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Siren Song

June 15, 2021, 3:21 AM ET [277 Comments]
Theo Fox
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Offensively gifted rearguards are highly coveted and exciting to watch. The last Blackhawks defenseman to bring that type of energy and fire was Erik Gustafsson but it was short lived as his breakout 2018-19 campaign was an isolated incident.

General manager Stan Bowman needs to think long and hard about whether it's worth it to trade away futures -- instead of gaining more of them -- in exchange for a high-end blueliner, especially if said player is being sought to be the #1 defenseman.

In that case, if the Hawks must spend precious capital on a marquee defenseman, go after Seth Jones and not Dougie Hamilton. Tyson Barrie has also occasionally come up in conversation but it's preferred that the Hawks steer clear of him, too.

Why say no to Hamilton and Barrie? A #1 defenseman needs to be the team's best all-around player at that position which means actually excelling in their own end. If a #1 is to be deficient in an area, be lacking offensively rather than defensively.

You don't have to tell a Blackhawks fan twice that Gustafsson was horrid in the defensive zone. While better in comparison, Hamilton is no defensive stalwart either. Same goes for Barrie who may be somewhere between Gustafsson and Hamilton.

Gustafsson has also been nowhere near the caliber of a #1 defenseman. Hamilton has never been a #1 either being behind the likes of Zdeno Chara in Boston, Mark Giordano in Calgary, and Jaccob Slavin in Carolina. Ditto for Barrie in Denver, Toronto, and Edmonton.

Some advanced metrics do point to Jones declining in his performance while Hamilton being better in comparison. The eye test, though, says differently in many cases. Jones is a tough customer in the back end whereas Hamilton isn't synonymous with locking it down.

Any stats -- gross or advanced -- have their place in evaluating players but also need to be supplemented with observations by watching games. It's not easy to measure hustle or compete level with metrics which are traits where Jones shines over Hamilton.

Furthermore, Jones' recent struggles could possibly be a factor of no longer clicking with the systems run by the Blue Jackets. Yet, this also assumes Jones would want to move to another organization where he has better fit with the systems run by that team.

Would that be under head coach Jeremy Colliton? Would Jones -- or even Hamilton, Barrie, or any other new defender -- thrive in the systems run by the Hawks coaching staff? Or would they have difficulty like the current D personnel in Chicago?

In the end, it's again recommended that the Hawks avoid mortgaging the future to obtain a high-priced defenseman to serve as the team's #1. Aim for Jones if a favorable deal can be negotiated but that seems unrealistic given the demand for his services.

The Hawks do need to find a new #1 whether that's grooming one in house or securing one on the market. But don't get lured by the temptation of offense when #1 defensemen earn their status by being brilliant at what the position title implies: defending.

While there is doubt that Chicago youngsters Adam Boqvist, Wyatt Kalynuk, Ian Mitchell, or Nicolas Beaudin are #1 material, it's also too early to write them off. Same goes for Alex Vlasic and Wyatt Kaiser plus any blueliners picked in future drafts.

Keep in mind that the aforementioned Giordano went undrafted and worked his way up the ranks in the Flames organization to be not only their #1 but also a Norris Trophy winner in 2019. He's cut from a different cloth but still an example that all is not lost.

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