Chicago Blackhawks: Dustin Byfuglien

All-star ballot features 6 Blackhawks

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
7:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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COLUMBUS -- The Chicago Blackhawks have six players on the all-star ballot for the 2012 version of the contest in Ottawa, the league announced Thursday.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are all on the ballot for Chicago. Last season Kane, Toews and Sharp played in the game with Sharp taking home MVP honors.

The six players ties an NHL high with four other teams in the league. Voting begins November 14 at NHL.com

Daniel Carcillo a strong addition

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
11:54
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane's on-ice interviews occasionally veer off-script.

After Tuesday's 4-3 comeback win over the Winnipeg Jets, Kane broke free from the stock Q&A with the local TV host to ask the remaining fans a question of his own:

"It was Danny's first game," Kane said, his voice raised with joy. "You guys like him out there tonight?"

They did. Kane knows how to get a rise out of the 20,000-plus puckheads who fill the arena for every game.

"Danny" is Daniel Carcillo, a.k.a. Car Bomb, a.k.a. the Missing Link.

Carcillo is the heir apparent to Blackhawks alums like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer and Adam Burish -- bruisers that took the heat off the stars, and torched opponents during the 2010 Stanley Cup run.

Read the entire column.

Cup hero Byfuglien's return looms large

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
9:22
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- They haven’t stepped on the United Center ice since June 6, 2010, when former Chicago Blackhawks’ forwards Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd helped their old team to a 7-4 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.

[+] EnlargeDustin Byfuglien
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesDustin Byfuglien, who returns to the United Center as a Winnipeg Jet on Thursday, was a clutch playoff performer for the Hawks.

Both players, dealt in a salary cap purged the team was forced to endure following a title run in 2010, return to the United Center on Thursday with the newly reformed Winnipeg Jets. Byfuglien, in particular, comes back with a larger than life imprint on the city of Chicago and the organization that selected him in the eighth round of the 2003. draft. (And it’s not just because of his physical size, which lists him at 6-5, 265.)

Known as “Big Buff,” he scored two goals and had two assists in that Game 5, but it’s his personality which is most remembered by his former teammates.

“He was the guy in the locker room who kept it loose and had fun,” Bryan Bickell said this week. “I know he’s going to have fun when he’s back here.

“He was a social guy. He didn’t turn anyone down or look at anybody differently. He kept everyone the same. He wasn’t in any groups. He was in one big group with his teammates.”

A professional locker room can be no different than a high school classroom. Sometimes there are clicks, and in the case of hockey, it can be defined by nationality. Byfuglien mixed easily with all and his personality never wavered.

“He was a fun guy every day,” Patrick Sharp said. “Win or lose. Good game or bad game. I get a lot of credit or blame for being the prankster but he was the guy behind 90 percent of it. He kept the room loose and got along with everybody.”

His laid back persona sometimes got the best of him, like when coach Joel Quenneville barked instructions during practice and Byfuglien happened to do the opposite.

“The coach would tell him to do something and he doesn’t do it,” Patrick Kane said. “He would get an ear full.”

“He always had something to say,” Sharp explained. “He’d have a smart comment for authority figures and for whatever reason everyone kind of just laughed it off where I think if I said it or someone else in the room said it we’d get in trouble. But Buff had that smile that just made you laugh.”

His folk hero status was solidified in two playoff series against Vancouver in 2009 and 2010. He became known as the “Roberto Luongo killer” for his fierce battles in front of the net. He couldn’t be moved. He has 25 points in 39 career playoff games, all with the Hawks.

But player after player wanted to relay stories of Byfuglien’s happy-go-lucky attitude, even on the ice.

“There would be times when I’m getting ready for a faceoff or whatever and he’d be yelling from the other point ‘c’mon, son. Let’s go son.’ And I’d look over and he has that big grin on his face,” Kane said.

“And with my dad he’d be up clapping in the stands and for some reason Buff would catch a glimpse and be laughing about it at the face-off circle. I would say ‘focus on the game Buff, don’t be worrying about that stuff.’”

Only on occasion would Byfuglien’s joking go too far, but even then, animosity never lasted.

“He did a lot of funny things around here and sometimes guys would get pissed at him but at the same time you couldn’t stay pissed at him because he was just Buff,” Kane said. “He did get away with a lot.”

When asked who the Hawks miss the most from their championship team many names come up but none had the combination of on-ice talent and off-ice chemistry with his teammates. The current Hawks have talked often of missing that ingredient. It will be on the ice come Thursday night.

“Buff is Buff,” Bickell said. “He was a great teammate, a good friend, and a lot of fun.”

Ex-Hawk Byfuglien likely to face charges

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
1:32
PM CT
Burnside By Scott Burnside
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien likely will face unspecified criminal charges for allegedly boating while intoxicated two weeks ago in his home state of Minnesota.

Read the entire story.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been arrested in Minnesota on suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

Read the entire story.

Hawks had Big Buff jumping out of seat

June, 1, 2011
6/01/11
5:28
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Dustin ByfuglienJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDustin Byfuglien was excited to see his former team come close to eliminating the Canucks this season.
It takes a lot to get Dustin Byfuglien excited, but when Jonathan Toews scored a game-tying goal with 1:56 left in regulation in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks, it brought "Big Buff" out of his seat.

It probably brought back memories for Byfuglien, whose playoff heroics last season helped the Chicago Blackhawks eliminate the Canucks in the conference semifinals and spur them onto the Stanley Cup title.

"I think that may have been the first time in my life I got out of my seat when [Toews] scored the shorthander in Game 7 there to tie the game," Byfuglien said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I thought they were going to win."

Byfuglien watched the incredible series -- which Vancouver clinched in overtime -- and felt the same range of emotions most fans endured.

"I thought they did a damn good job, but when they got down [3-0 in the series] I was like ‘Whoa,'" Byfuglien said. "But they turned it around. That was cool."

It was this month a year ago when Byfuglien and two other Hawks were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in a blockbuster deal, tempering the Cup celebration for several players and fans.

And after signing a 5-year, $26 million extension with his new club in February, Byfuglien is on the move again. The Thrashers were officially relocated to Winnipeg on Tuesday, and while it's just a short trip from his home in Roseau, Minn., the move, and all the rumors surrounding it, had an effect on the low-key Byfuglien.

"[The move came into play during contract negotiations], but at that point the general manager and front office, they weren't in the loop either," he explained. "With Rick Dudley around I thought we had a fighting chance [to win], and hopefully he gets a chance up in Winnipeg, too."

Byfuglien likes to "fly under the radar" and was able to do just that in Atlanta after some high profile years in Chicago. Now he returns to a hockey crazed atmosphere.

"The fans are going to be nuts up there," he said. "It's going to be fun to play in front of a wild crowd again that's for sure. But I'll still be able to hide. I'll be just fine."

Byfuglien says he hasn't changed any since being drafted in the eighth round by the Hawks in 2003. His $26 million deal comes on the heel of a just completed $15 million he signed with the Hawks three years ago and not long after appearing in his first All-Star game.

"I bought a little fishing boat, a 21-foot Ranger," he said. "Hey, its cold in Winnipeg, but there are some great lakes for fishing up there. We'll just take the 'show' north."

As for his former Chicago teammates, he knows the Stanley Cup bond will always be there even if they don't talk about the championship often.

"In a few years we'll talk about it more," Byfuglien said. "Not too much now. My family talks about it when I come back. I still text all the guys. There isn't just one person I stay in touch with."

Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Mailbag: Keith's best days behind him?

May, 24, 2011
5/24/11
5:39
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The mail-bag is full once again. Let’s lighten it some:

Duncan Keith
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesWas Duncan Keith's subpar season an exception or a preview of what's to come?
Q: I am concerned that Duncan Keith reached his pinnacle in 2009. The Keith we saw this season was disappointing to say the least. I think we should consider a trade involving Keith while his value is still pretty high and assuming we can get a fair value for him. What are your thoughts on Keith? – Kirk, Toronto

A:It’s a good question, and I’m sure one many Hawks’ fans are wondering. I don’t know if he’ll contend for another Norris Trophy, but this year proved he is actually human. The body and mind just can’t take all that was on him coming off the previous year. However, he admittedly did not prepare for the season the right way and then Joel Quenneville played him to near exhaustion. I think this season was the exception more than the norm. Look at what he did in the couple years before the Norris Trophy. He was very good. While it’s a disappointment, it’s not a complete shock he had an off year. I think he will be much better next season.

Q: Jesse, just how much of a raise did Andrew Ladd earn himself this year? I love his two-way play, and his departure last year was the toughest one for me to swallow. Any chance (realistically) the Hawks bring him back? I'm thinking we use the money that Kopecky was making and try and sign him to a three- to four-year deal worth $3-4 million per. -- Robert, San Antonio

A:Sorry, barring some unforeseen circumstances it’s just not going to happen for a Ladd return. First of all he’s a restricted free agent who made $2.3 million last season. He’s getting another raise, no question. There is no way the Hawks could pry him away from Atlanta without them matching or someone with more cap room swooping in. Second, he’s a winger, and they really don’t need expensive wingers. Third, the Hawks can’t afford him anyway. Any money they save on Kopecky or anyone else leaving will be used to cover new contracts for Michael Frolik, Chris Campoli, etc., plus they’ll use what money they do have on a second-line center more than likely. It’s just not going to happen unless it’s a trade, which is a longshot as well. He’s the Thrasher’s captain afterall. Of course, if he doesn’t want to play in Winnipeg and forces a trade, anything can happen at that point.

Q: Brian Campbell is the one player more than any other on the Blackhawks' roster whose production does not justify his salary. He is a nice contributor, but for being the second-highest paid blue-liner on the roster, he, in my opinion, needs to do more than just lead the team in plus/minus. So I can see why you say that if someone is going to be moved through a trade this offseason it will be him. If he does get moved, what kind of player will Bowman try to get in return? Will it be another top-four blue-liner or a second-line center? How feasible would it be to get a player like Dustin Byfuglien back? He's a player who, when given comparable ice time, had twice the offensive production as Campbell. – Jonathan, Savannah, Ga.

A:The reasons you stated are the reasons we won’t see a return of Byfuglien. He’s too valuable at a decent price, so why would Atlanta (Winnipeg) trade him for Campbell? The major scenario I see Campbell is being moved is to a team with a ton of cap room that is trying to get rid of someone that might not make as much as Campbell but they feel is overpaid, etc. I’ve speculated a Campbell-for-Phil Kessel trade would be a good starting point for a deal with Toronto. I agree with your assessment that the production doesn’t justify the salary which would be no big deal if there was no salary cap. But he eats up too much of it. They would miss his transition game, but just think, getting two $3.5 million players in his place or three making nearly $2.5 million. That might more than make up for his loss.

Q: Jesse, thanks for all your insights and comments this year. You add a lot of perspective. If all Hawks fans agree that some size and toughness up front is needed and a second-line center to boot, what about getting Ladd back from Atlanta? Trade No. 4 and Troy Brouwer. How about Eric Brewer from the Bolts? -- Tommy boy, McHenry, Ill.

A:It’s not a bad proposal for Ladd. Certainly should be more than enough for the Thrashers to consider. In fact it might be too much talent back if you think Niklas Hjalmarsson is still going to blossom. But it does help the Hawks salary-wise except a lot of it would be used to pay Ladd. I think center is where they will allocate the biggest expenditure this summer and from your question it sounds like you think Ladd can play there. I don’t think he can. Again, I think the door is closed on Ladd for myriad of reasons but never say never.

[+] EnlargeBen Smith
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesBen Smith proved he has a bright future with the Blackhawks.
Q: Hey Jesse, what do you think the future holds for Ben Smith? I know I was impressed by his postseason play and grittiness, especially when he came back after seemingly destroying his leg. Will he start out in Rockford or do you think the organization believes he's a NHL-ready talent? -- Dom

A:I think it’s pretty obvious he’s got a job to lose once camp opens. Unless he’s a total flash in the pan I think the sky is the limit for Smith. There isn’t any one part of his game that is deficient. Obviously, he’s inexperienced, but he seems to have all the tools from his head to his skates. His hockey smarts and willingness to play in tough areas is impressive and it’s definitely not lost on Quenneville. Let’s see what the next step brings.

Q: Is it possible for the Hawks and Campbell to work together to defer some of the money on his contract to lower the cap hit? If so, I take it that Campbell refused to do it last offseason. I like Campbell, and I do not begrudge him for getting the contract he did, but it would be hard to find another $7 million defensemen in the league that does not play against the top line or on the No. 1 power play. Would have loved to see Big Buff in that Canucks series! Thanks Jesse. – Drew, Marietta, Ga.

A: No, they cannot defer money or change anything about a contract once it’s been signed. They can’t pay half his salary while another team they trade him to pays the other half. The salary, cap hit and everything else about the contract cannot be changed.

Q: What plans do you think the Blackhawks have for Jeremy Morin? He started strong until the World Juniors then had an injury. Do you think he will take a roster spot next season? – Daniel, Pekin, Ill.

A: I can’t tell you exactly what their plans are, but I assume he has a good chance to make it. Obviously, Smith may have moved ahead of him on the prospects chart, but he showed enough that I’m sure he’ll get a serious look. He could be trade bait as well. It’s all about the numbers, both where his salary fits in, and if he can play where they want/need him to play. That could be top-six or bottom-six. He showed enough grit that he doesn’t have to play on the top two lines to start his career in my opinion. We’ll see.

Q: Hi Jesse. If they're looking for a little bit of size and scoring, why trade Brouwer? I know he underperformed a bit, but doesn't he rank up there in terms of that total combo on the Hawks? – Matt, Cincinnati

A:On paper you’re right, but this might come down to money. They probably want to pay him like a bottom-six forward but I’m sure he’ll show the numbers you reference to an arbitrator asking for money in the $2 million range. I’m not sure the Hawks can afford that. In fact, I’m pretty sure they can’t. And he’s not enough of an impact player to make a priority. It reminds me of the Antti Niemi situation. They would like to have him back but aren’t going to move mountains to keep him. Like I wrote in another blog post, it’s 50/50 he’s on the opening night roster.

Q: Patrick Sharp had a career year this year, and is approaching a contract season. Realistically, can we re-sign him following next season, or if not should we consider trading him this offseason to free up some salary and get that second-line center our team is desperately in need of? – Jeff, Dallas

A: They can definitely re-sign him but it means making tough choices elsewhere of course. They have approximately $48 million tied up in 12 players going into 2012-2013 so there is room but it will be tight once again for the rest of the roster. Plenty of time between now and then to move money around, etc. but if they want him they can keep him.

Q: Other than Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Sharp, and Marian Hossa, what player(s) score 20-plus goals next year for Hawks? Also, have we seen the best of Hossa or will a longer offseason help him? – Jim, Lake Forest, Ill.

A:Smith would be a cool choice right? I’ll go with Frolik. I think he found his touch there at the end. He’s scored 20 twice before in the NHL so now a full season with this kind of talent around him, I’ll go that route. As for Hossa, I think we’ve seen his best, but I also think he can at least achieve that level still. Rest will help. I think a somewhat healthy Hossa -- if that’s possible -- still has some real good years left. I don’t think he’ll play better than what we’ve seen when at his best, but he can reach that same level again, easily.

5 things to look for in the second half

January, 31, 2011
1/31/11
3:52
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With the NHL season set to resume following the All-Star break, here are five things to look for in the second half from the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. They’re 26-20-4, tied for the seventh seed in the Western Conference with 56 points. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

5. Schedule: It’s not the 20 road games versus 12 homes games that should concern you; it’s where and when those road games occur. The Hawks open the second half with a six-game trip played in four time zones. It’s hard to get on a run with that kind of scheduling. Later, they go to hockey meccas Montreal and Toronto, plus visit Washington -- and the White House -- before ending the season with a home-and-home set against Detroit. Fortunately for the Hawks, there is only one game left out West after the six games following the All-Star break. The Hawks will be done with all the Western Canadian teams plus Southern California and Denver. But back to back action could be an issue as they go Phoenix/Dallas, Pittsburgh/St. Louis, Florida/Tampa bay, Washington/San Jose, and Detroit/Boston -- all coming up in the second half of the season. Almost none of those games are sure things.

[+] EnlargeMarty Turco
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireDon't count out Marty Turco from making an impact in the second half.
4. Goaltending: Compared to other issues, Hawks goaltending might be near the bottom of the list of problems, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be something to watch in the final 32 games. Corey Crawford limped into the All-Star break with some sub-par performances, so how he starts the season again will be important. If it was just a three-game slump, there shouldn’t be a problem unless he has another one later in the stretch run. Marty Turco could still be heard from as a “slump buster” so don’t count out his potential to contribute. There is still some unknown with Crawford -- especially in crunch time of a playoff race -- but so far, he’s given up very few weak goals until that recent stretch before the break.

3. Star gazing: The Hawks’ stars have to carry the team better than they have through the first 50 games. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp get a pass; they’ve done their part. But most everyone else has been inconsistent. Marian Hossa might have passed Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in this regard. Hossa needs to get back to dominating and not just for a shift or two. He went the first seven games of the season as the best player in the world. If the Hawks could get top five out of him, for 20-30 games, they’ll be much better off. If Keith and Seabrook can simply be solid but not spectacular, that bodes well for the stretch run also. Kane needs to light it up once in a while 5-on-5 and continue his fantastic playmaking when the Hawks have a man advantage. Nowhere more than penalty killing do the Hawks need their stars to show they can play the game the right way. Way too many chances have been given up with the key players on the ice. A small improvement in that category will go a long way to the Hawks making the playoffs.

2. Chemistry: The Hawks are still looking for it. It’s been well documented how much they lost coming off last season, and while they’ve gained some of it back over the course of the first 50 games, they still have a ways to go. Seeing Dustin Byfuglien interact with his former teammates at the All-Star game reminds how integral he was in that respect. No other current or recent former player could “cross lines” like Byfuglien and bring a room together. A six-game road trip, like the Hawks endured on the circus trip, might bring the room even closer. But for now they appear to have lost too much flavor in the room and it has carried over to the ice. Someone needs to galvanize this team and challenge themselves the way they did a year ago.

1. The trade deadline: How bold and financially creative will general manager Stan Bowman get before the Feb. 28 deadline? He’s more than intimated he is interested in upgrading at center, defense, and fourth line though it might be easier to accomplish in reverse order. A bold move would be for a second-line center. It might cost Jeremy Morin and some top draft picks, but it would assure the Hawks of making the playoffs. On defense, think of a player such as Columbus’ Marc Methot, who is having a decent season. The Blue Jackets will more than likely be sellers, and he’s a restricted free agent making only $1 million per season. It might be easy getting a fourth line “disturber” but not as easy getting the right one. Jarko Ruutu should be available as Ottawa will be holding a firesale soon. If the Hawks want to make that run, Bowman needs to step up to the plate -- if he can find a dance partner.

All-Star notes: Blackhawks' strong showing

January, 30, 2011
1/30/11
9:15
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Current and former Blackhawks are littered all over Sunday’s boxscore of Team Lidstrom’s 11-10 All-Star Game victory over Team Staal. A wrap-up:

  • Patrick Kane: 1 assist, 4 shots on net
  • Jonathan Toews: 1 goal, 2 assists
  • Duncan Keith: 1 assist, minus-3
  • Patrick Sharp: 1 goal, 2 assists, 5 shots on net, Game MVP
  • Dustin Byfuglien: 1 goal, minus-3
  • Martin Havlat: 3 assists

    [+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
    NHL Images/NHLI/Getty ImagesJonathan Toews scored a goal for victorious Team Lidstrom in the All-Star Game on Sunday.
    Toews relaxes

    Captain Serious was all smiles during All-Star weekend. He admitted it was nice not to have to answer questions about wins and losses and just have some fun with the game. He was especially loose with the media, deadpanning his answer when asked how he thought he played in the game.

    “I was good on draws, smart in the D-zone, backchecked well, had a couple hits, but no blocked shots,” Toews said. “It was fun.”

    Keith and Byfuglien

    Keith and former Blackhawk Byfuglien were paired on the blueline for Team Lidstrom while Nicklas Lidstrom skated with Shea Weber. Keith and Byfuglien were a combined minus-6 while Lidstrom and Weber were plus-13.

    “I don’t know what is more impressive, their plus-13 or me and Buff’s minuses,” Keith joked. “Those two guys are pretty good players.”

    Byfuglien was then informed of the extreme differences in the plus/minus.

    “Weird, how some things don’t change,” he laughed.

    The two, along with Kane, hooked up on a scoring play where all three earned points on a Byfuglien tally.

    “That was some shades of the old days there,” Keith said. “It was nice to see him put that one in.”

    Second half

    The Blackhawks will begin the second half of the season on Tuesday in Columbus. Head coach Joel Quenneville said the switch back to serious hockey has to happen “real quick.” He and assistant Mike Haviland will fly back to Chicago Monday morning to conduct an afternoon practice -- sans the four Blackhawks All-Stars, who will fly right to Columbus. Their teammates will meet them there Monday night.
  • 10 things to know after 20 games

    November, 15, 2010
    11/15/10
    5:56
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive


    Every 10 games I will give you an assessment of how the Chicago Blackhawks season is evolving. After the first 10 games they were 5-4-1 and Joel Quenneville said that record accurately reflected their play. After 20, they’re still hovering around .500 at 9-9-2 and his assessment stands up. Here are 10 things to know about the first 20 games:

    [+] EnlargeViktor Stalberg
    Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesViktor Stalberg has emerged as a winger who can make an impact.
    10. Lining up: Seemingly, the only line combination Quenneville hasn’t tried is Marty Turco at center and Corey Crawford on defense. Otherwise, just about every forward has played with each other and, thankfully, the most radical of lineups -- with Patrick Kane on left wing -- lasted the shortest amount of time. In game 20, Quenneville may have finally settled on his best combination, though he probably found it a week or two ago, at least for his top line.

    Jonathan Toews centering Kane and Viktor Stalberg has made an impact, even if it hasn’t always shown up in the box score. Stalberg has emerged as a winger who can handle the load and Toews and Kane remain better together than apart. Dave Bolland has finally returned to his No. 2 center role he was initially penciled in for when he signed a five-year mega contract two offseasons ago. He should center Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa for the near future. With Troy Brouwer’s fall from grace, Quenneville has finally put his best six forwards—at least on paper—together, and that’s the way it should be. The third and fourth lines can alternate some depending on who is playing well, but these lines should stick.

    9. The difference: After talking to scouts and league personnel they stressed the Hawks were a different team. That was no surprise. The roster turnover was well documented. But they meant the Hawks were different as in they were going to have to win in different ways than a year ago. Replicating the puck possession dominance of last season may simply be impossible to do. Their plus-9 shot differential was a special statistic that doesn’t happen every year. Currently, the Hawks are plus-2 in that category, which is closer to most teams in the league—even the good ones. Once the Hawks accept they are different, it might go a long way to figuring out new ways to win.

    8. Power up: If the Hawks are going to be a more “ordinary” team during five-on-five play then they have to make up the difference somewhere. Despite a brief slump near the end of the latest 10-game segment, the Hawks' power play is picking up the slack. It ranks third in the NHL, converting at a 25.8 percent clip. That makes sense. The Hawks may have lost some depth but they have enough star power to put five on the ice that are as good as anyone.

    Quenneville had Kane, Toews, Keith, Sharp, and Tomas Kopecky on a dangerous first unit but when that went a little stale -- as did the games of Keith and Kopecky -- he changed it up. Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa played with the top unit in game 20 against Anaheim, and it paid off to the tune of two goals. Simply put, if the Hawks fall far from a top-five ranking with the man advantage, their season is in danger. The power play has to continue at its current pace, and the No. 1 unit has plenty of pressure on it to succeed since there are no Kris Versteegs or Andrew Ladds to pick up the slack on the second unit.

    7. Mentally speaking Part I:The first 20 games provide more evidence the mental part of professional sports is just as important -- if not more so -- than the physical part. Sharp got off to a hot start because he said he gained confidence from playing well in the Stanley Cup finals. Hossa said he felt as relaxed as ever after getting the championship monkey off his back, and he proved it with a fast start. These were already star players who needed an extra confidence boost, and when they got it, they took it with them to the start of the next season.

    [+] EnlargeMarian Hossa
    Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa's play has benefitted from finally winning a Stanley Cup last season.
    6. Mentally speaking Part II: The mental aspect can work against a player as well. Niklas Hjalmarsson openly and honestly admitted he wanted to live up to his much publicized four-year, $14 million deal by, in part, providing more offense. He’s struggled on both ends showing a minus-9 with zero points for his efforts. And then there is Duncan Keith, an admitted big believer in nurturing the mental side of the game. His struggles are confounding as yet another player beginning a major contract with a lot of pressure. In fact, it’s the longest in team history. He’s been beat to the net, his pocket’s been picked, and his defensive coverage around the Hawks' net has been suspect. But he has chipped in on offense with 12 assists. Expect a turnaround sooner rather than later, but not before a few sessions with his guru, Hawks mental coach, Dr. Jim Gary.

    5. Stuck at home: One major problem the Hawks are having is getting out of their own zone. One scout said it was their “biggest problem.” Without a dominant puck possession game, the Hawks have had to play in their own end more than last season and the results so far don’t tell a positive story. Too many goals have been given up around their net with coverage being poor at best. It’s hard to blame them, this group of defenders hasn’t had to play tough minutes in their own end in quite some time. They are slowly getting better at it, but at what cost? Tight games have slipped away in the third period due to these breakdowns. Improvement has to happen, and fast.

    4. Bucking the stats: There are certain traditions in the NHL -- even since the rule changes after the lockout -- that have always held true for good teams. Score first and you’ll win the majority of your games. Take a lead into the third period and wining much more than just the majority should be the norm. The Hawks are not following those trends. When they score first they’ve won just 46 percent of their games. That’s 26th in the league. It gets worse: When they lead after two periods they win 60 percent of the time, which ranks 29th in the NHL. For perspective, half the league -- 15 teams -- haven’t lost a game when leading after two periods.

    3. The competition: Some may have predicted a resurgence in St. Louis, but not many thought the Hawks would have to fight Columbus for divisional superiority. Detroit is off to a predictable start having a healthier roster than a season ago and Nashville will always hang around. Incredibly, the Hawks have played exactly five more games than all four other Central division teams yet are in the middle of the pack in points, just three ahead of last place. One or two more games played wouldn’t be a big deal but that’s a potential 10 more points for all those teams. That’s a huge deal. Simply put, the Hawks have to reassess their goals. Making the playoffs will be a dogfight, almost simply by the mathematics of it all.

    2. United ugly: Teams can win on the road in the NHL, but what the Hawks have allowed to happen at home is almost criminal. What’s the best attendance in the league supposed to mean if it doesn’t help win some home games? The Hawks aren’t in a rebuilding mode. They proved their home dominance a year ago and so maybe this is the best sign they are a different team: seven home losses already as opposed to seven at the United Center all last season. They say they are being too cute at home, so get ugly. Fancy doesn’t win games. Hard work does. That will give the crowd something to cheer for and return the roar to the west side in some tight third periods. It's been a meow so far.

    1. Coaching: This is where Quenneville earns his new paycheck. No surprise there. Not many Stanley Cup winning coaches will have to say good-bye to 10 players and then work in a new group while also dealing with a fan base that expects a return to the promised land. After all, it was general manager Stan Bowman who stressed the core was still intact and having that was more important than anything.

    Of course, he was right, but teams don’t win championships without becoming teams. Quenneville has some work to do in getting players to accept roles as he did last year. It is starting to come. Jack Skille is understanding what he needs to be in a third or fourth line role. Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer are being more physical than earlier in the season when scoring goals may have been on their minds. Quenneville was a master at getting it done from Versteeg to Dustin Byfuglien last year. Now, he has to do it all over again. Though some may disagree, it is slowly starting to come together, but no longer is it early. Quenneville has to stress exactly that: We’re a quarter of the way done with the season and a rough start needs to turn into a successful middle or it will be a quick end.

    Irked Quenneville pulls Hawks off ice

    November, 6, 2010
    11/06/10
    12:35
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive

    ATLANTA -- The “reunion” game just got overshadowed by an irritated Chicago Blackhawks head coach.

    Joel Quenneville pulled his team off the ice after a shortened morning practice, in advance of Saturday night’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers.
    Quenneville called his team together near the benches, gave them a few stern words then sent them off the ice.

    Joel Quennville
    AP Photo/Paul BeatyJoel Quennville was irked with his team's effort at Saturday morning's practice.
    “Just didn’t like the way it was going and wanted to keep the energy for tonight,” Quenneville said afterwards. “I just think we can be sharper, that’s all.”

    Player reaction to the unusual move by Quenneville was mixed. Marty Turco seemed to provide the most insight.

    “Pretty plain and simple,” Turco said in a quiet dressing room. “I think he had a right to be a little choked about it all. It has a little to do with today and a lot to do with other things going on probably. Our record speaks for it but its more about why our record is what it is.

    “Part of it might be just the attitude possessed by this team. I think everyone knows attitude goes a long way and doesn’t just start with the drop of the puck.

    “It kind of stems from the unhappiness where we are as a team and attitude we’re maintaining and position we are with our team.”

    The Hawks' captain addressed the media but was short with his answers. At first, he didn’t want to admit something was out of place.
    “It was nothing,” Toews said. “Nothing to talk about.”

    When pressed, Toews opened up, at least a little more.

    “Yeah, he saw it was a better thing to cut practice short so that’s what he did so there is nothing to talk about,” he said. “Obviously, yeah, there is a message. Just want to be ready for the game tonight.”

    The Hawks have been inconsistent and Quenneville knows with four ex-hawks facing their old team, a large crowd expected, and the Thrashers using the Hawks -- as most teams do -- as a benchmark, his team needs to be focused.

    “We know they are going to be ready and the harder working team is going to have success in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “You anticipate the guys on the other side are going to focus and how they are going to be ready and we want to be there.”

    As a newcomer, winger Viktor Stalberg hasn’t seen an agitated Quenneville too much but he got the message as well.

    “He’s a pretty constructive guy so you don’t see him mad all the time,” Stalberg said. “He’s going to have moments like that. He was right out there. We didn’t come out prepared the way we wanted to this morning. It’s a wake-up call for all the guys. I feel like it’s not a bad thing.”

    Defenseman Brian Campbell agreed.

    “You could probably have a look at it and understand why,” he said. “We have to be sharper. Obviously he’s not too happy and you look at the way we played, it’s definitely unacceptable. We owe it to him and to a lot of people, we have to play better hockey.”

    By the time Quenneville met the media he didn't seem upset. He made his statement to the team, and now it’s time to move on.

    “I don’t put a lot of credence into morning skates,” Quenneville explained. “Basically, we’ll put it as a short practice.”

    Shorter than usual, that’s for sure. We’ll find out Saturday night if the message truly was heard.

    Morin to make his debut

    [+] EnlargeJeremy Morin
    Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesJeremy Morin will make his NHL debut against the organization that traded him in the offseason.
    Adding yet another storyline to Saturday’s game, 19-year-old Jeremy Morin will make his NHL debut against the team who traded him this past offseason as part of the blockbuster that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, and Ben Eager to Atlanta.

    “It’s a bit ironic but it’s an exciting time for me and I’m just looking forward to the game right now,” Morin said Saturday morning.

    Morin will lineup with Patrick Sharp as his center and Troy Brouwer as the other winger.

    The reunion

    Thrasher players Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, and Dustin Byfuglien met up with some of their former teammates for a reunion dinner Friday night.

    “We were busting each other’s chops pretty good,” Ladd said. “It was fun to have the group of guys together. Fun to catch up.”

    Ladd wasn’t sure who picked up the bill, but he knew who didn’t.

    “Johnny [Toews] didn’t pick up the tab,” Ladd joked. “He got that big playoff bonus and he didn’t pick up the tab but that’s alright. Actually, Buff [Dustin Byfuglien] paid for me.”

    It turns out Byfuglien paid for everyone.

    “I had a choice but I thought I would be a nice guy,” Byfuglien said. “It was a good time to get back together with those guys. Still laughing at the same jokes.”

    So how did the dinner go?


    “It was basically Duncs [Duncan Keith] being Duncs, Sharpie [Patrick Sharp] telling jokes, and Tazer [Jonathan Toews] being in the middle of all of it. Just the same old good things. [Toews] has loosened up a little bit. You get him around the right people he’ll crack a smile throw some jokes out there.”

    Brent Sopel didn’t make the dinner as he is entertaining 15 friends in town from Chicago.


    Video: Talking to former Hawks

    November, 5, 2010
    11/05/10
    6:53
    PM CT


    ESPNChicago’s Jesse Rogers talks with former Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager about their move to Atlanta and their feelings about facing the Hawks on Saturday night.

    Familiar faces on Thrashers await Hawks

    November, 5, 2010
    11/05/10
    6:45
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    [+] EnlargeDustin Byfuglien
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesFormer Blackhawks favorite Dustin Byfuglien has adjusted to life as a Thrasher.
    ATLANTA -- It’s a game both the Chicago Blackhawks and Atlanta Thrashers circled on their calendars as soon as the schedule was released. Four popular former Blackhawks will skate for the Thrashers when the Hawks visit Philips Arena on Saturday night.

    On Friday, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, and Andrew Ladd discussed leaving the Blackhawks, Saturday’s matchup and all things Chicago.

    What was the first thing you thought of when you were traded over the summer?

    Byfuglien: “I was surprised. It was just a couple weeks after we won [the Stanley Cup]. I had to think about it and was kind of sad. After a couple of days thinking about it I was excited and ready for a new challenge.”

    Eager: “I wasn’t that surprised, to be honest. I got a text message from a buddy. That was the first person I heard it from. I knew there were going to be changes.”

    Ladd: “We knew it was coming. We just didn’t know where. I got excited about the opportunity here in Atlanta and obviously having the three other knuckleheads here already was nice too. It was disappointing to leave Chicago.”

    Sopel: “I wasn’t shocked. Obviously when they signed [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane and [Duncan] Keith everyone knew, it was just, ‘who was it going to be?’ It wasn’t a matter of ‘if’, just ‘when’ and ‘who’. I wasn’t too shocked but obviously disappointed. When you win a championship with a team you never want to leave. Plus my wife and kids are still there. A little more devastating for me for that fact.”

    The Hawks have sold out every game for nearly three years. How has the transition been going to a team averaging under 10,000 per game?

    Byfuglien: “It’s been nice and quiet. Been liking the peace. It’s the way it is around here. We’ll get the ship back in here.”

    Eager: “It’s been a bit different. It’s similar to like it was in Chicago a few years ago but they’re making some good steps here. Once we get a good product on the ice, I’m sure the fans will show up and support us.”

    Sopel: “You prepare the same way and approach every game the same way, but when you get on the ice and hear 20,000 fans screaming rather than 5,000, obviously there is just a different energy in the building. In Chicago three years ago you couldn’t give a ticket away. We’re that way in Atlanta right now, but a winning team draws good crowds.”

    Will you take it easy on your former teammates?

    Byfuglien: “I’m on defense now so I [get] to pick and choose. We’ll see. We’ll catch somebody. Anyone that comes over my area, [they] gotta [get checked].”

    Eager: “There’s a few guys I wouldn’t mind checking, but I think Kaner,” Eager joked. “He jumped out on a few bar tabs but he always has his head up so he’s tough to catch. But hopefully a couple guys have their heads down.”

    Ladd: “I could try to catch Duncs, but I don’t know if I’ll be quick enough to hit him. We’ll see what happens.

    Sopel: “There are a few that stiffed me with a bar tab and there were a few practical jokers. [Adam] Burish would have been a prime candidate but he’s gone. You know Kaner always gave me [crap] so he better keep his head up,” Sopel kidded.

    Are you surprised by the Hawks’ .500 record?

    Eager: “It’s a bit understandable. Maybe it’s a bit of a hangover but I’m sure they’ll come around. They have a lot of great players.”

    Sopel: “It’s tough. When you lose nine guys off your roster -- especially these four [Thrashers] -- that’s some big shoes to fill,” Sopel joked. “But with new guys it takes time to get to know each other and jell and understand the systems. You’re not going to go 82-0 and obviously there was the short summer. There are a lot of variables, so I know Chicago fans got to see a very special team last year and it will go down in history in Chicago as one of the best, but they still have a very good team. They will turn it around.”

    What restaurant in Chicago misses you the most?

    Byfuglien: “I would have to say 50/50 (2047 Division St.) I’m probably saving some money not having me there.”

    Eager: “I guess Piazza Bella (2116 W. Roscoe). And the bread there. We used to crush the bread. I miss that place. It was a good spot.”

    Ladd: “That’s easy. Joe’s Stone Crabs. I frequent there a lot.”

    Buff, other ex-Hawks get rings in Atlanta

    October, 22, 2010
    10/22/10
    9:37
    AM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Chicago Blackhawks vice president Al MacIsaac was in Atlanta on Friday to present several former Hawks players and an assistant coach their Stanley Cup rings.

    Read the entire story.

    No Buff, so Kopecky will meet Luongo

    October, 19, 2010
    10/19/10
    3:48
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    [+] EnlargeTomas Kopecky
    Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesTomas Kopecky is off to the hottest start of his career with a goal and seven assists.
    After Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks might start calling him Dustin Kopecky or maybe Tomas Byfuglien. The Chicago Blackhawks and Canucks renew their rivalry, and someone has to take over the role of Roberto Luongo's agitator.

    If anyone on the Hawks' roster can replace the man in the middle who helped knock out Vancouver from the last two postseasons, it might just be Tomas Kopecky.

    Kopecky is off to the hottest start of his career. He has a goal and seven assists and leads the Blackhawks in the latter category. He has at least a point in five straight games.

    So can he replace big Dustin Byfuglien as Luongo's nemesis?

    "I'm going to try, but it's hard to replace [Byfuglien]," Kopecky said after practice on Tuesday. "Hopefully, it's going to work out."

    The numbers say he can. Usually, counting goals scored from in front of the net tells the story, but in Kopecky's case, it's assists. Five of his seven helpers have come with him in front of the net keeping the play alive for someone else -- usually Marian Hossa -- to finish. His lone goal also came from driving to the net.

    "He's watched one of the masters at it in Detroit with [Tomas] Holmstrom," Joel Quenneville explained. "I think he's pretty adept at where he needs to go, and he's willing to fight that traffic and the abuse you face when you get to the front of the net."

    Kopecky has proven his coach right. He's been pushed around and sometimes knocked down as a teammate is finishing the scoring play he kept alive.

    "I love that kind of stuff," Kopecky said. "Those little scrums in front of the net. It's something that can get the goalie off his game. That's fine with me. I'm kind of enjoying it."

    Kopecky thinks playing with Hossa means more goals will come his way.

    "I always just try to give him the puck and create room for him," Kopecky said. "Every time I do, something good is going to happen around the net, and then I just start banging those rebounds in."

    Hossa impresses teammates: Nothing says more about a player's abilities than when other stars talk about him in the same vein as regular fans. That's happening right now with Hossa.
    "Talking with him, last year he didn't get to do much over the summer [due to injury]," Patrick Kane said. "He kind of just sat around and waited until he had to play. This year, I asked him what the difference was, and obviously getting in shape, that helps a lot. On the ice he does so many different things. It's pretty fun to watch."
    Hossa has seven goals and four assists and leads the NHL with 11 points.

    Cullimore contributes: Jassen Cullimore was in the middle of the dramatic finish by the Blackhawks on Monday night in their 3-2 overtime win against the Blues.

    "It was my first shift in a little while," Cullimore explained on Tuesday. "It just kind of unfolded getting into the play like that."

    Cullimore had taken only three shifts in the third period and jumped over the boards for the first time in overtime with about 90 seconds remaining. He took a pass from Kane, wheeled around the net and dished it back to Kane, who set up Patrick Sharp for the winning goal. The building erupted.

    "When we were coming into the dressing room we could hear the crowd going crazy while they were interviewing Hossa on the bench," Cullimore recalled. "They were so loud you couldn't even hear him."

    Scott tried: At one point in the game, John Scott said he tried to pick a fight with Brad Winchester of the Blues, but Winchester would have none of it.
    "He is supposed to be their big heavyweight and he still said no," Scott said. "But I tried."

    Lineup: Joel Quenneville said that Marty Turco will start against Vancouver on Wednesday night. He also indicated that their healthy scratch from night to night will differ depending on matchups and how players are performing. The Hawks currently have 21 active players on the roster.

    Start time reminder: Wednesday's game against Vancouver will start at 8:00 p.m. CT to accommodate Canadian television.

    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