The title of this blog could be alluding to the entire 2018-19 Chicago Blackhawks right now.
They are coming off of their 7th straight win as they took down the Detroit Red Wings in a Sunday matinee by a score of 5-2.
It could be referring to the entire team but I actually wanted to take a different approach and "these guys" are actually the newcomers who joined the Blackhawks at some point this year.
Re-read the title and then think about the situations where the following players arrived from: Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini, Drake Caggiula, Slater Koekkoek and I'm going to add in Carl Dahlstrom as well.
(Courtesy of CapFriendly's nifty GM profile tool)
I know a lot of us (myself included) rag on Stan Bowman for his meek demeanour and passive ways, however, when reviewing that it's simply not true. His decision to seek assets, while helping his own situation out is evident with the trades in November, December and January; what's February got in store for Bowman?
Amidst this winning streak, I've noticed something. It's almost a Vegas Golden Knights "rejection mentality" vibe with this entire team. While I still think it's more likely than not that the Hawks miss the playoffs, they do have this "I'm-a-show-you" swagger about them and I think it's guys like Strome, Caggiula and Co. listed above that are big contributors to that.
Let me dive deeper:
– the 21-year-old was a highly touted player coming out of the OHL that led to him being drafted 3rd overall by the Coyotes in 2015.
He struggled to live up to this status in the desert and it might not have been his fault. In 3 years, Strome only suited up for 48 games for Arizona and was used sparingly during this time. He had just 16 points and an average of 13:18 TOI.
Fast forward to his time in Chicago, he's been primarily used as the 2nd line centre and put in very palatable position to succeed alongside Patrick Kane and now his best buddy, Alex DeBrincat. He's got himself up to 30 points in 32 games and it's average 17:18 per game.
Not only is he showing up on the score sheets but also he's winning over the Chicago fan base and appears to be etching himself in long-term conversations. I can only guess he's loving Chicago and is planning on being here for a long time.
– has left the disaster that is Edmonton. He chose to sign there out of college but Chicago and Minnesota were also on his list.
I personally followed the kid since his NCAA days at University of North Dakota where is played on a line with Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser which ended up being the main reason they won a national championship in 2016.
He might be a little bummed out that Schmaltz was traded a month before he arrived in Chicago, but I imagine he got over it quickly.
Caggiula wasn't showing up on the stat sheet much off the start when he arrived, however, one thing was always evident – his effort. He would toss his body into anyone (30 hits in first 12 games) and had a very spirited fight with Ben Lovejoy which landed him the below photo on Elite Prospects:
That picture of him in a Chicago jersey makes me happy. This guy is now playing with a couple of his idols in Toews and Kane and has been such a compliment to that line. He's the exact type of spark plug player the Hawks have been missing since Shaw. Give me 4 more Caggiula's please, Stan.
– this guy couldn't crack the elite Tampa Bay Lightning lineup which has been a great team since he was drafted in 2012. He's actually only seen the ice 90 times in the NHL throughout 5 seasons.
Bowman acquired him in which appeared to simply be a Jan Rutta dumping. Rutta had been sent to the minors and TB must have seen enough in him to call Stan about him. That or, they saw what Michal Kempny did for Washington last year and thought they were hosing the Hawks.
Rutta hasn't dressed yet in Tampa (and might never will) while Koekkoek has been in 6 games for Chicago. I will admit, while I wasn't too sure what to expect from the former 10th overall pick, his physicality and defensive play is rubbing off on me. He is playing for a contract but more than anything he's playing hockey in the NHL and he must be one happy camper.
– he's been the target by most since he joined the Hawks as a "worthless" player. I will admit when this CHI/ARI trade took place, I was really excited the Hawks were able to pry Perlini away from the ‘Yotes. From what I had seen of him, primarily vs. Chicago, he was big, fast and dangerous offensively.
So, not sure what's happened, but he's been in-and-out of the lineup and has not impressed me since he arrived. Still, I think there's room for him to get it going as he's playing for a contract as well.
He played on a line with Kruger and Saad on Sunday afternoon and that line had some dominant shifts. I would like him to use his body a little more and I think if coached properly could be a very effective 2-way bottom 6 (with the ability to bump up to a top line) for this team. The coaching staff needs to instruct this guy to keep it simple… oh and that he's not Patrick Kane. I still have faith that he's a very strong player for this team once he gets into a groove.
– I know he didn't come from another organization, but good for Stan to listen to Jeremy Colliton to pull this guy up from Rockford. Dahlstrom wasn't actually playing that well in the AHL and should have been the 3rd or 4th D called up but Colliton trusted his instincts and put in a good word for the big Swede.
He's been a staple on the Hawks blueline and might have just earned himself a one-way ticket/contract to Chicago for the foreseeable future.
Great work all around by the GM, coaching staff and players for this team.
As it stands right now, the Hawks would be drafting 10th overall. That's not ideal considering they were in the running for a top 3-5 pick just a few weeks ago.
I know some are in the camp of "just let them keep winning and if they make the playoffs, that's a great experience".
Sure, it's a great experience and it would round out one hell of a season if they were able to make it into the post-season. I will remain bullish on the fact though that this team will just be good enough to get into the playoffs and maybe… just maybe win a series once in a while. This will be the nauseating performance of this team for the next 3-5 years… UNLESS they can get a game changer in the draft.
That's how the Hawks get back to Championship level and they better do it quick the way Toews and Kane are playing.
The Hawks sit 4 points out of the last Wild Card spot and play Boston on Tuesday. That will be Chris Kunitz's 1,000th career game. I know he's a punching bag on this team now, but a hell of a career for a warrior. We would have all loved this dude 5+ years ago!
See ya out there,