Players Meeting, Kane Trade Talk Warming Up, Butts in Seats Watch, And Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Players Meeting, Kane Trade Talk Warming Up, Butts in Seats Watch, And Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Last night’s game was bad. There were a couple moments the felt like there might be a small opportunity for the Blackhawks to do something impressive against a good team, but those were quickly ripped away. What could have been a game-opening goal was wiped off because of a fluky offside call, and a power play quickly after cutting Winnipeg’s lead to 2-1 turned into a 4-on-3 for the Jets and a 3-1 lead for the visitors. From there, the downhill slide was brilliantly awful. Another one bites the dust…

  • The Blackhawks have now lost seven straight games and have two wins to show for their last 15 starts. Making matters even worse: the Blackhawks’ next four games are against Edmonton and then a three-game road trip to face the Rangers, Islanders and Devils — all of whom appear to be playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference this season. Oddly enough, it’s the Rangers (4-4-2 in their last 10) who are in fifth in the Metropolitan Division right now and the young Devils have sprinted to the top of the NHL standings.
  • A big factor in why they’re struggling to win games? The Blackhawks have allowed the first goal in 17 of their 21 games and their last eight straight.
  • Head coach Luke Richardson isn’t losing his mind right now, despite the losing streak and the stress the players are feeling. Responses to questions like this one after Sunday night’s hard loss are why I have a lot of faith that Richardson is the right guy for this job, both now and into the future. He gets it. He’s been through times like these (Foo Fighters reference = one point) as a player and a coach at the AHL and NHL levels. He also knows the hand he’s been dealt.
  • It appears some of the veterans have seen enough to have a closed-door, players-only meeting after the loss Sunday night. Jonathan Toews spoke with the media postgame and, while he wouldn’t go into great detail on what was said and by whom, if you pay attention to what he did say you understand the message:

“I think we all agree that, as a group, we need to be more mentally prepared,” Toews said Sunday night. “Even if there’s a night where, it’s a long season and sometimes you don’t have the energy and you don’t have it, you’ve just got to find ways to play a better team game and keep yourself in games. And sometimes when you work to do that, things start going your way, you get a couple goals and all of a sudden it gives you that little burst of energy that you’re looking for.

“We just kind of fed into what they want to do as a team and we got away from our team game today, so it’s all those little details aside from just our preparation and making sure we’re getting each other ready to go and playing the right way so that we can go out there and give ourselves a chance to create the results we want.”

  • So let’s get to the elephant in the room. Before the season began, general manager Kyle Davidson intimated he would wait until December to circle back with Pat Brisson, the agent who represents both Patrick Kane and Toews (and Seth Jones for that matter). Well, looking at the calendar, we’re a couple days away from the twelfth month of the year beginning and the Hawks are a dumpster fire. One has to wonder if/when that conversation takes place how the two franchise icons feel about this season now that they haven’t won a game in what feels like a decade…
  • Mark Lazerus at The Athletic wrote a length column after the Blackhawks’ latest loss on Sunday night about the future of Kane in Chicago. Laz has been pretty clear with his dislike of/disagreement with the path general manager Kyle Davidson is taking the organization down, but he has always (like me) believed that the two faces of the franchise weren’t locks to be traded. Kane and Toews have been students of the game and respected its history from Day One, and they appreciate their unique places in the history of the Blackhawks’ franchise. But Laz’s feeling on Kane has changed. To paraphrase from Thanos, this appears to be inevitable.

All summer, and throughout the Blackhawks’ unexpectedly fun start, people around the league — other reporters, radio hosts across Canada, execs from other front offices, and in two surprising incidents, other NHL players — asked me what I expected Kane to do. And my answer was always the same: I really didn’t know. Everyone else was so sure he was a goner, but I wasn’t. Everything I had gathered from my own reporting and everything I knew about Kane, having covered him for a decade, told me that he was looking for a reason to stay. That he wanted to stay. That he wanted to be a Blackhawk for life and he wanted to play alongside Bedard or whichever other young superstar the Blackhawks draft and he wanted to still be here when the Blackhawks came out the other end of this process.

I still believe that.

But I no longer think it’ll happen.

  • Last week, Frank Seravalli at The Daily Faceoff updated his Top 20 Trade Targets in the NHL for this season. Kane was at No. 2; we probably would have guessed before the season began that he would be near the top of the list. But he had had Toews all the way up at No. 3 thanks to his strong all-around play. We’re a quarter of the way into this season and Toews is leading the NHL in faceoff percentage and has eight goals.
  • It’s worth noting that Seravalli also has Andreas Athanasiou at No. 13 and Max Domi at No. 17.
  • My two cents on the Kane situation: Laz makes a very good point that talking about how bad this team could be in September and then being part of it in reality in November are two incredibly different places. Kane’s out there getting hit/whacked/slashed dozens of times every night and it isn’t amounting to anything in the win column. And he loves to win.
  • This season has been a struggle for Kane, who obviously respects the effort coming from the guys around him in the room. But the thought of going somewhere where that effort could pay off in a championship in June may be something that feels a little better now than it did when Kane was appreciating Luke Richardson’s approach, style and personality as the new head coach a couple months ago.
  • HOWEVER, with that being said, even if he does get traded, I’m not closing the door on Kane finishing his career in Chicago. If he does want to catch/break Stan Mikita’s records, that’s still possible. But he would need to see a more offensively-potent (and less… offensive) group of forwards surrounding him to come back if/when he’s traded away. With a truckload of cap space this coming summer and in ’24, and what appears to be heading towards a top-three pick, Davidson could make that happen.
  • But at the end of the day, as is the case for Toews (and Seth Jones) by virtue of their salaries and no-move clauses, the player(s) control this entire conversation. They’ll make their willingness to leave and potential destinations of interest known when the time is right. And then it’s up to Davidson to get the best value possible in a deal for a future Hall of Famer.
  • Shoutout to the fans who are still showing up at the United Center. Ben Pope at the Chicago Sun-Times has been keeping track of how the Hawks are doing in that regard, and last night’s game was a nice crowd. Yeah, it was a holiday weekend but having 17,611 paid is still a nice number for a team that has won twice this month.
  • Since today is the 28th of the month, it’s time for our monthly reminder that Steve Larmer should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame and his number should be hanging in the rafters at the United Center. This month we look at the comparison between Gramps and the most recent player to have his number retired by the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa, whose first NHL jersey as a kid was of Larmer.
  • Finally, we’re staying with the tank in mind but moving to Halas Hall where the Bears had a couple significant injuries yesterday. Here’s hoping they keep the injury bug in their dressing room with one month left in their regular season and it stays away from the United Center. It’s already made an impact on the Blackhawks this year.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab