Welcome to the May 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.
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The Blackhawks 2021-22 season is mercifully over. Having long been out of playoff contention, the team has been wrapping up in preparation for their offseason for a quite some time now. They officially ended their campaign with exit interviews earlier this week. General manager Kyle Davidson spoke to the media on Tuesday, and gave some final statements before everyone goes their separate ways for the summer. Here’s a collection of some recent notable quips and quotes from the players, their coach, and general manager as we bid farewell to this difficult campaign.
King’s Brutal Honesty About Seth Jones
Hindsight is 20/20. But most people, especially coaches and particularly in the hockey world, wouldn’t be so honest about their thoughts. Well, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Blackhawks’ head coach Derek King, we know he doesn’t sugarcoat things. Like it or not, he pretty much tells it like it is.
So, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by King’s statement when asked about his No. 1 defenseman, Seth Jones.
Asked about Seth Jones’ season, Derek King said he went from thinking, “I don’t know why they signed this guy. Honestly,” during training camp to now, where he believes, “He’s an elite hockey player. He’s a stud.” pic.twitter.com/5KvEB2dQRZ— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) April 27, 2022
Jones didn’t have the best season in the goal-scoring department, but he finished second on the team with 46 assists. That’s a career high for him. He also more than held his own defensively. “But he was a minus-37!” you say. Yeah, well these things happen when you play heavy minutes for a bad team.
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Jones led the entire league in ice time, averaging a hefty 26:13 minutes per game, and ended the season with a respectable Corsi For percentage of 49.1. He was third on the Blackhawks in penalty kill time, and the leading defenseman on the power play. Quarterbacking the top PP unit, there were countless instances where Jones kept the puck in the zone to give the Blackhawks another chance to score. He made it all look so easy, and it’s definitely NOT easy! Say what you will about his gargantuan contract, but Jones was the motor that kept the defense running this season.
Murphy Looks on the Bright Side
Connor Murphy spoke to the media on Apr. 26 for the first time since an unfortunate hit from Ottawa Senators’ Parker Kelly in mid-March. The collision rendered Murphy unconscious and resulted in him being stretchered off the ice. The defenseman missed the last 22 games of the season in concussion protocol. Reports have been positive regarding Murphy’s status, but it was reassuring to see him again in public. It was also very refreshing to hear his thoughts regarding the rebuild.
I don’t look at it with any negativity. I’m still [as] super excited as I was from Day 1… I’m happy to be here as long as I’m wanted. And [I’m] fortunate, even though we’ve had some struggling seasons, to be a part of this group.
It’s always uplifting to hear from Murphy because he continually puts a positive spin on things. He still holds himself and his teammates accountable, but he does it with the right attitude. I’m sure this is why there’s an “A” on his sweater. He’s obviously ready to embrace his role as a veteran leader during the rebuild. For his contributions both on the ice and in the locker room, I hope the Blackhawks want him around for a long time.
Speaking of which, Murphy was the Blackhawk’s nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for the second year in a row now. This trophy is presented annually to those who best exemplify leadership qualities on and off the ice.
Congrats to Murph on being nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy!— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) May 4, 2022
The trophy is presented to those who best exemplify leadership qualities on and off the ice 👊 pic.twitter.com/L2B56eh2GQ
Way to go Murphs! You just keep being you!
Kane Hints He’ll Stay if DeBrincat Stays
A big topic around these parts is whether or not veteran superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are willing to stick around through the rebuild. We’ve heard some controversial words from Toews, but for the most part Kane is publicly saying he wants to stay. He added another piece to that with his recent comments about linemate Alex DeBrincat.
Patrick Kane, unprompted, on DeBrincat:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 26, 2022
“Obviously I’ve developed some chemistry with DeBrincat over the years. If he’s here and he’s a big piece, then that makes it easier for me too, right? Because I’m playing with him every day…and it makes it fun to be out there with him.”
Kane hinted previously that he wanted Dylan Strome in the fold as well. But we all know Kane isn’t the one making these decisions; management is. Will they take Kane’s suggestions into account? Strome probably isn’t a deal breaker. But if DeBrincat goes, does that mean Kane goes too?
It’s tough to say, and there’s more on this in some of Davidson’s comments below. But at this point, Kane has made it pretty clear how he wants things to shake out in Chicago if he’s going to be a part of it.
Toews on Building Character Through Adversity
In the meantime, Toews is being even more elusive about his future. I don’t think he’s really wrapped his head around the reality of the rebuild yet. But at his exit interview with the media, he did give some great insight into this past season and his struggles both on the ice and personally.
It was a tough year in a lot of ways, but more than anything, it was a huge learning experience for me personally. I learned more about myself and the game than [in] any of those years we were on top of the world.
Yeah, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. One certainly doesn’t want to go through tough times, but they do build character. At this point, it’s safe to say Toews has a whole lot of character. He likely has some more character building in his future.
Davidson’s Thoughts on the Rebuild
So, what are Davidson’s intentions regarding the rebuild and his two veteran superstar players? Unlike his predecessor, Stan Bowman, the new general manager is preaching out of the gate that slow and steady wins the race.
My intention is to do this the right way and to build it to the point where we can be successful and we can sustain that. Because I’m not interested in just rushing back to hopefully have a chance of the playoffs and then we fall off again. We want to do better than that. And that likely takes time…this isn’t a race to the middle. We’re trying to get back to the top and stay there. That’s the end goal.(from ‘Q&A: Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson on Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Jeff Greenberg and the long road ‘back to the top’, The AthleticCHI – 4/29/21)
“This isn’t a race to the middle.” Davidson is telling us we could be in for a long road. But stick with it, because the final destination could be glorious once again.
Yet this brings us back to Kane and Toews. They are both arguably in the twilight of their careers. They have also both indicated publicly that they think the rebuild could happen faster than we think. Will they wait as long as Davidson is projecting? Davidson had a response to that as well.
Kane, Toews & other Blackhawks said they thought the rebuild could go quickly.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) May 3, 2022
“It’s not that we don’t want to win as soon as possible. It’s just when you look at the bigger picture, you realize it might take a little longer than they may hope, perhaps.”
Based on these comments I honestly believe Davidson is being forthright with his two superstars. If anything, Toews and Kane are misleading the fans, and themselves, with their talk of a quick rebuild. The reality is it might beneficial in the long run to receive a boatload of picks and prospects in exchange for DeBrincat. It might be the best decision to part ways with Strome. Just like the Brandon Hagel trade was the right move as well, even if it was an unpopular decision among players and fans alike.
Which is why the next season or two could be very interesting. Blackhawks fans; brace yourself for some big, and perhaps unpopular, changes. I don’t believe anyone truly knows what those changes will be yet, or how the trajectory of the rebuild will play out. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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Thanks for reading this latest edition of Blackhawks Bytes, which essentially wraps up the 2021-22 campaign. I’m sure there will be some quotes of interest that will inspire a summer installment of this column. In the meantime, enjoy the playoffs everyone! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, despite the Blackhawks missing out yet again.