There's a theory that it takes a defenceman in the NHL 250 games to really hit their stride and play a complete, consistent and responsible game.
Sure, people can point to the outliers like Aaron Ekblad and Charlie McAvoy who stepped in as teenagers and played big minutes. However, if you asked fans or media on the Panthers and/or Bruins, they would point out that those guys made (and are still making) mistakes that we yell at Jordan Oesterle for.
The point is, playing defence in the NHL is damn hard. It's only getting more difficult as the speed of the game and strength of these players increase. Not only do the young defence in the league have to be just as strong to battle in the corners, but more than ever do they need to know what "a good gap" and an "active stick" is.
Steve Konroyd brought up the 250 game "rule" for defence on Saturday afternoon when the Hawks took on the Sabres. That gots me thinking; if the Hawks D need that many games and it's universally known that approximately this level of experience is needed, then what is the plan here Stan?
Here are the current 6 defenders (+ Forsling) that are all signed into next year:
Duncan Keith (34) – 986 reg. games / 126 playoff
Brent Seabrook (32) – 995 reg. games / 123 playoff
Connor Murphy (24) – 325 reg. games / 0 playoff
Gustav Forsling (21) – 79 reg. games / 0 playoffs (171 to go = 2.08 seasons)
Erik Gustafsson (26) – 67 reg. games / 5 playoff (178 to go = 2.17 seasons)
Jordan Oesterle (25) – 72 reg. games / 0 playoff (178 to go = 2.17 seasons)
Jan Rutta (27) – 49 reg. games / 0 playoff (201 to go = 2.45 seasons)
So what do we have here? 2 super vets with almost 1,000 games, Connor Murphy who's played a ton of hockey for only being 24 years old, and 4 defencemen that need about 2+ seasons to hit their 250th game.
I'm being a little cheeky here with the 250 game mark, but I'm once again being critical of the Hawks management and what their vision is for this backend.
I get they want younger, mobile dmen that can make a good first pass. However, there's someone to be said to get a strong, experienced (someone 250+ games at least) to help lead this group by example by playing defence the right way.
I'm not saying I have an answer of who this mystery man (or men) is but it just further highlights my theory that Stan needs to spend some money for an Ian Cole (450 games) or Calvin de Haan (320 games) type. Because the scary part is that those 2 guys with almost 1,000 games above are slowing down (1 of them a lot more than the other) and potential future Top 4 Dmen in Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are 2-3 years away and obviously have 0 experience.
So maybe it is a 2-year plan, as illustrated above and the top 4 will be occupied by a 36-year old Duncan Keith, Gustav Forsling, Gustafsson and Connor Murphy… or some combination of that. Then add that the rest of the core has 2 more years pass them by so hopefully Debrincat, Schmaltz and Hinostroza are leading the way up there.
As you can see, there is a lot of work to do and a lot of tough decisions that need to be made with this team. Stan has to be very calculated because if he wants to get this team back to contender status, he's going to need savvy moves and a lot of luck.
See ya out there!
Blackhawks: Oh yeah, there were a couple games this weekend. The Hawks lost both of them (#Fallin4Dahlin). On Saturday afternoon they let a game slip away 5-3. Then last night, they lost 5-4 in OT to the Blues. Once again, standard stuff from your 2017-18 Chicago Blackhawks.
NCAA Tournament: The Blackhawks are very well represented in this year's Frozen Four tournament Sikura, Shea, Krys, Starrett, Gilbert, Barratt, Hillman & Mitchell. Be sure to follow along, especially to see how Northeastern does (wink, wink).
IceHogs: The ‘Hogs lost in OT on Friday in Grand Rapids, but were able to sneak out a 3-2 win in Chicago on Saturday. Their road trip continues as they play tonight in Iowa.
Rockford current sits 5th in their division but there are only 5 points that separate them from the 2nd place Chicago Wolves. With just 12 games remaining, it looks like it will a photo-finish in the Central.
Also, the IceHogs have signed forward Kyle Maksimovich to an ATO. Maksimovich is a former teammate of Alex Debrincat and Darren Raddysh with the Erie Otters. I like the strategy to grab more players out of the CHL. It's been a league that has been overlooked for whatever reason by the Hawks in years past, however recently they have been drafting (Jokiharju) and signing (Highmore) players from these leagues.
Debrincat: Finally, congrats to the kid they call "The Cat". He's far exceeded my expectations this year and even though this season hasn't gone well for the Hawks, he has been a bright spot. Last night was his 3rd hat trick (!!!) of the season, only the 8th rookie ever to accomplish this and 2nd U.S. born player (next to future Hawks coach Tony Granato, I kid).