Blackhawks’ woes more performance than personnel: McKenzie

Chicago Blackhawks fans shouldn’t expect general manager Stan Bowman to trade his way out of his team’s current funk, at least not in the short term.

The Blackhawks, losers of six of their last 10 games, are wallowing outside the playoff line in the Central Division 19 games into the current campaign.
NHL Insider Bob McKenzie dropped by the NBCSN studio on Wednesday and suggested that Chicago’s woes stem from a performance issue, and not an issue of available personnel.

“They got to get the power play going, they got to tighten up defensively,” McKenzie said. “While everybody is ready to throw everybody under the bus, in terms of the fans and the media for the way the Blackhawks have played team defence, the reality is they can play a lot better and that the expectation is they will play a lot better.”

McKenzie added the Blackhawks could look within, but bringing someone up from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, would be exposing another player to waivers or demoting a player who doesn’t need a demotion.

“They don’t want to put (Alex) DeBrincat down, they down want to put (John) Hayden down, they don’t want to put (Nick) Schmaltz down, so the guys that are the easiest to send to the minors are not really the guys you want to send to the minors,” McKenzie said. “You’ve got eight defensemen and 13 forwards right now. It’s tough to make a move.

Meanwhile, McKenzie shed some more light on the continued absence of New York Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith.

Smith, who has been a healthy scratch for the past five games, struggled like many of his teammates as the Rangers went for a dump to start the season.
But the Rangers are now winner’s of six straight and McKenzie suggested that Smith could sit longer if the team keeps adding ticks to the win column.

“He gets scratched and then the next game the Rangers win, and they win again, and they win again and they keep winning,” McKenzie said. “What basically happened was he picked the worst possible time to be a healthy scratch and the team absolutely took off.

“A winning lineup is a winning lineup and (head coach) Alain Vigneault isn’t going to break it up.”

Smith, who signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract with the Rangers at the end of June after being acquired at last season’s trade deadline, has since lost his job, at least in the interim, to Steven Kempfer, who is paired with Marc Staal.

“He’s got to sit until the Rangers lose and Vigneault decides a change needs to be made, or there is an injury or one of the other six guys playing ahead of him doesn’t play very well and then when he gets his opportunity, he’s got to make the most of it,” McKenzie said.

“(The Rangers) believe, long-term, that he’s going to be fine. It will be up to him and the pressure will be on him when he does get back into the lineup.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.

GM Meetings: Hybrid icing gaining approval, may seek rule change

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According to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, the one potential rule change that’s gaining the most traction today surrounds hybrid icing.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that hybrid icing is getting enough support from the GMs to bring it up for discussion to the full complement of executives tomorrow. If you want an exhaustive explanation of what goes into hybrid icing, USA Hockey has a video on it to check out. Hybrid icing is currently used in NCAA hockey and in the USHL as well.

Simplifying it, hybrid icing still allows for the chase aspect of going after the puck but eliminates the race to the end boards by judging which side wins the race by seeing who gets to the face off circle first. If the defending team wins the race, the whistle blows and the face off goes to the other end. If the attacking team wins, icing is waived off and play continues like normal.

The key to adapting this rule is to save players from getting crushed into the end boards and preventing needless injuries. From a safety aspect, it makes an obscene amount of sense to adopt this change.

Kronwall will not be suspended for his monster hit on Voracek

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Last night when Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall delivered another his textbook borderline hits to Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, it fired up the debate yet again as to what should and should not be punishable by the league.

Flyers fans were understandably furious over the hit believing that Kronwall targeted a helpless player while the Wings felt it was an unfortunate but legal play. TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweets this morning that Kronwall will not face supplementary discipline from the league for the hit and the reasoning will likely make Flyers fans even more upset.

source:

The explanation is a bit more baffling, all things considered. If the head is the principle point of contact, wouldn’t that make it a violation of Rule 48? Perhaps this is just the league’s way of saying you’d better keep your head up at all times.

If you missed it last night, here’s the hit so you can judge for yourself.

Breaking down the Kings’ chances of landing Rick Nash

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Falling in line with an argument I submitted recently, Bob McKenzie discussed the Los Angeles Kings’ chances of landing Rick Nash – and how they might be better off going with his Columbus Blue Jackets teammate Jeff Carter.

(That’s not to say that he’s better, the argument revolves around the fact that he’s easier to get and less expensive to employ.)

McKenzie also points out another logical possibility of renting Edmonton Oilers winger Ales Hemsky, but that would require Dean Lombardi and Steve Tambellini to really hug it out after those Bernie Madoff comments. (Not to mention the fact that the Kings would have to ignore how poorly their last deadline deal went with Edmonton, as Dustin Penner has eaten far more pancakes than he scored goals.)

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McKenzie: Columbus is listening to offers for Rick Nash

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The NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away and now we’ve got a top prize available on the market.

After the report this morning about Rick Nash possibly being available for trade, TSN’s Bob McKenzie has found out that Columbus is indeed listening to offers for the Blue Jackets captain.

While Nash has a no-movement clause in his contract, McKenzie says that Columbus GM Scott Howson wouldn’t be listening to trade offers unless he had Nash’s blessing to do so meaning that if the right offer from the right team comes along, we could see Nash being shipped out on or before the trade deadline on February 27 at 3:00 p.m. ET.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Nash is asking out of Columbus, however. He’s told Columbus Dispatch beat man Aaron Portzline recently that he loves Columbus and wants to help bring a winning team there. Turns out Nash might be helping to do that by being the crown jewel in a blockbuster deal.