Does Anyone Miss Niklas Hjalmarsson?

The Blackhawks have now been without defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in three straight games, and have (obviously) lost all three.

But have they really missed his presence on the ice?

When Steve Montador was placed on IR, rookie Dylan Olsen was recalled to fill the spot among the team’s top five defensemen vacated by Montador and Hjalmarsson. In his three games since the recall, Olsen has skated 56:29 (or roughly 18:50 per game).

There have certainly been a few rookie mistakes from Olsen, but the team’s defense in Nashville looked like it was taking steps in the right direction. Olsen was paired with Duncan Keith for a big part of the evening, while Brent Seabrook was with the other rookie on the blue line, Nick Leddy.

Through 54 games, the Blackhawks are allowing 29.5 shots on net per game, a number that’s coming down lately but is still higher than most fans would like (despite the Hawks allowing the 11th fewest average in the NHL).

But in the last three games, losses in San Jose, Phoenix and Nashville, the Hawks have been doing a much better job of keeping the puck away from the net. They have seen 73 shots get to their goaltenders in those three games (24.3 per game), including only 19 in the loss Tuesday night.

Perhaps equally intriguing, the Hawks haven’t allowed a power play goal while Olsen has been on the ice short-handed in those three games. They have killed all four penalties in the last two games, and Olsen has seen significant ice time with the PK unit in those two games (2:38 total); only Keith and Seabrook have seen more time on PK in those two games.

Do the Blackhawks miss his team-high 126 blocked shots? Certainly.

But Hjalmarsson has also been credited with a team-leading 39 giveaways. And while Hjalmarsson has averaged the second-highest short-handed ice time per game on the team (2:32), he has been on the ice for the most power plays goals on the team (20).

I am in no way advocating that Olsen replace Hjalmarsson right now. But where we have seen a glaring hole in the rotation when Keith and Seabrook have missed action this year, there hasn’t been a noticeable hole in the team’s rotation on the blue line while Hjalmarsson has been out.

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37 Responses to Does Anyone Miss Niklas Hjalmarsson?

  1. Pat D says:

    I just wanted to propose a hypothetical here because at the time I was glad the Hawks did what they did but Taking his recent struggles into account and the Hawks recent goalie problems I’ve had my doubts. Do you think knowing what we do now about both players, after the Hawks won the cup in 2010 , that they would have let Hjalmarsson go to the Sharks and used that money to keep Niemi?

    It is a bit of a disturbing trend that you point out here because while I love that he gives up his body to block shots, do you think that the Hawks might be better including him in a package deal for another Defensemen or Goalie?

  2. Tab Bamford says:

    There was more to the issue in Summer ’10 than just picking between players. I’m sure there are a lot of could-should they would do over (Ladd included). The problem w/ Niemi as that his agent filed for arbitration, which was the wrong move for both parties in my opinion. Should they have taken the picks for Hjalmarsson? You have to go back to that time and look at the state of the organization. They felt they had a guy in Crawford that could adequately replace Niemi (last year, perhaps; this year, no). At that time, there wasn’t a guy in the organization that could have realistically replaced Hjalmarsson.

    Another great example of hindsight is looking at the Ladd deal. They brought in a puck-moving defenseman they thought might give them something in that deal because, at that time, Nick Leddy was an unknown commodity (one year of college hockey on his resume). Obviously the Ladd deal looks awful now, but you can only move a guy if you feel he can be replaced somehow. At this point, I think the Blackhawks can replace Hjalmarsson (and/or Montador) internally if needed next season. With Leddy & Olsen getting experience this year, and with the organization being really high on Adam Clendening (2011 2nd rnd pick, at Boston U right now), there is more confidence in organizational depth on the blue line.

  3. wall says:

    Pat, SJ/ Wilson knew exactly what he was doing… knew Hawks were too high on him, and baited them into overpaying.

    He was awful in a couple of losses to the Flyers in playoffs (turning it over)… yet Hawks loved him. Great move on Sharks side.

  4. Pete says:

    I think Olsen(when Hjarmlson comes back)pushes the Montador/O’Donnell combo down to rotating at 6/7 where they belong. I thought Nashville played a clean game last night without the nonsense that SJ and Phoenix did with Toews. First off do you agree on that? Second, if so do you think that’s because Nashville plays that way or did Scott’s presence on the bench have something do with it?

  5. Tab Bamford says:

    I have been miles from the John Scott Fan Club since he came here, but it has been evident that the extracurricular does cut back a little when he’s dressed. As I’ve stated before, though, he MUST dress as a forward if he’s going to be active; cannot afford to give one of six defensemen 4-6 minutes in a game right now.

    re: Olsen bumping the roster, they’ll have to make a move to keep him here when Montador is off IR because of the roster limit. Hopefully they keep Olsen around.

  6. Tim says:

    Lepisto is gone in my opinion, even if you just waive him and potentially lose him for nothing. Olsen has earned a spot on the 3rd D-Line. OD becomes the 7D. And it would be hard to move either Monty or Hammer with their recent injury times, but Olsen matuation is what we needed to feel comfortable going after at true 3rd Dman. I would love to see us move Monty in a package to get true 3rd D-man to play with Hammer (like Campbell was). Im with Tab that Scott is a good 4th line winger. Bottom line, I like Olsen being up, and he needs to stay.

  7. David Kmetz says:

    I guess the hawks let the wrong guy go to the sharks,

  8. Brad Stevenson says:

    There is no question we were fleeced by Wilson in SJ…Wall did a great job of explaining it…but that was then and this is now…and now is all that matters…

    Tab, I was thinking the same thing last night, we weren’t great on defence, but we weren’t bad, and in fact these last 3 games we have been better than say the last 10 or so…if this isn’t an indicator that the Hammer can be added in a trade package, then I don’t know what is…

    It is tough that Bowman made the wrong call on Niemi…

  9. McKay says:

    Or have we been better on team D because Q (and Toews, Sharp, and Keith) has put his shoe squarely up their collective asses and now they’re getting to every loose puck in every zone first? I find it hard to place the blame of the Hawks losing streak on the shoulders of a single player, a single play, or a single prospect that is going to shake things up enough to wake up the entire team.

    Whoever we bring up or trade for needs to be coming into a system that is meant to outplay (not necessarily out-skill) the opponent every night. Skill slumps. Hard work doesn’t.

  10. KLeinfeldt says:

    I think it is time for the Hawks to make a major change, like Patrick Kane for excellent front line Defenseman. Patrick does not consistently have a good work ethic and his value may be overinflated. A good Defenseman could turn the tide for the Hawks.

  11. Mike says:

    Still think the Hawks need to keep the young guys down a year or so. Olsen will burn out just like Leddy is doing. Can’t ask these guys to play 16-20 minutes in the NHL. Not enough experience or grit at this age. Gotta cut their teeth in the AHL. These guys don’t know the system well enough to be in the NHL….yet. I hate the Red Wings, but they do it right. They regularly have 23, 24 even 25 year old rookies. Also, if you haven’t noticed, Icehogs are dead last in goals against.

    We must trade some middling forwards for defense now. Frolik, Bickell and a couple of minor forwards are expendable. If we can come up with some tough puck moving Dmen and the offense will flourish.

  12. shaacul says:

    I suppose that Bowman choose in 2010 just finest players as a core and let muscle go. Better trade Sharp and let go Hjalmarsson and keep Ladd and Byfuglien and Niemi. If you put Turco in math than LBN are even cheaper. Why must all fourth liners (maybe best forth line in league – Burish – Madden – Eager) go? Big mistakes.
    Next year he let go Campbell and don´t get anything back. He´s got Frolik, I´m Czech, love Frolik, but he doesn´t fit into our system. He needs to play top lines, now he´s waste.
    So there´s hole in defence, there´s hole in offence (no power, no muscle, no enforcer). Funny thing, you can get now finest player on market (Hemsky, Kotschicin, Semin) cheap, hard to get powerforward.
    I don´ expect any big change in this season Bowman don´t get guts to do that.

  13. Harry Lovero says:

    We need a Peka Rinni or a Lundquist!!!!! Our goalies are too small. Crow does not look as confident as he did earlier in the season or last season. Sometimes a hot goaltender can even spark a team on to victory. I am not saying it is all goaltending. This has been a collaborated effort on the part of the entire team. But that third goal that Emery let in last nite even though it was slightly tipped, it was still heading for the five hole, should have been stopped. He almost let the bouncer before that shot in.

    I would rather have come away with one point than no points.

    Unfortunately when you have one of the highest GA in the NHL goaltending is a big part of it.

  14. Biggs says:

    I miss Campbell. Puck moving never looked so good. Understand why the deal was made but Bowman needed to lock up Campoli and made a huge mistake by not getting that done prior to sending Campbell packing.
    Don’t understand the Hawks, they talk kids but give very few a chance. Olsen was fine in his first stint, young D tend to learn on the job(Leddy). Maybe when Jarms and Montador come back we will stick with six and let ODonnell sit.

  15. Kurt says:

    Olsen looked good. He clearly stood out in Rockford as the most ready for NHL. Leddy too. Leddy started great, then showed his inexperience. Hjalmarsson is primed for a trade.. The problem with him this year is his identity. Is he a stay home or an offensive defenseman? Keith or Seabrook… who should he be. If I was Q, I would tell him to be a tough stay at home dman. He needs a scrap or two to establish himself. If we can get Sutter… then he should be part. Of course I would prefer ditching Keith, but whatever helps the club.

  16. Brad Stevenson says:

    “Skill slumps. Hard work doesn’t.”

    That’s brilliant McKay, and true…if the skill on this team worked as hard as Tazer does, we wouldn’t be in this situation.

  17. pete says:

    Biggs I agree but I think they have reasons for bringing people up and sending them down. It might be contracts and they also might look at it as the best way to get them to develop. There must be a reason otherwise why isn’t Hayes here instead of Rockford.

  18. KC Hawk says:

    Pete : becuz Bowman is an idiot . We leave Hayes and Smith in Rockford and keep such stars as Bickel, Frolik, Scott and Brunette . And we wonder why this team can’t compete ?

    It should be obvious .

  19. McKay says:

    Exactly Brad. All of Toews’ goals come from the crease / slot area. He pays the price for it but he dominates that space.

  20. No Way says:

    I dont really think its fair to say after Hammer went down that we played the same game thus dont miss Hammer.

    There has been a HUGE urgency to improve the PK during this 9 game skid. If Hammer was healthy during the last 3 games he would have improved numbers as well because of A) a different PK approach (which was the real reason we improved)
    and B) a commitment by the players to take a defensive priority during the PK.

    Finally a more standard Box PK has been played and it only took most of the season for the coaching staff to adjust.

  21. tellnolies says:

    First time on this blog … not a hockey expert, but even I can see the problem with the Hawks (this season) … but what I am surprised about is how no one else will admit that the real problem is the loss of Dustin Byfuglien (and Andrew Ladd). The current Hawks don’t have someone like Byfuglien or Ladd who will stand in front of the net, night after night, getting cross checked in the back and in the face, and liking it. Instead, the Hawk’s have several highly skilled players who will slice through the offensive zone with the puck as long as there is no threat of getting their nose broken from impact with a shoulder. They desire to preserve their bodies for the big $$$ that is only possible if one does not get injured. Even though the NHL is calling more boarding penalties in an attempt to protect players, the NHL is still tremendously rough and pansy teams will never win the CUP.

  22. BHawk 78 says:

    Got to disagee somewhat. While Hammer has not had the best of years, you can’t dismiss his blocked shots. Furthermore he’s really the only guy who blocks shots on a team that doesn’t block shots aside from Seabrook. I think a big reason that Hammer has struggled this year is his partner. I know there is alot of Leddy love but I’m not on that bandwagon. I really like Nick’s offensive game but his defensive game has been WOEFUL. He gets pushed around too much, he’s not physical and he gets caught looking alot. At this point in his career he’s not even close to a top 4 d-man but that’s as much the Hawks fault for putting him in that position. Expecting a 20 year old undersized d-man to take the place of an All-Star was dumb from the start. Leddy should have started the year on the 3rd pairing. I also think he’s far from untouchable like some of the Hawks brass and fans think, if the right deal comes along I’ll gladly pack up his stuff and drive him to ORD.

    On a side note I like what Olsen brings to the table, it’d be nice to see him finish out the year with the Hawks and get some experience.

  23. Dave says:

    how about some vintage hockey , does anyone get upset when they see the commercials starring tony o for binnys , or his being named an ambassador. all i think of when i see him is game 7 of the 71 finals and him blowing a shot not from the blue line but from center ice , thus giving the habs the momentum to steal a cup at the old barn on madison, like they needed another ring. i got physically sick that night thinking about my beloved hawks leaving the ice whith their heads down and Bobby Hulls kids crying.

  24. Vlad says:

    I do not have much to say just hope they break out of this or my spring is really going to suck !

  25. the Greek says:

    Hammer is fine…as a number 5,6 or MAYBE 4 D ,that palys hard, gritty,steps in front of shots,etc…but he is NOT a 2 or 3 D,and if thats where we keep him,we are screwed for the rest of the season.

  26. BHawk 78 says:

    As much crap as Hammer gets he’s not a bottom pairing guy. He’s a 2nd pairing defenseman, if anyone thinks losing Hammer won’t make a difference then you’re mistaken. Leddy is a 3rd pairing guy at best, Olsen is a fresh as they come and has little NHL experience and has already cost the Hawks a few goals, Montador is a 3rd pair guy, OD/Lepisto/Scott are break in case of emergency guys. Moving into the offseason the Hawks biggest need is to get another top 4 guy to compliment Hammer. Moving him and having Olsen/Leddy as your #2 defensive pair will get you as far as 13th place in the West.

  27. BHawk 78 says:

    For the record I’d like to add we won a Cup with Hammer as a top 4 d-man.

  28. wall says:

    tellnolies- you are wise beyond your lack of posts here…

    been saying the same thing all year-

    too much skill… not enough will!

  29. Shane Chaves says:

    Tab, who’s starting in net tonight?

  30. Kurt says:

    When you pay a guy to be a top 2 Dman, you expect more…. Keith! Hammer is only part of the problem. True, he hasn’t progressed to what we were hoping from him, following the cup. However, he hasn’t stepped backwards like Keith. Honestly, is keith anywhere near the caliber of Shea Weber? I want my top D-man to shutdown the other teams top line, or at least be able to settle a puck.

    Next on my list is Kane and his lack of toughness. True he is small(5’10, 178), but compare him to Datsyuk (5’11 195) or Martin St. Louis (5’8, 176) and consider the affect they have on the ice. Kane is special, but he just isn’t developing into an all around player. We have tons of this type, smallish fancy skaters who can pass. However, in todays NHL, you need to be able to go to the boards, muscle your way to the net, and pick up some loose change. Kane could work but if we don’t get him someone else to clog the middle of the net, then you could use him to bring some d-men. Ladd was this type of role player… Byfuglien was only this type against Vancouver. I wasn’t sad to see him go. Now if someone could convince Bickle to show some heart, he has the skills and size to become an all star.

  31. Ryan says:

    Pat D says:

    February 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I just wanted to propose a hypothetical here because at the time I was glad the Hawks did what they did but Taking his recent struggles into account and the Hawks recent goalie problems I’ve had my doubts. Do you think knowing what we do now about both players, after the Hawks won the cup in 2010 , that they would have let Hjalmarsson go to the Sharks and used that money to keep Niemi?

    It is a bit of a disturbing trend that you point out here because while I love that he gives up his body to block shots, do you think that the Hawks might be better including him in a package deal for another Defensemen or Goalie?

    I will start by saying Every, I mean EVERY name on the Cup is a Hero in my book. Also in this scenario, if you will, Bowman could be “Nick Fury” and the Coaching staff “S.H.I.E.L.D.”

    With that said any time one of the members either have been or are being talked about in reference to a trade it makes me cringe. However, all the while knowing that with the current Salary Cap Structure moves/ trades are un-avoidable.

  32. Ryan says:

    what was I thinking Bowman, Q and the staff are Heroes too.

  33. OEFvet says:

    I was at the Nashville game… It is the only game I have seen Olsen play in… He was AWFUL. If the puck was passed to his opposite side (this happened THREE times) he could not transition to get it… He just let it fly past him… He looked lost the entire game… I did not have an opinion on him before the game. Lepisto on the other hand looked very good and even made two breakout plays into Nashville zone… With Chicago sliding Lepisito has a +4 in 15 games… Olsen is a -4 in 6 games. And since this is the first time of posted here, KANE is a playmaker… He earns nearly a point a game… Those assist to goals are DIRECTLY from his skills… Sometimes I don’t think you and I are watching the same team.

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  35. NavyLifer3 says:

    Wow! What a great topic = posts.

    Choosing one scenario over another never seems to include all the variables. Missing Campbell is only a reality if he didn’t have that contract! Otherwise – no…moving him was a must.

    Bowman has done an outstanding job of positioning this organ-eye-zation in a place to be more than just competative. The parity of the Western Conference means that one break equals busting a streak either way. Being able to get value in return when everybody in North America knows you have to move salaries is amazing.

    Hjalmarsson HAS been missed. It’s hard to understand how he could not have been missed if we all recognize that the club is looking for a trading partner to obtain additional help on the blueline.

    Going into the playoffs we’ll need bigger bodies to take the pounding from attacking forwards; having the 6′ 4″ Hjalmarsson and a 6′ 2″ Olsen with more NHL playing time under his belt will be a positive.

    If nothing else happens – having Hjalmarsson back translates to getting Lepisto off the ice, which will improve the quality of the back end…addition by subtraction!

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