Blackhawks' star Kane pumps brakes on training camp announcement
Three months since playing their last game and two weeks after the NHL announced they'd be part of the 24-team playoff, the Blackhawks finally broke radio silence by making GM Stan Bowman, coach Jeremy Colliton and three players available to the local media via video conference.
The Q&A session came on the same day the NHL and NHLPA announced that formal training camps could begin Friday, July 10, as long as medical and safety conditions allow, and the parties have reached an overall agreement on resuming play.
That "overall agreement" may not be as close as thought, however. Especially after hearing what Patrick Kane had to say about the training camp announcement.
"We have to be pretty cautious about that," Kane said. "As players nothing has been agreed to yet, and I think there's a long way to go before we reach a certain agreement where we would want to come back and play and feel safe enough; feel like it's the right deal for us to come back. ...
"Hopefully the owners and the commissioner and the players can all work out a deal that's fair for everyone ... and we can get back into some sort of normalcy here."
If everything does work out, the Hawks would face the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-five series. It would be one of eight play-in series to take place in a yet-to-be determined hub city.
Meanwhile, the top four teams in each conference, who will be playing their own games to determine seeding, await the eight series winners.
This all seemed like a lock when Commissioner Gary Bettman went on national television to announce the return-to-play plan on May 26. But Kane's comments certainly give us reason to pause.
The Hawks' superstar didn't want to "dive into" too many details, but did say "a bunch of different things" need to be worked out.
• What happens if a player gets sick?
• How easy will it be for players coming from other countries to get here? And do they still need to self quarantine?
• When will the 2020-21 season start?
• How long will the off-season be?
"You guys know me," Kane said. "I love hockey, I love playing the game. ...
"(We) just want to keep our eye on the ball here, and make sure we get a fair deal. Then we would be ecstatic to come back and play hockey and help grow the game and gain more fans.
"Especially at a time like this. ... People are starving for sports. We would love to be able to give that to them, but we want it to be fair."
If the Hawks do indeed face the Oilers, Colliton's squad figures to be a lot healthier than when we last saw them during a 6-2 victory over San Jose at the United Center on March 11. Drake Caggiula and Adam Boqvist will be back, and it also looks like Calvin de Haan will return. The status of Zack Smith, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw is still up in the air.
The Hawks' win over the Sharks improved their record to 32-30-8, which was 7 points out of a playoff spot with just 12 games remaining.
Now, they're 0-0-0 just like everyone else.
So the question is, could they actually make a run against the high-powered Oilers?
Well, they'd get to play in a short series with Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Duncan Keith and -- perhaps most important -- a two-time Stanley Cup goaltender in Corey Crawford. Young players like DeBrincat, Boqvist, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome and Kirby Dach ought to be chomping at the bit to show what they can do. And then, of course, there's D-man Connor Murphy, who will be advancing past the regular season for the first time in his seven-year career.
"We're a young group and a lot of guys got a lot of opportunity this year and they developed as the season went on," Colliton said. "They're going to be a few months older now and they've had a chance to settle into their year and reflect on it.
"I think they're going to come back with even more motivation and jam to take that next step in their development, and that's only going to help our team. ...
"(And the veterans) are going to be re-energized and I expect they're going to find a different level to their game. There's a bunch of positives that we'll take out of this time."