Chicago Blackhawks Season Ending Grades: Forwards Part Two

Now that the season has ended, and the lockers have been cleared out, we’ll look back at the season that was and grade the players on the 2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks.

In our first edition of the season grades, we looked at the Hawks’ goalies. In the second edition, we examined the defensemen. We’re going to look back at the forwards from this season in two parts. In the first portion, we looked at the secondary forwards.

In this second forwards review we’ll look at the top forwards – in production, expectation and salary – on the roster from this past season.

In this portion of the review, we’re going to look back at the guys that were supposed to keep the Blackhawks on top.

The 2010-11 season was far from easy for these guys. They all missed time with an injury at some point, and each played through pain as well. We saw flashes of brilliance, and moments of less-than-desired hockey from each of them.

But at the end of the day, the reason there is hope for the Chicago Blackhawks in the future is because of these gentlemen: the core.

Dave Bolland: C

Bolland is probably the most frustrating player on the roster. In four postseason games, we saw the borderline-jedi that wrecked the postseasons of both Sedin brothers and Joe Thornton. But for 61 games in the regular season, he was wildly inconsistent.

Frankly, Bolland and Hjalmarsson were two players being counted on to replace pieces that were dealt off the championship roster, and neither took the “next step” as a player.

He struggled to score consistently, posting only 37 points (15 goals 22 assists) and won only 45.14 percent of his faceoffs. Yet he was plus-11 and accumulated just 34 penalty minutes while still annoying other centers on a nightly basis.

The Hawks need him to become a full-time second line center, and score more goals than Tomas Kopecky next year.

Marian Hossa: B

Hossa’s start of the season had a lot of people – including me – wondering if he was on the way to a 100-point, MVP season. But injuries shortened his season, a trend that has to concern management with Hossa signed until he receives his AARP card.

He still finished the season with fairly strong numbers, and jumped on board with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in carrying the team in Patrick Sharp’s absense late in the season. After a biblical scoring drought in the middle of the season, Hossa quietly accumulated 25 goals and added 32 assists. He was defensively strong all year, but fell victim at times to his linemates changing every shift.

For the Blackhawks to return to the Stanley Cup Finals, and win another Cup, Hossa needs to play in 80 games.

Patrick Kane: B

This is, by far, the hardest grade to give on the team.

His ankle was, admittedly, not ready when he returned from injury. He wasn’t as effective in corners at times as fans wanted. There were times (read: games, weeks) that his thinking was too pass-first and not enough shoot. He was too selfish at times, and not selfish enough at others.

Meanwhile, Kane was one of 14 players in the NHL to play at least half the season and average a full point-per-game. He scored 27 goals, had 73 points, and continued to be clutch. He’ll never be confused for John Scott, and takes a lot of physical punishment because of it. But his backcheck showed improvement at the end of the season and into the postseason, and he played through pain to still finish the year with solid numbers.

Was he everything we wanted? No. But to be fair, how many fans want the kid who won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years on a nightly basis?

Patrick Sharp: A

While Hossa and Kane had moments of frustration, and injury, during the season, Sharp was a constant on any line with any combination of players. He was outstanding all year, and his knee injury is probably the single biggest reason the Blackhawks were the eight seed in the West and were forced to play the Vancouver Canucks.

He led the team with 34 goals, set a career high with 71 points, and won 48 percent of his faceoffs while splitting time on the first and second lines and as a wing and center. He wasn’t on the All-Star ballot, but was voted into the game and named the Most Valuable Player of the game.

Over the course of this season, few players impacted a roster more than Sharp did in Chicago this year. Fortunately for Blackhawks fans, one of the rare players to do that is also wearing the Indian head sweater.

Jonathan Toews: A

Named a Selke finalist after an incredible season, Toews took the next step as a forward that fans had hoped to see from so many players on the roster after the Cup win. He led the team with 76 points, stepped up his game with 32 goals and had 25 power play points.

He also had a stellar plus-25 rating and ranked second among all NHL forwards in takeaways while accumulating only 26 penalty minutes. Toews also took the second-highest number of faceoffs in the NHL, and won an astounding 56.7 percent of those draws.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better all-around hockey player this season than Toews was in Chicago.

5 thoughts on “Chicago Blackhawks Season Ending Grades: Forwards Part Two

  • May 2, 2011 at 9:44 am

    A bit too hard on Bolland and not hard enough on Patrick Kane…I truly do understand that Kane is not thought of as a 2 way forward due to his skills as a play maker and forward, and due to his size…

    But a guy that regularly avoids any contact and back checking, plus who turns the puck over quite a bit, it is IMPERATIVE that he scores on a regular basis…and yet he doesn’t, and when Kane goes into these mini slumps where he has no production it is a double whammy for the team, because they often feel like they are constantly short handed when he is floating about the ice…

    Either Kane takes his playmaking offensive game to another level, not exclusively on the PP, or he is going to have to learn to consistently back check…he can’t have it both ways…

    As for Bolland, none of us know what his physical ailments were when the season started, but the reality is, he had a slow start because he wasn’t physically sound…then, after some time off, he came back and got strong and played at an A level…had Bolland and Sharp remained healthy for the remainder of the season, I have no doubt that we would have finished no worse than 4th and likely would have overtaken SJ and Detroit for 2nd in the Conference…

    Bolland’s play in the playoffs was nothing short of brilliant, especially concerning the circumstances…he is a top 2 way forward in this league, as is Toews, as is Hossa. A healthy Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa, plus a more mature, confident and consistent Patrick Kane will have this team in the top 4 every year REGARDLESS of who they have around them…

    We have the goaltending, we have the defence, we have the two way game, we just need health and a little more scoring from the secondary lines to win it all again.

    Remember, we won the Cup last year with Toews, Bolland, Madden and Colin Fraser as the 4 centres…Madden was A LOT better and more valuable than his 11 goals suggested…this is the key of what we must address this offseason…someone who can take that 3rd line, grind, win battles, play + hockey, and score some goals…is this Kruger??? I don’t know…I have no doubt that someone like Dowell can handle the 4th line…but Jake Dowell is NOT, I repeat NOT a 3rd line centre, and likely never will be…whether the 4th line is manned by Dowell or by a returning Ryan Johnson, we will be fine as we add some muscle and spunk to that group…

    It is the 3rd line centre that will make or break this team’s championship hopes next year…if Kruger is the guy, 12 goals, 40 points, +15, then great…but if we really don’t know, or can’t be sure, then we shouldn’t roll the dice with this crucial spot on our team…go out and find a way to land a GOOD 3rd line centre…it will make things tight against the cap, but it can be done…and who that player is, it is a matter of speculation…Stephen Weiss from Florida might be one…

    So whether it is Kruger (whom I like from what I saw in the playoffs) or a FA, this spot must be felt with more than just a whim and a hope…I truly believe we are one centerman away from winning the Cup next year…

    As always, thanks Tab!

  • May 2, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I don’t get the Sharp love. He’s every bit as soft, and every bit the defensive liability that Kane is, plus at 29 years old, he’s had 7 more years than Kane to evolve his overall game. Sharp has already peaked, Kane (hopefully) will continue to evolve. If they resign Sharp to anything more than 2-3 years at or near his current salary, I think they’ll regret it down the road. I’d trade Sharp now for a legit 2nd line center and hope that it helps Hossa become the scoring threat that he was supposed to be.

  • May 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I hope the only reason we see Bolland center Hossa’s line next year is because we tried and failed to land someone to center that line and have to make do. Bolland is the cat’s pajamas playing against another team’s top players. Here is one thing I like about Toews and Bolland playing where they have – BOTH factor into the discussions of the top players in their position, ei. Toews is one of the best no.1 centers in the league and Bolland is one of the best no.3 centers in the league. The thing that makes a no.2-4 center amoung the league best in their position is that they could be pretty effective a spot up – look to Kesler, Pavelski, J.Staal, Duschene, The Flyers. So, if (big IF) Chicago wants a no.2 center in the same vein as the centers they already have they need to pickup someone who has/does/can play a no.1 center role. Weiss is certainly an option. If the Rangers actually sign Richards, then Dubinsky may be up for trade (and sign, RFA $1.8mil).

  • May 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    A ‘B’ is a little too high for PK in my book…more like B- / C+; tonight I caught enough of PHI/BOS game #2 when I wasn’t watching the the news on OBL and the Bulls to see #2 overall pick van Riemsdyk look like the dominant player our #1 pick needs to be much more often. True, they are different styles totally but with all the ability Kane has he has to go to another level next season.

  • May 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    If you didn’t see how Hjarlamarsson and Bolland stepped up when it counted, you a delusional.

    Go look at the scoring stats and pick a centre and defenseman you like better, and make them your poster boys. I thought the Cap subtractions were supposed to be filled by new players…why put the losees sqaurely on these two?

    Maybe what you are not saying is you would have preferred Buff playing dee and another CAP forward kept and these two launched … and since the year ended and your only criteria was that they didn’t score enough to fill the crevasse left by the Cap depatures.

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