It has become clear that the 2011-12 Chicago Blackhawks ultimately failed because they lacked a number of key ingredients.
We’ve already looked at one potential free agent addition they should make. Now, let’s consider one player who might be on the market this summer; the Hawks should certainly make a phone call to see if he is.
The Blackhawks aren’t physical enough.
This has been a problem since the dismantling of the Cup roster. The Hawks have drafted well and have a lot of size matriculating its way up through the organization, but we’ve seen in the playoffs that the Hawks need to add quality, battle-tested veterans to their depth; rookies cannot be expected to carry the load.
The veteran forward in mind is listed at 6’4″ and 230 pounds. He was credited with only 42 hits in 82 games in 2011-12, but he was among the league leaders with 96 takeaways and added 26 blocked shots.
The Blackhawks don’t have a legitimate #2 center.
The Patrick Kane Experiment is a nice idea, but the Hawks are obviously a better team when he’s skating with Jonathan Toews. The problem, however, with having four superstars is that either one of them is being left out of the fun with a single line being overloaded or, more times than not, an inadequate center (read: Marcus Kruger) is skating between Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.
The player in mind is a center, and has actually been a top-line player throughout his career. He won over 56 percent of his faceoffs this year, and his assist-first approach would fit perfectly in the Hawks’ top six.
The Blackhawks special teams are awful.
Chicago has tried almost everyone somewhere on either of their special teams, but the unfortunate reality is that they continue to come back to the same three or four players on every unit in every key situation. Frankly, they need to give Jonathan Toews a break at some point.
The center we’re thinking of spends a significant amount of time on special teams (1:03 per game killing penalties, 3:22 per game on the power play). He scored four power play goals in 2011-12, but added 19 assists while skating with the man advantage.
So who are we thinking of?
San Jose’s Joe Thornton, 32, has two more years left on his deal with a $7M cap hit. Is that a steep price to pay a veteran? Perhaps. But making him a second-line center would take a lot of pressure off the Hawks’ four star forwards.
The immediate response from most Hawks fans will undoubtedly be to scream “No! Jumbo can’t win a big game.”
How soon we forget that was the knock on Hossa before he got here.
Thornton alone wouldn’t solve all of the Blackhawks’ problems, but he would provide a remedy for a number of them. Last summer, Doug Wilson showed a willingness to move almost anyone when he traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to the Minnesota Wild. If he looks to mix up his formula again this summer, Chicago should at least see what the cost would be to get Thornton out of the Shark Tank.