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THE VERDICT: Fleury Puts Cap on Bolstered Roster

Youth movement adds pedigree with Marc-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones, Jake McCabe and Tyler Johnson on board

by Bob Verdi /

During an abridged 2021 schedule, the Blackhawks yielded 186 goals in 56 games. They did not qualify for the playoffs, nor did any team surrendering more goals than that and several allowing fewer.

Now then, logic often avoids participating in sports, but it would seem highly unlikely the Blackhawks will be so generous next season. The probability that they shall be tougher to score against and harder to oppose stems from a message sent just the other day.

"I'm in. Let's get to work."

Marc-Andre Fleury delivered that. In the pantheon of Chicago memorabilia, it probably ranks below the "I'm Back" authored by Michael Jordan on March 18, 1995, a confirmation that his brief retirement from the Bulls was over, along with his baseball cameo.

Tweet from @NHLBlackhawks: He���s in 🌸#Blackhawks

But for Chicago hockey fans, Fleury's decision is cause to anticipate this winter in the middle of summer. First of all, he never left. The 36-year-old goalie earned the 2021 Vezina Trophy with the Vegas Golden Knights, an historically adept expansion team for which he has been the foundation. Over each of four seasons, Fleury was the bastion of stability who guided the Knights to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the Final in the franchise's amazing debut.

Given other notable additions to the Blackhawks' prevent mechanisms -- such as defensemen Seth Jones and Jake McCabe -- it is reasonable to take President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman's thoughts about a revised roster capable of contending for the postseason and beyond as real, not just wishful. He brought in a wave of youth a year ago. Now it's about pedigree.

Fleury won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, forward Tyler Johnson the last two with the Tampa Bay Lightning. You can never have enough rings on the team bus. Mind you, the Blackhawks' largesse last season was not just about goalkeeping. It was a group effort in growing pains. But this turnover blends experience with kids whose enthusiasm was fun to watch, win or lose.

Video: Marc-Andre Fleury on joining the Blackhawks

As Bowman noted, Fleury is a beloved individual, by fans and teammates. He's always upbeat, as is his presumptive sidekick, Kevin Lankinen. But most goalies aren't known for smiling, as Fleury was in his short video. Of course, it is summer. Tony Esposito laughed a lot in July but might opt for a "Do Not Disturb" sign in January. If wife Marilyn wanted some quiet time, she could always look forward to their drive from home toward the Stadium on game nights. Glenn Hall is dry funny and amiable, but he was never a smiler. Until he quit.

Some goalies light up a room; some goalies empty a room. The Blackhawks aren't hiring Fleury to tell jokes but to make saves. He's stellar in that department and also a kind soul. When Colman Kuzniar, 9, and dealing with heavy health issues, joined the Blackhawks for a Make-A-Wish skate at the United Center a couple years ago, the Golden Knights were in town. Fleury heard about it, came out of the visitors' quarters and gifted the youngster with an autographed puck. Didn't have to. Fleury later won the game. He does that a lot, too. A great goalie must have vision, and his only qualms about moving to Chicago involved family.

Significant reinforcements in the Blackhawks' end include Jones, his brother Caleb and McCabe. Seth's heft will be welcome, and the competition for blue line shifts spirited. Caleb was exchanged for Duncan Keith, a future Hall-of-Famer who also put family first. Bowman's transaction for Seth with the Columbus Blue Jackets cost the Blackhawks Adam Boqvist. First-round draft choices such as he can be prospects to be developed. Also, as cold as it sounds, they represent currency. They change NHL clothing all the time, every year. To complete the transfer of Patrick Sharp here, the Philadelphia Flyers required a third rounder. How'd that turn out?

As for massive trades, the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings swapped nine players in one maneuver, circa 1951. Later on, the Blackhawks stole Hall from Detroit. A Stanley Cup soon followed. In 1979, the Blackhawks acquired five Atlanta Flames including Tom Lysiak for Ivan Boldirev, Darcy Rota and Phil Russell, all popular. Stadium fans were shocked at the blockbuster. They posted cardboard "tombstones" for each from the rafters. Then Lysiak won over the bereaved.

Keeping up with the Joneses are the Dachs -- Kirby and brother Colton, a second-round draftee. Bobby and Dennis Hull played together on the Blackhawks. So did Steve and Jeff Larmer. Doug and Max Bentley were exceptional talents who, for one brief moment, shared the stage with brother Reg. In one of his 11 NHL games, he scored his only goal for the Blackhawks in 1943, assisted by Doug and Max. Three guesses who got to keep the puck.

Video: On The Clock: Season 5, Ep. 3 - Draft Day Surprise

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