Now that the sting of another disappointing 1st round loss has started to subside, it is time to review what was the 2011-2012 season. This was a season that had some high expectations and for awhile it looked like those expectations were going to be met. Let’s not forget, when the Blackhawks went into Nashville on Jan 21st, they had the most points in the NHL. They went on to lose the next 9 games in a row and fell to the middle of the pack of a tough Western Conference. If the Hawks had gone .500 during that stretch (4-4-1) they would have won the Central Division by a point over the St. Louis Blues. The Hawks had to fight through a 9 game losing streak and injuries to some of its top players. They did a good job persevering and almost got the 4th seed in the end. The problem was, all their glaring weaknesses were exposed by the Phoenix Coyotes. So we will start our long offseason with a some awards. Some you want to win, others you don’t.
Most Valuable Blackhawk:
This is usually a spot reserved for Jonathan Toews, but I am going to go a different route this year. Toews only played in 59 games this year and the Hawks had a pretty good record without him. With that being said, imagine what would have happened to the Hawks if Brent Seabrook missed the final 22 games of the season. It would have been pretty ugly. The Blackhawks defense underachieved as a whole but Seabrook was a rock. He was one of the few Hawks that played with a bit of an edge all season long. He had 34 points (9 G, 25 A) which was his second best point output in his career. He scored 2 goals on the power play and had 3 game winning goals. He was 2nd on the team with a plus 21. That is an amazing stat considering he spent most of his time on the ice against the opposition’s top scoring lines. He only had 22 penalty minutes all season. Seabrook averaged 24:43 of ice time a game. Take that away from the Hawks blue line and you are in a heap of trouble. Thank you Seabs for signing that extension early and giving the Blackhawks an absolute bargain!
Honorable Mentions: Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews
Most Outstanding Blackhawk:
No doubt Marian Hossa was the best Blackhawk all season long. That that is the key, Hoss played in 81 of the 82 games this year. That is by far the most he has played in a Blackhawks uniform. He set Chicago highs in goals (29, 2nd on the team) and assists (48, lead the team). His 77 total points lead all Blackhawks players. He also lead the team in power play goals with 9. Having a healthy Hossa is such a boost to this lineup. The thing about Marian is not only what he can do with the puck but what he does without it well. He might be the hardest player in the league to knock off the puck. It is a crying shame that Hossa’s best season in Chicago ended with a trip to the hospital. That was one of the scariest moments I have ever witnessed at a hockey game. Let’s all hope Hoss has a full recovery and comes back at 100% next season.
Honorable Mentions: Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane
Most Disappointing Blackhawk:
This was not the season everyone wanted to see out of goaltender Corey Crawford. Crawford was fabulous in the playoffs ending the 2010-11 season, which lead to a lot of confidence in him going into the season. Then we all went for a spin on “Mr Crow’s Wild Ride.” Crawford had his moments where he looked like a legit #1 goaltender, then he had some games that were just down right ugly. Crow finished the season 30-17-7, with a 2.73 goals against average and a .903 save %. Those are not impressive numbers at all. His save percentage is 23rd among “starting” goaltenders. I am still waiting for Crow to steal a game this year. The vision of the two soft goals he gave up in OT to the Coyotes is going to be very hard to erase. Was this just a “sophomore slump” or is Crawford just a mediocre goalie? Time will tell.
Dishonorable Mentions: Niklas Hjalmarrson, Duncan Keith, Bryan Bickell
Most Improved Blackhawk:
It was a lot of fun watching Viktor Stalberg grow by leaps and bounds through the course of the season. He really started to put all the aspects of his game together as the season went on. I have been saying for nearly two years that if Stalberg’s hands and head every caught up with his feet, we may have something here. Well, I think we may have something here. Stalberg has his best offensive year by far. He set career highs in goals (22), assists (21) and points (43). He was able to do all of this without ever finding a home on a line for the majority of the season. I think Stalberg can be a top 6 forward if he is taken off of Q’s short leash. I am looking forward to see if Viktor can take the next step forward next season.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Kruger
Rookie of the Year:
Andrew Shaw went from being a 5th round draft pick in June to being a hero of the 300 level by February. He even became a Twitter phenom thanks to our friends over at Hockee Night. Shaw was very impressive, especially after he was recalled for his second stint with the big club. He had 12 goals and 11 assists in just 37 games. That would come out to 27 goals and 24 assists over a full 82 game season. Not bad for a 3rd or 4th line player. Shaw showed that he has a major pair of stones. He was one of the few Hawks who was always willing to get to the dirty areas of the ice and pay the price to score a goal. He is still very rough around the edges but can be a very good asset in the years to come. If he can become the Chicago version of Steve Ott, I will be very happy with that.
Don’t Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out Award: John Scott
Why Does He Still Have A Job Award: Mike Kitchen
Best Free Agent Acquisition: Jamal Mayers
Biggest Head Scratcher: Resigning Dan Carcillo
Best Trade Acquisition: Turning Troy Brouwer into Brandan Sadd. Trust me on that one!
Most Useless Blackhawk: Brandon Scott or John Bollig. Whatever, they are both useless.
Please Make It Stop Award: No more Taint Nugget from the 200 level. I don’t care who’s nephew is in then band, get rid of them!
Dumbass Of The Year: Dan Carcillo
Biggest Need For A Double Cheeseburger Award: Nick Leddy
The I Will Gladly Drive You To Airport Award: Niklas Hjalmarrson