The one place the Hawks had little player turnover this offseason was on defense. Six of the seven blueliners that finished the season are back with the team, including Jordan Hendry and Nick Boynton.
If you’ve forgotten about them, you wouldn’t be alone.
So much has been written and talked about in regards to the Hawks’ top four defensemen, as well as the young group they have on the horizon, that Hendry and Boynton have slipped under the radar. Both were free agents, but the Hawks decided to bring them back and give them a chance at those overlooked, but important, fifth and sixth defensemen roles.
“They did a good job playing that role last year,” coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday after the second day of training camp. “The fact that we were able to retain both guys gives us that depth and that balance and that predictability you want to have.”
Hendry would seem to have the early edge for playing time after having seen action in 43 regular-season games last season and 15 more in the playoffs. But he wants more.
“That was my goal this summer, to hopefully get in that role there to get in every game,” Hendry said. “I just want to play good in training camp here and show that I can play every game.”
Hendry played most of the postseason but was removed late in the Stanley Cup finals in favor of Boynton. Boynton, who came over in a mid-year trade with Anaheim, played in the final three games and was on the ice in Game 6 when Patrick Kane scored the Cup-winner.
“It was a big deal because it got my name on the Cup,” Boynton quipped. “But yeah, it was a big deal, it was good for my confidence. I hadn’t played in two months and so it was nice. But it’s a new year so I can take that experience and move forward.”
For Hendry, coming out of the lineup at that time wasn’t easy to swallow.
“No one likes to sit out, especially in the Stanley Cup finals but it was a good run for me,” Hendry said. “I played 15 games, and no hard feelings, but I would have liked to have played.”
Hendry is hopeful it doesn’t happen again while Boynton would just like to stay in one spot. Playing for four different teams (in the minors and in the NHL) a season ago, Boynton isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Everybody is fighting for a spot and that includes me, Jordan and John [Scott],” Boynton said. “One day at a time. I’ve been doing this for a while. Lots of stuff can happen. I’m just trying to do my best here.”
Boynton knows one thing: He’ll get a fair shake with Quenneville.
“I’ve had some terrible people as coaches but Q is fair and honest and that’s all you can ask for as a professional.”
While the Hawks have young defensemen, such as Nick Leddy and Shawn Lalonde, in camp, it would take a lot to move out one of the veterans. Scott is part of that group as well, so three players will battle for two spots. It’s why Boynton says he never buys, just rents.
“I never unpack,” he said. “You never know.”