Back in 2009-10, the Blackhawks added veteran John Madden to their team. He was able to contribute 23 points, a 52.3 percent Corsi-for and a 53 percent faceoff percentage. Depth moves like this (and an extra year of experience for a young Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook) were what made the difference between finishing just short of the Stanley Cup Final and winning the Cup.
In the years that followed, Bowman tried to add some more veterans to help boost the roster, but there really aren’t too many worth mentioning until the last few years. The few recent examples of cheap veteran contracts the Blackhawks have brought on to try and bolster their roster: Brad Richards, Brian Campbell and Patrick Sharp.
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Richards’ addition to the team in the 2014-15 season was very welcomed, especially from Kane, who had dealt with a myriad of centers in his career and was coming off the near-dead Michal Handzus on his line.
While Richards’ offensive numbers were not stunning, the 37 points in 76 games was stronger than any second-line center the ‘Hawks would have put on the ice otherwise. His 54.7 percent Corsi-for showed the strong possession his line consistently had and how he was able to help get the puck on Kane’s stick.
As we all know, the year ended with Richards and the ‘Hawks winning the Stanley Cup.
Campbell, on the other hand, was a less successful veteran deal. While his contract was cheap, Campbell had terrible possession numbers (48.9 percent Corsi-for and negative 2.1 percent relative Corsi) and only contributed 17 points offensively.
The Blackhawks were hoping he would shore up the blue line, but he was just another aging defenseman who had lost a lot of speed and couldn’t keep up with the Predators in the postseason.
If the Blackhawks are to be successful in 2017-18, they need Sharp to produce at a solid level on the second line (assuming that is where he is slotted to play). He has very tough skates to fill as Artemi Panarin was a top-10 scoring forward in the league the last two years.
Sharp does not need to be Panarin, but he does need to stay healthy and produce somewhere around 30 to 35 points for the ‘Hawks’ second line to be productive.
If Sharp is to get hurt or not produce, it leaves a huge void in the Blackhawks’ lineup. You could put Nick Schmaltz on the second line, but who will you have centering the third line? Unless there is incredible progress from a prospect like Alex DeBrincat who could fill in if the veteran goes down, Sharp will be very important for the 2017-18 team to have balance and be successful.