Blackhawks' DeBrincat reflects on low goal total; Murphy on adding offense to his game
When each Blackhawks season comes to an end a horde of reporters descends upon the United Center to interview the general manager, head coach and most of the players.
This year that's obviously not possible, but the Hawks have done a nice job of audibling by making a few players available via Zoom all week.
Here are the highlights from Wednesday's call, which featured Alex DeBrincat, Connor Murphy and Slater Koekkoek:
DeBrincat may have had the most disappointing campaign among all the Hawks. Coming off a remarkable 41-goal season in 2018-19, DeBrincat scored 18 times in 70 games.
Only 8 of those tallies came at even strength, as opposed to 28 the year before.
So what happened?
"I feel like I was putting it where I wanted most of the time," DeBrincat said when asked if his accuracy may have been a touch off. "Maybe the goalies are reading me better or maybe I need to tweak something in my shot."
One thing DeBrincat improved upon was his passing. Early in the season he had 12 assists over a 15-game stretch. He also had 4 helpers in the playoffs.
Still, the 22-year-old gets paid to score. If he rebounds with 30-35 goals in 2020-21, it would give the Hawks a much better chance to take the next step as a team.
To do that, DeBrincat might just need to get to the net more often. A lucky bounce here or there can go a long way in pumping up a player's confidence.
"I feel a lot of the time this year I was playing on the perimeter," said the 5-foot-7 DeBrincat. "If I'm net front, maybe one goes off my shin pad and gives me confidence for the next game.
"Coaches are great. They're trying to help me along that road as well. They talk to me a good amount, trying to keep my head up to still play and make things happen."
Cuckoo for Koekkoek?
The Hawks figure to have loads of competition on the blue line, making some wonder if it's worth bringing back Slater Koekkoek, who will be a restricted free agent.
To me, it makes plenty of sense.
First off, he teamed up nicely with Olli Maatta to give the Hawks a solid, reliable third pairing for the second half of the season and in the playoffs. Secondly, it's more than possible that the former first-round pick is realizing his potential and beginning to play up to it.
Why let him go when he figures to re-sign at a reasonable salary and would provide some nice depth?
"I would love to come back to Chicago," said Koekkoek, who scored a goal and had 9 assists in 42 regular-season games while averaging 16:45 time on ice. "I really enjoyed my time there. I owe Jeremy (Colliton) a lot for giving me that opportunity this season and really allowing me to go out and play my game. ...
"I thought Olli and I had a good thing going, so hopefully I can get a deal done and be back when the season begins."
Connor Murphy's always been known as a stay-at-home defenseman, but he's done a nice job of ramping up the offensive side of his game as well. In 3.5 seasons with Arizona, Murphy scored 12 times in 228 games while averaging 1.11 shots on goal.
In Chicago, he's scored 12 times in 186 games while seeing his SOG per game go from 1.43 in 2017-18 to 1.62 in 2018-19 to 2.02 this season.
The key now for Murphy, who has two years remaining on his contract, is to stay healthy (he missed 42 games the last two seasons due to injury). If he plays an entire 82-game season there's no reason he can't set a career high in goals while also defending against opponents' top players.
"I worked a lot with our coaches and wanted to continue to improve puck play," said Murphy, who had 4 assists in the Hawks' nine playoff games. "That's something that's still a work in progress to try and contribute more that way."