Blackhawks Offseason: Eight Questions & Answers

1. Do you think John Hayden could develop into a top line power forward? someone like Saad?

No. John Hayden is 22-years-old. In Brandon Saad’s age-22 season, he played 82-NHL-games, scored 52-points, went on to win a Stanley Cup, and then was traded to Columbus. In Hayden’s age-20 season, he scored 18-points in 29-games for Yale. In Saad’s age-20 season, he played 46-NHL-games and scored 27-points. Players that develop into top line level talents normally don’t spend four years in college. These top line talents are normally too good to dwell in lower leagues for long.

Sure there are exceptions. Players can graduate from college and go on to become high level players, but it’s not the normal path. I wouldn’t expect the world from a player that spent four seasons at the NCAA level. Anders Lee and Justin Schultz played three years at the college level and are quality players. Kevin Hayes is an obvious name Blackhawks fans know. There is also Trevor Van Riemsdyk who has turned into a quality 5th defensemen. But if one looks at the list of college graduates year-by-year, (2013, 2014)most names are relative unknowns and some are good role players. The point here is that if Hayden was going to be a top line level forward, he should have been in the NHL before now. To become elite, he would have to be an outlier.

There is also his lack of production in college. He played for Yale in the ECAC. Scoring one point in that conference is equivalent to scoring 0.23 points in the NHL. That conference isn’t the strongest. What do I mean when I talk about conference strength?Hayden scored 34-points in 33-games. Using the 0.23 translation factor mentioned above, Hayden’s production translates to about 19 points over an 82-game NHL season, similar production to that of a Dennis Rasmussen.

Those same stats in the Big Ten would be worth (0.35 NHL points per Big Ten point) around 29-points over an 82-game NHL season.

If he played for North Dakota or Denver of the NCHC, his 34-point college season would translate to 34-NHL-points in 82-NHL-Games. Roughly the production of Teuvo Teravainen or Andrew Shaw in the 2015-16 season.

He didn’t have impressive stats in a weaker conference, another indicator that he won’t become a top line talent.

This isn’t to say that Hayden can’t play on a top line. We see in todays game the dispersion of talent across multiple lines.

Is Richard Panik a top line talent? No. Can Richard Panik be a complementary piece on a top line? He was this season.

Same question can be asked about multiple players. Conor Sheary isn’t a top line talent, but he plays quite well as a complementary piece to Sidney Crosby.

John Hayden most likely will never be a top line talent. He probably won’t be a 2nd line talent either. However, he could develop into a third line talent that can become a complimentary piece on the top line alongside Toews.

Still, I’m going to be skeptical of him, until he proves me wrong. But, I will admit, Hayden might have a good chance of proving me wrong. He appears to be able to play NHL minutes. For me the question is 4th line or 3rd line talent. I’ll lean towards 4th line until he proves me wrong.

2. What do you think about Nick Schmaltz as a third line center? this mean you centers could be Toews, Anisimov, Schmaltz, kero/kruger. To me this would open up the third line and could be a more scoring line and allow Kruger or Kero to be a lock down 4th line center (assuming Kruger isn’t picked by Vegas or traded)

First of all, Kero isn’t a lock down 4th line center. Here are the worst Blackhawks this season in terms of the amount of shots against when they are on the ice (so the other team dominates when they were on the ice)

  1. Seabrook
  2. Motte
  3. Hinostroza
  4. Kero
  5. Oduya

Those are the last players you want on the ice in defensive situations. Kero is overrated by the fan base. Now back to the question at hand.

Sure, why not. It all really depends on the makeup of next seasons team. If they have enough talent on the wing, they can move Schmaltz to center. If they don’t, then Schmaltz might have to stay on the wing. Toews, Anisimov, Schmaltz, Rasmussen would be alright. Maybe Hartman makes the move to center. He can drive play and has the physicality to take the punishment of playing on a third line against physical opponents. Really, it all depends on how the roster shakes out.

3. What are the top 3 young defensemen that are in the system have the best chance of being NHL ready in the next 3 years (Not including Gustafsson because I believe he is ready for next year already)

Gustaffson should have been on the NHL team this season.

Gustav Forsling, Luc Snuggerud, and Ville Pokka would probably be my top-3. After that, Dennis Gilbert and Lucas Carlsson look intriguing.

4. Is it possible for Vegas to trade an expanssion draft pick? For example, could Vegas give Chicago the right to pick an unprotected player form St. Louis in exchange for a 4th round pick.

No. Vegas could pick a player and then later trade that player away, but only Vegas can select players in the expansion draft.

However, I do want to state that this idea of yours is genius and would create extra drama and intrigue in the expansion draft. What if today there were an announcement that the Blackhawks have traded a 3rd round pick in order to make a selection from St Louis in the upcoming expansion draft? That would drive so much discussion. Why? Who will they take? How does St. Louis react to this news?

5. As the Hawks embark on a offseason filled with questions I was curious to get your take on what you think you would prioritize most in trying to improve the team? Additionally, if you could play GM, who are some of the players you would target in a trade or in free agency? I have found creative moves made by the likes of Pittsburgh (ie acquiring Kessel, Cole, and Hagelin), Washington (ie Oshie), Nashville (Subban) to be compelling, in that, these were true hockey trades which changed the face of each team as compared to exchanging players for draft picks. I am wondering if you think the Hawks would potentially take on this innovative approach at this juncture? If so, who could serve as bait? Panarin perhaps? Seabrook,albeit he has a difficult contract, to a team in need of defense?

One thing I would prioritize is making the back end a little more mobile. The Blackhawks defensemen gave up many rush shots against and also many shots in the slot this season. Like one of the worst teams in the NHL at each. The defensemen were the worst puck possession team when Chicago was taking a defensive zone face-off. They weren’t mobile or quick enough to get into good position. They weren’t mobile or quick enough to get to the puck area. They weren’t necessarily good at moving the puck when they got to it.

How to fix it?

The 3rd pairing of Campbell-TVR played quite well.

The Keith-Hjalmarsson pairing was good, not as great as they once were, but still good. Keith is 33-years-old and will turn 34 this summer. He will continue to decline as each season passes. Still, this pairing should be a net positive.

Oduya-Seabrook was a dumpster fire. That pairing was subpar when they played together in 2015 at ages 33/30. It was unwise to believe two years later at ages 35/33 that they would perform better than before. To fix the defensive situation would involve removing these two players. Oduya’s contract is up, so that one is solved. Seabrook on the other hand is due almost $7 Million for seven more seasons. His output is that of a 5th defensemen. With his age, he is getting worse every season. Seabrook is the Blackhawks version of New York Ranger Dan Girardi. An albatross contract that they won’t be able to get rid of.

Who to target?

Chicago has no cap space for free agency, so I can’t answer that part of the question.

Who to trade for?

That’s difficult as again the Blackhawks have no cap space. They can’t take on salary like Nashville did in acquiring PK Subban. So they would need a trade partner willing to take on salary. Obviously, I would love to trade Seabrook. However, I don’t think any NHL GM is dumb enough to acquire that old of a player with that many miles and that huge contract.

I plan on diving into the numbers of Artem Anisimov soon to try and determine how much he provides the team. How much does Kane/Panarin inflate his numbers? Could almost anyone with some skill play between Panarin/Kane? What’s Anisimov’s track record? As I investigate, I will determine my answer. But without that investigation, I think I would move Anismov. But he has a no move clause. Everyone has a no move clause.

This is what is frustrating. I hate making wild trade assumptions. Chicago has no cap space to work with and everyone with any bit of salary has no trade clauses. Let’s just say Stan Bowman is going to have a tough offseason.

If I were some sort of magical entity, I would remove Seabrook and Anisimov, and replace them with the younger Nick Leddy and Brandon Saad.

The priority of this offseason should be getting younger. The main fallacy of this team was keeping the core together after the third cup. Obviously I have hindsight and everyone is a genius with hindsight. Anyway, at that point the core was getting older and declining. This would have been the perfect time to trade Seabrook to Edmonton for a haul or Hall. Now one could say Keith is 33-years-old. Artem Anisimov is 28-years-old. Should Chicago swap out one of these players to bring in a younger, new piece of the core.

Trade Duncan Keith sounds like blasphemy, but he will decline. People would probably think the same think if I said trade Seabrook the night they won the cup in 2015. But Seabrook had some value then, he has none now. Duncan Keith should have good trade value now. Do the Blackhawks try to acquire assets for him now? Or do they hold on to him? What if two more seasons past of 1st round exits? Keith is now 35, making over $5 Million, and maybe has declined to a 4th defensemen. That’s someone one has to consider. I’m not standing on the mountain tops overreacting and yelling “trade Duncan Keith now!”. All I’m saying is the Blackhawks should be able to get a really good return on a 33-year-old defensemen before he turns into a Seabrook. If you could go back to 2015, would you trade Seabrook? In 2019, one might want to go back and trade Duncan Keith while they still could in 2017. The disclaimer here is Keith is and always was light years better than Seabrook as a player. Keith also has the playing style that ages better than a more physical styled player.

One shouldn’t over react to getting swept by Nashville. Pekka Rinne had like a ridiculous .976 save percentage. That being said, the team still played poorly in the playoffs and the regular season. This isn’t a good team. The series should have been a 50/50 toss up that wasn’t because Rinne was ridiculous.

I also think coach Q needs to change his playing style a little. Try to get more rush shots. The past two seasons, the Blackhawks have led the league in time of possession, but were average teams in terms of out shooting the opponent.

Carry the puck in to the offensive zone along the boards, get it down low, play along the boards, maybe cycle it up by the point for a while, and then a turnover. In this scenario, the Blackhawks possessed the puck for a good amount of time, but nothing happened.

Over half of NHL goals are scored within 7-seconds of entering the offensive zone.

To increase goal scoring, Chicago needs to work on getting on the attack quicker. Trying to set something up earlier. Attacking the net right after entering the offensive zone. Basically creating off the rush. This is when the opponents aren’t set positionally. This is where the opponent can be confused and out of position.

The Blackhawks are often to casual in their attack. Bring the puck in and move it around hoping for something to develop. I would try to work on acquiring players and changing the coaching strategy to try and emphasize a more quick strike, charge the net system. I also would like Q to let his defensemen skate with the puck more in order to create offense off the rush.

I hope I answered everything well enough. I kind of dodged the “what big trade would you make” because I don’t know who’s available. I don’t know who’s on the trade block. I’m not the type that says trade Anisimov to Calgary for Sam Bennet when I have no idea about the trade whatsoever. As the offseason comes around, and I hear about players on the block, I will make trade scenarios that could work based on reality and the cap.

The main and obvious priority for Chicago is to get younger and more mobile.

6. Do you think Panik, Debrincat, or Panarin should be traded for defenseman?

No. I think Chicago needs younger players like Panarin and DeBrincat to succeed. I wouldn’t mind trading Panik, but that wouldn’t return any impact defensemen. Chicago has plenty of depth when it comes to the defense. Gustafsson is an NHLer. Kempny can play 3rd pairing minutes. Forsling is probably ready now. Snugerrud looks promising. If they lose TVR in the expansion draft, I would say trading Panik for a pretty good right shot 3rd pairing defensemen would be alright. But in that scenario, just trade Panik to Vegas so Chicago can keep TVR.

Maybe Anisimov for a 2nd pairing, offensive defensemen. I don’t know. We have to see how things start to play out this offseason.

I will talk more about why I would trade Panik.

I think Panik is a guy Chicago could use. I wouldn’t want to trade Panik because he’s a subpar player or anything like that.

The reason Chicago should trade Panik is the fact that his trade value will never be higher. He will most likely never top 44-points again. He’s probably more of a 35-points per season type player. If this is the case, Chicago may want to sell high on a player that may be slightly overvalued in the market. That’s not to say Panik is bad or anything of that nature. They bought low on Panik, it paid off, now could be the time to sell high.

7. It seems to me that there are two broad analyses going on right now re the Hawks. The first is that this team got 109 points, Nashville wasn’t a typical 8 seed, the Hawks got zero puck luck, and with a little more speed, another year of development from Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, Michal Kempny, and Gustav Forsling, plus OHL wunderkind Alex Debrincat, they should be right there. The second emphasizes just how badly the Blackhawks got beaten, emphasizes the sweep by an 8 seed, talks about the aging core & aging curves, and suggests that major changes are necessary. This analysis might also throw in something like, you can’t win with two players taking up 21 million dollars in cap space. Where do you fall?

As always, I am in the middle.

The Blackhawks did get 109-points this season, but mostly through smoke and mirrors. Chicago is an average NHL team that got to 109 points through puck luck in winning one goal games, and succeeding in OT/shootouts. Their aging core is a problem. Their lack of depth is a problem.

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On paper, NSH-CHI was a 50/50 tossup series. It wasn’t because Pekka Rinne posted a ridiculous .976 save percentage. Still, Chicago played poorly in the series and were outperformed. They shouldn’t have been swept, but they still shouldn’t have won that series. This isn’t like Minnesota who is absolutely dominating St Louis but can’t find a way to win. Nashville outplayed Chicago by a great deal. I wouldn’t focus on the not scoring goals, again because of the ridiculous .976 save percentage. If the series is played 100 times, Chicago would score more goals. Never overreact when the opposing goalie posts a .976 save percentage, but again Chicago was still outplayed in this series in terms of 5-on-5 team play.

I also think Chicago can win with Toews and Kane making $21 million. But can they win with Seabrook, Anisimov, and a 38-year-old Hossa making a combined $17 million? The Hossa contract was obviously worth it. The Seabrook and to a lesser extent Ansimov contract, not so much.

8. What do you do with Brent Seabrook? Is there a trade market?

There shouldn’t be a trade market for him. He has a no move clause, so he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Number 7 makes almost $7 million for 7 more seasons. Seven is no longer my lucky number.

To me, this is trying to move Brian Bickell multiplied by 1000. Like Teuvo was moved just to get one season and a $4 million cap hit off the books.

I can’t fathom what it would take to get 7 years, $48 million off the books. I would assume it impossible. If it were possible, that opposing GM would have to be pretty dumb. I guess all we can do is pray Pierre McGuire gets hired by Buffalo.


 

There you have it. 3000 words of answers. Well, maybe 1500 words of answers and 1500 words of rambling on. Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed these questions and answers. One can always send questions to my email BLACKHAWKSBREAKDOWN@GMAIL.COM

In the meantime, I’m impressed you read this whole thing. Now go outside and enjoy your weekend.

4 Comments

  1. One more big question that goes along with the topic: What to do RE: Crawford and Darling? I believe Crawford has a MNTC which at least would allow the Hawks to trade him to one of his 10 picks and I firmly believe Darling will see an offer sheet and obviously the Hawks have no room to pay him (and he deserves at least a shared starting position). In any scenario, the Hawks lose one of their biggest advantages, which is having a superior 1-2 punch at goalie, but perhaps this doesn’t matter as much come playoff time (though could potentially be a major gamble if their starter is injured). Honestly, I love Darling, for his skill and his wonderful personality. I would prefer to see Darling starting in net next year for the Hawks, while trading Crawford to save ~$1mil in cap space, but I have a feeling this won’t happen. Any thoughts?

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    1. The goalie situation is kind of whatever for me. I don’t see either move being that better than the other.

      Keep Crawford and CHI keeps the better, reliable goalie. No need to worry much about next season.

      On the other hand, Crawford is 32 and Darling is 28. CHI could decide to go with the younger, cheaper goalie. Darling probably isn’t as good, but maybe CHI can improve the team around him with the savings.

      A Darling contract shouldn’t be that much. $2m-$3M per season cap hit probably.

      I don’t think a Crawford trade would return much. The goalie market is so saturated. There are options everywhere.

      Ben Bishop went for nothing.

      Brian Elliott had an amazing season and went for a second rounder.

      It is time to get younger, so trading anyone that is in their 30’s should be on the table.

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  2. When you say the following are the worst players on the ice, how did you figure that out?

    Seabrook
    Motte
    Hinostroza
    Kero
    Oduya

    Is it just post-season or regular season? Seabrook played the most out of all those players so would his numbers be skewed? Oduya came to Chicago during trade deadline so are his numbers in Dallas considered or just his time in Chicago.

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    1. Just players that played for CHI during the regular season.

      Chicago gave up the most shots Against with these players on the ice.

      When I say shots against, I used shot attempts against per 60 minutes.

      By using per 60 stats, each player is on equal footing and nothing is skewed from a different ice time perspective. Icetime is the same for all here. Their 60 minute average.

      So basically. When those five were on the ice, the opponent took a lot of shots.

      To suppress goals, one needs to suppress shots. These players didn’t suppress shots.

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