Blackhawks Roster: What to Make of the Blue Line?

The Blackhawks Convention ended on Sunday with the usual fanfare and excitement from fans who met their favorite player(s), spent a lot of money, and had great experiences.

But the post-Convention reality now sets in: the Hawks have some work to do before the season (theoretically) begins in September.

This hasn’t been an active summer for the Blackhawks front office, but there haven’t been many players on the open market that would have fixed their problems.

Getting better thanks to attrition on rival rosters isn’t a formula Stanley Cup contending front offices can adopt, but overspending on the wrong players is also a dangerous trap. This summer, a number of defensemen – specifically Dennis Wideman and Matt Carle – broke the bank in free agency with deals that were larger, either in years or dollars (or both) than most expected them to be worth.

As the summer progresses and the trade market opens up a little, it’s up to GM Stan Bowman to use the assets he has to improve the club. He has not added the physical defenseman fans crave. But short of the offer sheet Philadelphia gave Shea Weber, a player that fits the need in Chicago hasn’t switched rosters yet this offseason.

The blue line at the United Center is still crowded. With Sheldon Brookbank in the fold, the Hawks have eight defensemen under contract that, at some point, were an NHL player last year.

Not much needs to be said about the Blackhawks’ top pair, which remains one of the best in the game in spite of the lackluster performances at times from Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook last year (mostly Keith). Obviously the Hawks will need consistently better play from their former Norris Trophy winner in the coming season.

But after them, there are a lot of question marks on the roster.

Everyone hopes Nick Leddy continues to progress, and that Johnny Oduya plays like the guy we saw between the deadline and the end of the regular season more than the hot mess he became against the Coyotes.

But those are hopes and expectations. Not guarantees.

And as long as both Oduya and Steve Montador have no-trade clauses on their contracts, Bowman has tied his own hands when trying to make changes to his roster via trade.

How Montador bounces back from his concussion is still a question, and how Dylan Olsen fits into the plans for the 2012-13 season after briefly getting a taste of the big time last year is also unknown.

And where does Niklas Hjalmarsson fit into the mix (if at all)? He lacks the no-trade clause that Oduya and Montador have been afforded by Bowman, and wasn’t specifically mentioned by anyone in the postseason press conferences, leading many (including me) to believe his days in Chicago are numbered.

But considering the Hawks can afford him, and he would be on the short list of “best bottom pair defensemen in the NHL,” they certainly aren’t obligated to trade him any time soon. But, given the number of players fighting for ice time and the potential market for a young, one-time champion defensemen with the skills Hjalmarsson possesses, the return in any deal might be too much to ignore.

We’ll never know what a full season of Sami Lepisto may have looked like, but we do know that Sean O’Donnell didn’t fix much last year and John Scott was… John Scott. With coaching changes already made this summer, how players are used will be as interesting during the season as the changes that might still be made before we get to Opening night (whenever that happens).

For now, fans will have to wait for the next piece of Blackhawks news to filter out to the world. Will Bowman leverage the team’s depth on the blue line to improve another area? Will there be a trade for a top-six forward or a goalie? Or will the Hawks begin the 2012-13 season with a crowded roster?

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19 Responses to Blackhawks Roster: What to Make of the Blue Line?

  1. Andrew H says:

    Great article, Tab! As you rightly mentioned, the Hawks are facing a lot of questions regarding their defense. One thing is clear though: we do need a number three d-man and the only guy who has the potential to emerge as that guy and “replace” All-star d-man Campbell is young Leddy (it will take time though). Hopefully, he continues to progress and make an impact on our team! After missing out on Suter, I expect SB to give Leddy another shot, which he deserves.

    @Tab (or someone else): Do you know what Eric Daze is up to these days? Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the convention and hear him talk on Sunday.

  2. Tim C says:

    Good article Tab. Wish you would write more like this. I give you crap sometimes, but we both want the same thing, more Cups. Keep up the good work like this, it takes pressure from the fans and media to make teams understand that unless they’re winning championships, the status quo isn’t good enough.

  3. Brad Stevenson says:

    A very good article Tab…very honest, and there really isn’t much to say…Bowman has a plan that we are not privy to…and all this sheer speculation is becoming very BORING.

    The Hawks do not have the necessary pieces to win a Cup as is, but we don’t know if Saad, Shaw, Hayes and Brookbank will make them better of worse…but I highly doubt they are enough to put this roster over the top…

    So, again, we wait and see…

  4. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    I’m not sure why the Hawks havent made any rosters moves this offseason outside of Brookbank. Peter Muller and PA Parentu could have been solid affordable pick ups. My faith in Stanley decreases by the day. If the Hawks fail to make it out of the 1st round again, Craw and Bowman should both be on the hook going into the next offseason. Since when are 1st round exits acceptable around here acceptable? This roster doens’t need alot. A 2nd line center, a top 4 d-man and a top 6 left winger, cmon Stanley Bowman!

  5. Tab Bamford says:

    Peter Mueller’s injury history doesn’t make any sense on a roster with 22-25 players already fighting for a roster spot. Big upside? Sure. Huge risk? Absolutely. Hawks have the same in Marcus Kruger already under contract, and he’s healthy. No thanks.

    PA Parenteau plays the same position as Kane & Hossa and doesn’t bring the size or physical element to the game that the Hawks would want if they’re going to commit four years & $16M to a player that effectively pushes Kane to the 2C role. If the Hawks are going to spend money on a top-six RW, it needs to be someone like Shane Doan that will be able to protect Kane/Toews. Parenteau isn’t that guy. Sorry.

    Since when are first round exits acceptable? They aren’t. But you list three things the Hawks need and there hasn’t been an appropriate bandaid for any of those that has been on the open market and gone elsewhere yet. You’re also forgetting that it appears the organization is sold on the idea of Brandon Saad at least getting a shot as a top-six LW to begin training camp.

  6. wall says:

    Agree there isn’t much out there… but this dream that Saad is going to pan out for the top-6! I just hope that is not the reason for no moves by Scotty…

    I luv Saad… but he isn’t the answer to a Physical D-man and/or TRUE POWER FORWARD/Center!!!! And that’s IF he pans out to play well as a Rook.

    Methinks that Stan just hasn’t found the RIGHT deal!!! And alot of writers keep talking about next year’s UFA’s…. Who is in that class Tab?

  7. Ethan says:

    22-25 guys fighting for a spot and yet no 2nd line center 1year 1.75 for Mueller I would roll the dice on that one! Not sold on Kruger what so ever and neither is anyone in the organization otherwise 2nd line C wouldn’t be a need!

  8. Dickie Dunn says:

    Tab – good piece and, very well put on all counts (Mueller, Parenteau, appropriate bandaid). Maybe it’s not so bad looking “in-house” for solutions? The Hawks have a lot of young talent including guys who may be on the verge of breakout seasons. Kruger was a rookie (this seems lost in some discussions), Stalberg in his second full year, Smith and Hayes have shown potential…maybe Olsen or Brookbank is that physical D-man…

  9. shamrock says:

    This offseason Bowman has now placed himself right in the line of fire. I believe that Bowman was smart in not signing any of the D-man or centers that were or are available. He would have just been overpaying and making the situation, that the team is in, worse. However, now he has to address the teams needs through trades. Unless there are prospects ready to step up this team is still in need of true #2 center and d-man who can play in the top 4. Again while I am glad that Bowman didnt panic and make desperation signings, he now has to show he is capable of making the trades that will not only address team needs but make the Hawks champions. If he fails the team needs to consider bringingi in a new GM.

  10. Will says:

    I am just asking but, who was the physical D man when we won the cup? We have 3 out of those top 4 still playing with the team. We actually have 3 out of the 4 centers we won the cup with also. So, you ask what is the missing ingredients? We never replaced those big forwards we had. Who replaced Brouwer, Ladd, Buff, Kopecky,
    Eager and Versteeg (not that he is big but, he plays with an edge). The answer is no one basically the only NHL forward out of all those trades is Stalberg. We went into the season with unknown goaltending and still won a cup.

    I believe that Stan Bowman is in over his skis and the front office is a mess. Welcome to the 2012-13 version of the Ice Cubs because that is what they have become. I believe they are banking on the competition getting worse and our “core” will take over. It is called the the Blackhawk Ol Soft Shoe I have seen and heard this crap for more years than I care to recall. How can teams that are up against the cap such as the Flyers go get NHL players and sign Weber to an offer sheet and we can’t do that? So, who is zooming who here.

  11. ratboy36 says:

    Michael Frolik told me hes going to play overseas this season,so is he Huet.2.0?

  12. Dickie Dunn says:

    Will – “who was the physical D man when we won the cup?”. I’ve also mentioned this previously. Hjalmarsson hit more than he has the last two seasons. Cam Barker played in 51 games (UNspectaculer). Brent Sopel blocked a lot of shots, but was “average” defensively, in my opinion. Jordan Henry played in 43 games, and Nick Boynton 10 including 3 postseason. Dustin Byfuglien played defense during most of the regular season, but wing in the playoffs (- correct me if my memory is failing). Besides Seabrook – no BIG, physical d-man.

    In my opinion, Andrew Ladd is the most significant “missing ingredient” – the consummate professional…consistent – played defense, played tough, and scored some key goals. I believe Byfuglien was MIA in about half the regular season games, but exceeded all expectations in the playoffs. The Hawks have not found anybody who can provide that level of in-front-of-the-net presence (sorely missed). Jimmy Hayes are you ready? Versteeg was a good player, but at times had trouble playing the “team” game (in my opinion) — he had 20G 24A. Stalberg had 22G 21A last season. I think given the chance, Brandon Bollig can play Eager’s role (- he’s already demonstrated he’s a better fighter) if he can score some (B.E. had 7G 9A).

    I agree with Shamrock (and others) about desperation signings and over paying. Of course Suter, Parise, or Weber would almost certainly improve the Hawks in a big way, but being locked into those contracts (and 4 first rounds picks for Weber) — is the cost justified? Wideman is a good player, but worth $5+ million? Matt Carle is a better-than-average d-man, but worth $5+ million? Carkner – I’m REALLY glad Bowman didn’t get him. I don’t know that Bowman *HAS* to trade, but that’s an option…and, he claims he won’t hesitate (if the right deal can be made).

  13. Will says:

    Dickie Dunn-First of all good post and you brought up a lot of good points. But, Buff played wing most of the year. I know he played a few games on D due to injury.

    I don’t want Bowman making desperate signings but, we are standing still and that cup team was built with a few shrewd trades like getting Sharp from Philly and Versteeg from Boston. I watch a team like Philly and when they traded Richards and Carter they got some NHL talent back. They received played like Wayne Simmons who scored 20 plus goals and is a pain you know where to play against. When we make a trade it is always geared for tomorrow.

    I have been a Hawk fan since the late 50′s and I seen what happened after we won the cup in 61. I don’t want that to happen again. If these kids we have don’t step up well, the only thing Toews and Kane will be celebrating around here is birthdays. I watched some very good Hawk teams with Hull and Mikita not win cups and I fear the same thing is happening again.

    I don’t want them overpaying for players but, I would like to see if Stan has a pulse and a pair. They are raising ticket prices and to me not justifying it I am sorry but, that is the way I feel. Of all the teams in this city I have lived and died with them and I will till I go to my grave. I want another Cup and if Stan can’t build it then find another architect.

  14. JJ says:

    Unless you get Weber, why would you pay Wideman type money for any of the other D that were available? I personally think the D lineup is solid. Some want to move Hjalmersson, including me. But I will keep him on the 3rd pairing with Montador barring any lopsided trade for a beast LW that Stan might stumble upon. Monty hits, Hammer blocks shots, and that combo works. When Leddy matures into his potential he will make everyone forget Campbell, heck the kid just turned 20? Add in Brookbank and Olsen and ask yourself this easy question “When was the last time we had this kind of experience/youth, defensive D/offensive D combination?”

    Tab – Mueller, your right. Parenteau, right again. Doan, damn you’re good. Buy high on Doan. Big left wing is the need. I would say give E. Kane an offer sheet, but the Jets would probably match anything that we could fit in the cap.

    The only move the Hawks need to make is Doan. If we get him to play with Toews/P Kane, then let Kruger earn the 2C spot between Hoss and Sharp. The kid (Kruger) was rookie, has skills, and has put on some muscle. If he can’t cut it, move Sharp back to 2C like 2010 and put Stallberg’s speed with him and Hoss. Those are definitely top six NHL combos, either way. The bottom 2 lines will work themselves out.

    And for the love of Pete, get off of Crawford’s back. The kid can play. Last year was the first year as a starter, for a recent Stanley Cup winning team! Talk about pressure. He will be a top ten G in the league this year, book it.

  15. Morrison says:

    Come on! – Let’s go, now.
    We need this win. We’ve a lot of losses…
    Yeah! That’s what we’re here for, guys. To win.

  16. Harry says:

    I hope for all of our sakes, you guys are right. Like I said before, I am cautiously optimistic about this season. Coach “Q” has gotten his way and has his friends in there as assistants. Which means absolutely nothing if they cannot motivate these players and coach them properly.
    I am also willing to give our goaltending one more chance. If Crow goes into his head game antics again, due to, too many soft goals, we are screwed. Luongo was not the answer either, he is another head case and too expensive.
    Too many possibilities here and too much money floating around. Let’s hope they get it done as a team!

  17. Milton Passon says:

    How about giving Dominik Hasek a try in goal. Invite him for a tryout like we did with Emery. Our D might be good enough if our existing D-men play better. We need 3 solid pairs that Q has confidence in. Marcus Kruger is really talented and deserves a chance for 2-c. Let’s wait until we find out what the new salary cap is after the new CBA is signed.

  18. C. Mac says:

    I was a big fan of S.Lalonde when he played for the Belleville Bulls. I don’t hear much of him now as I live in Canada. Does anyone see him moving to the big club soon? He was always a great skater and had some nice offensive skills.

  19. Tab Bamford says:

    Hard for Lalonde to make the jump w/ a packed NHL roster already. He’ll have some eyes on him in Rockford this year, however, because his entry-level deal is coming to an end soon and the organization will need to make a decision on his future here. I’ve liked his game as well, but he needs to take the next step this season.

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