3 Ex-Chicago Blackhawks Current Team Could Use Right Now
By Colin Likas
The Chicago Blackhawks are up against it in the Stanley Cup Playoffs versus the Nashville Predators, but what if they were carrying a different roster into this battle?
One week. That’s how long the Chicago Blackhawks may last in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, as they’re in a win-or-go-home situation already against the Nashville Predators. After taking today and tomorrow off, the Blackhawks will try to stave off first-round elimination in Game 4 against the Preds.
So things are obviously not great for Windy City hockey. Having this come on the heels of the Blackhawks winning the Western Conference (in a season in which they were supposed to struggle) and having Vegas oddsmakers predict them as the Stanley Cup favorite, it’s even more jarring.
Not to mention coming on the heels of the Blackhawks’ past successes. There’s very little that could have prepared us for a series like this. Maybe the Western Conference finals against Detroit in 2009. Perhaps the first-round series against Vancouver in 2011 (at least the first three games).
But we’ve seen some very important developments for the Blackhawks in the last week: this team is getting up there in age among key players, and this team is filled with guys who struggle to adjust to a speed game.
Of course, there have been pieces in place in the past that would have helped the Blackhawks negate this. So let’s take a look at three former Blackhawks the team is really missing right now.
Before I really delve into these three players, let me say one thing: This is not a post to discuss contracts or other dealings that kept the Blackhawks from hanging on to these players.
If some want to use this post as fuel to argue why so and so should be dumped overboard because his contract cost the team x, y and z, go for it. But that’s not my goal here, and I think it’d be wrong to even make that argument. What if the Patrick Kane–Ryan Miller trade that half the fan base sought back in the day had ever happened? There’s a huge contract off the books, right?
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Anyway, back to the three players. We start with Saad, whose own team is up against it in the playoffs as well — the Columbus Blue Jackets trail the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 in another first-round series.
Saad broke onto the team slowly due to trust issues with coach Joel Quenneville. But once Saad arrived, he brought elements that he retains today, and that the Blackhawks could desperately use.
Saad had speed, good passing and finishing abilities and a tenacious forechecking power. He was compared to Marian Hossa at times because of his power forward tendencies. All of those things would be key to helping the Blackhawks break the neutral-zone trap Nashville has deployed in this series’ first three games.
What the Blackhawks have instead is Hossa struggling to be the version of himself we saw this regular season, and Richard Panik being the closest imitator. While Panik had a solid regular season, he is not Saad. And we’ve seen that in this postseason.
It may seem strange to put a small guy on this list, considering some of the Blackhawks’ smaller bodies — Nick Schmaltz, chief among them — have been tossed all over rink in this series.
But what Teuvo could have brought to the table for this team was a more developed NHL game than what Schmaltz currently possesses. This is not a knock on Schmaltz, but more a plaudit to Teuvo, who went through the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and his been honing his game ever since in Carolina.
Teuvo is a speedy winger (and occasional center) who, like Schmaltz and Saad, has amazing vision on the ice. This isn’t just North-South either, but also East-West, something the Blackhawks could really use right now.
Additionally, Teuvo’s quickness would be important to winning board battles. Again, this may sound strange given his size. But while the Blackhawks have needed to turn to a chip-and-chase game in this series, they’ve mostly failed at it because the Preds are already playing the puck out of the end boards by the time the Blackhawks arrive.
This wouldn’t be an issue with Teuvo. He could at least hold guys up with solid stickwork until reinforcements arrive. Marcus Kruger is not a terribly large guy, but he’s been one of the few who has been able to stop Nashville from immediately sending chipped-in pucks the other way, because of his stickwork.
It’s strange that Leddy’s name should come up less than 24 hours after a really strange goal from Nashville turned the momentum in the Preds’ favor in Game 3. After all, Leddy’s last appearance in a Blackhawks uniform came after he unwittingly deflected a puck past Corey Crawford to end the 2014 Western Conference finals series against Los Angeles.
But Leddy may be the most-missed guy among these three for a chief reason: The Blackhawks defense has just been so bad this series. So bad, guys. It’s concerning.
Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook all look a step slow or worse. Johnny Oduya might want to consider retiring after this season. Brian Campbell has been fine on the third pairing, but he’s not going to save a team’s season.
And while Leddy was never an amazing defensive-zone guy in Chicago, he still has plenty of skills the Blackhawks blue line could really use right about now.
Leddy is a guy who can actually skate the puck out of his defensive zone to get a play going on offense. His legs allow him to do that, and it also lets the forwards get better set up to chase pucks that are chipped in.
Leddy was also an adept presence on the back end during offensive possessions in Chicago. He doesn’t have the hardest shot, but he’s still a smart passer, and again, he can move the puck with his feet and not just his stick.
Considering the Blackhawks have gotten zero offensive push from the back end in this series, Leddy’s particular skill set would have at least thrown a wrinkle into Nashville’s game planning. You have to admit he’d be an amazing upgrade at 4D right now.
Next: Blackhawks On Other Side Of Puck Luck
Alas, the Blackhawks have none of these three guys due in large part to it being the salary-cap era. How would this series be different with even just one of these three guys? We’ll never know, but at this point, it’s certainly interesting to speculate.