With the draft behind us and some big changes having taken their course, the Hawks are now on a path of moving pieces. While the whole transition from a team that can't make it into the playoffs, to a Stanley Cup championship team might have started with Campbell, their success does not depend on his spot in the roster. And, while Campbell's inevitable trade might be the biggest news of the weekend, it was not the only thing that happened. Let us now review the changes to the Chicago Blackhawks in recent days and look to the future.
NHL Draft in Review: Just where do the Blackhawks stand post Campbell and Brouwer?
SB is earning his paycheck if you ask me. What I see is a guy who understands the physiology of this organization and knows the path he wants to take it in. Of some of the things said by him in interviews, one thing is for sure, he believes in Leddy and Campoli. He clearly stated that he wants Leddy in a bigger role and that it was regardless of Campbell's status on the team. We will see Leddy on more power-plays and in other roles which Campbell previously owned and that is for sure. A good choice given his need for further development.
Sharp is a priority to SB and this organization. I don't really think they can say that enough. What we can expect is a quick and painless signing that probably seals his presence with the team for quite a long time. I agree with this and doubt their are many who disagree.
SB seems to be targeting players for specific roles. He made mention of wanting players who exhibited certain styles that would mesh with some of the core players. My guess, he wants to affirm some solid line combinations in the roster. That would entail finding someone to play with Hossa (or in other words, a second line center), a duo for Bolland to play with, though I think he plays well with most everybody at this point, and maybe a few big boys with speed. I am also thinking that we have not seen the last of Stalberg who shows so much promise that they are not ready to quit on him just yet.
SB mentioned looking for players who were passionate and leaders. They found Mcneil and Danault. Leaders of their respective teams in more ways than one and players who showcase a strong head on their shoulders.
Mcneil just might be that 2nd line center the Hawks are in need of, or possibly a 4th line center for the time being. Hell, he might not even skate with the Hawks this year, but he was a great grab either way. It is surprising he went late enough in the draft to even get grabbed by the Hawks. At just 18 years of age, Mcneil is a big boy at 6' 2" and 210 pounds and he led his team in scoring. He also happens to be known for his 2-way style of play (me thinks a nice fit for Hossa maybe). We shall see just how NHL ready he is soon enough.
Danault is also a center and the former captain of his last squad. I need to see more of his playing style to pass further judgement, but the kid seems like a charmer.
Clendening is a puck moving defensemen who has power-play success in his past. No surprise here, but he seems to lack a bit in the size category (again, not a surprise), not that he is small, but he isn't big either..
All of these players have one major thing in common. They are all pegged as being great 2-way players.
And now back to Campbell for a moment. Again, the flexibility that came along with his departure is priceless right now. This past year did not exactly exhibit the "perfect" team, so changes had to be made. Money had to be freed up for this and the structure of a few things had to change. Surprise, it came in the biggest price tag and the player I see as most easily replaced right now.
Honestly, I am somewhat surprised that Campbell was so liked by so many. Though I am happy for the guy. Forget his contract for a moment and I am still able to think of many instances where he wasn't the best of players on the ice and see some players who will fit better in his position. He has made many bad decisions as a puck mover and showed a lack of instinct for finding the best routes when moving through the neutral zone. There are far too many instances when he simply dumped the puck or made the wrong pass throughout his Hawk's career and many times just to avoid a hit. Sure, he was able to salvage a lot with his speed, but Hjalmer also had a hand in saving his butt far too often. If the Hawks are going to be a speed centered team that relies on their breakout and transition game, they need quicker and better passes through the neutral zone, not a guy who skates it up to the blue line and dumps it in.
Yes, we all want Keith's minutes to come down, but Seabs can also move the puck well, maybe even the best on the team at making that meaningful first pass. Campoli is an outstanding puck mover and much more aggressive than Campbell, both physically and offensively, and Leddy seems destined as well for the role too.
I am telling you, Campoli is the real deal. You might think I am crazy, but people also said that when the Hawks picked up Huet and I told them he was never going to be the starting goaltender, and when I said that Niemi will be the #1 a year later and added that he was good to win the Cup to boot. I was chased off of blogs for those exact words and look how that turned out. Just saying.
I also think that this change will be easier on Hjalmer in the end and expect a great season out of him. He took a punishment for Campbell's lack of willingness to take a hit. That kind of stuff takes it toll both mentally and physically.
Lastly, we have Brouwer. I am by far, less satisfied by this move, but like most of the fans in the world, I understand it. He may have led the team in hits, and yes I do think there is something to say that the Hawks have now traded their 3 highest hitting players away within 2 years, but Brouwer did not seem like a natural hitter to me, and I think it even took away from his game. I fully expect him to have a great year and I will still think it was the move that had to happen.
And with that we look to the future.
Prospect camp is that much more exciting now.