The answer is yes, the Chicago Blackhawks WILL make a trade at, or near the NHL Trade Deadline, on April 3rd. The real question is: how big of a trade will the Blackhawks make?
First, let’s take a look at what type of player is on the Hawks’ wishlist? While it seems greedy for a team that has been as successful as this years Blackhawks team to wish for anything, no team in the NHL is perfect. For the last several years, the Hawks have coveted and failed to find a “true” second-line center. Dave Bolland has done a more than admirable job in that role this season. Andrew Shaw has silenced naysayers by stepping up, and filling Bolland’s former role as 3rd line center, and agitator. In what has essentially been a demotion, Marcus Kruger has truly excelled as the 4th line center, this year for the Hawks.
With all of these players playing well at center this season, where is the problem? The faceoff circle. Currently, the Blackhawks are ranked 16th in the NHL with a 50% Faceoff Win percentage. That could be worse, but remember that percentage is greatly aided by Jonathan Toews’ 59.7% Faceoff winning percentage. No doubt, with the exception of Toews, this is a legitimate concern.
The Hawks are a team built on puck possession, defense leading to offense through precision tape-to-tape passes, and consistently losing faceoffs makes this type of game harder to pull off. Losing faceoffs wears a team down more. While requiring the puck is far from impossible, it is an added task for a team to succeed. So, while the luxury of winning a faceoff and scoring without coughing up the puck rarely happens, it’s as simple as more time with the puck equals more goals, especially for a puck-possession built type of team like the Blackhawks. The deeper question is: How do you fix this problem, without creating a new one?
Obviously if the Blackhawks were to add a center, they would be looking for a center who specializes at winning faceoffs. Quality NHL players that consistently win faceoffs don’t grow on trees, so obviously the Hawks would have to give up something of decent value to net such a player. It’s easy to just sell the farm, and give up a bushel of prospects to land one quality NHL player, but this would be the height of stupidity. These are the types of trades that set franchises back for years(any Cubs fans out there?). Currently the Blackhawks have some solid players developing in the minors, and have just started reaping the benefits of the smart-style of developing players through their minor-league system with the recent call-up of Jimmy Hayes. This style of building a team through development rather than trade/free agency heavy building comes with the advantage of built-in team chemistry. Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman would be unwise to veer too far from this philosophy.
Would the Hawks want to give up a quality NHL player in exchange for another quality NHL player? Be very careful when wishing for hypothetical fantasy trades, Hawks Nation. The Hawks amazing start, was due largely to the fact that most of these players have played together for a few seasons now, and the chemistry was already there(also a product of building a team through your minor-league teams) and the required very little time to re-aquatint themselves with each other, and each others playing style. The familiarity a chemistry that the Blackhawks have shown, has helped them to gel into one team working together better than most teams in the NHL. Removing just one of these players, would be the same as removing a piece to an already quality built puzzle. The true way to look at these types of trades is to focus on what the team is giving up, rather than what the team is (possibly) going to get in return. When a player joins a new team, mid-way through the season, it takes time for the team and the player to adjust to each others style of play. Often times, these incoming players never truly gel with their new team, and in the end all that happens is the team has lost a vital cog to their machine, all for a player who doesn’t live up to his potential. This is especially true this season, due to the fact that there are only 13 games after the Trade Deadline, for the Hawks to try to build chemistry with a new player.
It wouldn’t be right, to not bring up current or potential injuries that the Hawks are or might encounter. Injuries often force a GM’s hand to add a bigger piece to fill a bigger hole in the line-up. While, GM’s are in a desperate situation, when this happens, they have to be careful not to get too crazy. Injuries also change the way other GM’s negotiate with their desperate peer. It’s an unenviable position to be in, and one that could totally change the Hawks front office looks at the Trade Deadline.
The Blackhawks WILL make a trade or two, and they absolutely should. These trades should be depth-trades. For example, in 2010 when the Blackhawks added Nick Boynton. Remember, hind-sight is always 20-20 and while looking at this trade with 20-20 vision, it doesn’t look all that glamorous. Boynton was a total depth-move, a move to basically just add a body. Yes, he got some playing time, but his purpose in reality was to give players like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook some time to catch their breath. It’s nothing against Boynton, but he was added to a machine that didn’t need fixing, just to fill up some ice-time when needed. The Hawks gave up next to nothing to get him, so it’s a trade that comes and goes very quickly. Look for the Hawks to make a similar type of trade or two at this years deadline, because this hockey machine is far from broken, so the Hawks front office would be wise to keep it that way.