NHL.com is sitting down with newsmakers leading up to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. ET. Today, Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman discusses possibilities ahead of the deadline, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and coach Jeremy Colliton's work thus far.
Stan Bowman likes what he's seen lately out of the Chicago Blackhawks, who have won seven straight games after they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 at United Center on Sunday. But until the Stanley Cup Playoff picture in the Western Conference becomes clearer, Bowman can't say what the Blackhawks will do prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.
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"We don't have enough information right now to know," Bowman said Friday. "There's a lot that's going to change between now and Feb. 25, with the way we play, with how other teams play. We've had a lot of different scenarios we've run through over the past couple of weeks, but the deadline's not tomorrow. So let's just see what happens."
The Blackhawks (23-24-9) are four points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second Western wild card into the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues hold the first wild card and have the same amount of points as the Wild, but St. Louis has two games in hand on Minnesota and Chicago.
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Bowman will see what the next two weeks bring.
"We're prepared for a few different things," Bowman said. "The most important thing is you've seen the confidence in our group start to build and when that happens, good things happen for the team. It's good to see the life in our team. Even the fans can pick up on the fact that this is a fun team to watch and they believe in each other. Let's just see where it goes."
Bowman took a closer look at the Blackhawks in an interview with NHL.com:
On reports the Blackhawks will ask defenseman Duncan Keith before the trade deadline if he wants to stay in Chicago or waive his no-move clause and accept a trade to a contending team:
"I've been asked that since the report came out. What I say is the same thing: whenever we've had those types of discussions, I wouldn't comment. It puts the player in a tough spot. I'm not going to get into whether we have or haven't, will or won't. The fair thing to say is, both of those guys (Keith and defenseman Brent Seabrook), we've played our best hockey in the last stretch when they've been playing together. I think [Keith and Seabrook] have been a pair for this last stretch when we've played well, and they're playing well. That's what we need from them right now."
On the report that the Blackhawks asked Seabrook to waive his no-move clause, something Seabrook said isn't true:
"Same answer. The hard part is if I say, well that's true, the next time you have to keep doing it. You shoot a few [reports] down, then if you decide not to comment on the other one, people think that's the true one. That's not always the case. I get it, I realize why the fans want to know. I just think it's more fair to the players to not be put in that position. It's unfortunate it went that way, but I realize that the world we live in now is that way. Reports become facts until proven otherwise. Sometimes it should be the other way. I don't want to specifically comment, other than to say he's played his best hockey lately and I hope he keeps it up."
On the job done thus far by coach Jeremy Colliton, who took over after Joel Quenneville was fired Nov. 6:
"The biggest thing I can applaud him for is his disposition and positive approach, even in light of a tough start. He never got frustrated, never got down, didn't allow our group to feel sorry for itself or get upset about things. We still aren't near where we want to be, but we've made a lot of strides. When you start to see those things together, and I think the players are starting to now see and starting to get excited. It's one thing to believe what someone's telling you and you want it to work, but it's not working. Now it's starting to work, and they start to feel like, 'wow, now I get it. Now I understand what he's been saying.' When you're around our team, you can pick up there's a good vibe around the guys. They're excited and can't wait to play the game."
On the impact of forward Dylan Strome, who the Blackhawks acquired along with forward Brendan Perlini in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes for forward Nick Schmaltz on Nov. 25, and who was teammates with Alex DeBrincat when the two played for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League:
"We knew he had chemistry with Alex. Sometimes you wonder, is that something that will translate to the NHL level? They had great chemistry together when they were younger and, sure enough, they picked up where they left off. They have that knack; Alex is great at getting open and Dylan seems to know where he's going even when he's not looking at him. Dylan's a creative player. He just has that patience with the puck that the top offensive players have. So, he's helped us on our power play. Maybe he doesn't score a lot of points, but he does a lot of the puck retrievals and if there's a rebound he has such good hands he can get it, settle it down and give it to Kane or DeBrincat and get settled again. Sometimes the net-front guy doesn't have as good of hands as he does, and you have to be willing to go to the net. He's a big guy. His play has been certainly what we've hoped. I didn't know if it would come this quickly with his production; he's on a pretty good pace here (30 points; 11 goals, 19 assists in 32 games with Chicago)."
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On assigning 19-year-old defenseman Henri Jokiharju to Rockford of the American Hockey League:
"Sometimes guys get sent down because they aren't playing well, and sometimes they get sent down because of circumstances. In Henri's case, it was more circumstantial. He's played over 20 minutes every game in Rockford and that's what we're looking for. Our defense has evolved over the course of a year. We didn't have [Gustav] Forsling and [Connor] Murphy at the start of the year. If they had been here, Henri may have been in Rockford the whole time. It's not because he's not deserving of the NHL; it's a hard League to play as a teenage defenseman. I think there are only two teenage defensemen in the league (Rasmus Dahlin, 18, of the Buffalo Sabres and Miro Heiskanen, 19, of the Dallas Stars). When you get to be 20, 21, you see those guys filter their way in. They've gained experience at the AHL level, they've finished college, whatever they do. It's a lot of pressure to put on a kid, and he's not far away. We can bring him back at any point. It's not disappointment; far from it. He's exceeded my expectations with how well he's played."
On the progress of key Blackhawks prospects:
"Our defense is our strong suit right now with Henri, with Adam Boqvist having a great year in London (OHL), Nicholas Baudin in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Ian Mitchell (at the University of Denver). There are four young defensemen who are all going to be impact players when they get here, whether it's next year or the year after. I think they all have bright futures. Up front, the one player who's come on, who had a great World Junior, is Philipp Kurashev (Quebec of the QMJHL). He always had the skill and he put it together around Christmas time. Evan Barrett has stepped up and a guy we just signed out of Red Deer, Brandon Hagel, is in the top five in scoring in the Western Hockey League. Those are guys who are filtering to the top in performance this year, and some aren't too far away from being pros. I would expect a number of those guys to be in our system next year."