Blackhawks Problems: The Solution Is On The Roster

“(Bleep) the power play,” Duncan Keith told reporters on Monday night. “Nobody goes to the net to score goals. That’s why we don’t win.”

Strong words from the reigning Norris Trophy winner and a man that wears an “A” on his sweater every night. But was he calling out his teammates or the rotation that coach Joel Quenneville has put in place?

Keith is absolutely right. The Blackhawks haven’t been getting to the net nearly enough, and have been leaving a lot of rebounds out of the net.

The easy solution is to cry about Dustin Byfuglien’s void on the roster. Of course that logic takes no effort or sense of reality in a salary cap world.

The real solution is on the Blackhawks roster, and he’s sitting more than he should.

Let’s look at two players that are being used inappropriately by Quenneville right now:

  Player A Player B
Goals 10 12
Assists 21 16
Points 31 28
 +/- -10 11
Hits 55 123
ATOI 16:24 13:54
Height 6-3 6-4
Weight 203 223
Age 29 24
Exp Date 2011 2013
Salary $1.200M $541,667

These two players are putting up similar numbers in scoring, but Player B has done it in fewer minutes per game. Player B is also taller, heavier, and has more than twice as many hits. He is also under contract for two more years, and is producing well enough in limited action to be considered a cornerstone power forward moving into the coming seasons for the franchise.

At least you would think.

Meanwhile, Player A continues to get bigger minutes and play a bigger role.

Who are these two forwards?

Player A is Tomas Kopecky.

Player B is Bryan Bickell.

Since the start of December, Bickell has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) and is plus-12. And, even though he’s a younger player who brings a physical presence to the ice every night, he’s only racked up 32 penalty minutes this season.

On the other hand, Kopecky has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 26 games since the start of December, but is minus-four over that stretch while averaging almost three minutes per game more than Bickell. And while he has less than half as many hits, he has accumulated 42 penalty minutes this year.

Yet, for some reason (nationality?), Quenneville continues to skate the underwhelming Kopecky in the Blackhawks’ top six.

The Blackhawks have committed two more years to Bickell at less than half the cost of Kopecky. It’s time for GM Stan Bowman and Quenneville to look at this roster and evaluate what they haveto work with. Bickell is bigger, stronger and more effective with the puck than Kopecky, and it’s time that he takes his place opposite Marian Hossa in the Hawks’ top six.

In Bickell and Troy Brouwer, the Blackhawks should have two of the most cost-efficient power forwards in the NHL. It’s time for management to realize it and start playing these guys accordingly.

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