Stan Bowman certainly has a type. He likes ‘em fast. He likes ‘em to have big shots. He likes ‘em to have potential that’s eminently tappable. And StanBo gets what he wants, even if it takes trading a statistically solid 20-year-old defenseman from a team that is seriously going to ice Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook as its second pairing, anno domini 2019. That’s how we end up with Michael Nylander’s son, aka William Nylander’s brother, staring down a spot on the first line.

Career Stats

19 GP – 3 G, 3 A, 6 P

53.96 CF% (3.5 CF% Rel), 66.9 oZS%

33.33 GF% (1.96 Rel GF%), 43.24 xGF% (-3.79 Rel xGF%)

Avg. TOI 12:20

A Brief History: In the process of prominently displaying my ass over the Alexander Nylander acquisition—or being one of the young go-hards spit roasting Stan Bowman as McClure so eloquently essentialized it—I accidentally did a primer on Nylander. Here’s where we landed on him back in July.

  • He’s not a Top 4 D-man.
  • His AHL stats aren’t great. He had 86 points (30 goals) in 165 games, good for .52 points a game. That’s pretty pedestrian for a supposed offensive dynamo.
  • He’s not particularly good on the defensive side of the puck.
  • He has alleged motivation issues.

We worried about where a guy like Nylander would fit, acerbically wondering whether Mayor Jeremy would try to shove him into a spot on the top line to prove what a monumental genious Stan Bowman was for getting him. And lo, dear reader, that’s precisely what they’re doing.

The calls for Nylander to play with Kane and Toews began almost immediately, based primarily on a first-round pedigree, Nylander’s genetic stock, and the consistent beat writer drumbeat that this year won’t be so bad and that Nylander may have just needed a change of scenery. I’m here to shit in your milkshake. It’s what you come here for.

Nylander has played 19 games in the NHL. Twelve of them came last year, where he saw most of his time with Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues, who were, I guess, the second or third line. There weren’t many patterns in his stats there, other than he and his mates were consistently and deeply underwater in both GF% and xGF%.

Now, Buffalo’s offense as a whole did suck, so it’s possible that coming over to the Hawks—who, despite eating glass on defense, are still a strong offensive threat—might goose those numbers. But watching him in the pre-season, where he’s slotted to the left of Toews and Kane, hasn’t really fleshed that out.

Nylander hasn’t looked bad by any stretch. He obviously has decent vision, good speed, and a good shot. But his play away from the puck has tracked fairly in line with what both scouts and Sabres fans (pardon my redundancy) hated most about Nylander. In short, he tends to loaf when he doesn’t have the puck. When he’s not loafing, he’s floating on the perimeter, hanging around the fringes (you’d think that would tug at our heartstrings, but alas).

This isn’t to say that pre-season hockey is representative of, well, anything. But for a former first rounder with a supposed ton of offensive potential who had trouble cracking the Sabres’s roster over the past three years, it’s sort of all we have. It’s not great, it’s not awful. It’s just there. And against what’s primarily been AHL rosters, you’ll pardon us for occupying a David Byrne headspace about that.

It Was the Best of Times: Nylander rewards the organ-I-zation’s belief in the Strome Effect and unearths the offensive monster inside of him. He fills out the Top 6 next to Toews and Kane, scoring 30 goals and potting 80 points. He becomes more engaged away from the puck (e.g., finding seams in the slot, continuing to develop his ability to set picks for Kane), forcing opponents to focus their best defenders on this line and opening up the ice for the DeBrincat–Strome–(heavy sigh) Shaw line. He’s the missing piece of the Hawks’s all-offense, all-the-time strategy.

It Was the BLURST of Times: Nylander does what he’s always done: flatters to deceive. He’s caught scratching his ass when the puck isn’t on his stick, which forces Toews to revert to the defensive side of his skillset, essentially neutering Kane’s playmaking. But the Hawks keep him in the Top 6 for half the year, because Stan Bowman is a trade genious who was in the GM chair for three Stanley Cups, which is definitely not something a cold glass of orange juice could have done with the rosters Uncle Dale served him on a platter.

As the Hawks sink farther into the abyss as the year slogs on, Nylander ends up in the AHL in favor of, like, John Quenneville.

Prediction: Nylander will get every chance to stick on the top line because DAT DYLAN STROME WUZ BAD BEFORE DEY TRADED FERIM MY FRENT. But he’ll end up on the third line with Saad and—fuck I guess Kampf?—because Kubalik is the actual guy who belongs in the Top 6. He’ll be Brendan Perlini II: showing flashes of the potential everyone keeps saying he has that are overwhelmed by lackadaisical off-the-puck and defensive play.

We want him to succeed. We want it to be a just-needed-a-change-of-scenery situation. But Alex Nylander’s career thus far has been a lot of peeing on the seat. It’ll be a Grimey ride.

Stats from,, and

Previous Previews

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford

Adam Boqvist

Carl Dahlstrom

Calvin de Haan

Erik Gustafsson

Duncan Keith

Slater Koekkoek

Olli Maatta

Connor Murphy

Drake Caggiula

Ryan Carpenter

Alex DeBrincat

David Kampf

Patrick Kane


Man, I really enjoyed that week where I didn’t write about the Hawks. But as that obnoxious bar on the Southside wrote on November 3rd, 2016, “All good things must come to an end.”

There seems to be two schools of thought on the Henri Jokiharju trade, probably the last big move of the summer aside from all the “Boy this kid looked good in drills at Prospects Camp!” articles. One is it’s a sign of the true incompetence of the Hawks, giving up on a player before his second professional season merely because he was confident and thought he belonged in the lineup over Brent Seabrook, which he did, and getting essentially nothing in return. The other is that Jokiharju only impressed in the Hawks defense last season because it was that bad, really never flashed a plus-skill, and seemed very much a floor-guy instead of a ceiling guy.

I happen to think both of these things are true, but I’m going to use it to frame a larger picture.

The prevailing theory around here has been that the Hawks pro scouting sucks ass (and it does), while their European and amateur scouting has been pretty good. The former still remains true, though that will hinge on what Kubalik and Wedin provide this season. It’s the latter that we really have to start to question.

Over the last seven drafts, here are the players taken to make any impact for the Hawks: Teravainen, Hinostroza, Hartman, Schmaltz, DeBrincat. You can add a couple names that have played but really didn’t do much: Dahlstrom, Hayden, Sikura, Jokiharju. On that list, only Dahlstrom is even on the roster.

Just looking around, that’s not a terrible number. For example, the Lightning have taken six players (arguably) over the last seven years to make a serious impact for them: Joseph, Cirelli, Vasilevskiy, Pacquette, Point, Drouin (who got them Sergachev, and we’ll come back to this). The Predators have only had five: Arvidsson, Fiala, Seth Jones, Saros, and Sissons, though Kamenev and Girard did land them Kyle Turris (whatever that means for you). The Bruins, a team that’s been competitive for as long if not longer than the Hawks, have seven: Grzelcyk, Heinen, Pastrnak, Carlo, DeBrusk, McAvoy, and arguably Donato who helped get them Coyle.

The Penguins have only taken five players to make an impact in the league in the past seven years: Guentzel, Murray, Simon, Kapanen, and Maatta, with Kapanen used to get Phil Kessel in part.

So I guess the Hawks are something like average or so. What’s galling is that because none of the players who actually had an impact are on the team anymore, the only thing the Hawks have to show for all of them is Dylan Strome, with the jury very much out on (at least in my mind, the Hawks seem desperate to hand him $7M after the season. Though they were for Schmaltz, too). Teravainen and Hinostroza were lost simply to get rid of bad contracts. Hartman for a pick and EggShell, who will now never play another game for the Hawks. You’ve got the one prime player in Top Cat, and maybe a useful piece in Sikura (very questionable) and whatever Strome turns out to be.

Which makes it feel like when the Hawks move a player they’ve taken, they’re always selling low. Having a logjam of defensive prospects isn’t a bad thing. Even if you were down on Jokiharju, this is still a player who is 20, who was the top pairing d-man on a World Junior championship team, and a former first round pick. Would it have been a crime to let him tear up the AHL for another half-season or so to entice someone into actually giving you something for him? It’s not like there was a clock on this.

Or perhaps the whole league had seen Jokiharju for what he might be, but that doesn’t exactly give you confidence in the Hawks’ scouting and development either. This smacked of getting rid of to get rid of, which isn’t exactly how you build a consistent winner. And this is the NHL, there’s a sucker in a GM chair tons of places. Just throw a rock and you’ll hit one.

We could do a whole other full post, and probably will, about how Jokiharju was moved really in service of their terror of Seabrook turning on them, which is yet another discouraging sign of how the Hawks operate. But for now, it’s kind of alarming how many picks just turn into nothing for the Hawks. The record over seven classes is one star, and one traded for what might be a lateral move in Strome.

Curiouser and curiouser…


Recently I have been reading The MVP Machine, a pretty interesting book about player development in baseball. The opening chapter delves into how the famous Moneyball story led to just about every team in baseball adopting a similar strategy in an effort to build their teams more intelligently. At one point they quote baseball analyst Phil Brinbaum, who once said, “You gain more by not being stupid than you do by being smart.” This quote stuck out to me as one that could apply far more to hockey than baseball, as there are far more GMs in hockey that work themselves into bad situations simply by being stupid rather than helping themselves out by being smart.

And lately Stan Bowman has been pretty fucking stupid.

Heading into this offseason, you would’ve been forgiven if you thought that Bowman’s shopping list was simultanesouly small and difficult to fulfill. Primarily, the Blackhawks were (read: still are) in need of at least two defensemen who could handle at least a top-4 assignment, or at least one or two who could play a much more competent third pair game than Slater Koekkoek and Gustav Forsling. They also could’ve used a more reliable backup/1A goalie, and maybe some forward depth or a top-six guy if they were lucky and the cost was right, but given that they were 8th in the NHL in goals scored but 30th in goals allowed last year, the defense clearly needed far more attention. So let’s call this shopping list: two defensemen, a goalie, and one or two versatile forwards.

On paper, you could easily say they’ve checked off this list. They traded for Calvin DeHann, Olli Maatta, and Andrew Shaw, and signed Robin Lehner and Ryan Carpenter in free agency. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know that even though this group consists of two defensemen, a goalie, and two versatile (used loosely) forwards, the Hawks have done very little to actually move the needle. Maatta stinks, DeHaan could be fine but might only have one shoulder, and neither of them bring anything of value in the puck-moving department which this team also desperately needed and still needs. Lehner could be a great signing, but he’s also been streaky in his career and no one will blame you if you feel icky about him given his politics. Carpenter’s contract bring almost no risk, but he’s a nothing forward and is supposed to be the PK savior apparently even though he was Vegas’ worst penalty killer. We already know Shaw sucks ass, and if you don’t think his 2018-19 production was a fluke I have a bridge to sell you.

A lot of the justification for moves like the above were that Bowman and Coach Cool Youth Pastor apparently thought this team lacked #grit and #toughness. We had “anonymous scouts” telling us that Shaw’s brand of bullshit was fine because of his contract, which it isn’t, and his contract is too much for his role. Maybe it’s the same anonymous scout that thought Top Cat was a 20-goal-max player.

But among all of this, the Hawks passed on a widely-consiered sure thing future 1D in Bowen Byram in favor of skilled but flawed center Kirby Dach at #3 overall. And then there was Tuesday when they went and traded Henri Jokiharju for Alex Nylander. The justification for these moves, both from the Hawks and from some analysts evaluating the trade, was that the Hawks are a team that likes to bet on skill even when there are question marks. And look, in some ways that is true – they did it with guys like Saad, Top Cat, and Strome, and those have all worked out well enough. There are other examples that didn’t work, too, but overall betting on skill is the correct approach, especially in the modern age of hockey.

The problem is that passing on Byram for Dach and trading Jokiharju for Nylander both represent the same mistake – passing on/getting rid of promising defensemen in order to bet on those skilled but flawed forwards. And when you have a giant pile of the Mind Flayer’s melted flesh legions on your blue line, you’re hardly in a position to do that, regardless of how you feel about Boqvist, Mitchell, Beaudin, etc.

But the real issue is that the moves in the Maatta/DeHann/Shaw vein and the moves in the Dach/Nylander vein are contradictory. It makes very little sense to simultaneously load your team up with grinders while also betting on skilled young players, because the best way to help those young players is to surround them with other skilled players. Only a maximum of four players at a time can play with Kane and Toews, and other than those two there are very few skilled veterans on this roster that can truly elevate the talent around them. Dach might not be in the NHL this year, but the Hawks should at least plan for scenarios where he is. If Nylander isn’t, the trade looks even worse. And if both of those guys end up on the roster, you can’t really construct a lineup that maximizes their help without ending up with someone on a third line who should be much higher.

All of this is indicative of a very real and very large problem on Madison St. The Blackhawks have no clue what they are doing. They admitted it earlier this year and then again after they signed Lehner – they don’t have a plan, they’re just flying by the seat of their pants and hoping it works out. They can tell us until they’re blue in the face that they’ve like Maatta and Nylander for years. They can tell us they wanted De Haan last year (if that was the case why did you not sign him instead of Brandon Fucking Manning?). There is zero reason to believe any of it is true, or that it is anything more than lip service. They are a team without a direction, and they keep making it harder on themselves to find one.


In case you didn’t know, the Blackhawks are coming off a year in which they iced one of the worst defenses in the NHL. That isn’t hyperbole. Last year, they gave up 292 goals as a team, which is only better than the Senators, who gave up 302. If you are in the realm of the Senators in anything, you fucking suck. Their PK finished dead-ass last at 72.7%, after finishing 20th at 79.1% the year before. They continue to throw Brent Seabrook out there based solely on his contract. They had a chance at Bowen Byram, who will likely be ready to contribute THIS YEAR, and didn’t take it.

Instead, they traded a perfectly serviceable Dominik Kahun for Olli Maatta, who can’t stay healthy and skates like slugs fuck. They then turned around and got Calvin de Haan, who’s a nice second-pairing guy who might not even be ready for the first month due to a major shoulder surgery.

And then, dear reader, they traded Henri Jokiharju—one of the Hawks’s best D-men in limited time last year—for Alex Nylander, a 21-year-old forward whose shitty stats are only outdone by his stagnant-puddle-of-horse-piss work ethic.

If there were any doubt before, we can relieve you of it now: Stan Bowman sucks shit at finding defensemen, and he can’t do a goddamn thing right unless someone else hands it to him. That includes the Lehner signing, so if you want to bring that up, fuck you.

I’m usually not one for palace intrigue, but everything that swirled around Jokiharju last year made a stupid trade like this seem inevitable. I worried about it on a few podcasts recently: Harju was vocally upset when the Hawks sent him to Finland to play in World Juniors. Colliton constantly played him less and less when he got back, despite the fact that his season-long numbers were the best among all Hawks D-men at the time. Harju wasn’t happy when they sent him back down to the AHL when he got back for that very reason. He had every right to be.

It’s simply unfathomable to trade a 20-year-old defenseman who had a 54.3 CF% (5.4 CF% Rel) on a team that couldn’t corral an iron puck with a magnetized stick and not get any defensive help back. Harju may have needed some seasoning. He may have been light in the ass. But he was probably a Top 4 guy on this team, even WITH de Haan and Maatta coming in. He may not have been an in-his-prime Duncan Keith-esque savior, but he could have been very good. His limited stats showed that last year: When he was on the ice, the Hawks had the puck more. When he wasn’t, they didn’t. Guess fucking what? When your team sucks golf balls out of garden hoses on defense, anyone who can possess the puck is valuable. And now, we will have the joy of watching him turn into Buffalo’s #2 next to Rasmus Dahlin, because that’s absolutely going to happen.

This is a move out of fear. Colliton, Bowman, and McDonough are afraid of Brent Seabrook. They’re afraid to scratch him, they’re afraid to platoon him, they’re afraid to even broach the topic with him. They and everyone around them knew that fitting Jokiharju into the lineup would mean pushing him out, and they’re all too fucking cowardly to do that.

The thing that’s most frustrating about this is that for all the shit we gave Quenneville for not giving young guys a chance, he did the exact opposite with Harju. He played him consistently, let him make mistakes, and Harju looked overall fine doing it. The numbers flesh out a better performance than the eye test, but either way, Harju looked decent at worst.

Then along comes Beto Motherfucking O’Colliton, with his shitty man system and recent regurgitations about needing MORE GRIND to the game. I want to have it both ways, wherein Colliton has no say in anything (likely the case) and all of the say in this move, but I know that probably isn’t it. Still, watching Colliton bury Harju on the depth cart in favor of replacement-level guys like Carl Dahlstrom, Slater Koekkoek, Brent Seabrook, and the rest of the defensive Bring Down Bunch makes me wonder if this is Colliton’s first Big Boy Decision. And if it is, that motherfucker needs to put his Pampers back on, because this is shit.

So what did the Hawks get in return? One Alex Nylander, a 21-year-old left wing with 19 NHL games to his name. Right off the bat, he’s not a defenseman, so what the fuck are we even doing here?

Second, his AHL stats aren’t particularly impressive. In 165 games, he has 86 total points, 30 goals. That comes out to .52 points a game. From a guy who’s touted as a skilled shooter. That’s WORSE THAN HENRI JOKIHARJU, who had 17 points in 30 games AS A DEFENSEMAN, which is .56 points a game. I know that’s a stilted comparison, but holy fucking shit what is this trade?

Third, Nylander isn’t good on the defensive side of the puck, which is super great for a team whose possession was verifiable dog shit for most of the season. Where the fuck you gonna put him? On one of Anisimov’s wings? The fourth line is probably set with Caggiula–Carpenter–Kampf. Shaw’s likely gonna be on the top line because fuck you. You’re not breaking up DeBrincat–Strome–Kane. And we haven’t even accounted for Wedin, Kabulik, and Quenneville, all of whom portend to get a shot before Nylander. You gonna put Nylander on the top line with Toews instead of Saad? Holy shit, that’s exactly what they’re gonna do. Pray for Mojo.

Fourth—and you should be furious that we are at a fourth complaint about the return following a trade of the Hawks’s ONLY young, mobile, NHL-ready defenseman—the scuttlebutt is that Nylander has motivation issues, that he half asses it sometimes. So he’ll be a great fucking fit here with Duncan “Fuck You” Keith and Brent “Best Shape of His Life Because Spheres Are Shapes Fuck You” Seabrook, whom the brass is so scared of that they traded Henri Jokiharju for some joker who struggles to compete in the fucking AHL. Good. Very good. Tickets still available.

They’ll call this a swap of prospects, but it is anything but. Harju showed last year that right this instant, he’s at worst a third-pairing bum slayer. Nylander hasn’t shown no one nothing, other than he has an older and much more talented brother playing in New York (or Toronto, if you’re into the whole factual thing -ed.), which is apparently all it takes to become the return on the kind of player the Hawks need right now.

Stan Bowman doesn’t know what he wants. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s afraid of his bloated, angry, shitty #7 D-man, and because he’s a coward, he kowtowed to him. The Hawks defense wasn’t good going into this year, and given two chances to improve it THIS YEAR with Byram and Jokiharju, Bowman completely fucking missed. And for what? A forward with motivation issues whom the Hawks have no need or use for while the core is still intact. What a good offseason for Stan Bowman, master negotiator.

Harju is better off, but that doesn’t do much for us here. You wanna argue that all of Harju, Boqvist, Beaudin, and Mitchell won’t make the team? Fine. But if that’s the argument, then the three that remain better be good, and fast. Stan and his Band seem to think that’s the case, but why should any of us believe that they have any idea what they’re doing with the blue line? What have any of them done to show that they have any fucking idea what they’re doing at all?

They have no plan, and their process is shit. Just cut my fucking head off and kick it into the lake.

Everything Else

Welcome to the FFUD #3 Pick Preview. Each day, we’ll look at one prospect the Hawks might have a chance at with the #3 pick and walk you through the ins and outs, the what-have-yous, the strands going through ol’ Duder’s head. We’ve narrowed it down to five guys, and much like the restaurant chain, you’ll likely walk in thinking, “This was a good idea,” and walk out grabbing or clenching some part yourself that you shouldn’t have to. Today is Bowen Byram.

Physical Stats

Height: 6’00”; Weight: 194 lbs.; Shot: Left

On-Ice Stats (2018-19)

League: WHL; Team: Vancouver Giants; Position: Defense

26 G, 45 A, 71 P, 80 PIM

Why the Hawks Should Take Him

Bowen Byram is the best player likely to be available to the Hawks at #3. Just about every scouting outfit has him as the #3 best prospect. Though we have a tenuous-at-best relationship with scouting reports around here (“DeBrincat will top out at 20 goals,” dear reader), this is what we’re working with.

Byram is fast and an outstanding skater. The Hawks have precisely zero of those on their blue line. According to Corey Pronman, he’s one of the best skaters available, full stop. In case you weren’t watching me evacuate my bowels all over every wall that I could about it last year, the Hawks need better skaters out of the backend.

Keith isn’t it anymore, no matter how much anyone wants to wail for it to be 2013 again. Murphy’s never really been that guy. Gustafsson can be recklessly creative but he’s the kind of fast you see when the slowest horse wins because all the other ones fell down. Forsling sucks. Seabrook blows. Maatta is blue line Anisimov. The rest of the flotsam have names that sound like their skill levels. This blue line is hot garbage, and unless the Hawks find real contributors, they are going to suck out loud again.

With Byram, the Hawks can have their cake and eat it, too. They don’t need to decide between best and need, because the best player available is the one they need. Unlike the current crop of defensive prospects the Hawks have in Harju, Boqvist, Beaudin et al., Byram projects to be ready on both ends of the ice immediately.

His 71 points in the WHL were third among all WHL D-men. His 26 goals led all D-men by far. He played on the PK, and his PIM numbers show he’s no shrinking violet, so he’s got appeal to both nerds and the hardest giardiniera farters in town. And he was only seven-fucking-teen!

You probably won’t ever get anything like that from Harju. There aren’t grumblings about his defense like there are with Boqvist and Beaudin. Though you never want to pin your hopes on an 18-year-old D-man, Byram is about as ready as you can be.

The Hawks should take Byram because their defense is a shambles. Maatta is a $4 million prayer who’s had more bad seasons than good. On a team comprised of two second-pairing guys (Murphy, Keith), a ton of 6s and 7s, and a bunch of kids who might not actually know how to play defense, Byram would immediately stand out. He’d also give the Brain Trust breathing room to trade someone like Boqvist or Harju as part of a package for a real D-man.

This shouldn’t be hard. The Hawks need better, faster, NHL-ready D-men. Byram is that. Pick him.

Why the Hawks Shouldn’t Pick Byram

More than anything, the Hawks shouldn’t pick Byram for Byram’s sake. As the years have gone by, it’s become clearer that good defense is born-on-third-Bowman’s clitoris: He can never find it, always looks in the wrong spot, and the things he does when he thinks he’s found it cause more agony than ecstasy. But man, oh man is he going to brag about even getting in the area code.

Re-signing Jan Rutta. Trading Rutta for Koekkoek, then re-signing Koekkoek. Not (yet) capitalizing on the Myth of Erik Gustafsson. Bragging that Brandon Motherfucking Manning was just about to enter his prime. And that was all just last year! You look at just some of these moves and wonder whether Bowman even remembers how the Hawks won all those Cups. It wasn’t with bloated and middling-at-best D-men. Yet, that’s his refuge of late.

The last successful D-man that they’ve brought up through their system was Hjalmarsson. The last successful D-man they even fostered was Nick Leddy. Is this a fate we want for a rising star like Byram?

More seriously, you can maybe make the case that the Hawks have a logjam at defense and that Byram might not have room to fit. Disabuse yourself of that notion, because it’s horseshit. The “logjam” is Seabrook; Forsling; Koekkoek; Dahlstrom; a fading Keith; and a bunch of defensive maybes in Boqvist, Beaudin, and Harju. Byram could walk into camp and break that logjam up in one or two sessions. But you watch Stan & Co. make that argument when they draft someone other than Byram and continue trotting out this Eric the Clown blue line next year.


Unless the Hawks made the Maatta move as a table-setter for someone like Dougie, it’ll be a huge disappointment if they don’t take Byram. He’s a gifted skater with proven offensive skills who is good at worst at playing defense. This Core isn’t getting younger, and if the Hawks want to squeeze one more Cup run out of it, they need fast D-men who can push play and hold their own in their own end. Byram is that guy right now, and he’d be the only one with those credentials on the Hawks for Game #1 if they take him.

Pinning your hopes on an 18-year-old D-man. Just slap us sideways and call us the Sabres.

Everything Else

In Dylan Sikura, the Hawks might have a Brandon Saad Lite: A guy who’s a possession wizard but doesn’t quite deliver what you expected in scoring. There aren’t many 6th-round picks that came with the kind of fanfare Sikura did coming into this year, but if you ignore that pesky “0” in the goals slot, you wonder if indeed Sikura has the makeup of something more than “a guy.” Let’s round this shit out before we retreat to literally anything but the farce that is a Boston–St. Louis Cup matchup.


33 GP, 0 G, 8 A, 8 P

55.42 CF%, 50.45 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes With a Free Frogurt!

Everything we’re going to talk about comes with the caveat that Sikura played less than half a year’s worth of NHL games this year. Nonetheless, Sikura led the Hawks with a 55.42 CF%. He led the Hawks with a 7.6 CF% Rel. He was the only Hawks forward who finished with an xGF% above 50. He had the best HDCF% share among Hawks forwards at 49.24. If you’re into giveaways vs. takeaways, Sikura was way above board there, with 23 takeaways to 7 giveaways. And he did all of it playing mostly with some combination of Saad, Kampf, Toews, and Wide Dick. The first two are definitely defensive stalwarts. Toews used to be. Artie is really slow, but I guess pylons occasionally stop things. What we’re saying is putting up those numbers playing with guys known for their defensive prowess forebodes something good.

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

The problem is that Sikura posted all of those fancy numbers while averaging just a bit over 11 minutes per game. Another is that Slater Koekkoek had a better xGF% and HDCF%, and he sucks so hard that we couldn’t even be bothered to write about him at all. So while the numbers look nice, the context makes them mean less, if not meaningless.

And of course, there’s the big fat fucking zero in the goals column. Usually, you wouldn’t think too hard about that from a 23-year-old in his first extended time in the NHL. But the whole storyline with Sikura was how he found himself in the last two years of college, where he posted 111 points (43 goals, 68 assists [so close]) in 73 games.

Can I Go Now?

Sikura should get playing time over guys like Perlini, Hayden, and probably even Anisimov. He’s the forward version of Henri Jokiharju in that despite good play, Colliton’s older, balder, fatter sons got the first bite at it.

Sikura is an RFA, and you have to assume that he’s got a spot on the third line next year. Even in a small sample size, with peripherals as good as Sikura’s were, it’d be stupid not to give him another go at it. Once he gets that first goal, he’s probably good for 15–20 a year, and you’ll gladly take that from a third liner with strong possession numbers. If you bought into the hype of Sikura coming out of college, you’re gonna be disappointed. But if he keeps the possession numbers up, he shouldn’t be considered a disappointment.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Henri Jokiharju

Gustav Forsling

Erik Gustafsson

Carl Dahlstrom

Brendan Perlini

Alex DeBrincat

Chris Kunitz

Artem Anisimov

Marcus Kruger

Dylan Strome

Jonathan Toews

Brandon Saad

Dominik Kahun

John Hayden

David Kampf

Patrick Kane

Drake Caggiula

Everything Else

Under normal circumstances, having a 19-year-old defenseman break camp, lead the D-men in possession, and contribute 12 assists (7 primary) would be considered a coup for an organization that hasn’t brought a quality D-man up through its system since Niklas Hjalmarsson (skypoint Cam Barker). Likewise, having a 19-year-old D-man posting 17 points in 30 games in the AHL would be cause for cautious optimism.

Henri Jokiharju managed to do both, and thanks to his bosses, he managed to do it in the most back assward way possible. And here we stand in puzzlement, wondering whether Harju will be anything more than a trade piece when it’s all said and done, despite all the good he did.


38 GP, 0 G, 12 A, 12 P

54.1 CF%, 47.97 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes With a Free Frogurt!

There was a ton to like about Harju this year.

The most obvious was his sparkling 54.1 CF%, which led all Hawks D-men by some distance and set Harju as one of exactly three Hawks D-men not named Dennis Gilbert to eclipse 50 on the year. (Slater Koekkoek was second with a 52+ and everyone’s favorite Erik Gustafsson third with a 50+.) His CF Rel% was also second on the Hawks at 5.4, just ahead of Brandon Saad and behind Dylan Sikura. For a team with such rampantly dogshit defense and poor goaltending while Harju was up, those possession numbers come with even more weight.

He also had 12 points over 38 games, outpacing guys like Gustav Forsling, Slater Koekkoek, Carl Dahlstrom, and Brandon Motherfucking Manning. These were all guys who were the equivalent of wiping your ass with a vinyl shower curtain by just about every metric and eye test, and who nonetheless got minutes over Harju at times.

And he did all of this paired with a couldn’t-be-bothered Duncan Keith, who, when he wasn’t pouting and pissing over whatever it is that chaps his already dangerously red ass, simply refused to fall into the free safety role he’s going to have to learn to live with if he wants to be effective.

Certainly by stats and mostly by sight, Harju was a Top 3 D-man on a historically bad blue line. That’s not a bad rookie year for a 19-year-old.

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

Let’s get the stuff that was somewhat under Harju’s control out of the way first. Remember those 12 points he had? Five of them came within the first three games the Hawks played. He had games where he was overpowered on the boards, which you should expect from a 19-year-old D-man making his first run at it. If you want to argue he should have scored at least ONE GOAL (TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE), I’ll hang up and listen to that too.

But it’s the stuff that was out of his control that made his season one of the most frustrating since Our Special Boy was getting beaten with a bag of sweet Valencia oranges (they won’t leave a bruise!) by future cigarette boat enthusiast and Florida Man Joel Quenneville (who, ironically, thrust Harju into a top-pairing role from the get go).

His PDO, which is a rough measure of luck (below 1.000 is bad luck, above is good), was a comical .963. Mark Lazerus noted that the Hawks’s team save percentage was an abysmal .896 with Jokiharju on the ice, whereas no other regular Hawks D-man experienced anything lower than a .921. And once Colliton took over, his TOI dropped precipitously, despite the fact that he was one of the best—if not THE best—D-men the Hawks had.

And then there was the jerking him around. You might recall that the Hawks sent Jokiharju over to Finland for World Juniors, and he wasn’t particularly happy about it. Stan Bowman’s throbbing galaxy brain called it a “confidence booster,” which, as you know by now, is code for “None of us had the stones to scratch Seabrook.” But the thing about confidence boosters is that you have to ride them, not shove the players with the “confidence boost” down the depth chart and max out at a 16:45 TOI upon returning, which is exactly what THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR did.

It took all of six games before they demoted Harju after returning from getting his confidence boost. This was after playing him on his off side with Seabrook, and then subsequently scratching him in the next game because he, get this, had a hard time playing with the worst D-man the Hawks have. Once again, Harju wasn’t happy about the demotion, and it’s hard to blame him.

But you know what? It might not have been the worst thing in the world for him to play some time in the AHL, get his sea legs, and come up as a legit candidate to play on the top pairing at the beginning of the year. There were times he looked overmatched and confused. But why in the middle of the year, after Harju had shown he could run in the NHL and in the midst of a “playoff run”? What other team sends one of its best players away, twice, at the very moment they’re saying they’re trying to make the playoffs? The way the organ-I-zation handled Harju, from beginning to end, should be cause for concern.

They jilted him twice in one year against his will and stats. When they weren’t sending him off to beat up on children at Worlds or avoid the beer-league rats toiling in the AHL, they were sticking him on his off side with the so-bad-it’s-not-funny-anymore Brent Seabrook and neutering his playing time. All of this while still pushing the “this is a playoff team” narrative right up until their formal elimination. You can’t blame Harju for any of that, but you have to wonder how it’s gonna affect his development and desire to play for this team long term. Real good spot to be in after dressing such a historically bad blue line.

If you ever needed more proof that the Brain Trust was born on third, look no further than inciteful decisions like these.

Can I Go Now?

As it stands, Harju should be a top-pairing guy next year. The question will be, “Is that enough?” A 20-year-old with good possession numbers in a small sample is nice. Coupled with the offensive potential he’s shown in the A and WHL, he starts to look really nice. But if the goal is to make one more run at a Cup with the Core still here, Harju has to develop into that #1 guy, and quickly. Jerking him around all year doesn’t seem like the best way to foster that development.

The other bugaboo now is that you have Ian Mitchell returning to Denver, Adam Boqvist reportedly nowhere near ready for the NHL, and Nicolas Beaudin likely in the same boat as Boqvist right now. If the Hawks want to make a play at a proven #1 D-man—and if you haven’t been following, the Hawks absolutely need one, and they’ll likely need to trade for it—Jokiharju is probably one of the best pieces they have to work with. As Sam said, you can’t fit all four of them on the same blue line AND expect THE CORE to still be here. But we can do that thought experiment later.

Overall, Harju had an excellent introductory season and got punished for it, because there’s no fucking plan, just a process.

They never said it was a good process.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Everything Else

It’s time now to move to reviewing the defense…I know, I know, I don’t want to remember either…

I honestly don’t know if Duncan Keith has morphed into a crotchety old man or a petulant toddler. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of similarities between the two so maybe either metaphor applies. Regardless, if there is one thing we learned about Duncan Keith it’s that when he doesn’t give a fuck he DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK. He should adjust his game to account for his decreasing speed as the game itself gets faster? DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK. He should make a concerted effort in a new defensive scheme that may not be totally in his wheelhouse but that’s how the coach wants it? DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK. Duncan Keith will do whatever he damn well pleases no matter how many bad turnovers it leads to. Let’s get to it:

28 GP – 6 G – 34 A – 40 P

49.7 CF% –46.4 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes with a Free Frogurt

Duncan Keith is not terrible and he wasn’t even close to being the worst defenseman on this team, let’s just get that out there right now. Did you even realize he had six goals this year? I, for one, did not. Looking up that stat was a surprise to me. But what matters more is that despite all the bullshit Keith managed a 50 CF% at evens (all situations), which isn’t too far off his average the last few years. Notably, that number jumps to a 53.8 CF% when he was paired with Henri Jokiharju, and HarJu’s CF% was actually higher without Keith so while that sounds concerning, i.e., Keith is dragging guys down, it actually suggests a workable way forward for an aging defenseman with a spiky attitude.

Pair Keith with someone faster who can get to the corners in ways he no longer can, and have the elder statesman act as more the free safety. His zone starts were quite sheltered again this year (58 oZS%), so keep that up and the decline can be managed. It’s probably pretty obvious that I think Keith and Jokiharju should be a package deal because I still think it’s awfully stupid to NOT have Jokiharju here when the blue line is so rancid, but even if it’s not HarJu the team can and should position Keith to use what he has left to contribute as best he can. That’s assuming Keith goes along with the plan, which is the real issue.

The Frogurt is Also Cursed

Basically the question is not CAN Keith play adequately, it’s IF he will choose to do so. Part of this is of course influenced by what the coach does, and for shits and giggles we’ll stick with it being Coach Cool Youth Pastor since by all indications he’ll be behind the bench for the foreseeable future. If Colliton does dumb shit like pair IDGAF Keith with I-Can’t-Skate-Upright Seabrook, we’re going to have a problem. For comparison, Keith and Nachos has an xGA of 20.8 at evens…that number was 17.2 when Keith was paired with Jokiharju, despite Keith having similar ice time with both. Again, this doesn’t mean that Jokiharju is the answer to everything that ails Keith, but it illustrates the point that Seabrook is still not the answer when it comes to who his partner should be.

Pairing him with Gustafsson shouldn’t really be a viable plan either—Gus just isn’t good enough defensively, so even if you give them all the offensive zone starts possible, the risk of what happens once the puck gets past the offensive blue line is terrifying. Who else is there? Forsling? Bitch please, he needs to be fired into the sun. Dahlstrom? Almost the same. Murphy? Not if Our Large Irish Son is staying with the dungeon shifts, for all the reasons we just described about Keith.

But you know all about the personnel problems…Keith needs someone who can be a complementary partner, we get it. At the end of the day, though, whether he gets a complementary partner or is stuck with the jamokes on this current roster, Keith is going to have to either 1) agree to play Colliton’s man-to-man system, should he choose to stick with it, or 2) at least raise his give-a-shit meter to about 7.5 regardless of what system he (Keith) decides he’s going to play on a given night.

We saw Duncan Keith make more lazy, careless plays this year than I can ever remember—bad turnovers that weren’t lack of skill, but lack of caring what happened. He called out his coach after the Hawks fumbled basically their last chances at squeaking into the playoffs, and while that is part of why we love him, you can see from an organizational standpoint how that’s a problem. Yes, he kinda sorta backtracked and said he wanted to be a part of whatever renaissance the Hawks may be attempting, but it’s hard to know if he really meant that or was just covering his ass with the front office.

What was clear was that Keith didn’t care to make the level of effort that is and will continue to be needed with a defense this crappy. He doesn’t have to become some media-friendly talking head; that’s not who he is or who should try to be. But he will have to contribute night in and night out both to make his remaining skills worthwhile, and hopefully to develop some of the green defensemen the system is so full of right now.

If he can’t or won’t, then the Hawks have to look at trading him while his contract still isn’t a Seabrook-level albatross for another team. And while that may make sense from a business standpoint, it would suck goat balls for the rest of us who want to see him age gracefully because we know, we could never have done any of this without him.

Preview Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Everything Else

As always, I was tempted to go through the quotes from the great locker-clearout yesterday at the United Center. Stan Bowman, Jeremy Colliton, and some players all had things to say, and the usual M.O. is for me to sift through it and find what they actually mean or what they’re bullshtting you about. But quite frankly, I’ve grown weary of trying to decode whatever it is a bunch of people who can’t really talk are trying to say, so let’s try something else.

The overriding emotion from the Hawks was frustration, but hope that “progress” was being made. That the Hawks are at least on the right track, or moving forward.

But really, are they?

The Hawks ended the season with 84 points, which is an improvement on the 76 they grudgingly accepted the year before. But the thing is, if Corey Crawford had been healthy all of last season, they probably get that 84 points last year too. At least close to it, with the difference being accounted for by an overtime result or bounce here or there. Yes, Crow missed a good chunk of this season as well, playing in only nine more games than he did last year. And the Hawks garnered one less point in his 39 games this year than they did in his 28 last year. So they got more points in less games without Crawford, which I mean… I guess? It doesn’t feel like the difference in points is all that significant.

The Hawks can point to a bounce-back year for Toews, and the monster years for Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. And the former was more than we were expecting, but no one was expecting Toews to be bad. You might not have seen Kane getting to 108 points, but you probably saw 90-95. You knew Top Cat would score. These are measures of degrees in knowns, not new discoveries.

Dylan Strome’s acquisition and then blossoming was fun to watch. Except Strome’s production was exactly the production anticipated from Nick Schmaltz. So while it’s a personal boon for Strome, and the Hawks are better off now with Strome than the injured Schmaltz, the production from that spot in the lineup is no better or worse than what you would have guessed before the season. Again, it’s a known.

The biggest problem area, defense, saw very little progress. Connor Murphy was much better playing under a coach who wasn’t using him as voodoo doll against his GM, but he basically proved to be a second-pairing guy. Erik Gustafsson exploded offensively and caused explosions defensively, leaving you to wonder what exactly it all means. And whatever gains you might have gotten there were almost certainly canceled out by the declines of Keith and Seabrook and the nothing from Gustav Forsling.

Your only promising d-man’s development all came away from the NHL. Basically, Henri Jokiharju has an entire reputation to build in The Show after a handful of games. The minors is where he belonged, and it’s not his fault that his game, as inexperienced and jumpy as it was, looked that much better in comparison to the other muppets the Hawks were tossing out there. The most I ever felt about Jokiharju was that he was fine in games, and you can’t say for sure you know what you have there. The rest of the hope for the blue line isn’t even in the organization yet. You have their names and claims to them, but they aren’t taking the team anywhere yet, might not for a while, and might not at all. You have hope, but no answers there.

With the season over, it still feels like the Hawks are inert. Directionless. They need a big signing or trade or two to kickstart any movement. But they needed that last year and never got it.

You can point to to the greater point production from your stars, but all that really means is that the Hawks were spinning their wheels even harder in the mud.

It doesn’t have to be bleak. Maybe Jokiharju shows another gear from jump-street, to go along with whatever new additions are made back there. Perhaps Strome takes the step forward that Schmaltz never looked like he would early in the season. And Top Cat is a genuine 40-goal scorer. Even with all of that, that makes the Hawks a wildcard team? As bad as the conference was this year, it’s not easy to add 10 points to your total from one season to the next. And the playoff threshold is likely to return to its 95-point area instead of the purple-hair-and-poetry phase it had this year at 90 points. And you’re playing catch-up to the Avs, who will be adding Cale Makar and one of Jack Hughes or Kaako Kappo next season, most likely. Everyone else is probably too far ahead to worry about.

They’re calling it progress. I can’t seem to see the schooner in the picture.