Chicago Blackhawks Player Grades: Nick Foligno was the leader this team needed

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks did not officially list Nick Foligno as the team's captain, but that did not mean he was not the leader.

The veteran emerged as the unofficial captain of the club. He formed a figurative father-son relationship with rookie phenom Connor Bedard. It was needed after Taylor Hall was lost for the season early on with a knee injury and Corey Perry's contract was terminated after an off-ice issue.

Being the unofficial captain is what earned Foligno a two-year contract extension. Hopefully, he will be the official captain next season. The speculation has always been for Bedard to get the C at some point in his career. He should first focus on continuing to improve his game to where he is leading the Hawks to the Stanley Cup much like Patrick Kane did.

Foligno's leadership is a big reason why he earned an A for his 2023-24 season.

Foligno was also still productive even though he was 36 this season. He scored 17 goals and registered 20 assists. Obviously, it is a far cry from his career year in 2014-15 when he had 73 points. He was still a player willing to go to the front of the net or skate to the boards to win a puck battle.

You could make a case for two performances as being his best game. He picked up three assists at Tampa Bay in early November. Little did we know at the time, but the Hawks would go months with a road win after beating the Lightning an early November night thanks in part to Foligno's playmaking.

He also notched two goals and an assist early in December against the Nashville Predators.

Foligno missed some time in January after a hand injury suffered in a fight after defending the honor of Bedard after Connor's jaw was broken. Head coach Luke Richardson wants to install a culture of playing the right way for the young Blackhawks and Foligno has helped him do that.

It was not all sunshine and rainbows for Foligno this season. Nick did not have a great April as he finished with just an assist. The leadership and the willingness to do the dirty work are the reasons Foligno gets such a high grade for this season.