Good morning Blackhawks fans! Tab is out of town for his brother’s wedding the next few days, so I’ll be handling the morning bullets today and tomorrow, as well as anything Blackhawks-related that pops up in between. However, Tab has some great content saved for this weekend, so you’ll still be seeing his work popping up even while he’s only here with us in spirit.
The last time I was covering the Blackhawks beat around here, we had a different (interim) head coach, but today is the first full day of the Luke Richardson era in Chicago. Tab was at the introductory press conference yesterday and liked what he heard from the new head coach. I did as well. When I got my haircut yesterday with my barber (a long-time Blackhawks season ticket holder and fan), I said as much. Richardson has a strong resume, but he also seems much different than the last first-time NHL head coach the Blackhawks hired.
One thing that struck me as important was that when asked about his system, Luke Richardson backed away from that terminology and talked about molding his system around his players. More importantly, he discussed that the system can’t be static and has to evolve with the evolution of the roster on the rebuilding Blackhawks. For years we were forced to watch Jeremy Colliton dig in on “his system” and his smartest guy in the room act while his veteran roster rejected the system and young players failed in his system. The lack of flexibility from Colliton ultimately cost him his job in Chicago, and thankfully, it doesn’t seem like Richardson shares that same trait.
Another thing that stuck out to me yesterday was Richardson calling Chicago an intimidating place to play, something he plans on using against other teams while he’s behind the bench here. Richardson admitted that he was overwhelmed by the crowd at the old Chicago Stadium when he made his NHL debut against the Blackhawks as a member of the Maple Leafs. The United Center was also an intimidating place for foes when the Blackhawks were yearly Stanley Cup contenders for a half-decade during the early 2010s, but it hasn’t been the same in some time.
Sitting in the press box last season, I had an opportunity to get a first-hand feel for the crowd, and it wasn’t the same. The loudest moments at the United Center last season were probably when the Blackhawks announced that Marian Hossa was having his jersey retired and Pat Foley’s final call against the San Jose Sharks. Suppose Richardson can accomplish his goal of making the team competitive even through the roster rebuild. In that case, the Blackhawks should be able to get that fans to help them make coming to Chicago an unappealing trip for visiting teams.
Richardson has been making the new guy rounds of the city since being introduced yesterday. The new Blackhawks head coach threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field last night before the Cubs hosted the Cincinnati Reds.
So, Richardson is in, and I’m pretty excited about the hire. But where does that leave former interim head coach Derek King in all of this? King was tasked with taking over a team in chaos on and off the ice last November. He took a 1-9-2 team dealing with a horrendous start, a head coach firing, and the fallout of the Jenner & Block findings and guided them to a 27-33-10 record the rest of the way.
King was called a “serious contender” for the permanent spot behind the Blackhawks bench, but the feeling was that King was highly unlikely to land the gig when all was said and done. With that belief becoming a reality yesterday, Kyle Davidson was asked what’s next for Derek King. Davidson called King a “high-character” person that he hopes the Blackhawks can retain in some capacity.
King is yet to speak with the media since the Richardson hiring, so we don’t know how he feels about all of this, but I wouldn’t blame him if he wanted to look elsewhere for his next opportunity. I would like him to stay with the Blackhawks in some capacity, personally. But I would completely understand if he felt differently. Another wrinkle to all of this will, one that I’m sure will come to light at some point, is how King was treated as a “legitimate candidate” throughout the coaching search. Were the Blackhawks up front and honest with King? I’m sure that will significantly impact his decision whether to stay here in a lesser role or look elsewhere for an opportunity.
The Blackhawks shared the sad news that Jim Pappin had passed away. Pappin was part of the memorable MPH line with Pit Martin and Dennis Hull that 1,300 points – setting a team record for points in a season (272 in 1972-73) – and helped fill the offensive void left by Bobby Hull’s departure to the WHA in 1972. Pappin scored 444 points in 488 games, and as the release highlights, Pappin ranks 17th all-time on the franchises goals list with 216.
“Derek was put in a pretty tough spot this year,” Davidson said during Wednesday’s introductory press conference for Richardson. “There was a lot going on with the team and the success on the ice just wasn’t there. So it was a tough spot for Derek to step into and into his first foray as a head coach in the NHL. We thought he did excellent. He really helped calm things down and solidify things in the locker room.
“He was a serious candidate and Derek’s someone we really appreciate and we really value, so I think there’s going to be a process moving forward where we do try to keep Derek people in the fold because we’re looking to bring high-character people into the organization and Derek is that. And so it’s going to be a discussion as we head into the summer but we’re hopeful that something will be there for him.”
In other NHL news, the Los Angeles Kings have acquired Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Brock Faber and the Kings’ first-round pick in next week’s draft. Tab discussed the Central Division implications of the swap yesterday. Here it is ICYMI:
Off the ice, this season will be significant for Darnell Mooney in more ways than one:
NBA free agency kicks off today and Eli has already been working his tail off over at BN_Bulls, so be sure to follow the Twitter account if you’re not already.
That’s it for today!