Getting Healthy, Positive Coaching, Player Grades, WJC Roster Thoughts, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Getting Healthy, Positive Coaching, Player Grades, WJC Roster Thoughts, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks host the Washington Capitals tonight. If you haven’t heard yet (or read it here since I’ve been talking about it since Sunday morning), Alexander Ovechkin needs three goals to become the third player in NHL history to reach 800 goals. He would join Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. If there was ever a night to take advantage of cheap tickets to watch an all-time great player, it’s tonight.

  • Injury updates were provided on Monday, and it sounds relatively good for the Blackhawks. Petr Mrazek was activated off IR and Tyler Johnson is reportedly a possibility for tonight. He’s been out since October, when things were going well (see the correlation?). He spoke about the ankle injury after practice on Monday:
  • Will tonight be the Dylan Strome Revenge Game? Scott Powers asked Patrick Kane about Strome’s time in Chicago, and his departure as a free agent this past summer. Kane was pretty transparent about Strome’s struggles in Chicago (and, again, a veiled shot at Jeremy Colliton’s tenure as the “head coach” of the Blackhawks).

‘He’s a good player,” Kane told Powers. “I think everyone knows that he kind of got the short end of the stick at the beginning of the year last year, not playing. He definitely should have been in the lineup. Then he gets a chance with (Alex DeBrincat) and I, or Ovechkin — if he plays with good players, he’s going to produce.”

  • Powers also wrote about the Blackhawks’ current head coach and his focus on positivity during the trying season. I read this quote and it reminded me of why I am confident Luke Richardson is the right man to drive the rebuild.

“I try and do it because I know as a player, negative thoughts, not negative thoughts, I think just your confidence levels go up and down,” Richardson said. “When it’s down, it’s hard. As much as a coach or a player can pat you on the back or your family at home, it has to be you that pulls you out of that. So, why would I jump on top of a guy who’s not feeling good? I’m going to show him some mistakes, but I’m going to be on the positive side and try to help him out of it. I think it’s appreciated, and they feel more comfortable. Hopefully they can find the confidence to work their way out of it with the support of a coaching staff instead of us just beating down on them. I don’t think that really goes anywhere. We have to show mistakes we make and be men and accept that, and try and get better, but I just think that’s the better way to go.”

  • Being around practices and games, Richardson is overwhelmingly positive. It would be easy for players, especially veterans, to get down on the team’s performance thus far. But the vibe continues to be positive and there are more smiles than you might expect considering the Blackhawks’ record. Finding small victories and really coaching — read: teaching — is critical for the Hawks this season. And Richardson continues to do that daily.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: the most impressive thing Kyle Davidson has done as general manager of the Blackhawks is tabbing Richardson as his first hire as permanent head coach of the Blackhawks. He’s a winner who gets it.
  • The Athletic dropped player grade cards for every team on Monday. It’s an interesting endeavor that clearly took a lot of work. And how they evaluated some of the Blackhawks was… very interesting.
  • They gave a “market value” of $4.1 million to Jake McCabe and $3.5 million Caleb Jones, the highest grades among Blackhawks’ defensemen. And they gave the highest “market value” to Tyler Johnson ($4.2 million), who hasn’t skated in a game in six weeks. So I’m not completely sure how their metrics worked. But it’s worth looking at for the sake of conversation.
  • On Monday the NHLPA shared a video with current players making their picks of their “best” players in the 1980s. Some obvious names are thrown out there, but I was at least a little surprised that Denis Savard wasn’t mentioned. Between the 1980-81 and 1989-90 seasons, Savvy ranked fourth in the NHL with 1,013 points; he trailed only Wayne Gretzky, Peter Stastny and Jari Kurri; three of the four players to have 1,000 points in the decade weren’t mentioned.
  • I would have taken Steve Larmer, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point. However, it is worth noting that he had only 14 fewer points than Steve Yzerman in the decade. One of the two Blackhawks should have been called before Theo Fleury, who appeared in only 116 games in the window.
  • Blackhawks forward prospect Ryan Greene scored two goals in a scrimmage for Canada at a World Junior tune-up on Monday. As you can see from the tweet below, he’s been rooming with Connor Bedard at the camp. Can I see a raise of hands for Blackhawks fans who would love for them to be roommates in Chicago next year, too?
  • Unfortunately, Greene was the one of the Blackhawks’ five prospects who were in Canada’s camp that didn’t make their World Junior Championship roster. But that means four Blackhawks prospects did, which is awesome. In fact, three of the seven defensemen on the roster are future Blackhawks. And Blackhawks prospects will provide some of the biggest size on Canada’s roster for the tournament.
  • Scott Wheeler at The Athletic shared camp notes on all of the players who participated in the tune-up games (Ethan Del Mastro did not). Wheeler was surprised that Colton Dach made the team (his performance did not appear as impressive as Greene’s) and he wasn’t what I could consider complimentary of Nolan Allan‘s game. Here’s what he wrote about Allan:

I was underwhelmed by Allan. He skated over a couple pucks and his play breaking out of his own zone was generally sloppy. He played his physical brand and delivered a couple of big hits but he was the least impressive defenceman in camp for me. They clearly like him as a foil to some of their three offensively-gifted guys in Zellweger, Clarke and Korchinski.

  • Based on Wheeler’s lineup below, it looks like Kevin Korchinski could slot as a PP1 leader and third-pair defenseman. I will be intrigued to see if Canada will put Korchinski and Allan together since they’ve spent some time together in Seattle since the Blackhawks’ first pick in the 2021 draft joined their first pick in the 2022 draft.
  • Finally, the NBA took the bold step of putting former player names on some of its major awards. The biggest and best: the Michael Jordan Trophy, which will be awarded to the league’s most valuable player.

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