Blackhawks Coaches, Front Office Balancing Present With Future

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Blackhawks Coaches, Front Office Balancing Present With Future Focus

Chicago Blackhawks

We’ve watched in recent weeks as the Blackhawks have skated the organization’s top forward prospect, Lukas Reichel, in the longest stretch of NHL games of his young career. And we’ve also seen young defensemen Wyatt Kaiser join the NHL roster after signing his entry-level contract and Alex Vlasic get a late-season recall as well.

We asked the question around the trade deadline, and it comes up again now: how much is the front office directing the lineup for the coaches on a rebuilding Blackhawks team? Are they at all? And how much are the coaches and front office talking about the future as their regular season winds down?

Head coach Luke Richardson talked about how the coaching staff is approaching the final few games of the season, and how much dialogue about the present vs. the future happens within the organization. According to Richardson, right now there is indeed a balancing act, but with the immediate game(s) being their primary focus.

“We talk about the game and who was good and maybe who needed to be better,” Richardson said Thursday. “We haven’t really talked about going forward. We do have a plan on who we want to see; if [the front office] wanna see someone a little more we’ll try to put them in the lineup, but we also want to be consistent on that you deserve to be in the lineup as well. [We have a] good conversation after every game but really it’s not going much further past than focusing on these games who’s going to play best in each game and let’s give them that opportunity so we can see that.”

Richardson also noted the front office has been really good about always allowing the coaches to make the final roster decisions, but when a guy comes up they want to see them four or five times to get enough of a sample size to really get a feel for where they’re at. The coaching staff picks the games they think suit the prospects best.

But that isn’t an easy proposition in the dressing room where nearly half of the current NHL roster is staring at either restricted or unrestricted free agency. We talked about that a little more than a week ago — it’s crunch time for a long list of players who are playing for their next contract.

Add to that the number of players the Blackhawks have banged up at times — they were forced to skate seven defensemen on Tuesday night because Jujhar Khaira was sick — and it can be a tough decision making process on a nightly basis. But Richardson has maintained that his lineup is going to be based as much on merit as it is to gauge a player’s progress and what they might mean to the roster beyond the end of this regular season.

“We have a lot of bodies here and we’d like to give everybody an opportunity,” Richardson said. “Not everybody’s going to play every night but if you play really well it gives you an opportunity to maybe get more games in.”

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