March 31, 2023

Just like that, the Chicago Blackhawks went from enjoying a four-game run of success to battling through a losing streak that’s now lasted the same duration. All within the span of a week, at that. It would seem that any luck that may have been lingering around the team to start the season has since faded, given some of the news coming out of Chicago these days.

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This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumors focuses on some mostly unfortunate updates, all while foreshadowing potential upside otherwise unattainable.

Jones Placed on Chicago’s IR

Go figure that one of the team’s leaders in blocked shots would be sidelined as a result of that very impact. Not only will the Blackhawks have to find a way to compensate for the nearly three blocks per night that Seth Jones was good for while active, but they’ll also need to cover the over 25:00 he was logging every game. Plus, they’ll be without his dynamic ability to produce at any given moment.

Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks
Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Expected to be out for the next three to four weeks with a right thumb injury, not having Jones in the lineup is definitely a disadvantage to this Blackhawks squad.

“He plays a lot of big minutes for us and against top lines, so we’re just going to have to shuffle the deck a little bit, try to buy some time and win by committee on defense and wait until he gets back. That’ll be a boost for us when he does get back.”

That said, while it’s never a positive to see a player forced out of action, the silver lining is that it opens the door for another to gain meaningful experience in the meantime.

Regula Recalled by Blackhawks

Chicago didn’t have to look far for another right-handed defenseman to fill that void on their blue line, recalling Alec Regula from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League (AHL). He last dressed with the club for their opening night match of 2022-23 against the Colorado Avalanche, accumulating 17:15 of ice time, one hit, and two blocks.

Alec Regula Chicago Blackhawks
Alec Regula, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 22-year-old’s two goals through four contests in Rockford so far this season currently lead their defensive group in that regard. Whether or not he can better his one tally through 15 games with Chicago in 2021-22 is yet to be seen. However, what the Blackhawks can confidently anticipate is Regula’s ability to take on a hefty workload, given the 17:53 he averaged with them throughout that span last year.

Of course, the fact remains, that amount of ice time won’t directly replace what Jones has been managing on a daily basis. However, offering the prospect this opportunity to make his minutes matter at the NHL level will work to both his and the franchise’s advantage.

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Then, even when Jones is ready to return, Regula will have hopefully made more of a case for the value he can bring to this rebuilding roster moving forward.

Stalock Injury Prompts Wells’ Signing

It should come as no surprise to hear that Alex Stalock is in concussion protocol, given the violent first period collision that forced him out of the game against the New York Islanders on Nov. 1.

Alex Stalock Chicago Blackhawks
Alex Stalock, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Stalock was enjoying a surprisingly hot start to his campaign, especially considering the limited experience the veteran had accumulated in recent seasons. With Petr Mrázek out, it was Stalock’s crease to control and he was doing a fine job at that. The 35-year-old is currently 3-2-1, with a .914 save percentage (SV%) and 2.93 goals-against average (GAA).

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It’s not just that Stalock’s injury status now interferes with his ability to ride the early momentum gained, but it also put the Blackhawks in a bind given that their No. 1 and No. 2 were both made unavailable as a result. Even with Mrázek seemingly close to a return, Chicago had to strategize accordingly.

Arvid Söderblom was already called up to support Stalock with Mrázek out and he’s now poised to earn more starts while both ahead of him on the depth chart are in the press box. That said, who better to create Chicago’s newest temporary tandem than one of Söderblom’s fellow IceHogs teammates?

Dylan Wells was selected 123rd by the Edmonton Oilers in 2016, but has spent most of his time since bouncing between the AHL to the ECHL. After starting three games for the IceHogs in 2022-23, the Blackhawks have now signed the 24-year-old to a one-year deal with the hopes that he can help keep the team as competitive as they’ve been thus far.

“I try to keep my game pretty simple,” said Wells. “I’m not the biggest guy ever, but I try to play a little bigger than I am and just rely on my mobility and quickness and speed.”

What’s more, this move now offers Wells a chance to make his case as an NHL-calibre goaltender. An opportunity he’s not yet been granted since being drafted and one he’ll surely look to take advantage of. Offering a type of motivation that benefits all involved.

Although it’s typical for a rebuild to employ less experienced athletes, the Blackhawks have seemingly been forced into that very scenario early on this season. However, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Growth can only occur with added ice time to support such progress.

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Whether or not Regula and Wells are part of Chicago’s future is yet to be seen, but that each currently has a window to work within to prove their worth is positive for both of their careers and Chicago’s current mandate of fostering development.

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