Sympathy For the Devil's Deal; Eval #4 Brian Campbell

This is an odd way to start a review, but it seems to be an inseparable
piece of any discussion about Brian Campbell; he makes a
lot of money and nobody but him is happy about
that. As a self proclaimed Campbell apologist, I believe Campbell has
brought and will continue to bring skills that fit specifically well
with this team. Be that as it may, I can't produce a list of positives
that warrant a 7.14 million a year salary. Any grade that factors in
what he makes with his measurable stats is going to be low except
perhaps in comparison to other highly paid players. Part of being an
apologist though means that I overlook that unpleasant stat and the
unfortunate bind it has contributed to in terms of the cap. Should we
overlook what Campbell makes in grading him? I say yes because the
salary of Brian Campbell in part is the price you pay when your team
badly and you have big visions of QUICKLY moving from being that
team that sucks to being that team that wins a Stanley Cup. After
decades of misery and miserlyness and zero cups, Brian Campbell's
salary is what it took to both get a big free agent to come here and to
send a
message to the league that the Hawks were coming back. As an added
bonus, Brian Campbell can actually play hockey and in my
opinion has delivered essential things the Hawks would not have won a
cup without. Now that I have put that disclaimer in
there, let's talk about this year.

On the down side- For two years now, Campbell has not been a
durable guy. After playing a full season when he got here, he fell to
68 games last year and 65 this year. In both cases I can't say it's his
fault, but considering his age and size ( 32, 6ft 190lbs) I do worry
that we will see more of this. In general, I think Campbell gets
rag-dolled pretty easily by bigger forwards and it's not like they are
getting any smaller. I don't think this happened any more this year
then last, but enough that I do remember seeing it happen. Offensively,
Campbell scored 7, 7 and 5 goals in the last three years and his total
points of 27 this year were only half of what he racked up in his first
year with the team. Again, he only played 65 games this year, but that
still says to me that Campbell is becoming less of an offensive threat
on a team that is offensively minded with it's defensive scheme. There
is a positive trade off with  this, but more on that in a minute.
Lastly on the down side, I felt that Campbell was struggling as the
year wore on and that He and Hammer were not the same pair they were
last year. Last year, I thought they complemented each other very well
while this year not so much. Alternately one seemed to be playing
better then the other, but I think each had their own issues in dealing
with what was a significantly less talented team then the year before.

On the plus side- Whereas Campbell's offensive numbers on goals
scored has been constant and his assists have been going down, his +/-
numbers have been increasing while his penalty minutes have been
dropping. To me, this suggests Campbell is falling into a consistent
defensive mindset and at a minimum is rarely hurting you when he isn't
offensively. For some perspective sake, Keith had 7 goals and 38
assists for a total of 45 points and was a -1 for the season and played
82 games. Campbell played 65, scored 5 goals, had 22 assists for 27
points but ended up a +28 for the year with 6 minutes in penalties.
Those numbers, to me are very solid for a second pairing guy.
Physically, Campbell is never going to be that big guy who slams people
around and that doesn't sit well with some folks who like those big ass
hits. But let's be honest here, the rest of the team is not spending
it's time slamming people around either. Campbell, when he came here,
helped begin the "puck control" paradigm that Bowman looks to have
every intention of continuing. To me, I simply do not believe that if
the Hawks did find a taker for his salary that they could magically go
out and get someone with his skill set for < 3 million dollars.
While age works against him to some degree, he is also a very well
traveled D man who has now won a cup and comparatively was one of the
few guys I saw in interviews this and last year who seemed to speak
with maturity. Until the up and coming D guys become the up guys, I
believe Campbell is going to continue to be a dependable, solid D that
is perhaps overpaid. More on the money below.

So what's my grade? Well, considering I don't put his salary into
the mix, I give him a very solid B+. Numbers are not everything, but
his are very good and he's shown a considerable degree of consistency
since coming here. Like I said above, he's seldom hurting you on the
ice when he isn't producing offensively which was not something that
could be said all the time of Keith (or Seabrook for that matter) this
year. Despite age, he can still skate and still take the puck deep on
rushes while still taking care of his primary responsibility. People
are still not going to like his cap hit and I get that, but I think
there is some perspective to consider here. Compared to others,
Campbell's contract is honest. His salary is his cap hit. Keith's cap
hit is 5.5 mil, but this year he was paid 8mil and will make that this
coming year and the year after that. In terms of cap hit, Brian
Campbell is second behind Chara. In actual salary paid, he falls to
fourth behind Keith, Chara and Pronger and is only slightly ahead of
Phaneuf and Timonen who will each be paid 7 mil. Moneywise, Campbell is never going to be worth his cap hit. For  a second pair D though, I think his on ice performance is where it needs to be. 

Results may vary. 

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  • Campbell is that really, really talented student that your school tries really hard to get into your class. He looks good on paper, shows outstanding skills and promise and will help your school look better. Then you get him in and he just does acceptable work. In the beginning you ask if it is you who has somehow managed to put a damper on his abilities, but then realize that he seems to lack motivation and guts.
    Campbell's +/- is a bit misleading and this is where Hjalmer comes in, because I guarantee that it drops without a solid D-man like him by his side. Then you look at when Campbell gets his ice time. He is not usually the shut down guy who plays against the other team's top line, nor does he see as much PK time as other defensemen. He doesn't ever block shots, never gets in other players heads, and rarely makes the big play.
    The fact remains that Campbell can skate like the best of them and his speed helps him greatly, but he also shies away from hits, puts his D-pairing in danger far too often with dump off passes to avoid sticky situations and has not taken any chances offensively with the puck and there have been many opportunities to. He is an underachieving student in my eyes, pure and simple. You have to grade on an individual basis and since his talent is so high, he does not meet expectations in my book.

  • My biggest complaint with Campbell has to do with how he gets ragdolled and pushed off pucks. He cannot go into a corner and outwork a bigger opponent and in my opinion, doesn't bother to try because he knows he can't do it. He makes that occasional open ice hit, but relies very heavily on his ability to skate and spin away from other players to do his job. He is not a lunchbox Defenseman like Hammer, Keith, or Seabrook. I think your analogy about the underperforming student has some merit. He can skate and has nice hands, but as a defenseman, he does not put fear into anyone.

    Hammer is the defensive defenseman with snarl that Campbell is not. Hammer sacrifices the body, plays shut down on PK, but is not the two way thinking guy Campbell is. Where Campbell tries to finess, Hammer does as his name implies. I took a look at the NHL's stat page and did some comparison there. When it came playoff time, it was Soupy and Keith who played the most by a long shot. Campbell had more even strength time, played more shifts then Keith and by the end of the playoffs, Keith and Campbell had played at least fifty minutes more then the next nearest D. Regular season, even with playing 15 fewer games, Campbell still ended the year with more total ice time then Hammer. Unquestionably, Hammer is the PK guy that Campbell is not, while Campbell is the PP guy that Hammer is not. To me, Campbell and Hammer are two guys with very different approaches which I think works well for them. After winning the cup, I don't think any Hawks D man lived up to his potential. I think Campbell can play better in the same way that all the D can play better then they did this year. Looking at what Campbell's best attributes are though, speed and hands, we are never going to get lunchbox action out of him.

  • Interesting comments about the Soup. Couple of numbers we all should be aware of. 64.3 and 48.3 as in millions. They are the cap ceiling and cap floor. As of this afternoon, the Hawks and eleven other teams are above the cap floor. The team with the deepest pockets is 7 million below the floor with 16 players signed. If the Hawks are every going to get out of wearing the millstone that is Soup's contract. Now is the time. I don't know about you, but I really think he would look good in blue and white...


  • BW, Florida is something like 29M below the cap floor. That's right, the cap floor. They have only 11 players signed. Since Tallon was the one to sign him in Chicago maybe, just maybe, Soup would waive the NMC.

    Great Synopsis, HH. Very well written. I'm on board with the B+ as I always expect some of his flash and dash to pay off in goals and more points. It may never be the case but his ability to skate the puck out of trouble his invaluable.
    Rag-dolled, indeed, he gets a lot of that, which is why I'm forever clamoring for more toughness on the back end. While Hammer may hit, he is not feared by opponents. Same for Campoli. Seabrook, on the other hand, will leave with second thoughts

  • I really love this debate. Campbell has been a subject of conversation in my circle since his signing and I have taken a bunch of heat for my views of his contribution to the team. I really think that one has to look at the type of minutes that he logs on the ice. He is out there for the majority of the power-plays, and the Hawks produced during those minutes helping his numbers move up, while Hjalmer logged more PK minutes, which are more grueling and tend to hurt ones numbers. You could argue that Campbell is the reason for success on the PP, but I am not inclined to think it was enough to defend keeping him around.
    Beaver and Feather are right, if he ever goes, now is the time to make that move, especially when there is ample talent (his type of talent) to replace or fill his role. Don't get me wrong, Campbell is a great guy, and a skilled player. He apparently brings something to the locker room and has his charity work, but Campoli seems to be that kind of guy too. Campbell is great at getting the puck from blue-line to blue-line, but he rarely went any further than that with it. I truly believe that from what we saw of him, Campoli might be more effective. Leddy has so much potential here as well.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    I like the debate too and I like playing devils advocate too which is why I wanted to do Campbell's review. You bring up a good point about Leddy and honestly, if they can trade Campbell, Leddy is the guy I would put in his place. Leddy did okay up here last year, but I was not in favor of having him here. If he's up here and plays third pair, I think it will delay his development.

    I don't know that Campoli is a second pair guy. He is similar to Campbell, but with Campbells experience I think he is the more effective player. As a second pair guy, I think Campbell is right where he needs to be, but he is overpaid. And like Buff, he is seemingly more effective in the playoffs. Because his salary is his cap hit, I think a guy like Hossa is probably easier to trade because a team would get the benefit of a cap hit that is higher then his actual salary. If we had it to do over and as a fan/GM were given the option that we could have a cup but be stuck with Campbell's contract, I would do it in a heartbeat.

    Gonna hang out at a buddies house tomorrow and watch the draft. High temp I saw in Vegas today was 109. Don't let anyone tell you it's not so bad because it's dry heat. It's like having a hair drying in your face. Yuk.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    I have a feeling about Campoli and he is a bit younger than Campbell. Leddy will most likely reach that level of play too.

    Agreed on the Hossa thing, but is he the guy we should be looking to move? I am inclined to side with the camp that says yes. He just hasn't produced in timely situations for the Hawks. Last season started off so great and then injuries disrupted that. Besides the OT goal in the first round last year, he hasn't really done squat in the playoffs and hasn't seemed to fit in with the Hawks' game. The question is always who to pair with Hossa. And yet, he provides a great deal of puck possession and defensive pressure.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Oh, and I agree on the scenario with Campbell's contract. In a heartbeat.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Well, as a Hossa apologist as well, I've had the opinion for awhile that he just wasn't the right fit for this team. I think he's brought a ton of intangibles and that Toews and Kane both will be much better players for having played with him. Also, I think he was that final bit of ridiculous depth that put the team over the top last year. But, when someone makes that kinda scratch, you want to see goals scored and he hasn't been that guy.

    Detroit seemed to fit like a glove for him. Comparatively, I believe the Hawks are a lot less disciplined. What Hossa brings for you is solid puck control, solid back checking, equally effective PK and PP and a pretty solid work ethic. For a disciplined team where just about every player has a specific job that everyone else can come to count on, such as bang a body or two and crash the net and wait for the puck to come, a guy like Hossa can do some damage. Conversely, on a team that likes to "free lance" a bit more, I just don't think Hossa fits as well.

    He's still an extremely talented and dynamic player, but it seems like he puts his head down, carries the puck away from everyone, draws coverage and then looks up but no one is where he expects them to be or is in a position to score. I think he's still a tremendous asset to the team, but I don't think they will get the most out of him.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Wow - watching the draft and it sounds like the Campbell-to-Panthers deal is seriously in the works now! I'm not crushed to see Brouwer go to Washington either. IMO, really great work from Bowman so far tonight.

  • I saw the eye popping numbers for the Panthers and also thought of the Dale Tallon link. South Florida might be a wee bit too far from the GTA and his family. Wasn't that the reason he didn't re-up with the Sharks?


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