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Madden Gets His Points Across To Blackhawks

by Larry Wigge / Chicago Blackhawks
It was just a few moments after Patrick Kane slipped a perfect pass from behind the net out to Patrick Sharp for the winning goal in Chicago's 3-2 victory against Montreal on Oct. 30.

The offensively skilled Kane, 20, was seen at his locker at United Center next to John Madden, 36. A nod and a laugh could be seen before Madden walked away from one of the Blackhawks' young stars.

You can be sure the conversation wasn't Madden suggesting to Kane how to manage his stock portfolio or Kane telling Madden that he should give Miley Cyrus' music a try over his usual favorite, Bruce Springsteen.

Actually, the two sit next to one another in the Blackhawks' dressing room and they've had some interesting conversations in Madden's first season in Chicago. It's a big part of the learning curve for a skilled youngster like Kane, who's looking to soak up as much information as he can to improve.

"I actually played with his younger brother, Scott, in a summer league growing up," Kane chuckled. "It's just funny how things work out like that. It feels like yesterday I was playing with his little brother on a summer hockey team. And here I am sitting next to John in the NHL. It's actually pretty cool. His knowledge of the game is really helpful."

What all this means is that when you are a young and skilled team on the rise, like the Blackhawks, and you sign a two-time Stanley Cup champion as a free agent, there are certain things you expect: A winner, a leader, a player with an attention to detail.

GM Stan Bowman smiles when he says the Blackhawks got that and more when they signed center Madden to a one-year, $2.75 million deal.

"You look for all of the intangibles from a guy who has been an impact player for nine seasons with a well-structured team like the New Jersey Devils," Bowman said. "But you know something, I've watched John go out and check the opponent's best line for a lot of years, still I never realized what a great passer he is.

"He's already had some pretty impressive shifts with offensive players like a Patrick Kane or a Dustin Byfuglien."

Madden has had as many as 20 goals twice and twice he had more than 40 points with the Devils. He had 7 goals and 16 assists in New Jersey last season. This season? He already has 1 goal and 3 assists with the Hawks.

When a GM raves about something he didn't expect from a player, that's when he knows he's made a pretty good signing. And Madden's presence has been even more important than Bowman and the Blackhawks could have imagined considering the team has missed captain Jonathan Toews' presence up the middle the last four games coming into this week.

All in all, Madden's transition from the defensive-minded Devils to coach Joel Quenneville's up-tempo system in Chicago has been seamless.

Madden has been a stopper throughout the years, winning the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward in 2001 and he was runner-up for the award in 2003, 2004 and 2008. He was also on the other side of the spectrum, a young player, full of energy, when, as a rookie, he helped the Devils win the 2000 Stanley Cup, that coming just four years after he was part of the University of Michigan's 1996 NCAA championship.

Madden acknowledge that some of that veteran advice he can impart on the young Hawks came in preparation for that Montreal game, following an unsettling 2-0 loss at Nashville the night before.

"One of the things I've continued to tell these guys is that teams are going to be ready for us," Madden explained, after that victory over Montreal that ran Chicago's Central Division-leading record to 8-4-1. "A lot of people are picking us to go far in the playoffs and have a great season. But you can't win without working your tails off. That said, there's a lot of talent here, a lot of character guys. They're young, but they have won at other levels and they want to win here, and that's what we're working to achieve.

"I really believe this team has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. When Marian Hossa (he has started to skate of late and is targeting a Nov. 25 game at San Jose as his first of the season after offseason shoulder surgery) gets back in the lineup, look out. This team has all the elements of making a run at it this year and for years to come. I had no problem taking a one-year contract here, giving up security, for a chance to win it all."

Author: Larry Wigge | Columnist

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