With the Cup safely stationed in Boston and the year finally closed, we can now get back to talking about all things Blackhawks. The ending of the 2010-11 season brought back many thoughts on the Hawks. I was reminded about how close they really were to eliminating the Canucks in the 1st round, the many concerns and celebrations leading up to that series and how it finally came to a close.
Player Eval #3: Chris Campoli
It ended with a turnover by Campoli to Kesler in OT and I doubt it has been the defining moment for Chris, but it was all too fitting of an ending for the Hawks this year. With that said, I think we all expect more out of this club in the 2011-12 season and much of their success will start with looking at what they have, and then making the necessary changes. The talent on this team is overflowing and some hard choices need to be made when much of that talent fell short this year.
A 7th round selection in the 2004 draft by the Islanders, Campoli had a very strong rookie season. On top of that, he has also earned a few humanitarian awards. A groin injury sidelined him for the following year and also stunted his progression into the NHL. Most recently, Campoli found his way to the Blackhawks with the need to fill a hole in the 6th D spot. He came from Ottawa for a conditional 2nd round pick and Ryan Potulny.
I don't think anyone would argue that it was a trade that went in Chicago's favor. Looking for a 5-6 spot guy, I think the Hawks found someone who can play in the top 4. From the get go, Campoli looked to be very happy in a Hawk's uniform and his offensive skills were quite present. A huge fan of Hendry, I was quickly turned to a belief in Campoli's skill and felt like he was the better player by far. Not only did he come and find success in the Hawk's system of play, he did it within a struggling defense. I went to the UC early in his Hawk's career and witnessed more than one moment when Keith could be seen yelling at Campoli and even Leddy, though every interview showed a pleasant and determined human being who wanted to help make the Blackhawks a stronger force in the NHL.
In his 20 games as a Hawk, he recorded 7 points and was a +3. He seemed to fit into every situation the Hawks wanted him to. He saw some PP and PK time, moved around a bit in the D units and showed explosive speed, which allowed him to pinch and get back in time to cover. The largest concern with his acquirement was his size. We all know the Hawks need a big man on D who can move quickly, but Campoli is not small by any means at 6', 200 pounds and he showed a great comfort physically. I actually felt like he was the Hawk's most physical D-man towards the end there.
His ability to move the puck and sneak in the back door could have been used more effectively if you ask me. I don't think we saw the best of what Campoli can offer. I pride myself on recognizing the players who's skating abilities are at the top of the game and Campoli is one of them. In many ways, I think he can be the Campbell that we had all hoped for and at a much lower price tag.
With Crawford signed, Campoli is a huge priority in my eyes. Yes, I think the Hawks need some size, but I am a firm believer that it is not completely necessary either. If the Hawks get really good at the system they were trying to create, I think Campoli fits in extremely well, can take some of the much needed minutes off of Keith's back and provide an effective physical presence while being a great puck mover and offensive threat. His surgery makes him a tad less marketable, but that just might help the Hawks sign him at a fair price. There is much to talk about in his eventual signing. I think that it will hold a bearing on the status of other players, especially in the D. Hjammer, Leddy, and Campbell more specifically. I say sign him and figure it out as the season progresses.
My final Grade, and this is going on only 20 games of play, is an A-. One might expect a higher grade based on what I just wrote, but that bad turnover and lingering questions given his short time with the Hawks hold me to slightly below an A. Give him something to work towards. Besides that one turnover, I have a really hard time thinking of a moment when he didn't play the puck extremely well, and he performed brilliantly on a brand new team who was obviously frustrated. Lets see what he can do with more time and comfort. I expect much more point production in the future.