Personnel changes aside,the Blackhawks remain the same

20131211_151215We all know that the Blackhawks are an incredible team with as much elite talent as any franchise in hockey. We have seen them win three Stanley Cups, all in rather remarkable fashion, and yet some things they do still never cease to amaze us. Friday afternoon’s comeback win in Anaheim is just the latest example.

Down 2-0 in the game with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, the Hawks struck twice in just over a minute to tie the game and send it to overtime. Once in OT, it took only one minute and fifty-three seconds to score again and earn that second point. With the win, their record on this Circus Trip improved to 3-1-1, with the sixth and last game slated for later tonight against the Kings.

Regardless of the amount of personnel changes on a year-to-year basis, the Blackhawks’ attitude and character remains unchanged. With guys such as Toews, Seabrook, Keith, Hossa, Kane, and Hjalmarsson leading the way, that winning mentality, visible confidence, and natural competitiveness will always be present throughout the team.

It means nothing to this group if they are trailing by a couple of goals in a game, regardless of the amount of time left on the clock. They have overcome that a countless number of times. It does not faze them if they are behind a game or two in a playoff series. We have seen them come back and win a number of series after trailing at one point or another.

The leaders of the Blackhawks have been through just about every imaginable situation under the sun, and they know better than any other group how to use that to their advantage and teach any “new guys” along the way.

This year’s Hawks may not be as deep or formidable as any of the three teams they had that won the Cup, but the overall team mentality and character remains the same. That is why with the right additions via call-ups, signings, and/or trades, the Blackhawks have and will continue to find themselves as serious Stanley Cup contenders.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks sit at 13-8-2 on the year and hold a three point lead for the top Wild Card spot in the West (yes, it is still very early in the season). This current six game road trip was bound to either put them in a very unfavorable spot in the standings, or give them a shot of adrenaline and some momentum as they enter the winter months of the season. With a win in L.A. tonight, they could come home with a 4-1-1 record on the trip looking like their old selves again. And even if they lose, it’s been a rather successful six games given how they started the season on the road.

The bottom line in all of this is that the Blackhawks we have come to know will remain unchanged in terms of character, drive, and competitiveness as long as their current core remains intact. All it takes is some correct tinkering of the roster here and there where the salary cap allows to turn them back into a serious Cup contender.

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Blackhawks give Seabrook eight-year extension

Brent SeabrookThe Blackhawks and Brent Seabrook have agreed on an eight-year contract extension worth roughly $6.85 million per year. Seabrook will be entering his eleventh season in the NHL, all with the Blackhawks.

During his ten years as a Hawk so far, Seabrook has become one of the “core” members of the franchise while winning three Stanley Cups. He is regarded as one of the league’s better defensive defenseman, and can also light the lamp with his booming slap shot. His season high goal total thus far is 9 (three times), but you can expect 30-40 points from Seabrook each year.

While his numbers for a defenseman are pretty good, his intangible contributions are what make him as important as he is. He has always been considered one of the most prominent leaders on the team, despite ever being named a team captain. That changed recently, however, as Seabrook was elected by coach Joel Quenneville to be a new alternate captain given Patrick Sharp’s departure this past summer. Seabrook has always been deserving of that title, and now he finally has it.

Along with his natural leadership abilities, Seabrook has come up with a countless number of clutch goals over the course of his career. From his Game 7 overtime winner against Detroit, to his overtime winner in Game 4 of the Cup Final against Boston, to his goal in triple overtime against Nashville this past postseason, and so many more, Seabrook has consistently come up big for the Hawks when needed. He has always seemed to elevate his game as the stage gets bigger and the lights turn brighter.

When his time with the Blackhawks is all said and done with, he’ll definitely have a case to one day get his number retired by the organization. The only glitch with that is the fact that a certain Chris Chelios also wore number 7 with the Hawks. If Seabs gets his number retired, Chelios will have to then as well.

All in all, this is a good deal for both sides involved. Seabrook is getting a nice raise (he will be making more per year than Duncan Keith when this new deal kicks in next season), and this will ultimately become a team-friendly deal as time progresses and the league salary cap eventually rises.

Which current Hawks could see their number get retired?

SAYING THANKS TO NO. 18                         FANS WILL CHEER SAVARD ONCE MOREIt’s a question that I’ve often thought about over the last few years, especially since the Blackhawks won their second Cup in four years back in 2013: Which players currently on the Hawks’ roster could potentially have their number retired one day by the organization? There are a couple obvious guesses here, but then there are also a few names that seem to be on the bubble. So with that, let’s look at who may one day join numbers 1, 3, 9,18, 21, and 35.

Class A (most likely candidates)

Patrick KaneJonathan Toews (19): You name it, he’s pretty much won it. Two Stanley Cup titles, one Conn Smythe, one Selke Trophy, two Olympic gold medals, team captain, etc. And odds are that he’s not done adding to his trophy collection. It’s almost mind blowing to think about what Toews has accomplished in his seven and a half seasons with the Hawks. At twenty six years old, he’s regarded as one of the games top three players and has earned as much respect league-wide as anyone. Statistically, he has 208 goals and 270 assists in his career in 527 games played. After signing the big contract extension with the Hawks this past summer, it’s quite likely that he’ll finish his career in Chicago and go down as maybe the franchise’s best player of all time.

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game FivePatrick Kane (88): Kane won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie player in the 2007-08 season to begin what has already been a remarkable career in Chicago. Since then, he’s earned two Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy to go along with an Olympic silver medal. In his seven and half seasons in the league, he has amassed 192 goals and 342 assists in 558 games. Many around the NHL consider Kane to be the best American born player currently in the league, which would be tough to argue. Like Toews, Kane signed an eight-year contract extension with the Blackhawks this past summer ensuring that he’ll also probably play his whole career as a Blackhawk. And, like Toews, Kane could very well end up as one of the franchise’s top two players of all time.

139990-330-0Duncan Keith (2): This one may surprise some people, but I don’t see how you let anyone wear number 2 after Keith retires. In his nine and a half year career with the Hawks and in the NHL, Keith has two Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman, and two Olympic gold medals. He’s also been one of the team’s two assistant captains since 2008. Over his career, he has piled up 71 goals and 325 assists (396 points). To compare, Pierre Pilote, whose number 3 hangs from the United Center rafters, finished his career with 77 goals, 400 assists, and one Stanley Cup ring while winning three Norris Trophies. At 31 years old, Keith definitely still has some gas left in the tank and will quite likely pass Pilote in points. He already has more Cup rings, and he could win another Norris before it’s all said and done. Like I already said, I don’t know how you let another Blackhawk wear the number 2.

Class B (a slim chance)

20131211_151215Marian Hossa (81): Hossa is a future Hall of Famer, but spent the majority of his prime years with other teams. He has been a Blackhawk since the 2009-10 season and has earned 134 goals and 173 assists during that time. For his career, he has 473 goals and 553 assists putting him over the 1,000 point plateau. Since coming to the Hawks via free agency, Hossa has become a “core” member of the team and has won two Stanley Cups. He is one of the fan favorites for his style of play, talent, and respectability. You’ll have a tough time finding a player who works harder every shift he’s on the ice. He may be the game’s best two-way player, but he doesn’t get recognized for for it due to the fact that he’s not a center. Because of his incredible career, the fact that he’s won his only two Cups in Chicago, and the way he plays the game, Hossa could ultimately end up having his number retired by the Hawks.

10-171460575-smallPatrick Sharp (10): Sharp started his career with the Flyers before getting traded to the Hawks in the 2005-06 season. He has since won two Stanley Cups with the Hawks and one Olympic gold medal. While his stats aren’t jumping off the page (242G, 262A), he has been a huge piece the the Blackhawks success in recent years. Along with Keith, Sharp was named one of the team’s two assistant captains in 2008 and has become one of the faces of the organization. His playoff production in 2010 and 2013 was a huge reason for the team’s overall success, as he led the team in goals both postseasons. This is a case of a guy possibly warranting consideration for having his number retired more so based off of his importance to the team rather than his individual statistics.

Class C (long shot)

15-_DSC2491-toresizeBrent Seabrook (7): Seabrook has spent his entire career in Chicago. He entered the NHL along with Duncan Keith in the 2005-06 season and has been a fixture on the team since. Like the guys that have been mentioned before him, Seabrook was a member of both the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup-winning teams. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2010. Seabrook and Keith have been the team’s top d-pairing for the past seven years or so, and have been widely regarded as the best defensive pairing in the league. For his career, Seabrook has 70 goals and 239 assists. Those numbers are respectable, but they haven’t led to any individual accolades. While Seabrook is a long shot to have his number retired, the fact that Chris Chelios also wore number 7 as a member of the Hawks does not increase his chances. Chelios put up much better numbers, won two Norris Trophies, and was selected to seven all star games all while a member of the Hawks. Because of what each player has done in their careers with the Blackhawks, one would figure they’d have to retire number 7 for both Chelios and Seabrook, or don’t retire it at all.

While this discussion is certainly up for debate, I feel pretty confident in my “Class A” selections. The fact that this topic is something that we can now talk about regarding the Blackhawks is truly amazing, given where the team and organization were not too long ago. We should all feel very fortunate to be witnessing the Golden Era of Blackhawks hockey.

Blackhawks’ trade rumors

130107_gq_trout_aOver the last week or so, a bunch of different names have been mentioned throughout the NHL as possible candidates for being traded. A good handful of those names are big name, superstar players, which makes the trade rumors this summer all that more intriguing. A couple of those names are current Blackhawks. It is not often that Stan Bowman looks to trade away any of his top players, and while this offseason may be no different, one cannot help but speculate as to what could potentially happen in Chicago this summer.

The past few days have been very interesting. For the first time since I can remember, I have heard the names Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook mentioned as possible players the Blackhawks may look to deal this offseason. Keep in mind that these are just rumors, meaning that there really isn’t any way to know whether or not the Hawks are actually looking to trade either of those guys. If those rumors are in fact accurate, then some conclusions can be drawn from them.

Patrick Sharp is due to make $5.9 million a year through the 2016-17 season. Brent Seabrook’s contract is for $5.8 million through the 2015-16 season. Trading away one of those players opens up a TON of cap space for the Blackhawks, allowing them to acquire a big name player to fill some gap on the team. The only way either Sharp or Seabrook is traded is if the Blackhawks know they will be getting a star player in return or via a separate trade.

So, who might the Blackhawks look to acquire this summer?

The names Joe Thornton and Ryan Kesler are popping up left and right in regards to the Blackhawks. Both players are supposedly being shopped by their current team, and both the Sharks and Canucks are going to want something of significance in return.

Thornton is due to make $6.75 million per year through the 2016-17 season, and Kesler is set to make $5 million for two more years. If the Hawks were to in fact go after one of these two, we would likely see Patrick Sharp going the other way, or to some other team to free up the cap space.

Will a massive trade like this actually go down for the Blackhawks? Probably not. I don’t see the Hawks parting ways with Sharp, and the only way Seabrook goes is if a big time defensemen is coming to the Hawks. As of right now, I’m unaware of any rumors involving big time d-men other than Seabrook…

A story surfaced shortly after the Olympics that Patrick Kane went to the Hawks’ management and basically said “If you can get Kesler, get him.” Again, who know’s if that actually happened. However, it is no secret that Kane and Kesler have developed some chemistry together via international play, and I would guess that Kane would welcome him with open arms to the second line on the Blackhawks, seeing as how they currently don’t have a true number two center. The bottom line is that I do believe there is some validity to the “Kesler to Chicago” rumors, but I’m not sure that the Blackhawks would be willing to part ways with what it would take to get him. AKA Patrick Sharp.

As for Joe Thornton, I don’t see the Hawks making a move at him. Obviously, he would be a huge boost to the team and would probably elevate Kane’s statistics to ridiculous numbers, but his salary and the amount it would take to get him seem to both be too high for the Hawks. That’s not to say the Blackhawks won’t inquire about him, but I don’t see them making a serious push.

Someone I haven’t mentioned yet, Johnny Oduya, could very well be dealt in the next month, however. He is entering the final season of his contract and is set to make $3.375 million this year. Trading him opens up the cap space to sign a defensemen or two, or to acquire some depth forwards via trades or free agency. I’d say the chances of Oduya being a Hawk next year are 50/50 at this point.

What will most likely happen is this: The Blackhawks will kick the tires on a couple of big names who are being shopped, but will refuse to give up what it will take to acquire such a player. They will fall back on the fact that they have Teuvo Teravainen waiting in the wings down in Rockford, and he will most likely get the best chance of anyone to occupy the Hawks’ second line center position come opening night. Johnny Oduya will be traded for a prospect or two and a draft pick, and the Blackhawks will fill his roster spot with a guy like Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, or Klas Dahlbeck, all of whom are in Rockford and NHL-ready. The Blackhawks will also sign a depth defensemen or two, as well as a depth forward. The lack of talent on the Hawks’ fourth line was a huge reason as to why they were eliminated by the Kings. Rolling just three lines in the late stages of the NHL playoffs is not a good thing, and I am hopeful the Blackhawks will address that problem this summer.

Really, anything could theoretically happen between now and opening night of next season. Someone like me can only speculate as to what that may be.