Even though there has not been a ton of Chicago Blackhawks news in recent days, that didn’t stop us from a great conversation during this week’s episode of Blackhawks Banter. The writing team of Gail Kauchauk, Greg Boysen, Brooke LoForno and Shaun Filippelli tackled a whole slew of topics including Brent Seabrook, Reverse Retro jerseys, Kirby Dach and some fun Blackhawks’ history questions.
Brent Seabrook Opens Up
In a recent interview with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, Seabrook revealed that he had been dealing with much more than just injuries the past few seasons. Just before being honored for his 1,000th game, in March of 2018, his longtime friend and trainer, Scott Herbert, committed suicide. Later in the year, his father was diagnosed with a rare condition that causes swelling of the brain. He spoke out to raise awareness of both suicide and auto-immune encephalitis.
Our group shared their feelings about Seabrook opening up and what kind of expectations they have heading into a new season.
First off, I don’t think Seabrook would have done this unless it was extremely important to him. He’s a pretty private guy, and likes to stay behind the scenes. So, this was obviously something he felt strongly about.
Seabrook’s main point for speaking out was to raise awareness for suicide prevention as well as auto-immune encephalitis. He felt it would be worth it to help others deal with these two situations that affected him so deeply.
This is the kind of thing we’ve come to know and love about the Blackhawks’ veteran defenseman. It’s a testament to him as a person and a leader. This is why his teammates, coaches and management love him so much and have a hard time writing him off.
Speaking of which, now he has this emotional baggage off his chest, so to speak. He’s been working hard to rehab from his surgeries and get back into hockey shape. He says he feels great and is ready for training camp. He “feels like a 19-year-old again, trying to make the team”. It will be interesting to see what the old man has left in the tank this season, and where/how he will fit in.
As someone who can speak from personal experience, grief can take a simple daily task and make it feel impossible to achieve. I can’t even imagine what trying to play in the world’s top professional hockey league while dealing with grief is like. I commend Seabrook for revealing all of this. Mental illness has a bad stigma attached to so to have a “tough hockey player” to speak out is a big deal.
As far as this season goes, hopefully, he really is in the best condition he’s been in for quite some time. He will never be the defenseman we saw during the Stanley Cup run, but any improvement over what we have seen in the past couple of seasons will be welcomed.
While I give Seabrook a hard time, my frustration is mostly with his contract, which isn’t his fault. I hope he does well. In fact, playing well could open up a chance to convince him to waive his no-movement clause to make himself available to next year’s Expansion Draft. Such a move could be beneficial to both the Blackhawks and the Seattle Kraken.
This reminds me of Bryan Bickell- everyone was quick to harp on him for his play declining attributing it to being past his prime when he really had MS. Same thing with Seabrook. We don’t always take into account how your mental health can affect your life emotionally and physically.
My heart breaks for him because he has been through so much lately. The fact that he is advocating for suicide prevention is an amazing initiative. I hope he has a redemption year. I want that for him.
As fans, we all want to see our favorite teams and players compete. So, when it comes to injuries, we fixate on the recovery involved for an athlete to be back to peak playing form. However, we don’t focus on the mental aspect of health as often as is necessary. Especially in sports, with things seeming predominantly physical.
It was admirable for Seabrook to have such an open dialogue around what’s been going on in his life and how it’s impacted his own wellbeing. I also think it’s beyond commendable that he’s using his platform to bring attention and awareness to these important topics, in hopes that more can be done to help address and support them.
Perhaps he will feel some sense of internal relief, in that it’s now out there and off his chest, allowing him to get back on the ice with more freedom to play the game when his body and mind let him. Ultimately, health is far more important than hockey and I hope Seabrook continues his path towards healing in all regards.
Reverse Retro Jersey Revealed
All 31 NHL teams released their Reverse Retro jerseys earlier this week. The Blackhawks look is inspired by the sweaters worn between 1937 and 1955. It features the familiar logo used in numerous alternate jerseys in recent years with black and red being the main colors.
We weighed in on what we thought of the Blackhawks new jersey as well as some of the hits and misses around the league.
Regarding the Blackhawks retro jerseys, I like the red on the shoulders, and you can never go wrong with the black background. Although I’d say they could have done a much better job with the creativity; these are almost identical to the USHL’s Chicago Steel jerseys. But you just can’t beat the recent all black-and-white Winter Classic jersey. The striping and stark contrast on that one is really sharp.
Around the NHL, my favorite retro jersey is from the Florida Panthers. I love the crisscrossed hockey stick and palm tree on the shoulder emblem! My ugliest pick would have to be the Anaheim Ducks jersey. I’m not sure of the history there, but those things are simply hideous. And the Detroit Red Wings jersey is just boring. Let’s face it; it’s all just a money-grab, but fun to discuss nonetheless.
These, much like most of the recent outdoor game jerseys, are kind of “meh.” Not great, but not terrible. I will reserve final judgement until I actually see them being worn on the ice by the players. I do feel the team blew a chance to be creative and try a new logo. It would have been a good chance to see what the fans think of a new design.
I love all things 90s hockey, so the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche paying homage to the Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques, respectively, is fantastic. I also really like the Los Angeles Kings combining their look from the Wayne Gretzky era with their original colors is great.
As far as the duds, the St. Louis Blues with red jerseys is just awful. Did the Red Wings just submit a practice jersey for this assignment? Talk about boring and dull!
I like them. I don’t love them. Maybe that will change when we actually see the jerseys on the ice. But I like the black and red color scheme that was incorporated. I love the old Black Hawk name in the circle. Some of my favorites around the league are LA, Carolina, and the New York Rangers. I dislike the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators. Overall, I like our jersey. It could be worse, so I’ll take it.
In short, Chicago’s are ok. They land in the middle of the pack as compared to the rest. I’m a fan of their black jerseys, so I think this color scheme is sharp. However, the Blackhawks didn’t take this opportunity to be as creative as they could have.
The same can be said about the majority of teams with an established fanbase. No one seemed to want to think outside the box. Besides, they know they’ll sell jerseys one way or the other. Whereas smaller market teams should be given kudos for having more fun with the chance they were granted to do so and I hope that pays off for them financially.
As far as the worst attempt goes, the answer was clear to me after my first glance at Boston’s design. Then, I saw the Islanders’ jersey and it only felt right to include them both in this conversation. Outside of some slight color updates and beyond minor touch-ups, these teams did little to nothing to change their look as their new jerseys resemble what they were already wearing on any given night.
The team that did it best is definitely the Avalanche. Being in Ontario, we don’t often look for ways to back our neighbors in Quebec and they feel the same way. However, when it comes to hockey, I’m all for as many Canadian teams as we can fit across this country and certainly want to see the Nordiques back in the league. This was a great tip of the cap to that franchise and Colorado nailed it out of the park.
Still No Deal for Strome
Dylan Strome remains unsigned after receiving a qualifying offer last month. Scott Powers, of The Athletic, reported nearly a month ago that both sides were not close to a deal. The team discussed what we thought the hold up was. Then we played general manager and gave our opinions on what kind of contract we’d give him.
In my most recent lineup predictions, I discussed how Strome could very easily be the odd man out. He’s a skilled player but he’s not real versatile. He’s best at center and struggles on the wing, yet is third on the depth chart behind Jonathan Toews and Dach at that position. Now he’s also competing with newly acquired center Lucas Wallmark.
All that being said, Strome is a known commodity and the Blackhawks shouldn’t let him go.
I think Strome understands all this, and the situation with the flat salary cap. He’s also expressed he’d like to stay in Chicago. The center really has no choice but to bet on himself and sign for a short term and relatively cheap.
Dominik Kubalik got two years at $3.7 million annually. And I believe Kubalik has a lot more to offer than Strome. I could see Strome and the Blackhawks agreeing to a one-year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $2-$2.5 million. This way, the next season he will be a restricted free agent and have arbitration rights, giving him more negotiating leverage. Perhaps there will be more money available in the market next season as well.
With the flat salary cap and the Blackhawks having roughly $5.2 million in space, there are a lot of factors at play here. The Kubalik contract set the market, so to speak. Yes, he had 30 goals to just 12 for Strome, but their production was similar. Kubalik averaged 0.68 points per game last season while Strome was 0.66. Some may argue that playing center over the wing adds more value to a contract.
For all the criticism general manager Stan Bowman gets, not extending Strome last offseason was a wise move and saved him a ton of money. I would like my centers to by able to produce with anyone on their wings, not just certain former teammates from juniors. If it were up to me, I’d give Strome a two-year deal somewhere between $2.5-3 million per season.
I would make it a 1 year, $2 million prove-it deal. Since he slipped last season, I think this type of deal could work best to see if he can feed off of his successful year and see if he can establish consistency.
However, if it comes to having to move him, I wouldn’t be opposed since they have center depth with Kirby Dach and Phillip Kurashev coming into the mix. So, I’m fine with either scenario of re-signing or moving him.
I would imagine that the hold up is more so the financials than the term. Strome has found a sense of resurgence in his career since being acquired by the Blackhawks, as compared to his extremely slow start in Arizona. However, he’s still not yet where he needs to be as a former third-overall pick and also has to recognize that this offseason is unlike any other in this era of the game. Contracts just aren’t what they once were and he’ll have to come to terms with that.
I’d like to see Strome given a chance to continue creating cohesion and synergy with DeBrincat. They had it when they played together throughout their junior years in Eerie and have already shown blips of what they can do alongside one another in Chicago. I’d offer him between $2 to $2.5 million on a three-year deal, aligning him with DeBrincat’s remaining term and allowing them both to further develop together to show us what they’re worth for their next deal.
Koekkoek & Caggiula Still on the Market
Slater Koekkoek and Drake Caggiula are both still unsigned. It is very unlikely either will return with an already crowded blue line and the signing of players like Mattias Janmark and Wallmark. The Blackhawks’ crew discussed why these two weren’t brought back and what could lay ahead for them.
Koekkoek is the easy one here. The Blackhawks just don’t need him, as the blue line is too crowded. There are lots of players with more potential and who are all ready, or close to being ready, to make the jump to the NHL.
I think this means you will see both Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell as regular players this coming season. And don’t forget about the options of Lucas Carlsson, Nicolas Beaudin, and Wyatt Kalynuk. With all those players in the mix, Koekkoek was expendable.
I’m honestly not sure why the Blackhawks didn’t re-sign Caggiula. He was only making $1.5 million, but perhaps he was asking for more money and a longer term. Maybe it’s because he’s not Swedish (i.e. newly acquired free agents Janmark and Wallmark). But seriously folks, Caggiula was very versatile in the lineup, and his physical and grinding style of play is much needed by the Blackhawks. I guess the Hawks are counting on Janmark and Wallmark to now fill that role now. These two Swedes are also arguably more defensively responsible than Caggiula.
Finally, maybe there is concern about Caggiula’s concussion history. Speaking of which, there’s also Andrew Shaw to think of. If Shaw can’t return from his concussion issues, perhaps the Blackhawks will consider re-signing Caggiula after all.
It was rather surprising that both of these players were allowed to hit free agency considering they both were favorites of head coach Jeremy Colliton. Koekkoek is a victim of the numbers game. With the youngsters coming up, and veterans like Seabrook, Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy in the mix, there is just no room for him.
Caggiula’s concussion history could be the biggest reason he remains unsigned. However, he still could be in the plans. He might have to wait until Strome gets his deal and/or the team learns more about the playing status of Shaw.
I think we are going to see a lot more professional tryout contracts (PTO) this year than ever before. Usually, these are reserved for older players looking for one more run in the league, both Koekkoek and Caggiula could be the exact type of player signed to a PTO this time around.
Koekkoek played so well in the postseason, but unfortunately, he isn’t needed with the direction the team is going in with their defensive pipeline. But, he would make a good seventh defenseman for another team.
With Caggiula, I am disappointed because I loved his game. He could score and be a pest. But with players like Shaw and prospects like Brandon Hagel that play a similar game, I think the team may look at not re-signing Caggiula as a way to save money and looking toward the future with prospects.
Caggiula is a spark plug and he turned me into an even bigger fan from witnessing his passion and grit through the playoffs. Some might just look at his point totals to determine his value, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Optimistically, I think it’s too early to claim that Caggiula isn’t returning. His negotiation could simply be held up by the uncertainly of what’s happening with Strome. Once Strome’s situation is determined, one way or the other, Chicago will see a clear picture of what they have left to work with and Caggiula’s cap hit could then be considered.
As for Koekkoek, I don’t see him returning and it’s just a business decision at this point. It’s not so much that he did anything wrong, but more so that it’s a crowded blue line already. If the organization is going to focus on development then they need to make way for their young defensemen to have the opportunity to play. Besides, adding Nikita Zadorov in the Brandon Saad trade only added to their backend and leaves even less room for someone like Koekkoek.
Dach Heading to the World Stage
The third overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft is currently taking part in Team Canada’s World Junior Championship evaluation camp. We discussed our feelings on Dach taking part in the international tournament, beginning the day after Christmas.
I think it’s great Dach gets to go to the tournament. He wasn’t able to participate last year because he was playing with the Blackhawks at the time. This is his chance to play, and excel, with his peers. It should be a big confidence boost, and a great chance to represent his country.
Plus, the tournament runs through Jan. 5. While there was originally talk of the NHL season starting on Jan. 1, it’s looking more like a targeted date of Jan. 15 or Feb. 1 now. So Dach and the Blackhawks won’t have to worry about a conflict with training camp. In the meantime, the youngster can get some competitive hockey under his belt and have fun at the same time.
I had forgotten that Dach was even eligible for this tournament. With the way he played in the postseason, it is easy to forget that he is still just a teenager. I think having him take part in the month-long camp and then play in the tournament is a better option than loaning him to a European club. He gets to play with an unreal roster including Quinton Byfield, Dylan Cozens, Dylan Holloway, Cole Perfetti, Bowen Byram and Jamie Drysdale.
After covering the AHL the last two seasons, I’ve learned just how important playing in the WJC is to these guys. Any time a player has talked to me about taking part in the tournament you can tell how much it means to them. Having Dach play in some playoff-type and meaningful games heading into a likely shortened season can really give him a step on the rest of the roster.
First, of all, GO USA!! But, we love Dach, so we can love on Team Canada for a second. I think it’s a great move for him to play for Canada. We saw during the season where his potential could be, and we saw him getting better and better. So, I think playing for Team Canada will make him come back an even stronger player. I’m excited to see what it does for him.
To say I was excited to hear this news would be an understatement. With how Dach was progressing last season, especially throughout the latter half, seeing him play in this tournament wasn’t even something that crossed my mind. Given how he’s already established himself with the Blackhawks, it’s easy to forget that he’s still only 19. With the confidence he’s gained playing amongst adults in the NHL, that will work to his advantage in this tournament.
The World Junior Championship a big deal in North America, as it continues to generate more and more competition worldwide. Dach will have the chance to play with like-minded players, all looking to not only make names for themselves but begin the takeover of the league. He will undoubtedly stand out amongst the rest, just as his Blackhawks’ captain did through 2006 and 2007 when Toews helped Team Canada win back-to-back gold medals. Toews dominated this tournament and that’s something I expect Dach will look forward to doing with the opportunity, too.
What Number is Next for the Rafters?
We end our Banter with some fun talk about some of our favorite players in the Blackhawks’ past. Based on a recent fan poll ran in The Athletic, our writers each took a turn picking what player should have his numbered retired next.
The Athletic poll had Steve Larmer and Marian Hossa as the top two picks, so I based my consideration around those two players. Steve Larmer has been under-appreciated all his life. He should be in the Hall of Fame. He also spent 13 of his 15 years in the NHL with the Blackhawks.
Hossa, on the other hand, has recently been elected to the Hall of Fame. And VERY deservedly so. But he spent only eight seasons of his 19-year career with the Blackhawks. Although, they were pretty productive seasons. Hossa was the missing piece that lifted the Blackhawks over the hump, and what followed included three championships and a dynasty born.
Ah, the Blackhawks can’t just be retiring numbers willy nilly. Do you really see anyone else ever wearing No. 81 again? Maybe secure Larmer in the Hall of Fame and retire Hossa’s number. Then we’ll be even.
To me, this is a no-brainer. The one and only answer is Larmer’s No. 28. He is third in franchise history in goals (406), sixth in assists (517) and fifth in points (923). The most impressive stat of his career is that he never missed a game in his 11 full seasons with the Blackhawks. I loved him so much, he actually got me to cheer for the Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final. Getting me to root for a New Time is no easy feat. Get Larmer in the Hall of Fame and hang his number at the United Center, already!
Since Shaun is Mr. Canada, I think I have to mention an American player. With that I’ll take Tony Amonte. I really liked him as a player. But in all seriousness, I’m with Gail, I have to go Hossa. If anyone were to wear his number on the Blackhawks, it would be highly offensive. So, Hossa over everyone!
From a more personal perspective, this player checks off multiple boxes for me. He’s a goalie and he’s Canadian. Ed Belfour deserves to see his number raised to Chicago’s rafters, even if just for the untouchable Calder Trophy-winning year, he had in his rookie campaign. Although Belfour had some star power playing in front of him on those Chicago rosters, his stats stand alone when considering what he accomplished while the team’s success just didn’t align.
What’s more is that when you watched Belfour play in Chicago’s crease, he was the epitome of what the Blackhawks franchise represents. His passion, battle, and aggression were on full display at all times and he was always poised to compete and win. For what he worked to achieve and how he upheld the image of this organization, his #30 needs to be among the legends of this franchise.
Our Dream Lineups
Continuing our trip down memory lane, we put together our dream starting lineups made up of any player to wear a Blackhawks sweater. Each writer picked a starting lineup of a left wing, center, right wing, two defensemen and a goaltender.
This was a very fun exercise. I stayed pretty recent just to keep it easy on myself. It’s hard to overlap and compare different styles and genres of hockey. That being said, my picks might be a bit predictable. Here’s what I came up with:
Patrick Sharp-Toews-Patrick Kane (Marian Hossa)
Duncan Keith- Seabrook (Niklas Hjalmarsson)
Ok, so I had a really, really hard time crossing off Hossa! He wins based on his all-around play, but in the end, I couldn’t count out the offensive of Kane.
And once again, I had a really, really hard time crossing off Hjalmarsson! But Seabrook has that knack for scoring really important and timely goals. Ah, the offense wins again. Defense always gets the shaft. Hjalmarsson got the shaft! Like Keith and Seabrook, he also won three Cups and was integral in winning them. But he wasn’t enough of a big-wig to get one of them there no-movement clauses, so he got shipped off to the desert.
But I digress. I chose Lehner in goal just for the wow factor. Crawford has two Cups, but Lehner showed he was the better goalie most of the time when they were sharing the net last season. I was really rooting for Lehner to win it all with the Vegas Golden Knights, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Wait. Would this dream team have shootouts? Ok, let’s go with Crawford then.
It is hard to break up the all-time duo of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. Yes, Toews and Kane are fantastic, but Hull and Mikita dominated during a time when there were only six teams in the league. I will round off that line with Hossa on the right wing to had an all-around player to two dynamic offensive stars.
My blueliners are Chris Chelios and Doug Wilson. Chelios is one of my all-time favorite players and he brings a toughness to the ice that few players can. Wilson is one of the best two-way defenders to ever put on a pair of skates. This combo can contribute in both zones.
My goaltender is Tony Esposito. The Blackhawks have had their share of great netminders over the years, but when you consider the numbers he put in the era he played, Tony O is the choice.
Quite simply, here is my dream lineup:
There are countless players throughout Chicago’s storied history, many already being Hall of Famers, who would combine to create a superstar lineup. However, with an opportunity to showcase the years that represent my fandom for the Blackhawks, these selections will all reflect those I’ve watched and cheered for along the way.
Roenick, and his affinity for finding a way to the net, would center my team. He’d have Kane to his left and Amonte to his right, who would bring the same type of energy but in different eras of the game. On the backend would be a pair of Chicago’s most well-known workhorses and ageless wonders, with Chelios to the right and Keith lined up on the left. And, to top off this all-star roster, Belfour (and his newly retired number) would control the crease and challenge anyone who attempted to get too close.
Blackhawks Banter airs live every Monday night at 8pm ET on both Facebook Live and our YouTube channel. Join this week for a whole new batch of topics as we keep you up to date on all things Blackhawks.