The Chicago Blackhawks are on a roll as of late. They’re on a four-game winning streak since letting Jeremy Colliton go and naming Derek King as their interim head coach. After so much negativity both on and off the ice surrounding this club, the Blackhawks’ recent success is a breath of fresh air. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’d like to take this opportunity to look at the positives. After all, I am considered the beacon of optimism on our THW Blackhawks crew. Today Brooke LoFurno, Shaun Filippelli, Greg Boysen and myself (Gail Kauchak) discuss what we’re most thankful for from this 2021-22 Blackhawks’ squad.
Shaun: Fleury Finally Smiling in Chicago
As an objective onlooker, I wasn’t shy with regards to my thoughts on how illogical it initially seemed for the Blackhawks to acquire Marc-André Fleury this offseason. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense, given where they were in their supposed rebuild and with Kevin Lankinen ready and willing to build on the momentum he set in motion last season. That said, as a fan, I was happy to see one of my all-time favourite goalies land on one of the teams I support most from the sidelines.
For nearly two decades, Fleury has found success in every city he’s represented. Much of it thanks to his ability to sustain such a high level of proficiency. Yet, like any pro, he’s encountered some less-than-ideal results along the way too. However, as anyone who’s watched him along the way can attest to, Fleury has seemingly had a smile on his face the whole way through. Well, that changed in Chicago.
As he played through their franchise worst start to the season, his smile seemed to fade a little further following every defeat. Fleury himself was in net for five losses in a row to kick off 2021-22, including being pulled against his former Pittsburgh Penguins, so it was justifiable that there was no real reason for him to be projecting much joy at that point in the campaign.
Thankfully, one of hockey’s friendliest faces has found his way back to enjoying his job. Following their coaching change, the team has won four straight and Fleury was in net for three of them. Through that span, he stopped 95 of 100 shots faced. A great sign of things to come for all involved, as a happy Fleury will be of much greater benefit to the Blackhawks.
Brooke: Thankful for Kane (Mr. Showtime)
I continue to be thankful for Patrick Kane’s play. He has been surrounded by not the best teams, and yet, he is still able to make things out of nothing. With his elite passing, he is able to set his teammates up for success. That includes Brandon Hagel, Alex DeBrincat, and even Seth Jones.
Kane is the heart and soul of the offense because he is the one that usually drives the play. He currently leads the team in points and he continues to be a joy to watch!
Greg: Moving on From Bowman & Colliton
I am thankful that the Blackhawks have finally moved on from the Stan Bowman and Colliton combination. Let’s face it; Bowman should have been let go based on his performance long before the Kyle Beach allegations were made public. This franchise has no direction. Heading into the 2020-21 season, we were told the team was going to rebuild but did nothing to head in that direction. Of course, we know all the moves made this past offseason.
It’s a little unsettling that it took the Beach scandal to finally move on for Bowman, who the team promoted to president of hockey operations in December of 2020, despite not making the playoffs in three years. The next hire will be a crucial one. The new general manager needs to be someone with a clear vision of how to get this franchise back to the Stanley Cup standard they were once held to. I’m not thrilled that the team seems to be in no hurry to make this hire. The faster they get somebody in there to put their plan in motion, the better. Now let’s hope they don’t screw it up! However, I am thankful they have at least started to take some positive steps.
Gail: DeBrincat Does It All
He’s merely five-foot-seven and 165 pounds. He was drafted in the second round (39th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. Because of his size and just average speed, not a whole lot of people thought DeBrincat would amount to much in the NHL.
Boy, did he prove them all wrong.
In his rookie season at 20 years of age, the Farmington Hills, Michigan native made the team straight out of training camp and never looked back. He finished that season leading the team with 28 goals, one more than Kane’s 27 tallies. There was no sophomore slump; DeBrincat broke out with 41 goals in the 2018-19 season. His 32 goals in 2020-21 was good for first on the team once again.
Now in his fifth season with the Blackhawks, DeBrincat has developed into the kind of complete all-round player that even those who backed him from the beginning probably didn’t even imagine. He’s grown his defensive game immensely, leads the team with nine goals, and has utilized his high hockey IQ to be a constant threat and playmaker. He’s even trusted to defend on the penalty kill, along with his flair for stripping the puck and getting breakaway chances the other way.
This little young man does it all. Did I mention he’s also an alternate captain, showing he’s valued by the team for his leadership? Shucks, he’s not even afraid to drop the gloves when he has to. He recently fought the Seattle Kraken’s Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat spoke about his reasoning to engage in the fight,
He punched me in the head behind the net, and then went after Kaner and cross-checked him. You go after our best player, we can’t let that happen… I don’t really like to fight, but I will when I need to.
Well, many people might argue that The Cat, as he’s affectionately called, is actually the best player for the Blackhawks right now. Kane himself has nothing but praise for his steady linemate and partner in crime.
He’s a special, special hockey player. A superstar in the making. He’s already a superstar.
Considering Kane has been a superstar in this league for 15 years, that’s high praise indeed. There’s plenty to be thankful for when it comes to DeBrincat.
What do you think, Blackhawks fans?! What are you thankful for from the 2021-22 Chicago Blackhawks? Send your thought and comments our way!
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.