Andrew Desjardins Has Fine Season For Chicago Blackhawks
(Writer’s note: Kyle Baun and Bryan Bickell will be part of a larger post featuring those who weren’t with the Blackhawks very long this season. You could argue Bickell, who played in 25 games, deserves his own post, but does anyone really want that?)
Andrew Desjardins has had an interesting run with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was acquired from San Jose during the 2014-15 season in exchange for Ben Smith, who was a fan favorite. Knowing Desjardins’ history up until arriving in Chicago was filled with being a grinder-agitator, many fans were upset with the deal. Interestingly enough, however, some Sharks fans were also disappointed with the move.
I think we’ve figured out why, at this point. Desjardins teamed with Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger to form a potent shutdown line in the 2015 postseason, and it looked as though the trio would be asked to do the same this season. Then, coach Joel Quenneville realized there was no suitable replacement for Brandon Saad at top-line left wing, causing Q to try out Shaw (among others) at the post. Even worse was Kruger’s ensuing wrist injury that cost him a sizeable portion of the season.
This left Desjardins in no-man’s land, and outside of a brief offensive surge, he was pretty much just there this season. Not having Kruger at his center really hurt his cause, and Q almost seemed uncertain of what to do with Desjardins on this team. It wasn’t a lockdown defensive group, nor was it a good puck possession team. These are things Desjardins helped with last season, but he did so alongside Shaw and Kruger. Replicating that success was much more difficult for Desjardins without them.
Desjardins has one more guaranteed season with the Blackhawks, at a cap hit of $800,000. He’ll at least have Kruger to play alongside, if Q wants to go that route. That should certainly help matters for Desjardins, because no one is expecting him to become an offensive dynamo on the top two lines.
2015-16 regular-season stats: 77 games, 8 goals, 5 assists, minus-8 rating, 30 penalty minutes, 96 shots on goal
2016 postseason stats: 6 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-2 rating, 0 penalty minutes, 3 shots on goal
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Desjardins set a career high in regular-season goals with his 8, topping his previous high of 5 last season (all of them were scored with San Jose). He had a memorable binge right around the turn of the year, tallying twice at Arizona on Dec. 29, once at Colorado on Dec. 31 (I was there!) and once more against Ottawa on Jan 3. At one point, Desjardins had more goals than Marian Hossa, which was truly frightening.
Desjardins also accepted heavily tilted defensive assignments, with war-on-ice showing his percentage of offensive- to defensive-zone starts at negative-38.14. He handled them as well as he could, though turning around those plays was not as easy for Desjardins once Kruger was sidelined.
It always seemed, despite being started frequently in the defensive zone, that Desjardins would end his shifts in the opposing crease, trying to cram home a loose puck for a dirty goal. You have to appreciate that about a guy like Desjardins, who certainly isn’t known for his scoring prowess.
He also took a small offseason deal to stay in Chicago and help the Blackhawks eventually re-sign Kruger.
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As the Blackhawks struggled to set a lineup some nights, Desjardins was pretty often a constant, and he wouldn’t have been had he not shown the selflessness to take a lighter contract.
Without Kruger, Desjardins loses a lot of his effectiveness on the defensive end. It’s not that Desjardins is not a good defensive forward naturally, but he and Kruger just mesh together really well. You can take a guy like Shaw out of the equation and find a replacement for him, since he’s on the wing, but losing such an effective defensive center as Kruger is really showed the strain on Desjardins trying to play the lockdown defense role.
This was evidenced is Desjardins’ possession stats, as he finished at a gruesome 43.88 percent Corsi-for rate for the regular season. While starting so often in the defensive zone has something to do with this and always will, Desjardins just wasn’t able to turn the ice around that often while being dragged around between playing partners. To be fair, Kruger’s Corsi-for mark in the regular season was 41, but Kruger did play half as many games as Desjardins, and things were in a state of flux when Kruger returned from his injury.
As I mentioned above, Desjardins always seemed to wind up in the opposing paint at the end of his shifts, trying to shove a puck home. It would’ve been great to see him pot more of those, especially considering secondary scoring was an issue all season for the Blackhawks.
I really can’t see a way to grade Desjardins more harshly. He was kind of the forgotten man this season, as the important role he played last year was diminished when Kruger went down. It didn’t help the defense behind Desjardins wasn’t stopping much of anything, putting even more stress on Desjardins and his linemates to make stops.
Desjardins has a tough job, and it was made even tougher this season by a number of obstacles. Hopefully, he and Kruger can stick together for a full season in 2016-17 and limit opponents like they did in 2014-15.