Bobby Hull Remembered, Richardson’s Vibe, Staggeringly Bad Numbers, and Other Blackhawks Bullets
On Monday morning, we learned that Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull has passed away at the age of 84. He still holds the franchise’s all-time record for goal scoring and ranks third in points in the organization’s nearly 100-year history. He had a complicated legacy in hockey, but was spectacular on the ice.
- Is it bad that tweets like this feel a little more nostalgic than they used to? With all of the talk about staying or leaving, extensions or condo shopping somewhere else, when Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews get together for a scoring play it’s always a beautiful thing. This one kinda hit me in the feels this weekend, though.
- Mark Lazerus wrote a column for The Athletic on Sunday about the Blackhawks players not caring about the whole tanking concept. We’ve read pieces like this at various times this season (Laz wrote one in late-October in which players basically said prognostications be damned). But there were two quote in this one from head coach Luke Richardson that I absolutely love. In the first, he talks (again) about the camaraderie on this team. He said this about the team bus after the win in Calgary:
“Just roaring, laughing,” the Blackhawks’ first-year coach said. “I haven’t heard that from a hockey team in a while. The last time I did was with the Canadiens a couple years ago, when we went to the finals. There’s no mystery there — when you’re winning, you’re having fun. And when you overachieve, you’re having more fun because you know you’re heckling the naysayers.”
- In the second, Richardson talks about how — even with this shaping up to be a brutal year in the standings, Chicago is still one helluva hockey town.
“It’s hard not to play to win in a passionate city like Chicago,” Richardson said. “You have that national anthem and you hear those people roaring — and they stay in their seats. In Canada, you have grumbles and they’re leaving for the exits when there’s four minutes left, like the other night (in Calgary). We played Seattle (a ghastly 8-5 loss in Chicago on Jan. 14) and they sat there till the end of the game, and they cheered at the end when we scored. Were we going to catch up? No. But that’s impressive. So how do you not play hard and be even more energetic to get to the finish line, or at least take a step toward the finish line, to where we want to go?”
- When I read those quotes it’s once again apparent that this is a guy who is here for a lot more than just a first opportunity while babysitting a tank. Richardson, like members of the front office, has talked about creating a culture in the organization throughout this season. And after watching a team filled with unhappy players while Jeremy Colliton was “coaching” the last few years, this is a totally different vibe. And Richardson is embracing the relationship between his team and the city. Absolutely love it!
- With that in mind, let’s all salivate over this Connor Bedard power play snipe from the weekend.
- Even with that being said, the numbers really don’t like the Blackhawks this season. I’ve said this more than a few times already this year, but I’ll throw it out there again now: plus-minus isn’t the best indicator of an individual’s performance. But… sometimes it’s an ugly number because the team is just not good.
- As of Sunday night, 632 skaters have appeared in the NHL. Four Blackhawks rank among the seven worst players in the entire league in plus-minus entering Monday.
- Last year was the first time in his career that Toews had a negative plus-minus (-14). Even with that and this year’s minus-24 on the books, he’s still a plus-155 in his career. Since his rookie season in 2007-08, only ten players in the NHL have a better career plus-minus than Toews.
- By comparison, Kane has had a negative number six times in his career. He’s only plus-17 in his career, a number that honestly shocked me when I looked it up.
- I thought this was a fascinating tweet to keep in mind as we start considering players on the trade market and hear about extensions for players. If players are looking for front-loaded deals, the Blackhawks could be in a strong position with literally zero NHL forwards under contract beyond next season.
- When the Blackhawks drafted Jalen Luypen, an undersized forward (5-10, 150) with the 216th overall pick (out of 224) in the 2021 NHL Draft, not many people paid attention too closely. But a strong post-draft season that saw him jump from 16 to 29 goals with Edmonton in the WHL made him an intriguing player. A really good playoff run earned him a contract with the Blackhawks last summer.
- Unfortunately, an injury took him off the ice until the middle of this season. But he’s back now with the Tri-City American in the WHL and he’s playing really well once again. The 20-year-old is averaging better than a point-per-game and might be in play for some ice time in Rockford down the stretch.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrated the 1,000th game of their captain, John Tavares, on Sunday. Lots of pretty cool images but I like the look of these from Mick Kern, who’s a host on the NHL Sirius/XM station. I’m sure Islanders fans were thrilled by the highlights.
- When a coach reaches a significant benchmark it’s pretty impressive. When the coach somehow has a job for 1,400 games in the league, he’s doing something right. Chicago fans can/will throw their share of shade at Peter Laviolette for his lack of a ring as a bench boss, but he’s been around for a long time and has won plenty of games. So congrats to him for a big number.
- Finally, love me some trade speculation and it appears the Bulls are going to join the Blackhawks in stirring the rumor mill in the coming weeks.