This isn’t the half-way point in the season, but after 50 games on the Blackhawks calendar the NHL will break for the All Star Game.
So now is a great time for players to catch their breath, and fans to take stock in how the players have performed so far. With that in mind, let’s look back at the players GM Stan Bowman brought into town last summer, either via trade or as a free agent, and how they have – or haven’t – worked out.
Bickell isn’t a “new” face, but he needed a new contract over the summer and received a three-year deal from Bowman. Considering the cost, and the production he’s given the Hawks this year, Bickell is among the best value contracts in the league.
He was viewed as a power forward that could, potentially, replace some of the physicality that was lost when Bowman traded Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta, and he certainly hasn’t disappointed. Bickell ranks third on the team with 117 hits. He has been, and will be, one of Bowman’s best contracts.
Skille has tried really hard… but, for the most part, he has been a total disaster. He’s fourth on the team in hits (89), but was supposed to replace the offense of Kris Versteeg. He also ranks fourth on the team with 117 shots on goal. If we remove his two-goal performance against Nashville on Dec. 22, Skille has five goals on 115 shots in 45 games; by any measure, that’s terrible.
Effort is not a question with Skille, but his ability to compete at the level the Blackhawks want/need him to is suspect. For teams that can afford to give a forward spot to a high-energy player with the only requisite being effort, Skille might be an attractive asset. To a team that hopes to compete for a championship, sometimes trying just isn’t good enough.
He was acquired in the trade sending Versteeg to Toronto, and the hope was that the talent he showed briefly with the Maple Leafs would translate into a potential replacement for Andrew Ladd this year. While there have certainly been flashes of his ability, he has consistently been inconsistent, and his ice time has reflected that. He has spent time on all four lines this year, but appears best suited for the bottom group at this point.
Stalberg is still young, and will be a restricted free agent after this season. Because he was acquired in a trade by Bowman, his stock would figure to be higher moving forward than Skille. Neither Stalberg or Skille has been a factor on special teams this year, and Stalberg ranks fifth on the team in hits just behind Skille. It will be interesting to see whether one, or neither, of them is back.
Pisani is a rental, brought in to be a defensive specialist in many of the same roles that John Madden played last year. Despite missing a number of games (something that had to be expected given Pisani’s history), he has scored as many goals as Skille and Stalberg. Considering the cost, Pisani has been an outstanding role player on the team.
Has he fought? Sure. Has he done anything else? No. For as good as Pisani and Bickell have been this year, the two-year deal Bowman gave Scott might be the worst of his tenure. He was supposed to be versatile enough to play defense or forward, but has been barely good enough to get into the lineup.
He was brought in to be the Hawks top goalie, and to help the development of Corey Crawford. While Turco didn’t last very long as the team’s top netminder, he has been a class act on the bench behind Crawford as the youngster has emerged as a legit top netminder in the NHL.
How has Turco performed relative to his cost? His cap number and save percentage are near the middle among backup goalies in the league, and he could certainly use better support than he had in October. In last summer’s free agent class, the Blackhawks did about as well as they could have filling their need for a veteran goalie given their salary cap restrictions.