Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Drake Caggiula is the Forgotten Piece

By Steve Dishon
BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 1: Drake Caggiula #91 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates his first period goal against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game on February 1, 2019 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 1: Drake Caggiula #91 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates his first period goal against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game on February 1, 2019 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Lately, Chicago Blackhawks’ fans and writers have been projecting the opening day starting lineup for the ‘Hawks. One player that most tend to forget about is Drake Caggiula.

Many are enamored with Andrew Shaw, or still willing to give Brandon Saad the benefit of the doubt, by placing them on the top or second line. Makes sense since Shaw‘s productivity has increased every year with a career-high 47 points last season in Montreal. He is a gritty player and should compliment ‘Hawks scorers well.

Saad is a similar player. He plays a strong two-way game and, theoretically, should compliment Hawks’ best scorers. In fact, Saad was acquired in the Artemi Panarin trade two years ago mainly to boost the production of Captain Jonathan Toews.

The forgotten piece, largely because he missed most of the month of March, to the Blackhawks’ top six puzzle is Drake Caggiula. Obviously, looking at his scoring, just 23 points in 55 games last season doesn’t scream top line numbers. However, it is not his points that tell the story.

Last December, Caggiula was acquired from Edmonton in a deal that sent Brandon Manning to the Oilers. After a few games with the ‘Hawks, Caggiula was placed on the first line with Captain Jonathan Toews and top scorer Patrick Kane. What happened? Well, just to be clear — Magic!

The trio played together for 19 games with a break in the middle due to an injury to Caggiula. While playing together, Toews tallied 29 points. Kane scored an absurd 38 points.

If those numbers were extrapolated for an entire season, Toews would score 116 points, while Kane would post Gretzky-like numbers with 152 points. More importantly, during their time together, the Blackhawks had a solid record of 13-6.

What Makes This Trio Work?

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The number one element to this success is keeping Toews and Kane together. These two are aging, but still playing great hockey, and will benefit from playing together. The familiarity with each other and chemistry will pay dividends as the next few years unfold.

Furthermore, the addition of the young, scrappy Caggiula has paid off in big ways. His willingness to go to the corners, battle on the boards, and get to the crease allows more freedom to Toews, who usually picks up this duty.

Caggiula, though small, is also willing to put his body on the line. In just 26 games with the Hawks, Caggiula had 56 hits, an unbelievable number for a player playing primarily on a scoring line.

In addition to solving the first line riddle, this allows the Blackhawks to move Andrew Shaw to line two with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. Shaw compliments their game perfectly and will allow DeBrincat and Strome the ability to score while he does the dirty work.

This also means Brandon Saad can be placed on the third line with Artem Anisimov, if he is still here, or Kirby Dach and David Kampf. This makes for a solid third line.

Finally, line four will likely consist of Dominik Kubalik, Ryan Carpenter, and Brendan Perlini, if he is signed. If not, Dylan Sikura will fill that role.

If we have learned anything over the past few years, especially with Vegas, is that a team that can roll four solid lines will be a more formidable and consistent competitor.

Chemistry is difficult to build. Sometimes, it just happens naturally. Coach Jeremy Colliton found lightning in a bottle last season. That lightning came in the form of Drake Caggiula — he deserves a chance to reclaim his spot on the top line.

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