The Blackhawks took a 3-1 series lead over the Kings with an impressive road victory Thursday. It was a solid, collaborative display by the boys in white in front of a sold out Staples Center. Predictors stated that LA would feed off the home crowd and continue to be a greedy group and steal ALL the momentum. The Hawks didn’t care about a home winning streak of 15 and showed impressive resiliency over 60 minutes.
The Hawks knew they had to perform better than their previous effort and that would start with the Keith-less back end. Brookbank apparently was not up to the challenge but the top 4 of Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Rozsival and Oduya played admirably in #2’s absence.
Now, on to my inspiration for this blog, Hjalmarsson. The media all recognized that this guy is a warrior and might have been the Hawks best defender last night. I wouldn’t argue. It also got me thinking that the “core” that the front office ever-so-often like to call out and list for all to see might be shifting with certain personnel.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were established after the 2010 Cup Winning Team was being dismantled, as the core. This group of character and skilled players would be the foundation to build around for years to come.
Well the times, they have changed… and very quickly. The emergence of Niklas Hjalmarsson has been fun to watch. I am now ashamed to admit I had him heading out of town for a lower line, gritty forward and a pick in my capgeek projections last summer.
It would be my advice to the front office to lock up Hammer to an extension as soon as that window appears. If this happens and the price tag per season is in the 4.5-5 million range, which it could be, I think that would spell the end of Brent Seabrook in Chicago.
With Brent Seabrook’s roller coaster season, in no way am I focusing solely on the bad with him this season in my analysis. I am looking at financial ramifications as well as future plans for this team. It is true that Seabs is one of the most physical defenceman, and his chemistry on and off the ice with Keith should be taken into account. However, the return for a Gold Medal, Stanley Cup winning, tough defender with an offensive touch would be a package someone like Philadelphia would be salivating over.
Hjalmarsson has shown that he can play top minutes and would be a welcomed addition to any team’s blueline who need a steady and calm presence from a young veteran such as him. The Hawks should not let that happen and make him a staple in the last line of defence for years to come.
I believe the new core will start to form in the short term. Obviously a lot is hinging on what happens here in June. This is the core I would want steering this ship (keep in mind the salary cap before ripping me):
~ Patrick Kane showed up last night. Thanks Patty! While we’re on the subject of core players, I would suggest Kane might fall out of that group in the next season or so. His contract is up in 2016 and I would have a problem with him commanding more than his current $6.3M/season (which he and his agent obviously will). I think he will continue to grow as a regular season player but will always struggle to prove his worth in the playoffs. It’s not a secret that Kaner doesn’t like the horseplay that happens in the post-season and if he’s bailing out and unable to produce, then I wouldn’t bother.
~ For all this “Hossa buyout talk” at the end of the season, I would challenge you find a better overall player suited for playoff hockey. I would take an aging Hossa over Kane in his prime in the post-season. Hossa is a 200 foot player, extremely strong and will continue to come up big when you need him. Case in point, 5 of his 7 goals have come when the game is tied.
~ I think it’s safe to say that Dave Bolland has worked himself out of the core. It’s too bad because of his skillset. He was a prolific point machine in the OHL, all while Dale Hunter was showing him how to play a smart defensive game. He’s become too injury prone and failed to capitalize on his 2nd line centre duties in his time here in Chicago. He will become a valuable asset to someone and I think you see him traded at the draft. My guess? Montreal, Florida or Toronto.
Ty Cam Out!
* picture courtesy of Bridget DS
Filed Under: Chicago Blackhawks
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.