When former Boston Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean took an assistant job with the Chicago Blackhawks, he had no illusions about what he was getting into.
“They said it will be a lot of patience. Have a little patience,” Dean said Thursday during his performance at Fifth Third Arena. “It’s going to be clunky at times, but we’re going to want to be on an upward trajectory.”
Dean will be in charge of the defense under the direction of head coach Luke Richardson. The Hawks are going through a rebuild to begin with, so there has been an influx of new faces since Kyle Davidson became the permanent GM.
“We didn’t spend a lot of time (discussing) a ‘rebuild,’” Dean said, “but it’s going to be some younger players, (so) let’s just be patient and teach them how to play hockey the right way.
“All of a sudden, a couple of years in the league, they start to find their game, they become impact players, they have good habits and some depth and you become a good hockey team.
“And it doesn’t take forever to do that.”
Here are five things we learned from development camp.
It is not an excavation. Dean and Richardson had no previous connection to each other other than occasionally running into each other, as is often the case over the course of an NHL season.
Said Dean: “I got fired, or didn’t get hired, in Boston, so I was making calls and I texted Luke early in the process and Luke was very direct and got back to me right away and told me to be patient and see where it goes. .
“When Chicago got a little bit more comfortable and started talking to people, everything went well from there.”
Dean knows what he brings to the Chicago situation.
“Coming to a team that’s going to be a little bit younger, I think my strength is on the defensive side of the puck and I just want to come here and bring a good attitude and good energy and teach these young defensemen.”
Being a Blackhawks defenseman is something Dean is familiar with. The left shooting defenseman was traded twice during the 1999-2000 season and the then-Dallas Star landed in Chicago in February 2000.
“I think it’s a great place to play, a great city,” Dean said of Chicago. “We weren’t great when I was playing here, but it was great to play. The United Center is one of the best places to play in the world. The nights where we had good crowds and the game was tight it was unbelievable.”
Dean’s Hawks finished third in the Central Division in their first season and the following season they finished fourth.
“It is a great sports city in general. It’s a big city. I grew up not too far from here,” the Madison, Wisconsin native said. “I have a special place in my heart for Chicago and the Blackhawks.
“I left and they got better right away,” he laughed. “They got better a couple of years later. They had some good drafts soon after and started turning the boat around quite quickly.
“It was fun to watch those teams. The 2010s were something else.”
It seems that Dean’s philosophy boils down to this: if you’re going anywhere on the ice, go hard.
“We’re going to compete, we’re going to close out strong, we’re going to transition fast, we’re going to get our pucks to the net,” Dean said. “Those are the basics we want to insist on and the fundamentals we expect all of our advocates to work on.”
Jeremy Colliton and Marc Crawford used what has been called “half-man” coverage, but Dean said he and Richardson are “aligned” in that they prefer to play in the zone.
“More in zone D, not man to man. It will be up to Luke to reaffirm it,” Dean said. “Close hard when it’s your turn to close, spread apart when it’s your turn to separate, get some support from the bottom forward and work your way to the other side.
“But not man to man where you’re following the guy all the time.”
Speed, that is. And if they don’t have top speed, they at least have to have an engine.
That was the idea behind firm Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi and some of the other free agents the Hawks have signed since Wednesday.
“With Andreas, one of the fastest players in our league,” Davidson said of the 6-foot-2 forward. “Bring the speed factor on our team. Max can play in that area of the top six where he can bring a good pace of play but also a really high level of competition, which we want to bring to our group.
“Colin Blackwell is heart and soul, the engine never stops. Really happy to have him and up that work rate a little bit more.”
Strome and Dominik Kubalík were restricted free agents with arbitration rights, and no qualifying offers were submitted either.
Kubalík signed a two-year deal ($2.5 million salary cap) with the Detroit Red Wings and Strome signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals for $3.5 million.
“It was more the uncertainty about the cost,” Davidson said. “They both had arbitration rights, so the arbitration process creates a little more uncertainty and drags on a little longer in the summer.”
davidson wants to stay flexible with your budget.
“Again, it’s not easy to walk away from good players and good people like Dylan and Dominik,” he said, “but we felt like this was something that gave us more certainty in our budget.”
The Hawks also didn’t re-sign goalie Kevin Lankinen, an unrestricted free agent. Lankinen signed a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators.
“There were a lot of options for goalies this year,” Davidson said. “It just didn’t work. I think maybe he was looking for a change, or we just couldn’t figure something out.”
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The Hawks have signed Alex Stalock, who will replace Petr Mrázek.