should be, like Bobby Ryan and Eric Staal.

•   One player making a name for himself in Chicago has been Brandon Hagel. Over the past season and a half, Hagel has quickly become a fan favorite, very much in the mold of an Andrew Shaw-type of player. But unlike Shaw, Hagel’s game is much more refined at this point in his career, as evidenced by Scott Powers of The Athletic:

•   Hagel is fourth in scoring with 16 points in 27 games. He’s played 80 career NHL games and has tallied 17 goals and 40 points; that would be a pretty decent entire season for a player in his first “year” in the NHL.

•   While Hagel can play the role of the “grinder” for the Blackhawks, it’s Jonathan Toews who is feeling the “grind” this season. After missing all of last year due to Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, Toews is still not feeling 100% like himself 30 games into the season.

•   Things have been going much better in recent games, with three goals and four points over his last five games, but Toews needs to be doing more if he is going to A) live up to his contract numbers and B) help get the Blackhawks into a postseason chase.

•   Hey, maybe they could use this kid?

•   His backhand is better than mine, sheesh.

•   Yesterday, it was made official that the NHL would not be sending players to the Olympics. Players on non-NHL contracts will now populate the 2022 Games. Was this the year that Team USA, which has not won a Gold Medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, could have finally been the top favorite?

•   Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until 2026. (Or maybe 2023 if the whole Winter Olympics get pushed back a year, which could happen because COVID doesn’t give an F- about your plans.)

•   While NHL has-beens and never-weres will populate the Olympics, the World Junior Championships get underway on December 26 with future NHL stars. Team USA and Team Canada will be looking good in these custom skates from CCM:

•   Pre-tournament games get underway today, with Team USA playing Finland at 1:00 p.m. CT on TSN.

•   Ya’ll really want to get rid of Dylan Strome bad, eh?

•   Also, if Kings fans want to get rid of Alex Turcotte so badly, uh Hi 👋, the Blackhawks will take him off your hands for you.

•   If you are bored or, worse, stuck in quarantine without hockey, maybe take a page out of Nikola Vucevic’s book and get yourself some Lego sets.

•   Lego sets, which apparently are more valuable than Gold?

•   That will do it for today. I hope you all enjoy your Thursday!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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