The mood walking out of the United Center last night was not fun. After giving up 8 goals total, and 6 by your new free-agent veteran emergency starter people were upset. However, it is September 26th. I don’t want to be one of those meatballs grunting on their walk to the Uber pick up area on Wood St. Ward had a rough night. He’s still going to be an upgrade over Forsberg, Glass, and JF Berube. Now, if Ward has to start more than 35 games this year because Crawford can’t do it anymore, then the season isn’t going to work out anyways and we know who we have as a team in Chicago. No use in getting bent out of shape about goaltending at this point.
The defense on the other hand…woof. Defensive depth was always a concern and last night it was highlighted. We’ll take this time to give a quick breakdown of what we saw overall from the group.
He’s our bright boy this September, but last night showed why he’s absolutely not ready for primetime and the NHL. Bad reads in the offensive zone, bad reads in transition, getting beat multiple times for goals and chances. Cam Ward wasn’t good, but Boqvist being lost out there certainly didn’t do him any favors. Boqvist looked like he was feeling the pressure of having a chance to make the team. In previous games and scrimmages he was playing instinctually and making good plays. Last night in his first home game with a real shot to do the unthinkable and make the team…he started to think too much. Boqvist might get more preseason games, but I think in everyone’s mind that performanced seemed to close the door on any chance he sticks.
It wasn’t all bad for Boqvist. He finished with two assists. Looked pretty nice running the point on PP1. Overall though, just not enough in my opinion. If the Blackhawks are trying to win this year, there’s no place for an 18 year-old dman who struggles to defend.
Speaking of Dmen who struggle to defend…woof. Rough night for Manning in his home debut in Chicago. Manning was brought in to stablize the defense on the left-side and bring the team some edge and toughness. Well last night he got toasted repeatedly. Then decided to be an asshole which resulted in your 39 year-old 4-time Stanley Cup Champion LW getting fed punches because Manning had a tempertantrum. Not a good start to his career in Chicago.
This was a puzzling signing by Stan this summer even when it happened. 2 years and $2.25M for a guy who at best is your 6th defenseman seems like a major over-pay. Especially when you have young defense coming and Connor Murphy showed at times last year that he is most comfortable playing on the left side. So if your defensemen rankings go…
AND…you have both Murphy and Forsling coming back to the lineup in about 10 weeks or so why is Manning even on the team. Furthermore, you could argue that Dahlstrom and Hillman are replacement level players for Manning too.
It also seems clear that with Seabrook signed through 2024, Keith signed through 2023, and Jokiharju, Mitchell, Boqvist, Forsling, and Beaudin all being somewhat close, there’s no real pressing reason to sign Manning. When you couple Manning and Murphy, two guys who look as if they’ll be seeing a good amount of time from the press box this year, and they’re making a combined $6.1M…well that’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow. For a team with substantial cap restraints, wasting $6m is not a luxury they can afford. The Blackhawks have $5.4M in available cap space now. If they didn’t overpay for Manning, Rutta, Gustafsson, and Murphy they’d likely have over $11M to play with and they’d be capable of taking a swing for Karlsson, Duchene, or Mark Stone from Ottawa. Hell, they probably could’ve included an up-and-coming winger and Hossa as a part of the package to get those guys and would’ve been able to afford the big ticket.
This position group has been severely mismanaged over the years by Stan and company. The Hjalmarsson-Murphy trade, the handling of Trevor Daley and then Scuderi/Erhoff, Rundblad, and being unable to draft and develop ANYONE since taking Hjalmarsson in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. Now entering the season with Manning, Rutta, and Gustafsson playing significant roles is going to be a bear. Thank god Brandon Davidson was just walking the streets looking for work, because he looks like a lock to make the team probably contribute.
I don’t think they’ve found some diamond in the rough by any stretch. He’s 27, he’s played 150 or so NHL games for four different organizations. Davidson is a nice guy to have for organizational depth. He’s smart, he can skate well, and is seemingly competent in all three zones. He’s just never going to be anything more than that. He reminds me a lot of Jordan Oesterle. Davidson won’t kill you with mistakes, but he’s just kind of there. Which isn’t a dig. He’s a nice player, but in an ideal world Davidson is your 7th or 8th defenseman. Not a guy you’re dressing every night.
Seabrook is a skinny little hoe. He definitely looks lighter and quicker in the times I’ve seen him play this month. He’s been getting involved offensively, both in transition and a few times last night he jumped in on the cycle in the zone. I think we are going to see an improved Brent Seabrook this year. I am excited. They need him to be a top 4 guy and I think he will. Especially if he’s playing with his old friend, Duncs
Keith looks like Keith to me. He obviously had a disasterous season last year, but as bad as he played it didn’t look to me as if he lost a step. It was just a series of bad decisions and squeezing the stick. I’ve heard that he really took the poor season of the team hard. Harder than most. It added to the pressure he put on himself and he just squeezed his stick all year. I think we will see the player we are used to this season.
Rutta was fine last night. He’s a warm body, keeping a spot warm for Ian Mitchell or Boqvist next year. He has some offensive ability and had flashes of being a competent NHLer last year, but it seemed as if he struggled after he was concussed. That was the continental divide of his season. After that conky his game started flowing the other way, the bad way. Ultimately I think he could be a fine parter with either Forsling or Gustafsson. He also needs to have a good year in a contract year since it’s unlikely the Blackhawks will bring him back because it’s time for the young guys to seize that role.
The Forwards are starting to take shape and the Blackhawks made some roster moves to reflect that
Look, I don’t want to pat myself on the back too hard here, but Ejdsell is not a good player. I said it last year after watching those 5 games or whatever. I said it earlier this preseason. Anyone who was projecting him to be an impact player this year doesn’t know what they’re looking at on the ice.
Victor Ejdsall does one thing at an exceptional level and that is shoot the puck. However, he doesn’t skate well, he doesn’t go to the net, he doesn’t always track back the way you’d like, and even though he’s 6’5 he’s not a physical player. He will probably be a guy who always scores a ton of goals at lower levels, but never stick in the NHL because there is zero depth to his game.
Ejdsall couldn’t get a spot because a few guys have surprised this camp and none more than Dominik Kahun. Similar sample size to when I wrote off Ejdsall…I have the opposite feeling with Kahun. He can play. Last night he showed tremendous vision, good quickness, and good hands. The Blackhawks top two lines may give similar looks. Two highly skilled wings, and center who can finish around the net. Credit to the Blackhawks European scouting for identifying Kahun as a nice player at the Olympics, DEL, and Worlds this summer. The Hawks need him to be a player and I think he is.
With Ejdsall out and Kahun in that leaves five forwards vying for roughly 4 spots. Kampf, Sikura, Hayden, Johnson, and Martinsen are all in the mix to make the team. Martinsen(per capfriendly) is the only one of the bunch that isn’t waiver exempt so that may give him an advantage. The Blackhawks could make this easier on themselves and just keep 14 forwards with 7 defense, but as Forsling and Murphy come back more roster moves are going to have to be made. My lines would be as follows based on what we’ve seen this post-season.
Martinsen is your 13th forward, and Johnson is your 1C in RFD.
I love Johnson’s game, but he doesn’t have the high-end offensive ability that Sikura has. Sikura, if he plays to his potential, gives that bottom 6 some speed and juice that it wouldn’t have with Kunitz on the 3rd line and Martinsen or Johnson on the 4th line.
Overall, there’s somethings to be hopeful about, but there’s also a ton of question marks. I don’t think the Hawks can survive playing Keith with Seabrook all year because there’s nobody to fully trust among the rest of the options on defense. Stan and Joel are going to have some difficult choices to make once Murphy and Forsling come back and they suddenly have 9 defensemen on the team. Like I said above, if Murphy and Manning are both sitting in the press box in December then that’s a pretty awful indictment of Stan Bowman’s summer. I’m tired of talking about what the Blackhawks have or don’t have. I’m ready for real games to start and I’m hopeful for better days ahead.