Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Takeaways After 1st Month
By Nikos Michals
The 1st month of Chicago Blackhawks hockey is over, so let’s recap everything that happened.
Each weekly article will include 5 points including Chicago Blackhawks GOAL of the week and a question for you, the READER! Please leave a comment below, if I missed anything, or @ me on Twitter, @NikoFromTheTO. The goal of the week was the Alex Nylander one against the Los Angeles Kings. Sorry, lots to go through today!
After a 3-6-2 start, the Blackhawks’ October is over. Wasn’t the start we expected, but nonetheless, here they are sitting 6th in the Central, 13th in the Western Conference and 27th in the league. Not a good start.
Since this is the end of the 1st month, I will just go over some things that happened over the month and last week. Also, this article will cover more positive notes versus negative ones, because to be honest, this team has sucked.
Star players aren’t producing, the head coach has done anything but callout guys in the media, and the mismanagement of assets so far this season has been bewildering. You already know that though because you watch the games, so here are my 5 takeaways from the first month of hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Defense is Getting Younger?
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I know I haven’t heard that sentiment about the Chicago Blackhawks’ defense in about 10 years. This has been a strange month for the Blackhawks’ defense. From new players starting their Blackhawks career to others possibly looking at the end of it.
The addition of Calvin de Haan in the offseason has been huge for the Blackhawks. His steady defensive play gives the defense a dynamic that they lost a couple of years back when they traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes. Then, there’s Olli Maatta who is a player that wears the number six. Six is a good number, but that’s about all that is good about Maatta.
The Seabrook-Maatta pairing has arguably been the worst defensive duo the Blackhawks have had since Cam Barker roamed the blueline for them. The Brent Seabrook scratching has also opened up things that have now allowed other players to step in (I will talk more Seabrook in a bit).
While he didn’t play in October, Adam Boqvist, 19, was recently recalled from Rockford and the excitement is real. As a person who has gotten to watch him up close, while covering the London Knights for the last couple of years, it is really special to be able to see his growth. Boqvist has gone from a small Swedish kid, who looked like he was only going to be a quick skater, to a guy who has evolved into so much more.
I was at the fan event back in Septemeber, when the ‘Hawks had team scrimmages and Adam Boqvist was the one who stood out to me the most. Even in the preseason, while it was the right choice to have Boqvist start in Rockford, he looked like he could find himself on an NHL roster this season. Then, he did just that.
Dennis Gilbert, 23, has also been getting in some games this past week after getting called up from Rockford. Gilbert started his season with the Chicago Blackhawks. He played overseas in the Prague game. You might remember him as being the defender who gave the Flyers the first goal of the NHL season.
Gilbert was sent down immediately after this game. He is back up now though, and while he has played limited time, Gilbert has looked decent. He hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t done anything to stand out neither. Which, if you are a defenseman on the Chicago Blackhawks, that’s a positive.
Other than those two getting time with the big club, Nicolas Beaudin, 20, waits for his NHL debut after getting his feet wet in the AHL for the first time. The Blackhawks will have to wait until the end of spring to get a look at defenseman Ian Mitchell, who is currently playing for the University of Denver for his junior season. Mitchell can sign a contract at the end of the NCAA season.
Kirby Dach is Here to Stay
I have been impressed so far with the play of rookie Kirby Dach. It has been a while since Blackhawks’ fans have gotten the opportunity to see a top talent grow and not know his ceiling, since, well, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The 2019 3rd overall pick only has two points in six games for the Chicago Blackhawks this season, but he has gotten more and more confident with the puck after every game that passes. Here is a play from the Flyers game the other night that shows how much confidence he is gaining.
What is special about that play is that Dach can carry the puck from the defensive zone, through the neutral zone, and create a scoring chance. There are not many players who can even carry it 5 feet without causing a turnover, like Erik Gustafsson, let alone handling the puck from end to end.
The Chicago Blackhawks need a forward who can help carry the puck out of their own zone and they may have found it in Kirby Dach. It is fun to see him do some crazy things too like toe-drag players from time to time or try and fake guys out with his lanky body. Some things that only a rookie wildcard with that much skill can pull off against guys that have no idea what to expect. Apparently, Dach is also pretty funny too. Here he is talking to the guys from the ‘Spittin’ Chiclets’ podcast on how his draft interview went with Detroit Red Wings’ GM, Steve Yzerman:
Kirby Dach is also still a child, so of course, he is out here playing with Andrew Shaw‘s hair mid-game.
All-in-all, Dach is a really good player and is, officially, going to be able to buy himself an apartment after getting the nod that he going to be staying the entire season with the big club. That doesn’t mean he will play in every game going forward, but he won’t be going down to the WHL moving forward.
The closing note here is his first NHL goal that he scored a little bit ago. The celly and smile say it all.
The elephant is here, in the room, staring us all in the face. I don’t know where to start. Do I like Brent Seabrook? I did, he was a major reason why the Blackhawks won 3 Stanley Cups in my lifetime. Do I like him now? Not really.
A lot of pucks go past him and he seems to be a defensive partner who makes everybody around him worst, and I’m talking about Maatta. For real though, I am not 100% sure what will happen to Brent Seabrook going forward. Seabrook’s comments from earlier in the week has me wondering what his future looks like as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The biggest thing I took away from that quote is the end of it:
"“I still got a lot to offer in this league and still be a good player for somebody.”"
Somebody, I am guessing who isn’t the Blackhawks, or maybe, it means playing for somebody else. Seabrook and head coach, Jeremy Colliton, have known each other for years dating back to when they were 10 and 11 years old according to Colliton, who also was smiling when he was giving a reason why he scratched Seabs. It may not be what Seabrook was talking about and maybe he was pointing at the media for painting him like he can’t play anymore.
All I know is the facts, and facts are that Brent Seabrook is due $6.875 million over the next five seasons. It seems like moving Seabrook is an impossible move for them to make, even if they were able to retain a good chunk of the salary. For the Chicago Blackhawks to move on from Seabrook, they would either likely need to swap bad contracts, trade for Loui Eriksson, or even an Andrew Ladd reunion could work.
Either way, when it comes down to it, Brent Seabrook’s contribution to this organization is unparalleled. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have the game to justify his contract anymore, which sucks, because he is one of my favorite Blackhawks and he is an amazing guy.
Alexander Nylander Update
You already know this, but as a disclaimer to everybody new to this series, I am not a Nylander fan. Moving on now. Alexander Nylander has actually been pretty decent. Not blowing up the world offensively, but has been stout defensively. This isn’t surprising considering he was known for his play without the puck before this, but the thing is he hasn’t done it at the pro level. He has done it so far this season.
There haven’t been many Nylander highlights. He has 5 points in 10 games, but he also had this beauty of a pass against the Kings as well. The Blackhawks should face LA all the time with the way they played against them that night.
For Nylander, this is the best possible start he could have imagined. While he was scratched in one game, the trading of Brendan Perlini almost solidifies that Nylander is officially part of this team.
Ideally, you would want to see him get some top 6 minutes, but he is working his way up the lineup and honing his skills on the 3rd and 4th lines. If he can keep up the consistent play, he will get his chance. The Hawks need Nylander to become a core player on this team with what they traded for him.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews
Boy, these guys are STRUGGLING. Wouldn’t you know it? If these two aren’t succeeding, the Blackhawks are not succeeding. See a trend?
Patrick Kane has one point in his last five games. Nine points in eleven games overall, and he has a -5 ± rating. Toews has TWO points in eleven games and also has a -5 ± rating. No even-strength points neither.
These guys need to step it up if they expect to get back into the race for the playoffs and out of the race for the number one overall pick in 2020. Kane and Toews have been playing together for a majority of this season with a cast of different linemates to which none have stuck.
This inconsistent start to the season hasn’t drowned the Chicago Blackhawks yet. However, they can easily win three in a row, get back to .500, and be right back in it. The only way for them to get back in it is if their leaders step up.
With Seabrook getting scratched and Keith’s game slipping, somebody in this leadership group needs to step it up, and so far through the first month, this has not been the case. With that being said, that’s it for October 2019. Hopefully, in November, we will see more W’s in the win column. Until next week, go follow me on Twitter, and attack me there!