Hockey

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.

Hockey

Day 1 of UFA season is in the books. Stan Bowman has made some moves. The moves ranged from “shoring up the blue line” and “adding a top-six forward” to “depth signings” and “signing Robin Lehner.” The general attitude is that the Hawks are now better than they were last year. That’s probably true, but that’s a bar that’s so low you’d likely throw your back out stepping into the divot it makes. The ambitious attitude, such as the one taken by good writer Mark Lazerus, is that “Bowman quietly has retooled the Blackhawks into a playoff-caliber team since the Quenneville firing with his most impressive run as a GM.”

I would like to whole-heartedly disagree with the latter attitude.

Here’s what the Hawks lineup looks like currently, taking some guesses as to where guys will slot.

Saad–Toews–Shaw

DeBrincat–Strome–Kane

Kubalik–Carpenter–Sikura

Caggiula–Kampf–Wedin/Perlini

 

Keith–Gus

de Haan–Seabrook

Maatta–Murphy

 

Crow

Lehner

This is not a playoff team, finishing last season on a 100-point pace be damned.

Shitty Thing 1: The Blue Line Is Still Horrible

Credit StanBo for doing something to address the blue line if you must. But if you’re sitting around thinking that the Hawks’s blue line is even remotely close to acceptable, you might be Peter Chiarelli.

This defensive corps is simply terrible, and it’s going to prevent the Hawks from making the playoffs once again. There isn’t a single first pairing defenseman among them, let alone a #1 guy. And before you try to tell me that Duncan Keith can still be that guy, let me disabuse you of that notion. Let’s start with the nerd stats.

According to Manny Perry’s WAR model on Corsica, Duncan Keith has the absolute worst WAR (wins above replacement) among all qualified D-men over the past three years. He’s been worse than guys like Rasmus Ristolainen, Kevin Bieksa, Brooks Orpik, and Cody Ceci. Now, this does come with a caveat, as a huge chunk of that number comes from the utterly abysmal 2017–18 year, in which Keith had the 10,000-day goal-scoring drought and finished -29. But over each of the past three years, Keith has performed worse than a replacement-level player. Even looking at just Blackhawks from last year, only Gustav Forsling had a worse WAR rating, and he categorically sucks.

When you look at Micah Blake McCurdy’s models, we can see some pretty bad shit when Keith is stuck in his own end, which was par for the course for all Hawks last year.

That graph on the left shows shots-against distributions when Keith is on the ice. The one on the right shows without Keith on the ice. Both have huge red blobs right in the high-danger area regardless. One positive to take from this is that when Keith is on the ice, opponents tend to attack his partner (i.e., Seabrook and Gustafsson), as Keith typically lines up on the left, but not so much as to justify Keith’s performance.

The bigger issue is what it looks like with Keith on the PK.

The one on the left is with Keith; on the right, without. You can see what an unmitigated disaster it was with Keith–Seabrook out there.

And even if nerd stats aren’t your thing, when you watch Keith, the twitch speed just isn’t there anymore, and that’s when Keith can be bothered to give a shit out there. You may remember this turnover, and though one turnover does not a year make, this is the kind of shit we’re talking about when we wonder whether Keith is fully engaged.

Keith will get his statue, his number retired, and all the accolades he deserves. But he is simply not that guy anymore. The sooner everyone admits that, the better.

If Keith isn’t even a top-pairing guy, who is? Gus scored 60 points, but he’s a complete train wreck in his own zone. Murphy isn’t that guy despite being the steadiest of all Hawks D-men, especially as a 6’5” centerfielder with a back surgery under his belt. I’m done talking about Seabrook.

Maatta and de Haan are not top guys, either. Maatta is slow and consistently hurt, having only finished an entire 82-game season once. If you want to buy into the idea that he’s a shot blocker, he’s really not. He blocked 116 shots last year, which would have had him tied at 67th overall with Zach Bogosian, Adam Pelech, and Nick Seeler.

If you’re looking at de Haan as an answer, you better hope his shoulder holds up, because he might not even be available for the first month. Plus, de Haan likely tops out as a second-pairing guy. The de Haan move isn’t bad at all, but if de Haan is your best D-man (and he might be), your blue line fucking sucks.

And this doesn’t even touch the Harju fiasco, which is its own problem altogether.

Shitty Thing 2: The Forwards Aren’t Much Better Than Last Year

I get wanting to keep the powder dry for DeBrincat. You can’t let him get away. But after hardly doing the bare minimum on the blue line, what the Hawks did with their forward corps looks like a lot of standing still. You can live with that if you’re adding a Bowen Byram or Jacob Trouba or P.K. Subban on the blue line. But when the answer to a historically bad blue line is Maatta and an injured de Haan, you’ll pardon me for not being over the moon about Andrew Shaw.

Shaw might be fine, but he’s a glorified third liner. And that’s if he can stay on the ice. Both his health and discipline have been problems since he first left Chicago. If he’s taking the kinds of dumb penalties we’re accustomed to, then you better hope de Haan and Maatta are up to the PK task, and that’s not a bet I’m willing to make. I also don’t buy that Shaw’s 47 points in 63 games is the new norm for him. And it’s going to be a real gut punch if Kahun builds on last year even a little bit, because it’ll likely make the Shaw acquisition an unnecessarily expensive lateral move.

If the idea is to outscore defensive problems, what’s new on this team that makes anyone think they can do it? You’re going to need three 100+-point scorers to outscore the defensive woes, and the Hawks have maybe two in Kane and DeBrincat in their best years. Nothing’s indicated that Dach is going to be ready, and even if he is, it’s farcical to think he can contribute at an outscore-the-defensive-woes level this year. Although we liked what we saw, we aren’t sure what we have in Strome. Toews tops out at 80 points, and that’s if he neglects the defensive side. Brandon Saad will put up a respectable 50 points and good possession numbers, but he won’t ever be the game breaker the Hawks need.

Are you relying on Kubalik to make that scoring up? Or Sikura to find it? Or are you hoping that Carpenter and Kampf churn out Selke-contending seasons? The forwards are mostly fine, but I don’t see much of anything that makes me think it’ll be better (or even as good) as last year. And though the free agent pool wasn’t deep, you wonder what someone like Joonas Donskoi might have done here.

If the Hawks came out and said, “This is a transition year, be patient,” this offseason thus far would make sense. They’ve made a bunch of fringe moves to make the team a bit more watchable. But unless Stan’s got a monumental trade up his sleeve—one that doesn’t involve GRIND and DA FIRE AND DA PASHUN as Jeremy Colliton has reportedly said he wants more of (extreme jerking off motion)—it’s hard to determine what they’re doing here.

But that would imply a plan, dear reader. And we know StanBo has absolutely no fucking plan whatsoever.

Everything Else

Do you remember the time Stan Bowman signed Brandon Manning and I completely lost my goddamn ass several times about it? Well if you liked that, you’re going to love watching me pull my entrails out of my eye sockets when they sign one of the biggest, dumbest, most useless pieces of shit on ice in Corey Perry.

Just look at what the always wonderful Scott Powers wrote recently:

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported Tuesday the Blackhawks’ offseason objective now that they’ve signed two defensemen is to find a forward or two who could help on faceoffs and the penalty kill. He also reported they have not contacted Lee’s camp and were likely aligning their cap space to pay for next offseason’s deals. LeBrun did mention Corey Perry as a possibility still. –Scott Powers, The Athletic, 06-26-19

Putting aside the hilarious fact that this implies that StanBo thinks Maatta and de Haan solve the blue line problems (they don’t), that Corey Perry is even a possibility is dumbfounding. So great, now we have to dive into this fucking toilet.

Physical Stats

Height: Taller than shit should be allowed to stack; Weight: As in, “Wait! Don’t sign Corey Perry!”

Age: 34; Shot: None

On-Ice Stats (2018–19)

Team: Ducks Position: Horse’s Ass

WHO GP, FUCKING G, CARES A, AT P, ALL PIM

Corey CF%, Perry xGF%, Sucks oZS%

Why the Hawks Should Sign Him

The Hawks should sign Corey Perry if they are looking for an excuse to fire Stan Bowman immediately.

Why the Hawks Shouldn’t Sign Him

Holy shit, where do you start? Corey Perry is a 34-year-old pylon who can’t skate, can’t score, and can’t contribute in any meaningful way. They already have Brent Seabrook doing that, but at least with Seabrook, there’s the veneer of leadership and memory of three Cups that we like to think about as we await the heat death of the universe that is the end of his contract.

Perry does literally nothing anymore. Last year, he played 31 games, scored six goals, and had 10 points overall. His 47 CF% was not only bad in a vacuum but also bad relative to his team (-2.1 CF% Rel), which was the fifth-worst possession team in the NHL last year. As mentioned in our Pavelski preview, the Hawks weren’t particularly good in possession or transition last year, and Corey Perry will only make them worse.

If you think that’s bad, check this out:

Games Played CF% CF% Rel oZS%
Ryan Kesler (C) 60 44.3 -5.1 37.7
Brian Gibbons (C) 44 44.7 -3.4 53.8
Cam Fowler (D) 59 45.1 -2.6 53.0
Corey Perry (Asshole) 31 47.0 -2.1 55.2

This is the list of guys who played at least 31 games and had worse possession rates than Perry on the Ducks. Kesler’s sort of makes sense, given his evaporated hip and hilariously low offensive zone start rate. If the Hawks signed someone like Brian Gibbons, you’d likely ask, “Who?” or “Why?” And Cam Fowler can’t be bothered to give a shit. On top of everything, Perry got hammock shifts and still sucked out loud in possession. That’s some good company to be in if you want to make a run at the #1 pick.

There is no conceivable situation in which Corey Perry fits. And even if there were, Perry’s held together by a combination of tape, spit, and shit. And let’s just pretend that the Hawks manage to make the playoffs this year. Are you ready to ride the Micheal Haley Experience, wherein a shitty, no-good, non-contributor finds himself on the ice in meaningful situations? Ask Sharks fans how that fucking worked out.

Perry doesn’t even fit the definition of the type of forward StanBo said he was looking for! Holy shit! Throughout his 14-year career, Perry has taken exactly 263 faceoffs and won 75 of them. That’s a 29% win percentage. Over the past two years, Perry has averaged 1.5 seconds on the penalty kill. That’s right: One point fucking five seconds. So if the Hawks are looking for faceoff and/or PK specialists, Corey Perry is not the motherfucker you’re looking for.

You wanna talk about how he won the Hart and Richard in 2011? Fuck you, it’s 2019. You wanna talk about how he’s a four-time All Star? Fuck you, I don’t care, the last time he made the All Star Team John Scott was on it. You wanna talk about how he’d come cheap and only for a year? Fucking sign Matt McClure if that’s the logic. He plays beer league. He’s tall. He can contribute at a similar rate as 2019 Perry. We did this with Sharp, Ladd, Oduya, and others, but at least with those guys, there were warm feelings to sort of mask the poor performances. Not so with Perry, who is a relentless and useless prick.

Verdict

No. Perry has all the appeal of a puddle of sundried sperm. If Bowman signs him, he should be fired out of a cannon into the sun and stripped of all his banners and rings. If you ever wondered how Bowman could cock up a free agent signing worse than Brandon Motherfucking Manning, I present to you Corey Perry, Toilet Baby.

Everything Else

With unrestricted free agency opening in just four days, let’s get a little weird. The Hawks have allegedly begun addressing the skidmark on the salad fork that is the blue line with de Haan (fine) and Maatta (barf), which means we should probably look at who can fill out the top six on the forward front. If there’s one guy who might be that guy, it’s Joe Pavelski.

Physical Stats

Height: 5’11”; Weight: 190 lbs.

Age: 35; Shot: Right

On-Ice Stats (2018–19)

Team: SHA-ARKS Position: Center/Wing

75 GP, 38 G, 26 A, 64 P, 22 PIM

54.7 CF% (0.7 CF% Rel), 56.99 xGF% (3.41 xGF% Rel), 53.3 oZS%

Why the Hawks Should Sign Him

Pavelski is an outstanding possession player who’s capable of slotting as a center or a wing. If the Hawks are going to commit to the idea that large, not-fleet-of-foot defensemen are the way to go (it isn’t), then they’re going to need forwards who can bury the puck in their opponents’ ends (PHRASING) more consistently. The Hawks were slightly below middling in the possession department last year with a 49.34 CF%, which, despite StanBo’s shameless gaslighting, isn’t great for a team with no actual top-pairing D-men. Pavelski’s career is a seminar in consistently good possession.

Pavelski also gives the Hawks DAT GREASY GOAL SCORER Stan wants. And unlike the stale beer farts that are Corey Perry or Wide Dick Arty, Pavelski still has the skating and hands to do more than simply stand in the crease. As much as we scoff at the notion of Annette Frontpresence, Pavelski is the best version of that theory, though the prospect of having to experience Eddie O’s vinegar strokes for each crease goal Pavelski pots is off-putting enough to disqualify him as an option.

His versatility is another plus. You can see him as a winger with Toews and Saad. You can see him centering DeBrincat and Kane. As a righty, you can see him just about anywhere on the PP. This versatility, combined with Pavelski’s offense and possession, would be undeniable enhancements over anything the Hawks had last year.

Why the Hawks Shouldn’t Sign Him

Cap hit and term are going to be the biggest bugaboos in considering Pavelski. He’s coming off a $6 million per contract and a 38-goal season. Thirty-eight goals are impressive per se, but the fact that he did it at 34 is even more impressive. You can see him trying to squeeze in one more decent contract, and that should give the Hawks pause with DeBrincat due for his Fuck You Pay Me contract next year.

You also need to be concerned about Pavelski’s age and brain booboo from this year’s playoff run. At 35, it becomes more and more likely that the production will fall off a cliff. Though Pavelski’s never shown signs of slowing down (excluding the 2013 season-in-a-can, Pavelski’s scored at least 20 goals a year since 2008–2009), nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy.

And for as good as Pavelski’s possession is, when he’s caught in his own zone, he tends to get buried. This might limit his versatility a bit: God forbid you find him, Top Cat, and Kane stuck in their own zone with any regularity, which is a possibility given Kane’s do-more-with-less style of possession and play.

Verdict

If you can get Pavelski on a one-to-two-year term, the Hawks should take a run at him. He solves a ton of problems, especially in the Annette Frontpresence category. He’s a proven, genuine top-six skater, which would let Beto O’Colliton slot Dominik Kubalik in the bottom six, which is probably the kind of soft landing you’d want to see him get. But if he’s looking for more than two years, it’s a little bit more tenuous. The Hawks would absolutely need to win a Cup to justify more than two years, because at that point, most of the Core would be approaching or past the twilight of their careers.

All of this assumes that Pavelski even wants to leave San Jose. For as good as he’d look in red, black, and white, it’s hard to picture him in anything but teal.

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.

Verdict

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

On July 1, the Hawks signed Chris Kunitz, Cam Ward, and Brandon Motherfucking Manning. Of this Triumvirate of Suck, Kunitz was the least odious, both in the moment and throughout the season (probably). He was here, he is gone (likely to retirement or Pittsburgh), and that’s just fine by us.

Stats

56 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P

51.07 CF%, 48.65 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes With a Free Frogurt!

It took half a year, but once Kunitz got slotted where he belonged, the fourth line, things weren’t a total dumpster fire. He was one of just six Hawks forwards to post a CF% greater than 50 (with Toews and Saad being the only regulars to do so). He managed to do that while spending most of his 5v5 time in the defensive zone (56+%). His 5v5 xGF% was second only to Sikura among Hawks forwards. You’ll take small victories where you can get them.

Also, according to a more in-depth look by Stephen Yatsushiro, Kunitz seemed to not actively hurt David Kampf’s performance when they played together, which was kind of shocking. We all knew Kampf had defensive chops, but knowing that playing with Kunitz made Kampf better metrically was a nice surprise. The entire Krusty Komedy Klassic line was generally fine in its dungeon starts, and Kunitz wasn’t terribly out of place there.

He also played in his 1,000th game, which is neat.

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

The Kunitz signing was redundant for any of the reasons you can think to sign a guy like 39-year-old Chris Kunitz. If they signed him for his grit, they already had Andreas Martinsen to do it more dumbly, Luke Johnson to do it more moon-facedly, and John Hayden to do it more arrogantly.

If they signed him to be a fourth-line grinder, see above, and then add Kampf, Kruger, and any other number of IceHogs who could have done the exact same thing.

If they signed him for his veteran leadership, why? Toews, Seabrook, Keith, and Kane have all won three Cups. Crawford and Saad two. Does winning a fourth Cup as Sidney Crosby’s passenger matter that much?

His contract wasn’t a back-breaker (though the NMC was curious at best) or anything. It was just fluff. Kunitz just seemed like a guy Bowman (or Q) wanted to have for REASONS. If you want to point to his play on the PK, why? That sucked too.

Can I Go Now?

There’s no reason to re-sign Kunitz, just like there wasn’t a reason to sign him in the first place. He’s had a nice career, and the players seemed to like him, so great. He was here and then gone. He certainly wasn’t good, but he wasn’t as bad as he could have been. And that’s probably the best way for his Hawks career to end.

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

Everything Else

Moving along in our look around the Central, it’s time we get to everyone’s new favorite darling (mine as well. I think it’s the jerseys), the Dallas Stars. They’ve gotten so much attention that now everyone hates them, so think of them as last year’s Avalanche. Except they’ll probably be a better possession team than last year’s, or this year’s, Avs, though probably won’t come close to that point total.

Forwards: Clearly, this is where the big splash came for the Stars, trading Alex Chiasson for Jason Spezza (essentially) while signing Ales Hemsky,. While everyone focuses the 1-2 of Seguin-Spezza, to me the real story is that it slots The Ginger Ninja Cody Eakin, who I just love to an irrational degree, onto the 3rd line which is what he really is. A checking line of Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt/Sceviour is going to be one of the most annoying around. If Peverley can return, and that’s obviously a huge if, it gets better. The Stars are one move away from having just about as good of a top 9 as there is in this division. And that one move could be as simple as calling up Brett Ritchie at some point.

Everything Else

Moving along in our look around the Central, it’s time we get to everyone’s new favorite darling (mine as well. I think it’s the jerseys), the Dallas Stars. They’ve gotten so much attention that now everyone hates them, so think of them as last year’s Avalanche. Except they’ll probably be a better possession team than last year’s, or this year’s, Avs, though probably won’t come close to that point total.

Forwards: Clearly, this is where the big splash came for the Stars, trading Alex Chiasson for Jason Spezza (essentially) while signing Ales Hemsky,. While everyone focuses the 1-2 of Seguin-Spezza, to me the real story is that it slots The Ginger Ninja Cody Eakin, who I just love to an irrational degree, onto the 3rd line which is what he really is. A checking line of Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt/Sceviour is going to be one of the most annoying around. If Peverley can return, and that’s obviously a huge if, it gets better. The Stars are one move away from having just about as good of a top 9 as there is in this division. And that one move could be as simple as calling up Brett Ritchie at some point.