Another L, Roster Freeze Coming, Rolling Rockford, WJC Lineup Talk, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Another L, Roster Freeze Coming, Rolling Rockford, WJC Lineup Talk, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks lost again last night. Surprised? No. Is it frustrating for fans to watch the team’s effort go unrewarded seemingly every night? Absolutely. But I will say this: while there are mistakes and issues to rectify, this year’s Blackhawks’ team is still skating hard most of the time. And guys continue to work hard in opportunities they might not have had elsewhere this season.

  • Tyler Johnson was noticeably physical early last night; Colby Cohen pointed out a few times he got chippy during the broadcast. But when we look at the final box score, TJ was limited to 11:43 on the ice last night. After the game, head coach Luke Richardson said his ankle was sore and his status for Friday night in Minnesota is TBD. So maybe Reese Johnson will get a chance to jump back into the lineup. I would be okay with that, especially against a Wild team that plays a physical game.
  • One recent trend that’s concerning is the Blackhawks getting beat on the back door. When you aren’t built to be more talented than opponents, you have to keep skating. And the Blackhawks have been leaving that option open frequently enough that it’s clearly something teams have identified as a golden opportunity. They got schooled on that against Washington and again last night.
  • The guys who wear the L when opponents take advantage of those opportunities are the goaltenders. Patrick has been keeping an eye on Arvid Söderblom, who wasn’t supposed to be in Chicago this much. But injuries have forced him into the lineup, and he’s fighting through the losses with the rest of the team.
  • Trade talk? Why not! It’s a day that ends in Y, so there’s increasing trade buzz. And, as a reminder, the NHL’s holiday roster freeze begins at 11:59 PM local time on Dec. 19, so we’re now less than three full days away from anything that could happen needing to take place.
  • Greg Wyshynski at ESPN ranked players’ trade value in tiers. And he led off his piece with a tier devoted to the two senior superstars in Chicago. Here’s part of what he had to say about Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews:

“…  the idea that Kane and Toews might not play their entire careers as members of the Chicago Blackhawks is still stunning. It’s not at all something I would have imagined as they hoisted their third Stanley Cup together seven years ago. But plans change, teams rebuild and superstars don’t always have the stomach for it.”

  • Well, yeah. And, as was reported earlier this week, the plan is for the agent they share, Pat Brisson, to speak with the Blackhawks’ front office in January about their respective futures. I’ve brought this up about a thousand times, but since there’s still a sense on Twitter that these two should be traded before Christmas: they own the situation (no-move clauses) and their cap hits are big enough that the teams they would likely at least entertain joining will probably need to wait longer than even mid-January to make it work financially. So stand down… at least for now.
  • The NHL roster has many of us feeling down these days, so let’s shift our focus this morning to the next generation. Scott Powers did precisely that this morning at The Athletic with a piece on what’s going on in Rockford. Powers points out that the IceHogs are using the same systems in Rockford that the Blackhawks are in Chicago — and they’re succeeding with them. So we’ve got that going for us… which is nice.

The IceHogs are creating chances and scoring. They’ve scored 89 goals in 23 games. They’re limiting chances and goals, too. In their six games this month, the IceHogs have allowed more than two goals in regulation once and more than 30 shots on goal twice.

  • When talking about the forward group in Rockford, the two younger players Powers points to as being future contributors in Chicago are Lukas Reichel (obviously) and Cole Guttman. And I absolutely love this quote from Rockford’s head coach Anders Sorensen about Guttman’s play:

“There’s a long list of things; I don’t know where to start,” Sorensen said. “Instincts, his willingness to improve, his faceoffs — really just a kid that, I was talking to Chris Kunitz about it today, just a guy that when he’s on the ice, you feel comfortable and you feel good about yourself as a coach. And I think it’s easy sometimes to maybe throw him on the ice too much at times, but you feel so good that you feel that he’s reliable.”

  • The Blackhawks’ third pick from the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft, defenseman Sam Rinzel, is skating for the US at the World Junior A Challenge right now. Check out him taking this one the distance. Things you love to see from a young, tall, athletic, right-handed shooting defenseman… As a reminder, Rinzel is committed to play at Minnesota next season.
  • With that Rinzel clip in our back pocket, and my complaints about rankings yesterday, we’ve got some additional rankings to consider today. TSN lined up Craig Button and Chris Peters to consider and rank every team’s top prospects and players under the age of 24. If the organization has more than a “core 4” they go into that as well, but they ranked at least the top four U24 players for each.
  • In their eyes, the Blackhawks rank 25th in the league right now. Kevin Korchinski received an A grade (“top-pair defenseman”) while Lukas Reichel, Frank Nazar, Ethan Del Mastro and Drew Commesso received Bs (“Tandem goalie, top-four defenceman, top-six forward”). Those were the only five prospects considered by Button and Peters.
  • A report surfaced that the NHL is looking to make some significant changes to its scheduling methodology. The plan is, of course, driven by money. But it would also try to engage geographic rivalries (Chicago and Detroit?). I do wonder if, with 32 teams now, the league considers going back to a six- or eight-division alignment to make this happen. Eight four-team divisions feels too small, and there isn’t a right/easy way to fit 32 teams into six divisions without a couple having an extra team. But I’m all in for more rivalry games where fans can drive to another rink and wear the road colors.
  • Finally, we’ve reached peak desperate fan base time in the MLB winter where we’re paying attention to who’s following free agents (and their spouses) on Instagram. Maybe Alex Cora just wanted to see how the beautiful couple was enjoying their honeymoon on the beach?

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