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Madden rejuvenated playing with youthful Blackhawks

Thursday, 10.01.2009 / 2:42 PM / 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

"I had a comfort zone in Jersey, that's for sure. I'm out of that comfort zone now. Sometimes I feel like a rookie here. I'm learning a new system, new linemates, new everything for that matter. It's exciting. The young guys on the team keep it real exciting and it's a fun dressing room to be in."
-- John Madden

HELSINKI -- Chicago's John Madden may look all of his 36 years -- especially with some of the facial scars he has picked up playing professional hockey for the past 11 years -- but he feels much younger as he begins a new chapter of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago kicks off the 2009-10 season at Hartwall Arena Friday (12 p.m. ET, TSN, VERSUS), facing the Florida Panthers in the first of back-to-back games that make up 2009 NHL Compuware Premiere Helsinki. When Madden takes the ice Friday, it will mark the first time he will play an NHL game without the crest of the New Jersey Devils on his chest.

Instead of being melancholy over the change, Madden has clearly been rejuvenated.

"I had a comfort zone in Jersey, that's for sure," Madden told NHL.com. "I'm out of that comfort zone now. Sometimes I feel like a rookie here. I'm learning a new system, new linemates, new everything for that matter. It's exciting. The young guys on the team keep it real exciting and it's a fun dressing room to be in."

Part of the reason Madden is out of his comfort zone in Chicago is because he is being asked to do different things. During his decade-long run in New Jersey, Madden developed into one of the premier checking centers in the League -- winning the Selke Trophy in 2001 and winning Stanley Cups with New Jersey in 2000 and 2003.

With the Devils, he was always asked to check the other team's top center. He knew he would be deployed on the first penalty-kill unit and he would take a majority of the key faceoffs. After a while, defense became who John Madden was in New Jersey. Offense was an afterthought.

Offense is never an afterthought with the go-go Blackhawks, a young team that can score goals in bunches.

"We encourage our guys to go," is how coach Joel Quenneville puts it.
 
That philosophy is a radical change in thinking from the way Madden has played the game for the past decade, but Quenneville thinks Madden can adjust -- that the old dog can, indeed, learn new tricks.

"I don't want to stick him as a defensive player," Quenneville said. "I think he can be comfortable on both sides of the puck and he can think a little bit more offensively."

That sentence is music to Madden's ears.

Remember, Madden had 98 points with the Albany Devils in his second and final season in the American Hockey League.

"He certainly knows his way around a rink," Quenneville said.

Madden admits there will be a little bit of an adjustment period to get his head around attacking again. But he senses it coming.

"In college and even in Albany, I was an offensive guy," Madden said. "Hopefully, it will come back and be like riding a bike."
 
While he finds his way offensively, he knows the benchmarks of his game -- killing penalties, shutting down forwards and winning draws -- will contribute to the Chicago cause on the ice. He also knows he can help in the dressing room as the young and supremely talented Blackhawks try to follow up on last year's breakout campaign by becoming a team that continually challenges for championships.

Madden grew up with such a team, so he knows his way around the championship block. He remembers the lessons veterans like Randy McKay and Scott Stevens -- holdovers from New Jersey's first championship in 1995 -- passed onto him in his formative years in the NHL.

Now, he is ready to pay that good deed forward with young Chicago players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
 
"Maybe that's a little bit of the reason why I am here," Madden told NHL.com. "It's almost come full circle, so we'll see how it goes."
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