CHICAGO -- A look at a few major -- and not-so major -- topics of conversation at the fifth annual Chicago Blackhawks fan convention:
Patrick Kane: Kane said he was “embarrassed” by photos of him that made it to the internet after a weekend of partying in Madison, Wis. in early May.
Analysis: Kane has said the right things previously after similar types of incidents so his actions will speak louder than his words. It’s not like he has to change his lifestyle completely. Joel Quenneville said players “eventually get it” but we know that’s not always the case. A potential tense moment was averted when Kane was asked directly if he has a drinking problem. He simply said no, he just needs to be smarter and continue to mature.
Analysis: Hossa looked and sounded good while addressing the media on Friday. However, to be completely back from a head injury he’ll have to get knocked around a little. That hasn’t happened yet. That should come in training camp, a perfect time to take things slow and then progress.
Analysis: Crawford is believable when he claims he doesn’t focus on “that stuff” and isn’t a media hound when it comes to reading reports and the like. He did admit the whole situation motivates him to be better and vowed to become so. But he also said he would be motivated anyway. He called last season “up and down”. Unless the Hawks get someone decidedly better he deserves a chance to recapture his form from his rookie year. There is no legitimate and obvious reason he can’t.
Jonathan Toews: Toews said he’s “as involved as the other 750 players” in regards to the collective bargaining negotiations taking place. When asked if he expected an edgier Joel Quenneville coming off a disappointing finish to last season, he responded, “As a core, our leadership, our top players, there are things we learned last season that we’re going to come in and be prepared for this year and same goes for our coaching staff. They take responsibility for certain things like [special teams]. It was definitely a learning process last year and we’re going to be better for it.”
Analysis: There is little doubt special teams will be a major focus come training camp. Toews might be one of the few core guys on offense who ends up playing both on the power play and penalty kill. And that’s a good thing. He also said he kept in touch with Zach Parise while he was a free agent but it didn’t sound like he put the full-court press on Parise to come to Chicago.
Marcus Kruger: Kruger is probably the favorite to start the season as the second-line center. He said his focus during the summer was to “gain weight and get faster.”
Analysis: Kruger did indeed look slightly bigger but he admitted you can’t put it all on in one offseason. That will come over several years. If his offensive game can catch up to his defensive prowess the Hawks might have their answer on that second line. He still might be a year way from really being a top 6 forward -- if he is one at all. There is little doubt he can fill a third-line role but that’s not where the Hawks need him right now.
Dan Carcillo: He says he’s nearly healed from the knee injury that ended his season. Once again, the topic of his style of play came up, considering his year ended with the injury and a seven-game suspension.
“I always walk a fine line with the way I play,” Carcillo said. “And I’ll always play the same way because if I don’t I won’t have a job. You just have to be very conscious now about how you hit and hitting the right way. You’re always toeing the line but I don’t foresee it being a problem.”
Analysis: On one hand it sounds like Carcillo is starting to get it but when he says he’ll “always play the same way” it makes you cringe a little. Does it have to be all or nothing? A slight adjustment to his style can keep him on the ice and out of Brendan Shanahan’s office. Like Kane’s off-the-ice activities, this is a wait-and-see approach with Carcillo.
Patrick Sharp: Sharp isn’t thinking about a lockout.
“I don’t want to be that guy preparing for a lockout who then shows up to training camp out of shape,” he said. “So it’s not even on my mind at all.”
Analysis: It’s a good attitude to have and for his first training camp at over 30 years old, Sharp already looks in good shape. If healthy he could have another monster year. Last season was very good despite the whole team’s inability to score consistently on the power play. Sharp has become one of the more reliable point producers in the league.
Sheldon Brookbank: The lone newcomer to the roster was praised by both Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman as an important piece to the Hawks puzzle. His focus will be on defense, not necessarily moving the puck up the ice as other blue-liners do.
Analysis: Brookbank is this year’s Sean O’Donnell, only about nine years younger. If he can be a lockdown guy both 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill he’ll be very valuable. His job will be to simply kill plays before they get too dangerous. Bowman needs to hit a home run with this signing even if he’s just a No. 5 or 6. That third pairing on defense was a problem last year.
“Oh here we go,” Bolland joked.
And what about being a teammate of Luongo himself?
“Next question,” Bolland responded.