Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: Circus Trip Goodbyes And Newcomers

By Colin Likas
Feb 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks fans react to a goal by Chicago Blackhawks right wing Richard Panik (not pictured) in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks fans react to a goal by Chicago Blackhawks right wing Richard Panik (not pictured) in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nov 23, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) controls the puck during the game against the San Jose Sharks in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Colin Likas

Question 1: I’m not necessarily sad the Circus Trip is ending, and it’s not because of the late nights (I’ll get back to that). Road trips are part of any NHL team’s season, but this one was always extremely tough for the Blackhawks, regardless of how well the opponents were playing.

Sure, the Blackhawks have had a good bit of Circus Trip success under coach Joel Quenneville, but it’s an absolutely rugged stretch of seven or so games in about two weeks, jumping from one Canadian city to the next, and then one Californian city to the next.

Now, the Blackhawks’ schedule can be a little more balanced in the season’s first two months. Additionally, players, coaches and others involved with the team might be able to spend Thanksgiving with their families now (at least those who celebrate American Thanksgiving).

A quick thought on game start times during the trip. I’ve seen a fair bit of complaining about starts that come at 9 or 9:30 p.m. People have to realize these times are adjusted for fans of the home venue. The NHL shouldn’t start West coast games at 5 p.m. Pacific time just to playcate fans in Chicago. I hope Blackhawks fans will get over this minor inconvenience in the future.

Question 2: A newcomer is usually viewed as a young guy, but I’m going with a slightly older new Blackhawk: Michal Kempny. I’m not sure why he’s been scratched of late, as Kempny has been really strong on the blue line in his first North American season.

Kempny and Brent Seabrook have formed a truly effective duo, with Kempny solid on the puck in the defensive end while Seabrook pushes the pace on offense. This duo is what teams would hope to have for all three of their pairings.

For some reason, though, Q has found a way to scratch Kempny in recent games. Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend, as it will send a message to Kempny that he hasn’t performed well enough to stay on the ice, when that just isn’t the case. Kempny has a chance to be a key cog in the Blackhawks defense for years to come — someone you can trust on a nightly basis.

Tim Lively

Question 1: While the end of the annual Circus Trip is a good thing for Blackhawks fans by giving them more home games in November, I’m sure it’s absence will be missed by the ‘Hawks’ coaching staff, at least for a while.

While the Circus Trip has always been treated as a golden opportunity to measure the franchise’s strengths and weaknesses, the culture of the organization has become so rooted in achieving excellence and keeping the bar set high, there will be plenty of other litmus tests adopted going forward that will help the team identify ways to improve and set their tone for the season.

In other words, the Circus Trip has always been a testament to the hardiness of the ’Hawks, but that hardiness won’t go away with the Circus Trip.

Question 2: Lot’s of the young guns on the ‘Hawks are having a great start to the season, but if we look at a player that the Blackhawks as a team need to have a bright future, I’d say the standout here is Gustav Forsling.

The Blackhawks have always been a team replete with offensive talent, but not necessarily on the blue line. While Forsling has a golden opportunity to learn from four multi-Stanley Cup champion defensemen in Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook, the biggest indicator that he’ll have a bright future is the fact that he seems to have won the coaching staff’s confidence.

This is no small feat for such a young defensive talent, especially given coach Joel Quenneville’s notorious penchant for older veterans. Yet the fact that Forsling has gotten the nod over the likes of Michal Kempny and Michal Rozsival is a big indicator the young Swede has big things in his future.

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