Competing Until the End, Bobby Hull’s Departure, No Place Like Home? And Other Blackhawks Bullets

Sometimes – most times – this season, the Chicago Blackhawks are facing opponents who are simply better than they are. Yesterday’s contest against the Florida Panthers was just the latest example. Even though Chicago had a hold on most of the action for the first 40 minutes of the game, the Panthers were able to take advantage of a few key mistakes and take home a win. What’s the read on that? Well, it’s pretty simple: True contenders (i.e. teams like the Panthers), have another level that these Blackhawks just can’t meet in the end. And ultimately, that’s the difference between gearing up for postseason and being on the tee box on May 1.

•   But that won’t stop the Blackhawks from taking every game seriously and not packing it in on the season. Even though, *whispers* they should. But far be it from me to tell professional hockey players to tank to their faces.

•   While they are going to competing until the very end, or until they are all traded by March 21, the Blackhawks could at the very least continue to make games interesting. Even though yesterday ended in a 5-2 final score, the game was 3-2 and competitive between two teams at opposite ends of the standings. At least that keeps you invested even just a little bit as a fan.

•   But yes, the trade season is upon us and I’m sure that for many of the players who may be on the move, not knowing which game or practice might be your last with this group in Chicago can and does weigh heavy on you.

•   We could see as many as five, six, maybe even seven players from the regular lineup on the move over the next four weeks as the NHL Trade Deadline draws near. That’s a lot of change to go through on top of the fact that the organization is making major changes at the same time off the ice. More on that in a second.

•   Patrick Kane had a multi-point night last night, starting with this late-first period goal off the back of Sergei Bobrovsky!

•   Like the caption says…how?

•   Kane recorded an assist on the 3-2 goal for Chicago, but unlike the caption says, this goal went to Caleb Jones.

•   With the assist on the play, Kane moved into second-place alone on the all-time assist leaders list in Blackhawks history, surpassing his former coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Savard.

•   Kane is now leading the Blackhawks in points this season with 49 in 48 games

•   Including this season, 11 of Kane’s 15 years spent in the NHL has seen him play at a point-per-game pace or better. His other four seasons not at that pace have been no worse than a 0.80 per game pace. Just a reminder of how good he still is.

•   Ultimately though, you are measured by wins and losses. Chicago now has an 18-26-8 (or 18-34) record this season and are 15 points behind the L.A. Kings for the second wildcard spot in the Central Division. They are also winless through the first three games (0-2-1) of their current seven-game homestand.

•   The last time the Blackhawks won in front of the United Center faithful was on January 15, a 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

•   But hey, that hasn’t stopped fans from showing up. Which is good to see the support coming back to the team after having a couple of pretty sparse crowds earlier this season.

•   On the ice for the Panthers last night were three former Blackhawks: Anthony Duclair, Gustav Forsling, and Lucas Carlsson. Forsling and Carlsson at one point in time came through the Blackhawks’ development system, while Duclair was a young player looking for some consistency in his game after having jumped from a number of teams early in his career. All three have found a home and relative success in Florida and are testaments to why the Blackhawks need to rethink their approach to player development, as Scott Powers of The Athletic writes:

•   In the past, Chicago did one of two things with their prospects: they either rushed them to the NHL in a sink-or-swim fashion, or they were wrongfully buried in the minors or never given a fair shake in the NHL. Rarely under Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville, and to a lesser extent Bowman and Jeremy Colliton, did you see a prospect come through Chicago’s system properly and flourish into an NHL-regular or even a star.

•   Now, with a new front office and coaching regime coming together, the Blackhawks have two very big chances to develop young talent properly for the betterment of their long-term future with Kirby Dach and Lukas Reichel. Last night was Reichel’s fourth NHL game. He’s still learning, still coming along, and head coach Derek King wants to stick with the long-term process.

•   With Dach, it’s much of the same, sticking with the long-term process.

•   Even though Dach has already played in 131 NHL games, he’s still figuring out his game at the NHL level. There have been a lot of calls from fans to send him to the AHL Rockford IceHogs. I don’t see how much that makes a difference in his development at this stage in the game. He can play at the NHL level and at the NHL pace. What he needs to know is how he fits into an NHL role for Chicago and grow his NHL game. Being picked third-overall in 2019 put a lot of pressure on him to be a star right away. Fair or not, he’s getting to the other side of those expectations now and finding his place with the Blackhawks. It will just take some more time and require some more patience from him and from Blackhawks fans.

•   News this morning, the Blackhawks are re-evaluating their “Team ambassador” role in the organization and have made the decision to remove former player Bobby Hull from that role.

•   More from the Blackhawks on the decision:

•   This was a move that was long-overdue. Hull was a tremendous player in his day and is a Hockey Hall of Famer. He is also, very publicly, a terrible person. The entire organization is going through changes both on and off the ice. This is a move that I believe the Blackhawks needed to make to try to put out as many fires surrounding the team as possible. Sometimes that’s a big fire, like getting rid of Stan Bowman, and sometimes it’s a small fire that has potential to set-off a major problem, like Bobby Hull being a public face of the team.

•   Some thoughts on who could be the next generation of Blackhawks Ambassadors…

•   Steve Larmer, Tony Amonte, and of course the core of the Blackhawks’ three modern-day Stanley Cups (Hossa, Sharp, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Kane, Toews, and Keith) should be or will likely be made into Team Ambassadors at some point in the future.

•   Speaking of former Blackhawks, a double birthday today for Jim Vandermeer and James Wisniewski!

•   News this morning, Chicago has sent rookie Josiah Slavin back to the Rockford IceHogs.

•   Both Chicago and Rockford are off until Friday.

•   Finally, an awesome sight last night for the Vegas Golden Knights as Jack Eichel, playing in his third game this season after having ADR neck surgery, scored his first goal.

•   Eichel has three points in his first three games of the season with Vegas. They are going to be a wagon of a team to deal with in the postseason. Again.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Monday!

written by

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

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