The Chicago Blackhawks will pick 18th tonight in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. There have been reports that the Hawks are interested in taking goalie Malcolm Subban, the younger brother of Montreal defenseman PK Subban. Subban is the top rated goalie in the draft, and most likely will be there when the Hawks pick comes up at 18. Taking a goalie at that spot will be a giant mistake. This may be the deepest draft for defensemen in quite some time. There will be a couple of defensemen who will be available at 18 that would go much higher in any other year. Defensemen are more important to long term success than a goalie is.
Yes, Jonathan Quick carried the Los Angeles Kings on his back to their first ever Stanley Cup. But if you look at the trend over the last few seasons, you don’t need an all world goalie to win a Stanley Cup. If you play great team defense you can win a solid, but not great, goalie. The Blackhawks did it in 2010 with Antti Niemi. The Penguins did it in 2009 with Marc-Andre Fleury. The Red Wings won multiple Cups with Chris Osgood between the pipes. The Carolina Hurricanes won their Cup in 2006 with the combination of Martin Gerber and Cam Ward. These are all good goalies but they are not in the team picture for all time goalie greats. Sure, having a Quick or a Tim Thomas in the blue paint helps but, winning hockey starts with defense.
The Blackhawks shouldn’t make any rash decisions because Corey Crawford had a very disappointing sophomore season. The Hawks have Crawford and Ray Emery under contract for this season. They seem to be happy with the progression of prospects Carter Hutton and Mac Carruth. There is no reason to use a 1st round pick on a goalie this year. History has shown you can get a legit #1 goalie in the later rounds. Dominik Hasek was a 10th round selection. One of the best Hawks goalies ever, Ed Belfour, wasn’t even drafted. This year’s Vezina winner, Henrik Lundqvist, was a 7th round draft pick. Tim Thomas was a 9th round pick. Jaroslav Halak was also a 9th round pick. There have been just as many good goalies to come out of the late rounds than there have been complete flops in the first round. The Blackhawks need to be wise and use tonight’s pick on a defenseman. Defense in hockey is just like pitching in baseball; you can never have too much of it!