The Chicago Blackhawks’ elder statesman on defense had a so-so year
Michal Rozsival is the guy who just keeps coming back to the Chicago Blackhawks, for better or for worse. After he showed some real strong play in the 2015 postseason, prior to his ankle exploding in a game against Minnesota. It offered hope Rozsival could carry that play over into the 2015-16 season after he was signed to another one-year deal.
After Rozsival missed about the first month of the regular season, he began his slow adjustment to somewhat-regular NHL action. The emphasis should be on slow in that sentence.
Statistically speaking, Rozsival wasn’t that bad last season. You’d be surprised, perhaps, at some of the numbers next to his name. Of course, his shift starts were sheltered, and he couldn’t be used every game barring another bone explosion. The results were ultimately underwhelming.
2015-16 regular-season stats: 51 games, 1 goal, 12 assists, plus-3 rating
2016 postseason stats: 4 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-3 rating
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I will actually remember Rozsival’s one goal last season for some time. It’s mostly because of how easy the conversion was, but also because Rozsival was pinched in so far that, had the execution not gone according to plan, the Blackhawks easily could’ve given up a goal on the same shift.
(Unfortunately, the video of Rozsival’s goal can’t be embedded from the Blackhawks’ website, and no one has been kind enough to put it on Facebook. If you’re so inclined to see it, it’s in the link above.)
That was definitely the exception to what we got from Rozsival, although he put up the same offensive stats he had last season — in 14 fewer games. He also had 63 blocked shots, which is a good contribution from a guy who’s body could seemingly turn into dust at any moment.
Rozsival carried play just slightly, checking in at 50.3 percent Corsi-for. While a large part of this had to do with his zone starts being heavily tilted to the offensive side (57.1 percent), at least he wasn’t getting buried with those good zone starts. Rozsival’s positive rating in the regular season was a result of this as well.
Well, Rozsival may’ve actually gotten slower last season. And with him coming back for yet another year in 2016-17, we should probably expect similar or slower. Rozsival’s average ice time of 16:10 was the lowest of his entire career, as he really just can’t keep up with the pace of play in today’s NHL.
This was really exposed in the postseason, as the 37-year-old (soon to be 38) was bumrushed into making poor decisions. He’s not at all able to skate out of trouble, which leads to him trying to make stick plays to get out of the defensive zone. And he’s hit-and-miss in that regard as well.
He posted a 1:4 ratio of takeaways to giveaways last regular season, which is certainly a product of him not being able to skate out of trouble. And when coach Joel Quenneville needed to use Rozsival in more situations in the playoffs — as a result of having 2 1/2 reliable defensemen — it was an utter failure that resulted in him getting scratched.
Sometimes, the eye test lies with a hockey player. But in Rozsival’s case last season, it was probably more useful than looking at his actual stats. His stats mostly suggested he was a useful bit player on defense. And while that’s partially true, the eye test would tell you Rozsival was generally unreliable and scary to watch. Rozsival seems like a great guy and teammate, but time has passed him by in a big way, as was relevant last season.
I don’t want to dock Rozsival too much more than this, considering he matched his assists plateau in his time with the Blackhawks (he’s posted 12 in three of his four seasons in Chicago) and put his body on the line despite how bad that is for him at this point in his career/life.
But considering all the help he got with his zone starts and all the struggles that still came out of it, there’s no reason to rate Rozsival any better than this. I’m very hopeful someone steps up from the younger ranks next season and makes Rozsival’s deployment on the ice limited to a quarter of a season.