Biggest Stories of 2021, Sick Of Practicing, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Biggest Stories of 2021, Sick Of Practicing, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Today is the final day of 2021. I don’t know what more can be said about this year that I have not already expressed in my nearly 1,100 posts on Bleacher Nation Blackhawks this year. I started in this position on January 4, 2021. I want to express my thanks to you the readers and fans for one of the best years of my professional career. I look forward to 2022 and what might come for the Blackhawks and hockey world.

•   It has been a hell of a year for the Chicago Blackhawks. That might even be an understatement. Here’s some of the biggest storylines of 2021 in Chicago:

•   It’s been mostly awful. Maybe one of the most troubling years I have ever experienced as a Blackhawks fan. Definitely the most troubling I’ve experienced as a writer covering the team. I’m confident things will get better and I’m hopeful that the organization can start to move forward in the right direction after the year 2021 was.

•   Some good news, Tyler Johnson is progressing after neck surgery.

•   Feeling good enough to try the “Zegras” in practice yesterday…

•   He was originally given a three-month timeframe fro recovery after having the surgery earlier this month, which would put in around March for a return to the Blackhawks roster.

•   As for Marc-André Fleury in COVID protocol, with the NHL shortening the isolation period from 10 to five days, it’s still unclear when Fleury will be cleared and ready to return to the lineup himself.

•   But we do know that Jujhar Khaira and Henrik Borgström should be good to go tomorrow in Nashville after being activated from IR yesterday.

•   Tomorrow’s game can’t come soon enough for the Blackhawks. Appears they are getting sick of playing against each other…

•   McCabe is in the first year of a four-year deal in Chicago. In his first season, he’s had to learn a new defensive system under Jeremy Colliton and then under Derek King. At home, he’s also learning a new defensive system…

•   I can attest to the “zone coverage” strategy. It’s working well with my wife and daughter so far.

•   It’s been a learning experience for a lot of Blackhawks this year, maybe none more than interim head coach Derek King in his first opportunity to not only coach at the NHL level, but to do it as the head boss.

•   Ok, so now we’ll need someone on the crazy socks beat.

•   Dominik Kubalík has been disappointing this season on the ice, but for Christmas, it appears he came through this year.

•   Maybe having a good Christmas Holiday can help Kubalík when he gets back on the ice tomorrow. A little more cheer.

•   Speaking of tomorrow’s slate of games in the NHL, which there are nine to choose from, one that should be the focal point of the day is the Winter Classic. The NHL scheduling eight other games on the same day as the Winter Classic, the game they hold up every year as the biggest non-playoff game of the season, is preposterous. But that’s another gripe for another day. The Athletic’s Michael Russo has more on the Wild and Blues as they prepare for the 2022 Winter Classic tomorrow.

•   Not bad views from Target Field.

•   But uh, if you’re going to be at the game, godspeed to you.

•   The high temperature tomorrow at Target Field for puck drop: -3 🥶

•   Speaking of playing outdoors, today the Indy Fuel will take on the Toledo Walleye today at Fifth Third Field in a New Year’s Eve Winterfest game!

•   The weather in Toledo tonight is a little more forgiving with a puck drop temperature of 44 degrees.

•   We’re all still bummed about the cancelation of the World Junior Championships. But here’s another story around Blackhawks prospect and 2021 U.S. Gold Medalist Landon Slaggert and his Team USA teammate Brett Berard.

•   These kinds of long connection stories are always fascinating.

•   And then there are the fascinating stories of EBUGs. Each one of them wild in their own right. This one is no different as a kid home from college on Winter break got to play in an ECHL game this week.

•   He played in borrowed equipment, as a 19-year-old in the ECHL, and WON.

•   Speaking of goalies, a Happy Blackhawks Birthday to Corey Crawford, turning 37 today!

•   On January 18, 2022, the Bruins will be retiring Willie O’Ree’s No. 22!

•   A long time coming, indeed.

•   Tough news in Canada as the Ontario government is putting a cap on indoor event spaces to 1,000 people in attendance. That goes for the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs.

•   The NHL has already postponed a number of Canadian games due to capacity limits, and I would suspect there might be more postponements coming north of the border, for monetary reasons.

•   Yesterday we were in awe of former Blackhawk Artemiy Panarin. Today, it’s former Blackhawk Anthony Duclair.

•   I will always think of Duclair as a low-key “one that got away” from Chicago. The guy can play, just took some time for him to put everything together.

•   Finishing today with news out of Bears world with former human joystick Devin Hester being named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

•   I feel like I’ve said it every year for the past three or four years now, but it is very weird to see the players you watched when you were growing up start to become Hall of Famers. Hester is another on the ever-growing list of former players I watched when I was younger, in awe, that are now on Hall of Fame ballots. He should get in, no doubt.

•   That will do it for today. I hope you all enjoy you New Year’s celebration, whatever it may be. Again, thank you for the year that was 2021 and I look forward to a better and brighter 2022.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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