Ranking the Best Blackhawks Moves this Summer
I don't want to hear a single Blackhawks fan complain about this being a "slow summer".
There shouldn't be a Hawks fan out there that should be wishing Stan Bowman did "more" this summer. Because the reality is Chicago was one of the most active teams this offseason – if not the busiest – as the Hawks will look a lot different this year vs. last season.
Some might judge Stan for trying to do too much with the number of moves he made. We'll have to see how it all plays out on the ice.
Now that the dust has settled a bit, I wanted to take the time to rank the top 5 moves that Stan and the Blackhawks made this summer.
I'm judging these moves for the short-term and the long-term. I'm working the latter into my rankings because I think a lot of these moves were made with the future in mind.
5) Calvin de Haan – Last summer, I was screaming from a mountaintop, "SIGN DE HAAN!!!" in hopes that Stan Bowman would hear me. He did not. Or what he heard was "BRANDON MANNING IS GOOD".
To me, de Haan was EXACTLY what the Hawks needed. He was a LHD that had top 4, shutdown capabilities. I know he's had some shoulder issues in the past (and an injury currently rehabbing) but I was willing to take the risk. Now, the Hawks have him on their team and I believe he will be the most instrumental newcomer to helping the defence settle down in their own end.
4) Dominik Kubalik – The trade to acquire Kubalik went under the radar, however, as time went on, it was looking like a really smart move.
The soon-to-be 24-year old is… well, almost 24. He's not a "kid" and has some professional experience. As we all know, the 6'2 winger led the Swiss hockey league in scoring (57 points in 50 games) and looked every bit the part of an NHLer in the World Championships (12 points in 10 games) playing for the Czech Republic against some quality competition.
This was all on international ice but he has played on North America rinks previously with 0.50 point-per-game (63 points in 126 games) as a 17-18-year-old. This is encouraging that he is familiar with the ice and culture here, so his transition shouldn't be a difficult one.
He is listed as a LW but I still think his game screams RW. If he can hit the ground running he should find his way into the top 9.
Even though Kubalik's only on a one-way (925k) contract, I really like this move long-term. Unless he lights the world on fire, his next contract should be a modest one. However, if he does over-perform, he becomes an asset for a trade or a cheaper replacement for a guy like Brandon Saad.
3) Kirby Dach – I have admitted that I didn't think Dach was going to be the pick for Chicago with their 3rd overall selection.
Since he's become a Blackhawk and has been showing everyone why he was worthy of a top 3 pick.
Dach still has a way to go to prove he belongs in the NHL but he's taking steps in the right direction.
Whether Dach plays in the NHL this year or next, he still makes my list at #3 as I believe this selection will help the Hawks so much in the future. With Toews, Strome and Dach as the centremen in Chicago for the next 5+ years, they will be in a position to compete down the middle with the best in the west; that is if Toews can keep up his play and Strome can show he is the real deal.
2) Andrew Shaw – After hearing comments and watching video from the Fan Convention this year, you get a sense that Andrew Shaw is a welcomed addition back in Chicago.
Sure, he's older and has a kid but he's still the same guy. Even though since his last tour of duty in Chicago so many new faces will be present in the locker room come September – Shaw brings an intangible skill set of keeping the room loose while elevating everyone's compete level on the ice. This is a unique trait that every team needs and one that the Hawks desperately desire.
While some didn't like the price the Hawks paid for Shaw, I for one, was thrilled to see #65 back in the Indianhead. He's still in his prime and will be an integral part of this Blackhawks team for at least the next couple of years.
1) Robin Lehner – You can't win in the playoffs without great goaltending. Yes, I used the "P" word.
Lehner comes in at #1 on my list as I believe finding the heir to the Hawks net was vital this season. I like Collin Delia and think Kevin Lankinen could be an NHLer one day, but they are not Corey Crawford level.
The thing is, due to injuries, Corey Crawford might only be Corey Crawford for one more year.
I would love nothing more than to have Crow come up huge this year with a rebound year health and performance-wise, however, the reality is that he's 35 years old and is no longer the future in net for Chicago.
Lehner, on the other hand, comes in at 28 years old on a 1-year deal and has a chance to earn himself a 5-6 year contract with Chicago (or elsewhere) if he plays well in his outings this season.
I firmly believe that the Hawks have been looking for their next goalie and probably didn't think they would find it until next summer when BOOM, Lehner fell into their laps.
Lehner's profile and history is something that I can see is extremely appealing to the Blackhawks and this move to me signifies that they have found their netminder for the long(ish)-term future.
He obviously has to play well in Chicago but I wouldn't be shocked to see him extended at some point this season.
We have all seen what spotty goaltending has done to the Hawks the last couple of season when Crawford has been out. And we've all seen what elite goaltending has done for the Hawks when Crow was healthy and on his game. I was getting worried that the Hawks would be in the Philadelphia Flyers level of goaltending search abyss after this season if they weren't able to secure a solid tender.
Now with Lehner and Crawford, the Hawks host one of the most deadly tandems in the league (when healthy). So, there's a lot to love for the short-term and for all the reasons listed above, there's a lot to love for the long(ish)-term.
Sorry for the lack of commenting on the message boards lately, the cottage has been great but the wifi is not.
I'll be back with another article this week. When? Who knows… probably Friday… I'm living that cottage life right now so once I finish this beer, I'll figure out my next blog.
See ya out there,