Sunday August 7, 2022

Welcome to the June edition of Blackhawks Bytes, a series featuring quotes and comments from players, coaches, management, journalists and fans alike concerning everything Chicago Blackhawks. The purpose of this ongoing column is to capture a slice of the existing outlook, attitudes and culture surrounding the team. Please join me as we have some fun with the everyday, albeit fascinating aspect of human nature; the power of words.

Related – Blackhawks Bytes May Edition: Kane, Toews, Davidson & More

The offseason is upon us, and the Blackhawks’ brass are busy preparing for the 2022 NHL Draft, along with the free agency period. They’ve also recently rounded out their hockey operations leadership staff, as well as chosen a new head coach. Let’s learn more about these latest upcoming events and announcements with some words from the key people involved.

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Mike Doneghey on the Combine & Draft

Mike Doneghey is the Blackhawks’ Director of Amateur Scouting, and he and his staff attended the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this month. Below is an interview from the event, with Doneghey’s thoughts on the implications for the Blackhawks.

Take a peak inside the NHL Combine interviews with Mike Doneghey, Director of Amateur Scouting 🎥 https://t.co/dbMU4HnaDK

Doneghey is no-nonsense when he says, “The best way to win is through the draft. We’ve got five picks between 38 and 96, and odds are at least three of them are here.” He further goes on to say these picks, “…could define us in the future, and we’re excited for it.”

In a recent interview with The Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope, Doneghey expands on his thoughts about the draft.

[When] you look at a team like Carolina, three of their best players – Sebastian Aho, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin – were second-, third- and fourth-round picks. So the players are there. You just have to [find them].

It’s imperative that Doneghey and his staff do a better job finding impactful players than the former regime. From 2012 to 2018, the Blackhawks only have a 21% success rate with picks who have make it to the NHL. The league-wide average is 38%. The discrepancy is even worse with their second-round picks. The league’s average of players making the NHL from the second round is 65%, while the Blackhawks average is 43%. The only second round player to have played 100 games or more in this span is Alex DeBrincat. (from ‘Blackhawks draft strategy: New amateur scouting director Mike Doneghey lays out his plans’, The Chicago Sun-Times – 6/11/22)

Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat is the only second-round draftee from the Chicago Blackhawks to play more than 100 games in the NHL in the span from the 2012 through the 2018 drafts. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Obviously DeBrincat was a slam dunk, chosen by the Blackhawks in the second round (39th overall) of the 2016 Draft. But many others didn’t work out. This is what Doneghey and company must work to avoid.

The goal for me is to not take for granted those five [second- and third-round] picks. Just because they’re not labeled with a first-round pick doesn’t mean they’re not going to play.

Let’s hope this draft and future drafts for Chicago can produce more hits than misses, with players that can make it to the NHL and become impactful players. After all, as Doneghey expressed, it’s extremely important to the timeline of the rebuild.

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Meghan Hunter and Others Round out Blackhawks Hockey Operations Staff

Just last week the Blackhawks released a statement announcing changes to their hockey operations team. Mark Eaton will remain in his current position as Assistant General Manager of Development. Meanwhile, Meghan Hunter is promoted to Assistant General Manager of Hockey Operations. Former Blackhawk Brian Campbell will officially serve as an Advisor, and Karilyn Pilch will become the new Director of Player Personnel.

Hunter becomes the fourth female assistant GM in NHL history. On her Twitter account, she has this tweet pinned from when she was promoted to Director of Hockey Administration and amateur scout in Feb. 2021.

This most recent promotion is certainly another step towards this ultimate goal. Hunter comes from a proud Canadian hockey family. Her uncles Mark, Dale and Dave all played in the NHL, while Mark and Dale currently own and operate the OHL’s London Knights hockey team.

Related – Chicago Blackhawks’ 2021-22 Player Grades: Goalies

Meghan herself played hockey at the University of Wisconsin, as well as working for the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team and the London Knights before she came to the Blackhawks in 2016.

When asked by The Hockey News about eventually serving as a GM for an NHL team Hunter replied,

You have to shoot for the stars. Someday, some female is going to be the first GM. Some of my current duties do kind of align with that aspiration, so I’m just learning as much as I can and keeping that in my mind as a goal.

This is an incredible aspiration, and one I would love to see come to fruition. In the meantime, let’s hope Hunter can continue to put a positive stamp on the Blackhawks rise to contending again.  

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Luke Richardson Named Blackhawks Head Coach

On Monday, the Blackhawks officially announced 53-year-old Luke Richardson as their 40th head coach with the franchise.

Richardson is a former defenseman that played 21 seasons in the NHL, with six different teams. Since then, he’s been an assistant coach for eight years with the Ottawa Senators, the New York Islanders and most recently with the Montreal Canadiens. He was also with the AHL Binghamton Senators as head coach for four years.

Here’s part of Richardson’s statement to the press.

I plan to create an environment of trust with our team. With trust, relationships will form and grow, thus allowing everyone to blossom and execute their role. My philosophy is to be better today than we were yesterday and, to achieve that, we will need commitment and consistency.

Well, this sounds like a good philosophy! One that former interim head coach Derek King was already implementing. So, what about King? According to The Athletic, the Blackhawks are open to King joining Richardson’s staff; as long as Richardson is amenable to the idea. The two are expected to have some discussion in the coming days. (from ‘Blackhawks to hire Luke Richardson as head coach’, The AthleticCHI – 6/24/22)

From this author’s standpoint, it makes perfect sense to keep King on. He already has a relationship with the players and is well-liked in the locker room. He also certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have an ego or be a threat. He’s known for his developmental abilities, and could be an excellent asset and transition guy for the rest of the new coaching staff. We’ll know if this becomes a reality soon enough.

Patrick Kane Remembers

Let’s finish off this edition of Blackhawks Bytes with some similarities between a goal in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final and a tally in this year’s Final. In Game 4 of this season’s epic series between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri’s overtime goal won the game for his team. But it took a few seconds for the goal to be confirmed, because the puck got stuck in the upper netting and never dropped to the ice.

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As Blackhawks fans, we all know there was a similar situation when Patrick Kane’s OT goal won the Cup in 2010. Nobody (except Kane and likely Patrick Sharp), saw the puck go in, as it also got stuck in the netting.

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The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reached out to Kane following Kadri’s goal to get his reaction regarding the similarities. Kane’s response was pure class, crediting Kadri with a great play.

You see a goal like that tonight and it brings back memories. Similar situation for sure. But it was a great move by Kadri to get himself free and get a shot on net. Pretty nifty goal by him. A lot nicer than the one I scored. But it’s definitely funny how both situations arise and all the confusion on the ice.

(from ‘LeBrun: Nazem Kadri waits, then celebrates, and Patrick Kane knows the feeling’, TheAthletic – 6/23/22)

I’m sure it’s awfully bittersweet for Kane to watch the playoffs on TV instead of being a part of them. Will he ever make it there again? Will he raise the Cup one more time? I’m sure these are things he’s thinking about as he deliberates whether or not to stick with the Blackhawks through their rebuild.

Related – Blackhawks Should Avoid Trading Alex DeBrincat This Offseason

That’ll do it for our June publication of Blackhawks Bytes. The NHL Draft is just around the corner on July 7 and 8. After that, the free agency period starts on July 11. Be sure to keep it here at The Hockey Writers for all the latest news and updates on these and more events as the offseason unfolds!  

Gail Kauchak

Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Quote to live by, “Follow your dreams, and good things will happen.” Wait, maybe it’s “Good things happen when you shoot the puck!” You get the idea.

Follow Gail for her unique commentary about this storied franchise. And be sure to catch her and the rest of the Blackhawks’ crew on their weekly Blackhawks Banter show, as well as follow her on Twitter.

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