Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks Grades: Trevor van Riemsdyk Not No. 4

By Colin Likas
Mar 29, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) during a game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) during a game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /
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Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk is a divisive player among Chicago Blackhawks fans

There are members (or now-former members) of the Chicago Blackhawks who can divide fans. Events on and/or off the ice involving Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw made fans’ feelings toward them far from universal. Corey Crawford is the starting goaltender, which means he’s never getting 100 percent fan support. Heavies like Brandon Mashinter go the same way.

And then there’s Trevor van Riemsdyk. He’s a very interesting case, as we don’t hear from him a lot through the media, and he’s not a guy who’s been through all the battles like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

But last season, van Riemsdyk was tasked with being the Blackhawks’ No. 4 defenseman. And that created a serious divide in the fan base. Some thought back to his solid opening in the 2014-15 season, prior to suffering a severe injury, and used it as evidence TVR could be a good blueliner. Others were just done with him not long into the 2015-16 season.

So what does it all mean for how he grades out in this recent regular season? Let’s get to it.

chicago blackhawks
Feb 11, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) passes the puck during the second period against the Dallas Stars at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

2015-16 regular-season stats: 82 games, 3 goals, 11 assists, minus-5 rating

2015-16 postseason stats: 7 games, 1 goal, 0 assists, minus-3 rating

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Positives

Well, that playoff goal is a nice look. I honestly had to go back and watch it again, because I couldn’t remember it firsthand. It came in Game 6 of the St. Louis series, tying the game at 3 after the Blackhawks successfully executed a stretch pass that saw Richard Panik feed the puck to Jonathan Toews, who dished it to van Riemsdyk for the score. TVR also clowned Troy Brouwer on the play. Good times.

The first positive, outside that goal, that comes to mind regarding TVR is his durability. It’s an interesting point, because he’s dealt with a few major injuries the last couple seasons. But TVR was one of just two Blackhawks (the other being Kane) who played in all 89 of the team’s games this season.

This is really a good look for TVR, as it shows the injuries are (hopefully) a thing of the past. However, it was a bit of a crazy tactic on the part of coach Joel Quenneville, to have an injury-riddled player on the ice nonstop (more on that later). But TVR proved he has a certain level of durability, which is good for the Blackhawks and for him.

TVR posted his first double-digit points campaign behind 11 assists. Two of those came on the powerplay, and one of them came shorthanded. The latter point is good to see from a guy who started most of his shifts in the offensive zone.

TVR blocked shots at a great rate last season as well. He went close to two blocks for every game at 155 in 82 contests. That was actually a higher total than Hjalmarsson recorded (by four blocks).

Negatives

The thing is, TVR was only halfway set up to succeed. Q definitely overused and overexposed him, which resulted in a plethora of problems.

TVR was certainly set up to succeed when getting on the ice, as he began 52.7 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. But, like was mentioned with Seabrook a few days ago, that did not translate to puck possession. TVR posted a Corsi-for rate of 49.6, which is fine if you’re starting more in the defensive zone. It’s really not good when you begin almost 53 percent of your shifts going the correct direction.

TVR is not a fast defenseman, nor is he a great puck-moving one. And so, when he and Seabrook would end up getting turned around while paired together, neither of them could get the puck out of the zone by a way other than throwing it up the boards and hoping. This is not a good strategy.

If you go back and watch TVR’s postseason goal, you’ll see an example of his pinching in working to perfection. Unfortunately, TVR pinched in way too much last season and often put his team down a man when the puck went the other way. It didn’t help he was tasked with being the No. 4 defenseman, therefore playing against competition that would more likely take advantage of this.

And that gets me back to the “halfway set up to succeed” bit. TVR was not ready to take on No. 4 defenseman assignments. Yet he was paired with a fading (during the season) Seabrook and asked to play an average of 20 minutes a night (19:59, to be exact). He had played about 13:30 per game in his short stint the previous season.

For a guy coming off multiple injuries, and a guy with little NHL experience, this was a dangerous game to be playing. Compound that with TVR’s shortcomings of being a slower D-man who struggles to push the puck forward, and you’ve got a guy who starts most of his shifts in the offensive zone posting a minus-5 rating.

It also didn’t help TVR was a bit clueless on positioning in the defensive zone, especially below the goal line. This is really the biggest issue I see with him moving forward, and it needs to be worked on in the offseason. TVR would consistently lose his man, resulting in the Blackhawks being all out of sorts and Crow being left to defend it all. Not good.

Next: Blackhawks Prospect Camp, Day 3 Review

Grade: C

I don’t feel it’d be fair to go any worse than this given he was thrown in over his head at various times last season. But I certainly couldn’t go any higher, as he didn’t do anything to earn any sort of “B” grade.

It’ll be great if Michal Kempny is able to step in to the No. 4 role and push TVR to the third pairing, where he really belongs. He can play fewer minutes and still get those offensive-zone starts, and he’s unlikely to be punished as much for his pinching ways.

Still, TVR does need to work on these problem areas of his game moving forward. With the Blackhawks’ defensive prospects cabinet in pretty rough shape, the team really needs all the capable defensemen it can get.

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