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Season Review: Blackhawks Forwards

For all the deficiencies of the Blackhawks’ defense – which Tim will get to tomorrow – the offense actually played pretty well. Scoring didn’t seem to be the issue, as the ‘Hawks finished fourth in the NHL with 252 goals – just six behind league-leading Vancouver.

Jonathan Toews (76), Patrick Kane (73) and Patrick Sharp (71) each put up a good amount of points, but neither of those three will be on today’s list. The three who made up the top line for a good part of the season – plus Marian Hossa - will be reviewed on their own in the coming week.

Here’s a look at the rest, with a 4-Indian Head grade being the best.

Tomas Kopecky

Kopecky took plenty of shit from everyone this season despite setting career highs in goals (15), assists (27) and points (42) – and rightfully so. His minus-13 rating was by far the worst on the team, and that’s not just bad luck. How many times did you curse his name for being out of position, or for taking a horrible and unnecessary gamble? Often Kopecky would find himself on the good end of a fortunate bounce, with his goals simply landing on his stick at the right time.

On top of that, Kopecky logged 60 penalty minutes – and not the good kind. His penalties were the stuff of poor decision making, coming at times when the Blackhawks could least afford to be short-handed. Kopecky may have competed with Niklas Hjalmarsson for the league lead in delay-of-game penalties.

There’s a reason that despite all of his career highs, the Blackhawks likely won’t re-sign the unrestricted free agent.

 

 

Bryan Bickell

Bickell got his chance to be with the big club this season, and he embraced his role to in a way which could both excite and madden at times. He started the season hot, scoring in the first two games on snipes from the circle. It seemed as if Bickell was given room and an opportunity to get off his hard wrister, you may as well chalk it up as a goal. He seemed poised for a big rookie season, but he tailed off down the stretch.

During the Blackhawks’ crucial late-season run, Bickell had one goal and zero assists in his last 14 games while getting a good amount of ice time. He showed plenty of toughness gutting out a gruesome cut to his wrist from a skate during the playoff series, even scoring in two different games.

However, Bickell never became the big presence in front of the net most of us hoped for when some depth left during the offseason but Bickell played a good enough role to be included in future plans.

 

Dave Bolland

Most are simply going to remember his return in Game 4 against the Canucks, which sparked the Blackhawks to three straight victories before falling in Game 7. There’s no question Bolland gave the ‘Hawks exactly what they needed during that series because he matched up so well with Vancouver’s top line. Something like that won’t be forgotten.

Getting back to reality, Bolland played 61 regular-season games, most of which he was invisible. His percentage at the dot was simply awful and he finished with 37 points, though his defense is what the Blackhawks need him for. And for the second straight season, Bolland suffered an injury which kept him out of a decent amount of games.

His playoff performances, however, have been stellar. It would be nice to see Bolland bring some of that production – and health – into 2011-12.

 

Troy Brouwer

Brouwer was a guy the Blackhawks expected big things from given the departures during the offseason. He seemed ready to take on a bigger role after a 22-goal season in 2009-10. Simply, it didn’t happen.

Brouwer finished with 17 goals and 19 assists despite seeming plenty of time with Toews and Kane. In 22 games from mid-February through April, Brouwer amassed just three total points and a minus-5 rating. To say his season was a disappointment is understating it. He showed plenty of flashes of the potential the ‘Hawks are looking for from Brouwer. He just couldn’t put it together for a full season.

 
Viktor Stalberg

Stalberg’s speed and aggressiveness were one of the main reasons Stan Bowman brought him to the Blackhawks through the Kris Versteeg trade, and a large part why he stuck with the big club for the duration of the season. Plenty of people want to run him out of town, which undoubtedly make the team less handsome, but I’m not quite ready to give up on him.

Stalberg finished with 12 goals and 12 assists in 77 games – not exactly stellar numbers, though the expectations may have been a bit of a reach for a guy playing his first full season in the NHL. Granted, his finishing ability left plenty to be desired, and his aggressiveness may have been a bit too much at times which left him out of position. He was given a couple extended chances to play with Toews and Kane, yet his production wasn’t enough to keep him there.

Stalberg may not have lived up to what the fans wanted, but I’m one person who wouldn’t mind seeing him wearing the Indian head for another season to see how he does.

 

Jake Dowell

Dowell didn’t do much to prove the Blackhawks he’s ready to be a regular center with the club, scoring 21 points and not showing enough defensive talent to even dress in the playoffs. He appeared in 79 games and took 63 penalty minutes. There’s plenty of talk Dowell won’t be a Blackhawk next season, and I can’t say I disagree.

There’s not much to say about Dowell, and that’s not a good sign for a guy who played in so many games. I’d be surprised to see him back in Chicago next season.

 

Fernando Pisani

Pisani was brought in as a free agent to add some depth and penalty killing to the Blackhawks, yet his season became another disappointment for the ‘Hawks. His health has always been an issue, and the 60 games he played were the most in his last four seasons. That’s no saying much, especially given what Bowman expected he could bring to the Blackhawks.

Pisani is best known for his 18 points in 24 playoff games with Edmonton in the 2005-06 postseason. Putting into perspective the disappointment surrounding Pisani this past season, he scored just 16 in those 60 games.

It’ll be a surprise if Pisani is back with the Blackhawks next season.

 

Michael Frolik

Brought over in a trade for the worthless Jack Skille, Bowman got a steal with this trade. Frolik got off to a slow start, but he developed chances and brought a great amount of energy and offensive skill which Skille lacked. He scored nine points in 28 games with the Blackhawks, though that isn’t indicative of contributions since coming over from Florida.

Frolik had a solid playoff series, scoring the tying goal on a penalty shot in Game 6 and providing himself with more scoring opportunities. He’s a restricted free agent, and Bowman seems to want him back for the right price. After all, Frolik did post back-to-back 20-goal seasons in his first two years in the NHL.

 

Ben Smith

What a job this kid did as a late-season call-up. He scored just once in six regular season games, then scored three times in the Vancouver series. Smith’s two goals in Game 2 kept the Blackhawks in it, and his overtime goal in Game 6 forced an improbably Game 7. He was all over the ice since he came up. Expect to see him wearing the Indian head next season.

 

Marcus Kruger

Kruger came from Europe in a time of need for the Blackhawks and proved enough to be here next season as well. Though providing only a single assist in 12 regular season and playoff games, Kruger’s play should have earned him a sweater in 2011-12.

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