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Former Chicago Blackhawk Panarin Not Just A One-Trick Pony

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TORONTO, ON - MARCH 18: Artemi Panarin
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 18: Artemi Panarin /
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This offseason, the Chicago Blackhawks made a stunning trade that sent two-time 30 goal scorer Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Blackhawks could be longing for his services once the season begins and his absence is felt.

Recently, while I was tuning in to the Puckin’ Hostile Shoutcast, a local Chicago Blackhawks podcast, something caught me by surprise and in more or less words, “lit a fire under my butt.”

About an hour into the podcast, the host Gatekeeper and guests were discussing wingers when Artemi Panarin’s name came up.

They listed a handful of wingers whom he would prefer over Panarin, who was ranked No. 9 overall. Which is fine — everybody is entitled to their own opinion.

What bothered me most is when he said, “… I can’t get it out of my head that Panarin is a one-trick pony, and it bothers me.”

Chicago Blackhawks

What grinds my gears about this most is that I believe Panarin is much more than a one-trick pony.  He joined the Blackhawks as a raw, talented skater and blossomed into a top NHL forward, earning himsef the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year in 2016 and establishing himself as one of the premier Russian snipers in the league.

He, alongside Artem Anisimov and No. 1 wing in the league (according to the NHL Network list) Patrick Kane, were debatably the best line in hockey for two years in a row.  Panarin had so much chemistry and influence on Kane, that Kane had trouble accepting the trade that sent his linemate to Columbus this offseason.

Next, I’d like to look into some of the assumptions of Panarin being a one-trick pony and hopefully shed some light on why I believe that isn’t the case.

Assessing Panarin’s skills

I think the accusations of Panarin being a one-dimensional player are completely off-base and superficial.  To the naked eye, highlights might show most of Panarin’s goals coming off one-time slap shots from the top of the circle, but he also played a major role in Kane’s 2016 MVP season in which Kane had 46 goals and 60 assists.

Playing across from the most dangerous scorer in the league, what else is asked of you but to get that superstar the puck and finish plays when the puck is passed to you?  And that’s exactly what Panarin did.  Notching two consecutive 70-plus-point seasons, Panarin alongside Kane formed a “bromance” that every team in the league feared while they were simply having fun.

If you were on a team with Michael Jordan or LeBron James and you were also a talented player, wouldn’t similar expectations be asked of you?  So much attention is drawn to superstars, which leaves room for other players to score.

It’s the equivalent of LeBron James driving to the net, then kicking it out to Dwyane Wade for a wide-open three-pointer.  Of course, Wade has much more to his game than just hitting open threes, but with a much smaller roster in basketball, your skills have to be more rounded.

In a game where the object is putting the puck in the net, it baffles me that people can be critical of a guy WHO DOES JUST THAT.  Panarin was a threat to one-time a puck from that same spot every game, yet he still managed to score 30-plus times in two consecutive seasons.

More from Blackhawk Up

Sure, Panarin isn’t the greatest defensively, but you’re not paying him $6M per year to play shutdown defense.  Similarly to every other sport, hockey has specialists. The few guys around the league who can score on NHL-caliber goalies and defensemen are invaluable and get paid handsomely, yet the Blackhawks just traded away a 25-year-old one.

I’m not going to get into this issue just yet, but the idea that Panarin was traded to get back Brandon Saad for the benefit of Jonathan Toews is absolutely unacceptable.  A lot of people have a hard time criticizing the captain for his recent poor performance because of his prior success with the team, but trading away an asset like Panarin so Saad can “get Toews going again” is just sad.  If this is true, the debate of Toews deserving $10.5M per season shouldn’t be tabled.

“Panarin goes bye-bye when the playoffs start”

Let me start this defense by saying the whole 2017 Blackhawks team went bye-bye in the playoffs.  What was considered an embarrassment by the ‘Hawks front office, the sweep of the Blackhawks at the hands of the Predators was a key contributor to the Panarin trade, among others.  In that series, Panarin had one assist and was a minus-4 in four games.

Need I remind you that only three goals were scored by the Blackhawks the entire series, including zero goals at the United Center.  The leading scorers were Kane and Toews, who both had a measly two points.  Needless to say, the series loss was a team effort.

The previous year in the playoffs, when the Blackhawks lost to the St. Louis Blues in the first round, Panarin had two goals and five assists in seven games.  If my math is correct, that’s a point per game.  I’m not sure you can classify his performance as a disappearance.

Going back further another year in 2015, when Panarin played for the St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL, he scored five goals and 15 assists in 20 playoff games.  Thus making him a point per game player, again.

Other wingers over Panarin

Below is a comparison of regular-season statistics of all the players that The guests said he prefers over Panarin.

You can see that Panarin’s average goals per game, assists per game and total points per game are the highest (or tied for the highest) of all the players mentioned.  It’s obvious that those other players have a much larger sample size and also bring many other elements to their game, but on paper Panarin proves to live up to his No. 9 overall ranking.

As for playoff production, only Phil Kessel has a better PPG average than Panarin’s 0.73, averaging 0.93 points per contest.

Conclusion

In the end, everybody can have their own opinion of Panarin and whether he is a one-trick pony or not.  But as he begins a new chapter in his career in Columbus where he’s finally “the guy,” it will be interesting to track the course of his production.

He will most likely be playing with talented playmaking centerman Alexander Wennberg and will be put into every scoring situation possible.  I think the main difference this time is that Panarin will be the one with the puck on his stick to begin with as opposed to Kane.

Next: Blackhawks Fans Need To Be Louder in 2017-18

As for the Blackhawks, what they felt was a luxury could turn into a huge hole to fill.  Without Panarin’s 30 goals as well as Marian Hossa‘s 20-plus goals per season, the Blackhawks will need a lot more than just Saad’s added production to get back up to speed.

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