Chicago Blackhawks: Sean O'Donnell
After the game, though, you wouldn’t find a Blackhawks player who’d use that as an excuse, as plausible as it might be.
“Obviously missing our top guys makes a difference but we’ve played well without Johnny,” goalie Corey Crawford said. “We just have to find a way to get some points.”
“Those are good players, but you can’t sit here and make excuses after the game, especially after a performance like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have a good team that we put on the ice today. We just didn’t play like it.”
That might be true, but when you’re missing your top two centers and half of your top defensive duo it’s bound to have an effect -- at least until other players feel out some new roles.
CHICAGO -- Though the Chicago Blackhawks offense suffered without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp in a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, it was their defense that put them in an early hole.
“I think scoring first was important,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought we sagged off that first goal.”
That first goal came courtesy of a turnover by Sean O'Donnell.
“Two unfortunate giveaways there,” O’Donnell said. “Mine was the first one, and then there was the second one there, and you just can’t do that to a team like this.”
“I didn’t see the first one,” Corey Crawford said. “The second one, I don’t know, they made a good play out in front.”
And after the second one, the normally mild-mannered Crawford smashed his goalie stick over the crossbar. It probably said a lot more about the Hawks’ overall frustrations on defense than just that one goal.
“There are some things that we need to tighten up,” O’Donnell said. “Overall we’ve had a good first half but there is room for improvement.”
Especially where championships are won -- on defense.
But what he said, unfortunately, wasn’t about the Hawks.
“[The Predators] play really tight defensively and they’re comfortable in those low-scoring games,” O’Donnell said when asked about trailing early in the game. “We thought coming in it was going to be a grinding, low-scoring game.”
That’s a thought that has never been uttered about the Hawks this season. They aren’t “comfortable” in low scoring games and they don’t play “really tight defensively.” And it’s an issue moving forward. The Hawks need to find different ways to win.
“It’s a tough team to create chances against,” he said. “It didn’t really come easy tonight.”
It’s not supposed to come easy. And when it does, it’s a testament to the Hawks’ talent. But what does it say about a team ranked fourth in the league on offense to be half a period away from getting shut out for a sixth time this season?
It says hockey is a humbling game, and gutting out goals and wins is as important as a high-flying attack.
“With teams like [Nashville] there’s not a lot of plays through the neutral zone,” O’Donnell said. “There’s not a lot of pretty offense. I think you have to sacrifice that.”
How often have the Hawks sacrificed their offense to play better defense or grind out a win? Two games come to mind, a 1-0 loss to San Jose and a 2-1 win in Los Angeles, both coming back in November.
“They’re important games, especially these last two,” Kane said. “Pretty much four-point games and we lost both of them.”
The two losses dropped the Hawks to fourth in an ultra-competitive Central Division. Though the race is tight, looking up at Nashville, St. Louis and Detroit at the All-Star break can’t sit well for Chicago.
“Our division is probably the hardest one,” Duncan Keith said. “They all play tough games and play a good, team game.”
And some play different styles to win. The Hawks have yet to exhibit that ability, but then again, Nashville can’t open it up and win 6-5 games very often. That might come back to haunt them when the Hawks are at full strength, but its little consolation for the Hawks after a home loss to a team that played the night before. Their second consecutive loss to the same team, in fact.
“They have a ton of confidence and a ton of momentum right now,” Corey Crawford said. “Something maybe we could have broke if we had tied it up there at the end. I don’t know. Tough loss.”
Make that two tough losses.
CHICAGO -- A quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Tuesday night.
How it happened: Two first-period goals held up for Nashville as Pekka Rinne turned back almost everything the Hawks threw at him -- which wasn’t very much until late in the game. Nashville took the early lead, thanks to turnovers by Sean O'Donnell and Nick Leddy. Craig Smith and Mike Fisher pounced on them, burying high-percentage shots in the slot area. Without a couple of star forwards in the lineup, the Hawks offense was stagnant, but it did finally manage a power-play tally in the third period by Dave Bolland. That woke up the Hawks, as well as the fans in the building, but a furious last half of the period couldn’t produce the game tying goal. Colin Wilson’s power-play goal into an empty net was the Predators’ final score.
What it means: The Hawks limp into the All-Star break after back-to-back losses to these Predators. Do they have an excuse playing without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp? Of course, but there is no excuse for getting down early and mustering very little for 50 minutes against a team that just played the night before. Leddy and O’Donnell continue a season-long trend of poor play by Hawks defenders in their own zone. Coach Joel Quenneville tried everything, including Patrick Kane at center, but maybe having to play five rookies in their 12 forwards caught up to them as there seemed to be little line chemistry throughout the night. The break might be coming at the best time in order to get the walking wounded healthy again. Through 50 games the Hawks are 29-15-4.
What’s next: Kane and Marian Hossa will head to Ottawa for the All-Star Game while the rest of the team will scatter until Monday, when they take off for a nine-game road trip that starts in Vancouver next Tuesday. Their next home game is Feb. 19 against St. Louis.
There was no scoring in the second period as the teams played an even middle 20 minutes. The Hawks changed up their lines midway through the period, but didn’t generate many more scoring chances.
Corey Crawford had a solid second period after giving up two goals following Hawks turnovers in the first period. Sean O'Donnell and Nick Leddy gave pucks away behind the Hawks net, leading to goals from Craig Smith and Mike Fisher.
“I want to say the Edmonton guy kind of initiated contact by kind of stopping,” defenseman Sean O’Donnell said Wednesday after practice. “It was unfortunate he was right in that area, right by the boards. I think he kind of tried to do a reverse hit, and I don’t know if he lost his balance or Danny was coming with more speed. He went in [to the board] pretty awkwardly. I think it was a hockey play. I don’t think it was that bad.”
O’Donnell has been around a long time, which is good and bad. He knows a dirty hit when he sees it, but he also has been conditioned to be a good teammate. But is he being a good teammate by somewhat absolving Carcillo? If players talk about policing themselves -- and they have -- it has to start in their own locker rooms.
It was evident captain Jonathan Toews was uncomfortable with trying to defend Carcillo while also trying not to condone the illegal hit.
“It’s tough to tell because you know the guy,” Toews said. “He’s your friend, he’s your teammate. It is a dangerous spot, and we’ve been talking about suspensions and head shots and different places that we have to be careful. Obviously, he has a bit of a reputation so that may play into it, but again, you stand behind him. He’s a physical player, he’s going out there trying to create energy for our team. It’s unfortunate both players kind of came out of it with an injury so we’ll see what happens here.”
The Hawks have been the victim of some recent dirty head shots -- see Marcus Kruger for evidence -- so it’s incumbent upon them to be critical of their own as much as they are of an opponent. It’s not easy, but the change to the game might be worth it.
“I don’t know what he could have done differently,” O’Donnell said. “You always want to be playing the puck, but it’s still a physical game. It’s a tough spot for D-men. We can’t hold guys up, you can’t do anything. And they're coming full speed for you, and I think he wanted to give Danny a bump and go in together. I think there is a lot of gray area, and it was one of those worst-case scenarios where the guy went in hard and kind of awkwardly. I just hope the NHL sees it the same way.”
O’Donnell made those comments before the league suspended Carcilllo for seven games. But the Hawks defenseman is right about one thing he said: “You always want to be playing the puck.”
Why Carcillo didn’t try to go around Gilbert to get to the puck as undoubtedly Toews or another forward would have done is a question only he can answer.
The Hawks didn’t exactly come down on the hit as much as they should have, but at least they admitted it’s a dangerous play. Working dangerous hits out of the game has to start within each locker room. The Hawks have been on the receiving end enough to know that when one of their own -- already with a bad reputation -- commits a heinous act, there is no defense for it.
The Hawks trailed twice but also gave up two third period leads. Winning in a shootout is just as easy as losing -- and excuses nothing for the mistakes in the first 65 minutes.
“Everything exploded in the third,” coach Joel Quenneville said afterwards. “We’ve got to be more composed, especially with the game on the line. We’ve got to tighten up, and be predictable, and trust that we can play our own positions. We’ve got to be better than that, for sure.”
How many times has Quenneville said a version of the same thing this year?
If the Hawks were playing well right now, Jonathan Toews’ shorthanded goal with 1:19 remaining in the second period should have been the back-breaker. The United Center was going wild as the home team took it’s first lead, 3-2 -- most of the audience probably didn’t know the Islanders are awful in the third period this year. They’ve scored just 10 goals while giving up 28.
But there they were, outscoring the Hawks 2-1 and outshooting them, 23 to 7. That’s not a misprint. Twenty-three to 7 in the third period. Forty one to 36 for the game.
“It’s nice to get the two points but I still think we’re loose in our own end,” Sean O’Donnell said. “It just doesn’t seem like we’re as tight as we need to be. We need to play a lot better going into St. Louis tomorrow [Saturday] night.”
Not just Saturday night but every night. Quenneville wouldn’t put it all on Corey Crawford or even his much-maligned defense.
“I wouldn’t blame the 'D' so much,” he said. “Our forwards were contributing as well. We didn’t have guys low when needed in several instances but at the same time we need to be better than that for sure, if we think we’re going to be a better team than that.”
The mistakes came in all forms. A too many men on the ice penalty led to the first of two power-play goals by the Islanders. Overall, the Hawks played a poor opening period giving confidence to a fragile New York team. After a great middle 20, Chicago reverted back to its first-period play, giving up another power-play goal while the tying tally, by Nino Niederreiter, occurred after Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith ran into each other. It was his first goal of the season in just his fifth game.
“The win was nice but it’s not the kind of hockey we want to play," O’Donnell stated.
And the hawks have been playing too much of it lately. Only a good finish in the shootout kept the boo birds from invading the building.
“Even though we’re going to make mistakes every game we’re going to find ways to win,” Jonathan Toews said. “The main thing was we had a little more energy and a little better preparation than we did in the last one.”
Energy they had but the mistakes came too often. Friday, they got the win but there won’t be many more two-point nights if they don’t “tighten up” on defense. It’s been said enough.
• Toews scored his team and conference leading 14th goal of the season, his first shorthanded this year.
• With stopping all three shooters in the shootout, Corey Crawford has made save on 11 of 14 shootout attempts this season.
• Ben Smith scored his first goal of the season after sitting out the last four games as a healthy scratch. Smith took Bryan Bickell’s place in the lineup. Bickell was a healthy scratch for the second time this year.
• Quenneville said he liked the play of Marcus Kruger in his debut as the Hawks’ second line center. Kruger played 20:02, registering 4 shots on goal and winning 62 percent of his face-offs.
Every 10 games (or so) I’ll break down the Chicago Blackhawks just as the coaches do internally. At 7-2-2 through the first month of the season, they’ve gobbled up points while leaving a level or two of better play to reach. Here are 10 things to know about the first 10 (actually 11) games of the season:
Kaner: Dismiss for the moment his move to center, Patrick Kane has simply been the best player on the ice through the first month of the season. Now add a controversial and mocked position change and it makes the start to his year simply incredible. Take a mental video of him with the puck; few players can do what he does. Even when not producing points, he’s a magician with it weaving his way through defenders as if they are standing still. And the respect he’s getting from the opposition is paying off. Watch how defenders back off, giving him more time and space or when they send two at him -- as they did Monday night in overtime in Game 11 -- opening up chances for his teammates. Joel Quenneville gave general manager Stan Bowman the credit for the move to center but, Kane deserves most of the kudos. His desire to be great is overshadowed by his fun-loving attitude, but it doesn’t mean he’s not motivated. The doubts about him undoubtedly fuel it. The MVP of October.
Depth: If you’re looking for parallels to 2010 when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup, take a look at the production from role players. Jamal Mayers, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy and Viktor Stalberg all have goals and produced in key situations. Sean O’Donnell has three assists, and Dan Carcillo has shown more skill than fight---and that’s a good thing. We already knew he can drop the gloves. Through the first month the best newcomer has easily been Mayers. Patrick Sharp called him a “rock” killing penalties, and he’s come to the aid of teammates without blinking. Three fights, two goals, one assist. That's pretty good for a recently turned 38 year-old, fourth liner. The Hawks depth has been just fine. And somewhere (Rockford) Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin are waiting for their turns.
The lines: Everyone seems to have an opinion on Andrew Brunette. Is he slowing down Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp? Maybe, but the Hawks are going to give him a long leash, especially if they continue to rack up points. There’s little doubt that Kane’s line has been the most consistent no matter who’s on his wing. His chemistry with Marian Hossa is exactly what the Hawks were looking for when they paired the two, and both Dan Carcillo and Sharp have fit in nicely on the other side. The third line hasn’t been messed with. Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik have been just fine. The fourth line has been solid as well. Viktor Stalberg can be inconsistent, but he’s given Joel Quenneville something to think about in terms of where he plays after winning games 10 and 11 with his brilliant speed. If Brunette is moved down who’s to say the third line can’t be broken up -- at least for a little while. How would Frolik respond playing with Toews? How about Ben Smith, who’s languishing in the minors? Quenneville has a good problem on his hands and needs to maximize the opportunity, but 10 or 11 games isn’t enough of a sample size.
Third periods:There’s no bigger turnaround to the Hawks game from last season than their play late in games. They’ve given up just six goals in the third period—that’s tops in the league—while scoring 15. Part of the reason is goaltending. For the last two years their No.1 goaltenders have faltered early on in the regular season giving up third period leads and ties. In 2009 the Hawks were good enough to overcome but not last year. Corey Crawford has been a wall when the Hawks have needed him most and while there is no statistic to confirm it, you don’t have to be a personal trainer to figure the Hawks are better in third periods because they aren’t exhausted from a short summer of Stanley Cup partying. See Duncan Keith and the defense for proof. The Hawks have been downright dominating in crunch time and there’s no better time to be so.
Young guns: Any surprises in the early going have to include Leddy and Kruger. It has been night and day for both players since training camp, especially for Kruger. Seemingly destined for the minors, he returned from Rockford after Game 1 with a vengeance. No longer shy with the puck, he’s making plays that were the norm for him in Sweden and his defensive prowess is mature beyond his youthful age -- enough so that he’s one the Hawks’ primary penalty-killers. Leddy’s rise wasn’t as dramatic. He had a decent camp but --like Kruger -- he’s simply playing with more confidence. He’s held onto the puck for up-ice rushes whereas a year ago he would have gone off the boards for the simple play. An example came in Game 7 against Colorado when he went end to end before finding Mayers for a goal. In Game 11, he pinched like he was on a 5-on-3 and Kane found him for a one-timer. His seven points in 11 games match his total from 46 games a year ago. Not surprisingly, he’s still a work in progress in his own zone. Twenty-year-old defensemen rarely master the game or even come close until they get needed experience. Leddy is getting it and the Hawks are winning. It’s the best of both worlds.
Statistically speaking: You may have missed it, but Toews leads the league in face-off percentage winning 63 percent so far, including a whopping 20 wins out of 25 face-offs Monday night against Nashville. The raw numbers sound even more impressive. He’s won 143 and lost 84 in 11 games. As a team the Hawks rank second in the league at 53.9 percent. A huge question mark coming into the year, faceoffs have been a strength thanks mostly to the captain … The amount of penalties the Hawks are taking has lessened dramatically. They average just 9.2 minutes per game in the penalty box, second best in the league. Joel Quenneville claims it is one reason their penalty killing has been so good—it's not being taxed.
The defense:This is the area to keep an eye on. It has been shaky, but hasn’t sprung many leaks. Not when you consider how good the Hawks have been in the third period and killing penalties. But some more production from the back end is going to be needed at some point this season. The Hawks have just two goals from the blue-line, both by Leddy. Keith and Seabrook are still finding their roles on the power play; the group as a whole doesn’t seem to be joining the rush as much as in the past -- except for Leddy. Forget a goal, how about a point for Niklas Hjalmarsson? Or just a shot on goal. He has just 11 through 11 games but he’s plus-4 and that’s the best news after last year’s start. At some point the forwards will hit a drought and defensemen will need to contribute. In their own end, the Hawks are working out some kinks with new defensive pairings and if Leddy and Keith can get their communication in order—considering how fast both play the game—things will settle down even more. Steve Montador and O’Donnell/Sami Lepisto have been more than adequate as the third pair.
Power play: What else can be written or said about the Hawks' surprisingly-bad power play? The numbers tell the story: four goals on 45 chances, an 8.9 percent conversion percentage. That’s as ugly as it gets. Well, almost. St. Louis converts 8.3 percent of the time, but the Blues are the only team worse than the Hawks. Joel Quenneville probably did the right thing completely changing his personnel in the last few games. Sharp, Kane, Toews and either Keith or Seabrook have been together so long on one unit it’s been getting stable and predictable. In games 10 and 11 it was better and if not for Pekka Rinne on Monday night the Hawks would have tallied for sure. They had several disallowed the game before, so maybe it’s getting closer. Point men have to shoot more starting with Seabrook. The Hawks have 64 shots on 45 power play attempts. For comparison, San Jose has 85 shots on 36 chances: Shoot the puck. Thank goodness for….
The penalty kill:Much maligned a season ago, the Hawks have been great killing penalties. They rank third in the league, killing 91.7 percent. Working as a four-man unit, they’ve closed the shooting lanes that were open a year ago while scoring three shorthanded goals in the early going. That’s as many as they’ve given up on the power play. Their goal differential of zero when down a man is unheard of even through just 11 games. While there is star power getting it done, don’t dismiss the heady play of Mayers and Kruger. That duo has been together since Game 2 of the season and rarely has a miscue. Mayers has been a steadying force bringing 13 years of solid penalty killing to his new team.
The schedule: After a brutal start to last season, October 2011 must seem like a walk in the park. Short, manageable road trips with decent practice time and rest between home games have given the Hawks the best chance to succeed. Plus, the caliber of opponents has given Chicago some time to jell with their new group. There’s little doubt some of the games they’ve pulled out might have slipped away against elite teams but nothing says you have to beat the bad ones, especially early in the season when they’re still hungry. Still, a solid start at home (5-0-2) has made last season’s United Center record a distant memory. The Hawks didn’t win their fifth home game until November 14. The schedule gets tougher but the first month set the Hawks up nicely for what’s to come.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks might be one of the few teams in NHL history to employ both a 40-year-old (Sean O’Donnell) and an 18-year-old (Brandon Saad) on the same roster. They were one day away from such an accomplishment before forward Saad was sent to his juniors’ team, the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL on Wednesday. Defenseman O’Donnell turns 40 on Thursday and both players talked of the generational gap between them:
Favorite TV show
O’Donnell: Robert De Niro
Saad: Adam Sandler
O’Donnell: Pearl Jam
Saad: Jack Johnson
O’Donnell: "The Godfather" (“Isn’t there a video game, "The Godfather?" Saad probably plays that,” O'Donnell joked.)
Saad: Happy Gilmore (“I’ve heard of "The Godfather,” Saad said.)
Ever used a rotary phone?
O’Donnell: “Yes, but it’s been a long time.”
Saad: “No I don’t think so. Don’t know what one looks like.”
Ever licked a stamp?
O’Donnell: “Recently. I don’t think he has, ever.”
Saad: “Um, yeah I have. When I was younger my mom showed us how.”
Are you on Facebook?
O’Donnell: “I know what it is but I’m not on it. I have sent a message on it because of my wife. But I’m not an active facebooker.”
Saad: “Nope I don’t have facebook.”
CHICAGO -- He’s a "Seinfeld" fan, did his homework with a No. 2 pencil and his favorite movie is "The Godfather." Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Sean O’Donnell is a little old school.
Why shouldn’t he be? He’ll turn 40 Thursday, and when he takes the ice that night, he’ll be the first Hawk to play at that age since Tony Esposito in 1984. As you’d expect, his teammates aren’t going to let him forget his milestone age.
“We’re going to get him a contact’s list of everyone’s phone number except instead of the guys in the room we’re going to get our parent’s numbers so he can have some people to hang out with after the game,” Patrick Sharp joked Tuesday after practice.
But after all the possible one-liners about O’Donnell’s age, there’s an appreciation for what he’s done in the league since 1994.
“It’s obviously an unbelievable accomplishment for him,” 37 year-old Jamal Mayers said. “He’s literally been in the NHL for half his life and it’s a testament to the type of competitor he is, teammate and warrior he is. He’s a guy you always want to have on your team. It gives a guy like me hope for the next three years.”
The players say they have “something planned” for his 40th birthday, but they aren’t saying. But since he’s a newcomer and it’s so early in the season, O’Donnell is getting a little bit of a pass when it comes to the “grandfather” jokes.
“Not yet,” Mayers said. “Guys are treading lightly. He’s a quiet, soft-spoken guy. You really don’t want to piss him off but it’s only a matter of time.”
Despite the potential for jokes, there’s an underlying jealousy.
“It’s impressive,” Sharp stated. “You look at guys like Odie [O’Donnell], [Andrew] Brunette, even Jamal, they take a lot of heat around here for being the old guys but trust me we all wish we were playing at that age too.”
• Although the Hawks had another fill-in goalie during practice Tuesday, Corey Crawford’s injury doesn’t seem serious. The Hawks would be calling up a netminder from Rockford if that were the case.
“We’ve got 25 [players] around and obviously 23 is the [maximum] number so that’ll be something we definitely have to look at,” Joel Quenneville said.
Brandon Saad can play in a maximum of seven more games before a decision has to be made whether to send him back to juniors, otherwise the first year of his contract kicks in. If he is sent back the Hawks will still have to make one more roster move.
In training camp there are sometimes more teenagers than veterans, and with his 40th birthday approaching, O’Donnell is more than double the age of many of the players in Hawks’ camp. While the prospects fight to get noticed, O’Donnell is simply getting himself ready for the rigors of an 82-game season with his eighth team since being drafted 123rd overall in 1991.
“For a lot of these guys this a chance to make a first impression,” O’Donnell said after Monday’s practice. “For myself, I’m getting ready for that first game in October. It’s hard to come out of the gate firing right away. It’s a little different now.”
O’Donnell hasn’t heard many of the “grandfather” jokes just yet. He’s still getting to know the guys, including fresh-faced 20-year-old Nick Leddy. Leddy and O’Donnell have been paired together much of the first three days of camp.
“He has so much experience,” Leddy said. “It helps out so much being on the bench with him and playing with him. If I make a little mistake he can say something and help me out along the lines of the little things you pick up over the years in the NHL.”
“Hard to do that,” coach Joel Quennville said when it was pointed out to him. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that.”
When O’Donnell turns 40 on Oct. 13, he’ll become the first to don a Hawks sweater at that age since Tony Esposito in 1984. In the entire league last season there were only five players -- Mark Recchi (Boston), Dwayne Roloson (Tampa Bay), Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit), Mike Modano (Detroit) and Teemu Selanne (Anaheim) -- who played at 40 or older.
“I don’t think you see a big difference in my game now than at 28,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but I’m proud that my career has been steady and accountable. I’m proud of that part.”
The "steady" O’Donnell was brought in to be stabilizing force on the blue line and a leader in the locker room.
“I think the biggest thing is the poise,” Duncan Keith said. “He’s seen everything before, probably several times, so he’s not going to get worked up over little things. That calming influence is key.”
Not wanting to ruffle any feathers, O’Donnell is taking his time before assuming a leadership role. He says he doesn’t want to “impose” until he feels more comfortable.
“I talk to guys one-on-one more than making a speech in front of the whole group,” he said. “I like to read the guys a little bit before I give my two cents. They raised the Cup a couple years ago. They know what to do.”
One thing many Hawks didn’t know was that O’Donnell was nearing a milestone birthday. They see him as just another guy in the room.
“I didn’t know that,” Viktor Stalberg said of O’Donnell’s age. “He’s in pretty good shape. He does the little things really well. He’s not the fastest guy out there but he’s positionally sound. And he’s greatest in the locker room. I hope I could have a career like that.”
But no matter how respected he is, as his 40th birthday approaches, O’Donnell is bound to hear about it more and more.
“Someone asked me what my first year pro was and I said ’91 then they asked Nick what year he was born and he said ’91. I think they were setting me up a little bit,” O’Donnell said, laughing.
After 1,173 regular-season games and another 104 in the playoffs, O’Donnell is as durable as he’s ever been. He’s played in no less than 78 games each year since 2003-2004.
“It’s amazing to think of where your body would be after all that,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It doesn’t seem like any of that has fazed him over the years. One of those underrated things that comes in is he can see the ice and make plays, too.”
According to O’Donnell, there’s really no secret to the longevity -- other than a year-in-and-year-out commitment.
“In my mid-to-late 20s my diet got better,” he explained. “It’s more of a 12-month thing now as opposed to taking that one month off and getting going again. It’s hard to get it going again. You really never let yourself get out of shape.”
O’Donnell may not be called upon to play heavy minutes (and may not even keep his streak of 78 or more games played intact) but he’ll be an influence nonetheless. And even with all the Hawks prospects running around the ice during scrimmages, O’Donnell managed to sneak in a rare tally on Monday. He did that just once last season.
“Those don’t happen very often,” he joked. “They’re always nice. It’s like a linebacker picking up a fumble and running it in for a touchdown. It doesn’t happen often but it still feels good.”
Especially at the tender age of 39.
The emerging theme from Chicago Blackhawks' players as they gathered for the opening of their annual fan convention is that the organization’s offseason acquisitions give the team back something it had lost.
It’s the same thing the front office has been saying since signing Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo and Sean O'Donnell and trading for Steve Montador.
“I’ll never say anything bad about our locker room last year, but we definitely wanted to add some of that charisma, that personality and I think a noisy locker room and energetic one is better than one that is the opposite,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “With the changes we made the previous summer, when you lose guys like Adam Burish and Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien for some of our role players, those are big shoes to fill.”
Toews and his teammates believe guys like Carcillo can provide that “personality.” Even big John Scott says he can delegate some duties.
“This offseason I haven’t focused on fighting because I don’t think I’ll be doing it. Or if I’m doing it, I won’t be doing it as much," he said. “I’ll let (Carcillo) go do his thing. He can mess things up. I’m excited for that. That’s what we didn’t have last year. No one started stuff, no one started scrums or got underneath other teams’ skins. I’m going to say ‘go for it. I’m going to be there to back you up.’”
Other players echoed what coach Joel Quenneville said all last season: it was too quiet in the locker room.
But what about the subtractions on the ice? Brian Campbell and Chris Campoli represented a good portion of the Hawks’ puck-moving game on the blue line while Troy Brouwer and even Tomas Kopecky were decent skaters with and without the puck up front. The Hawks got slower with some additions, such as O’Donnell, Andrew Brunette and Mayers.
“Whatever we lost, we gained in other areas,” Patrick Sharp said. “I have full trust in Joel and Stan (Bowman) and John McDonough and everyone that has a hand in making those decisions.”
And that’s the crux of what the Hawks believe. They subtracted in certain areas where they were “redundant” but found a better mix of players to fill the spots where they were deficient, on and off the ice.
“You just can't put the best 12 players on the ice at all times because they are the most skilled,” Patrick Kane said recently. “You need certain players for certain roles.”
And those role players do more than just cause havoc. They take the attention away from the goal scorers.
“The tougher and feistier you are helps the skilled guys, definitely,” Sharp said.
The Hawks are on board with the changes but if their speedy puck-possession game takes a hit, then all the toughness in the world might not be enough to get them where they want to go.
In the process the Hawks got older as well.
Wingers Jamal Mayers, 36, and Andrew Brunette, 37, along with defenseman Sean O'Donnell, 39, and center Brett McLean, 32, all agreed to one year deals Friday. Daniel Carcillo, 26, is the youngest player the Hawks signed Friday, also agreeing to a one-year deal.
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