Drake Caggiula

Kane, Blackhawks preparing for training camp 2.0

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CHICAGO — When Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks left the ice after their last game, they had little chance of making the playoffs.

Whenever they play their next game, it sure looks as if they will be one of 24 teams with a shot at the Stanley Cup.

Welcome to the strangest postseason berth in franchise history, one so unusual that it isn’t exactly a playoff appearance at the moment. Assuming everything goes according to plan and the final details are ironed out between the league and the players’ union, the Blackhawks will play Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-five qualifier series for the playoff bracket.

”It’s been a weird three months,” Kane said during a video conference call with reporters.

No kidding.

Chicago hasn’t played since a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on March 11. The Blackhawks were last in the Central Division and 12th in the Western Conference standings when the NHL season was suspended the next day because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Blackhawks were awaiting word on the fate of their season, team president John McDonough was fired by owner Rocky Wirtz. Danny Wirtz, Rocky’s son and a vice president with the team, replaced McDonough on an interim basis.

Longtime general manager Stan Bowman called McDonough a mentor Thursday in his first public comments since the dismissal.

”I think he did a lot of great things for your organization, so I thank him from that perspective,” Bowman said. ”Similarly, I’ve had a chance, I’ve known Danny Wirtz for a few years now and I’ve had a chance over the last six weeks to work closely with Danny, Rocky as well. And they’ve been fantastic to me, too. So I look at this for me as the opportunity to learn from Danny.”

The surprise move could lead to dramatic changes for Chicago’s front office once the season is over. But Kane and Co. are hoping to put that off for a while.

The Blackhawks took two of three against Edmonton this season, winning 3-1 way back in October and 4-3 on March 5. They should get forward Drake Caggiula and defensemen Adam Boqvist and Calvin de Haan back for training camp 2.0 next month after they were sidelined by injuries when the season was suspended.

The 29-year-old de Haan was expected to miss the rest of the year after he had right shoulder surgery in December. His return could be particularly helpful for the Blackhawks as they try to slow McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who won his first Art Ross Trophy for leading the league with 110 points.

”Obviously, we’ve got to get him on the ice, go through camp, and hopefully everything continues to progress as far as his health,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. ”But I thought the games he did play he was steady back there.”

The Blackhawks started voluntary workouts this week, with Kane and fellow forward Alex DeBrincat among the first players to return to the team’s practice facility.

The dates and site for their series against Edmonton are still to be determined. But Kane thinks making the most of all the time before the games could be a big key to a deep playoff run.

”It’ll definitely be an advantage for a team that can come back and get together quickly and have a good training camp and kind of find their game right away,” he said. ”So I think it might be some surprises, you know, if we get down to playing.”

Long-term outlook for Blackhawks: salary cap, prospects, and more

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

Both at age 31 with matching $10.5 million cap hits through 2022-23, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain the headliners of the Blackhawks’ core.

While Toews in particular isn’t what he once was, the biggest problem is shaky support.

Duncan Keith is far removed from his prime at age 36, yet his contract ($5.54 through 2022-23) lingers. Quite a bit of this structure has broken down, to the point that it would be preferable for both Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw to stay planted on LTIR.

Credit Stan Bowman with trying to improve a shabby defense. Unfortunately, Bowman whiffed with Olli Maatta, Connor Murphy, and Calvin de Haan to varying degrees. Those three contracts stay on the books through 2021-22.

To Bowman’s credit, he’s experienced significant successes finding forward talent, sometimes off the beaten path. While the Blackhawks galaxy-brained themselves out of Artemi Panarin, they locked up Alex DeBrincat to a team-friendly extension.

One key question remains: can the Blackhawks find the cash to re-sign Corey Crawford? Actually, that folds into other questions. Being that Crawford is 35, should they?

Also, will Dominik Kubalik and/or Dylan Strome become core members, or stay in limbo with “bridge” deals. Can Alex Nylander cement himself? The supporting cast continues to go through auditions as if they’re in Chicago’s Broadway.

Long-Term Needs for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks face plenty of long-term needs.

Still, sometimes the biggest needs go deeper than “scoring depth” and “some actual, above-average NHL defensemen.” The Blackhawks organization needs to let go of the past, even if it means some extra suffering in the present. Otherwise, the future could be plagued by half-measures.

It would be understandable if the Blackhawks struck a short-term deal with Corey Crawford. He quietly put together a surprisingly strong 2019-20, particularly down the stretch.

Yet, how many times should Chicago really go to that nostalgia well? (To say nothing of how tough it might be to fit Crawford under the cap, as Mark Lazerus discussed here [sub required].)

This team needs more difference-makers. Adam Boqvist and other prospects figure to boost the competence of Chicago’s crummy defense, but how much?

Ultimately, the Blackhawks need to add “blue chip” talent, and hope that Boqvist, Kirby Dach, and others fall in that category. By trying to enjoy the best of both worlds of competing while getting some young talent, Chicago risks falling short of both marks. They’ve seemingly accrued good-but-not-great talent, and were moderately competitive but not legitimate contenders.

Pull off the Band-Aid already.

Long-Term Strengths for Blackhawks

As mentioned with Panarin and DeBrincat, the Blackhawks have shown some ability to unearth talent even when they didn’t have no-brainer picks like they did with Kane and Toews. (Panarin was a Euro free agent, DeBrincat went 39th overall in 2016). Dominik Kubalik looks like he could be the latest hidden gem.

Such successes have been a bit of a double-edged sword, as referenced in the long-term needs section. By finding ways to be semi-competitive, the Blackhawks have sometimes added good where a “tank” season may have provided great.

Still, there’s decent talent to work with. DeBrincat, Strome, Kubalik, and maybe Nylander can help on offense. Dach’s development is crucial.

Boqvist ranks as vital on defense, too, but he’s not alone. In ranking Chicago’s prospect pool 12th overall (sub required), The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler frequently listed defensemen. Wheeler highlighted Ian Mitchell almost as much as Boqvist, so help could be coming there. Wheeler’s Athletic colleague Corey Pronman placed Chicago’s under-23 core at a respectable 13th, so it’s not as if there’s nothing beyond Kane and Toews.

Lately, “almost” has been in painful supply for Chicago. An optimist might squint and see how things could break the Blackhawks’ way, but improving this long-term outlook will require more long-term thinking.

MORE BLACKHAWKS:
2019-20 season summary
Surprises and disappointments

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist fined $5,000 for roughing Blackhawks’ Boqvist

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Monday that St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist has been fined $5,000 for roughing Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Adam Boqvist on Sunday.

The incident happened in the second period and sparked an intense fight during the Blues’ 2-0 win.

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

As the two players were going for a loose puck along the boards, Sundqvist flung his arm around and basically clotheslined Boqvist in the face, knocking him to the ice. From there, St. Louis’ Vince Dunn and Chicago’s Drake Caggiula dropped the gloves and went at each other.

Sundqvist was given a two-minute minor for elbowing and a two-minute for roughing on the play.

Dunn and Caggiula were each given five-minute majors for fighting.

Related: Dunn, Caggiula fight highlights Blues-Blackhawks violence

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Caggiula-Dunn fight highlights Blackhawks-Blues violence

An awkward collision between Oskar Sundqvist and Adam Boqvist inspired quite the outburst of violence between the Blackhawks and Blues, including a spirited fight between Drake Caggiula and Vince Dunn.

Chalk it up to the storied rivalry between these two Central Division teams, or simply tensions boiling over, but it was quite something.

At first, officials were going to hand Sundqvist a major penalty. After undergoing a review, they bumped it down. Ultimately, Sundqvist received a roughing minor, while Caggiula and Dunn both were whistled for fighting.

One of the most entertaining moments came when Dunn made this face following the fight:

Dunn Caggiula face

Caggiula also played to the crowd nicely after his fight with Dunn:

Caggiula crowd after fight with Dunn

 

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks host Blues on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blues saw their eight-game win streak snap in Friday’s 4-2 loss at New Jersey, meanwhile, the Blackhawks also saw their four-game win streak come to an end in a 2-1 loss at Detroit on the same night.

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko is back on the ice and has skated in separate sessions with assistant coaches and scratched players but hasn’t been cleared to practice at full speed. The 28-year-old underwent shoulder surgery in late October and has been sidelined for the last 58 games.

After losing to the Blues on Feb. 25, the Hawks went on to win four straight games and remained in the Wild Card mix. But a 2-1 loss Friday night to the worst team in the NHL, Detroit, halted the Hawks’ momentum in the crowded West wild card race.

Patrick Kane scored Chicago’s lone goal in the loss at Detroit on Friday, tallying his 31st goal of the season. It was the third consecutive game in which the American-born forward has scored. Kane has also recorded points in nine of his last 11 contests, giving him 13 pts (6G-7A) in that span.

Chicago netminder Corey Crawford started his 8th consecutive game on Friday night, a streak that began on Feb. 21 vs. Nashville. The two-time Cup champ stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced against the Red Wings, but fell to 15-19-3 this season.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks
WHERE: United Center
WHEN: Sunday, March 8, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Blues-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUES
Jaden Schwartz – Ryan O’Reilly – Brayden Schenn
Zach SanfordRobert ThomasDavid Perron
Alex SteenTyler BozakJordan Kyrou
Ivan BarbashevOskar SundqvistSammy Blais

Justin FaulkAlex Pietrangelo
Marco ScandellaColton Parayko
Vince DunnRobert Bortuzzo

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

BLACKHAWKS
Domnik Kubalik – Jonathan ToewsBrandon Saad
Alex NylanderDylan Strome – Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatKirby DachDrake Caggiula
Matthew HighmoreDavid KampfRyan Carpenter

Duncan KeithAdam Boqvist
Nick SeelerConnor Murphy
Olli MaattaSlater Koekkoek

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

Kate Scott will call the action alongside U.S. Olympic gold medalists Kendall Coyne-Schofield and AJ Mleczko from United Center in Chicago, Ill. Game production will be led by producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer.

The first-of-its-kind broadcast will be in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, which dates back over 100 years. The broadcast will highlight women who have made their mark on hockey, and sports in general, with the hopes to inspire future generations of women to excel on the ice and behind the scenes.

Sunday night’s coverage will also be surrounded by On Her Turf, NBC Sports’ female empowerment brand. The broadcast will include a number of features highlighting women in hockey during pre-game and intermissions, with custom in-game graphic integration and social coverage.