UA-59049186-1 Answering the Blackhawks' Off-season Questions - Good if it Goes

Answering the Blackhawks’ Off-season Questions

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Chicago Tribune writers Chris Kuc and Chris Hine posted an article answering six questions about this off-season for the Blackhawks. I thought their answers mostly sucked, so I’m going to answer them better.

1.How concerned should Hawks fans be about Jonathan Toews?

They said: Toews struggling in the playoffs was concerning, but when he was healthy and on, he was fine.

The correct answer is: Not at all. The Hawks spent the 2015-16 season searching for someone to fill Brandon Saad‘s shoes at 1LW and never really found that guy. That was the story for the early part of this past season, then Nick Schmaltz emerged and what do you know, Toews’ offensive production went up. Then Schmaltz didn’t get the memo about the playoffs starting and the Toews’ line was put up against Nashville’s top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson, and Toews’ offensive production went back down. Even during the not-so-productive stretches, there’s nobody in the league I would trade Jonathan Toews for. Nobody. Toews plays the best 200-foot game of any forward in the league and is the best leader the game has seen since Mark Messier and when all is said and done, could be considered the greatest ever in that category. He raises the game of everyone around him (see: Schmaltz’s emergence this year), but in the playoffs against the other team’s top line, he needs someone next to him to show up. Nobody did last year and nobody did this year. Making matters worse, the depth that helped the Hawks get to 109 points was nowhere to be found and when teams don’t respect your lower lines, they can load up against your top lines.

2. What is the biggest change the Hawks need to make on the ice?

They said: Get younger and quicker on defense.

The correct answer is: What they said. They got this one right. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook both looked a step slow. Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell just looked old. Gustav Forsling is an exciting prospect, Ville Pokka played well in Rockford this year, and I wouldn’t write off Michal Kempny just yet. That said, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if the Hawks made a move here.

3. Which popular player could be traded this summer?

They said: Marcus Kruger.

The correct answer is: If you said Marcus Kruger, you were wrong. He was never popular. I like Marcus Kruger a lot. He may not be an offensive juggernaut, but he’s responsible with the puck, plays very good defense, and is a great penalty killer. But as for popularity, Patrick Sharp or Brandon Saad he ain’t. Now, I do think it’s likely Kruger is done in Chicago. He’s a great asset for a team to have in their bottom six, but right now, he looks like a luxury the Hawks can’t afford. I see three potential answers to this question, though they all have no-movement clauses that would need to be waived. 1) Artem Anisimov, if Tanner Kero can be the guy at 2C or the team can still put together a high-level second line if they were to put Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Toews. 2) Brent Seabrook, if they can get a capable younger defenseman in return. 3) Corey Crawford, if the “ifs” from parts 1 and 2 can’t be met. I think the team can get the biggest haul for Crawford, who’s 31 and on a deal that looks pretty good in today’s goalie market. And the team has a very good replacement in Scott Darling. So Crawford, great as he is, would be my pick. I think Anisimov is the most likely, though.

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4. What should the Blackhawks do about their goaltending?

They said: Keep Crawford.

The correct answer is: Trade Crawford. He’s a great goalie, but could net a better return than anyone else the Hawks could trade and has a better replacement available than anyone else the Hawks could trade. When Crow was healthy and on his game, he was excellent. When he wasn’t, he was still good, though not the elite goalie the Hawks need him to be. I think it’s fair to wonder how much of the elite stuff he has left. I’m not suggesting he’ll start stinking tomorrow, but how many more elite years can we expect from him before he starts declining? Meanwhile, trading one of the other two guys I talked about about would mean either counting on Trevor van Riemsdyk to be your 3rd-best defenseman or counting on Tanner Kero at 2C (Kaner and the Bread Man need their center to have a little more bite to his game than Schmaltz has) or losing significant balance in your lines by putting Kane and Panarin with Toews. I won’t fault Stan Bowman if he decides to stick with Crawford one bit, but my choice would be to go with Darling, who has shown he’s more than capable.

5. What’s going to happen in the expansion draft?

They said: The Hawks will lose someone, likely Kruger or TvR.

The correct answer is: I mean, it’s what they said, but what they said essentially amounts to a big “dunno,” so I’ll try to be more precise than that. I don’t think it will be TvR. After the playoff series we just saw, I’m sure Stan Bowman sees that the team needs to get younger and quicker on the back end, so I highly doubt they’ll let go a young defenseman who has become more responsible, has playoff experience, and was one of the team’s better players during that debacle of a playoff series. My official guess is that it will be Kruger, especially since I don’t think his cap hit will be a problem for Vegas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Hawks swing a trade sending a prospect or draft pick to Vegas to not lose anyone on the roster.

6. What changes will the Blackhawks make off the ice?

They said: Norm McIver and Kevin Dineen could go elsewhere to become a GM and a head coach, respectively.

The correct answer is: What they said. It’s not time to hit the panic button. Not even close. Not on the ice and certainly not off it. You don’t get 109 points by accident. I think some tinkering with the defensive corps is necessary, but as far as the forwards go, it’s a matter of waiting for the young guys to mature. I think this series was eye-opening for those guys and given another chance next year, they’ll be ready.

Twitter: @KSchroeder_312

E-mail: schroeder.giig@gmail.com

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