Chicago Blackhawks Quarter-Season Grades

It’s going to be ok. I promise.

Front Office: Stan Bowman – B-
Head Coach: Joel Quenneville – C

Bowman’s additions have met mixed reaction so far. For a while, Carcillo was the best thing since sliced bread… until he became a statistical ghost and got suspended again. Brunette hasn’t worked out very well, and the additions on the blue line haven’t been incredibly successful. The best move of his summer was bringing in Jamal Mayers, who has been consistent in the role he’s been asked to play. Honestly, his grade would be much lower than a B- based on the production of his additions if he hadn’t limited his losses to one-year deals.

Quenneville’s grade takes a hit because the team continues to make a lot of the same mistakes that make fans take Advil before and after so many games. The inconsistencies in play and, most importantly, the fact that they continue taking struggling opponents for granted are two things that can be put back on leadership after a quarter of the season.

Marian Hossa: A+
Jonathan Toews: A
Patrick Kane: A-

There are three guys on the roster that have, for the most part, brought it on a nightly basis. Hossa has been in beast mode since the puck dropped in Dallas, posting 23 points in 20 games. Toews has been the steady captain we’ve all come to love and appreciate, winning 62.4 percent of his faceoffs and leading on every shift with obvious effort. But his team-leading 10 goals put him on pace for yet another career year.

The surprise in the first quarter of the season was Kane, who moved to center and didn’t miss much of a beat. In October, he was winning over 50 percent of his faceoffs, but he has declined in that area in November; he’s now sitting at 47.9 percent on the year. However, he still has 22 points in 21 games.

Patrick Sharp: B+
Nick Leddy: B+
Jamal Mayers: B
Marcus Kruger: B
Steve Montador: B-
Brent Seabrook: B-

Sharp has been the steady veteran he’s always been, putting up 19 points in 21 games despite a tough streak without a goal. Mayers has been, as we mentioned before, the best free agent acquisition of the summer with four points and 25 hits so far. He’s also winning over 55 percent of his faceoffs. While Montador’s had lapses defensively, his offensive production sparked a once-dead power play, which gets him out of the C grades. And Seabrook’s absense has been evident in the last two ugly losses.

But perhaps the two players that have exceeded their preseason expectations the most have been two babies: Leddy and Kruger. Through Monday, Leddy’s 15 points rank seventh among all NHL defensemen, and he’s been more consistent than Keith so far this year. Does he make mistakes? Sure. But he’s 20 years old. Kruger was sent packing to Rockford to open the year, but came up and has forced himself into the lineup every night. His production isn’t as eye-popping as Leddy’s (five points in 20 games), but he’s been very good in penalty killing duty and his 10 blocked shots are tied with Bolland for second among Hawks forwards (Frolik has 13).

Daniel Carcillo: C+
Viktor Stalberg: C+
Ray Emery: C+
Michael Frolik: C+
Dave Bolland: C
Corey Crawford: C

Carcillo’s hockey IQ has been surprisingly high after most assumed he was being brought in as a rented goon. He’s spent some quality time with Kane and Hossa and that line has been effective at times, and he’s dropped the gloves more than anyone else on the team. However, he needs to stay off the suspension list.

Stalberg has actually exceeded expectations to date. He’s on pace for a 40-point, 20-goal season and has actually looked somewhat-capable on a line with Toews and Hossa (and yes, I know, Helen Keller could look capable with those two). However, he’s 5th on the team with 23 hits and his 11 takeaways are a surprising total while picking up 12 penalty minutes. Now if only he could aim…

After getting off to such a hot start, the third line of Frolik-Bolland-Bickell has dissolved into a frustrating lack of production, and now Frolik’s banged up. Bolland got off to a hot start but his production disappeared. Meanwhile, both of the Hawks goalies have been frustrated by poor play in front of them by the defensemen for sure, but there have been too many soft goals in 21 games for a championship contending team to allow.

Duncan Keith: D
Andrew Brunette: D
Bryan Bickell: D-
Sami Lepisto: D-
John Scott: D-

Brunette hasn’t found a role on this team because, frankly, he’s too slow. Lepisto and Scott are struggling to prove that they’re NHL players so far this year, and we’ve discussed Bickell’s issues at length already.

The most frustrating player on the roster so far this year has absolutely been Keith, who might personally represent the swings in quality play from the entire roster. Yes, he’s blocked 39 shots and has a team-leading six power play points. But he has been on the ice for 31 opponents’ goals, which is tied with Carolina’s Eric Staal for the worst total in the NHL. He’s making mistakes that would get someone with Leddy’s resume sent back to Rockford, something that cannot happen from a former Norris Trophy winner.

Niklas Hjalmarsson: F+
Rostislav Olesz: F
Sean O’Donnell: Inc
Ben Smith: Inc

Olesz is in Rockford where he belongs. O’Donnell is in the press box, where he doesn’t belong (why Scott? why Lepisto?), and Smith should have been up much sooner.

If Keith is frustrating and disappointing, Hjalmarsson is confounding. Yes, he leads the team with 51 blocked shots. But what else has he done this year? He’s been on the ice for nine power play goals from Hawks’ opponents, he has only 15 hits and has fewer points than O’Donnell in eight more games played. Hjalmarsson is proving to be no better than a fifth defenseman this year, which doesn’t work when he’s being paid to be a top-four guy.

Overall Team Grade: B

Have the Blackhawks played like a steaming pile this season? At times, yes. Have they buried a lot of their glaring weaknesses, like a pathetic power play and underwhelming penalty kill unit, by out-scoring their opponents? Sure. There is plenty to complain and worry about with this roster.

However…

Despite all of the ugliness we’ve discussed above, the reality remains that the Hawks have been a good team overall so far. They rank third in the league in goals per game (3.29), and the power play has quietly climbed into the top half of the league (T-13th – 17.3 percent). Thanks to Toews, the Hawks rank second in the NHL, winning 52.6 percent of their faceoffs as a team. Most importantly, the Hawks are 7-1-2 at the United Center, and their 27 points not only lead the Central but are still tied for the most in the Western Conference.

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21 Responses to Chicago Blackhawks Quarter-Season Grades

  1. Dave Bonnema says:

    In his Norris Trophy year, Keith had only 43 hits, which ranked him 13th on the entire team.

  2. Steve says:

    You’re being generous with Duncan Keith. And, what has John Scott done to deserve a D-. Frankly I’d give him at least a C. Duncan Keith, F ALL THE WAY. He’s played like a 4th – 6th D-man since his Norris year. It’s time to move this steaming pile of a defensman now while he still has some value for his contract. Wonder if Nashville would be dumb enough to go Keith for Suter straight up? Good time to move Hjalmarsson if you can too! And, please, please, please, send Bryan Bickell to Rockford! Continued good play from Morin down there and Bickell will be on the move. Now, Morin, there’s a kid with heart. Something Bryan Bickell has NEVER had. He took night after night after night off when he was in Rockford too!

  3. McKay says:

    Bickell was one of the bright spots on a Blackhawks team that was down and out against the Canucks in the playoffs last year. He had 4 points in 5 playoff games and he was playing with a broken wrist. He may be playing like shit right now but let’s not go questioning his heart.

  4. Ivan says:

    Is Olesz getting an F because of his contract? Or Q’s decision not to use him? Or your personal (and blindingly obvious) bias? In reality he deserves an incomplete grade. If we do grade him let’s remember the role he was asked to play and grade him on that. C as a fourth liner.

    I don’t necessarily want him on the team but you might need to reel in your hate on this guy. He didn’t ask to be traded here. He didn’t offer himself his contract. And he didn’t draft himself in the first round.

  5. wall says:

    Steve that is a great call on Keith… honestly, the Hawks should have kept Campbell, smarter, passes and skates just as well over Keith… but if one had to go I would have dumped Soupy (older, and injuries coming more often) too! AND I WAS WRONG!!
    (just like Bowman)…. SOUPY IS BETTER!!! Bowman should have also kept Ladd over Bolland for 3 reasons ( Proven winner, and size/strength, and doesn’t get hurt like Bolland).
    Therefore I am going disagree w/ 3 of the above grades…
    Stalberg-B
    Kane-B (let’s see how well he does without the best MVP Hossa)
    Bowman- C- ( the Hawks “core” will make playoffs, but not close to a Legit Cup run… too many Chiefs ( 5 Mill + contracts) and not enough indians ( 3-4 Mill players) )

    W/ salary cap you can’t have that many 5-6 million $$ contracts and be wrong on one.
    You need to have stars on the cheap (like Hawks of 2010)… or be frugal on the 5 mill contracts like Bruins (3), Pitt (4), Sharks (4), Phil (4), when you save on the high end you can get a bunch of tough, smart guys in that middle bracket.

  6. wall says:

    I am going to drop my grade for Bowman to D!
    Just relalized we gave up Brouwer ( 26 years old, in his prime, go to the net and hits people power forward) for Bruno for a net savings of $300,000???????????

    That might be his worst move! Don’t know who pushed that “Q” or Bowman… but Brouwer is the exact type of player we need more of for 2-3 Mill!!! and what this team really is missing.

    Look at the Oilers cap space for next 2 years… they could be the power of the West soon, because there superstars are underpaid… can fill roster w/ blue collar talent…
    not just “grit” low talent players.

  7. Hawksfan says:

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only heretic to say trade Keith. He’s been brutal at times and generally mediocre at best. I thought it was because of playing high minutes every game but not so sure after last year and this season so far. I’m sick of the stick checking and reluctance to take the body. Being caught out of position is a every game occurance for him. I also strongly disagree with Scotts grade. Sure he isn’t a fleet footed skater like the others but he knows it and plays basically a stay at home style. The other thing is you don’t see opponants crashing the net or setting up camp in front of the net when he is on the ice like or the swedish kid. I say trade Keith while he still has some worth and get rid of the salary. Maybe get another quality scorer

  8. Cody says:

    Wow….. have we really sunk to advocating for Keith, a Norris Trophy winner and a top 5 NHL defenseman, to be traded WHILE defending John Scott as a legitimate NHL defenseman? If so, I am embarassed to be associated with this fanbase.

  9. robinson says:

    dunks is still a great player, just not playing that way (for too-long). Its better to have him, when he snaps out of inconsistancy than to have traded him because of some (lets go) down times. Bolly is soo key for what he does, even when hurt. As long as hes healthy for all-spring. Laddy is good too but costs a lot now, and what we miss about him is the full-contact player in that role. Hopefully we gat Laddy back after his 5m contract is up and plays for 2m again. Soupys 7.1 gives us those 3-4m players, three of them w/brunos 2m. two this year and another next year. It would be nice to see hammer play like he did his first 1+yr. All good guys, but If anybody is terrible for more than a season, we can trade/not re-sign. Some players need to wake up for how good they are and play like too, don’t forget team is Build for spring-time-type play.

  10. Jeff says:

    Thank you Cody! The previous posts are way off base to me as well.

    I will say overall our D needs to hit more. And Q needs to step it up too.

  11. Brad Stevenson says:

    “He’s making mistakes that would get someone with Leddy’s resume sent back to Rockford, something that cannot happen from a former Norris Trophy winner.”

    That comment by Tab is BANG ON…it is truth, and while I realize that there are some here that find it hard to accept truth, it is truth nonetheless…

    Trade Keith??? For the right deal, I would…what the Hawks need is what Jesse Rogers said…a true #1 DMan…and not a bunch of 2 through fivers…we have enough depth and scoring up front to win a cup…the goaltending will get better…but if the Defence get seriously better, we won’t…its that simple…

    Spend the money, move a couple of key prospects and bring in a legitimate #1 DMan from one of the teams that are either cap strapped or already outside looking in…

    Do this, and we can win it all…Do it not, and we won’t…I guarantee it.

  12. robinson says:

    a top d-man and keep our guys too. Trade some prospects and a draft pick for those guys

    Are these dfd good enough for a top d-man. phillips(ott), allen(car) or tallinder (nj). or are these guys more #2’s. How could we get a really top d-man, what teams could give that up?

  13. Cody says:

    This is imbecilic. “Trade for a #1 d-man?” Are you people seriously retarded? Duncan Keith won the fucking Norris Trophy two years ago and is consistently among the highest scoring defenseman in the NHL. I encourage you to go back and watch the entire 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Without Keith, the ‘Hawks don’t win the Cup. End of story. You people who suggest trading Keith are fucking morons.

  14. robinson says:

    I didn’t say trade Dunks. I want to keep all/most of our guys and trade a couple prospects that arn’t going to make our roster and a draft pick for another top d-man to go along with the guys we have. I think people are just ranting. Im not happy with some things to, but don’t want to trade away. I want us to trade in and have extra/subs in ahl just in case.

  15. Cody says:

    I didn’t have a problem with your comments robinson (aside from getting Ladd back for $2 mill, that simply won’t happen) I had a problem with the comments of: Steve, wall, Hawksfan and Brad (no offense guys, but trading Keith is a fucking ridiculous notion beyond rational justification)

  16. wall says:

    Cody, please share which of my comments you have a problem with… just would like to defend or clearify.

    But really, did Keith play well Last year?
    Has he made more mistakes this year than his entire “Norris” year? If yes, is it because the team around him isn’t nearly as ” good and responsible” as that team was , or is it because he is “just having a couple bad games” … like umpteen times last year! Either way… that “Dynasty Team” of 2010 won the Norris trophy… The 2010 Hawks dominated all aspects of the game… Period!!

    Was Keith the Hawks best defenseman last Year??

    I know that a Keith trade is not probable… not asking for it. I agree w/ Steve’s comment that Tab is being kind to Keith!

  17. Tab Bamford says:

    @ Wall – a couple things….

    1) Your grading on Bowman is painfully narrow. He didn’t give up Brouwer for Brunette. He traded a guy at the peak of his value to the organization, who was about to go under the knife w/ a bad shoulder and who needed a new deal (and was asking for 3 years) for the 26th overall pick in the draft. He traded Brouwer for Philip Danault, and is renting Brunette until Jimmy Hayes is ready to be a power forward in the NHL. If he had kept Brouwer for the 3 years he wanted, Hayes would have had a concrete ceiling over his head and his value would have been wasted. Moving Brouwer was the right move. Furthermore, you saying the Oilers could be a power in the West is true… but they are going to reach the same salary armageddon that the Hawks would have w/ Keith, Toews & Kane and Nashville is now looking at w/ Weber & Suter (fmr Rinne, too).

    2) Your grading Kane at a B is because….? If he was winning 30 percent of his faceoffs but still putting up a point-per-game, He would have been a B. He’s winning almost 50 percent of his faceoffs and he, unlike Keith, has become significantly better on the defensive end of the ice. He’s working his tail off on the little parts of the game that (clearly) get taken for granted while still producing at a high level. No way he’s less than an A.

    3) Finally, you’re naivete re: the cap is painful. The Blackhawks have almost $6M in cap space with some of the best players in the world on their roster and, thanks to “no better than a D” Bowman’s hard work, a top-ten in the league group of prospects. I’m sorry, but while I appreciate you taking the time to comment and explain your point of view, but I don’t agree.

  18. Cody says:

    @wall You said you agreed with Steve, so I was just assuming you were agreeing with him that Keith needed to be traded, which I both strongly disagree with and think is a downright foolish idea. I don’t agree with, nor do I agree that Campbell is better than Keith OR that they should have kept Campbell over Keith, for fairly obvious reasons: at their best, Keith is superior to Campbell and has a much more affordable cap hit.

    To respond to the points you just made about Keith: Keith made a lot of mistakes in his Norris year. But being paired with Seabrook bailed him out a lot and allowed him to play a much more consistent offensive role. Playing with Montador and Leddy doesn’t exactly bring out the best in a defenseman of Keith’s style. Am I excusing his play from last year? No, because even when he was with Seabrook he struggled. But then again he admitted he flat out didn’t care as much last year. Add in fatigue and you get 2010-11 Keith.

    As far as this year goes, what the Keith detractors such as yourself don’t take note of is how dominant Keith was when he was reunited with Seabrook, and even dominant without him in against the Canucks last week. Keith’s play started to pick up the minute 7-2 were put back together. What we’re witnessing now is a Keith that is force to play with someone who isn’t suited to be a top pairing defenseman (Montador) and a lot of the problems Keith has had over the past two games were a direct result of fuck-ups by Monty. Yes I will acknowledge the notion that a great defenseman should have to play good with anyone, but a player like Keith, who’s asked to do everything at once, needs a reliable partner. Its no coincidence that Keith’s struggles the past two games were accompanied by terrible performances by #5.

    Of course I’m not excusing Keith of any blame, he’s been bad the past two games and so-so for most of the season for far. But come on, lets get real: who was bashing Keith this badly prior to this weekend? Just last week everyone was raving that he had “returned to form”. This is just the typical fanbase looking for a whipping boy and Keith is the obvious candidate. But we’re forgetting about the lackluster goaltending we’ve had the past several weeks, or the overall poor defensive team efforts. Its easy to throw it all at Keith’s feet because he’s not living up to expectations, but everyone needs to take a step back and realize this is a team problem. Its not the fault of a single player.

  19. wall says:

    Tab,

    1.) You know I was the 1st person to say Bruno too slow, not a top 9 player w/Hawks speed. Why not rent someone who fills the missing spot on top two lines (power guy, go to net) like Brouwer… When Danault averages around 17 goals and 20 assists for 3-4 yrs. (like Brouwer)… then you are right… but for now I think Brouwer is cheap compared to some guys w/ his #’s, not to mention his physical play. As far as ceiling for Hayes??? The Hawks are not deep enough or good enough now that there is a ceiling on anyone in minors.

    2.) I will give in to Kane being much more responsible on both ends… In fairness- A with Hossa, B with Carcillo and Sharp… but that really isn’t his fault ( would probably be A-grade with Sharp-Brouwer ( ha-ha).

    3.) I guess I am Naive. Don’t really get your point… My point is there are way too many problems to address for the 6 mill in cap space to hide. My point is if you have too many 5 Mill+ contracts and one or two don’t play out… it is much harder to sweep that 5 Mill contract under the rug like an Olesz . As far as top 10 prospects… only time will tell, but for everyone that works out there will be several that don’t, so I can’t put too much faith into Prospect Crystal Ball.

  20. wall says:

    Cody, I have never been a Keith supporter ( always thought that #7 was the man) so i really can’t be a detractor. I agree with your Monty comments… and have written several times about Monty and his lack of D, and Bruno and his incredible lack of speed…

  21. Hawksfan says:

    Wow, Cody really got his knickers in a knot! How dare we speak the unspeakable! Let me first say that Duncan Keith has been a asset to the Hawks. But as you put it he is Norris Trophy winner. 2 years ago. I don’t want to see him traded but his play last year was not up to par. His play this year started off okay, had a few games up to his old Norris standard, and has regressed to brutal. He rarely takes the body and I’m sick of pucks into the net deflected off his sick. With Seabrook out they don’t have anybody who will take the body and knock people on their ass. We have too many players who want to try to stick check and skate the puck out. They need a d-man with Keith or Leddy or the swedish kid(his name is too hard to spell) or some of the others who will protect the front of the net. I have seen too many goals scored with someone standing in front of the net with impunity screening or deflecting the puck with Keith standing right next to them. Now, having said that, I find it a disturbing trend with him. I don’t know if the coaching staff hasn’t burned him out by playing him high minutes every game. If so maybe cutting his minutes down is the answer. But if his current level of play will not improve, then maybe a trade would be the answer if they can get a quality player. I just have a bad feeling that its going to be more of the same and they can get more for him in a trade than any of the others. My “defending” of Scott is based on everyone screaming he shouldn’t be in the NHL. From what I’ve seen he play has improved and hasn’t embarrassed himself. A C would have been a more realistic grade. Plus, he throws the fear of God in people with his size, you don’t see camping out in front of the net while he is on the ice.
    t

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