Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: Underwhelming Forwards, Defensemen

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 18: Gustav Forsling
ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 18: Gustav Forsling /
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Kirk Bennett

Question 1: Back on October 16, when Blackhawks were 4-1-1, I wrote a post that warned fans who may not follow the team closely that the record on paper was deceiving. Hence the latest results have not come as a big surprise to me. I think many followers would choose Artem Anisimov, but I suspect the big center has not fully recovered from the high ankle sprain he suffered last spring, hence I’m inclined to let him off the hook.

Anyway, back to the question. If I had to choose a single forward who has underwhelmed, I’m going with Alex DeBrincat. It probably is unfair to choose a rookie, but the expectations were high for this junior sensation coming in, and that excitement was amped up when Cat not only survived training camp, he beat out some pretty impressive looking prospects with more experience.

His first NHL goal came on a beautiful snipe that had fans licking their chops in anticipation. Of course, he is only 12 games into his NHL career and has played mostly third-line minutes, but I thought he would have more than a single marker at this point.

Question 2: Again, it’s probably unfair to choose him, but I have to go with Connor Murphy, and funny enough, not necessarily because of his play. Not a lot was known about this guy, acquired in June via a trade for popular Blackhawk defenseman Niklas Hjammarsson.

Though the defenseman has brought some much needed physicality to the Chicago squad, it appears that coach Joel Quenneville isn’t particularly enamored with his play thus far.

Most fans expected that Murphy would be instantly inserted alongside Duncan Keith in the No. 1 pairing; instead he has sat for three of the first 12 games and his ice time is fairly low, averaging around 15 minutes a game when he does play. Hopefully that situation will change once Murphy is fully acclimated with the Blackhawks’ systems.

Aaron Goldschmidt

Question 1: Jonathan Toews has been held off the score sheet for 3 games straight now. When your team is in a slump, your superstars should pull you out of it. Whether that be motivating them with energy, effort or points, we’re not seeing it from Toews.

Question 2: I don’t want to rag on any defensemen because they take a lot of heat, especially Brent Seabrook. I think I’m most disappointed that Connor Murphy is being benched. He needs to learn the system and can’t do so on the bench or in a doghouse.

Ryan Leidig

More from Analysis

Question 1: The forward who has been most underwhelming to me is Alex DeBrincat. He needs time to develop. He has a couple points that to me honestly were a little fluky and a bit lucky.

When he was moved to the top line, which has been quite consistent, they seemed to not have possession nearly as much and not have great opportunities. When he went to the fourth line, again the play seemed to slip.

No matter where he has been, he shows glimpses of hope for the future. But he continues to show me that I don’t think he is ready to be an everyday NHLer.

Obviously, the brass and coaching staff see something and have more knowledge with the game and his play, but I feel that a month or two in the AHL would help his confidence and development.

Question 2: The defenseman most underwhelming is Connor Murphy. Like DeBrincat he shows flashes, as he has some speed and does not shy away from physicality. But he still needs to be better defensively.

The Blackhawks don’t have great possession numbers as a team, and he has not helped improve those numbers. With that being said, because the Blackhawks are not having possession, it makes his job a bit more difficult. But if he wants to be a top-pairing defenseman, he needs to be able to help improve those numbers and help keep the puck out of the net.