As the Blackhawks are showing signs of returning to form as of late, and hope to get some of their prime time offensive threats back, it also is nice to get the opportunity to see how the players from last year have settled into their new homes.
Throughout the past couple of months I have chronicled how the guys are doing, and it is interesting to see the varying degrees of success for our former heroes. Obviously, most Blackhawks fans will support these players when they are not tying up the skates against the Hawks, but will on any other occasion.
"Big Buff" was one of the four Blackhawks now lacing the skates up for the Thrashers this season.
One of the main catalysts in the run and victory in the finals, Byfuglien has been moved back to defense in Atlanta thus far into the young season. Since taking the assistant captain role for the Thrashers, Dustin has emerged to be the leader with "attitude" and has seemingly given the Thrashers a much needed identity.
Byfuglien is currently second in the NHL in game-winning goals, and is in the top 10 in assist. One of the central points that the Thrashers want to achieve this season is to lock up "Big Buff" for many years to come.
12 G 24 A +/- 10
A fan favorite for many Hawks fans was and still is Adam Burish. The Madison, Wisconsin native always showed passion and intensity when he played in Chi-Town, and he no doubt looks to bring those elements to his time now in Big-D.
Though Burish has not lit up the stat sheet like some of his old teammates, he has given the Stars a player who they can count on to give them everything he has, and not be intimidated by anyone. He has scored a couple of goals in the past month, and has started to seem more comfortable in Dallas with his new team. And, at least Burish has his Wisconsin Badgers to look forward to in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
4 G 1 A +/- -1
One of the good guys and respected veterans on the Blackhawks last season was defensemen Brent Sopel.
Though not the biggest contributor in points, he often was seen giving up his body to block shots, or move players out of the crease for his goalie. Along with others from last season, he is now an Atlanta Thrasher.
Sopel, who has been in the league for over a decade and is now with his fifth different team, is playing solid hockey. His never-quit attitude on plays, and his commitment to give up his body to block pucks are an underestimated attribute. He has not scored a goal over the course of the last month, but has tallied several assists in that time, and has a very impressive plus/minus total.
1 G 4 A +/- 11
The victory over the Flyers in the finals could not have been any better for Ben Eager. The former top draft pick by Philadelphia was a tough enforcer that was needed greatly by the Blackhawks, and he gave them all he had.
He was yet again another player that was sent to Atlanta this Summer, and has been one of the more active contributor's to the team so far. The 6'2" 230lb forward has given Atlanta a big time shot, and a player that is not the least bit apprehensive about mixing it up.
The course of the last month has not been the best of Eager's career in any sense. He has been a healthy scratch on several occasions, and has not been a factor scoring. He hopes to get it going along with the other up-start Thrashers.
3 G 5 A +/- 6
Another Flyers draft pick, Colin Fraser played in 70 regular season games last season, and got consistent ice time. In the playoffs he only got into three games, and did not have the impact that he had hoped.
The Oilers are a team that is rebuilding, but rebuilding with a definite and clear mission. They will be a force in the future with the likes of Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall in the fold.
The question is, "Will Colin Fraser get a shot to prove he is a player the Oilers want to have in the mix during the re-building?"
To this point, Fraser has been somewhat of a non-factor in minimal playing time in 32 games.
2 G 1 A +/- -1
John Madden was brought in for a host of reasons last season by the Blackhawks. One of the main reasons is his ability to kill penalties, and his years of top-notch performances on special teams. But, also he was signed because he had the experience getting to, and winning the Stanley Cup (twice).
But, after his one-year deal with the 'Hawks expired, Madden, who is now 37, could not be brought in another year with the salary he expected to command.
After an impressive November, Madden has cooled off considerably in December. He does have a couple game winning goals on the year and is no doubt helping the young Wild players with his winning pedigree.
5 G 3 A +/- -12
Andrew Ladd is the fourth and final player who has gone to the Thrashers via the Blackhawks. For many, including myself, Ladd was the most difficult player to see leave from the Blackhawks.
He was as consistent a players anyone could ask for, and in his two and a half seasons in Chicago proved to be a tough and reliable player. He has also been one of the best in the league when Atlanta has been short-handed this season.
In the month of December, the Thrashers have been on an absolute tear. They have shown that they will be a very scary team to play in the playoffs with Ladd as the captain at only 25 years old. He has shown that he will be among the game's best leaders for many years to come, and if Atlanta was smart it would lock him up long-term.
12 G 19 A +/- 2
The man affectionately known as "Steeger" was definitely at the top of many people's lists of players they did not want to see go. Kris Versteeg won many polls in the off-season asking which departed Blackhawks player would go on to have the best season with his new team.
Versteeg has been inconsistent for the struggling Leafs this season, but is one of the best offensive players that they boast right now. In the last month he is near the top in nearly all the scoring categories for Toronto, and has been getting good ice time in many of those games.
10 G 11 A +/- -16
The gears are starting to turn for Antti Niemi.
Perhaps he is getting ready for a run like Blackhawks fans everywhere saw last season. He was written off as being good as gone in some circles with the start he had in the first two months of the season, but since then Niemi has rebounded, and has returned to his playoff form.
Will the Blackhawks meet Niemi and one of their more bitter foes again in the playoffs? Time will tell, but it would sure be something to see.
6-8 .897% SV 3.15 GAA