As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare for a season that should elicit a much higher level of expectation heading into it than there was prior to 2020-21, there are still moves being made that will affect their overall outlook. Meanwhile, both current and former personnel continue to see their names embedded across hockey’s headlines, as they transition to new roles within the sport or work to maintain the competitive edge that they’ve made their norm.
From those still active with the team to others past their playing days, there is always something to talk about when it comes to the Blackhawks. This offseason is no different.
Murphy Signs Extension
Stan Bowman did right by this roster when he chose to expedite the extension process with Connor Murphy, with a new four-year contract that takes effect as of 2022-23. When his next term kicks in, Murphy’s pay will increase from $3.85 million per year to a salary of $4.4 million. Deservedly so, too.
“He has transformed into a defenseman capable of matching up with the opponent’s best players and someone we trust to help us preserve a lead in the final minutes. Connor’s voice carries weight in our locker room as a veteran presence and we’re thrilled that his development and leadership will continue as a Blackhawk.”
Since his acquisition in 2017, Murphy has continually taken on more responsibility as a Blackhawk. Managing over 22:00 of ice time per night through 2020-21 is evidence enough. Yet, Murphy also adds the type of physical presence that aligns perfectly in Chicago. While his 15 points last season may not have moved the needle offensively, his 102 hits were second on the team and his 123 blocks lead the entire lineup. Any offense is a bonus, with that level of defensive consistency.
What’s more, Murphy was given alternate captain duties last season and is already listed to repeat the role through 2021-22. Despite not seeing his name end up on the nightly highlight reel, he’s the type of leader that continually puts in the effort to ensure a job well done. Chicago will benefit from having that invaluable work ethic committed to the franchise for at least the next five years.
Sharp Returns to School
Patrick Sharp has kept himself busy, since hanging up his skates following the 2017-18 season. Most recently, fans have had the chance to witness him dissect the Blackhawks from an off-ice perspective as a sports analyst. It’s clear that he misses being close to the action, now moving on to a role that brings him back into the locker room. In a way similar to discussing the Blackhawks, where he’s headed next also comes with an established sense of familiarity.
Prior to breaking into the NHL, Sharp spent two seasons lighting up the NCAA with the University of Vermont Catamounts. Unsurprisingly, after making the 2001 NCAA (ECAC) All-Rookie Team, it didn’t take long before he was drafted by and playing with the Philadelphia Flyers. He’d go on to enjoy a 15-year career in the NHL, including tenures with the Flyers, Blackhawks, and Dallas Stars.
Sharp will be revisiting his pre-pro roots next season as he heads back to the classroom, in a way, after being hired as an advisor to the coaching staff with Vermont.
“Not much needs to be said about Patrick that isn’t already known about his career, but what strikes me is that he chose to join our staff in an advisory role and has jumped in with high energy,” said Woodcroft. “He knows that his own personal experience, his own journey as a player who wore the same jersey that our current players do is a connection that none of the other men’s ice hockey staff can attest to. We are thankful that Patrick will be able to lend his voice and his thoughts on how we can continue to improve daily.”
If the Catamounts were looking to add a winning pedigree to their roster, they’ve found it in Sharp. As if his three Stanley Cups weren’t enough, he’s also earned an Olympic Gold Medal, World Championship Silver Medal, and Calder Cup along the way. It’s safe to say Sharp’s influence can only help them better their 1-10-2 record from 2020-21.
Coyne Schofield Captures Silver
After the IIHF Women’s World Championship was postponed from taking place in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia twice due to the pandemic, the tournament was finally able to proceed in Calgary, Alberta. It was originally slated to begin in March 2020, only to again see its May 2021 start cancelled, to finally having it occur through August 2021.
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A marquee event for women’s hockey, this important competition typically takes place annually unless it’s an Olympic year. Illinois’ very own Kendell Coyne Schofield participated in her eighth World Championship, captaining Team USA for the second tournament in a row as the Americans hoped to capture its sixth such title in a row.
Approaching her one-year mark since being brought on by the Blackhawks, Coyne Schofield’s main responsibilities with the club centre around youth development. A perfect fit, given her constant drive to progress and compete in every regard.
“To be able to be in a role to help develop and to help this team win championships, the team that I grew up watching, the team that I sat on the couch and watched win three Stanley Cups and shed a little tear here and there watching, now to be in a role to help develop those next generation of players who are going to want to raise the Cup, is phenomenal,” Coyne Schofield said. “I’m a competitor and I always have been, and that’s what I’m going to do in this role.”
As though it was scripted from the start, the USA and Canada faced off for the final match. Familiar foes and forever rivals, this one lived up to expectations as the game saw action tilt from end to end throughout its entirety.
Following an early lead that had Team USA up by two after the first, Canada crawled back to tie things up through the second. Inevitably, a scoreless third meant it was impossible to crown a champion within regulation.
Coyne Schofield was buzzing throughout and that carried over into extra time. Despite a partial breakaway that didn’t end as ideally as it started, her leadership was a constant as she helped Team USA battle until the end. Ultimately, after the Americans had dominated for nearly a decade, Canada got the better of them this time around.
With five points through seven contests, Coyne Schofield’s impact was on full display. Given her will to win alone, it’s clear that she’ll be back. Congratulations on a great tournament, Kendall!
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.
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