What’s Next For Chicago’s Blue Line?

A couple weeks ago, we looked ahead at next season with the forward group of the Chicago Blackhawks.

It took some time for the dust – and emotions – to settle from the end of a playoff-less regular season to dig into the realities of the Blackhawks’ blue line for next year.

Let’s dig in.

First the reality: Chicago’s defensemen underperformed and underwhelmed throughout the 2017-18 season, making the importance of a healthy Corey Crawford more painfully obvious.

In his end of season comments, general manager Stan Bowman noted that the Blackhawks will have cap space to play with this summer, and the potential of the Hawks adding a top four-caliber defenseman is very possible.

Which is… intriguing.

Not because the Hawks don’t need a defenseman. But because the Hawks’ NHL roster and system are already loaded with defensemen under contract for next season.

Cody Franson, Viktor Svedberg, Adam Clendening and Michal Rozsival are all unrestricted free agents this summer. Chicago does not have a restricted free agent on the blue line in 2018.

Chicago has five NHL veterans signed into next season:

  • Duncan Keith – $5,538,462 (thru 2022-23)
  • Brent Seabrook – $6.875M (thru 2023-24)
  • Connor Murphy – $3.85M (thru 2021-22)
  • Erik Gustafsson – $1.2M (thru 2019-20)
  • Jordan Oesterle – $650,000 (thru 2018-19)

During the 2017-18 season, three defenseman made their NHL debut for Chicago: Jan Rutta, Blake Hillman, Carl Dahlstrom. Their contracts are as follows:

  • Jan Rutta – $2.3M (thru 2018-19)
  • Blake Hillman – $925,000 (thru 2018-19)
  • Carl Dahlstrom – $750,833 (thru 2018-19)

The Hawks also have one more year of Gustav Forsling at $872,500 as well.

By our math, that’s nine defensemen who have, at some point, played in Chicago already with a contract for next season.

There could be a couple more youngsters added to the group next season.

Coach Joel Quenneville told Scott Powers of The Athletic that there’s a possibility that top prospect Henri Jokiharju could be in the mix for an NHL roster spot next season. Jokiharju, who turns 19 on June 17, was the Hawks first round pick (#29 overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft. He had 71 points in 63 games for Portland in the WHL last year.

On Thursday, Chicago announced the team has signed former Notre Dame defenseman Dennis Gilbert to a three-year, entry-level contract. Gilbert, 21, was a third round pick (#91 overall) by Chicago in the 2015 NHL Draft. Listed at 6-2 and 200 pounds, Gilbert had ten points and a team-leading 88 blocked shots in 39 games for the Big Ten champion Fighting Irish. He plays with a nasty streak and is physical – two things the Hawks needed this season – but will likely need some professional work before he’s ready for the NHL.

The Hawks have also signed Joni Tuulola ($767,500 cap hit thru 2019-20) and have Luc Snuggerud ($767,500 cap hit thru 2019-20) and Robin Norell ($717,500 cap hit thru 2018-19) under contract moving forward.

So if we begin considering Rockford’s roster, there isn’t much room for an addition anywhere in the system as it stands today.

But, circling back to the beginning of our conversation, the guys we saw last year weren’t good enough.

As we begin looking forward, it’s worth considering the mix of righties and lefties as well as the money their owed as well.

  • Right-handed shots
    Brent Seabrook
    Connor Murphy
    Jan Rutta
    Henri Jokiharju
    Ian Mitchell*
  • Left-handed shots
    Duncan Keith
    Jordan Oesterle
    Blake Hillman
    Gustav Forsling
    Dennis Gilbert
    Luc Snuggerud
    Joni Tuulola
    Lucas Carlsson*

We included Ian Mitchell and Lucas Carlsson, Chicago’s other top defensive prospects, on this list as they might not be very far away from being in the mix as well.

Ulf Samuelsson joined the Hawks coaching staff to work with the defensemen last summer. Bowman indicated that any changes made to the coaches before the 2018-19 campaign would be the responsibility of coach Joel Quenneville. So we’ll see if the performance of the defensemen this season impacts Samuelsson’s status with the team. It’s worth noting, however, that Ulf’s son, Henrik, re-signed with Rockford for next season.

Chicago needs a second puck-moving defenseman to compliment their NHL roster. If the organization feels comfortable with Jokiharju in that role, it would be a strong statement; the last time the Hawks put a teenager in a top-four role regularly was Nick Leddy (and that was because of a Brian Campbell injury in 2010).

There will be free agents to consider, some with more obvious appeal than others. John Carlson would be lovely, but expensive. Mike Green is older. Calvin de Haan (26), John Moore (27) and Luca Sbisa (28) are also younger unrestricted free agents of note.

With two picks in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft – including their own lottery pick – the Hawks will be a team to watch before and during the draft. Chicago hasn’t picked in the top ten was Patrick Kane in 2007; the following year Chicago selected Kyle Beach at 11th overall.

With the young group of forwards developing, it’s time for the Blackhawks to address the blue line. How – and when – they do it will be the storyline of the summer in Chicago.

73 thoughts on “What’s Next For Chicago’s Blue Line?

  1. Was Gustafsson supposed to be on the mix of lefties/righties list?

    I truly believe Jokiharju will make this team. The defense is that bad. Not saying Joki is bad but i think he can crack this roster. I also think if the Hawks pick 7 or 8 a dman will be chosen and theres a couple dmen available there that i think can make the team. (Boqvist and Bouchard im looking at you)

  2. I watched the Ice Hogs play the Wolves last night. Ryan Norell had a goal, and two nice hip checks on the same shift. Having said that, I am not advocating for Norell to be on the team next year, just that he had a decent game last night.

  3. well yes, Hawks need boost defense via draft but a solid goalie should be also added to Hawks top priorities, even IF (!) Crawford woud return in October, he will be 34 already and there will be always risk Hawks could lose him in the middle of the season again.

  4. Bowman sounded like he would like a top 4 guy on a 1-3 year deal. De haan, Moore and Sbisa maybe too are likely looking for a longer term at their age if they can get it. So that may make signing them a little tougher. With all the left shooting defencemen, you have to believe some trades are coming. With some of them comfortable on the rightside, Q gave Hillman some shifts on otherside too. Jokiharju who will sign soon will be given a chance, could put Rutta and Murphy in that trade mix too.

  5. Tab-Sadly– Of all these D guys listed… How many of them are currently Top 4 D guys???

    imo- One of them!!! at least today….

    I still have hopes for: to be Top 4 guys

    Forsling
    Tuulola
    Mitchell
    Krys
    Jokiharju– I am NOT a fan… HOPE I am wrong

    The rest of these guys– are Bottom pair guys at best-imo

    So- Thinking there will be some trades this summer- involving some of the umpteen #6 D guys Hawks carry- for Prospects/Picks???

  6. Right D Noah Dobson of Bathurst in the QMJHL is being courted heavily by the Hawks and many other teams and could be one of their first-round picks in June. He would be worth the price. In 67 games he had 17 goals and 52 assists and was a +33.

  7. Look through the lists of names and weigh in the defensive performance of 2017-18 and one thing is abundantly clear – there is no easy fix. Adding a single name – any name – will not suddenly deliver top tier performance at the Blackhawk blue line.

    I can only hope those who have the full time job of developing and implementing a plan are working very hard and are exceptional at what they do. Otherwise the 2018-19 season will rest squarely on Crawford returning and playing Vezina quality hockey for 70+ games.

  8. If the Blackhawks get one of the lottery picks, Dahlin if 1st and most likely Zadina and Svechnikov. They both high end forwards, Zadina a sniper and Svechnikov a high end 2way game. The 4- 6 picks aren’t a possiblity and from what i read it seems like Tkachuk enough said, Boqvist a smaller but super skilled offensive defensemen and either Bouchard or Dobson, both h ave size, good mobility and good shutdown ability and a nhl shot. If no lottery win the pick will fall somewhere from 7 to 10. With whichever of above dmen left may be Quinn Hughes a smaller very offensively skilled dman, Wahlstrom offsenively gifted winger with size and speed. With them a couple if centers Lundestrom and Barrett both very solid defensively and gard working but may not have the offensive game to be a top 6er in NGL. But one of the 4 to 6 guys could drop down a spot or so or somebody else surge into top 10 during chl playoff run yet.

  9. Well it should be a very interesting off season for the blue line. SB cannot bring back the same blue line corps and be taken seriously and I don’t think he will although what he does do with the D will I think determine his short term future.

    The Hawks simply did not have an NHL quality defense this year. You have to hope that 2 and 7 have better years because it’s highly unlikely they get traded but everyone else should be available for the right price.

    I think they’ll likely hang on to 5 – in the second half of the year he was looking like the sort of ‘predictable’ D man Q likes but IMO they can only have one of 82, 56 and 44 on the roster next year and maybe only in a 7th D role.

    So ideally that’s 3 new D men to be added. Maybe one is in house, Jokiharju or Forsling or even this year’s 1st round pick , then 2 more either trade or UFA.

  10. If we don’t get a lottery pick I think we’d have done well very well to get Dobson or Bouchard – we need some size with skill to eventually replace 7.

  11. having said that I’d be thrilled to get Boquist but I don’t see how that works out unless he falls to 7/8 which seems unlikely.

  12. 2 and 7 now rate as a decent second pairing. 5 fits on a bottom pairing. None of the others are proven NHL caliber (although I still hold out hope for Ruuta). That’s a lot of slots to fill and it isn’t going to fully happen over the summer.

    If Gus is playing regularly then we might just as well roll 4 forwards. Neither Gus nor Osterle can defend at all and there is no reason to believe that will ever change. I would much rather give Hillman or one of the others a chance to fill a bottom slot, but they are all probably better served spending time in Rockford. Maybe Dahlstrom should get another look as he seemed reasonably reliable.

    No easy solutions.

  13. I think 1 of the big 4 will get traded. Hope im wrong,just a gut feeling. Back up goalie a concern. Starting goalie a concern if rumors are true. The core group has played a lot of hockey in the Kane toews era. Salary restricted all the time. We have been spoiled to some extent. I am and always be hawks fan.

  14. to Wall’s point – I firmly believe Ian Mitchell is a legit top pair defenseman someday. He’s the best defensive prospect in the org since Leddy imo. And I like Jokiharju & Krys a lot, too. but I’m big on Mitchell.

    BUT

    The Hawks need to answer a bigger question than which of these guys might, someday, be a top 4 defenseman.

    Who’s the top 4 they need in 2018-19?

  15. Jokiharju playing for Finland at world championships. Get a look at him against NHL players. Give an idea of where he may fit in next season.

  16. What a fantastic read.

    As has been pointed out above, the Hawks have plenty of quantity on the back end but so many of those guys are number 5,6 or 7.

    Unfortunately a guy like Sbisa can’t seem to lock down a top 4 role anywhere. After starting the Vegas top 6, he wound up only playing 30 games. I like deHaan to some degree but is he a #4 or #5. If he’s a 5, we’ve got plenty of those.

    Would trading Anisimov and or Duclair along with Ruuta bring back a #4 ? I don’t know.

    The good news is : the Hawks pipeline on defense is as promising as I can remember. Henri J and Ian Mitchell appears to be excellent players. Both had fabulous seasons. Krys might not be too far behind.

    Out of Gilbert, Snuggerud and Hillman, there are probably two NHLers.

    Picking in the top 10 in this years draft, Stan will likely nab another blue chip defensemen, that clearly where the strength of the draft lies.

    To me the future is really really bright with homegrown defensemen.

  17. I’ve been wondering for a while if our late 1st rounder plus a D man (Ruuta or Forsling) may bring back an RFA who doesn’t fit in cap wise with their current team or is disgruntled in some way

    Maybe Trouba or Hamilton to name two off top of my head – CGY is apparently looking for a 1st rounder and Trouba apparently wants to play in the US

  18. If the Hawks can land the 8th pick or higher they should be able to land a decent prospect in the draft. There are several higher rated prospects besides Dalhin. I’ve said it before but the Hawks deperately need someone who can QB the powerplay. Hopefully they can ID this player in the draft. If I’m SB I trade Duncan Keith his deal is manageable. Edmonton is desperate for a big splash and Peter Charelli is just the boob to take him. Charelli is perhaps one of the few GM’s that Stan can work a good deal with. Osterle belongs in RFD or somewhere else. Ive seen enough. I’m willing to see more Gus and Murphy. Ruttu and Seabs can hold down the 1st pair, Gus and Murphy 2nd. Joker and the rest can mix in as long as you draft a good prospect I’m good. Again knowing this is NOT a 1 yr fix.

  19. I would agree that most of the defenseman we saw this year are not at all what we are used too. The only pariring that was playing better than Seabrook and Keith was Rutta and Forsling about 1/3 through the season. Rutta had a concussion and that all changed. Forsling lost his confidence and Rutta didn’t know what rink he was at anymore. I have high hopes for Forsling but this is his make or break year and I’m done with him. Rutta just needs to play with confidence again and his cap hit makes sense. The other prospect I would have liked to see is Snuggerud. I would live to see a trade or something for that top pick to get Dahlin and one of the other 9 defensman we talked about to fill that second spot. I think these are the best options we got….

    Tab can we have a topic about the top line and how we can improve it? Other than Corey Crawfords back up for next year I think thats the other top priority in the off season.

    1. Defensman drafts and trades
    2. Corey Crawford returning and solidifying his backup
    3. A top line that can play with the other top lines in the league. Will Toews be our top line center next year, or has schmaltz done enough to take that spot?

  20. Thanks, Tab. Great read.

    As others have stated, there are no easy answers here.

    Murphy at $3.85M through the 21-22 season is a tough one. He seems like a good locker room guy, but he was also scratched a fair amount this past season. Also, he made a lot of unforced errors (as did a ton of D-Men) that really hurt the team at times. I don’t know if his play is good enough to warrant that cap hit when the team is in real need on the blue line.

    Which really brings up the idea of what the Blackhawks need on the blue line. We can talk about right vs. left, as well as dollars. But there was just a real mental problem with the defensemen this past season. SO many times guys were out of position, and so many times there were bad decisions and just bad fundamental play. Keith and Murphy were up there as leaders in those categories. It was just tough to see two D-men going behind the net on PK, or guys just flipping it around on PK or otherwise when they needed desperately to get it out of the zone. I think a reinvigorated hockey IQ is what is needed for the D-corp next year. I’d be in favor of bringing up the really young guys. Obviously Rosy is done. Svedberg ….. probably not going to see him up with the big club. I’m okay with more Gustafsson.

    Spitballing here, but if Anisimov has to go, pair him with Murphy and see if the blue line can be improved.

  21. Even if the best case scenario happens where the Hawks win the draft lottery and select Dahlin, that would still leave them 2 d-men short of a solid top-4. Keith and Dahlin would take the 2 LD top-4 spots with gaping holes at the 2 RD spots. Even if Seabrook has a bounce back year and takes one of the two open RD spots – still missing one. What this boils down to is a legit top-4 d-man is going to have to be acquired if the Hawks have a chance to be a legit contender next season. Depending who the Hawks get in the draft and assuming that player is a d-man and assuming that player is ready to be inserted in the lineup next season, should determine whether the Hawks acquire a RD or LD in free agency or by trade.

    I’ve been shouting for the Hawks to draft Bouchard since it became clear the Hawks would be picking high in the draft. That was assuming they wouldn’t draft first and get Dahlin, which odds are is still the case. I’ve since looked at video of Boqvist and I might be changing my mind. Bouchard has the size we and I’m pretty sure he will be a good pro – but Boqvist might just have that “it” factor. I think if given the choice between Boqvist and Bouchard, I’m starting to lean more toward Boqvist.

  22. I just have this feeling in my stomach the defense won’t change at all this upcoming year.

    2/7
    56/6
    42/44
    82

  23. Wow, there are a gazillion D men delineated. Who knows other than Keith, Seabrook and likely Murphy, throw the rest of them in a hat and pick three w one alternate.

    All I know is Kempny could have got a side job as a waiter at United Center during home games the last two seasons, but he is playing on Washington top 4 w Carlson the free agent to be.

    So Kempny is trusted to play regularly by a conservative coach like Trotz, yet a more liberal, fast paced coach like Q thought he was worthless. I’m glad Q is back, but his handling of Kempny was worse than any of his Bollig, Mashinter etc fourth line “big guy” obsession.

  24. sorry I never agreed with the Kempny love – IMO he’s Gus with less offensive upside and I don’t like Gus either

    They both have physical skills but questionable defensive hockey IQ

  25. Wrap: you may be right, who knows? Kempny has hardly played in 2 yrs. We saw enough, however, to say for sure he didn’t get a fair shake from Q. No question about that.

    The point is the disconnect b w Q’s evaluation (unless it was a grudge) of Kempny v. Bowman’s. I’ve railed on Bowman many x about his trades and signings as to NHL players, but he has been outstanding at drafting and signing young players. Kempny is playing top end minutes in the playoffs now, that is evidence in favor of Bowman (and the majority of us) and against Q.

  26. Mitchell is going to be good, could be really good. Theres our Hammer. Now we need a top Dman sign summer/ufa and were back. Doesn’t have to be this summer, just do it as we get better.

    Could be real good team for 2-5 yrs from now.

  27. Speaking of the Icehogs……..I really hope Franson provides some veteran leadership for the young guys. They are in an uphill fight against the Wolves. It would be nice to see them get to the next round.

  28. Mike–Re: Noah Dobson…
    From what I have read…. From this draft- (which is top heavy in D prospects)…
    Dobson is the Best/most Defense-first ready D guys available… which does seem to be in the Hawk’s biggest needs… all the other draft kids- are more Offense/PMD guys… and Hawks seem to have PMD in the system now (Mitchell/Krys/Joker)

    So – if they draft 7-9 spot… I am thinking Dobson- is at top of list

  29. Don’t get too excited about kempny’s playing time in Washington. He is playing due to injuries on their blue line and Trotz is on the hot seat….if they don’t get out of the 2nd round this year he is probably fired. So it’s not like Scotty Bowman is the coach and making Kempny out to be the best defenseman in the world. Trotz has NEVER had playoff success despite being with two really good teams, Nashville and Washington. If Q is a college professor, Trotz is a 5th grader.

    Great comments about the blue line next year and all the guys in the mix for a spot. It sure seems like we have about 8 candidates for that 5-6-7 defensman slot. I think to get a top pair guy, honestly, we need to get lucky with someone in the system or our 1st round pick. It’s very unlikely to trade or sign a guy like that.

    But what is also concerning is our lack of center depth. If you consider Anisimov is on his way out of town one way or another, that leaves us with Schmaltz, who is not a number 1 center at this point, and Toews, who has regressed to being a number 2 most likely due to injuries, concussions, etc.

    Our hope is Toews rests up and bounces back. But we have no prospects in the system that can profile as even top 3 NHL centers. In my opinion we need a skilled center in the system just as much as a top d prospect or a number one potential goalie. The draft seems slanted toward the top d guys which is good, and not too many potential great centers, which is too bad.

    Whatever we draft, defense or center, with the first pick, will leave us with a gaping organizational hole at the other spot.

  30. Definition of a tight team-Washington in Washington–perhaps getting out of town will help. Of course if Bobrovsky keeps playing like he did last night it won’t matter.
    Makes you appreciate the talent, leadership and coaching of the 2009-2016 Hawks.

  31. One good thing Jokiharju, Mìtchell, Gilbert & Krys will be exempt for expansion draft. Only Keith, Seabrook and Murphy currently under contract for 20-21 season and 3 can be protected. Keith and Seabrook are required to be protected unless they waive nmc, Murphy if still around could be a prime candidate for exposure to be compliant. Gus, Rutta, Forsling, Dahlstrom could all be eligible. Hillman and Sikura may be eligible, sounded like league maybe made a exemption for Middlestat because of his age so others burning an elc this year will not be exempt.

    Toews and Kane require being protected unless waive nmc, Schmaltz and Debrincat are probably going to be in the 7 forwrds protected. That would leave 3 of Saad, Sikura, Hino, Hayden and Kampf to be protected and one of the rest would make them compliant. Ejdsell, Duclair, Jurco and anybody else down in Rockford or Indy on an nhl contract this season still with the Blackhawks would be eligible too if still around.

    Crawford would become a free agent that summer so unless he is extended before then he would not need protected. Anybody signing an elc from now on will be exempt and Hossa if still on ltir won’t require a protected spot assuming rules remain the same as last year.

  32. Thanks Ian.

    Seems that as the roster stands today, we are in no danger of losing anyone who is really really good. That is both good and bad news all at the same time.

  33. THN offers some analysis of the Blackhawks’ future and it’s not good:

    http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/ask-me-anything-how-to-fix-your-eliminated-team

    Contracts handed out by SB has put this team in a hole. Since he became GM, you can count on one hand the number of 1st and 2nd rounders still on the team. Forget about the playoffs for next season and, possibly, longer. For starters, try to get a 3rd round pick or prospect for AA. Can Seabrook be packaged with a prospect as a salary dump?

  34. Probably pretty realistic and they are in ‘a pickle’-but weird things can happen that can change the course, but it would take some good fortune and surprises. Patience will be key, no matter what.

  35. @ORIGINAL6HAWKEY

    Good article, thank you for sharing. The Hawks are a wild card team next season best case scenario.

  36. @original6hawkey

    That’s pretty much in line with everyone else’s analysis – agree with SSHM a wild card next year would be a successful year and 3rd in division would be over achievement.

  37. I wholeheartedly disagree that wild card is best case scenario next year. There’s nothing about Minnesota that scares me moving forward. Winnipeg & Nashville appear to be juggernauts with size and speed everywhere, but there’s no reason the Hawks shouldn’t be able to challenge for 2nd/3rd in the division next year if they can get their house in order. Of course, the health of Corey Crawford/situation in net is the biggest factor in where the team ends up next year.

  38. Agree that the wild card is best case scenario for next year based on current team composition. That needle can move either way based on what happens this offseason. Too many if’s to project beyond the wild card.

  39. Don’t think 1st or 2nd is the goal next season anyways. They are trying get in the playoffs and build the team with wildcard or 3rd as a reasonable goal. A good start with as Tab said a healthy Crawford and best players being that, and go from there.

  40. Interesting… Craig Button (former GM) now ranks Bouchard at #5 ahead of Boquist at #6, Dobson is #8

  41. You are right Wall.. Dobson is not only good defensively but can jump up into the rush as is very good on the PP. A very well rounded D man and he has size and will get bigger.

    If Center is something the Hawks need as well maybe they get their D man first and then get Veleno with the second 1st

  42. Ian, good points on another expansion. It needs to have free buyouts. We can take advantage of this expansion, in the way that were not deep yet so lets plan ahead. Where the top 5 or so to 10 teams/deep teams they are getting screwed by this.

    We sort of hit the expansion at the right time. (Which we deserve by having a salary cap era dynasty cut a little short)(we should have won 4 maybe 5 times in 2009-2016)

    So lets do what we can and that’s load up/take our hit all at once (like 2011). Good thing is there isint as many deep teams as there was in 2010-2015 so we donot have to be comparable to the 10/13/14/15 teams we had. Just be there with the other top teams/roster wise.

    We donot have to assemble to perfect roster before season starts (this one and ones coming up) every yr we had a stacked team we added a really good player at deadline (26/26/80).

    We added a good center every cup yr at deadline (or summer for 10), 11/26/26/80 so we need enough centers going into the seasons but not all 4.

    Whats the point in trading Seabs contract by losing a good prospect. We donot need that cap space. We have no player bonuses, cap going way up this summer and a couple or a few each yr after, Hoss contract cap space if needed, etc. Free expansion buyouts?

    To me theres no reason to trade Seabs contract, unless were adding One of those C/Karrelssons or Tarvares. No point.

  43. I care much less about next year’s results than I do about biting the bullet and doing what is needed to rejuvenate this team for the longer haul. As long as we commit to player development, don’t do anything (more) stupid with the cap, and put a team out there that competes hard every night that is all I ask. The results will be what they are.

  44. We were 3 seed before Crow got hurt with what we had this yr. I am not saying were 1 or 2 seed for the next 2 yrs but we have have 5 good teams in division and DAL and COL arnt bad.

    The other division might go down. ANA and LA are getting worse. Expansion team is/should be a one hit wonder. So CAL and EDM should be good going FW.

    So 4 or 5 seed is wildcard but that could be 2nd place in other division. So your not really a wildcard your in the 4or5 seed in conference.

    Doesn’t matter were going to better each yr going FW and will get better as we go along. We can add good players and keep basically everyone. Expansion draft will heklp us with contracts and hurt other top teams/the deep ones. We have 81 and then 7 coming off the books as we go along with cap going up every yr.

    It could take a couple yrs but were back with plenty of yrs with 19 and 88 being good like usual. Mark my words, Don’t taz me bro will return.

  45. Dobson be a great choice abd Bouchard had Dale Hunter as a coach in London so you know he is well coached and wouldn’t be taking any shifts off. Be a very choice too.

  46. That looked a crazy good save by Andersen on Pasternak but watching the Gif it really went off the post – Andersen didn’t touch it

    just saying

  47. Tab left out Colorado and St. Louis. Nashville, Winnipeg, Colorado, and St. Louis will likely be occupying the top four spots in the division.

    Agree with Jordyhawk about taking a longer range approach. Even if we make the playoffs next season, we’re not going to make a deep run with all of the holes to fill. Need to continue restocking with young talent.

  48. The bind that they are in in a result of a Cap league which has both general parity and up and down cycles-especially if you “go for it!” It will take more than one year of better drafting to turn this around-
    In the NHL today you need 2, 3 or 4 years of key drafting-both in terms of keeping/stocking picks and drafting nearer to the top. This is what the Hawks did in the past–

    even then it takes some things to come together-timing of talent and great team synergy like the 2010 Hawks. (ie-current Capitals) Now the Hawks are top and bottom heavy with no real middle class.

    That’s why I’ve said both –
    -a need to be patient (which is a hard sell to current players, coaches and GM
    -and the main focus needs to be on the young core, not the aging one

    Can they get really good with the Seabrook, Kane and Toews’ contract? They might just be chasing their tail to be in the playoff mix instead of Cup relevant. Can they unload one/two? Should they? Can they afford to get rid of more young talent?
    Big, difficult questions.

  49. Original6 – I didn’t leave anything out. I have very little faith in anything about the St. Louis Blues & Colorado has been a playoff-team-to-top-pick scenario before. If you firmly believe the Blackhawks can’t compete in this division with a couple minor tweaks the hyperbole machine has won.

  50. Outside of Dahlin, Boqvist, Borchard, Dobson and Quinn Hughes all seem like great choices it wouldn’t surprise me to see all of them go off the board in order. Every single team drafting high is likely looking for a top 4 blueliner. At least this seems like the right draft yr to be in the need for a defenseman. My only concern is the Hawks land somewhere between 6-8 and all those guys are off the board. Svechnikov, Tkachuk, and Zadina are all fine choices but doesn’t fill a need.

    The problem is the draft is a complete crapshoot. Cam Barker was a miss overall but still turned out to be the right choice in 2004. None of those other D men turned into anything special. He was the consensus best defenseman. We will find out in 12 days where they end up.

  51. The Jets & Preds are the class in the central. The Blues are garbage, they aren’t going anywhere and the Wild can’t ever seem to put it all together. However, Colorado is a good young team that is only going to get better. They need some help on the blueline and their goaltending is only serviceable but their top 6 is pretty good and has lots of room to grow. I’m not convinced that the Hawks will be better than the Dallas Stars next season and they missed the playoffs If Jim Nill can ID a “good” goalie that team can contend right now. That’s a team that is one or two right moves away. I’d say on paper there is easily more talent in Dallas than Chicago right now. I wish I had an optimistic outlook for the Hawks but I just don’t see ANYTHING that says arrow is pointing up. Its a combination of age, poor contracts, and trades that have put this team in this lackluster situation.

  52. COL got better but I donot believe they be top 4. They overachieved and every team will play a harder game against them, so they have to earn it next yr.

  53. MIKE R
    April 16, 2018 at 6:34 am
    Tab, great write up and great comments……smooth, really smooth

    What an awful cringe-worthy commercial….

    Kane & Keith sound like they are in a tavern commenting on whiskey….

    They look & sound creepy too…

    Hopefully it’s only shown in the Chicago market & not nationally….

  54. Regardless of where the Hawks finish next year in the regular season….the most disturbing trend they are showing is for 3 years now, they have lost in the 1st round in 7, gotten swept in the 1st round, and missed the playoffs.

    From a distance that looks an awful lot like a team whose window has closed.

    Even when Crow was playing out of his mind earlier this year, the team in front of him more often than not was playing like crap. Great chances given up right in front of our goal, while we shoot from the outside all night.

    Their whole dynamic in style of play and execution looks so different from the contending years.

    Who knew, that while we argued about Toews and Kane and who was better, that maybe Hossa was the greatest one of them all?

    The hard part is that our system is now devoid of difference makers, except for the hope that Jokiharju turns out as a special player. So this draft will be pretty critical.

  55. Only the Jets and Preds look stronger than the Blackhawks next year. Not convinced Avs can do it again and Stars wenf all in this year with Hitchcock, Bishop, Radulov & Methot and fell flat, so not concerned about them. Wild and Blues no longer teams on the rise so 3rd is reasonable finish and if one or both top 2 teams desimated by injuries who knows.

    Maybe a team looking to unload a defenseman they think they will lose, ahead of the expansion draft may be an avenue available too to add a dman.

  56. I think a larger issue is the downward spiral of play of the skaters. Yes I think we can finish 3rd next year also. But forget the goalies for a minute….compare what you see on the ice to the way the team played the last time we won a round in the playoffs, back in 2015.

    I have seen plenty of these first round games….which teams do you think the Hawks could have beaten this year in a playoff series, if Crow was healthy? I am not sure there is more that 2 or 3.

    Our system is a puck possession speed game. But we do not have the players to play it anymore. Remember in 2013, the strike shortened year? We started that year playing half the regular season undefeated, and we blew the doors off of several teams with the pace of play we could execute.

    We are now slow and other teams have passed us in their ability to play that same game.

    The choice is hang on to the faces of the franchise that remind us of the 3 Cups and glory years, but remain a fringe playoff team that will not have the horsepower to make a Cup run, or make drastic changes and cash in on some assets, ie. big names, that most fans would not want to see moved.

    I am fine either way. We can hang on to our guys that we have come to know and love in Chicago, but just look at Detroit to see what’s coming for us then.

  57. Colorado looks like the Hawks of 2008-2009. They are fast, skilled and smart. Now, if you watched the game last night, they do NOT play a heavy game. They use their speed to make the Preds skate, and the Preds are not as fast as Colorado. As soon as the Preds get put in a position of skating north and south, they are done. They cannot keep up with the Colorado kids AND their heavy game becomes useless. At times, the Preds looked lost in the neutral zone.

    Colorado just takes the Preds OFF THE PUCK and uses their speed and skill to change the game. Which raises the question: How far away are the Hawks from being back in the playoffs?

    We need speed on the back end, combined with experience.
    We need our solid, reliable goaltender to return.
    We need our wingers to play tougher on the boards.
    We need our captain to eat a steak.
    We need more speed at the center position.
    We need to control the front of BOTH nets.

    We’re not far off, but it’s not gonna be easy.

  58. That whole style of game assumes you can move the puck out of your zone with speed.

    We used to have Keith, Leddy, Campbell, Seabrook (due to excellent passing), Hammer, as all being mobile enough to get the puck out and up to the forwards quickly.

    I would dare say the only speed we have on the blueline now is Osterle, Forsling, and Gustafsson, and I’m not sure any of those guys are really NHL defenseman yet. Or that any of those guys can play defense in their zone. Jokiharju may help.

    Loss of speed on the blueline is one main reason our transition game is so abysmal now as compared to before. To say we can rebound you have to assume Forsling and Jokiharu can both impact this team next year, which I think is a stretch. We’ve already seen what Osterle and Gus can do.

  59. Sound like the Org should change the slogan from; One Goal to Hopefully 3rd place! That inspires confidence in my favorites teams front office!

  60. Last yr NAS and TB were wildcard (really 4or5 seed) and wildcard at best.

    I donot care what seed we are on any yr going FW, just need to get roster better. Patience it can happen. I would mind winning the 4th (and maybe 5th Cup) when Tazer and Kaner have grey in their beards.

    Otherwise people can go home, watch tennis and come back in 20yrs.

  61. Interesting remark from Hawks Assistant GM Norm McIver in Scott Powers column today. He noted with all the Hawks defense prospects from Henri J to Mitchell to Gilbert, Hillman, Tuulola, Carlsson and Krys, coming, that, at some point somebody has to be a top 4. He said it’s all well and good that they might be NHLers, but we need guys who can play in the top 4 like Keith and Seabrook.

    I think it sheds light on the fact, the Hawks have been drafting 3 defensemen per draft since 2013, they are hoping to hit a home run at some point not just a solid single.

  62. Reg- great post- agreed

    Avs- have both size and speed (so do Preds)… Preds- D is way better

    Hawks D was way better- when comparing Avs (now) to 2010-2015 Hawks

    Hawks- today: Speed is close now to past “Good years”…
    problems-
    1.) almost no combination of size/skill and speed (Saad- is really only guy) when compared to past PO teams (Hoss, 19 , Ladd, Buff, Bickell, etc,)
    2.) D is slow and or BAD
    3.) SIZE issue= poor Boards/Cycle game… Forwards are terrible on Boards in D zone- trying to exit under pressure when compared to “Good years”

    watching Jets/and Avs now…

    Jets– seem like mirror image of the way the Hawks used to play…
    Big forwards who can exit D zone with superior board play- effortlessly…
    leading to Odd-mans… and when no odd-man advantage – they are BIG enough to protect/and own the puck and start long Cycles… Schieffle/Wheeler/Laine/Armia/Stastny/Lowry/Copp
    all are BIG… most can skate… and their :small guys -ain’t that small- and are elite
    Connor/Ehlers

    Jets- D… not as good.. Versus Old Hawks… but their Forwards – are impressive to watch

  63. We need that and I believe on of those (maybe two) will be. After Jockeru and Mitch, Forsling might be good later on/age.

  64. Chad Krys is somebody to track how much he progresses and may be with no.1 draft pick in June another will be added to the roulette wheel with top 4 potential.

  65. Agreed Ian. It will be a big development year for Krys. I thought he was excellent for BU in the NCAA tournament. MacIver says he needs more consistency, some games he’s really good, other games he’s not noticeable. Fair points.

    The games I saw him, his skating stood out and his passing was top notch. It would be great if he could become BUs #1 defenseman this fall.

  66. WIN and BOS can put up a challenge, but they donot even match up head to head against NAS and TB. No teams do. If CLB beats PIT, then I rout for WIN and BOS otherwise the league needs to suck it when PIT gets beat. They cant save them this time.

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