Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: Did Defense Improve Enough?

By Sean Fitzgerald
Jan 24, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) shoots the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 24, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) shoots the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks made their presence felt before the NHL trade deadline by acquiring forwards Andrew Ladd, Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.  On Monday, the actual trade deadline day, the Blackhawks made some minor moves in trading for goaltender Drew MacIntyre and forward Tim Jackman in exchange for defenseman Dennis Robertson and forward Corey Tropp. Both MacIntyre and Jackman will report to the AHL.

Entering the trade deadline, the Blackhawks had needs at first-line left wing and on defense. Despite the improved play of Trevor van Riemsdyk and the emergence of Erik Gustafsson, the Blackhawks still needed help on the back end. Before Sunday’s game, Gustafsson had been a healthy scratch in three of their last four games.

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Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, we can ask this question: Did the Blackhawks do enough at the trade deadline on defense? My answer is, no! General Manager Stan Bowman did a great job getting a top-line left winger and revamping the bottom six, especially the third line, but on defense he fell very short.

The Blackhawks were in need of a top-four defenseman to pair with Niklas Hjalmarsson and shift everyone else down. Instead, Bowman got rid of the “bad fit” Rob Scuderi for Ehrhoff. It was a change of scenery/trash swap. At this point in his career, Ehrhoff is an unknown. His last “productive” season was in 2013 with the Buffalo Sabres. Since leaving Buffalo, Ehrhoff has played in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. In L.A., he was not a fit for the Kings’ style of play and ultimately sent to the AHL. On the positive side, Ehrhoff’s style of play fits the Blackhawks better. Coach Joel Quenneville likes his defense to get involved on offense and join the attack, which is up Ehrhoff’s alley.

In L.A., Ehrhoff appeared in 40 games and recorded two goals and eight assists. His Corsi-for was a 55.1, which is the second best rating of his career, and his Fenwick was 53.8 percent. If Ehrhoff can be productive, that it is a big lift to the Blackhawks’ defense. If not, then he might be this year’s version of Kimmo Timonen. If Ehrhoff is a bust, their options at Rockford are pretty limited. Viktor Svedberg is serviceable, and that’s the only option down at Rockford who has seen NHL time this season.

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In Bowman’s defense, he did try to acquire Dan Hamhuis from Vancouver very late Monday. Hamhuis was willing to waive his no-trade clause to play in Chicago, but Canucks General Manager Jim Benning  was not willing to part with the free-agent-to-be.

Maybe Bowman also thought the Blackhawks were still a little short on defense. Ehrhoff is scheduled to play this week for the Blackhawks. What did you think of Bowman’s defensive moves at the deadline? Let us know in the comments section.

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