On Day 4 of our 25 Chicago Blackhawks in 25 Days series, we will focus on a defenseman who had a breakout season in 2018-19, Erik Gustafsson.
There’s no secret that the defense has been holding the Chicago Blackhawks back over the past couple of seasons. Erik Gustafsson emerged as an offensive threat at the blue line, especially on the power play.
While Gustafsson is a force on offense, his defense leaves a lot to be desired. He is also playing on an expiring contract which will be a major storyline to follow this season. It is safe to say all eyes will be on Gus.
The Chicago Blackhawks are already overseas in preparation for the 2019-20 season. With the great atmosphere already being produced at Chicago’s final preseason game of the season overseas, let’s dive in with today’s player highlight, defenseman Erik Gustafsson.
Player Spotlight: Erik Gustafsson
Gustafsson had a presence on the Blackhawks’ blue line and power play last season. Not only did he lead things on the rush night in and night out, but he also quarterbacked the ‘Hawks power play.
No one should argue that Erik Gustafsson has talent in the offensive zone. The video below is a great example. Hopefully, he can recreate some of his success from 2018-19.
Few defensemen have the offensive ability that Erik Gustafsson has in the defensive zone. Gustafsson is able to find open ice and create scoring opportunities.
Offensively, Gustafsson is the complete package for a defenseman. Last season, he put up 60 points, which led all Blackhawks defensemen.
When it comes to offensive production, there is no doubt in my mind Erik Gustafsson is mentioned with the best of the best. The only issue is his defense which is funny, considering he is a DEFENSEman.
Erik Gustafsson is a liability in his own zone, and sometimes, even in the offensive zone. Making plays and generating scoring chances comes at the price of bad positioning and the occasional turnover. Sometimes, all you can do is hope your goalie can bail you out on those plays.
The only issue with that is Gustafsson is also a liability in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone. Gustafsson’s proficiency in the offensive zone does not transfer to the defensive zone. He is not the best defender in the NHL. He is slow, and oftentimes, can’t guard or keep opponents away from the net.
Gustafsson is also slow to get to loose pucks in the defensive zone and is not one of Chicago’s best options on the blue line from that perspective.
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With this anomaly comes a question: Is Erik Gustafsson’s offensive upside worth all the issues that come with his play in the defensive zone?
A lot of the Blackhawks are playing on expiring contracts, like Erik Gustafsson. Heading into the 2019-20 season, Chicago will need to decide how important he is to the organization.
Gustafsson would be an asset to any other team in the NHL, and the Blackhawks might not be willing to sign him to a long-term deal considering his skill level in the defensive zone.
Erik Gustafsson will have another chance to prove himself this year with the Blackhawks. Let’s hope he can improve defensively. Otherwise, expect to see him moved and Adam Boqvist in the NHL.