Before I get to the point of the first post at Puck PowWow's new home, which would be an evaluation of Hjalmarsson's 2010-2011 season, I wanted to share with everyone what Eddie 'O' said in reference to Brian Campbell recently. Eddie referred to Campbell by saying that he was merely a "serviceable" fifth D-man. In the style of Jonathan Toews I say, "WoW." I bring this up , because there is actually a connection to a part of my Hjalmer eval.
Hjalmarsson has taken his fair share of negative heat this year. Starting the season slow, he seemed rejuvenated when reunited Campbell and then took a step back again after serving his suspension which was the result of a questionable hit. Many see this year as a negative for Hjalmer, especially after the proceedings of his contract and how he managed to cost a bit more than anticipated. In a season riddled with inconsistency, especially by the defense, I personally find it hard to point any fingers in his way, but pointed others have.
The only purely defensive defensemen on the team presently, Hjalmer's offensive abilities are nothing to call home about. Weighing his contribution does not stem from how many points he racks up, or how well he can carry the puck through the neutral zone. There is no secret that Niklas is not the most reliable puck carrier. This resulted in more than one instance of drawing the Hawks into a delay of game penalty, and one such instance cost them a goal. Still, I choose to look beyond this. I really find it unwarranted to judge him for his offensive mistakes, though I do hope he grows in that department.
Hjalmer finished the season at a +13, logged a ton of PK minutes, blocked more shots than anyone else in a Hawk's uniform, gave his body for the team time and time again and was at times the most physical presence. All of this and he never missed a game due to injury which is a large feet given his style of play. Some saw Campbell as helping Hjalmer's game, but I actually see it the other way around. Campbell's appearance was timed well with Hjalmer's increase in playing level, but I would also point to many other factors that had a role in that. I see more reasons in this season and in season's past to say that Hjalmer helped Campbell's numbers more than the other way around. There are countless memories of Hjalmarsson taking a hit because of a bad pass by Campbell who was trying to avoid a hit. I believe that a new roster and less than perfect coaching had more to do with Hjalmersson's woes than missing his counterpart. Though I will say that Campbell's offensive skills balanced Hjalmer out fairly well. An act I am sure Campoli or Leddy can accomplish just as well.
FInal grade: B-. There is a reason that the Hawks payed more than they would have liked to keep him around. Not many defensemen have his guts and determination. He stays back and protects the home, acts as a second, or in most cases first goaltender, has stick action that is paralleled by no one and takes up a great deal of ice with his wide stance. He is the kind of defensemen that scorers fear, the guy who stays back and doesn't take chances. I personally believe that he became a bit too much of a scapegoat this year. Many things were wrong that affected many of the player's games and Hjalmer was affected for sure, but he still was a defensive foundation for a team that made the playoffs and almost knocked out Vancouver in the first round. More than just a foundation, he was the second best performing defensemen all year from where I stand. I use Eddie 'O's comment above as support for that statement. You can not overestimate blocking shots, getting in the way of traffic and giving the body for his team. I expect more from him this coming year and his grade is contingent on that a bit. I hope that he hasn't been too deterred by the suspension because everyone knows he had no intent to hurt anyone.
In other News:
The Hawks agreed to terms with defensemen Steve Mantador and then made a quick move to sign him into a 4 year, 11 mil deal. He had a pretty decent year for the Sabres and looks like a pretty good fit for the 6th D spot, maybe even higher really. He likes to block shots, was a +16 and stands at 6' 211 pounds. I don't hate the move, but I can think of a few others who I would get more giddy over. Mantador seems like a guy who can do just about everything, which includes playing the power-play. He brings options to the back half. A bit more pricy than I was expecting at this point given that Friday hadn't even come around