Welcome to the February 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.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a Bytes column and I’m long overdue considering all the happenings surrounding the Blackhawks these days. Despite a mediocre season on the ice, the team is searching for a new general manager and gearing up for what the trade deadline may bring. They’re also assessing their players and looking towards the future. Let’s delve into what the talk has been these last few weeks.
Patrick Kane: "With Strome, it's pretty obvious, if you give him a chance in a top-six role and on the power play, he's gonna produce. It's just the fact. … I feel like keeping a guy that's that young is probably a better solution. He can be part of the future here."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 12, 2022
Kane also indicated he hopes the new general manager will give veteran players a voice, saying “players have a unique perspective on what’s working and what’s not.”
First off, if Kane is speaking out like this, it certainly leads one to believe he has no intention of leaving the team. He appears to be “all-in” with the Blackhawks and ready to be a part of the rebuild. He talked about the team having a good solid core, and he sees a path back to contending sooner rather than later.
We all love to watch Kane work his magic, so it’s nice to know it sounds like he’s going to stick around in Chicago.
Secondly, Kane is no slouch when it comes to knowing a thing or two about hockey. He is, after all, a 15-year veteran with a great hockey mind. He knows what he’s talking about. I’m not saying the new GM and new management should just do what Kane says, but I believe his input would be an invaluable resource.
It will be very interesting to see how the new GM handles the long-time cornerstones of the franchise, Kane and Jonathan Toews.
We now know Kane would like to see Strome stick around instead of being traded at the deadline. But what does head coach Derek King have to say?
Asked about Dylan Strome's recent surge upping his trade value, Derek King joked he "should sit him down a little bit, make him stick around here."— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) February 11, 2022
"But I would never do that… If he's here again, great. If not, we'll wish him luck."
To me this is such the right way to handle this situation. King could be one of the first people that doesn’t see Strome as a long-term fit for the team. After all, he and his predecessor Jeremy Colliton both made Strome a frequent healthy scratch. They also both moved him down in the lineup, trying to get him to improve his defensive play. It’s no secret Strome is a bit of a one-dimensional player.
But instead of an awkward and stoic answer, King kept it lighthearted and made a joke about the whole thing. But at the same time, he made a point to stress Strome’s value whether he stayed with the Blackhawks or went to another team. If King isn’t around next season, he will be missed for his sincerity and his ability to keep things light.
Hagel Is a Hot Topic
“Hags has got to stay here. That’s just me. You’ve got to do what’s right for the organization, what’s right for the team, but Hagel is a big part of this organization.”— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) February 22, 2022
—Derek King on his thoughts on Brandon Hagel trade rumors #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/HXI0Hmfd3I
Some people might say King shouldn’t be so straight-forward, since Hagel could potentially bring the Blackhawks a huge return at the deadline. But I think it’s refreshing when a coach is completely honest. After all, what bench boss wouldn’t want Hagel as part of their team?! King is correct in that Hagel has turned out to be a big part of the organization. He’s thriving as a top forward, currently in a competition with Kane in scoring goals. His energy, work ethic and willingness to go the dirty areas on the ice is invaluable. Teammate Alex DeBrincat said it best,
He represents what the identity of our team needs to be to be successful.
That’s high praise from the top goal-scorer and future (we could easily say present) face of the franchise. It’s true, the Blackhawks’ identity this season has been as a relentless team that never gives up. They might not be that good, but they strive to play hard and fight to the end. Because if you play the right way you never know where it could take you. Which leads me to Hagel’s recent comments.
Seeing what they want for me, you have to take that as a compliment, right? I’m a 6th-rounder who was brought in as a 20-year-old, just a kid who came and played, and they want that? I’ll take that any day.
Hagel wasn’t expected to have the kind of success he’s having, much less demanding a first-round draft pick and a top prospect. Who knows, maybe this Blackhawks’ team can make a similar kind of turnaround in the next few years.
Reichel as a Stick
All right, one more quote from King. He makes this column so easy to write with his easygoing sense of humor and quotable quotes. Top prospect Lukas Reichel was just recently sent back down to the Rockford IceHogs after playing three consecutive games with the Blackhawks. Add this to his two-game stint in mid-January, and he has five NHL games under his belt.
Reichel’s re-assignment comes as no surprise, as the Blackhawks are trying to take a patient approach with the 19-year-old. Most pundits would be surprised if he played more than nine games this season. This way he could further develop in the AHL and benefit from bigger minutes and a playoff push. The Blackhawks are also hesitant to burn the first year of Reichel’s contract.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy with him and see him as a big part of the future. Here’s this from King,
Derek King says Lukas is “doing a lot of good things,” the results aren’t there yet.— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) February 24, 2022
Then he made a joke about Reichel being a “souvenir” for a fan after taking a big hit. pic.twitter.com/9dhCENklCN
So there you have it! Apparently the Blackhawks are also worried Reichel will get thrown into the stands and kidnapped by a fan who thinks they nabbed themselves a hockey stick. But seriously, it sounds like King is excited about Reichel’s potential. He raved about how he’s always in the right position, and how smart he is.
Reichel is obviously a bright spot for this organization now and in the future.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s edition of Blackhawks Bytes. Keep it here at The Hockey Writers for all the latest Blackhawks’ news and updates as the trade deadline approaches, the GM search continues, and the rest of the season unfolds.
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. Quote to live by, “Follow your dreams, and good things will happen.” Wait, maybe it’s “Good things happen when you shoot the puck!” You get the idea.
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.