NHL Season Recap – Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks

2016-17 season: 50-23-9, 109 points

Lost to Nashville 4-0 in the First Round

Head Coach: Joel Quenneville (2008)
1st Place Central Division General Manager: Stan Bowman (2009)
1st  Place Western Conference AHL Affiliate: Rockford IceHogs

ECHL Affiliate: Indy Fuel

Draft Position: 26th

Top Forwards

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
RW 28 Patrick Kane 82 89 34 55 11 52.2
LW 25 Artemi Panarin 82 74 31 43 18 55.1
C 28 Jonathan Toews 72 58 21 37 7 52.4
RW 38 Marian Hossa 73 45 26 19 7 49.2
C 28 Artem Anisimov 64 45 22 23 9 49.7
RW 25 Richard Panik 82 44 22 22 14 49.6
LW 22 Ryan Hartman 76 31 19 12 13 52.8
LW 20 Nick Schmaltz 61 28 6 22 10 49.4
C 26 Marcus Kruger 70 17 5 12 7 50.3
RW 24 Tanner Kero 47 16 6 10 15 47.0

Top Defensemen

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
D 33 Duncan Keith 80 53 6 47 22 50.7
D 31 Brent Seabrook 79 3 3 36 5 50.3
D 29 Niklas Hjalmarsson 73 18 5 13 12 49.5
D 37 Brian Campbell 80 17 5 12 12 48.9
D 25 Trevor van Riemsdyk 58 16 5 11 17 50.7

Top Goaltenders

POS Age Name Games Started W/L Record Shutouts GAA Save %
G 32 Corey Crawford 55 32-18-4 2 2.55 .918
G 28 Scott Darling 27 18-5-5 2 2.38 .924

Trades Made During the Season

What They Acquired Team They Traded With In Exchange For
2017 3rd RD Pick Carolina Hurricanes G Scott Darling
2019 7th RD Pick

LW Kenton Helgesen

Anaheim Ducks C Sam Carrick

LW Spencer Abbott

D Johnny Oduya Dallas Stars F Mark McNeill

Conditional 2018 4th RD Pick

F Tomas Jurco Detroit Red Wings 2017 3rd RD Pick
F Michael Latta Los Angeles Kings D Cam Schilling

Impending Free Agents

POS Age Name 2016-17 Cap Hit
D 35 Johnny Oduya $3,750,000
D 37 Brian Campbell $1,500,000
C 30 Andrew Desjardins $800,000
LW 26 Martin Lundberg $692,500
G 29 Lars Johansson $575,000
LW 30 Pierre-Cedric Labrie $575,000
G 25 Mac Carruth $575,000
LW 28 Brandon Mashinter $575,000

Draft Needs

  • The Blackhawks have ten picks in the upcoming draft, including a first round pick for the first time since 2014.  With the way that GM Stan Bowman has established this roster, the Blackhawks have to rely on effective drafting and prospect development in order to have cheap talent at the NHL level.  They are most likely going to be losing at least two starting defensemen this offseason in Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell plus could lose Trevor van Riemsdyk in the Expansion Draft.  I think that taking a defenseman with their first round pick would be a good use of the pick and then work on just adding to their farm system with the rest of their picks as they need a little bit of everything.

What I Said About Them Before the Season

  • I wrote a lot on the team’s salary cap situation in my preseason preview, highlighting all of the expensive contracts they have and how those will make the future difficult for the franchise.  I discussed how I find the contracts of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to be exuberant because it leaves the team with very little flexibility with which to re-sign their own players and to sign free agents on the market.  As a result, the Blackhawks have had to rely on calling up prospects and plugging them on Toews’ line as a source of cheap production.  This season they were going to have to do so with Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, and Tyler Motte.  I projected that Chicago was going to be a playoff team this season but that in the very near future it is easy to see a time when they miss them.

Success/Failure

  • Failure – Considering the Blackhawks are a salary cap team and have invested in their core players, this is a team that strives to win the Stanley Cup every season.  They are paying their top eight cap hit players $53,338,462 which is 73% of the team’s total salary cap and that doesn’t even include Artemi Panarin or Marcus Kruger’s contracts which kick in next season.  Currently, they are already over $3 million over the salary cap for next season and they only have six defensemen under contract for next season plus need a new backup goaltender.  The Blackhawks have done so well in the past decade, largely developing into the best team in the league during that span by winning three Stanley Cups and are a modern day dynasty.  The problem however is that the team’s front office started giving out contracts to core players that the team now has to face.  They gave Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Brent Seabrook, Duncan, Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Corey Crawford all no-move clauses in their contracts, making them nearly unmovable.  When you consider these contracts, it is quite amazing that they were able to get back to the playoffs this season and actually finished with the best record in the Western Conference.  The team’s method of relying on young, unproven players has caught up to them as Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, and Tanner Kero didn’t have the same impact on the team that Brandon Saad, Artemi Panarin, and Andrew Shaw have had in the past.  That put a lot of strain on the team’s first two lines, and while Patrick Kane and Panarin had excellent seasons once again, the bottom two lines were relatively unproductive. They have also begun having the problem of an aging defense group that isn’t as effective as it once was and the players they have had to call up to fill holes aren’t very good.  Duncan Keith, one of the best defensemen in the league, was generally their only consistently good defensemen this season.  That’s a very big problem considering they are paying Brent Seabrook nearly $7 million per season through the 2023-24 season and he is already 32 years old.  They have very little assets to address this issue which makes for a looming problem long-term. The biggest way to show the team’s slow decline is through their possession numbers.  They have now gotten worse in Corsi For Percentage each of the past four seasons, starting with a 54.7 CF% in 2013-14 when they lost in the Conference Finals, and just a 49.8 CF% this season when they were swept in the first round.  They were also a horrible team at killing penalties, ranking 24th in the league with just a 77.73% success rate.  This is evident in their save percentages in five on five situations compared to penalty killing situations.  At even strength, the Blackhawks had the second highest team save percentage in the league at 93.32% but just 86.25% while killing penalties, which was 20th in the league.  These are not the statistics of a team good enough to win a Stanley Cup and Blackhawks have a lot of work to do in order to advance in the playoffs next season.

Offseason Needs

  • As mentioned above, the Blackhawks have a really difficult salary cap situation that needs to be negotiated this offseason.  They are already more than $3 million over next season’s salary cap and still have to make a decision on RFA defenseman, Michal Kempny, plus sign at least one other defensemen and a backup goaltender.  Stan Bowman will have to make at least one trade this offseason or convince Vegas to take one of Chicago’s bigger contracts in the Expansion Draft in order to free up enough space to be under the cap.  I think a strong candidate for this is Marian Hossa, but he would first have waive his no-move clause in order to be exposed in the Expansion Draft.  I think another candidate could be Artem Anisimov who has four years left with an AAV of $4.55 million but also has a NMC.  This is one of the biggest problems for the Blackhawks because they have rewarded their players by giving them very nice contracts but now the team will have problems moving these players.  There have been rumors that perhaps the team considers moving one of Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews simply because it would free up so much cap space.  The only problem with this is that they’d probably have to move Kane and there is only one place he’s likely to waive his NMC for: Buffalo which is where he is from.  Any big trade that they make will have to give them a return involving a top four defenseman plus at least one forward prospect.  The Sabres definitely have the means to make this possible but I doubt that a trade of this magnitude will come to fruition.  The Blackhawks do have prospects in the farm system who could bring some relief to the NHL team next year, especially Alex Debrincat, who had an amazing season with Erie in the OHL, scoring 127 points in 63 regular season games, en route to winning the OHL Championship.  I’ve heard that he is most likely to slot in on Toews’ line and has the tools to be a solid playmaker in the NHL despite being undersized.  The Blackhawks have to hope that Debrincat is able to emerge as a steady NHLer next season because the team will desperately need cheap production once again.  Regardless of what they are able to do this offseason, I am worried about the long-term outlook of this team and could even see them missing the playoffs next season with how good Nashville, St. Louis, and Minnesota already are, and the improvements that Dallas and Winnipeg should have next season.

*All stats and information came from hockey-reference.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, NHL.com, hockeydb.com, capfriendly.com, tsn.ca, and eliteprospects.com*

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