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Blackhawks convention filled with story lines despite little activity

Patrick Kane is expected speak publicly Friday about his partying MadisWis. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Patrick Kane is expected to speak publicly Friday about his partying in Madison, Wis. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 21, 2012 6:37AM

With all due respect to veteran defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, he won’t quite get the response that Zach Parise, Ryan Suter or Martin Brodeur would have gotten at the annual Blackhawks convention this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.

But even without any of those three, the Hawks still are a strong team. It can be argued whether they still are among the elite, but there’s no doubt that they still are among the top eight teams in the league.

So just as the convention is a reminder of how this offseason has been unimpressive, it’s also a reminder of how impressive the Hawks still are, with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith there to sign autographs and meet the masses.

“We’re in a good position relative to some teams, which is we’ve got a good group of players already under contract,” Bowman said recently. “I think it’s going to be a competitive [training] camp, even right now without adding any new players.”

In other words, whom the Hawks walk out at the convention might be as good as it gets for them. It could have been better, but it isn’t terrible, either. The Hawks aren’t in the same boat as the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators, who are trying to compensate for the departures of top players.

If Bowman stands pat, some of the main story lines at the convention will remain the same when the season begins:

◆ Kane is expected to make his first public comments Friday about his party-filled (and photographed) run in Madison, Wis. He can expect another season of having his maturity questioned on and off the ice. Will he be able to put the distractions behind him and finally become the player many still think he can be in his sixth NHL season?

◆ Hossa returns to Chicago for the first time since leaving town with a severe concussion. Hossa wouldn’t be here if his recovery wasn’t going well. But will he be ready by training camp, and will he be the same player he was before suffering the first serious concussion of his career?

◆ Everyone from teammates to team brass will continue to stand by goalie Corey Crawford, who is entering only his third full NHL season. Crawford, meanwhile, will have to answer questions about the Hawks’ pursuit of Brodeur and his confidence — again.

◆ There will be plenty of good things said about new assistant coach Jamie Kompon and the rest of the coaching staff. With Kompon joining Mike Kitchen as an assistant coach this week, Joel Quenneville finally has a staff he picked himself. In other words, Quenneville — with team brass undoubtedly judging each of his moves — will rise or fall with his own people next to him. The pressure is on the staff to maximize a roster that, despite some holes, still is among the league’s best. Turning the special teams around is a must, considering Mike Haviland was made the scapegoat for the poor power play, among other things.

◆ The Hawks’ youth and system will be touted again and again. If no moves are made, Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Bollig, Brandon Saad and others will get a chance to fill holes and more. Toughness and size can be found among them, but was their success last season a stroke of luck? Is there a second-line center among them?

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