There has been a lot of discussion regarding the Chicago Blackhawks’ potential draft picks in the upcoming event. But there is a new wrinkle out there now.
So, here we have the first taste of a big splash move that Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman could be working on. Sports Mockery also jumped on this rumor in their article.
"Justin Faulk Could Be The Key To Bolstering Blackhawks’ D"
It all starts with the ‘D’
We’ve said repeatedly that one of the root causes for the Blackhawks’ meltdown this year was the lack of defensive depth.
Duncan Keith had a miserable outing while working with a revolving door of defensive partners. Brent Seabrook showed yet more signs of aging with a lack of speed. Michal Kempny faltered as he never got a fair shake at becoming a top-four defender. Jan Rutta impressed early but broke down as the season wore on.
Gustav Forsling returned to Rockford for more seasoning due to defensive lapses. Cody Franson was the answer until he wasn’t. Connor Murphy was an enigma due to his uncertain status with Joel Quenneville. Jordan Oesterle came out of nowhere to impress and was a bit overwhelmed with a top-pairing role. Erik Gustafsson was recalled and finally looked more comfortable. Once again, whew.
The ‘Hawks’ vaunted puck possession game depends upon a defense that pushes the play to the perimeter and then quickly exits the zone with outlet passes. However, this season saw very little of that. With passive play, little shot blocking, and forwards not on board with the scheme, the ‘Hawks gave up multiple scoring chances in dangerous areas. The lack of consistent defensive pairings contributed greatly to the lack of cohesiveness.
Rutta and Kempny were unaccustomed to the smaller North American ice, and it showed as the faster pace of play often caught them off-guard. Franson was more accustomed to a man-to-man coverage in Buffalo and had to adjust his play to fit into the ‘Hawks’ zone defense.
The days of depending upon four defenders to carry the load was just too much for the aging Keith and Seabrook. The ‘Hawks did not even have a solid top four to rely on.
How would Justin Faulk improve the ‘Hawks’ defense?
This is surprising as Faulk is only 26 years old and had two decent seasons after a stellar 2014-15 season. Faulk had a down year on a bad Hurricanes team this season. The scapegoat has been coach Bill Peters, who resigned after failing to lead his team into the playoffs during his tenure.
The debate is whether Peters was responsible for an overall team malaise or if Faulk has been regressing. Here is what The Hockey News reports on Justin Faulk:
#27 • D
- Height: 6 feet
- Weight: 215 pounds
- Shoots: R
- Experience: 6 years
- Birthdate: Mar 20, 1992
- Birthplace: South St. Paul, MN
- Drafted: Drafted by Carolina in 2010 (2/37)
2017-18 Season Stats
There is a belief that if he is paired with the right partner, Faulk can regain the type of production he had in 2014-15. As a right-handed defender, could he be the ideal partner for Keith?
The Hurricanes may have had bad coaching from Peters, but reaction to Faulk’s defensive play in general has been negative. Here are some articles about his defense.
These reviews are eerily similar to those regarding Keith’s play this season. In a strange hockey universe, could these two players actually be in search of each other to get their careers back on track?
Their styles are similar and they could mesh as a pair. But, according to CapFriendly, Faulk carries a salary cap hit of $4,833,333 for two more seasons. This is a lot of money to commit to a struggling player.
Who ya got?
So, again, the ‘Hawks don’t have a confirmed top-four core of defenders. Forsling and Gustafsson have the potential to be top-four guys, but haven’t shown enough to slot them in yet. Oesterle is a solid No. 5 and maybe a No. 4 if paired with a solid No. 3 partner. Rutta might be better after a year of NHL experience, but at the age of 27, he may already be as good as he will ever be.
We barely got a glimpse of what Blake Hillman can do. Henri Jokiharju has been proving his value as a first round draft pick but is just 18 years old. It is doubtful that he will be ready to play in the NHL this fall. Another highly touted recent draft pick is Ian Mitchell, currently playing for the University of Denver. At age 19, he also is not ready to jump right into the NHL.
After a year of uncertainty, the ‘Hawks should enter next season with a better idea of who their top-four defenders will be. Faulk is definitely an intriguing choice. His age and past performances, along with his potential trade price tag, make him a viable option.
But, if you skim the list of available free agents in CapFriendly, you will see there are a few more names out there. I’ve written about John Carlson, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and John Moore in previous articles.
The latter three are realistically affordable and would fit right into a top-four role with little uncertainty. There are other desirable young defenders to acquire by trade who have been trending up. Names such as Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Mark Pysyk and Josh Manson come to mind. There are certainly others, and a creative general manager can work on that list.
What’s your goal?
Bowman attempted to spark Jonathan Toews last season by trading for Brandon Saad. Of course, that is a whole other topic for discussion. The goal this year should be to get Keith a permanent suitable partner to reboot his career.
Faulk is definitely worth considering as he rates higher than any current Blackhawks defenseman after Keith. Personally, I’d feel better about acquiring a defenseman who is trending up or at least steady rather than one who is trending down. The ‘Hawks have had enough of bad trends already.
The window of Cup contention will not stay open forever, so Bowman has to start making all the right moves. The ‘Hawks hold the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in the first round of the upcoming NHL draft. We’ll get to see just how clever Bowman can be very soon.
#27 • D
2017-18 Season Stats