Chicago Blackhawks Grades: Marian Hossa Begins Decline
Marian Hossa Has Down Season For Chicago Blackhawks
(Writer’s note: Since we’re still doing these grades alphabetically … Ryan Hartman and Vincent Hinostroza will be covered in the short-timers post, while Tomas Fleischmann will be part of the trade deadline group post.)
This is a disappointing addition of Chicago Blackhawks grades to have to write, because I really like Marian Hossa. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any sizeable contingent of Blackhawks fans that doesn’t like Hossa. He seems like a very personable, real guy who pushes himself really hard whenever possible. He comes up with some funny quips while talking to the media and has seemingly tried to assist young talent around him. But there’s really no ignoring what went down on the ice this season for Hossa … and it wasn’t pretty.
We were all kind of wondering when Hossa might start to hit a decline in playing ability. After all, he’s 37 years old and has struggled with injuries over the past few seasons. Not everyone can be Jaromir Jagr. We may have gotten our answer to the decline question in abrupt fashion during the 2015-16 season.
Hossa struggled to find the back of the net and had a lot of trouble serving as a reliable production partner with frequent linemate Jonathan Toews. Hossa seemed a step slow at times and was muscled off pucks far more frequently than we’d seen. Sure, the brilliance still flashed across at times, but it was pretty evident Hossa’s play took a dip this season.
2015-16 regular-season stats: 64 games, 13 goals, 20 assists, plus-10 rating, 24 penalty minutes, 191 shots on goal
2016 postseason stats: 7 games, 3 goals, 2 assists, 0 rating, 0 penalty minutes, 33 shots on goal
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Well, that postseason statline doesn’t seem to indicate a dropoff in play. Of course, four of those points came in the final three games of the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the St. Louis Blues, but points are still points. Hossa’s three playoff tallies tied for second on the team, and his 33 shots on goal actually led the group. That latter point probably isn’t a positive for the Blackhawks as a whole, but it’s certainly good for Hossa.
Hossa’s Corsi-for mark was 52.4 percent across all situations in the regular season while getting just a few more offensive-zone starts than defensive-zone starts. That’s honestly very acceptable for someone in his late 30s on a line that was in pretty constant flux due to the left wing situation. Hossa’s playoff Corsi-for across all situations was a healthy 56.69 percent despite heavily defensive-zone-tilted starts, which is great to see.
Hossa also proved himself useful in multiple facets of the game, as he typically has. His backchecking is still strong, and his forecheck can also be menacing. He tallied two powerplay goals and three shorthanded markers in the regular season, as well as one shorthanded goal in the playoffs.
So some of the things we’re used to seeing from Hossa were still apparent this season, though maybe in a downscaled format.
Hossa just could not find the back of the net with any level of consistency.
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His 33 points marked his lowest total in a full NHL season since 1998-99 with Ottawa, Hossa’s first full season in the NHL (in which he tallied 30 points). There’s really nothing comparable to this season in Hossa’s career, as even in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, he put up 31 points in 40 games. So this is obviously a huge concern.
The 13 goals were the lowest total he’s ever compiled in a full season, as were the eight even-strength markers. His shooting percentage was also disastrously low in the regular season, checking in at 6.8 percent. His next lowest mark came last season at 8.9 percent, and he’s been well above 10 percent every other regular season. At some point, bad luck starts to turn into something else.
Much of this probably has to do with injuries for Hossa. He needed a few games here and there for maintenance and such, which added up to 18 games missed. That’s the most games he’s been held from in a regular season since 2009-10, during which he played in 57 games. Before that, we again have to go all the way back to 1998-99 (60 games).
The age, the mileage and the injuries may be starting to take their toll on Hossa, and we saw it during this regular season. It’s probably not a coincidence Hossa started seeing some success in the playoffs when he was finally bumped from the first line to the third. Hossa can still go at a strong level, but it probably isn’t a first-line level anymore. Maybe he can prove otherwise next season, after some additional rest, but all signs right now point to the start of a natural decline for Hossa.
Next: Future Friday Profile: Vinnie Hinostroza
Hossa’s solid showing in the postseason saves him from a worse grade, which is truly unfortunate. Hossa was essentially needed to be a first-line winger this season, and it was the first season in some time in which he couldn’t provide that, due to a combination of factors. I’m hopeful Hossa can be utilized as a lower-line wing moving forward, plowing through and outmatching some lesser players on opposing teams.
As for this season, it’s one Hossa likely wants to forget. You can imagine he’ll be putting forth a lot of effort this offseason to make sure he’s improved for 2016-17. You know he wants to stave off any natural decline in his game as much as possible.