Editorials

For Chicago Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin Couldn’t Have Saved 2017-18

By Colin Likas
COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 17: Artemi Panarin
COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 17: Artemi Panarin /
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This could’ve been said before the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but former Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin would not have saved his old team this season

The timing of this post probably won’t be looked upon favorably, as the Columbus Blue Jackets were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Washington Capitals on Monday. But it still needs to be said: Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin — now with the BJs — wouldn’t have saved his team of two previous seasons.

Blackhawks fans openly ached on Twitter as Panarin tallied an overtime winner in Game 1 of that first-round series against the Caps. They groaned when he put up five points in Columbus’ first two playoff games, both overtime wins.

And then … the Jackets lost four in a row, and Panarin netted just two points in that span. This is not some sort of indictment of Panarin, as most anyone who watches the NHL knew Columbus was being dragged around by Sergei Bobrovsky and Panarin (sounds familiar). It’s just interesting how Blackhawks social media went from red-hot on Panarin to dead silent in a matter of days.

It brings up an important point: Panarin would not have made an overwhelming difference in Chicago’s disappointing 2017-18 campaign, regardless of how many fun-looking goals and assists he offered Columbus this season.

What does Panarin change?

If one wants to look at this in the most basic way possible … Panarin contributed 82 points to the Blue Jackets this regular season. So, yeah, that wouldn’t have been viewed negatively in Chicago, where Patrick Kane‘s 76 points led the way.

But that’s a major oversimplification. What would Panarin potting 82 points in Chicago (he likely would’ve had more, but let’s stick to the script) instead of Columbus have actually changed for the Blackhawks this season?

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Well, it would’ve given the Blackhawks half of what they had the previous two years — a potent scoring line that could drag the team out of some bad spots.

That’s what Kane and Panarin did in 2015-16 and 2016-17, primarily alongside Artem Anisimov. They could’ve done that again in 2017-18 when Anisimov was healthy. That’s great.

What then? The Blackhawks still have a mess in goal — the other half of what carried them to the postseason the previous two years — a disaster at defense and uncertainty throughout the forward ranks.

So, sure, Panarin being in Chicago likely would’ve added a few wins. It would’ve made for some more entertainment during dreadful losses. But the best the Blackhawks would’ve managed — unless Kane and Panarin both scored like 150 points — was a wild-card bid. AKA they very likely end up like the Jackets did when all was said and done.

Yes, anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But no one believes this Blackhawks team was a serious postseason threat. If Panarin changes that for someone, they didn’t pay attention to what was happening on the ice.

But what about the future?

This always seems to be the ending point for those who want to discuss the Panarin-Brandon Saad trade. So let’s establish what Panarin having another strong run in Chicago, instead of in Columbus, means for the Blackhawks beyond the present.

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Well, their odds of landing the top overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft could get a little worse. They’re not great anyway, but that’s one thing that happens if Panarin helps the Blackhawks to a few more wins.

Beyond that, Panarin blocks a spot for a young future Blackhawk to work in during the lost 2017-18 season. A real positive of a poor year was that general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville got to see tons of aspiring talent get on the ice at the NHL level. Panarin blocks that, albeit to a very limited extent.

Most importantly, another season in Chicago changes everything about a possible trade involving Panarin.

What if Saad has a great year in Columbus and GM Jarmo Kekalainen has no interest in moving him? (Those unwilling to look beyond this year will contend this is irrelevant, but I’d argue it’d matter quite a bit, given what Saad has done in the past.)

What if Panarin plays so well the Blackhawks decide to pour even more money into him? Remember, he has just one year remaining on his present contract, after this season. This could create even more salary cap problems for a team trying to get out of them.

What if Panarin plays so well that the Blackhawks try to move him, and struggle to because the league has no interest in helping the Blackhawks? What if they’re forced to move a guy who scores around 80 points a year for next to nothing during the 2019 NHL Draft?

Next: 'Hawks Set For Most Exciting Free Agency In Decade

Having Panarin in Chicago for the 2017-18 season provides a temporary escape from the Blackhawks’ struggles, and nothing more. The only way this isn’t true is if the Blackhawks’ young talent strikes the NHL like a meteor and immediately excels while Panarin is still on his high-paying bridge deal. And that’s a risky bet to make.

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