NHL Draft: Blackhawks Adding Depth or Frustration?

Over the last 12 months, the front office of the Chicago Blackhawks has shown a great deal of confidence in their selections from the 2011 NHL Draft. Six of the Hawks’ 11 picks in last year’s draft have already signed an entry-level contract, and two (Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw) saw postseason action.

But looking back at the last decade, the Blackhawks haven’t drafted well at all. Indeed, they have missed more times than not. So with the 2012 NHL Draft coming up in just a few weeks, what can we learn from the organization’s history?

Looking back at the Hawks’ first round picks since the year 2000, it’s easy to need a stiff drink. Between 2000-2009, the Blackhawks made 12 selections in the first round. Six of the 11 skaters they selected played in fewer than 80 regular season games for the organization.

How mediocre have the Hawks’ first round picks been since 2000? Cam Barker’s 80 points in a Chicago sweater ranks fourth among first rounders since the millennium. Only four of the 11 skaters selected in the first round between 2000-2009 have given the organization more than 100 career points (Tuomo Ruutu, Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane).

Indeed, looking back at the last 12 years, the Hawks have had much better success in later rounds of the draft than earlier on. Certainly they hit home runs with Seabrook, Toews and Kane. And a number of second round picks (Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell) have made an impact on Chicago’s NHL roster.

But the Hawks have found a great deal of relative success after the third round.

Consider where these players were selected by Chicago:

  • James Wisniewski – 5th round (2002)
  • Adam Burish – 9th round (2002)
  • Dustin Byfuglien – 8th round (2003)
  • Jake Dowell – 5th round (2004)
  • Troy Brouwer – 7th round (2004)
  • Niklas Hjalmarsson - 4th round (2005)
  • Marcus Kruger – 5th round (2009)
  • Andrew Shaw – 5th round (2011)

As I wrote in the first chapter of my book, on aspect of the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team that made them the perfect group of players to finally represent this organization on the game’s ultimate prize was that team was put together of castaways from other organizations. Only nine of the 23 players whose names were engraved on the Stanley Cup in 2010 were drafted by the Blackhawks.

Because of that team, and the organization staying in the playoff picture, circumstances have changed in Chicago. With the NHL roster nearly filled with veterans for at least the next couple years, the Hawks are no longer drafting to fill top spots in their lineup as they did in 2006 and 2007 when they drafted Toews and Kane.

Because of those two picks working out as well as they did, the Hawks will pick in the bottom half of each round (again) this year. The front office will have to look for a player to slip through the cracks (as Saad did last year), and their scouts will have to be on top of their game to identify potential impact players that might be available in later rounds (as they did with Shaw).

The organization’s depth has improved dramatically in the last three years, but it’s now time for some of those players to matriculate to the NHL level to stay. This year’s draft will not only add players to the system, but hopefully add quality talent to the Rockford and, eventually, Chicago rosters that will help the Blackhawks compete for a championship.

At least on paper, the last couple years have been good for Stan Bowman’s regime. Keeping that in mind, there are some prospects that (if they’re still with the organization through this summer) will need to step up their game to stay with, much less ahead of, the incoming group of talented youngsters.

Specifically Joe Lavin (5th round – 2007), Kyle Beach (1st round – 2008) and Shawn Lalonde (3rd round – 2008), all of whom are in the final year of their respective entry-level contracts, will need to separate themselves as legitimate NHL talent quickly or could become trade bait as Brian Connelly was last year.

Each draft brings new optimism for the future of the  organization. The Blackhawks aren’t in bad shape, but they need help. Trades will happen before, during and after the draft this year, and picks will be swapped by general managers, with every team trying to help their specific situation.

Will the Hawks’ help come from players drafted by the organization? Or will history repeat itself, with the Hawks using picks and prospects to add the right players to bring another championship to Chicago?

Two full years after the post-Cup fire sale, it’s time for some of the players and picks acquired from those deals to make an impact on the NHL roster. It’s also time for other talented youngsters to move up in, or out of, the organization.

It’s time for Bowman’s work to pay off.

For the Blackhawks (depressing) complete draft history since 1991, click here.

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28 Responses to NHL Draft: Blackhawks Adding Depth or Frustration?

  1. Kurt says:

    It was my undestanding the braintrust for those improved drafts just left to head to Montreal?

  2. Brad Stevenson says:

    Excellent article Tab…it is time for Bowman’s picks to start paying off, beginning with this summer.

    Personally, I think that his group (no matter who was involved) put together 2 outstanding drafts, I have no doubt that this one will be the same. But it’s time for these picks, plus the young players that came over in trades to join Stahlberg on the active roster…Stahlberg, Kruger, Shaw, and Hayes are nice additions, but its time for Olsen and Saad to join the ranks as well.

    I think the Mark McNeil and Danault picks from last year look even better a year removed, and Kevin Hayes should become a contributor like his brother in another 2 years. Clendening and Johns lead a strong group of DMen in the system…

    But what about Kyle Beach, Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith and Shawn LaLonde…how much more time can any of them spend in Rockford…its time for them to step up this summer and force Bowman into some tough decisions, or he needs to send them packing…

  3. Tab Bamford says:

    Ben Smith is a restricted free agent this summer coming off injury.

  4. kent says:

    Hope we have more than one bullet for draft day than wishing rooks can do jobS needed to fill HOLES so big its blinding Just read all in the teams in league want Kaner @ center and Cory in full time net Waiting on #2 center to arive from draft wont make it Saad is winger and needs to be toughter on boards McNeil is cut out to replace Bolly strong and big yes but needs to work on skating & shooting Only freebe in F/A is Ollie from Calgary Is Bowmen waiting for offers on Ben Smith to see if he is worth $ MR “B” needs to look @ Pit they are going ALL IN this year before their big F/A hit next year About the Montreal thing if the brains did go the article we are reading will start to repeat its self PLEASE NOOOO we already have the Cubs Lets not go there, where .500 ball is the goal Sorrrry but thats reality Hope Rocky doesnt put up with that

  5. LenerT says:

    Easy Kent….easyy now, come down from the ledge and we’ll talk awhile, ok buddy…Ok…that;s a good girl, now …easy does it….steady as she goes…

  6. kent says:

    I totally deserved that one Will leave day @ the door when posting again. Hats off to scouting dept. we have what all teams want in there pipe line A future full of promise & options . Any insight on our 2 – 20 yr old goalies progress?

  7. Cord says:

    Tab, not say that we should but would it be possible to put the cup team back together? How would that play? Neimi, campbell, and Ladd toughest to get back? Just a day dreaming of 2 years ago when we spanked pronger in game 5.

  8. Dickie Dunn says:

    Cord, pleases excuse my jumping-in. Even if Chicago reassembled the 2010 team (inlc. Byfuglien … that spanked Pronger thing), opponents – the other teams in the NHL will be quite different in 2012-13. It’s really impossible to compare or project. I guess it’s a good daydream, though. I believe the Hawks have a good team – the same core as the Cup winner. Maybe a commitment to consistent team defense is what’s needed? Effort – honestly, how many games were they outplayed? The return to (2010) form of Duncan Keith? Carcillo and Bollig playing in every game. (If it’s not Suter or Parise, I don’t see any FAs providing a major upgrade.)

  9. Tab Bamford says:

    Cord: Why would you do that? The game evolves… there’s a reason nobody has repeated since 1998. But for the sake of the discussion, let me give you a couple numbers to consider: the career regular season numbers of Niemi vs Crawford.

    Antti Niemi: 170 games, 96-48-20, .915 sv pct, 2.38 goals against avg, $3.800M cap hit
    C Crawford: 122 games, 64-38-14, .910 sv pct, 2.51 goals against avg, $2.667M cap hit

    Is 0.05 on the save pct worth over $1.1M per season?

  10. Kurt says:

    After observing the current Stanley Cup… it is clear that the Hawks can not get back to the most recent glory days. The team defense by all the teams from the conference finals and during the cup is so much better than the Hawks.

    I believe the team is good, but they MUST improve the defense. Just like in other sports… defense wins championships. I would equate the goalie to the pitcher and the quaterback in level of importance of winning championships.

    The offense will score, but if you play like you are not interested at the other end (defense) it doesn’t matter. The current roster and some of the youth have more than enough to compete offensively, however it is the defense that needs improvement.

    The hawks must turn their team philosophy toward defense as well as to make sure the team improves the roster in this area. I’m not ready to put my faith in Leddy and Olson as the only solution. They should be the 3rd pairing. The team needs to rid themselves of #4 and land suter!

  11. Tab Bamford says:

    Kurt: are you advocating the Hawks burning it down and starting over? If they “can not get back to the most recent glory days,” then why keep the core together?

    the only part of your statement I’ll agree with is skating Leddy w/ Olsen more. The Hawks were smelling distance from the 4 seed after Toews missed 22 games. They need to get, and stay, healthy. The commitment to defense is a MUST, but let’s not confuse the Hawks for the Ducks or Leafs.

  12. Brad Stevenson says:

    There is no need for the Hawks to start over…talent is not the issue here, character and chemistry are most of the problems…but the single largest problem that this hockey team has, is at the face off circle…and I am serious about this.

    The Hawks are built as a puck possession team, and if they don’t have possession of the puck the weaknesses at key positions become VERY evident.

    When we win face-offs, Duncan Keith is an all star Defenceman, Leddy becomes a talented 21 year old, Hammer is the 2nd coming of Nik Lidstrom…but when we lose face-offs, they all struggle.

    When we win face-offs, our special teams can compete with any in the league, especially 5 on 3, but when we constantly lose special teams face-offs, our PK is marginalized and our PK allows goals in the back of the net.

    Now, whether or not we go all out for Suter this summer (I say we should), isn’t really the key…our 2nd line centre position is…and thus Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and Marcus Kruger ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT options here…why? Because they CAN’T WIN FACE OFFS, that’s why…

    To that end, if Rocky and Bullwinkle (Bowman) play out this year on the cheap again, maybe Brandon Pirri is worth a shot. He has gone as far as he can at Rockford, he was a league all star and the team leader. Tab might have a better understanding than I at his face-off prowess, but if Pirri is solid at the dot, then he literally becomes a better option than any of the others mentioned.

    This is another reason why trading Bolland would not be the back breaker that many here seem to think it would be…he will NEVER be good or dependable at the dot, and if you watch the games like I do, then you know that Bolly loses EVERY “must have” face-off he takes. This MUST change within this organization…we must have secondary players on the team that can dominate the PK for us, and play some PP minutes so that players like Toews and Keith can be kept fresher for 5 on 5 play and key moments in the game.

    But we haven’t had these players for 2 years. Are Brandon Pirri, Brandon Saad, and Ben Smith those players??? If not then the “other Bowman”, you know the one who isn’t drafting players and f$cks everything else up, has to get off his butt and add these players to this team.

    If we are going to stay with this core, then we MUST have centres that win face-offs…a lineup behind Toews of Kane, Bolland and Kruger is ridiculous, and thus so will our being eliminated in the 1st round 3 years in a row…

    Wake up Stan, Patrick Kane is NOT an option as the 2nd line Centre…

  13. Dave says:

    Tab i keep reading about how BIG the Kings are which is true and all the talk about how small the Hawks are especially on D how do you think this one issue can or will be addressed a good big team will beat a good small team . it makes me appreciate how special the cup team was and how hard it is to get back to the finals let alone win the cup ,at least i can say i saw a Hawk team win the cup not play in the finals but actually win . it was a special feeling as im sure everyone will appreciate and think fondly of in the years ahead Dave

  14. Tab Bamford says:

    First, to Brad – you’re absolutely right that winning faceoffs is critical to a puck possession team winning. I’m not ready to walk away from Kruger, but Kane wasn’t the answer at the dot. Sharp was a 50% guy, which is why Q liked him at center. Bringing back Mayers (56% last year) is a good start at the 4C, but they need to get someone over 50% at the 2C spot moving forward.

    To Dave – Bowman has drafted with size in mind the last few years, and we’re starting to see some of the kids coming up bring some good size with them. Jimmy Hayes is a large human being who needs to consistently throw his weight around next year. Bryan Bickell MUST be a physical force on the ice next year more regularly than he was during the 11-12 regular season; he needs to be closer to the 5 hits/gm he was in the playoffs, not the 1.5 hits/gm he was in the regular season. There are more kids with size coming, though. McNeill (6-2, 210), Beach (6-3, 210) and, further down the road, KHayes (6-3, 205) bring the size component you’re looking for.

    To both of your comments, I continue to love the idea of Jarrett Stoll as a free agent answer at 2C this summer. He’s big, physical, and wins faceoffs. Whether or not he wants to leave LA is a big consideration, but if the Hawks have cap space he would be a nice fit on the second line.

  15. Morrison says:

    I think we can add one these players by only trading/selling Fro and/or moving Monty to LTIR.

    If cap the same, We have 3m
    If cap goes up 3m, we have 6m

    With 3m, add Saad, Monty to LTIR & trade Fro. We have 7m to add & Suter.
    If cap goes up 3m, then add Jokinen too.

    or
    With 3m, add Saad & trade Fro. We have 4.333 to add Stoll.
    If cap goes up 3m, then add Allen too.

    Either one (Suter or Stoll)would be Niiiiice.

    Saad-Tazer-Kaner (start w Stalls, then have Saad here for 2nd 40games on…)
    Shooter-Stoll/Jokinen-Hoss
    Stalls-Bolly-Shaw
    Carbomb-Mayers-Bicks
    Kruggs-Hayes

    Allen/Suter-Dunks
    Hammer-Seabs
    Oduya-Leddy
    Olsen-Monty

  16. Omar says:

    Could Joe Pavelski be an answer? Guy is a great centerman. I’ve watched him since his days at the UW Madison.

    FO% +/- G/A
    2011-12 – 58.7%, +18, 31G 31A
    2010-11 – 54.3%, +10, 20G, 46A
    2009-10 – 58.1%, +1, 25G, 26A

    He’s a great player. The questions is what would it cost to land him. Could we offer Hammer, Kruger, Pirri and a 2nd for Pavelski and a 5th?

  17. Dickie Dunn says:

    Brad, “Hammer is the 2nd coming of Nik Lidstrom” — NOT even close.

  18. Kurt says:

    No where in my comment was I hinting of blowing it up!

    The message was what I would consider simple…. Start focusing on defense.

    Now, if the current defense can’t provide what the Kings, Yotes, or other final 4 teams, then yes, blow that up. But it is my opinion that some tweaking to the roster as well as a team philosophy to be committed to the defense must occur. Otherwise we are one and out, for the third year in a row.

    Furthermore, it is my opinion that if they do focus on defense…. then we will return to the glory years!

  19. Kurt says:

    I did a quick breakdown on the potential #2 Centerman being mentioned:

    Name Age Pts +/- Ht Wt F/O-’12 F/O-’11 2012 Salary
    Joikenin 33 61 -12 6’3 215 46% 47% $3.0 M
    Gaustad 30 52 -1 6’5 212 57% 55% $2.5 M
    Stoll 29 21 +2 6’1 210 55% 57% $3.4 M
    Staal 23 50 +12 6’4 220 51% 46% $4.5 M

    Bolland 26 37 +0 6’1 180 48% 45% $3.5 M
    Kruger 22 26 +11 6’0 172 45% $ .8 M
    * Pirri 21 56 +9 6’0 180 $ .6M
    * Rockford Totals

    For the money, I would go after Gaustad (Predators). The combination of his faceoff win % over his career coupled with his point production would solidify the centerman. The only negative is his PP production. But again, we have tons of offense.

    I like Bolland as a team/chemistry guy, but you can’t keep everyone. His salary makes him an expensive #3 centerman. He plays great defense but it is a luxury.

    If or when the Hawks move Bolland, we will need to satisfy the #3 centerman position. I don’t think Pirri is a strong candidate. I think Kruger would fit this position nicely. He has demonstrated to be physical when he needs to be. He also has improved on the PP and is one of the only guy’s who is willing to go to the net… unlike Bickle.

  20. Brad Stevenson says:

    Thanks Kurt, nice breakdown…and you are right, even if we sacrificed some scoring for size and face-off % for the 2nd Centre spot, we would be fine…but we are not fine going forward with Kane there…

    To Dickie, Hammer is NOT the 2nd coming of ANYTHING, let alone Nick Lidstrom, I am referring to the comments made by Stan Bowman to the media when he tried to justify letting Niemi walk and keeping Hammer at big money.

  21. Dickie Dunn says:

    Brad, I didn’t recognize the reference, but I knew you weren’t serious. At the time – Bowman choosing Hjalmarsson over Niemi (essentially), I didn’t think it was necessarily a bad move – “Hammer” appeared to have a lot of upside. Two seasons later, we haven’t seen it – he’s an “average” defensive d-man with very little offensive production. I agree with you about faceoffs/puck control game, however, I’m with Tab on not giving up on Kruger yet. Besides faceoffs, team defense (takeaways, blocked shots) contributes to the puck control game. You can’t dispute the numbers, but watching the games, there is a lot of room for improved team defense (I agree with Kurt) and an improved effort – consistent/game-in, game-out. (And, excuse me for continually harping, but what happened to Keith? To me, he looks like he fell from Norris Trophy to “better-than-average”.)

  22. wall says:

    Brad, with all due respect…
    Face-offs… and Keith is an All-star D-Man ( I am an All-Star if the Hawks have the puck 80% of the game/like 2010!!!)

    But Pirri…. Sorry to say… Pirri is as tough as # 88 choking girls @ a Badger Bar!!!
    Pirri is a great shooter but not TOUGH, not BIG!!!
    IMO- he (like Kane) needs to play with good Physical players (which Hawks are short on) to be effective.

  23. Brad Stevenson says:

    Hi Wall, thanks for the commentary on Pirri…my point of suggesting him is that face off % is that important to this team and especially our Defence…

    And your point on Keith is exactly my point…he was a Norris Trophy winner in 2010 with puck control, he has been exposed the last 2 years without it…

    Kurt, I too like Kruger, a lot, and he is such a high character kid, I wouldn’t put it past him to come into camp this year much improved at the dot…if he does, then yes, let’s keep him…he is the kind of player you win with…but one way or another (thanks Blondie), this team MUST put together at least 3 of their 4 Centres that can win consistently in the dot…like Tab said, Toews and Mayers are 2 pieces of that puzzle, currently Kane, Bolland and Kruger ARE NOT…

    Something has to give, or resigning Johhny Oduya will look like the 2nd coming of the Titanic…we all saw what he did in the Phoenix series…

  24. wall says:

    Brad, Agreed that Face-off wins will lead to better puck possession…
    and Keith will look better (if we have the puck)

    but that 2nd line needs some strength/smarts (all lines), to keep the puck…
    and Pirri ain’t it… maybe 4th line versus weaker D-men…
    or IMO you would have to protect Pirri w bigger/skilled wings like you have to protect Kaner.

  25. SuperFastRaceCarDriver says:

    Regarding Centers, the Hawks would be best served with Toews, Sharp, Bolland, and Kruger at center and slot in some of the kids with Kane and Hossa in the top 6. We’ve drafted well (ie. Saad, Shaw, etc.) so we need to stop worrying about getting a 2nd line center when we have one already (Sharp). The talent we drafted is good enough to play at the UC and should get regular minutes. Enough talk of bringing vets in, let’s use the kids.

  26. Brad Stevenson says:

    Super Fast, I am more than okay with using the kids, and getting younger, but we still need that 2nd line centre…if Sharp is the guy, then fine, but taking him off the wing, leaves a huge hole to fill…

  27. Dickie Dunn says:

    Brad – “if Sharp is the guy, then fine, but taking him off the wing, leaves a huge hole to fill…” — as SuperFast suggested, maybe Saad plays his way into the top six? Or Carcillo (deters cheap shots) or Stalberg (SPEED and this year displayed skill – needs the chance to develop consistency?) do? Or, maybe Kruger shows up to take the 2nd line center spot allowing Sharp to “wing-it”, and Mayers centers the 4th line most of the time? Hopefully, Hossa will be back at 100%, or there will be a HUGE hole to fill…

  28. AJ says:

    Q is a big fan of what Bolland does on the 3rd line. With the added say he appears to have I highly doubt you see him moved.

    I have been more inclined they have been skating by, waiting for the last few years of draft picks to maturate and then try to re-load like they did when they won the Cup. Highly unlikely and quite preposterous that would work but based on money committed and 1-2 year contracts doled out it seems to be the route they are taking.

    Don’t think anyone outside the stadium knows what is going on with the make up / direction of this team.

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