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Revisiting the Brian Campbell Trade

The Blackhawks have lost 9 straight games and instead of looking like a Stanley Cup contender most Hawks fans are just hoping that the team rallies in time to make the playoffs.  The most glaring weakness for the Blackhawks has been their defense and special teams.  On draft day many applauded Stan Bowman for trading away defenseman Bryan Campbell and his $7.14 million cap hit.  While Campbell certainly isn’t worth the contract he received, the trade weakened the Blackhawks extremely and wasn’t at all necessary.

In May I said in this space “I love Bryan Campbell. He skates with a fluidity and elegance that is unmatched in the NHL.  From a pure entertainment value there is nobody on the Blackhawks that I would rather watch.  He makes everything look so easy and he probably makes one “wow” play a game.  However, as much as I love Brian Campbell, even I recognize that he isn’t worth the 7 million a year he is currently making…”. Bryan Campbell was coming off a fantastic season and was arguably the Blackhawks best defenseman in 2010-11.  He scored 27 points in 65 games, played 23 minutes a night, and was an astounding +28 on the year.  The Blackhawks as a team were 12th in the NHL in goals against.  While the Blackhawks struggled throughout the year with their Stanley Cup hangover and salary cap forced roster changes, Bryan Campbell was a rock.  If you look at last year’s roster and this year’s roster you’ll realize that the roster is essentially the same with the exception of Brian Campbell being gone.

The Blackhawks acquired Rusty Olesz in the Blackhawks trade, but the motivation was to clear cap space so GM Stan Bowman could spend it on Frolik($2.33m), Brunette($2m), Carcillo($775k), O’Donnell($850k), Montador($2.75m), and Lepisto($750k).  While Campbell definitely isn’t worth the $7.14m(how many players are?), he would have absolutely provided more value than $9,458,333 million the six players listed above are providing for the Blackhawks.  Below is what the Blackhawks’ cap situation would have looked like had they not made the Campbell trade and instead went with their youth.

The total cap space of $2,526,996 is actually inaccurate.  The Blackhawks would in reality have $4,526,996 because Patrick Sharp’s cap hit is only $3.9m for 2011-12 and doesn’t go up to the $5.9m picture above until next season.  If the Blackhawks had Bryan Campbell and $4.5m the rest of the NHL would be envious.  Instead, the Blackhawks are an also-ran in 2011. Trading Bryan Campbell and replacing him with a bunch of band-aids suggests that Stan Bowman has difficulty evaluating talent on his roster, in his system, or in general.  Campbell is the type of player who makes the entire team better.  His skating and instincts cover up mistakes of young players, his offensive skill could have anchored the second power-play unit(currently ranked 17th in the NHL), and his passing could have sparked the Blackhawks transition game.  Bryan Campbell far exceeds the sum of the parts with which Stan Bowman tried to replace him.  It appears that the old adage is proving to be true: Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.


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