Blackhawks: Niklas Hjalmarsson had the right grit for defense

Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Niklas Hjalmarsson was a gritty player most teams don’t have, and Chicago Blackhawks lost that when he was traded. Seeing replays of past games shows him at his best

With all the recent replays of older games, a familiar, but the now traded player has once again graced the screen in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Hammer was probably one of the best defencemen the Blackhawks have had on the team over the last ten years, and when he was traded Chicago lost an important element to their team, grit.

It was hard to see him traded, but at the time it made sense. You couldn’t really watch him play and think, “this guy is going to have a long career.” Even recently with Arizona, he blocked a shot and broke his leg.

Yet, he somehow keeps going, and this is kind of selfless play the Blackhawks lost when they dealt Hjalmarsson.

When people talk about a gritty tough guy he’s usually with clichés such as, “he plays with an edge”, “he’s a big hitter”, or he’ll l drop the gloves to defend a teammate. This is what most people think of, but Hammer was none of these things.

He relentlessly worked his butt off and sacrificed his body to help the team. He went to the dirty areas and battled for pucks. He fought for his space on the ice. He took shot-blocking to another level. There isn’t a single player on the Chicago roster who sacrifices their body as Hjalmarsson does.

People off frame defenceman in terms of how many points they put up as an important part of their value for a team. Hammer never really scored many points. He had a career year for points in 2013-2014, scoring 4 goals and racking up 22 assists. That’s it. The offense isn’t his thing.

The defense is his game though, and that hard-nosed approach to the game was what endeared him to so many fans.

This is grit. Maybe it’s a different kind of grit, but it’s grit just the same. He was remembered for his role in their Stanley Cup successes, and he deserved it. Despite all the love for “puck-moving” defenceman, I hope the Blackhawks can isolate another player like Hjalmarsson.

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Have a favorite Hjalmarsson moment? Let us know!