Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Take out the Keith and Seabrook of the last two seasons and you have a pairing that could be among the better ones in fantasy lineup history. The two were partners in crime during their early years in Chicago. They were up with the team before Toews and Kane, and they saw some really bad outfits before Rocky Wirtz took over.
Their exploits are well known at this point. Keith is the iron man who does it all. He’s the guy who lost teeth during a playoff game, swallowing some of them, but continued to play. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Norris Trophy winner and one-time Conn Smythe recipient.
For a long time, the Blackhawks went as Keith went. That may still be true, but perhaps not to the extent it was when he was younger. Still, he’s a guy with 511 regular-season points in 913 games and 63 playoff points in 123 games. He’s a lock to have his number retired down the road.
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Seabrook might not have quite the talent of Keith, but he’s still had a robust career in Chicago. He’s viewed as one of the silent leaders in the Blackhawks locker room. He spoke up when Toews was melting down during the 2013 playoff series against Detroit. He’s come up with major goals, especially in the postseason (Game 7 of that same Detroit series, for example).
Seabrook has 406 points in 923 regular-season games and 39 points in 123 playoff games. He’s been the perfect partner for Keith throughout their time in the Windy City, though age may be changing that. Still, these two have to top the defense on this fantasy team.
Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya
Again, you just have to go with what you know. You won’t get thrown a bunch of numbers with these guys, much like with Kruger on the offensive side. But you know how important the two Swedes were during Chicago’s Cup runs in 2013 and 2015.
The shutdown defensive pairing was hard to beat for the three full seasons it was together. They couldn’t rekindle that magic when Oduya returned this year, but they had already cemented a legacy in Chicago well before 2017.
Neither guy was the fastest or the strongest on the ice, but they always knew where the other one was, and they constantly made the smart play or the sacrificial play to pull up the Blackhawks in trying times.
They were true Nos. 3 and 4 defensemen while Keith and Seabrook were in their prime. And Hjammer wound up looking like a No. 1 defenseman last season. It’s too bad we couldn’t have had a younger Oduya who came up through the system with Hjammer. The two could have made for the most ridiculously successful defensive defenseman combo in team history.
Nick Leddy-Brian Campbell
I’ll let Campbell play on his off side to get him in this lineup. And again, we’re not talking about the most recent version of him. There’s plenty of positives from the rest of his career to earn him inclusion on this list.
Campbell played all 82 regular-season games in seven of his 17 NHL seasons. In one of those, he played 83 games due to a midseason trade. He was a one-time Lady Byng winner who was getting Norris Trophy consideration in his mid 30s. Campbell finished with 504 points in 1,082 regular-season games.
Now, pairing Leddy with Campbell would make for quite a mobile pairing. Leddy is a guy who can quarterback a powerplay and skate out of trouble, while Campbell likes to move up and contribute offensively.
Leddy is a guy the Blackhawks gave up on too quickly. He was shipped to the New York Islanders in 2014 and is becoming a star there. He’s seen his regular-season point total increase from 31 to 37 to 40 to 46 over the last four seasons. He’s exactly the kind of defenseman the Blackhawks need right now, and they did have him. Until they didn’t.
Da Windy City
No, I’m absolutely not including Timonen based on his 2015 stint in Chicago. That was terrible. But before he was a 40-year-old coming off blood clots in his legs, Timonen was a really solid NHL defenseman for 15 seasons between Nashville and Philadelphia.
Timonen received Norris Trophy consideration at age 37. He topped 40 points eight times and surpassed 30 points in all but three seasons (plus the 2016 stint). He averaged fewer than 20 minutes of ice time only in his rookie and final seasons.
Why wouldn’t you want to have a guy like that on your roster?
Corey Crawford-Nikolai Khabibulin
You knew Crow would be my starting goaltender. I’ve written enough about my support for him to fill a small bookshelf. But he deserves that, and he deserves the starting nod on this team.
Crow is a two-time Cup winner and a two-time Jennings Trophy winner who should also be a one-time Conn Smythe recipient (in 2013). He’s been the Blackhawks’ rock since the 2010-11 season, winning 30 or more games each year outside the lockout-shortened campaign. He also has 48 playoff wins in 85 starts.
Crow constantly takes a beating from parts of his own fan base and is left off national lists of praise (latest example here). But it just seems to motivate him more. And if the Blackhawks didn’t have him, like Kruger, it’s hard to say they win either of the latter two Cups.
Khabibulin struggled during his last stint in Chicago, and while he didn’t bring home hardware with the Blackhawks, he’s a pretty impressive backup goalie to have on this team.
The Bulin Wall won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and posted 333 regular-season wins in his career. That included a 91-80-25 mark in his time with Chicago, played entirely in his mid 30s or later. Khabibulin doesn’t have the greatest numbers ever, but he has more to go on than a lot of the other choices for this spot.