Chicago Blackhawks: New Players Find Themselves Replacing the Departed
This past summer NHL experts, fans and casual bloggers typed away on the Blackhawks losing half their team.
As nine remarkable contributors parted ways with the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, people began to move on from the Blackhawks to find the next best team.
“Losing” depth was a crucial concern, but the new members seem to be meshing incredibly fine.
They actually, are almost identical to last year’s team.
Let’s take a look on how comparable they essentially are…
Tomas Kopecky > Dustin Byfuglien
Byfuglien was a key provider in the playoffs with his typical net presence and dirty goal scoring ways. It was a surprise when the Hawks let him go over others.
Yet, Kopecky has shown since last season he has outstanding net presence, if not maybe even better than Byfuglien.
Only 8 games into the new season and he has accumulated 8 points being on the same line as Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
One may think who could be bad being on a line with two of the best players on the team and some may even think top 20 in the NHL. But let’s not forget Byfuglien played on a line mostly with Toews and Patrick Kane, which some may believe is even better.
Who Takes Kopecky’s Place? .... Jack Skille
Skille, like Kopecky started playing full-time in the NHL a little later in age, compared to most rookies lately.
Kopecky struggled with finding his place on the Detroit Redwings. In the summer of 2009 he found his way to Chicago with Redwings teammate Marian Hossa.
Frequently a healthy scratch last season, he started to excel and show similar styles of Hossa.
Now with Kopecky taking on a bigger role and being quite triumphant, Skille needs to show there is no reason to make him a healthy scratch for a game either.
Skille has show in just 8 games he has speed, power and the moves to add to the Blackhawks depth.
Bryan Bickell = Andrew Ladd
Ladd already has two Stanley Cup rings at only 24 shows he is no fluke.
Bickell had his name engraved on the Cup and spent the day with it as well.
A main reason the Blackhawks won was because of Ladd’s scoring ability and antagonistic behavior on the ice.
Ladd was able to hold his own and put the puck in the net to save the day.
Bickell has already scored 2 goals this season and threw his gloves off with David Backes of the St. Louis Blues…and won! His forceful hits are just as powerful if not more so.
Bickell has not won two Stanley Cups, but he is sure on the right track.
Viktor Stalberg = Kris Versteeg
‘Speedberg’ as fans seem to be calling him was almost just an equal exchange.
I do not really think Stalberg will be rapping on live television any time soon, but he is almost indistinguishable to Versteeg on the ice.
The speed and goal scoring seems to be quite similar.
What is even better though is Stalberg is even faster. He is most likely the fastest currently on the Blackhawks.
With any luck, he can produce more goals playing typically on the third or fourth line.
While Stalberg may not be a fan favorite quite yet, he is gaining his popularity where it needs to be… on the ice.
Nick Boynton < Brent Sopel
Sopel was a long time and loved Blackhawk.
As he departed in June, the scare was on for a shot blocker on the ice, and mainly for the penalty kill (PK).
Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators Coach, stated of all the All-star players on the Hawks, it was Sopel who he wished was off the ice during their playoff match-up.
Now that the brave Sopel is sacrificing his body in Atlanta, Hawks yet again find a reliable and cheap replacement to get under the salary cap.
Nick Boynton was on the Hawks last season starting in the end of March. Usually he was not on the ice though.
Starting off the new season as a star on the team, averaging more time on ice and being a vital piece to the PK unit, I’d say Boynton is right up there with Sopel status thus far.
At this time, I still give the edge to Sopel, but if Boynton keeps his game up, he is easily going to equal himself to Sopel.
Who Takes Boynton’s Place? ... Jassen Cullimore
Cullimore has the slow start approach at the moment, but he is sure had his key plays to help out the new Blackhawks team.
His ice time is limited, but he is showing he stands a chance on the team with Brian Campbell still being injured.
Boynton also came around the time when Campbell sustained an injury last season.
Not showing the same number as Campbell, but enough to help the Hawks make it to the end.
John Scott << Ben Eager
Well, this is Eager’s replacement, but not all have to be at equal or greater value than the departed member.
I’d say this was a colossal loss for the Blackhawks.
I am sure no one disagrees either.
Eager was an excellent forward with the strength to put an opposing player in their place.
While Scott may be bigger and a better scrapper, that is not what the Hawks needed overall.
Eager could also skate and put the puck in the net. His numbers were not the greatest, but his intensity during a game was.
The speed of the two is also a huge difference.
Scott almost looks like the runt of the team even though he’s easily the tallest, he lacks what the rest of the team has, poise and speed.
Fernando Pisani = John Madden
Madden’s experience was a significant piece to the Hawks Stanley cup win.
Not only did his familiarity play a major part, but so did his hockey intelligence and existence on the penalty kill.
With the departure of Madden being pretty evident, it was still a tough call on who would replace the “old man” of such a young team.
Even though Pisani is only 33 years old, he still has shown so far on the PK that he may as well be a known veteran similar to Madden.
Pisani is still point-less for the season, but sure enough he will get himself on the score sheet soon enough.
While it is still hard to say if this is a completely fair judgment, the Hawks lose experience once again, but with the knowledge the younger Blackhawks got last season, I am sure that can equal the loss of Madden.
Dowell = Fraser
They are the same age, play the same position and both brought up through the Rockford Icehogs. All that separates the two is the sweater they wear on the ice now.
Besides his own self, Fraser was the other thing standing in Dowell’s way to play in the NHL last season.
Dowell is showing some struggles, but has offered some great scoring chances as well as passes to help the Hawks win a few games early in this season.
Being a fourth line center seemingly worked for Fraser, and now is for Dowell.
I’d say this is a pretty equal replacement.
Corey Crawford < Antti Niemi
Crawford lost his starting job to Niemi last pre-season, but now with Niemi on the San Jose Sharks, Crawford is finally getting his shot in the NHL.
Marty Turco is the new number one goalie for the reigning champions, but Crawford has shown he can eventually move his way up to the main go to goalie after two games.
His performance was a little shaky, but he is now 1-0-1 for the season.
Niemi also started off last season as the back-up goalie to eventually move on to be the Stanley cup Champion goalie as a rookie.
Niemi’s numbers were not the greatest, but he had a very strong defense in front of him.
So far this season the defense has allowed more shots than was imaginable, but Crawford has been able to keep the Hawks in the game regardless.
With the outstanding performances of Turco, I am not sure if Crawford will be the main goaltender this season, but there is no reason he should not be within the next few seasons.
Crawford has given up fewer rebounds than Niemi it seems in his first two games, but there is not much to compare from.
Niemi’s first game consisted of a shutout though and he finished his season kissing the Cup. At this moment, Niemi has the edge, but I like Crawford as his replacement.
Adam Burish =???
Burish was the team clown; always having crazy interviews, being a fan favorite and always being a goon of some sort on the ice.
While I miss his personality and others do as well, his presence on the ice was rarely there.
Last season Burish spent most of the time injured due to knee surgery. When coming back he was often a healthy scratch, and did not contribute much to the team unless it was comical or aggressive behavior on the ice.
The Hawks lacked aggressiveness more so last season than they do during the 2010-2011 season, so I guess you can say Burish did well in that case.
But at this time, I really think the team is fine without a Burish on the team. Maybe Patrick Sharp misses him, but I am sure Brent Seabrook is a fine replacement roommate.
Mikal Elyse is a Featured Columnist and co-owner of www.chicagosportsauthority.com