Niklas Hjalmarsson: The Chicago Blackhawks' Defensive Gem
Niklas Hjalmarsson has been tossed around worse than a rag-doll all season long by Chicago Blackhawks fans. One day they love him, the next—he makes too much money and does not produce enough.
Last summer, Hjalmarsson signed an offer sheet presented by Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks. Blackhawks fans knew it was either Hjalmarsson or Antti Niemi—both players were a big part of the Stanley Cup champions' success.
Stan Bowman made a decision to keep Hjalmarsson for the sake of keeping such a dynamic defense together.
Hjalmarsson and typical defensive partner Brian Campbell get a lot of grit as far as their performance when compared to their salary. Currently, Campbell is bringing in over $7 million, while Hjalmarsson is raking in $3.5 million this season. That is an awful lot, considering the small amount of cap space the Blackhawks have.
The reasoning behind Campbell's signing a few seasons back was his speed, puck movement and scoring ability. Campbell is considered a high-scoring defenseman.
When Hjalmarsson was given the nod to rejoin the team last summer, it was not because of his scoring.
Hjalmarsson is not one to produce an obscene amount of goals like Mike Green from the Washington Capitals. He will not drop his gloves either. The thing Hjalmarsson does best is block shots.
So far this season, Hjalmarsson has blocked 119 shots, which is good for 12th overall in the league.
He has been a machine for the Blackhawks defense this season, despite struggling during the beginning of the year with his defensive partner on the injured reserve list. He has come a long way since October though.
The kid takes a great number of hits and shots to the body. It takes courage and an abundance of talent to do that.
While most cringe when they watch him limp off the ice after taking a hard shot to the body, it is a pleasure to see such a young and talented man sacrificing himself for the love of the game.
A good number of fans feel Hjalmarsson’s performance should be more point-producing.
I think Bowman knew what Hjalmarsson was there to do. He needed a shot blocker—someone aggressive in front of their own net.
Bowman found the perfect candidate within Hjalmarsson.
With Brent Sopel gone, someone needed to fill his shoes, which were pretty big shoes to fill.
Sopel was the savior of the Nashville Predators series, with 21 blocked shots during the six-game series. Without him, I doubt the Stanley Cup hangover would even be a thought.
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