Chicago Blackhawks Debate Time: Brent Sopel vs. Chris Chelios

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IOctober 25, 2009

Who would be better on the Blackhawks' blue line:

Brent Sopel or Chris Chelios?

Brent Sopel

DOB: 01/07/1977    Ht: 6'2"    Wt: 205    10 years of NHL experience

Drafted sixth round (140th overall) by Vancouver in 1995

Current team: Chicago Blackhawks

Sopel is a 32-year old defensive man who is trying to make it on one of the youngest rosters in the NHL. He missed most of the 2008-09 season with an injury, but has come back to be the sixth blue liner on the Hawks' roster.

His offensive game does not exist, and his contributions are minimal. Through nine games played (Saturday, Oct. 24), Sopel has recorded just nine shots on goal, zero points, and is minus three for the season. His puck handling is mediocre, his passing is suspect, and he looks like a European pedophile who lives in a van outside the United Center.

He is the only player on the Blackhawks that has played in more than two games this year who has not yet scored a point. Only Tomas Kopecky andColin Fraser, both minus four, have a worse rating than Sopel on the Hawks' roster. He is averaging just 12:11 ice time per game.

Sopel is currently in the second year of a three-year contract worth $7 million; his salary cap figure is $2.3 million.


Why Sopel?

Because he's currently under contract. The Blackhawks would have to buy out the remainder of this season and his $2 million salary for 2010-11, which isn't a popular idea because of the Hawks' proximity to the NHL salary cap. Sopel has also been a contributor to the Hawks' power play killing unit this year, and is willing to sacrifice his body to block shots.


Why not Sopel?

Because he's just not good enough. He makes the stupid mistakes in his own zone that often turn into goals, and does not exist offensively. He's expensive and slow on his skates, and has not produced enough to merit a roster spot on a team that's trying to win the Stanley Cup.


Chris Chelios

Chris Chelios

DOB: 01/25/1962     Ht: 5'11"     Wt: 192  25 years of NHL experience

Drafted second round (40th overall) by Montreal in 1981

Current team: Chicago Wolves (AHL)

Chelios is a first-ballot Hall of Fame player who's entire resume reads like a Hall of Fame roster. He broke into the NHL with Montreal, and was an All Star in his rookie season. He was runner-up for the Calder Trophy that season to Mario Lemieux. He was a member of the 1985-86 Stanley Cup Champion Canadiens.

In 1990, he was traded from Montreal to Chicago with draft picks for Denis Savard, who's in the Hall of Fame and is a current Blackhawks Ambassador. In Chelios' first season with the Hawks, they would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, the last time the franchise has been to the Finals.

Chelios was the Captain of the Chicago Blackhawks from 1995-1999, when he was dealt to Detroit. He added two more Stanley Cup championships to his resume in Detroit, giving him three rings for his career. He has also played in 11 All Star Games, three Olympics and won an NCAA National Championship at Wisconsin.


Why Chelios?

History. Cheliosis history, both to world-wide hockey and to the Chicago Blackhawks organization. He's smart, savvy, and understands the game. He could be an ideal mentor for a young blue liner like Niklas Hjalmarsson. He has never been a player who makes dumb mistakes in his own zone, and has won the Cup before.

Also, a rented mule can block shots, which is pretty much all Sopel is doing for this team right now.


Why not Chelios?

Um... he's 47 years old. Exchanging Chelios for Sopel would elevate Jordan Hendry into the sixth defender position, which isn't ideal either. Hendry has played in just two games this year, and has not looked very good in either one. It's doubtful that Chelios could play the 12 minutes per game that Sopelis providing right now, which would be a strain on the depth chart as well.


The Verdict

Bring back Chelios.

Sopel is not a championship player, and never has been. While Chelios might not be an elite blue liner like he was 10-25 years ago, he has been there and done that. Chelios would also bring a coaching presence to the locker room and ice that Sopel cannot; John Madden has already had a fantastic influence on young players like Kris Versteeg, which provides even more ammunition to the idea that Chelios would be a good idea.

When Marian Hossa comes off the IR in November, the Blackhawkswill have enough depth at the forward positions to potentially carry seven defenders. Andrew Ebbett has played well enough already that Colin Fraser might become a player that's expendable.

He's already in Chicago with the Wolves, so why not make him an offer everyone knows he wouldn't refuse?