Chicago Blackhawks 2017-18 Defense, Goaltending Midseason Grades

By Randy Holndoner
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 17: Brent Seabrook
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 17: Brent Seabrook /
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Defense: C+

Duncan Keith: B- (40 games, 20 points, 0G, 20A, minus-5)

Keith is still logging nearly 25 minutes a game.  Being the leader of this defense, he is the only defenseman without a goal.  Maybe he should be taking more shots on net instead of looking for the tip or bank shot.

His defense has been good, but not great.  His age, 34, is starting to show a bit.  But this is a two-time Norris Trophy winner.  He needs to be more involved with the offense.

Jan Rutta: B (33 games, 14 points, 3G, 11A, plus-2)

Rutta was signed in the offseason from the Czech League in hopes of bringing in an experienced defenseman in for cheap.  He has brought that, as much of a gamble as it was by the Blackhawks.

He has been a healthy scratch some recent games, but overall, his game has been good while being paired with Gustav Forsling.  He’s 27 years old, but he has been solid for this defense and has been a pleasant surprise.

Gustav Forsling: B (35 games, 13 points, 3G, 10A, plus-3)

Forsling’s game has improved from last year, when he played in 38 games and managed five points (2G, 3A).  Only 21 years old, he’s averaging nearly 20 minutes a game this season.  That is better than the 17 minutes of last year.

Paired up with Rutta, Forsling has found a comfort zone and has earned himself more ice time.  He’s going to be a solid piece of this defense.

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Brent Seabrook: C (40 games, 12 points, 1G, 11A, plus-7)

Seabrook, 32, has shown his slowness this year.  Coach Joel Quenneville may have seen that as well.  Seabrook’s ice time has reduced to 20 minutes a game, two minutes less than his career average.

His lone goal came in the fist game of the season, 39 games ago, when he had a three-point night.  He has blocked 78 shots thus far this year, but at a cap hit of $6.875 million a year, he needs to do more.

Jordan Oesterle: B (15 games, 7 points, 2G, 5A, plus-4)

Oesterle, for the first two months, only appeared in four games.  Over the last two months, he’s seen a lot more ice time, and has contributed offensively.

It looks like he may have a spot on a nightly basis, and from what he has contributed so far, it is a breath of fresh air.  A trait that he has that every defenseman on this team needs is throwing pucks at the net.

Cody Franson: C+ (23 games, 7 points, 1G, 6A, minus-1)

Franson was brought in to get the casual start or fill in during injuries.  He’s appeared in half the games so far this year and has done well.  He’s a big, stay-at-home defenseman.

He gets pucks to the net and isn’t afraid to use his big frame to label an opposing player.  He is a good seventh defenseman for this team.

Connor Murphy: D (37 games, 6 points, 1G, 5A, plus-6)

The big piece of the Hjalmarsson trade to the Arizona Coyotes was receiving Connor Murphy in return.  He’s young, 24, and has a tolerable cap hit at $3.85 million.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t produced the way that the team has hoped.  He’s been a third-pairing defenseman and is only playing 16 minutes a night.  They have him signed for four more years.  He can be what this team needs him to be.

Michal Kempny: D (18 games, 4 points, 1G, 3A, plus-8)

Kempny is in his second year with the Blackhawks.  And again, he has found himself as a healthy scratch for more games this year than last year. For the little time he has been in the lineup, he’s still been nothing more than mediocre.