This team has me scratching my head 25 games into the season. On one hand, they are tied for the most points in the Western Conference. Most fans and teams would probably be thrilled by that…not this guy. This team just doesn’t feel like a Stanley Cup contender at this point. Maybe its the fact that they have the league’s worst penalty kill…yeah 30th out of 30…wtf. Here are my first quarter grades for each player…in alphabetical order.
Bryan Bickell: F
Bickell has played in 23 games this year and has registered a whopping 5 points. Pretty pathetic. He has been a healthy scratch once and has been demoted to the 4th line. For a guy that is listed at 6’4″ 233lbs, Bickell doesn’t bring nearly enough to the team from a physical stand point. The only reason he is on the NHL squad and not in Rockford is because his cap hit is so minimal.
Dave Bolland: C-minus
Bolland has 10 points in 20 games which isn’t terrible for a 3rd line center, especially on this team. However, when you aren’t contributing offensively and you are the “shut down center” you can’t be a -5 on the season. I have faith that Bolland will turn it around when it matters most, but he is a guy the Hawks need at least 50 points from. He is isn’t quite on that pace.
Andrew Brunette: D
Look it, I hate to come down on Brunette here, but this was a terrible off season acquisition. Brunette simply doesn’t skate well enough to play on this team. The Hawks are about speed and tremendous puck possession. Brunette is old, and was never that good of a skater to begin with. He has been removed from the top 6 forward group and if it were up to me he would be replaced by young fresh legs on the active roster.
Dan Carcillo: C+
Carcillo is basically what you would expect him to be. He runs around. Hits people. Does a decent job on the forecheck. Chirps. Provides sand. I am glad he is on the team. Having said that, he has gotten a ton of minutes as a Top 6 forward. He is over his head. Carcillo is best suited to be on the 4th line, mucking it up and pissing people off. His inclusion in the Top 6 speaks to the Hawks overall lack of depth.
Corey Crawford: C
I expressed my concerns about Crawford early in the season and practically got my head bitten off by people on twitter. His numbers are average. a .902 save percentage simply isn’t good enough. The Hawks need to tighten things up in their own zone as a whole, but Crawford needs to get his rebound control…under control.
Michael Frolik: C-minus
What happened to that Bickell-Bolland-Frolik line we all saw last spring against the Canucks? I personally expected Frolik to take major strides this season. It just hasnt materialized. The former top 10 pick has only 7 points through 22 games. That puts him on pace for about 11 goals on the year. A player with Fro’s skill should be able to fall backwards into 11 goals. The Hawks were counting on secondary scoring from the third line and they collectively have been a major disappointment.
Niklas Hjalmarsson: B
Count me as a guy who loves Hammer. The guy is a rock back there for the Hawks. He skates pretty well, plays smart, is physical at appropriate times, and competes extremely hard. Ideally you’d like a guy getting 20 minutes a night to have more than 2 points, but scoring isn’t a problem for the Hawks and Nik’s plus-7 rating shows how solid he is in his own end.
Marion Hossa: A
This is the player the Blackhawks expected to get when they signed the big Slovak. Just puck possession like you read about. He’s a point-per-game right now and also has a plus-10 rating. He is effective skating with either Toews or Kane. Hoss is one of the few player bouying this team right now.
Patrick Kane: A
Patrick Kane has been nothing short of electrifying so far this season. He is producing at a high level while learning a new position. Moving Kane to center has been by far the best move Quenville has made this season. Kane has even been responsible in his own end. Something many thought could never be a big part of his game. I think Kane is capable of scoring at a higher rate than a point per game, but maybe he can’t do that until the Hawks surround him with two competent wingers.
Duncan Keith: B
Duncan Keith has certainly showed flashes of his Norris trophy level play on the back end, but it hasn’t been there consistently. Perhaps he is playing too many minutes. Keith is second on the team in points, but his +/- rating leaves something to be desired. I am an advocate of putting 2 and 7 back together, and letting them do their thing.
Marcus Kruger: B
I have loved Kruger’s game for the most part. Responsible. Smart. His 7 points certainly aren’t lighting the world on fire, but they are solid for a rookie still learning the North American game and getting limited minutes. He seems to be improving every game.
Nick Leddy: B
Another young player turning in a solid campaign. Leddy amazes me. He plays the game so cool and smart. He is great in transition. He needs work on his game in the Hawks end a little bit, but he is a very capable top 4 defenseman with a bright future. That Cam Barker trade was the steal of the century.
Sami Lepisto: Incomplete
Lepisto has only played in 8 games so far this season, so it’s hard to get a real feel for his game. He is a good skater and moves the puck well. I personally believe he is a better option overall than O’Donnell or John Scott, but perhaps Q and the boys like the added sand paper and/or leadership those two vets provide. Lepisto is a solid guy to have as a 7th defenseman. I’d like to see him get some more time.
Jamal Mayers: B+
I sneaky love Jamal Mayers. He is everything you want in a fourth line forward. He hits, he fights, he works hard, and is dependable defensively. He seems to be a guy that will step up(at least in the press) and say something when the boys aren’t playing well enough. Great off-season acquistion.
Steve Montador: B+
Montador is my favorite new Blackhawk. He stands up for his teammates. He plays hard every night. He contributes in any way he is asked to. Somehow he landed on the second unit of the powerplay and is actually delivering results. Monty is a tough costumer and the Hawks are lucky to have him.
Sean O’Donnell: Pass
Ugh, whatever. O’Donnell seems like a good dude, just old and slow.
John Scott: Ugh, whatever, Pass…I guess
Its hard for me to hate on John Scott. He plays hard. Does what he is asked. Will stand up for teammates. Has a great mustache. I would even venture to say that his skating as improved since last season. He still probably the worst skater in the league, but he is better. I am glad he is on the team. I just wish he was a healthy scratch more often than not.
Brent Seabrook: B-minus
The Hawks need more out of Seabrook. Plain and simple. 7 points and a +3 simply isn’t good enough. He needs to earn that big contract and get his game to where it was last year. I do think that 2+7 is just something that needs to happen going forward. Those two are in each other’s brain and work beautifully together.
Patrick Sharp: A
You can’t ask for much more out of Patrick Sharp. The guy has been one of the better players in the league so far this year. 23 points and a +10 is incredible. He is a leader on and off the ice and always plays with a tremendous effort.
Ben Smith: Incomplete
Smith needs more playing time. Start sitting Brunette or Bickell or whoever, but the kid needs a chance to get into the flow of things with this team.
Viktor Stalberg: C-minus
Anybody who reads this space regularly or follows me on twitter knows how I feel about Stalberg. The guy has a hockey IQ similar to Forest Gump. Having said that…he is extremely talented. Incredible speed and he seems to be a hard worker. I think he would be a tremendous 3rd line winger, but he doesn’t have the smarts to be a top 6 forward.
Jonathan Toews: A+++++++++++++++++
I feel like that teach in “A Christmas Story”, but Toews has been sensational. Probably the best face-off guy in the league, he is a point per game player, a +8, a leader, a penalty killer, and is extremely gifted offensively. There is no doubt in my mind that Toews could be a 100 point guy if he wanted to sacrifice some of his defensive zone responsibilities. Toews, to me, is the perfect hockey player. I feel blessed to be able to watch him compete on a regular basis.
I really think this team is playing at its apex right now. Stan Bowman has some work to do. This team needs another top 6 forward and another defenseman. It might be time to give some of the young Rockford kids a look too. I really believe that Jeremy Morin is a 30 goal scorer in the making. He would fit in tremendously on this team as a top 6 forward. I am not sure if Kyle Beach is dead or what, but the Hawks need to find a big guy with a pulse because Bickell has no heart.
follow me @windycitisports
Alright, so much for sharing. The one year the Blackhawks dynasty lets another team win the Stanley Cup and this is what happens.
PS: Of course a Newfie dropped it.
follow me @windycitisports
Jeff W (Buffalo Grove, IL
Hey Jesse, I have two separate groups of friends that hung out with Toews at Lolla a few weeks back, and both groups, completely independent of one another, said he could not have been a nicer guy. He wasn’t drinking, and he wasn’t acting like a buffoon. I find it so refreshing to hear that the public persona of Captain Serious is legitimate and translates to his private life…
Nothing too surprising here. Wouldn’t expect to hear anything different Toews. Just your typical Captain, Stanley Cup Champ, Gold Medal winner, Olympic MVP, Conn Smythe winner, Selke Finalist, stud, humble superstar. Toews just does everything perfect, even interacting with us commoners. I had a similar experience with him on New Year’s Eve 2010. I bumped into him and other Blackhawks at the Hilton, we talked hockey for a good 10 minutes, and he was a great guy. Gotta love Toews.
follow me @windycitisports
I want Brad Richards. That’s all there is to it. People are saying they shouldn’t give him a big contract because it would be the same cap burden as Campbell. That’s a ridiculous line of thinking. How can you be “burdened” by a top 10 player in the league? Richards would get a 100 points for the Blackhawks and would give the Hawks the best 1-2 punch of centers in the league. I think the Blackhawks should offer Richards either 5 years and 35m, or 7 years and 42m. The time to win is now. The Blackhawks have cap space, and Richards at 7m a season provides more value than Brooks Laich or anyone else at 4 or 4.5m. The Hawks can afford Richards and still have enough money to sign another defenseman and give Patrick Sharp a raise.
Patrick Sharp(5m, assumed contract extension) Jonathan Toews(6.3m) Patrick Kane(6.3)
Rusty Olesz(3.125m) Brad Richards(7m) Marian Hossa(5.275m)
Ben Smith($812,500) Dave Bolland(3.375m) Michael Frolik(2.275m,assumed raise)
Kyle Beach(1.171m) Marcus Kruger(900,000) Bryan Bickell($541,667)
Brent Seabrook(5.8m) Duncan Keith(5.538m)
Nik Hjalmarsson(3.5m) Nick Leddy(1.117m)
Chris Campoli(1.5m) 6th Defenseman(1.2m)
Total: 64m. And that’s rounding up. The real total is a couple hundred grand less than that. This team as presently constructed would probably go like 82-0. Just do it Stan.
follow me @windycitisports