The roster movement following the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship season (wow; it never gets old typing that) has been well-documented. From Dustin Byfuglien to Antti Niemi, the Hawks saw many big names leaving their 2009-10 roster. Many of these moves were met with confused criticisms from fans who simply didn't seem to understand that these moves had to be made, Stanley Cup or not, to keep the team within the correct financial boundaries.
With the NHL 2010-11 season now just about a month deep, we can now begin to look at how these moves have impacted the teams involved. Today we will look at the production of former Hawks from last year and begin to digest just what has changed for the Hawks. These circumstances may change many times before season's end, but so far most everything looks okay for the Hawks, while one player's departure may have already proved to be beneficial.
The Atlanta Thrashers did their share of feeding off of the Blackhawks during the off season, acquiring Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel from the Hawks' roster. Ladd leads the team with 12 points (4G, 8A), and will likely be the piece the Hawks miss the most. Ladd had size, speed, and good stick skills and was a huge contributor coming off the later lines last year for Coach Quenneville.
Dustin Byfuglien has been productive for Atlanta in his return to the defensive side of the
puck. Currently he is tied with Tobias Enstrom for second on the team with 10 points (4G, 6A). Ben Eager and Brent Sopel have contributed less, totaling three points between the two of them, though Eager leads the team in penalty minutes (29), with Byfuglien close behind with 23, and Sopel is the only ex-Hawk besides Ladd with a positive +/- rating.
This is really where the Hawks have been hurt the most in the off season... at least thus far into the 2010-11 campaign. Andrew Ladd would look pretty good on that third line right now, next to a Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg/Patrick Kane. Likewise, though I would not want him solidified as a D-man on the blue line, Byfuglien is well on his way to improving on the 34 points he scored during last year's regular season, and, though I would choose to have Ladd back over Byfuglien, sure would look good still wearing the Indian on his chest.
But lament not Blackhawk nation! First off, the team we have does not look too bad. Though they've slipped enough to stay hovering around a .500 record (currently 7-6-1, but sitting at second in the Western Conference with 15 points), the flashes have been there and we will likely see any kinks visible now worked out with time.
That being said, not all of the Hawks' players departing after last year's Stanley Cup Championship have been contributors to their new teams. Kris Versteeg has only one goal and one assist for the Toronto Maple Leafs, while compiling a -4 +/- rating. Likewise, veteran center John Madden has two goals and a -3 +/- rating with his new team the Minnesota Wild.
Although more was certainly expected from Versteeg than these two on their new teams, Adam Burish has one goal in 10 games with the Dallas Stars, while Colin Fraser has just one assist in his nine games with the Edmonton Oilers.
Then, of course, there is the goalie that everyone was afraid to lose. I was included in this group, as I specifically divulged that I preferred to keep Niemi as opposed to replacing him. However, you can also track my thoughts on Turco, whom I predicted the Blackhawks would be just fine with once they did replace Niemi with him.
Antti Niemi is 1-3 for the San Jose Sharks and ranks 40th or worse in five statistical categories including save percentage and goals-against average. The Sharks currently sit at 5-3-1 with 11 points; hence Niemi's struggles have accounted for all of his team's regulation losses though he has played in fewer than half of the team's total games.
Marty Turco, on the other hand, has compiled a 6-3-1 record while ranking 3rd or better in seven categories, including goals-against and saves-made. While I was going to elaborate on this now... I think I have run into a topic that deserves a full post here. Essentially, we can close the book on the "Should the Hawks have kept Niemi?" debate, if it can even be called one, but check back tomorrow for more on this conversation.
For now, suffice it to say that losing Niemi appears to be the least of the Hawks' concerns at this point in the season, buya Doug Wilson! While Ladd and Byfuglien certainly could be helping some of our later lines score, the moves the Hawks simply had to make do not seem to be killing the team at the moment, while some them actually appear to be saving them.
Just as I said when all of these players started departing: stay calm and enjoy watching the incredibly talented core of this Blackhawk team remain competitive over the foreseeable future as complementary and gap-filling players come and go.
There is a lot of hockey left to play, so maybe some of these moves will not look as unimportant as they do now, but, on the other hand, by then a number of new players on the current roster could easily have stepped up to fill these would-be voids as well. At least now you can haphazardly route for the Chicago Blackhawks Eastern Conference B-Unit; the Atlanta Thrashers.
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Tags: Adam Burish, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Chicago Blackhawks, Colin Fraser, Dallas Stars, Dave Bolland, Dustin Byfuglien, Free Agency, Hockey, John Madded, Kris Versteeg, Marty Turco, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Patrick Kane, San Jose Sharks, Stan Bowman, Standings, Stanley Cup Champions, Stats, Tobias Enstrom, Trades