This week, I will feature a series of off-season blogs. These will be initial thoughts and analysis of what I think the Blackhawks should do. Please keep in mind that this might be very different from what Stan Bowman does.
The breakdown will go like this:
* Overview – Today
* Goaltending & Defence – Wednesday
* Forwards – Friday
I’m providing an overview today with some quick thoughts and teasers as to what’s to come later in the week. I would also like this to serve as a conversation starter.
When looking at the off-season plan by position, I will offer potential trade targets, so if there is anyone you would like me to address/look into, comment away on the message board.
Ok, here we go.
First, to see where we’re going, let’s look at where we’ve been. The Hawks 2018-19 season statistically looked like this:
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These stats are courtesy of Hockey Reference.
I like looking at stats vs. league average to see where the Hawks fit within the league.
As you can see above – and it’s no secret – the Hawks scored a lot but couldn’t keep the puck out.
Some things that jump out to me:
* Even with Corey Crawford out for a chunk of the season, the goaltending 5v5 was not that bad. The save % was tied for league average with .925%.
* Let’s be realistic about the Power Play this year. There was that AMAZING stretch where everything was going in, however, overall, the Hawks we just over the league average with 20.17% (good for 15th in the league). Yes, it was better in the 2nd half of the year (thanks to the Dylan Strome acquisition and having a consistent PP1) but it cooled off considerably. When referring to the PP this offseason, let’s keep this in mind.
* In saying that, the PP will be fine, it’s the Penalty Kill that needs all of the help. That 72.73% “success” rate is unacceptable. This will be a focus for Colliton and Bowman to fix in the off-season.
* The High-Danger Shots Against need to be addressed within the defensive scheme as well. The league average for HDSA was 372 (resulting in an avg. of 60 goals) while the Hawks gave up 486(!) shots against; not much blame can be placed on Crawford/Ward/Delia this year. Overall, this resulted in 83 goals from these high danger areas, that’s 23 more than the league average. This needs to addressed.
So, can the Hawks be the New York Islanders of 2018-19 and go from the worst defensive team in the league to the best?
Sure, they can. The Isles did it with almost the same roster (it was actually deemed inferior after losing Tavares). The key swing in this stat change on Long Island was bringing a new level of commitment to team defence led by Barry Trotz.
If you have been watching the playoffs at all, that level of commitment all over the ice is off the charts. The Hawks have a ways to go to prove to me that they can get there.
To me, there needs to be as combination of that mental shift, as well as a few new faces.
Below, in point form, are some things I would look to do if I were the GM:
* Where you at Top 4 D? The Hawks need to get creative to find a top-end defender who can do just that… defend. He needs to be a minute-muncher and playing the PK effectively is mandatory. The free agency pool for defencemen isn’t the most appealing but maybe there is an option in there. Making a trade would be the most obvious route.
* Henri V2 – I would say that I would like to see 2 top defencemen acquired this summer, however, I am comfortable slotting in Jokiharju to play a full season in Chicago. He showed at 19-years of age that he could (for the most part) handle the NHL. He’s very dedicated to his training, so I think you see him come back stronger and even more confident to play in the top 6 (probably the top 4).
* Energize the bottom-6 – the Hawks top-6 is going to be fine. They will be more-than-fine when they sign Ryan Dzingel or Matt Duchene. It is bottom lines that need a makeover. I’m already thrilled to have 1x Drake Caggiula who can work as a sparkplug down there, but give me 2 more. The Hawks may have one in there system already in Matthew Highmore. He’s not a feisty, but he’s a high-motor guy who is a heck of a forechecker. He and Kampf had success in the past maybe they are reunited. Another target for me is a guy still playing, Brandan Tanev. He’s on a 3rd line, shutdown role with Lowry and Copp and scored a goal off his skate last night by driving the net. Even though he’s not the biggest guy, he was a top 5 hits leader in the NHL – I’ll take him on my 3rd line next year.
* Kubalik time? Stan claims that the young Czech is going to make a difference on the Hawks next year. He’s the reigning Swiss hockey points leader and a former teammate of Dominik Kahun. I like his size and speed; I’m just wondering where he fits? Maybe in Brandon Saad’s spot?
* Artem and Joel reunited? Once Anisimov’s bonus is paid on July 1st, I suspect he will be moved sometime later that month. Could be be reunited with Quenneville in Florida? It would make sense if Panarin opts to sign with the Cats as well. Regardless of where he goes, AA doesn’t fit on this team anymore and he will be moved, even if it’s just for picks/prospects.
I’ve teased you on some players and moves I would make this summer, those will be discussed in depth throughout the week. Check back in for those breakdowns
See ya out there.