Training camp is over here in Chicago. Before looking ahead to the start of the 2015-2016 season Wednesday versus the Rangers, let’s review five most notable things I learned over the last two plus weeks:
1. Marko Dano will be an important part of the Blackhawks team, just not right away. In one of the more surprising cuts in camp, Dano was sent down for seasoning with the AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs. According to Head Coach Joel Quinneville: “We want him getting pace into his game and getting our system in tune to his game. We just want him playing. “There are a lot of guys who were in the same boat. We sent a lot of guys who were competing for the same opportunities here who, down the road, can play.” I am betting he will be one of the first players called up and will not see Rockford again when that happens.
2. Speaking of Rockford and as Quinneville alluded to, the Rockford IceHogs have some serious talent. Heck, with guys like Goalie Michael Leighton; Defensemen Erik Gustaffson and Ville Pokka; Forwards Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Garret Ross and the aforementioned Dano; this IceHogs team might even be able to beat the New Jersey Devils. Seriously, the Blackhawks continue to garner and develop young talent that will keep them competitive for years to come. If you can get to an IceHogs game, do it. This team will be fun to watch.
3. Bryan Bickell apparently needs to be waived in order to be motivated to play. Either that, or the Blackhawks were hopeful someone would claim him and his $4MM salary cap hit for each of the next two years. Well, it didn’t happen (shocking no-one), so he starts the year still with the team. Yes he recorded 5 hits in the preseason finale and looked better. But come on, at this point scare tactics shouldn’t be necessary, especially for a veteran like Bickell.
4. Teuvo Teravainen has absolutely come into his own. So much in fact, that he will start the year on the top line with Toews and Hossa. While I raved earlier about Dano/Toews/Hossa, I like Teuvo even better. The kid has some seriously mad skills and has now added some bulk so he isn’t so easy to push down.Of course, that assumes one can catch him, right Tampa?
5. Finally, congratulations to Brent Seabrook on his 8-year extension and gaining the “A” on his sweater as Alternate Captain. As Blackhawks fans are well aware, there is no more deserving player. Not only has he scored three Stanley Cup Playoff overtime goals (clutch), he is one of the very few Jonathan Toews actually seeks leadership from on the team. Yes that adds to the salary cap challenges. But hey, let’s worry about that in 2016, after we defend the Cup.
Rick is fortunate to live off the I-90 hockey corridor where both his beloved Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs (aka Baby Hawks) call home. Hockey has been in his blood since the early 1970’s when he saw his first Blackhawks game at the “Old Barn”. His favorite player is Keith Magnuson followed closely by Bobby Hull (old school!). When not covering the greatest sport, he enjoys watching live music and has even been known to join his beloved bands on stage for a song or two. Follow Rick on Twitter via @HawksStrength