By Chris Block
Amidst Tuesday night’s exhibition opener at United Center, which was essentially a nothing evening save for Cuba Gooding Jr.’s disrobing during the very first conciliatory version of the between-periods Shoot the Puck competition, the only intelligence of any substance coming away from the event took place in the CSN Chicago broadcast booth during the second period.
Stan Bowman joined Pat Foley and Eddie Olcyzk for the initial ten minutes of the second stanza for something of a Blackhawks’ state of September address.
Mostly-discussed were the team’s top prospects in camp and their individual progressions, with Jeremy Morin, Teuvo Teravainen, Phillip Danault and Klas Dahlbeck being spotlighted. Rockford IceHogs’ coach Ted Dent also received high praise from Bowman after Foley raised his name.
Foley and Olczyk also spent a generous portion of the overall broadcast stressing to their viewers that the Hawks are “essentially” returning the same team (add Brad Richards) as they had at the end of last season. It was obviously an agenda the broadcast tandem was heavily encouraged to push, yet interesting, because one or two players from that 2014 playoff team are about to be launched for salary-cap reasons.
While Stan was in the booth, a fight broke out on the ice between the Blackhawks’ Cody Bass and Detroit player, Aaron Rome. Stan exclaimed, “Oh… a fight here.”
So, the topic shifted to the competition to fill the team’s enforcer, or ‘tough guy’ role now since Brandon Bollig was traded to Calgary for salary-cap shaving purposes.
“We like that element,” the Blackhawks’ GM explained when asked about Bass’ chances of making the team.
The battle for that much talked about spot on the Hawk’s Opening Night roster is generally considered to come down to three players – Brandon Mashinter, Cody Bass and Pierre-Cedric Labrie.
Bowman confirmed that again on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to evaluate which one’s going to be the right fit for us,” Bowman continued.
“But they have to be able to play in our system. Those guys certainly bring it. Now we’re trying to see which one is the best fit, in terms of being an all-around player.”
Mashinter is the front-runner for the spot, though Cody Bass isn’t far behind. Bass and Labrie were signed by Bowman in the off season and both, like Mashinter, have limited NHL experience.
The Hawks acquired Mashinter from the New York Rangers last December in the Kyle Beach trade.
Mashinter has a quick release on his shot and is at least as good a shooter as Brandon Bollig. Though, the key in both players’ cases, is getting enough time and space at the NHL level to get their releases off.
There’s more power in Mashinter’s punch than Bollig has, thus more potential to be an enforcer opponent’s fear, if that’s even the term. Mashinter’s slightly bigger than Bollig and his straight line skating may be a nick above as well.
In the end, the roster spot will go to the one who is most-positionaly responsible in all three zones, and can also keep up with the pace that fourth line will try to set.
And while there’s been plenty of finger-pointing in various online realms, blaming Joel Quenneville for the presence of an enforcer-type, Stan Bowman confirmed, again Tuesday, that it is, indeed, an organizational philosophy.
–Other notable Stan Bowman quotes from Tuesday’s CSN broadcast
On Jeremy Morin:
“We certainly expect him to have a big role on the team this year, and get a full time look.”
Expecting Morin to play a ‘big’ role and getting a ‘look’ are somewhat contradictory statements. I know, for many reasons, the Hawks hope Morin is ready to play a full-time role, and he may be. But Bowman can’t be certain at this point. Morin’s role in the breakdown in d-zone recovery and pressure on the Wings’ first period goal last night doesn’t help his cause.
On Phillip Danault:
“He was our best player there,” Stan noted when talking about Danault at this year’s London Rookie Tournament.
On Teuvo Teravainen:
“His talent is incredible. He’s got the natural talent you just can’t teach.”
Then Bowman spoke of Teravainen needing to continue to add bulk and strength, saying they’re still looking for Teuvo to “round into NHL form, in terms of his strength and whatnot.”
“He’s gonna be a great player for a long time,” Bowman proclaimed.
On Ted Dent:
“Ted play’s a huge role in the development of our players. He takes these guys that are right out of college or junior hockey… and they’ve got a lot of talent, but they have some holes in their overall game.
“He’s done a great job of building up the way we play. He and Joel spend a lot of time talking throughout the year, and planning the season so that we play the same systems here that they do in Rockford. As a result, when players come up (from the IceHogs), they’re ready to step right in and play for us.”
On Klas Dahlbeck:
“He’s capable of doing a little bit of everything. Though, first and foremost, he’s a defender. And he has that size and strength to break plays up.”