With Sharp, Saad returning there's no more excuses for Toews or Blackhawks

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews speaks to fans during the NHL hockey team's convention Friday night in Chicago. Before the Convention kicked off, Toews said next year's team needs to start thinking as one. No more "young guys" and "veteran guys." Said Toews: "We need to get rid of that whole idea and … get everybody together and performing and working the same way."

    Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews speaks to fans during the NHL hockey team's convention Friday night in Chicago. Before the Convention kicked off, Toews said next year's team needs to start thinking as one. No more "young guys" and "veteran guys." Said Toews: "We need to get rid of that whole idea and … get everybody together and performing and working the same way." Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/21/2017 9:41 PM

All for one. And one for all.

That was Jonathan Toews' point-blank message to reporters as the 10th annual Blackhawks Convention kicked off at the Hilton Chicago on Friday night.

 

Toews -- equally tired of the Hawks' lack of playoff success and questions about his lack of success -- said last season's apocalyptic playoff disaster was a humbling experience and one that must provide a wake-up call to the veterans on the roster.

"We all need to … have a little reality check and question what we can do better," Toews said. "Last year there was so much talk of the veteran guys and the young guys, and it was almost like we were two separate teams. …

"We need to get rid of that whole idea and … get everybody together and performing and working the same way."

All true. And all great soundbytes in July.

But for that to happen, Toews must rebound from back-to-back disappointing seasons. The captain didn't say how he plans to do that, but being reunited with Brandon Saad ought to help immensely.

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"(He's) one of those wingers that everyone talks about being one of the best two-way wingers in the league," said Toews, who scored just 21 goals in 2016-17. "You know, it's fun, especially when you get that momentum, you start working, you have the puck every single shift."

Saad -- only 24 years old -- returns to the Hawks after scoring 55 goals in Columbus the past two seasons. His combination of blazing speed, bulk and flat-out overall skill will lead to plenty of more puck possession for the top line.

That should free up Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Sharp/Nick Schmaltz as they carve up a host of second defensive pairings.

"I saw Sharpie in the gym the other day," said coach Joel Quenneville. "He looked unbelievable. You could see the passion, the enthusiasm of him returning."

For sure, it was almost surreal to see Sharp standing at the podium in the Hilton's Waldorf Room before he once again donned No. 10 and walked out into a sea of adoring fans.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sharp came back on a sweetheart deal that will pay him just $800,000 in base salary, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to hoist a fourth Stanley Cup.

"I don't think I've ever been as motivated to get back to the level I think I can play at," said Sharp, who had hip surgery in March and will be ready for training camp. "I'm moving well now, as good as I have in past summers and got a lot of excitement and a lot of comfort level coming back to Chicago.

"I can't wait for the season to start."

Nashville's postseason sweep of the Blackhawks came about for three reasons: The Predators overwhelmed the Hawks with their speed, Quenneville's squad never switched into playoff mode, and the Hawks' roster was loaded with guys who had little or no postseason success.

That's where Sharp (142 postseason games), Saad (72) and even someone like Tommy Wingels (54) ought to be able to flip the narrative. They know what it takes to flourish come April and -- just as important -- aren't about to panic when the Hawks get behind in a game or series.

"(Pittsburgh's) experience and top guys took over at the right times (during their Cup run)," Toews said. "At the end of the day teams can't quite shut the door on you and finish the series. The longer you can keep it alive and stay alive … the better chance you have of winning. That resilience is a huge asset. Once we get to the playoffs that will be one of our biggest weapons."

As for Kane, while he didn't shy away from the fact that he was disappointed that Artemi Panarin was traded to Columubs for Saad, he knows the Hawks might just be better because of that move.

"I think we're in a great position to do something special again," Kane said. "Last year we might have fooled ourselves with how good we were during the regular season, and obviously that showed in the postseason.

"It'll be another challenge this year to see what the group is made of. Obviously the core guys will try and lead the way again and get back to the promised land."

• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh

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