Chicago Blackhawks: Are Defensive Upgrades Enough to Make a Difference?
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The Chicago Blackhawks enter the 2013 season with many of the same issues that they possessed last season. One place GM Stan Bowman made some moves was on the blue line. Are his fixes going to take the 'Hawks further into the playoffs?
The additions of Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival, along with the re-signing of Johnny Oduya have added a veteran feel to the Chicago defense. Of course, bringing in veteran free agents isn't new for Bowman. Brookbank and Rozsival were brought in because last year's signings didn't cut the mustard.
Sean O'Donnell seemed like a good bet to add veteran grit and experience. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough gas left in the tank and the longtime blue-liner recently announced his retirement. Sami Lepisto seemed to hit town and establish residence in coach Joel Quenneville's doghouse. He's currently playing in the KHL.
Steve Montador was brought in to the tune of a four-year, $11 million deal and was used as a forward opening night. Concussion symptoms have played havoc on Montador and his playing career may have come to an end. He certainly won't be starting the current campaign on the active roster.
Who will play a bigger role for the Blackhawks' defense this season?
Oduya came over from Winnipeg at the trade deadline. Though I didn't feel that he was the right fit for Chicago's needs, he was a solid contributor. The playoff series with Phoenix was a bit rough on Oduya, but Bowman inked him to a three-year contract.
Brookbank was signed for two seasons and is still young enough at age 32 to have something to add to the defense. With Montador out of commission, I'd expect to see him on the third pairing on a pretty regular basis.
Rozsival is here from the Phoenix Coyotes for the season at a $2 million price tag. He played in 54 games last year and is 34 years old. No one is asking him to play top-line minutes in Chicago. If he can hold down a pairing with Nick Leddy or someone other than Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith and skate 18 minutes a night, he's a good pickup.
On paper, Bowman's acquisitions look like upgrades, especially with the way 2011-12 played out for Montador. However, before that season most of us thought Montador, Lepisto and O'Donnell was a step up from Nick Bonyton and Jassen Cullimore. Whether they were or not was moot. In the end, they weren't enough of an upgrade.
With Dylan Olsen struggling to step up his game in Rockford, Quenneville is going to have to push the right buttons with a veteran crew that comprises the 'Hawks defense. Bowman's latest attempt to reinforce the blue line will soon get their chance to start proving their worth.
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