Where Will The Blackhawks’ Scoring Come From In 2010-11?

In the wake of a flurry of departures in the last couple weeks, there are a lot of Blackhawks fans that are soiling themselves about replacing the players that have left or will be leaving shortly.

During the historic 2009-10 season, the Blackhawks finished the year ranked third in the NHL, scoring 262 goals (3.20/gm). On the other side of the ice, the Hawks allowed 2.48 goals per game, which tied for fifth in the NHL last year. This excellence carried over throughout the playoffs, and the Hawks are now champions.

So far, in just a few short weeks since winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961, the Blackhawks have been forced to make a number of calculated moves because they were at/over the salary cap for next year. The following players from the championship roster have either left already or will be leaving soon:

  • Kris Versteeg
  • Andrew Ladd
  • Dustin Byfuglien
  • John Madden
  • Colin Fraser
  • Ben Eager
  • Brent Sopel
  • Adam Burish

This list represents not only a lot of production, but some of the most popular players on the championship team. Consider their production from last year:

player gms g a pts  +/-
Kris Versteeg 79 20 24 44 +8
Andrew Ladd 82 17 21 38 +2
Dustin Byfuglien 82 17 17 34 -7
John Madden 79 10 13 23 -2
Colin Fraser 70 7 12 19 +6
Ben Eager 60 7 9 16 +9
Brent Sopel 73 1 7 8 +3
Adam Burish 13 1 3 4 +2

Right away, Versteeg’s 44 points and the 17 goals each from Ladd and Byfuglien sound like an imposing amount of scoring for the Blackhawks to replace. How will the defending champions compensate for all of this lost offense in 2010-11? Let’s look at a very simple reality.

First of all, there will be dramatically increase production from players already on the Hawks’ NHL roster. Look back at last season’s production from two of the most prominent players in the postseason, Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland.

player gms g a pts  +/-
Marian Hossa 57 24 27 51 +24
Dave Bolland 39 6 10 16 +5

Remember that Hossa didn’t debut with the team until that incredible game at the end of November when the Hawks hung a touchdown on the Sharks in San Jose. Whether or not Hossa was 100 percent when he came back ahead of schedule is debatable, but his production was solid and consistent while he was in the lineup.

Meanwhile Bolland did his best to skate through Hossa’s absence despite a back injury that was bad enough he required major back surgery. His early season numbers, and those from after he came back, aren’t very indicative of his potential; if you look at him posting 16 points in 22 playoff games when he was obviously closer to being fully healthy, that’s likely a better representation of what he brings to the ice.

So let’s begin our compensation study by looking at what we could/should expect from these two players in a full season.

If we project Hossa’s production in limited action last year into 75 games, it is fairly consistent with where his production has been for the last couple years (even coming out a bit conservative). For Bolland’s estimate, we used his production in the postseason and projected that out to 75 games. What could full, healthy seasons from Hossa and Bolland mean to the Hawks’ offense?

player gms g a pts  +/-
Marian Hossa 75 35 40 75 +24
Dave Bolland 75 25 30 55 +15

Again, my opinion is that these numbers could error on the conservative side; depending on the Blackhawks final depth chart for Opening Night, if Bolland is the center on a line between Patrick Sharp and Hossa, his numbers (especially assists) could be much higher than 55 points. The increase from last year’s production to these estimates is a 63 point increase from these two players alone.

Now let’s add two more players to this mix that we can conservatively project based on previous experience. If we assume for the sake of argument that veteran center Marty Reasoner, acquired from Atlanta, posts the same numbers he did on a Thrashers team with dramatically inferior talent, that’s a safe projection. If we add to that fairly conservative projections for Bryan Bickell based on his production in limited NHL action in the past, we see more production being added back.

player gms g a pts  +/-
Bryan Bickell 70 10 15 25 n/a
Marty Reasoner 80 4 13 17 n/a

So where does this leave us?

We’ve estimated increased production from two Hawks that were injured last year and replaced two departing forwards with players expected to be part of the rotation next year. We still need to replace six more players on the active roster with either veteran acquisitions like John Scott or youngsters like Viktor Stalberg and Kyle Beach.

Here’s the baseline reality for the skeptics and haters: the six players that fill the bottom of the Hawks’ roster, in light of these estimates and to match last year’s offensive output, would need to average six goals and seven assist each. That’s it. And we haven’t even started talking about the random injuries that cost key players like Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell ice time last year.

If the talent displayed at previous stops from players like Stalberg and Beach translates to the NHL at all, 13 points each could be handled before Thanksgiving.

To the fans that have questions and concerns about other aspects of the Hawks’ game, especially special teams, the new-look roster shouldn’t be a concern. Madden was a faceoff specialist, but would leave the ice quickly on many occasions when the Hawks were shorthanded for a shot-blocking forward. Meanwhile, if you watched any of the 2010 playoffs you know that Bolland can be as good a shut-down defensive forward as there is in the game; just ask the Sedins or Joe Thornton.

Byfuglien was a non-factor defensively, and had the worst plus-minus on the team. Ladd was a strong skater, but wasn’t significant on special teams either. The most prominent figure leaving the Blackhawks’ power play of penalty kill will be Versteeg, but Bolland showed in the playoffs that he can easily replace Versteeg’s play there. Indeed, Versteeg’s minutes on the penalty kill diminished once Hossa came back, and were cut further in the playoffs with the emergence of a healthy Bolland.

So to all of the concerned Blackhawks fans that are losing sleep over the 2010-11 roster being able to handle the incredible production posted by the historic roster last year, take heart.

Next year could be even better.

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One Response to Where Will The Blackhawks’ Scoring Come From In 2010-11?

  1. Andrew D B aka hawkfan81 says:

    Tab, great article! I couldn’t agree more about the replacement of production and you touched on the nuber one concern which would be special teams and I think for the most part we won’t lose anyone that can’t be raplaced.

    With our second line Brouwer, Sharp, Hossa all returning next year the Hawks will need to find a player to hop onto the first line with Toews and Kane. As we’ve seen with other teams in the league (twins in Vancouver with Burrows) when you have two all-star players on your top line you can put a lot of parts on the other wing and make it work.

    Bickell is a leading candidate and played on that line for stretches in the regular season and playoffs. He’s got the size and speed and can be the big body net prescense that Big Buff was, with probably a little better hands around the net. He was a big scorer in Jr, so 20-25 goals and 45-55 points are not unrealalistic for his curve next year. Stalburg is another option on the top line, he’s got great size, unreal speed, is good in the corners and along the walls and has an NHL wrist shot. He scored 9 in 40 games last year, playing only 14 minutes a night. He reminds me of a less phsyical version of Ladd with more offensive upside. Two other long shots to play on the top line will be Beach and Skille. I think Beach will need a full year in the AHL to adjust to the speed of the game and work on his defending in his own end. Skille to me projects more as a third line player if he has the ability to defend well.

    So with the top two lines basically returning and lot’s of option’s for the top LW winger we are in good shape with our top 6.

    Obviously Bolland is going to be our 3rd line center, albiet he will get about 19 minutes a night as he plays on both the pp and pk so 55-65 points is a reasonable assumption. As for his wingers, either Bickell or Stalburg seems to be leading candidates depending on which one isn’t on the top line. I think Dowell and kopeckty will be the other options along with Skille.

    The fourth line is where things will get interesting, Reasoner is a good solid 4th line center who will play 9-10 minutes a night, win draws, block shots and play smart defensively. I think Dowell could be on this line with perhaps Skille which would give it some size, and toughness as well as a little skill.

    Either way, I am really excited about the potential of the new players comming in and with the best core in the game intact it’s going to be a competetive team in 2010-2011.

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