Question 1: I’ve always been of the opinion that you can never have too many good defenders on hockey team. While the Blackhawks’ defensive ranks have improved from last year, I’d feel better about their chances at the Cup this year if they were able to add another proven defensemen.
That being said, I’d hate to see the ‘Hawks lose one or more of their young forwards considering how well the offense has been coming together as of late. Still, the trade market currently has some relatively affordable blueliners available on teams that may be interested in a “package deal” of young and unproven Blackhawks forwards, like Tyler Motte and Tanner Kero.
At the very least, I think it may be worth testing the waters, though I’m certainly not holding my breath.
Question 2: While there is likely little chance the Blackhawks will be able to overtake the Minnesota Wild in the standings before the playoffs, I feel every meeting between these two teams from now until the postseason are must-have W’s for the ‘Hawks.
To get to the Stanley Cup Final again, the ‘Hawks will almost certainly have to go through the Wild. While the ‘Hawks have had their way with the Wild in all of their postseason encounters, the Wild have been terrorizing the ‘Hawks in the regular season the past couple years and right now are playing with unprecedented confidence.
Perhaps the only advantage the ‘Hawks would have over the Wild should they square off in the playoffs is the psychological edge brought by their historic success. To enhance this advantage, the Blackhawks need to use every remaining game in the regular season against the Wild to sow seeds of doubt.
Question 1: I think the lack of a quality No. 4 defenseman was without question the most exposed weakness in the Blackhawks lineup last year in the series with the Blues. With that said, I was/am very happy with Stan Bowman’s decision to go out and pick up Brian Campbell over the summer.
He’s not capable of the same production he once was, but he is still a quality top-four D-man on any team. In the playoffs, Q gets stingy with ice time for his defensemen, and so I don’t see the need for three complete and stellar pairings, as he will likely rotate five guys throughout.
For that reason, I think the move needs to come at the left wing position. Although he’s seen a resurgence of late, Jonathan Toews has not put up Jonathan Toews numbers this year.
More from Analysis
- Blackhawks: Three Noticeable Improvements in Comeback Win vs Blues
- Blackhawks: Key Takeaways from 3-2 win over the Blues
- Blackhawks: Grading Connor Murphy and a position comparison
- Blackhawks: Shuffling the lines to try and spark offense at 5 on 5
- These Lineup Changes could Solve the Blackhawks’ Scoring Problem
I think the hole at the left wing position came when Brandon Saad got on a plane for Columbus some years ago, and Bowman has been plugging it with players like Antoine Vermette and Andrew Ladd ever since.
I think a quality top-six forward playing alongside Toews would make this team as dangerous as its ever been. A few names I’ve heard around the water cooler have been Tomas Tatar, Ondrej Palat, Gustav Nyquist and even Matt Duchene.
I’m not opposed to trading away a piece of young talent to acquire one of these names, as I see the window of opportunity for this once-in-a-lifetime dynasty of core players beginning to close, and would love for Bowman to load up and give it one more run.
Question 2: I think the March 12th game at home vs. the Wild will be the most consequential in March. If the ’Hawks can remain within striking distance to leapfrog them, that game could potentially be extremely important.
If the Wild put the ’Hawks out of reach, that game will serve as a measuring stick, one that will be crucial to the ’Hawks’ confidence, as colliding with Minnesota in the playoffs is beginning to seem inevitable.
Along a similar note, the games with Pittsburgh will have the same feel to them. March is the month that playoff teams play their best hockey, and the ’Hawks seem to be nearing that.
A well-played game against the defending champions would further serve to the confidence of a team whose newest additions (Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Nick Schmaltz, etc.) are not playoff-battle tested. I think March will be a month full of measuring-stick games.