Chicago Blackhawks: 2011-12 Regular Season

Does Hawks' 'dysfunction' start at the top?

May, 9, 2012
5/09/12
7:52
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Quenneville-Bowman AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhStan Bowman has given Joel Quenneville more responsibility, which carries inherent risks.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville opened the door for plenty of speculation when he said on Tuesday there was "dysfunction" among his coaching staff with regard to the firing of assistant Mike Haviland.

The picture emerging from West Madison Street is one of dysfunction that extends beyond just the coaching staff. Whispers and rumors of dissension beyond the normal back and forth of a team trying to achieve its goals have been rampant. And for good reason. The situation boils down to two camps: Quenneville's and the Bowmans (general manager Stan and senior advisor Scotty).

Each side lost an ally over the last week when Marc Bergevin (Quenneville) left for Montreal and Haviland (Bowman) was fired on Tuesday. With Haviland's firing -- by Quenneville -- a line was drawn in the sand: This is his team, his coaching staff and the results will be on them. He will choose who replaces Haviland and the power to do so is the first Quenneville has had with the Hawks.

"[Bowman] did offer me the opportunity for the first time since I've been here to look if I need [to make] a change to our coaching staff," Quenneville said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

That's a far cry from this past season when the line between coaching and the front office was as muddled as it could get. Maybe it was inevitable given the set-up. When the younger Bowman was hired as a first-time general manager at age 37 he instantly became the boss of a seasoned veteran coach. To boot, Bowman's father was a senior advisor who was commonly known as the best hockey coach in the history of the game. Can it really come as a surprise, when things went south, dysfunction would reign?

It's exactly when things started to go bad on the ice that the rift between front office and coaching became noticeable. In the midst of a nine-game losing streak in February, Scotty Bowman accompanied the team on the road and saw first-hand the problems the Hawks were having on special teams. Not long afterward, director of player development Barry Smith was asked to help with some coaching duties. But not by Quenneville, according to multiple sources. Smith is a Bowman confidant and the unusual idea of helping a Stanley Cup-winning coach came from Scotty. Quenneville wasn't given a choice in the matter, according to the sources. In fact, it was at that point that assistant Mike Kitchen's job was in jeopardy. But Kitchen is a Quenneville confidant. So Kitchen stayed, and Smith was forced upon Quenneville, no matter the coach's public proclamations of his acceptance of help.

Smith took an active role talking to players and instructing the special teams. It prompted one member of the hockey community to say Smith's involvement was undermining Quenneville. "And the whole coaching fraternity knows it," a source said.

Smith kept the front office appraised of on-ice matters and while the special teams improved incrementally with Smith's involvement, they regressed as the regular season wound down. Things came to a head on the final day of the regular season in Detroit. Multiple sources said there was a loud argument between Quenneville and Smith during which loyalties were questioned. It was the last the team saw of Smith. He never again ran a practice, and his travel with the team was limited to Game 5 against Phoenix. Quenneville eventually won that battle and now has full control of the coaching staff, but he certainly doesn't have full control of personnel. It's assumed he has control of how that personnel is used, but even that is in question.

Kane at center

On purpose or not, a difference of opinions became apparent at the Hawks' end-of-year news conference. Stan Bowman said of Patrick Kane, "Having him in the middle, he's certainly better than any other center that's available." It wasn't even completely clear if Bowman meant on the market or on the Hawks, but does it matter? His views are clear: He likes Kane at center. It was Bowman's idea in the first place to play Kane in the middle when the team didn't acquire a second-line center last offseason.

Quenneville, on the other hand, was high on Marcus Kruger and the job he did in a role he was thrust into when Kane was moved back to wing. Quenneville praised Kane's work in the middle but left most of the accolades for Kruger, calling Kane "a nice option."

The difference of opinion came on the ice as well. If Kane was best for the team at center -- as Bowman said in the news conference -- then why was he ever moved from the middle?

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
Marc DesRosiers/US PresswireIt's believed one subject the Hawks' front office doesn't agree on is whether Patrick Kane should play center, where Stan Bowman believes Kane is a solid option.
Kane played the entire middle portion of the season back at wing. He returned to center when Jonathan Toews went down with a concussion, playing well there the final month of the season. But at the most important point of the year -- the postseason -- Kane was back at wing. He moved back to center again only when Kruger faltered early in the series against the Coyotes.

The bottom line is it appears Quenneville does not believe the Hawks can win a championship with Kane at center. On top of it, other NHL head coaches have expressed privately their satisfaction with Kane playing center, according to sources. Opposing teams want him to have to play a 200-foot game. Common thinking is, any moment of attention or energy on the defensive end takes away from his offensive prowess. If Quenneville has truly been given full power for all on-ice personnel decisions moving forward, then don't expect Kane at center unless under dire circumstances.

Special Teams

Stan Bowman put the Hawks special teams problems squarely on Quenneville. He was asked if he was satisfied with the coaching with regard to the power play.

"The results speak for themselves," he said. "They were a huge disappointment this year. It's unacceptable to have the caliber of players we have and not have it work. That's a question Joel is probably better able to answer. That's more of a coaching thing than anything. ... For whatever reason ours didn't work. We need to be better in that area. There is no doubt about that."

And to answer that remark, Quenneville eventually fired Haviland but not Kitchen. Haviland was part of the coaching staff that won a Stanley Cup in 2010. Kitchen has been part of one that has overseen two first-round exits. Quenneville has been purposely able to deflect blame for the special teams woes on all coaches, and it's extremely hard to discern who was at fault where, so he has plausible deniability when it comes to explaining why Haviland and not Kitchen was let go. All were seen using the chalkboard in practice and players said all were involved instructing them. Quenneville denied his friendship played a part in Kitchen staying on but the fact remains the coach that Quenneville inherited is gone and his good friend is still here.

2011-2012

Why is all this important?

All along, the younger Bowman was telling his bosses the Hawks had enough personnel to win, and when things didn't go their way in the second half of the season the elder Bowman took steps -- in the form of Smith -- to prove it was on coaching and not personnel. Those steps undermined the authority of Quenneville. And that's something players pick up on immediately. It wouldn't be a surprise if more than one wondered who was in charge.

Maybe a compromise has been struck. No more front office meddling and now the blame -- or credit -- can fall squarely on Quenneville's shoulders. Unfortunately, coaching and personnel are always intertwined. Look at the Kane situation as evidence. The question is can the two sides coexist to bring another championship to Chicago?

CEO John McDonough is an obvious supporter of Scotty Bowman and Quenneville. If he has to choose it's still not clear who would win out. With more defined battle lines, it should become much clearer over the next 12 months.

Hawks, LeBlanc agree to 1-year deal

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
1:30
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago Blackhawks agreed to terms with forward Peter LeBlanc on a one-year contract for the 2012-13 season, the team announced on Friday.

LeBlanc, 24, shared the team lead for the AHL Rockford IceHogs with 23 goals this season, and ranks second on the club with 43 points (23G, 20A) in 70 regular-season games. LeBlanc was a seventh round pick in 2006.

Power Rankings: Hawks finish in Top 10

April, 9, 2012
4/09/12
4:50
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks final position, No. 10, in ESPN.com’s weekly Power Rankings underlies the uncertainty of their playoff hopes. There are plenty of powerhouse teams more deserving of Stanley Cup backing, but it also means the Hawks are not out of the hunt.

Their regular season statistics don’t point to them as a Cup favorite and that’s probably why there are nine playoff teams ahead of them. On top of it the six teams behind them would be hard pressed to win the Cup so are the Hawks part of that group or the nine ahead of them in the rankings?

With special teams and possibly goaltending as question marks -- at least based on the regular season -- the Hawks have to be considered an underdog to get out of the West. And though they didn’t exactly stumble down the stretch, they did have a chance to get out from the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and couldn’t pull it off, losing in a shootout to Minnesota and blowing a 2-0 third period lead to Detroit last week.

Their ranking is a tough pill to swallow for a team with over 100 points, and plays in arguably the toughest division in hockey. But until they can show improvement in the key playoff areas of the game then they’re an underdog until further notice.

Hawks earn No. 6 playoff seed

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
3:06
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks' shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday earned them a No. 6 seed and a first-round playoff matchup with the winner of the Pacific Division, which will be determined later Saturday night.

Despite losing the game, the Red Wings will be the No. 5 seed, finishing the season with 102 points to the Blackhawks' 101. The Hawks were 47 seconds away from a regulation win -- and one more point in the standings -- which would have earned them the No. 5 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker. Instead, the Red Wings will play the No. 4 seed Nashville Predators in the opening round.

Read the entire story.

Rapid Reaction: Hawks 3, Wings 2

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
2:48
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


DETROIT -- A quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

How it happened: Corey Crawford stopped all three shooters in the shootout while Patrick Kane scored the lone goal on a highlight-reel move. The Hawks scored once in the first period and another in the second to slowly take control of the game. First Viktor Stalberg completed his breakout season with his 22nd goal on a rebound of a Patrick Sharp shot. Then, in the second period, Andrew Shaw finished a scoring play after a great feed by Sharp from behind the Wings net. Detroit finally got on the board with a Johan Franzen goal from a poor angle in the third period. The puck squeaked by Corey Crawford for his 29th goal of the year. The Wings tied it in dramatic fashion with goalie Jimmy Howard on the bench for an extra attacker when Tomas Holmstrom went between his legs in the crease and found Pavel Datsyuk for a tap-in with just 47 seconds remaining in regulation.

What it means: The Hawks clinched the No. 6 seed once the game went to overtime. The Hawks were 47 seconds away from earning the No. 5 seed and playing the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the playoffs. Now they’ll have to wait until the completion of other games out west before knowing who they will play. It can still be one of three teams, the Phoenix Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings or the San Jose Sharks. The Hawks went an entire year without a posting a shutout for the first time since the 1988-89 season. They complete the 2011-2012 regular season with a 45-26-11 record.

What’s next: The Hawks will take Sunday off and then begin preparations for the Stanley Cup playoffs with practice days early in the week before heading out on the road for the first two games of their series to begin Wednesday or Thursday.

2nd-period wrap: Hawks 2, Wings 0

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
1:37
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks led the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 after two periods at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

The Hawks scored a late second-period goal when Patrick Sharp made nice pass from behind the Detroit net to Andrew Shaw, who finished the scoring chance for his 12th goal of the season.

Both teams had power-play chances in the middle 20 minutes, but could not convert, although the Hawks’ goal came a few seconds after a Wings penalty had expired.

Corey Crawford has played very well through the first two periods, stopping all 21 shots he’s faced.

If the Hawks hold on to win the game they will face Nashville in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs starting later next week.

Ray Emery gets 1-year extension

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
12:58
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery has agreed to a one-year contract extension, the team announced on Saturday.

Read the entire story.

1st-period wrap: Hawks 1, Wings 0

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
12:48
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks led the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 after the first period at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

The Hawks got on the board when Viktor Stalberg scored on a rebound of a Patrick Sharp shot from near the point. It was Stalberg’s 22nd goal as he finishes a breakout season.

Before scoring, the Hawks earned a four-minute power play when Jimmy Hayes was high-sticked by Riley Sheahan, playing in his first NHL game. They did little with the power play, where they continue to struggle. The Wings had a power-play chance as well but failed to score.

Late in the period, the Hawks announced goalie Ray Emery had agreed to a one-year contract extension. He was set to become a free agent on July 1.

Playoff update: Four potential foes

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
10:45
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- All 30 NHL teams will be in action on the final day of the regular season Saturday and, finally, the playoff picture will be set. The only game on Friday that affected the Western Conference race saw the Phoenix Coyotes beating the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, vaulting the Coyotes back into first place -- and the No. 3 seed -- in the Pacific Division.

Here are the playoff scenarios facing the Chicago Blackhawks as they take on the Detroit Red Wings Saturday afternoon. Keep in mind the first tie-breaker is total non-shootout wins by each club and the second tie-breaker is total points earned in the head-to-head series between the two teams.

If the Hawks beat the Wings in regulation:

The Hawks will earn the No. 5 seed by virtue of the second tie-breaker. Both Chicago and Detroit will have 101 points and 39 non-shootout victories but the Hawks will have more points in the head-to-head season series so they would earn the No. 5 seed and would play Nashville in the opening round of the playoffs. That series would begin in Nashville on either Wednesday or Thursday.

If the Hawks beat the Wings in overtime or a shootout OR lose to Detroit:

Chicago will be the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and play the winner of the Pacific Division to be determined later on Saturday.

(Read full post)

Hawks' playoff position hinges on last game

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
8:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks tried to make their case on Friday for playing to win on Saturday in their regular-season finale against the Detroit Red Wings.

“Our focus will be to play the right way,” Jamal Mayers said after the final regular-season practice of the year in Detroit. “We want to play the right way and get ready for the playoffs.”

No one will argue with that, but plenty have argued whether the Hawks should truly want to win Saturday’s game -- at least in regulation -- and overtake the Detroit Red Wings for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. If that happens, the Hawks would take on the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the playoffs. A loss or overtime game means the Hawks will face the Pacific Division winner. Currently the Predators have eight more points than the Pacific-leading Los Angeles Kings.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks vs Predators
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesCould the Predators be a tougher matchup for the Blackhawks than the Kings?
So with a win on Saturday, the Hawks technically would play a “better” team in the playoffs than they would with a loss on Saturday. The top three seeds -- regardless of points -- go to the three division winners.

“You can say those sort of things and think that, but once you get on the ice it’s still Chicago/Detroit,” defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. “If you’re looking to win the whole thing, you have to beat everyone anyway. So do you drop to sixth and play a team with lesser points but with a three or four hour flight back and forth, or do you play Nashville, where it’s easier?”

Several Hawks mentioned the shorter flight to Nashville as a reason to want to win on Saturday. At the same time, they understand the differences in the teams.

“The No. 3 seed is a team that had a worse season than us and knowing that will probably give us some more confidence,” Viktor Stalberg said. “But sometimes it’s tough for traveling. It’s kind of a coin toss. We’re feeling good about our game.”

(Read full post)



ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers sits down with Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane to preview the playoffs, and their chances once they’re in.

Toews still waiting to clear final hurdle

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
4:21
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- If you’re confused about the situation surrounding Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews you’re probably not alone. On the one hand he says he’s close to returning.

“I was very close to playing [Friday] or [Saturday], but now we have another four days or so,” Toews said on Friday.

But on the other hand he claims to still be feeling “symptoms” while he’s on the ice.

(Read full post)

Blackhawks playoff scouting report

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
3:18
PM CT
Custance By Craig Custance
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Marian HossaBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesHeading in the playoffs, Marian Hossa leads the Blackhawks with 77 points.


There were moments during the first-round playoff series last year against the Vancouver Canucks when Patrick Sharp noticed something about goalie Corey Crawford, other than that he was playing extremely well.

He was also absolutely thriving in the experience. Crawford was a rookie goalie who seemed to enjoy it more when the pressure was raised to its highest.

It was no more apparent than Game 7 in Vancouver, when Crawford made 36 saves in an overtime losing effort.

"They had a ton of chances there," Sharp said. "We were chasing all game long, and Corey was making save after save. He was just locked in, enjoying the loud building and the atmosphere of the arena."

Read the entire scouting report here.

Toews out vs. Wings; playoffs up in air

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
3:00
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has been ruled out of his team's regular season finale against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday while he continues to recover from a concussion which has caused him to miss the last 21 games.

Read the entire story.

Wild's Prosser suspended one game

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
9:39
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The NHL suspended Wild defenseman Nate Prosser one game for his head-butt on Chicago Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers in Minnesota's 2-1 shootout win Thursday.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26