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Blackhawks' Jarred Tinordi not using offseason hip surgery as excuse for down season: ‘I'm too hard on myself'

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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jarred Tinordi didn’t beat around the bush when I asked him to evaluate his 2023-24 season as we approach the final weeks and as he’s coming off another healthy scratch.

“I'm not super happy with it, to be honest with you,” Tinordi told NBC Sports Chicago. “I think I've had some really good stretches where I felt like I was playing some really good hockey, and I've had some games that I'm not too happy about. I think everyone kind of feels that way, but I feel like I've let the bad games linger a little bit more than they should and I'm not super happy about that."

Mentally, it's probably been tougher for Tinordi because of the expectations he had for himself and how far he had come last season with the Blackhawks. After being claimed off waivers, he played his way into the Top 4, became a mainstay on the second pairing with Connor Murphy, and at one point he wore an 'A' on his sweater, which showed just how valuable he was to the locker room, on and off the ice.

This season? Tinordi has no goals, eight points, and a -24 rating in 45 games. He's been a healthy scratch a fair amount of times, too.

So what changed? Why the drop-off in play? A few factors, but one that most notably flew under the radar.

Early in the season, I had heard that Tinordi underwent major surgery on his hip over the offseason, and when I asked him about it at the time, he respectfully declined to comment because he didn't want it to come across as excuse-making. So I respected that privacy.

But as the season winds down and the reflecting part starts to enter the picture, it was hard for me not to circle back with Tinordi and wonder how much he was actually affected by the injury. As expected, he downplayed it.

"I don't think it really has too much to do with that," Tinordi said.

Tinordi confirmed he underwent surgery at the end of April to repair a torn hip labrum, which is typically about a six-month recovery. The doctors told him it could take a full year before he gets to the point where he's feeling "really good" again.

"It’s a long one," Tinordi said of the recovery process. "There’s nothing you can do because it’s your hip. It moves every time you walk and every time you do anything, right? It just needs time to heal.

"After surgery, you’re not doing anything and not putting any weight on it for at least four weeks. They put you in this machine that kind of moves it to keep it moving and then it's just a slow, slow progression. You're kind of just moving the joint around.

"The big thing is, they go in there and do it, your glute, your hip flexor, your groin, all of that just turns off, so it's a long process to return to play. Your hip could be healed in six weeks, but getting everything to work the way it should takes a long time."

Tinordi originally suffered the injury in November of 2022, but it didn't start to become a real issue until about March. He finished the season but limped towards the finish line and started taking maintenance days at practice to make sure he could be available for the games.

"I did what I could for it," Tinordi said. "I got an injection and I kind of did that. But eventually we just said we can’t keep going this way, so might as well get it done."

Tinordi was cleared and ready to go for training camp, but he was a healthy scratch in the fourth game of the season against Toronto, which was a bit surprising at the time. But now we know part of the reason why.

"I felt like it took a little bit to get going at the start of the year," Tinordi said. "I felt like getting my body to where it was used to and to get going took a little bit longer than I expected. Physically, I felt OK but I feel like I wasn't moving as well as I should have been or am used to moving. But it kind of worked itself out within the first two months of the season."

Fast forward to now, and Tinordi is still trying to reestablish himself as a fixture in the lineup. He also missed some games on two different occasions this season with a groin strain and while in concussion protocol that probably didn't help.

Couple that with an inconsistent lineup that has been decimated with injuries all season long, and Tinordi has struggled to get into a rhythm. That's what he believes has been the main factor for his "off" season, not the hip injury.

"I think if you look at our team last year, we had a lot more consistency with lineups, things like that," Tinordi said. "This year it’s been kind of chaotic honestly. You look at who’s in and who’s out every night, playing with different partners every night, and we went through some off-ice stuff; those aren’t excuses for anything, that’s stuff that teams go through in a year and we’ve got to work our way through that.

"I don’t know if I’ve loved the way I’ve handled everything this year, but that’s life, right?"

When pressed about that, Tinordi replied: "I think my attitude’s good, sometimes I’m just too hard on myself honestly. Sometimes you just get in your own head a little bit with how you’re playing and stuff like that. You just have to park everything — park the good and bad and just put it all behind you, and you take one step forward and you focus on the next day. We’ve got 82 games, right? You can’t get hung up on one."

On the ice, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson thinks Tinordi has been a victim of trying to do too much.

"Him coming in at the beginning of the year, he just played, and he played hard," Richardson said. "Him and Murph had something going and they did a great job together and did a lot of the hard work in the D-zone — faceoff scenarios, penalty killing. And obviously a great teammate, Tinner — sticking up for teammates, blocking shots, playing hurt, doing a lot of things.

"This year, it just seems like I think he's trying to find that way back to that and trying a little too hard."

With only 11 games left in the season, Tinordi knows time is running out to leave a final impression. Last season, he comfortably earned a one-year, $1.25 million extension with the Blackhawks and was grateful to have found some stability after bouncing around seven different teams over the course of his 11 seasons as a pro, three of which were spent in the minors in the middle of it.

Tinordi still believes in himself as a player, but he's trying to mentally stay positive, which hasn't been easy this season.

"That’s the hardest part honestly," Tinordi said. "I feel like you’re just itching to get out there and make a difference and help drive the ship in the right direction, and if your game’s not where you want it to be on that night, it definitely gets frustrating. But that’s hockey. That’s trying to find that consistency as a player.

"I think that’s what separates NHL players from call-ups or AHL players is consistency. If you can play with your B game every night, that’s valued, right? You know you don’t have those big ups and downs, and my game this season, it shows ups and downs. It's been an up and down year, but you want to finish strong.”

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