The Blackhawks held their first scrimmage of training camp on Saturday at their annual training-camp festival. And while a nearly full United Center crowd made plenty of noise, it was a little quieter than usual behind the benches. That’s because Joel Quenneville is still in Toronto, an assistant coach for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey.
“It’s definitely pretty weird,” forward Ryan Hartman said.
Along with Quenneville, nine other opening-day locks are still absent from camp, along with prospect Ville Pokka. Patrick Kane, Michal Kempny and Pokka will rejoin the Hawks on Tuesday (though Kane will not play in Wednesday’s preseason opener against Pittsburgh). But seven other Hawks — Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford, Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Marcus Kruger —are still in Toronto. And Duncan Keith (knee) is still only skating in practices.
So while Quenneville isn’t around to impress (or disappoint), the first 7-10 days of camp present a huge opportunity for the next generation of Hawks trying to earn a roster spot.
“It definitely opens it up,” Hartman said. “It’s 10 [fewer] guys that they’re watching, and it kind of opens up for us to make plays and showcase what we can do.”
Assistant coaches Kevin Dineen and Mike Kitchen are running camp while the boss is away. Dineen’s White team beat Kitchen’s Red team 4-1 on Saturday, with Spencer Abbott scoring twice for the White team, and Vinnie Hinostroza scoring twice in a 10-minute, 3-on-3 overtime for Red.
“That’s what every organization is talking about with their players [in Toronto], it’s a great chance,” Dineen said. “There are a lot of eyes on guys, exhibition games coming up, opportunities [on] special teams. They’re going to get some spots they normally wouldn’t. The opportunity is there for those players, and you have to take advantage of it. But don’t build too much into it. You can’t go out there and think you’l play like Duncan or Toews or something. Go out and play your game and show us what you have.”
Dineeen, a former Florida Panthers head coach, was a candidate for the Colorado Avalanche head coach spot that opened up when Patrick Roy abruptly quit in August. Dineen said he was grateful that the Hawks allowed him to interview, but that he’s quite happy in Chicago working for his old Hartford Whalers teammate Quenneville. He also suggested some teams might have him in to pick his brain about how the Hawks do things.
“When you have success, a lot of people want to plagiarize and get [some] feedback or whatever it is,” Dineen said. “For me, I couldn’t be happier right here. … But down the line, those things play their way out.”
Brian Campbell looked sharp in his return to the United Center, back in his familiar No. 51 jersey. Dineen said his fitness test on Thursday “came back spectacular in terms of his ability to play a lot of minutes.”
“I’m biased on Soupy because I had him three years in Florida and I know what he can do,” Dineen said. “The poise he has out there. I think he toyed with a few of these kids.”