Blackhawks Banter: Rookies, Veterans, Awards & Must-See TV

With training camp details finally made available to fans, it means we’re one step closer to all that the 2021-22 Chicago Blackhawks will bring forth. While an active offseason has certainly kept us engaged throughout, there is no comparison when it comes to digging into the actual depths of any given campaign. Perfect for our Blackhawks Banter crew, who can’t wait to start shifting gears towards real-world results.

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Episode 44 will be full of reflection, both in terms of what has made the Blackhawks organization one of the most storied of all time and with regards to what we’re looking forward to as the season gets underway. My name is Shaun Filippelli and I’ll be your host for our upcoming show. Joining me will be Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, and Gail Kauchak.

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Chicago appears ready to go, which is our cue to share that same mindset. Enjoy this preview of all we’ll delve into on our upcoming Blackhawks Banter. Then, be sure to tune in to our virtual roundtable when it drops on Tuesday for added depth to our details.

Blackhawks Battling to Break Into Lineup

Gail brought forth five key storylines to follow throughout Blackhawks training camp. One of which is the fight among veterans, to decide who will find a fit within this new-look Blackhawks forward group. Included in those named, with a little less certainty surrounding their playing time, were Alex Nylander (RW, LW), Ryan Carpenter (RW/C), Dylan Strome (C/LW), and Adam Gaudette (C).

Adam Gaudette Chicago Blackhawks
Adam Gaudette, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

Make a case for why your assigned athlete deserves a spot in Chicago’s opening night lineup, at the cost of pushing the others into the press box.

Greg

Athlete: Dylan Strome

I know Strome has been mentioned by this group numerous times about possibly getting traded, but he still has a big part to play on this team. The trade discussions weren’t because he is a bad player, but rather because it seems he doesn’t gel with head coach Jeremy Colliton.

Strome’s versatility will serve this team well. He can play both center and wing, and during the course of an 82-game season that will be valuable. He can produce on the power play and help provide depth scoring. If the Blackhawks are to succeed this season, they will need to score more at 5v5 and Strome will play a pivotal role in trying to accomplish that.

Brooke

Athlete: Adam Gaudette

Gaudette should make the roster because he brings a nice skillset. We only got to see a glimpse of that last year, but he could prove that even more. You can’t have enough skill on the roster, plain and simple.

Gail

Athlete: Ryan Carpenter

I’ve always been a big fan of Carpy. I think he would be the ideal candidate to anchor the fourth line at center. He played wing on this line most of last season, but that was primarily because David Kampf was better at winning faceoffs. As we know, Kampf is with the Toronto Maple Leafs now. But Carpenter’s career 47.4% success rate at the dot is a decent number. He and newcomer Jujhar Khaira could share the duties with faceoffs as well, since he shoots left and Carpy shoots right. 

Ryan Carpenter Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Carpenter, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

At 30 years of age and six years in the league, Carpenter brings a veteran presence and experience to an otherwise very young team. His grinding, physical style of play is a much-needed commodity for the Blackhawks. He’s also known for his positive contributions on the penalty kill. Furthermore, the Florida native is signed for a very reasonable cap hit of $1 million. To me, he’s the ideal depth player to complement the lineup.

Shaun

Athlete: Alex Nylander

After spending 2020-21 out with injury, and following a less than stellar showing since becoming a Blackhawk, Nylander better be itching to get into the action so he can prove his worth. Frankly, his future could depend on it. He’s on a short leash, quite literally, in that his recent extension only takes him to the conclusion of this upcoming season. The time is now for him to make the right type of impact.

With that in mind, it’s to Chicago’s benefit to give Nylander every chance to succeed. They need their stars to shine and it’s on them to provide a path for those who’ve yet to reach that status to get there. Nylander is a former eight overall pick, so it’s fair to expect a high level of upside. There’s no better time than the present to infuse his skill set into Chicago’s progressive strategy.

Making a Case for NHL Award Winners

Brooke recently discussed what it would take to see the Blackhawks’ best recognized at the 2022 NHL Awards. She explored Seth Jones winning the Norris Trophy, Alex DeBrincat achieving the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, and Patrick Kane earning the Lady Byng Trophy.

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A great group, potentially worthy of each accolade. That said, let’s look into the types of performances required for names other than Jones, DeBrincat, and Kane to end up hoisting hardware at the annual awards show.

Greg

What heights does Colliton have to reach, to be considered for the Jack Adams Award?

I am starting to sense a theme here that I keep getting the coaching questions! The only way Colliton is winning the Jack Adams Award is if all other 31 NHL head coaches spontaneously combust the morning of the awards show. Honestly, Colliton needs to be more worried about still being the Blackhawks’ head coach at the end of the season than winning the Jack Adams.

Stan Bowman put this roster together to make the playoffs, so the pressure is on. The plug can be pulled on the “Jeremy Colliton Excuse Machine,” and it is time to put up results. If the Blackhawks get off to another slow start, they could be looking to make a change behind the bench before it’s too late to compete.

Brooke

Assuming Reichel cracks this lineup, what does he need to do to capture the Calder Trophy?

Something Reichel has to do to win the Calder Trophy is to light the lamp.

He also needs to be good defensively. As a center, that is what this team is going to need moving forward. If he can pile on the goals, while being good defensively, he has a good shot.

Gail

Could you see a scenario where Toews is voted most worthy of the Masterton Trophy?

You bet! If Toews comes back with a strong season, he could easily be considered for the Masterton. The definition of the award is someone who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” The captain most certainly had to persevere when he missed all last season due to ongoing symptoms from Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. It must have been very difficult to not understand what was wrong with him, or when he might get better.

But Toews stuck with it, and all signs point towards him being ready to start this season healthy. He’s had to work and train very hard to get back in shape after missing so much time. If he can return to any semblance of his former self, it will be a success story for sure.

I have no doubt he will pick up right where he left off as a leader on the team as he strives to secure himself and his teammates a playoff berth. That will further demonstrate his sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Shaun

What type of numbers does Fleury have to do achieve to earn another Vezina Trophy?

After nearly two decades in the NHL, with some of the most consistent streaks of success among his counterparts, Fleury was finally recognized as the best in the game when he was awarded the 2021 Vezina Trophy. For context, he achieved the feat following a season that included a 26-10-0 record, .928 save percentage (SV%), 1.98 goals-against average (GAA), and six shutouts.

He’s joined a Blackhawks team that’s looking to reach their next tier, as compared to having already been at the heights of the league while with the Vegas Golden Knights. That said, Chicago brought him in to provide the types of performances that he’s made his norm, which was a major factor in Vegas’ dominance.

While it will be a challenge to repeat the numbers he achieved through 2020-21, if Fleury can win three out of every four contests he plays through 2021-22, stop more than nine out of every 10 shots he faces, allow two or fewer goals per game, and collect a handful of shutouts along the way, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be part of the Vezina conversation.

Blackhawks’ All-Time Best Rookie Season

Greg took us back in time to re-visit the best rookie seasons in NHL history. Among performances from Wayne Gretzky, Teemu Selanne, and Alexander Ovechkin, is Tony Esposito’s remarkable 1969-70 rookie campaign for which he was awarded the 1970 Calder Trophy.

Tony Esposito, Chicago Blackhawks
Tony Esposito, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Since then, there have been four stars to capture rookie of the year honours in Chicago. Steve Larmer (1983), Ed Belfour (1991), Patrick Kane (2008), and Artemi Panarin (2016). Convince us why your assigned rookie was most worthy of the award. 

Greg

1983 Calder Winner: Steve Larmer

Larmer’s Calder Trophy-winning rookie season of 1982-83 is even more impressive because 119 other players were selected before him at the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. He became a major force right off the bat with a goal and three points in the season opener against the Maple Leafs.

He played all 80 games, scoring 43 goals and 90 points. He had 21 multi-point games. He scored 13 goals and 33 points on the power play. He also led the team with nine game-winning goals, the same amount some guy named Gretzky scored that season. This season was the start of a great career with the Blackhawks, who need to retire No. 28 already!

Brooke

2008 Calder Winner: Patrick Kane

Kane’s Calder Trophy was deserved because he led all rookies in scoring at the time with 21 goals and 72 points overall. Having 72 points in 82 games is no small feat for a rookie. His scoring alone made it well deserved.

Gail

2016 Calder Winner: Artemi Panarin

I’m not gonna lie to you, I pretty much thought Panarin was so good his first two seasons because he was on a line with Kane. But then he went to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and his numbers rose. He eventually moved on to the New York Rangers, where his numbers continue to rise.

He’s obviously an elite talent of his own accord, and it all started with his first season with the Blackhawks, when he scored 30 goals and collected 77 points. Let’s also not forget that was the same season Kane recorded 46 goals and 106 points to earn the Art Ross Trophy. So Panarin helped make Kane better as well. We should all consider ourselves very fortunate we got to witness those two work their magic. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Shaun

1991 Calder Winner: Ed Belfour

Not since Esposito had the Blackhawks seen a goalie come onto the scene and demand the spotlight in the way that Belfour did throughout 1990-91. Throughout any era of this game, it’s hard to argue against the fact that goaltending is one of the most important ingredients within any winning recipe. As evidenced by Chicago’s first-place finish in the Norris Division that season.

Belfour was the epitome of what it meant to be a Blackhawk. His passion for the game was unmatched and that drive to continue winning all stemmed from one of the most impressive rookie seasons in Blackhawks history. His Calder-winning campaign also included an All-Star Game appearance, Jennings Trophy, and Vezina Trophy. Belfour even made the NHL’s 1991 All-Rookie Team.

Games to Circle on Chicago’s 2021-22 Calendar

Shaun combed through Chicago’s 2021-22 calendar to highlight the games sure to include the most impactful storylines. Instead of supporters being forced to contemplate those they just can’t afford to miss, this gives them a foolproof plan to follow.

2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks
2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

That said, with a full 82-game schedule upon us, there are sure to be certain matches that mean more to any individual fan. Tell us which contest you’re looking forward to most, but save the explanation for the show.

Greg

Nov. 17 @ Seattle Kraken

Brooke

Oct. 21 vs. Vancouver Canucks

Gail

March 3 vs. Edmonton Oilers

Shaun

Jan. 8 @ Vegas Golden Knights

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Which panellist did you find yourself aligning with throughout this preview? Tune in on Tuesday to hear us rationalize our stance and include even more to debate, as we discuss all things Blackhawks ahead of what’s sure to be an exciting start to their 2021-22 campaign.


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