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Verdict: Sharp, Saad happy to be home in Chicago

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Needing no introduction, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad received one anyway at the Blackhawks' 10th Annual Convention. During the Opening Ceremonies, both were accorded a rousing welcome. A day later, the International Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago was standing room only for a panel discussion ­- "more people than used to be at some of our games when I first got here," noted Sharp. During a break in the action, Sharp and Saad talked with chicagoblackhawks.com.

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Verdict: Blackhawks make big changes in latest salary cap test

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

One cannot live by Bread Man alone, and Artemi Panarin surely will be missed.

But with the most rigid salary cap in professional sports, change is imperative throughout the National Hockey League. Thus the Blackhawks, who have been there and done that, will look quite different when the 2017-18 schedule commences this October.

After a couple of significant trades followed by a spate of free agent signings, the Blackhawks intend to be younger, bigger, faster, deeper and, with the return of popular Patrick Sharp, even handsomer. Will they be as good or better than the team that won the Western Conference last season with 109 points, the second-highest total in franchise history?

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Verdict: Generations of Blackhawks draft picks converge on Day 1

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Nico, Miro, Jusso, Urho.

These are names to be played later, but the one that matters most to the Blackhawks now is Henri Jokiharju, their first prize in Friday night's National Hockey League Draft at the United Center, where evidence of the sport's globalization was all over the board.

The Blackhawks have been watching Jokiharju for a while -- as recently as earlier this week at drills held nearby. But he's been watching them too.

"When they won the Stanley Cup in 2010, I saw them on TV," the Finnish right defenseman said. "It was maybe four in the morning at home in Helsinki. I became a fan of them then, the way they play, the style. Now to be selected by them, it's unbelievable."

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Verdict: Hits, misses and tweeners all a part of draft history

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

There is a litany of hits, misses and tweeners since the National Hockey League Draft was instituted in 1963. So it has been, and so it will be when the United Center becomes the sport's epicenter on June 23.

The host Blackhawks, with three Stanley Cups this decade, are Exhibit A in how to build a championship core through the judicious selection of youth and skillful development of same. Having finished atop the Western Conference during the regular season, the Blackhawks will draft 26th in the first round. Their recent reign is based on exemplary selections, some of which occurred while the franchise wobbled.

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Verdict: NHL Draft, not always a league feature, arrives in Chicago

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

When the National Hockey League Draft convenes at the United Center on June 23, officials and spectators doubtless will be taken with two monuments to excellence beside the building -- statues of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, Blackhawks Hall of Famers.

More than a half-century after they arrived in Chicago, they remain 1-2 as all-time scorers for this storied Original Six franchise that was digging itself out of a dark hole during the late 1950s. Hull debuted in 1957, Mikita's first full season occurred in 1959, and by 1961 the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.

This represented a transformation for an organization so unloved and unsuccessful that several home games only years before were shifted to neutral cites -- Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Omaha -- amidst whispers that the NHL pondered relocating the Blackhawks to St. Louis.

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White played tight defense on the ice, kept team loose off it

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Bill White, a steady and selfless performer who also briefly served as coach of the Blackhawks, has died. He was 77.

White spent seven years in the minors before the National Hockey League grew from six to 12 teams in 1967. When the expansion Los Angeles Kings gained his rights, he immediately earned acclaim as an extraordinary stay-at-home defenseman. During the 1969-70 season, Pat Stapleton of the Blackhawks incurred an injury. With his club a serious contender, General Manager Tommy Ivan acquired White from the Kings. When Stapleton returned, he and White formed one of the NHL's finest blue-line tandems, the former expertly generating offense and the latter adept at laying back.

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Verdict: Prolific DeBrincat brushes off defenders, doubters

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Alex DeBrincat grew up rooting for the Detroit Red Wings. But he also has his good points.

This past season, he had 127 of them with the Erie Otters, a gaudy haul that earned this highly touted 19-year-old Blackhawks prospect a resounding Red Tilson Trophy selection as outstanding player in the Ontario Hockey League.

He amassed 65 goals and 62 assists with a +60 plus/minus rating in 63 regular-season games, numbers that could pass as typographical errors. Except that it's his pedigree. In 2014-15, his rookie year, DeBrincat garnered 51 goals and 53 assists with Connor McDavid as a teammate and linemate.

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Verdict: Blackhawks don't need to rebuild, just redecorate

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

As Stan Bowman assessed the weak that was, you could have landed a small plane on his lower lip. The Blackhawks' senior vice president/general manager seethed during a press briefing on Saturday at the United Center, where Game 5 was not necessary. His mood likely will linger for quite a while.

Unacceptable. Bowman used that word more than once, in case we didn't hear the first time, to describe his team's polite surrender in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Nashville Predators. He promised significant changes and oozed anger. Perhaps Bowman intended to imply that his players, albeit belatedly, might share that emotion after being knocked down and out in four straight.

"A complete failure," continued Bowman, who sported something of a beard, obviously begun before the Blackhawks embarked on their cameo postseason appearance. He utterly dismissed 50 victories, 109 points and a Western Conference championship during the regular season as immaterial. That's probably a bit harsh, but again, he's mad. Madder than he's ever been, at least in public.

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Between the Dots: Shaking hands, shaking heads

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

NASHVILLE -- What the Blackhawks accomplished during six months of the regular season was extraordinary. They won 50 games and seized a Western Conference championship with a roster that featured seven players who would make their playoff debuts.

Alas, what happened to the Blackhawks when they arrived to the Stanley Cup grind was also hard to do and hard to watch. They scored but three goals in eight days and were swept out of the tournament with Thursday night's 4-1 conquest by the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Not since the National Hockey League grew to its present size has a No. 1 seed been eliminated by a No. 8 in straight sets, but the Blackhawks cannot say they achieved this milestone (millstone?) by accident. From Head Coach Joel Quenneville to captain Jonathan Toews, the vanquished favorites formed an echo chamber.   

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Between the Dots: Preds take 3-0 series chokehold

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

NASHVILLE ­-- A gala atmosphere engulfed Bridgestone Arena. A few red sweaters were seen in the sellout crowd. Very few. The other 17,000 or so customers were outfitted with LED wristbands -- LED standing for, as we all know, light emitting diode. Carrie Underwood (Mrs. Mike Fisher) sang the national anthem. And of course, when live music didn't supply entertainment, an old favorite outside of Illinois blasted through the roof.

"The Night Chicago Died."

It was also the night Chicago scored. Unfortunately for the shocked and dismayed Blackhawks, when Monday night turned to Tuesday morning, they absorbed an excruciating defeat. Moments after being stoned by Corey Crawford, who was extremely good, Kevin Fiala scored at 16:44 of overtime to provide the rallying Nashville Predators a 3-2 victory and a 3-0 chokehold in this First Round playoff series.

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