Blackhawks

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition. 

Why did we gave up on Henri so fast?

The question isn’t why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast? It’s why did they sell him without receiving an immediate impact-type player in return, whether that came in the form of a package or not?

The Blackhawks were always going to use their surplus of defensemen prospects as trade ammo to patch up a need elsewhere. Alex Nylander could turn into a fine player, but he’s far from a sure thing. It seems like, for whatever reason, he’s struggling to take the next step and the Blackhawks find themselves hoping that he can turn into the player he was supposed to become when he was taken No. 8 overall in 2016.

With moving out Jokiharu does that mean someone like Boqvist or Beaudin is more likely to be ready to step in possibly sometime this season?

The Jokiharju trade certainly opens the door for one of those prospects to emerge from the pack, and we could see a glimpse of them as soon as this season.

After four years in the QMJHL, Beaudin will turn pro and start the season in Rockford if he doesn’t make the Blackhawks out of training camp. And according to our friend Scott Powers of The Athletic, it’s looking more like Boqvist might turn pro also after one year in the OHL.

If that’s the case, both of those prospects will be readily available for a call-up at any point. Beaudin is likely still a year away. Boqvist is the interesting one because he turned heads at training camp last season and gave the Blackhawks something to think about when they were trimming their 23-man roster.

If Boqvist excels in the AHL and the Blackhawks have a spot for him, the former No. 8 overall pick in 2018 is only a phone call away from a call-up and that could be tempting if an offensive jolt from the backend is needed.

Does the arrival of Nylander hinder the potential chance of Dach making the roster out of camp?

The Blackhawks aren’t going to keep Kirby Dach off the roster because the math squeezes him out. If he does his part to force the management group into keeping him on the team, the Blackhawks will figure out how to shuffle the cards later.

But the Nylander acquisition does add to the competition up front in general and Dach figures to be part of that mix. The challenging part is that you have to think Dach is battling for a top-nine spot. The Blackhawks won't keep him on the roster all season because he's the 11th- or 12th-best forward. They'd want him playing decent minutes in the NHL, and if he's not doing that, they'll send him back to the WHL to do it.

The ‘Hawks currently have 10 forwards (excluding Perlini) locked into a roster spot. Kubalik & Sikura are expected to round out the forwards, but who else do you think has a strong chance to make the team? Nylander? Saarela? Wedin? Quenneville? Looks less likely for Dach.

Good question, and something we’ve been writing and talking about on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast for the past several weeks. The Blackhawks like having internal competition and continue to note that you need to be 14, 15, 16 forwards deep to be successful in today's NHL.

But the reality is, the extra forwards in this scenario should be taking steps forward in helping the team right now and not serving as 13th forwards. You have to think Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Sikura will be on the Opening Day roster, but that doesn't seem like a given as of right now. The fact that Nylander could play left wing or right wing helps his case. Anton Wedin is an intriguing candidate. John Quenneville will definitely get a look. Where does Brendan Perlini factor into the plans?

It's too early to tell because it still feels like there could be some more tweaks coming between now and training camp.

Who do you see taking the first line LW position and the second line RW position for the majority of the year?

In Tuesday's conference call explaining the Alex Nylander-Henri Jokiharju trade, GM Stan Bowman hinted that the Blackhawks are likely to start the season with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the first line and Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome on the second. And the question is who’s going to play left wing on the first and right wing on the second.

Andrew Shaw sticks out as somebody who could get an immediate look. Brandon Saad finished the season on the third line and was effective in that role but maybe he gets another shot also. Of course, Drake Caggiula worked so well with Kane and Toews but he’s probably better suited in a bottom-six role.

If Nylander makes the team out of training camp, he could be the wildcard. He's the kind of player who should play in the top-six with other offensively-skilled players to maximize his talent but he hasn't earned that opportunity yet. Kubalik, however, has after his breakout season offensively in the Swiss league and at the international level. And like they did with Dominik Kahun last season, the Blackhawks could look to put him in the best possible position to succeed off the bat.

If we're projecting right now, I could see these combos as the first two lines to open camp: Kubalik-Toews-Kane and DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw. 

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: An inside look at the Blackhawks Hockey Ops department with Senior VP Al MacIsaac

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: An inside look at the Blackhawks Hockey Ops department with Senior VP Al MacIsaac

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle catches up with Senior VP of Hockey Operations, Al MacIsaac. They discuss the process the Blackhawks took in transforming the roster this off-season. MacIsaac is entering his 20th year with the Blackhawks and talks about the organizational changes over the last two decades. He also weighs in on the role analytics plays in evaluating current or potential Blackhawks and he explains why the team made a commitment to make its new practice facility the “gold standard” of the NHL.

0:45 – MacIsaac on changes within the Blackhawks organization in the last 20 years

4:00 – How the Blackhawks have added great depth this summer

5:25 – A good problem to have with two good goaltenders

6:23 – How the hockey ops meeting went at the end of last season

8:45 – How much the Blackhawks use and rely on analytics

10:27 – The importance of the Blackhawks strength and conditioning programs

12:24 – The planning behind Fifth Third Arena’s development

14:40 – The dynamic between hockey ops and business ops

16:37 – Agreements and disagreements within the hockey ops group

18:32 – MacIsaac’s longtime relationship with Mark Bernard

20:27 – Looking ahead to training camp and the regular season

22:42 – Tough decisions will need to be made when the season starts

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Andrew Shaw on his career season in Montreal and adding toughness to Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw on his career season in Montreal and adding toughness to Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw had a terrific 2018-19 season with the Montreal Canadiens. He set a career high with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) despite missing 19 games due to injuries and averaged 15:55 of ice time, which was the highest of his NHL career.

When asked to explain why he believes he had the best offensive output of his career, Shaw pointed to one thing.

“Honestly I just think it was the hunger for the game," Shaw said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "I missed nine months with knee surgery and concussions. I battled back to get back to where I needed to be and just started having fun again. Maybe I’m bigger, stronger, older. I think I’ve been in situations in games so many times that you’re better at reacting to them so I think that maybe that has a little bit to do with it.”

The Blackhawks reacquired Shaw because they've lacked some jam in their game over the past couple seasons. And looking at the other moves GM Stan Bowman has made this summer, it's clear that's an area they prioritized.

Shaw noticed it too and he's excited to see how it'll all come together this coming season.

“I still have to be me," Shaw said. "I still have to go out there and work and compete and bring the energy I’ve always brought. I think it’s the intensity and the love of the game that pushes me to do that so I think it’s something that others feed off of. With a couple other guys they brought in, too, we got a little bit more grit, a little bit more defensive game. I think it’s going to be a really good year.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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