Last night during the Sharks game, I had a Twitter debate with old friend of the program Al Cimiglia (he’s been our friend awhile, he’s not old, let’s clear that up before he makes a face at me again) about Erik Karlsson. As you all know, our main priority this summer is for the Hawks to sign Karlsson, even though the chances of that happening are infinitesimal. Al’s not a fan, and a big part of that is durability, which is a serious issue when it comes to Thunderkiss EK65. Groin and ankle injuries in the recent past might give a lot of teams pause about handing him seven years and the total boat of cash, and I wouldn’t really argue with that.
This started a much larger debate among more parties about what type of d-man the Hawks need to bring in this summer and over the course of the next few years. You’ll find a large faction that want steady, stay-at-home types that don’t fill their pants every time the puck is in their zone. And I can understand that feeling, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.
Then there’s people like me, who believe that the Hawks simply spend far too much time in their zone, and need more players who can get them out of it quickly either by skating it out or passing it out and go the other way. Because they currently have…none. Gustafsson’s too slow (and dumb), Keith doesn’t know his limitations and isn’t good enough with the puck, and it’s not Murphy’s game. Seabrook used to be able to make that first pass, but he’s become so immobile that he can never open a lane for himself. The Hawks have basically the biggest mobility gap to make up on their defense in the entire league.
For me, Murphy and what Henri Jokiharju projects to be are your steady, defense-first players, and both are mobile (I’ll still take some convincing on the Jokiharju). They should be paired with get-up-and-go types to balance. No, that’s not Keith anymore, but that’s a different, numbers problem.
This is the debate about Karlsson and has been for years, and it will be about Adam Boqvist whenever he arrives (if he’s not traded). Neither will be considered stalwarts in their own end, and both will make decisions that make your eyes twitch and an odd pressure/shooting pain in your forehead occur for a few seconds. That’s just the nature of the thing.
But when all is said and done, Karlsson and hopefully Boqvist get the puck to the other end. Their teams score more goals when they’re on the ice, they get more chances, they have it more. So really, should you give a fuck how they go about it? Fuck and no you shouldn’t.
For me, this sounds a lot like the strikeout debate in baseball from a few years ago. Yes, strikeouts are boring. Yes, they can be infuriating, and yes, there are times when you can’t have a strikeout. But if someone strikes out 25% of the the time and yet is getting on base over 35% of the time and hitting for power, do we really care how their outs come about? No, we do not. It’s an out.
No, Karlsson hasn’t been great this postseason, and it will be up to any possible suitor to figure out how much that has to do with his health, and whether that health is a long-term concern. The fact that he carried one of the best relative-possession numbers in the league despite being on one of the best possession teams around during the season when he was healthy is a big clue.
But if it isn’t, the results are the results. He gets the puck up the ice, pretty much better than everyone. A large part of the Hawks’ defensive problems could be solved simply by not being there as much. This is my argument with Boqvist, who NHL scouts are saying already has an NHL offensive game. If Boqvist can right now carry possession above water and get the Hawks more chances and goals while he’s out there than they give up, do I care if he’s occasionally going to get buried behind his net or sometimes look like he should have a glove on his head and picking flowers in his own zone? I do not.
The name of the game is still getting goals, and if you’re up the ice trying to get goals more often it means you give up less unless your goalie dies. And the Sharks goalie pretty much did die this year, and they still finished among the best. The days of the construction horse/atom-smasher are over. There aren’t that many Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s around, and none are available this summer (and really, Murphy is supposed to be a poor man’s Vlasic). You could fill the roster with guys who are all puck-movers for all I care. Yes, a balance would be nice, but the game is skewing to mobility. And the Hawks actually have the safer, base players here more than you thought.
If you’re getting more goals than the opposition, do I care how they go about it? I do not.