Everything Else

Well, what can you say about this one? We knew it was going to be rough, and right out of the gate it felt doomed. But then for a moment it didn’t…until it did again, until the third, and then… let’s just get to the bullets:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– We’ve all been rightfully bitching about a lack of scoring depth, so didn’t we get a treat tonight with five goals coming from the dregs: Marcus Kruger, John Hayden, Jan Rutta, David Kampf, and Artem Anisimov (no, I don’t really think Kruger is the dregs but he’s acting like it right now). Kruger’s and Hayden’s came in the frantic mess that was the first period, where it seemed initially like the Jets were going to run away with it, but these goals exposed how Hellebuyck was already having an off night and the Jets defense wasn’t at their best. Both came from rebounds in scrums right in front of the net, as did Kampf’s late in the third. So I guess there’s a moral victory in that our shitty bottom six and possibly worst defenseman managed five goals against ostensibly one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Honestly I’m shocked we scored five goals at all, so I’m going to take a cue from the sunny disposition of the Canadian announcers whose feed supplanted the dogshit Comcast one, and be pleasantly surprised with our offense tonight.

– The Jets looked beatable at many points tonight, which is contributing to the frustration here. Yes, they have ridiculous scoring (more on that later), but the fucking Hawks were able to tie it up once and come within one whiffed shot of tying it twice. Jonathan Toews had the game on his stick in the final seconds of the third and it looked like he either had some equipment malfunction with the stick, or just missed the puck. He was at the top of the crease and had Hellebuyck moving the wrong way but no dice. Either way, the Jets did not dominate in possession—they best they managed was a 53 CF% at evens in the second, whereas in the third they had a measly 30 CF%. In fact during the third the Hawks had multiple long shifts in the offensive zone with plenty of cycling but not quite enough finish. Connor Hellebuyck finished with an .839 SV%, so he continued his underwhelming ways. But the Jets’ raw talent was enough to overcome suspect defense and goaltending.

– About that…Jesus christ, Patrik Laine is a beast. He only had two goals tonight, which feels like a win right there. In the third he straight-up robbed a hapless Jan Rutta in the defensive zone and walked right in to score easily. This guy has had three hat tricks this month alone—and in three different countries! This is what I learned thanks to Canadian announcers: hat tricks in Finland, Canada, and the US. Just this November. He’s terrifying. And even though Laine had an off night with less than 17 goals, Nikolaj Ehlers did the honors by getting a hat trick instead. He also made our defensemen look pathetic, including picking off a pass from Gustafsson for an easy breakaway that led to his third goal. That was the real difference between the teams tonight: when the Jets needed just enough to get out of a jam, their insanely talented players could do it, regardless of the rest of the team.

– The DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line got split up in the second and brought back together in the third. Their possession numbers didn’t turn out great (about a 29 CF%), yet in the third they turned it around a little and were responsible for a lot of that cycling and puck movement in the offensive zone I mentioned earlier, except there was that no-finish problem too. Personally I think they should be given time to make things work, and I’d rather not see Jeremy Colliton get antsy and start hitting the blender on these guys.

– Hellebuyck had a bad night but Crawford’s wasn’t any better. Granted, Crawford was facing far superior scoring threats and has the shittier defense in front of him. After destroying everything that came his way a week or so ago, I guess a bit of a correction is to be expected. But games like this where a better opponent is caught on an off night are exactly the ones where we need him to be super-human. Help me Corey Crawford, you’re my only hope.

– The broadcast issues were a bit comical, since at least for me it kept cutting out every time there was a goal. Finally they went to the Canadian broadcast and I was not sorry to hear someone other than Pat and Eddie, even if it was a couple of backwoods tundra-dwelling clods drunk on Labatt.

Only another 48 hours until we get to do this again! And it’s against another elite team…aren’t you just counting the minutes?

Beer de jour: Totally Naked by New Glarus

Line of the Night: “Good things happen to good people.” —Random Canadian hockey announcer, with what was the most Canadian thing ever said.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

Well, changing coaches hasn’t worked yet. Jumbling around the lines didn’t really either. Though Jeremy Colliton has his first point, a return of one out of six probably isn’t what management had in mind. Or maybe it was and they didn’t tell us?

Whatever it was, tonight was nothing we didn’t know. The roster is short, and there a couple veterans not carrying their weight. This team was probably calibrated on the hope that they would. I don’t know why you’d calibrate it that way, but here we are. At least I don’t have another explanation. If you do, feel free to share.

All right, let’s clean this up and get on with our lives.

The Two Obs

-Not sure where to begin, so I’ll unfairly begin with Duncan Keith again. While his glaring gaffe (alliteration, people) took place on the penalty kill, so I should probably just dismiss it as him getting the inevitable goal against out of the way early so the Hawks could get back to even-strength.

At some point this season, if Jeremy Colliton accomplishes nothing else this season but convince Duncan Keith that he’s no longer DUNCAN KEITH, I’ll call it a success. We went over this on Saturday. Duncan Keith was paired with Henri Jokharju to take that aspect of his game off his plate. It was meant to streamline his game, and keep him more efficient with what he can do. He didn’t listen. Maybe he can’t fight it, maybe it’s been too long.

Pairing him with Seabrook was only going to enforce that feeling, I guess. So there he was, chasing Andrei Svechnikov outside the circles, pretty well contained out there. But Keith can’t get there anymore. And Svechnikov, a budding monster, is going to walk him every time. He did it later in the game as well, So did Aho. But this is the one the Hawks paid for. Svechnikov has a clear path to the net, forcing Seabrook into basically Sophie’s choice. He could maybe do a little more than just amble over there while leaving a passing lane to Michael Ferland, but here were no good options.

Someone get Keith in front of a video screen with nothing but how Ryan Suter plays these days. It’s a super-efficient game, where Suter lets the game come to him and picks his spots when to get outside the normal parameters. Keith is still chasing the game and trying to bend it to his will, He can’t do it anymore. And the Hawks keep paying for it.

-That goal was off a Henri Jokiharju penalty where he braced for a hit at the expense of getting the puck. These are the kinds of mistakes we would normally live with, but now is about the time they have to stop. Hey, The HarJu isn’t going to survive too many hits in the NHL with the puck. But his hands are quick enough to move the puck along before getting hit. Chalk it up to the learning curve.

-Which will bring us to Nick Schmaltz. We generally like Schmaltz around here. Fine player. Clear problems. The refusing to shoot is getting really annoying. And Eddie correctly lit him up for ducking out of a puck battle/hit with Justin Faulk (though Schmaltz did cause a turnover a second later, but still).

And that kind of thing keeps happening. And it’s a tough sell to your fanbase and everyone else when you’re saying you basically did nothing in the offseason to keep your powder dry in big part to re-sign Schmaltz. Because he keeps looking like a second-line player, whether that’s wing or center. You don’t build around second-line players. I don’t want to know what kind of deals Stan turned down that included Schmaltz.

Schmaltz still has 60 games to turn it around and look like a real piece. But it’s year three now, you kind of know where he is. Are you tossing $6 million at this? Or are you hoping he keeps doing shit like this and we’ll have to agree to a bridge deal? And shoot the fucking thing already.

-Brandon Davidson and Jan Rutta got themselves in a tangle when the Canes were on a change and there was literally no forechecker in the zone and they couldn’t manage to pass between each other in the 2nd period. I can’t really sum the third pairing up any better than that.

-Other than the penalty, Goose and The HarJu weren’t a complete disaster, to the tune of a 68% and 64% share on the night.

-It’s nice that the Hawks fourth-line was so effective. But to review, when your fourth line is your most effective, that’s a problem.

Ok, that’s enough. It’s a point. Maybe it’ll be better to snap it against the Blues. Somehow, I doubt it.

Onwards…

Everything Else

 vs 
Game Time: 5:00PM
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, NHL Network, Sportsnet 1, WGN-AM 720
53rd Parallel: Copper & Blue, Oilers Nation

It’s a slightly earlier start tonight on West Madison to accomodate the western Canadian audiences as the Hawks welcome Connor McDavid and his merry band of pranksters into the UC for their only visit of the year, with both teams capping off a three-in-four weekend stretch yet again, with all of the Oil’s games coming on the road.

Everything Else

Box Score
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

Look, at this point it’s a cliche, but it always happens. The Hawks go into West East St. Louis on a Saturday night, that team teetering on quitting on whatever coach they currently have behind the bench and with the florid-faced, meth-addled MAGA chuds in attendance baying for blood from the word “go”. Sometimes the Hawks rope-a-dope and let the Blues skate themselves out of position and eventually turn to retaliatory bullshit, and others, like tonight, the pucks go in (extremely) early and the Blues walk away with two points having left everyone feel dirtier for having watched it.

  • Tonight was another study in neo-cubist defensive positioning, and it wasn’t just the utterly atrocious pairing of Brandon Manning and Jan Rutta, though at least Rutta finally got his ass benched and didn’t see a shift in the entire second half of the game. Henri Jokiharju was across the river on the Blues second goal, and he and Duncan Keith had a rough go of things all night long. The forwards didn’t help either, as Dominik Kahun did his best Roger Dorn impersonation on Ryan O’Reilly in the game’s opening seconds.
  • This is the most anyone has been forced to watch John Hayden handle the puck likely since he attended hockey camp in junior high (the last time he attended a meaningful class in school, don’t believe that Yale bullshit), and he’s going to give everyone an eye infection if he keeps pulling up just inside the blue line to set up shop and look for a pass.
  • The Toews line was basically nowhere to be found tonight, despite a 62% share and Mike Yeo combating Toews with ROR. The line wasn’t nearly dangerous enough, and when only one of the top two lines on this team marks the sheet against even remotely competent teams, the defense is going to have a hard time keeping the hounds at bay.
  • Conversely the Saad-Wide Dick-Garbage Dick line were all hovering around 40% and “created” all three goals, as much as anyone creates anything when Jay Gallon is letting in Downey soft bullshit like he was.
  • Speaking of which, it could be said that Chad Johnson came in and bailed the Blues out after Allen was rickety even on the shots that hit him right in the solar plexus, but the Hawks didn’t exactly mount a furious rally in the third, when everything was kept to the outside.
  • During said “rally” two seperate icings within about 2 minutes of one another were waved off by the linesmen because both Erik Gustafsson and Alexandre Fortin slacked ass on coming back even on a hybrid icing. That’s flat out inexcusable and just as benching-worthy as everything Jan Rutta did (which was plenty).
  • Other than the power play goal in garbage time, there really wasn’t a damn thing to be done by Corey Crawford on any of the 5 he allowed. He still looked sharp.
  • No time to wallow, as McJesus and his dipshit apostles arrive on West Madison tomorrow having just beat the Preds in Nashville and Cam Ward to shoot at.
Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

The Blackhawks were given the unfortunate task of trying to cheer me up after the Bears loss today, and instead of doing that they just took my already broken heart and ripped it out of my chest and stomped on it. Well, not really, because I don’t really think much of these Blackhawks even with how fun the early games this year have been, and with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming to town and Cam Ward in net, this was going to be ugly from the jump. But let me be dramatic, okay. Let’s do the bullets:

– Sweet merciful Jesus, can anyone on the blue line for this team skate anymore? I know the Lightning are one of the fastest teams in the NHL, but the Blackhawks defensemen literally looked like traffic cones more often than not tonight. The Lightning were skating circles around them all game long, and no one even really seemed interested in stopping them. Seriously, go watch the Lightning’s fourth goal again, if you can stomach it – I know I couldn’t. It’s like watching a new driver go through an obstacle course. Or like watching the Patriots receivers run through the Bears secondary. NO YOU ARE STILL MAD ABOUT IT.

– The second period tonight was perhaps the worst display of “professional” hockey I have ever seen the Blackhawks play. That really is where the Lightning did most of their obstacle course maneuvering, and they basically suffocated the Hawks the whole time. I don’t care how fast or good the team you’re playing in, to get outshot 34-6 in any period of NHL is hockey is inexcusable.

– Sam mentioned this on Twitter, but the Hawks best work in terms of getting out of their own zone tonight was whichever player had the puck just went up the ice with it, either skating or passing, instead of trying to fit into whichever weird-ass system Q wants them to run on the breakout. It worked for Jan Rutta, who in a a blind-squirrel-finding-a-nut moment sprung Alexandre Fortin on a breakaway for his first NHL goal.

– Those last two points bring me to a conclusion, and it’s one that I’ve talked about both sarcastically and seriously for a while now, and the podcast guys have talked about for a while now as well. And that is that it might just be time for Joel Quenneville to go. Now, I seriously doubt they’re going to make any serious move like that in season anytime soon, especially after the Scott Powers article that waxed poetic last week about how Q got here to begin with. But getting dominated in a period like that and success coming moreso from players doing their own thing rather than your system are not trends that bode well for the Stache. This is just one game, so I am not trying to jump to too wild of a conclusion, but it’s still something to monitor.

– Congrats to the Hawks on finally scoring a power play goal tonight. I look forward to the next one coming in December.

Everything Else

There was a time when I thought Jan Rutta might be a halfway decent defenseman. Sure, he was a nobody from a random European league, but I personally have a soft spot for Euros, and besides, the Hawks have a good track record with European scouting.

Oh how wrong I was. Rutta was basically a bust, and the Hawks added insult to injury (literally) by giving him a contract extension for 2.25 million rather than using that money to, oh, I don’t know, bring in someone not constantly tripping over his own dick in the defensive zone. And what I mean by that “literally” comment is that Rutta missed a bunch of games with various and sundry injuries just before the re-signing, making it all the more infuriating. But he’s here and it appears we’re stuck with him, so let’s do this:

2017-18 Stats

57 GP – 6 G – 14 A

49.8 CF% – 50.6 oSZ%

Avg. TOI 19:15

A Brief History: Rutta pretty much sucked, but one could be tempted to blame his fellow slag, Gustav Forsling, who he was paired with more often than not. Rutta had the second-worst possession numbers out of defensemen (49.8 CF% at evens), and the only guy worse was…wait for it…Gustav Foreskin, his erstwhile partner! Unsurprisingly, their joint possession numbers were terrible (48.2 CF%).

But it’s not just that his work with Forsling was hideous to watch. Rutta’s numbers embodied the definition of lackluster: -3.0 CF% rel, 48 xGF%, 33 giveaways to 10 takeaways, it just goes on like this. To his credit, Rutta had the third-highest point total for a defenseman last year at 20, but he had the frustrating habit of scoring a goal after a craptacular run of mistakes, and it was just enough for Q to ignore logic and recent memory and keep putting him in the lineup. The contract extension in March was salt in the wound that resulted from watching the Hawks’ blue line, and it promises to continue causing agony for the foreseeable future.

It Was the Best of Times: The best-case scenario is that Rutta ends up a serviceable third-pairing guy. And by serviceable I mean he improves his possession numbers and his mobility—even just a little. Maybe he and fellow undeserving-signee Erik Gustaffson can kill enough time on a third pairing to let Keith, Murphy, and whoever else gets stuck with Seabrook catch their breath. Maybe he and Brandon Manning can perfect the “just a guy” pairing and not give up about 8,000 goals when they’re out there. Eating up ice time with minimal damage would be the ideal outcome here.

It Was the BLURST of Times: Conversely, the worst-case scenario is that Rutta has a starring role on this defense. If Q puts him on the top pairing with Keith—and don’t think it can’t happen; they had a 52 CF% in Rutta’s 57 games last year—we’re going to have an aging Keith with an immobile partner who is prone to turnovers. Not exactly what you want for what is ostensibly your best pairing. In this nightmare, Rutta bumbles through countless bad giveaways and gets smoked by the opposing offense, yet somehow scores 10 goals and Quenneville’s selective amnesia goes unchecked, while Duncan Keith deteriorates faster than he should. Don’t let the above-water possession stat from last year fool you—this would be a comedy of errors most nights.

Prediction: What likely happens is a mix of these two scenarios. Rutta plays with Keith until a series of egregious mistakes forces Q’s hand. He spends time bouncing between the second and third pairings as Q hits the blender like a drunken bridesmaid attempting to make frozen margaritas near the end of a bachelorette party. He ends up in the press box periodically as Jokiharju comes into his own (it’s wishful thinking I know but LET ME HAVE THIS). Rutta ends the season with less than 15 points and fewer than 5 goals, and when his one-year extension is up, the team lets him go and we all breathe a sigh of relief. Or they trade him as part of a package for a real defenseman, like we’ve been waiting for these past five months. But that’s too much wishful thinking—this is a prediction after all.

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Brandon Manning

Everything Else

Motherfucker.

Diving into the 2018 free agency pool for defense was never going to go swimmingly for the Blackhawks. Sure, there were rumblings about John Carlson’s availability, but even if he hadn’t re-signed in Washington, paying him $8 million per over a two-term presidency was neither realistic nor wanted, given all the griping we’ve done about Seabrook. Calvin de Haan may have been nice, but he ended up in Carolina for $4.55 million per over four years. Thomas Hickey also could have maybe been a thing, but the 2007 #4 overall pick signed with the Islanders at $2.5 million per over four years. Once those three came off the board, you’d have thought the Hawks would scrape the bucket for a PTO guy like Franson to throw maybe $1 million at.

Instead, the Hawks went out and gave a two-year, $2.25 million per contract to Brandon Manning, a PTO talent at a Thomas Hickey price. ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET?

2017–18 Stats

65 GP – 7 G, 12 A

50 CF%, 45.6 oZS%

Avg. TOI 17:57

A Brief History: First off, fuck this guy. Brandon Manning spent most of his junior career sucking, and in an effort to get noticed, he—in his own fucking words—”fought nine or 10 times that year and stuck up for my teammates and made some big hits.” Jesus Christ bare-assed on the cross, Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville actually called Brandon Manning and told him, “We need a guy who doesn’t really score and can play physical.” Just keep giving Q the biddy, StanBo, it’s worked so fucking well in the past. Really good start here.

Manning went undrafted before latching on in Philadelphia—a place nothing less than perfect for a booger-eating buffoon whose calling card was protecting grown men on skates from other grown men on skates—in 2012. He spent most of his career with the Flyera doing nothing aside from tripping and breaking the collarbone of Connor McDavid in 2015, allegedly telling McDavid that he hurt him on purpose during a game in 2016, recanting when McDavid talked about it publicly, then getting his ass punched in by the aptly named Patrick Maroon as retribution in 2017. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT THIS SIGNING?

In his first two full years, Manning spent most of his time in the offensive zone not contributing offensively. Last year was a bit different. He spent just 45.6% of his time in the offensive zone but contributed a career high 19 points. He broke exactly even at 50% on the CF% front. That’s somewhat encouraging, especially since he played most of his time next to living ghoul Radko Gudas and his aircraft carrier forehead.

But as we are wont to do, once you dig into the fancier stats, things look less than good. His xGF% (expected goals for percentage) was 48.89, which means that Manning’s opponents were expected to score more often when Manning was on the ice than the Flyera were. The closest Blackhawks comp Manning had in this category was Jordan Oesterle (49.00), who, as we all know, is one of the suckiest sucks who ever sucked on defense.

Further, his Rel xGF% (relative expected goals for percentage) was -2.22, which means Manning brought the likelihood of the Flyera scoring a goal down about 2% while he was on the ice. The closest Blackhawks comp from last year is Jan Rutta (-2.24).

And fuck it, let’s go even deeper, because the Hawks brass obviously couldn’t be bothered, as evidenced by the fact that they signed Brandon Motherfucking Manning. Manning’s HDCF%, which measures the percentage of high-danger chances for vs. high-danger chances against, was 47.31, good for second worst on the Flyera. This means that when Manning was on the ice, opponents were more likely to take shots from high-danger zones. High-danger shots are more likely to become goals. Since Manning himself doesn’t generate offense and apparently isn’t great at suppressing high-danger shots, it would seem that having him on the ice against anything but bottom lines is a recipe for disaster, especially if anyone but Crawford is in net.

So, he’s a combo of Oesterle without the KEEP FIRING ASSHOLES mentality and Rutta. And all this for just $2.25 million a year for two god damn years. Whose loins aren’t frothing?

It Was the Best of Times: Best case, Manning becomes part of a trade package for Erik Karlsson. Or, with contract negotiations for Darnell Nurse reportedly breaking down, they do Hall for Larssen II with Manning for Nurse. Barring those miracles, Manning plays fewer than 10 games because Jokiharju pulls a DeBrincat and makes it impossible not to play him. In the time he does play, Manning puts three or four points up and wins a fight or two, and the Hawks can trade him for something not called Brandon Manning. If he can’t be traded (he can’t), Quenneville shocks us all by learning what a sunk cost is and makes him a consistent healthy scratch.

It Was the BLURST of Times: We cannot stress enough how asinine this signing is. The fact that he was signed at all is a worst-case scenario. But he’s here now, he’s going to play, it’s going to suck, and it’s up to us to imagine how badly it’s going to suck. Worst case, Manning slots with Seabrook on the second pairing, because Manning played Top-4 minutes in the playoffs for the Flyera last year, a series in which Manning tossed a 48.77 CF%, 35.83 xGF%, and a hilarious -14.88 Rel xGF% against the likes of Crosby and Malkin.

StanBo throws his entire dick into his pet theory that Manning has gotten better with age and is on the verge of a breakout. That doesn’t happen, of course, because Brandon Manning sucks and would be better served in the boxing ring having his dome caved in nightly like the palooka he is. He channels his inner John Scott and becomes an insufferable monolith, both on and off the ice. After serving as a $4.5 million paperweight in his two years here, Manning uses his money to buy and close Al’s so he can open a Wawa there.

Prediction: Brandon Manning is the most Tom Smykowski signing the Hawks have had since Jordan Oesterle. He spent most of his career doing much of nothing, couldn’t hack it on a team that started Radko Fucking Gudas with a straight face, then got a seven-figure settlement as Bowman (read: Quenneville) went drunk driving and smashed into him with a HOCKEY REASONS contract.

So, he’ll spend time on the Top 4 with Seabrook. He’ll be an unmitigated disaster at all times and still get looks over Jokiharju and Murphy because HE’S HARD TO PLAY AGAINST. He’ll stumble his way into 10 points and then be considered for an extension. We’ll get all sorts of think pieces about how much his teammates like him, yet none of his teammates will offer that thought without priming from whoever’s in charge of pushing that narrative that day.

Just burn the whole building down.

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Everything Else

Our next stop on the hindsight circuit brings us to Chicago’s two young Swedish defensemen, Gustav Forsling and Carl Dahlstrom. Let’s do these bad boys one at a time.

Gustav Forsling

41 Games, 3 Goals, 10 Assists, 13 Points, -2, 8 PIM

48.9 CF%, -6.8 CF% rel, 44.54 xGF%, -8.9 xGF% rel, 51.67 Zone Start Ratio

With what appeared to be a mostly patchwork blue line group heading into the 2017-18 Blackhawks season, it seemed to make sense that Gustav Forsling would get a really fair shake at proving his worth in the NHL. Some might make the case that he did get that shake, but those some would be wrong. Yes, Forsling spent a good amount of time at the NHL level last year – playing in half the games definitely strikes one as a fair shake. But the big number that sticks out there is the 51.67 Zone Start Ratio. For a player of Forsling’s skillset, that is entirely too low, even as a defenseman. Barely having more than half of his shifts start in the offensive zone screams misuse.

Add in the fact that he was saddled for much of the season with Jan Rutta, which we covered yesterday, and you have another example of the miscasting. The root of that misuse is that Joel Quenneville seems unable to see Forsling as anything other than what he isn’t, which is to say that Q sees his lack of pure defensive d-zone instincts, physicality, and overall boring defensive play and has thus far tried to coax him into developing that side of his game rather than really accentuating what he does well. Which is really strange, because it seems to me that what Forsling does well is almost exactly what the Hawks blue line really needs.

Forsling has the most beautiful skating stride on the team, sees the ice with enviable vision and anticipation, can drop a puck on his teammates tape nearly as good as anyone else on the team, and he can combine all of that moving full speed up the ice with the puck on his tape. We’ve been clamoring for Keith to have a mobile partner who might be able to cover up for his freewheeling and loss of mobility, and it seems like Forsling might be the right fit. Even if his defensive instincts are not exactly high level, he can get himself back in coverage well enough to break up or delay any rush enough to let the other four guys get back. No, it’s not the ideal scenario because it’s not Erik Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but he’s got the shell basics outline of the game those two play with still plenty of potential to be tapped into.

In a perfect world, Joel Quenneville realizes that he already has defensemen with skill sets more geared toward what he’s tried to get Forsling to do these past two years, and finally starts letting my special boy (yes, I am still giving him that title) off the leash a bit to play a style that fits him best. That might be with Keith, maybe with Murphy, it could even be with Seabrook if the Hawks and Seabs can get on the same page with a role like Sam outlined the other day. That’s the best and maybe only way you’re really gonna see what you have in the Fors.

But this isn’t a perfect world, so Quenneville will do the same shit for the third year and hope it works this time – something something definition of insanity – before Forsling gets sent back to A in January again. Hooray.

Carl Dahlstrom

11 Games, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, -2, 0 PIM

52.29 CF%, -5.29 CF% rel, 46.7 xGF%, -6.55 xGF% rel, 46 Zone Start Ratio

There isn’t too much you can glean from just 11 NHL games for a young defenseman, especially one who was in just his second year in North America. Dahlstrom has his good and bad moments, which is really shitty analysis, but again, it was just eleven games. What more do you want from me?

Digging into the pairings a bit, Dahlstrom spent more time with our ginger darling Connor Murphy than other blue-liner while he was in Chicago, with those two racking up 50:31 of ice time together at 5v5, or about three-to-five games worth of being a pairing. Dahlstrom only played about 120 5v5 minutes total away from Murphy. They posted a 52.53 CF% together, which was better than either of their marks away from each other, though Murphy had significantly more time without Dahlstrom than vice versa, and I don’t read anything into it for #5. But what it does show for Dahlstrom is that he has the goods to play at an acceptable level in the NHL if paired with a good partner.

Overall, I don’t really know what kind of future Dahlstrom has in Chicago. You have the obvious three of Keith, Nacho, and Murphy that will be hear for the long run, plus Rutta and Oesterle who if here will probably get minutes from this coach. Then you have Forsling, Jokiharju, and Ian Mitchell that the organization appear to be very high on. On top of all that, consider that you’re probably adding at least one or two high-level guys – one NHL d-man via trade or free agency, and ideally a top d-man prospect with the lottery pick – and you have a whole hell of a lot of guys in front of Dahlstrom. But besides that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

In all seriousness, the bottom pairing and depth d-man spots should be wide open for competition in camp next year, and Dahlstrom will likely be given the same shot as anyone to earn one of those spots. It’ll be up to him to do so.

Everything Else

Mats Halin has now been the Blackhawks’ director of European scouting for five years, and in that time he has been able to pull a few decent players out of that continent and into the Hawks system. Identifying Artemi Panarin and surely playing a role in getting him to sign here was no doubt his shining moment definitely bought him a lot of leeway. Jan Rutta’s first NHL season should have eaten up a bit of a that leeway. Rutta wasn’t outright terrible, but he was bad, and deserved more ire for just how bad he was. Lets dig in a bit.

Jan Rutta

57 Games, 6 goals, 14 assists, 20 points, -1, 24 PIM

50.08 CF%, -2.4 CF% rel, 47.92 xGF%, -2.24 xGF% rel, 51.1 Zone Start Ratio

On the face of it, those numbers are not awful, but on the worst Hawks team of the last decade, Rutta stuck out to me as the worst defenseman that saw regular minutes on this squad. He had the second-worst CF% among the team’s blue liners, with the only one behind him being Gustav Forsling – and we aren’t gonna get started on that yet, but it’s coming tomorrow. He was third-worst in xGF%, just above Keith and Forsling. The points look okay, but aren’t overly impressive, and the underlying stats are obviously bad enough to show that this is a player who is arguably not even good enough to crack the NHL roster.

Looking at his pairings, he spent more time with the aforementioned Forsling than anyone, and the two of them were pretty much abysmal together, with a 48.22 CF%. The blame for that probably lies more on the coach who saddled them together consistently than either of the players, because their individual play styles are not compatible. Rutta is not mobile, not a good puck mover, and isn’t a great reader of the play on either side of the ice, while Forsling is nearly the opposite though only reads the play well on offense. Rutta isn’t awful in his own zone, but he is not nearly good enough to make up for Forslings shortcomings in that area. He also is not fast enough to clean up the messes that might’ve been left when Forsling started to freewheel on offense, and that became evident quickly. This was a hair-brained pairing from the start, but that still doesn’t completely absolve Rutta from being terrible.

He also spent a decent amount of time (120+ minutes total) with Jordan Oesterle, and oh look they were terrible together too. That was mostly because both of them are terrible individually, and putting two terrible defensemen together to form a terrible pairing results in a 42.03 CF%. I’d like to never think about them together.

Now, to his credit, Rutta did at times prove to be a decent partner for Duncan Keith, with those two providing a fine-but-not-spectacular 52 CF% in 140+ minutes together. Sam and others here have talked plenty about Keith needing to recalibrate his play style and approach to the game, and there is a case to be made that Rutta’s style of play makes him a match for Keith because his lack of mobility results in some quasi-stability. However, Duncan Keith is still good enough to man a top pairing, and Rutta is the last defenseman you want to play on a top pairing. Also, that stability from Rutta might help a little bit, but as Sam said the other day, you prefer a mobile partner for Keith at this point to cover for him. So while the results weren’t awful, this isn’t an idea even worthy of pinning to the board in case you need to return to it. Toss in the trash, Joel.

Outlook: Overall, Rutta’s season was not good, and he is arguably not worthy of any NHL minutes next year. Luckily, he probably lines up as the odd man out when you consider you’re ideally gonna have Keith, Seabrook, Forsling, Gustafsson, Oesterle, someone who isn’t here now, and maybe even Jokiharju lined up as defensemen who are better than him and will be competing for minutes. There is the major red flag though, that being the contract extension he was handed near the end of the season, that might earn him some undue preferential treatment. That was an extremely confusing move from StanBo, and the cap hit is particularly worrisome. But, it’s not an albatross, and might even be a toss-in contract for when Stan dials up John Chayka and brings OEL to Chicago. Thanks.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

By every measure, the Hawks got their asses kicked in this game—shots, possession (in the first and second), faceoffs, you name it. And yet, they capitalized on the Blues going full-on Blue-ing themselves, and the Hawks are halfway towards fucking them over completely and keeping them out of the playoffs. To the bullets:

–It was a big night for Hawks’ nobodies. Both Andreas Martinsen and Blay Killman took their first steps toward what is assuredly legendary status with the Blackhawks with their first-ever NHL goals. And Killman’s was short-handed! (That’s his name, isn’t it? Ah, who gives a shit.) Everyone gets their 15 minutes, right?

–It was a bigger night for Alex DeBrincat, who now leads the Hawks with 28 goals. He just undressed Edmundson midway through the third to tie the game at 3. We’ve said it before and it’s no surprise at this point, but this guy gives me hope for the future, which is about all we’ve got. Well, that and schadenfreude.

–And it was an even bigger night for Duncan Keith, who scored is second—count it second—goal of the year, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Patrick Sharp drew a penalty late in the third and Keith was able to miraculously avoid all shinpads in the area and get the winner. Dreams do come true!

–All that’s great and not to be Debbie Downer here, but Connor Murphy had a rough one. I’m particularly bummed to see it come near the end of the season when he really needs to finish strong, both for his own confidence and as a fuck-you to Quenneville. But no, his turnover in the defensive zone led to Bortuzzo’s goal in the first, and his high-sticking penalty later that period resulted in the power play to start the second that set up Schenn’s goal (time on the pp had just expired so it wasn’t a pp goal but it was one of those situations where they were cycling and still riding out the man advantage). Murphy recovered his composure by the end of the second but finished with a 42 CF% for the night. Overall, not one for the highlight reel.

–In other tales of questionable defense, Tarasenko scored in the second period after Jan Rutta turned over the puck at the offensive blue line, but honestly, as he reached the zone, Rutta was alone with three Blues closing in around him, and c’mon, it’s Jan fucking Rutta, what did you think was going to happen? Pierre and the rest of the broadcast team lost their shit over him giving the puck away, but again, it was Rutta for god’s sake. It just felt like a matter of time before Tarasenko capitalized on an opportunity; Rutta has had way worse offenses this season than this one.

–All that aside, we fucking beat the Blues and severely damaged their playoff chances. Sikura had some flashes, Jurco had a strong game and led the team in possession, and Berube was just good enough…better than Jay Gallon which may not be saying much but so fucking what?

This is my last Hawks wrap of the season, people! Pullega and Hess are going to bring it home for you for the last two games. It’s been absurd amounts of fun, and I want to thank all of you for reading even if we don’t love the way the season worked out. Onward and upward!

Beer du jour: Fist City by Revolution

Line of the Night: “Play like Scott Foster is in the net!” –Adam Burish, giving his best advice of the season.