On the Brian Campbell reintroduction teleconference, Stan Bowman indicated that the Blackhawks were likely done with the free agency process. So what you see is what you get at this point. The Blackhawks still have a premium core up front, a top flight goalie, and suddenly one of the deepest defensive groups in the league. The task of filling out a lineup around that elite talent up front is obviously a challenging one. I could go on and on about the guys they’ve lost recently like Saad, Shaw, and Teravainen, but the time for that is over. “Graveyards are filled with indispensible men”–De Gaulle. We’ve been down this road before. The Hawks’ brass had to replace Byfuglien, Ladd, Campbell, etc. And they did it. Now they have to do it again. Hopefully this next wave of talent is ready to contribute.
There’s a lot of names there that make you feel safe and warm. But there’s also a lot of question marks. Let’s break it down
1) Marian Hossa– The internet has been throwing dirt on Marian Hossa. Saying that he should be on the 3rd line and that he’s no longer an offensive threat. Hossa is now 37 years-old. His best years are obviously behind him. Having said that, I also think his game will age well. He still so strong on the puck, still so strong defensively, and can play in all situations. He had career low in goals last year with 13, but still averaged about 3 shots on goal per game. He also had a career low shooting% at 6.8%. That’s ridiculously low, and somewhat unlucky. Is Hossa going to ever score 40 again? No chance. Could a longer offseason, an uptick in puckluck and overall health help his production…I believe so. If Hossa can get back into that 20-25 goal range then he’s still a top overall winger.
2) Richard Panik– I’m very high on Panik. He’s not Brandon Saad, but he has a lot of very similar traits. Great straight line speed, protects the puck, good size, and towards the end of the year and in the playoffs we saw him use that size effectively. Always regarded as a guy with a ton of natural ability, but didn’t always have the competitive drive. It looks as if a light switch has come on for Panik. Now, we’ve been burned by this before(* cough, Bickell), but Panik looks to be a capable top 6 winger. I believe that Panik will have a career year, and then be traded next summer after scoring 20-25 goals in his first full season as a Blackhawk.
3) Nick Schmaltz– Here is where things get a little dicey for the Blackhawks. Everyone knows I LOVE Nick Schmaltz. I think he’s going to be a really good player someday. The problem is that the Hawks need him to be a good player like right now and the making the jump from college hockey to the NHL is a tough one. Not too many guys can make the jump without going to the AHL and its VERY rare to be consistently good. If Schmaltz gets a full season, he might be able to match the production that Teravainen had last year(13-22-35). I didn’t include Tyler Motte in the list above because I think he absolutely needs time in the AHL. But take everything I said about Schmaltz and apply it times 5 about Motte. I do think Hinostroza is ready though. He has quick hands, quick feet, and a quick brain. The guy competes. I don’t know what his ceiling is, but he can add a little offensive punch to the bottom 6.
4) Replacing Andrew Shaw– There’s no replacing Andrew Shaw. He did a lot for this team on the ice and in the locker room, but Stan has brought in a few guys that can do similar things.
Ryan Hartman–I feel like I’ve seen a lot of negativity about Hartman recently and I don’t get it. He looked pretty solid in his brief call-up last year. He plays hard, goes to the net, and skates well enough to be an effective bottom 6 winger. He’s an energy guy with great hair
Will go on seek and destroy missions
And on occassion with throw some bombs
And he’s a local kid. What’s there to be negative about? Looks like an ideal 4th line winger to me. He suddenly has a lot of competition for that spot though. Remains to be seen if he can beat out the new guys.
Jordin Tootoo– A veteran 4th liner. Gave a little look at him yesterday. I’m still a little confused about this signing. Mashinter is on a one-way deal so he’s on the team as the 13th forward. Obviously, Tootoo brings a little more to the table because he’s quicker, but at the end of the day their roles, position, and minutes would be pretty similar.
Sam Carrick– An under-the-radar signing for the Blackhawks. Carrick comes from the Toronto Marlies. Meaning, I’ve literally never seen him play and don’t know anything about him. Luckily for us, we’ve got stoolies everywhere. Including the AHL. So here is a little scouting report on Carrick