The trade deadline has come and gone, which means the Chicago Blackhawks are now officially in the final stretch of their season. Although Stan Bowman gave fans reason to cheer with the strategic moves he made in support of building this team’s future, its present isn’t looking as fruitful as it once was throughout 2020-21.
On Episode 24 of Blackhawks Banter, we’ll delve into reporting on Chicago’s remaining opponents, players we’d rather have seen traded, what we’d share to convince new fans to back the Blackhawks, and more.
My name is Shaun Filippelli and I’ll be your host for our upcoming show. Joining me will be Greg Boysen, Gail Kauchak, and Brooke LoFurno. Enjoy a sneak peek of what we’ll be debating, but be sure to catch the episode when it drops for the full depths of our discussion.
Scouting the Competition
The conclusion of the 2020-21 season is about a month away, with the Blackhawks’ last game scheduled for May 10. They’ve completed their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets and are almost done playing the Detroit Red Wings, too. Outside of a one-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, their remaining games are more mini-sets against the Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Dallas Stars. And they aren’t yet out of the playoff picture.
So, let’s help do some research for them and provide a scouting report on an upcoming opponent. Looking at your assigned team, what is one strength that the Blackhawks need to contain and one weakness they can work to expose?
I don’t think the Stars are a team to worry about anymore, despite my warnings of the exact opposite just a few weeks ago. This team was doomed from the start. Their season was paused before it even began with a COVID-19 outbreak. Then the injuries kept piling up. Tyler Seguin has yet to play this season and neither has Ben Bishop, who has been shut down for the season. Alexander Radulov has played in just 15 games this season and he, too, will miss the remainder of the season.
That is just too much to overcome in a short and condensed season. I think this team is closer to the one that made the Stanley Cup Final last September than the one who is going to miss the playoffs altogether this season. General manager Jim Nill feels the same way, as he didn’t sell off any major pieces at the trade deadline. This is just one of those seasons you can write off and start fresh in the fall.
The Panthers beat the Blackhawks in their first four contests, while the Blackhawks finally triumphed in the last two. It might seem incredibly oversimplified to say this, but keeping the Panthers from scoring would be helpful. In those first four wins, Florida outscored Chicago 20-11. In the games the Blackhawks won, they outscored the Panthers 6-2, including a 3-0 shutout on March 25.
The Panthers’ three highest producers against the Blackhawks are Aleksander Barkov (three goals, six assists, nine points), Carter Verhaeghe (four goals, three assists, seven points) and Jonathan Huberdeau (one goal, six assists, seven points), who also happen to be the top scorers on the team. The Blackhawks will need to work on containing these three players especially.
On the other hand, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Hagel have found their fair share of success against the Panthers. Kubalik sports three goals and three assists, and Hagel has notched three of his six goals against the Panthers, along with two assists. Also, rookies Philipp Kurashev and Pius Suter each have two goals against Florida. And of course, there’s Patrick Kane, who boasts three goals and five assists against this team.
All these players will be looking to continue their production against the Florida squad. Meanwhile, newly acquired Blackhawks Vinnie Hinostroza, Brett Connelly and Riley Stillman all came from the Panthers. They will want to get some revenge against the team that traded them away.
When it comes to the Hurricanes, they are strong in basically every category and are a Stanley Cup contender. So, it’s going to be a fight to try to topple them. However, they can be self-destructive. They can get easily rattled after one mistake. So, I think a way to expose their weak spots is to play hard and keep them on their heels. It will force them to make mistakes and help their chances of winning.
Currently 0-3-2 against the Predators, the Blackhawks still have a chance to turn things around in their season series with this formidable foe. Winning their remaining three games against Nashville can directly lead to the teams swapping spots in the standings, with Chicago taking over that fourth and final playoff position.
In four of their five contests to date, the Predators have gotten on the board first. Those quicker starts meant the Blackhawks were playing catch-up the rest of the way and clearly they didn’t have it in them to do so. Chicago needs to force momentum in their favour as of puck drop, while taking advantage of capitalizing on Nashville’s poor penalty kill.
As the Deadline Dust Settles
Chicago was one of the most active teams leading up and throughout the trade deadline. All signs point to Bowman having done exactly what this team needed him to, in extracting value where it may have walked in the offseason while bulking up on more picks and prospects to support this rebuild. Yet, there are still some players that remain who may not fit this team’s mould moving forward.
With that in mind, which active Blackhawk would you have preferred was dealt at the deadline? Sell us on why other teams would have been interested in them and what the potential trade return could have been for Chicago.
There really isn’t much else Bowman could have done at the deadline. He moved the players that had a place on the market. I would have liked to see Nikita Zadorov get traded, but there wasn’t an offer he liked out there. He will be a restricted free agent, so he can still be moved in the offseason if the real deal presents itself.
Otherwise, I was surprised Carpenter wasn’t traded. Much like Mattias Janmark and Carl Soderberg, he is a veteran bottom-six guy who can add depth to a team looking to make a deep playoff run.
I would go with defenseman Calvin de Haan here. At 29 years old, he has a hefty cap hit of $4.55 million for this season and the next. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have a logjam of younger defensive prospects who could feasibly step in and take his place for a lot less money.
I’m guessing de Haan will be one of the players exposed in the upcoming expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken. The Ontario native is a steady and consistent veteran presence on the blue line. He adds value to any team, including the Blackhawks. But the Blackhawks have also set themselves up to be in a decent spot if they do lose him.
One player that I wish they would have moved at the deadline is Dylan Strome. I’m not sure he has a future here with all the centers that they have on the roster. He was playing well before the deadline and I think the Blackhawks could have gotten a good return for him. Teams are always interested in young forwards with potential. I think they could have gotten a draft pick and prospect for him.
It seemed that someone like de Haan may have fetched some interest and even a solid enough return to make sense of moving him. As Gail noted, he’s 29 and is costing the franchise over $4 million per year. When you reflect on the overview of what this team is attempting to do at the moment, those details don’t really align.
They need to be giving younger players the ice time to advance their game while freeing up as much cap space as they possibly can, to spend when it will actually be more necessary and strategic to do so. With that said, de Haan is a versatile veteran presence who plays in all positions and logs nearly 20:00 per night.
Even if the Blackhawks had to retain salary, I would have thought now would be a great time to extract some value out of his services before his contract is up following the 2021-22 campaign. If they could have negotiated a return that included some future picks, that would have been enough for me.
Expanding Chicago’s Fandom
As an Original Six franchise, the Blackhawks are far from suffering when it comes to an active and widespread fanbase. However, that doesn’t mean they’d turn away the opportunity to welcome new supporters. Especially as they face an expected lack of success throughout this rebuild, which could encourage bandwagon jumpers from the 2010s to look for a new ride.
You get a private message on Twitter from someone who’s just getting into the sport, as they see that you’re a loyal fan who’s in it for the long haul. They ask why they should choose Chicago as their team, too. What’s one aspect of this franchise that you’d focus on to convince them?
This might be a shock coming from me, but my biggest selling point of this franchise is its history. There are so many great players and stories from the past that help make being a fan of this team so special. The fandom has been passed down through multiple generations. I can attribute my love of this team to my father taking my sister and I to games at the old Chicago Stadium and listening to the home games on the radio.
Sure, you could like the Vegas Golden Knights because they are good and have a fun Twitter account, but they don’t have that storied past. Heck, the best players in their short history all came from other teams. There is something about a team that has a rich history in one city that makes being a fan more enjoyable.
Seeing as I’m an avid Blackhawks’ fan, I would have a hard time picking just one aspect. There’s their Original Six pedigree, their impressive Stanley Cup history, and the fact that you can watch one of the best players in the world in Kane on a nightly basis.
But I guess if I had to sell someone on becoming a Blackhawks fan, it would be the youth and their bright future. This team has been struggling to contend for many years now, but they finally seem to be headed in the right direction. The organization has fully committed to their rebuild, and they are progressing at a faster pace than anyone expected.
A fresh young core of Alex DeBrincat, Kubalik, Kirby Dach and defenseman Connor Murphy has emerged. Add in talented forward players such as Strome, Suter, Kurashev and Hagel. Let’s not forget exciting new defensemen such as Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin and Wyatt Kalynuk. Oh, and how can we leave out Kevin Lankinen, who has emerged as the No. 1 netminder seemingly out of nowhere.
There’s nothing quite like watching all these young players grow and develop and find success right before your very eyes. The future in Chicago looks bright.
The one aspect I would sell to try to convince someone to cheer for the Blackhawks is the history of the team. With things like the Chicago Stadium, the fact that they are the first team that started the goal horn and song tradition, the fact that they’ve had some of the best players that the NHL has ever seen, the fact that they’re an Original Six team. The list goes on. There truly is not another team like them, which is why they’re a special team to root for.
Newer fans, specifically those who have jumped onboard since the 2010s, are only now beginning to experience the struggles that a rebuilding franchise can encounter. While those of us who have been cheering for this team since before their recent dynasty can attest to what it’s like to see them lose more than they win on a regular basis.
With that said, what we can also proclaim is that the Blackhawks have never been a team to let circumstance dictate their effort. There’s something about that sweater that infuses unmatched energy within every athlete that gets to wear it. Even in their worst statistical years, they have stars that come out to shine and an unmatched team approach.
This is a club that plays with passion, represents the best parts of the game, and loves to win. These attributes are invaluable and the Blackhawks own every single one of them. Cheering for this team means that, no matter what, you’ll be proud to call yourself a fan.
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Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.
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