The ABC's of the 2011-2012 Chicago Blackhawks

A: Andrew Brunette

Brunette came over in the offseason as someone who could add plenty of experience to the Hawks’ third and fourth lines.  He had played for Joel Quenneville before, so it was an easy decision for him to come to Chicago.  Much maligned for being old and slow, Bruno played all over the place.  He scored 12 goals, but was far from an impact player (not that he was expected to be).

B: Bolland, Dave

The Rat was coming into the season having played a huge role in the Blackhawks’ near incredible comeback against Vancouver in the first round of last year’s playoffs.  This year he scored 19 goals while playing a lot of second and third line center.  He netted seven on the power play, and three goals while shorthanded.  He’s been better, but Bolland had a solid season.

C: Corey Crawford

2011-2012 was Crawford’s first year as a full-time starter in the NHL, and he was coming off of a playoff series in which he was spectacular, and nearly stole the series from the Canucks.  Crawford had his ups and downs this season, but when he was good, he was really good.  For the most part, he was awesome in the playoffs…but people will long remember the two soft overtime game winners that he gave up that allowed Phoenix to take a stranglehold on the series.

D: Duncan Keith

Duncan was coming off a disappointing season, and quite frankly, he had a lot to prove.  The 2009-2010 Norris Trophy winner had a solid season, but wasn’t spectacular.  He was the ice time leader for the Hawks in both the regular season as well as the postseason, and was a decent +15 for all that ice time.  He’s the subject of a lot of hate from Vancouver fans because of his elbow on Daniel Sedin, which earned him a five game suspension.  He’s not a dirty player, though, and he’ll be back next season to be his old solid self.

E: Eddie Olczyk

We’re spoiled here in Chicago.  Not just with the Blackhawks either.  Eddie O, along with Pat Foley, make up a phenomenal television team.  Foley is a legend in this city, and Olczyk is the best color analyst in hockey, and it’s not even close.  Blackhawks fans should selfishly hope that Eddie O stays with the Blackhawks for a LONG time.

F: First-Round Series

Coming down the stretch, the Blackhawks were fighting for playoff position, but they also had no idea who they were going to play in the first round.  I said that the last team they should want to face was the Phoenix Coyotes.  Lo and behold, that’s who they get.  They went 1-2-1 against the Coyotes during the season, and Mike Smith always seemed to have their number.  Even though the first five games of the series went into overtime, which tied an NHL record, it really wasn’t that close of a series.  Mike Smith was incredible, while Corey Crawford was bad at the wrong times.  All of that added up to the Hawks heading for the golf course after six games.  That included an 0-3 record at the United Center.  Yikes.

G: Goal Differential

The sign of a good team in any sport is point/goal differential.  It’s really a simple concept.  The teams that score the most, and give up the least, usually win.  Tops in the league was Boston, at +67.  Yes, I know, they’re out of the playoffs, but they amassed 102 points during the regular season.  All eight playoff teams in the West were above ground in the goal differential department, but the Hawks had the lowest number of all at +10.  You can’t win giving up as many goals as they did (238, the most among Western Conference playoff teams, and third most among all playoff teams).

H: Hot Start

The Hawks had a great first 34 games, going 24-10-4.  That includes a great December in which they won 10 of 13, and five in a row at one point.  Whatever hot start they had, though, was completely undone by an abysmal January and February, during which they lost 17 of 27 games.  At one point they were in the conversation for the President’s Trophy, then all of the sudden they were in danger of missing the playoffs.  They rallied in the last 20 games though, to finish well inside the final eight in the West.  What could have been.

I: Injuries
The injury that affected the team the most was when Jonathan Toews went down with a concussion.  Toews didn’t play a regular season game after February 19th.  He returned for the postseason, though, and played pretty well.  With Toews in the lineup for the last quarter of the season, the Hawks may have won a few more games and been able to avoid Phoenix in the first round.  Other injuries included Patrick Sharp’s broken wrist which caused him to miss nine regular season games.  Dan Carcillo tore his ACL finishing a check (one that earned him a suspension) and missed the rest of the season after playing in just 28 games.

J: Jonathan Toews

Speaking of Toews, the Hawks’ captain was as good as ever, and probably would have put up career-high numbers had he not been sidelined with a concussion.  He put up 57 points in 59 games, so he was on pace to be right near the top of the team leaderboard for points (Hossa led the team with 77).  There isn’t much to say about Toews.  We know what he brings to the table, and we know he’s going to continue to bring it to the table.  I think the only thing to worry about with him is recurring concussions.

K: Kane, Patrick

Patrick Kane was probably the most disappointing Blackhawk, at least when it comes to the goals column (23).  Kane put up 66 points, which was well short of his preseason goal of 100.  He played much of the early part of the season at center, which was the Hawks’ answer for not acquiring a second line center during the offseason.  He’s a phenomenal passer, and he’s probably the best saucer-passer in the league.  His failure to score in the six game first round series with Phoenix will leave a bitter taste in his mouth.  Trade ideas and rumors will swirl around Kane this summer, but it would take a hugely overwhelming trade package for the Hawks to move him.

L: Leddy, Nick

Nick Leddy very well may be a very, very good defenseman for a long time in this league.  In the meantime, though, he’s going to be lumped in with the bad defensive pairing that included him and Nick Hjalmarsson.  His -21 rating is indicative of a defenseman that has some learning to do.  He’s young and talented.  I think we can expect better things from Leddy in the years to come.

M: Marian Hossa

Big Hoss was the Blackhawks leading point-getter during the regular season (77), but there were times where he seemed to disappear.  That sort of MO seems to be the norm for Hossa, so Hawks fans should get used to it.  He’ll be 34 by the end of next season, so we can’t really expect him to get much better than he already is.  We can only hope that he comes back fully healthy after the cheap shot that Raffi Torres leveled during Game 3 of the series with Phoenix.

N: Nick Hjalmarsson

Hjalmarsson is never going to be an elite defenseman, I just don’t think he’s big enough.  But he can certainly be more than serviceable.  He was paired with Nick Leddy for much of the season, before Jonny Oduya came over in a trade and took his place on the second defensive pairing.  He’ll always be known for his shot blocking, so he does bring value to the table.

O: Offense

The Hawks were tied for fifth in the league with 241 goals scored.  We knew they would be offensive-minded.  How can you not be with the top six forwards they have?  Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Viktor Stalberg all scored at least 20 goals, and Dave Bolland had 19.  The issue is finding some balance between the offense and the defense.  They also need to be better on the offensive side of special teams, which brings me to my next point….

P: Power Play

Wow…how awful was the power play this season?  It scored at just 15.2% to be exact, good for 25th in the NHL.  In the playoffs, they were 1-for-19.  Teams figured out that the Blackhawks love to try to score off the back door play from the weak side, so they jammed up the front of the net and rarely allowed the cross-ice pass to get through.  You’ll hear a lot this summer about how the Hawks need someone who can stand in front of the net and create traffic, deflect the puck, and clean up rebounds.

Q: Quenneville, Joel

How long does winning a Stanley Cup buy you?  Apparently about 18 months, as people were calling for Joel Quenneville’s job midway through a nine game losing streak in January and February.  That long skid came on the heels of a four game losing streak that began with the first game they played after the calendar turned to 2012.  Personally, I never bought into the notion that Joel Quenneville should be fired, but it was hard to ignore the noise.

R: Ray Emery

Ray Emery was brought in during the offseason to be the backup to Corey Crawford.  At some points during the season, Emery was a ton better than Crawford.  As they went down the stretch, though, Crawford stole the job away from Emery.  Emery didn’t play after April 1.

S: Sharp, Patrick; and Seabrook, Brent

I usually try to go with one name or concept per letter, but I’m making an exception here.  Both Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook were fantastic this season.  Sharp led the Hawks in goals with 33, and had a lot of big goals.  Seabrook played like a man among boys down the stretch, and had six of his nine goals in February and March.  Seabrook was also the Blackhawks most physical player leveling 198 hits to lead the team.

T: Troy Murray and John Wiedeman

I said it earlier when I wrote about Eddie Olczyk, but again, we’re so lucky in Chicago, and it’s not just with the Blackhawks’ broadcast teams.  On the radio side are Troy Murray (color analyst) and John Wiedeman (play by play).  Both guys are phenomenal broadcasters.  I say that not only as a fan, but I’m lucky enough to get to work with John and Troy as a producer at WGN Radio.  They’re incredibly good at their jobs, and their two of the nicest people I’ve met in broadcasting.  Here’s hoping they stay with the Blackhawks and WGN for a long time.

U: United Center

Usually a strong home ice advantage, the Madhouse on Madison proved to be so again as the Hawks went 27-8-6 on home ice.  I was out to a couple of games this season, though I was there for work and not as a fan, but the place is still electric.  The Hawks management has something good going, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

V: Viktor Stalberg

I have a buddy who insists that Stalberg will be an all star someday.  He was one of the Blackhawks’ five 20 goal scorers this season, but I don’t think he’s consistent enough to be an all star.  Plus, he was playing with any combination of Kane, Toews, Hossa, and Sharp this season.  Who wouldn’t benefit offensively from playing with those guys?  I saw a tweet a couple of weeks ago who described Stalberg pretty well.  His game consists of going really fast and then not getting a shot off.  His speed is an asset, but until he learns to play more under control, he won’t reach an all star level.

X: X Factor

Ya know, there really was no X Factor for the Hawks this season.  You’d think for an offensive-minded team like the Hawks are, the power play would be a strong point, but of course it wasn’t.  There wasn’t one thing that they did exceptionally well.

Y: Young Kids

One pretty consistent bright spot for the Blackhawks was the play of some of the younger kids.  Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw, and Dylan Olsen all came up and contributed nicely.  The best of the bunch was Andrew Shaw.  He had 23 points in 37 games and brought consistent energy to the ice.  The Hawks have a good deal of young talent on the way, so the future is bright.

Z: Zamboni Driver

I’ve got nothing for Z, but how cool would it be to be a Zamboni driver?

Filed under: Blackhawks, NHL

Tags: ABC's, Blackhawks, Season Review

Leave a comment