Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Trade Deadline: Biggest Need On Defense

By Colin Likas
Nov 5, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya (47) skates against the Chicago Blackhawks during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya (47) skates against the Chicago Blackhawks during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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While everyone wants the Chicago Blackhawks to match the Minnesota Wild and find a top-line left wing, there’s likely a bigger need for Chicago to address

Last night, a rumor began circulating that the Chicago Blackhawks were reportedly looking into acquiring Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara.

That was from The Hockey Writers’ Jimmy Murphy, and it was certainly an interesting report. Chara is an aging blueliner (he’ll be 40 years old very soon) with a massive cap hit (just over $6.9 million) who is currently the captain of his team.

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This all means Chara will be extremely expensive to pry away from the Bruins, and he has another $4 million cap hit next season. Chara is still doing some good things on defense (53.2 percent Corsi-for while starting just 42.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone), but it’s just unreasonable to expect the Blackhawks to shore up their defense with a name as big as Chara.

However, this report of the Blackhawks looking into acquiring Chara at all shows Chicago general manager Stan Bowman does realize something: The Blackhawks need defensive help at the trade deadline.

Blackhawks’ defense has some question marks

We know the names, but let’s go through everyone currently employed by the Blackhawks on the blue line.

Duncan Keith may seem a half-step off with some things this season, but he’s still been an extremely reliable defenseman in the postseason, hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015.

Niklas Hjalmarsson, when healthy again, will go back to being the Blackhawks’ top defensive defenseman, and arguably their No. 1 defenseman overall. We know what he brings to the table.

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Brent Seabrook is a little slower nowadays, but he still has that playoff pedigree as well, and he’s had a fine season when paired with the right people.

After that, things start to get concerning. And when you can only get three defensemen in before raising a red flag, you know your team might need some assistance.

Brian Campbell was brought in to be the No. 4 blueliner, but hasn’t provided as much offense as expected while struggling trying to babysit playing partner Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Anyone who’s read my stuff knows how I feel about TVR. Constantly out of position, not clear on when to chip in on offense, slow and struggling to stay on his skates. It’s rarely pretty with TVR.

Michal Kempny can’t get anyone to trust him despite being a fine 4/5 defenseman this season. And Michal Rozsival has shown during Hjammer’s recent injury time that he can hardly be trusted to be a No. 6 defenseman.

Important for Blackhawks to make defensive move

Playoff experience certainly isn’t an issue for Chicago’s defense, but it’s clear getting consistent, quality minutes from more than a few guys may be.

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  • I know coach Joel Quenneville often goes to a small stable of players — forwards and defensemen — during the postseason. He trusts the with almost all the minutes and essentially benches everyone else. With that idea in mind, some have argued the Blackhawks don’t need to add to their defense, as they’ll just see their big guns get all the minutes in the postseason.

    Here’s why that argument doesn’t hold water to me. The big guns are a year older than they were last postseason. And two years older than their last Cup win. Keith, Hjalmarsson and Seabrook have a lot of wear and tear on them, and they’ve all dealt with injuries of late.

    You can’t just expect those three to each eat 30 minutes (or more) this postseason because they have before. You need more guys you can trust.

    Campbell may show more in the postseason, but if he keeps getting paired with TVR, it’ll be like a giant anchor. TVR is trusted by Q, but should terrify Blackhawks fans every time he hits the ice in the postseason.

    Kempny should get more rope, but will struggle to find it from Q once Hjalmarsson is back. And we really don’t need to see more Rozsival in the playoffs. Stopgaps like Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg should not be deemed reasonable blueline options for the postseason, either.

    The Blackhawks need to go after a defenseman ahead of the trade deadline. Not a Chara, necessarily, but maybe a guy like Jordie Benn, who was traded to Montreal yesterday. Maybe a Johnny Oduya type, perhaps.

    Next: Blackhawks' Trade Deadline Put In Perspective

    There needs to be more balance on the blueline, and I think that’s Bowman’s focus versus adding another top-line winger.

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