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Chicago Blackhawks D-Man Brian Campbell’s Future In Jeopardy

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Feb 21, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell (51) skates with the puck in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell (51) skates with the puck in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell may not be long for this team — or the NHL — after a tough 2016-17

In order to understand defenseman Brian Campbell‘s future in the NHL, we need to visit his return first. When the Chicago Blackhawks announced that the 37-year-old Campbell was coming back prior to this season, all of the Blackhawks faithful rejoiced. The Chicago Tribune wrote the signing was just what the Blackhawks needed.

After this past season, it might be a one and done with the Blackhawks.

Sports Writers posted articles stating that the Blackhawks defense went from a weakness  to a strength in 2016-17.  The Blackhawks went from having no depth on defense, to having all kinds of defensive depth with Campbell and newcomer Michal Kempny added.

Campbell came “home” because this where his life outside of hockey started. He met his wife here in 2011. His daughter’s favorite team is the Blackhawks, and he maintained his offseason home here.

I was at the Blackhawks Convention panel that featured Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Nobody was more excited to start playing again with Campbell than Keith. Keith gushed having the ability to pass the puck in his skates. The excitement for the defense was palpable in the room.

Projections and failure to meet them

While being cautious over being burned in the past by old ’Hawks coming back, everyone was very optimistic about Campbell’s return. After the honeymoon was over, we got down to business of projecting what Campbell would produce for the Blackhawks. Campbell was projected at 5 goals, 24 assists and 29 points in 2016-17.

With all the hype surrounding his return, he was projected out to finish along with his career numbers. Instead, he was a complete disaster. Campbell would fall short of his career numbers.

He recorded 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 80 games. Since becoming a regular NHL player, Campbell had only recorded fewer than 19 points once in an NHL season. It was in 53 games with the Sabres in 2003-04, when he recorded 11 points.

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Campbell also had not missed a game since the 2011-12 season. That streak came to an end due a healthy scratch. He had played so poorly that coach Joel Quenneville benched him, thus ending his streak.

I am not even sure if Campbell was ever considered the part of big four this past season. He was worse than little-used Michal Kempny at times.

What does the future hold ?

Campbell came back on a one-year deal at $1.5 million, turning down bigger money from other teams to come home. He stated at the convention last year that he was going to only play with the Blackhawks, and said so again after this season ended.

Well, the decision this time might be out of his hands. Based on his play, I would tell the Blackhawks to move on from Campbell for several reasons.

  • Age: 37. Campbell is closing in on 38 years old and looked every bit of it this past season. Despite being one of the faster players on defense, he looked to have lost a step. The Blackhawks also need to get younger on defense. When they have won the Stanley Cup, it has been with younger defensemen. Cup 1: Keith-26, Seabrook-24, Campbell-30, Sopel-33.  Cup 2: Leddy-21, Seabrook-27, Keith-29, Michal Rozsival-34. Cup 3: Keith-31, Seabrook-29, Johnny Oduya-33, Rozsival-36.
  • Point production. His production was not what it used to be in terms of points. His points total dropped by 14 in just one season.
  • Possession numbers. His Corsi-for went from 52.7 percent in 2015-16  to 48.0 in 2016-17. The telling stat is that his offensive-zone starts went up from 50.9 to 53.6, but his possession numbers still tumbled.
  • Salary cap. He might need to reduce his salary cap cost or the team can go with a younger, cheaper option from the AHL.
  • Other players. Kempny is reportedly negotiating a deal with the Blackhawks, per Scott Powers. The deal would have some guaranteed playing time in it.
  • Next: Gut Reaction To Blackhawks Defensemen

    I would say goodbye to Campbell and wish him well. Campbell proved “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

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