Analysis

2019 Offseason Signals New Direction for Chicago Blackhawks

By Michael Wagner
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 20: Vancouver Canucks Center Elias Pettersson (40) is checked by Ottawa Senators Left Wing Zack Smith (15) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on March 20, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 7-4. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 20: Vancouver Canucks Center Elias Pettersson (40) is checked by Ottawa Senators Left Wing Zack Smith (15) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on March 20, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 7-4. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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On locker cleanout day, Chicago Blackhawks’ GM, Stan Bowman, stated they would be “shopping in a different marketplace” this offseason.

Many believed this was an allusion to the Blackhawks finally having money to spend in the offseason. However, after how this offseason has unfolded, it is clear that Bowman was hinting at them taking a non-traditional path to upgrade their roster.

Rather than swinging for free agents like Matt Duchene, Erik Karlsson, Ryan Dzingel or Jake Gardiner, Bowman decided to go the trade route; he made six deals since the season concluded.

In those six deals, Bowman acquired: Olli Maatta, John Quenneville, Calvin de Haan, Aleksi Saarela, Andrew Shaw, Alexander Nylander, and Zack Smith.

It’s safe to say Stan Bowman has been busy. Here is the full list of names he has acquired since the start of the 2018-19 season:

Of these seven players acquired, a majority of them will play a role at the NHL level at some point this season with players like Saarela, Nylander, and Quenneville competing for one of the final forward slots.

The two players that will be a clear upgrade for the Blackhawks are Maatta and de Haan, as they will be taking over for players like Slater Koekkoek, Carl Dahlstrom, and Gustav Forsling. A collection of players, who were clearly not top four or five defensemen in the NHL, have now been upgraded with much more capable defensemen.

De Haan, a clear top-four defenseman who will be used in a shutdown role for the Blackhawks. Then, they also add Maatta to the mix, who the ‘Hawks are hoping can rebound and reach his perceived potential as a top-four defenseman.

The other two forwards that will likely make the team out of camp are the recently acquired Zack Smith and Andrew Shaw. These two acquisitions signal that the Blackhawks want to be a tougher team to play against.

In Bowman’s press conference to start free agency, and during his most recent during the Blackhawks development camp, he has referenced the ability to play a tougher style from their forward group and be “harder to play against”.

The idea of being a tougher opponent is usually a style that doesn’t lend itself to a ton of skill. However, adding players like Smith and Shaw to the lineup will add another dimension to the team.

This will also allow the skill players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome to continue playing their game. Also, the matchups for the other teams’ top lines become much more difficult.

Many would agree that the Blackhawks’ style of play was very much a track meet every night, because they lacked the defensive depth and physicality to stop other teams’ top lines. These deficiencies often forced them to outscore their opponents nightly.

With these acquisitions on defense, and the injection of grit into the lineup, it appears the Blackhawks have a new direction. They are now focused on adding more defensive-minded, tough players to complement their elite skill players.

Do they have enough firepower offensively? Do these types of players still have their place in the modern era of the NHL? These are all questions that will be answered once the Blackhawks hit the ice this season.

This offseason has signaled that the Blackhawks have a new direction they want to head in. With that being said, they have a difficult road against a stacked Central Division.

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