Welcome to another edition of Blackhawks Bytes, a series featuring quotes and comments from players, coaches, management, journalists and fans alike concerning everything Chicago Blackhawks. The purpose of this ongoing column is to capture a slice of the existing outlook, attitudes and culture surrounding the team throughout the 2021-22 season. Please join me as we have some fun with the everyday, albeit fascinating aspect of human nature; the power of words.
On our recent Blackhawks Banter show, I mentioned putting together an all-positive installment of Blackhawks Bytes. This certainly seems like an appropriate time to do so considering the Blackhawks recent coaching change, and the team riding a two-game winning streak. It feels like a clean slate, with some positive vibes moving forward. There are numerous feel-good stories to touch on right now, so we might as well roll with it. Let’s start with some words from the new head coach himself, Derek King.
A King’s Language
King was promoted from the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, where he’s previously been the head coach since the 2018-19 season. He seems like a very affable and happy-go-lucky type of guy, which is just what the doctor ordered after the extremely serious and analytical personality of former head coach, Jeremy Colliton. King was asked about his approach to the players after a dismal 1-9-2 start to the 2021-22 season.
Derek King on the players: “I want these guys to feel relaxed. They’re tight. It’s just time to go back to playing some good, solid, hard hockey.” #Blackhawks— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) November 7, 2021
In other words, he simply wants to take some of the pressure off. Get them back to loving the game and enjoying what they do. King is doing his best to keep it fun. He’s cracking jokes left and right. Here’s a compilation of a few of them, courtesy of Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Derek King definitely keeps it fun. A collection of his jokes and lighthearted moments from the Blackhawks' postgame presser: pic.twitter.com/f2sfh2hq94— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 8, 2021
Head coach and comedian all wrapped up in one! But seriously, folks. At some point King must shift his focus and dig into improving some of the finer details of the Blackhawks’ overall game. That will come. But for now, just an attitude change has done wonders for this group. It was important for him to read the room and act on it, to instill some positivity. Let’s hope he can continue to do so.
There was a point during the Blackhawks’ contest against the Nashville Predators last Sunday where Ryan Carpenter’s stick got knocked out of his hands. It flew over the glass and into the crowd. Turns out a Tampa Bay Lightning fan got a hold of the stick, but not before it hit a Blackhawks’ fan.
First off, I have no idea why a Lightning fan would be at a Hawks/Preds game, but the Blackhawks and Carpenter wanted to rectify the situation. They retrieved the twig, and Carpy composed a personalized message to be presented to the fan.
“Sorry about that.” Oh boy. Hockey players are about as creative with their prose as they are with their nicknames! Nevertheless. What a nice gesture, and what a lucky fan!
I think we all knew Adam Gaudette marched to a bit of a different drummer when he posted a picture with his new pet, a bearded dragon lizard named Steve Rogers.
Everyone meet my new buddy! His name is Steve Rogers!! pic.twitter.com/BdEOV9davR— Adam Gaudette (@Hockey_Gaud) October 6, 2021
But the 25-year-old former Vancouver Canuck took it to a different level on Wednesday when he told the media he’s taken to “carrying crystals and doing saging cleanses to keep his confidence up.”
The Braintree, Massachusetts native has suited up for eight games this season with the Blackhawks. He sports one goal and one assist, lining up mostly on the fourth line. But this past Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins he slotted in on the third line with Dylan Strome and Mike Hardman. His 5:18 minutes of ice time didn’t amount to much. But hey, he’s keeping it positive and taking that alternative route. Whatever works!
Can Gaudette’s methods get it done for him? We shall see.
Something to Smile About
Its just two wins after an unfortunate 1-9-2 start. But it sure does feel like a different Blackhawks team, doesn’t it? Forward Jujhar Khaira is thought of as a fourth line physical grinder. But he’s been given opportunities higher up in the lineup under both Colliton and King.
He was rewarded Tuesday night with his first goal of the season, assisted by captain Jonathan Toews. He gave his perspective on the mentality of the team.
Just the energy, the mood in the room – it’s great. Even (Monday), just going into practice, guys were coming in smiling. It takes a weight off your shoulders, for sure. Winning in this league is fantastic and it’s not easy. So when we do win…it definitely lightens up the mood.(From ‘Dead-cat bounce or the start of something big? Fresh start under Derek King gives Blackhawks new life’, The AthleticCHI – 11/9/21)
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has something to feel good about as well. After giving up four goals on 10 shots and being chased from the net in his first outing against his former team, Fleury redeemed himself by stopping 42-of-44 shots (and two shots in the shootout) for a .955 save percentage and the win against the Penguins.
Fleury is known for his big smile, and he spoke to how it’s been easier for the entire team with a few wins under their belt.
It feels nice. Just walking in the room seeing guys smile at practice, before the games, during the game. We want to do better for this team and for the fans. It was definitely a frustrating start to the season and I’m glad the last two games feel better and we’re going to keep building on that and try to put on a good show at home.
Here’s to more smiles, and more wins!
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.