Welcome to another week of Blackhawks Banter, where our Hockey Writers’ crew debates all things Chicago Blackhawks! We’re pretty excited around here because training camp is in full swing, having started this past Thursday. After what seemed like an endless summer, the players are back on the ice and there’s plenty to talk about! Today our panel of Shaun Filippelli, Brooke LoFurno, Greg Boysen and Gail Kauchak discuss breakout players, managing ice time for the Blackhawks’ veteran stars, and hockey nicknames. Let’s get to it.
Breakout Player Prediction From Blackhawks’ Roster Locks
We’ve talked at length over the past few weeks about Blackhawks prospects’ who are on the bubble to make the team, as well as veteran depth players who might find themselves on the outside looking in. So I’d like to go in a different direction for our first question. There are also several players who, as long as they are healthy, are essentially locks to make the team. Let’s face it; no one is questioning whether the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Connor Murphy, or Marc-Andre Fleury are going to be on the opening night roster, to name a few.
Of the plethora of players that are locks if healthy, pick one Blackhawk you believe will have an especially strong season in 2021-22, and tell us why.
Shaun Says: DeBrincat
He was the first you mentioned and there’s good reason for that. It’s hard to assume anything but another elevation out of DeBrincat. It’s not that he hasn’t already impressed us along the way, after a strong rookie season and a sophomore campaign that saw him hit the 40-goal mark. Nor is it that he was able to effectively break free from what could have seemed like the start of a slump through 2019-20, with a bounce back campaign through 2020-21. It’s that he’s getting visibly better and he’s only 23.
All signs point to DeBrincat being a reliable producer for this team, regardless of the circumstances around him or any slips in production along the way. Managing an increased workload last season, he made good with the added ice time. He scored, created chances, played physical, and hit a new career-high in points per game. Again, he’s not even in his mid-20’s and continues to propel his play. There’s no reason to expect anything otherwise next season, especially considering the added star power and leadership that now surrounds him.
Brooke Says: Johnson
I think Tyler Johnson will have a strong season. He is coming into a new environment and he will have something to prove. I just have a feeling that he will do well in Chicago and be a good fit, so he is someone I have my eye on. He’s a veteran and a Stanley Cup champion, so I think the excitement always goes up for players like that.
Greg Says: Murphy
I look for Murphy to have a huge season and start to get the credit he truly deserves. He has been the unsung hero of the defense the last couple of seasons, but because of the overall struggles of the group, he has been overlooked. With the additions of Seth Jones and Jake McCabe, Murphy won’t have to do all the heavy lifting himself.
With two more veterans added to the mix, Murphy can focus more on his job. I think he and Jones could be a fantastic pairing, if they are put together. This could be the season that the national media picks up on how good Murphy really is.
Gail Says: Kubalik
I have a sneaking suspicion we’re going to see really good things out of Dominik Kubalik this season. Let’s face it; he had a phenomenal rookie campaign in 2019-20 with 30 goals and 46 points. Most of this production occurred after he was promoted to the top line alongside Jonathan Toews. I believe the two will benefit from being reunited again, with Kuby and his wicked shot reaping most of the rewards.
Kubalik’s 17 goals was second on the team last season, and his 38 points was third, proving his rookie season was no fluke. We all complained about how the Czech native wasn’t utilized correctly last season in the name of balance, with so many young players in the mix. But this season there is a lot more depth on this Blackhawks’ team. I foresee Kubalik thriving as an integral member of the top-six.
Load Management for Toews & Kane?
Mark Lazerus of The Athletic recently wrote an article arguing the Blackhawks should practice load management with their star veteran players, namely Toews and Patrick Kane. (from ‘Lazerus: Why Blackhawks should practice load management with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’, The AthleticCHI – 9/23/21). After all, Toews missed all of last season with complications from Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, and Kane admitted on the first day of training camp he’s still dealing with a mysterious nagging ailment that’s been plaguing him for some time.
Taking a night off here and there to rest the body isn’t exactly something hockey players embrace. It’s all or nothing in their culture. So I’m curious, what do you think of the coaches limiting the playing time of Toews and Kane?
I think it makes sense to be far more strategic with playing time than the Blackhawks have typically been used to in recent seasons. It’s acceptable to recognize that these are aging athletes who can’t quite keep up to the degree that their younger counterparts make their norm. It’s not a knock on the effectiveness of Kane and Toews, it’s the facts of physiology.
If anything, like we argued when it came to properly utilizing Duncan Keith, these are stars that are still completely capable of being game breakers. But they have to be put in situations to make that a realistic expectation. There is youth movement occurring, whether anyone wants to recognize it or not. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they already have their share of that talent within the roster. They need to spread the workload out more efficiently, letting those who can handle more take it while easing off the stars who’ve already earned their keep.
Related – Meet the New Blackhawks: Seth Jones
Again, it doesn’t mean that Kane or Toews shouldn’t be relied upon at key points of any game or throughout. It simply suggests that they need to be kept energized and ready for those very moments.
I don’t mind limiting Kane and Toews’ playing time. Head coach Jeremy Colliton likes to extend their playing time, which is understandable, but there are stretches during the season where they don’t need to play as much; like if they’re facing a struggling opponent. So, I’m all for load management, especially if they’re in the playoff picture. It will keep them fresh.
I think limiting Kane and Toews is a great idea and the right thing to do, at least during the first few weeks of the season. Neither of these two are getting any younger and Toews hasn’t played an NHL game in two years. The biggest issue here is actually getting Colliton on board with this. He loves to double-shift Kane when the offense is struggling or the team is down. It took a toll on him last season and if this team wants to earn a playoff berth, then both of their long-time stars have to be in top condition down the stretch.
I REALLY thought I was a progressive hockey fan, but the old-school in me comes out with this question. There’s something about hockey that’s different from other sports. In the NBA, players practice load management as a way of life. In soccer, players are constantly flopping, while in hockey there’s actually an embellishment penalty that’s used when a player tries to fake getting hit too hard or too high.
I don’t know; it just seems like this is what makes hockey such an excellent sport. Players have no desire to give any less than 100%. It’s in their make-up and their culture to play every game, every night.
Are they stupid for this? Yes. Should they be looking out for their bodies, especially in the wake of all the research on on CTE and brain trauma? Yes. So why do I have a problem with this load management thing?
I think I likely speak for all fans with this dilemma. But heck, if Toews wants to be out there to win as many faceoffs as possible, and Kane can win a few more games here and there because he’s double-shifted. Well, they’re going to do it! Maybe Colliton and company can somehow figure out a way to “hide” the load management. Like Joel Quenneville did with Marian Hossa; let them take all the practices off they want!
Nicknames for the Blackhawks’ Brothers
Let’s end with something a little offbeat and fun. On the first day of training camp it was noted the Blackhawks’ players are struggling with nicknames for their pair of brothers: Seth and Caleb Jones, and Kirby and Colton Dach. So, it’s time to get creative. What nicknames might you propose for Seth, Caleb, Kirby or Colton?
Theme: Wayne’s World (Hawks Fans)
Theme: Canadians (McKenzie Brothers)
Seth: The Artist. It quickly came to mind because I remember seeing a piece on him in Columbus, where he talked about his hobby for artwork!
Most hockey nicknames are just adding an “er” to a last name or an “ie” to a first name. Nothing too creative. I’ve already seen that guys are calling both Seth and Caleb “Jonesy.” I think they should call Caleb “Kales,” so he would instantly become Toews’ favorite teammate. I think we have some time to come with a name for Colton as he won’t be a full-time player in Chicago for a couple of seasons.
My first inclination for the Jones brothers comes straight from Dr. Seuss: Thing 1 and Thing 2. In his famous book, “The Cat in the Hat”, Thing 1 and Thing 2 wreak havoc in the house of Sally and her brother, just like we hope the Jones brothers wreak havoc against any Blackhawks’ opponent.
But who the heck wants to be called Thing 1 and Thing 2? Yeah, I’m not sure Jonesy is much better, but apparently Seth indicated on Day 2 of training camp that he was older and would indeed take that nickname. So, I guess Caleb by default becomes Joneser? Sigh.
Regarding Kirby and Colton. I think the rest of the boys have already been calling Kirby “Dacher”. So boring. He obviously should be Kermit. And then Colton could simply be Colt.
But hey, what do we know? The circle of bad hockey nicknames continues.
That’ll do it for this edition of Blackhawks Banter. Be sure to join us on Tuesdays when our Blackhawks Banter show drops. There we discuss in person the above topics, along with much more on the latest news and updates from training camp. If you don’t already, subscribe to our YouTube Channel or follow us on Twitter to catch every new episode. You can also now listen to our show in podcast form on your preferred platform. Our latest episode is featured below.
Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Let’s put it this way; she’s probably reading and writing about hockey instead of cooking and cleaning. Shh, don’t tell her husband!
Follow Gail for her unique commentary about this storied franchise. And be sure to catch her and the rest of the Blackhawks’ crew on their weekly Blackhawks Banter show, as well as follow her on Twitter.