Chicago Blackhawks and the 2011-2012 Roster
A lot has happened to the Chicago Blackhawks in the last year: They won Lord Stanley's Cup, were forced to decimate a fantastic and scarily deep team due to salary issues, struggled through the beginning of the season with half the team being new players and pulled it together in time to make the playoffs before coming one shot shy of capping one of the greatest comebacks in all of hockey.
Since the Blackhawks are no longer the defending Stanley Cup Champions, they can get back to business and start doing what they do best: winning.
The series with Vancouver exposed the Hawks' major flaws: A lack of depth at the bottom of the roster and an inability or unwillingness to play the physical game, with the exception of John Scott, whom I can skate better than.
However, with one season under the belts of the new players, there will be better chemistry at the beginning of the season, but there will also be some changes. Since the Hawks are no longer in the financial bind they were last season, this offseason should be filled with much less sadness and sorrow at the loss of players.
I will be making a couple of assumptions throughout this article, which will be stated on the slides of which they are pertinent, and here is the first: The salary cap for next year will be at $62.2 million.
Everybody ready? Alright, let's go!
Offense: Line 1
Honestly, was there any surprise? The sharp-shooting Patrick Sharp and the smooth-skating sniper Patrick Kane, centered by Captain Serious himself, Jonathan Toews. This line was absolute dynamite last year, being instrumental in a majority of the goal scoring and carrying the offense through an 8-game win streak that was pivotal to the Hawks playoff berth.
This line was responsible for 93 goals, 220 points and was a combined plus-37 for the season. In addition, Toews ranked seventh in the regular season for faceoff percentage. This line was, and still remains, deadly and a nightmare for defenses around the league.
This line accounts for $16.5 million in cap hit for next season:
Toews: $6.3 mil
Kane: $6.3 mil
Sharp: $3.9 mil
Sharp will be on the final year of his previous contract, and will be looking for quite a raise next year.
Offense: Line 2
The picture of Hossa represents the only player on this line currently with the team. Yep, that's right, here's where Stan Bowman gets tricky. But first, let's look at Marian's season:
Out of 65 games played, he registered 25 G, 32 A for a total of 57 points, while finishing with a plus-nine. He also registered 10 special teams goals (8 PP, 2 PK) and 12 special teams assists. Hossa plays big, fast and has a very strong defensive side to his game to go along with his offensive prowess. He is an asset on any team, and the Hawks are no exception.
Here is where things get exciting:
First trade of the offseason will send Niklas Hjalmarsson to Boston for Rich Peverley. Boston is loaded down the middle, and is looking to unload one of their centers. In addition, Kaberle's contract expires this year and he has not been exactly stellar in Boston; not nearly enough considering what his contract was at.
Peverley is a big center at 6'0" and 200 lbs, is not afraid to use his size (as evident in this past postseason). He registered 18 G and 23 A, and currently comes with a $1.325 million price tag. He is exactly the second-line center Chicago needs.
Second move by Bowman: Erik Cole puts on the Indian Head. Erik Cole played for the Carolina Hurricanes last year, raking in 26 G and 26 A, 34 blocked shots, and 225 hits. He is a physical force who will complement this line and will help plug a Blackhawks weakness.
Here is one of those assumptions I talked to you about: Cole is a UFA, who was making $2.9 mil last year. His season last year was on par with his total for his career, .634 pts/game as opposed to his .629 average. Players pulling approximately the same stats are pulling an average of $2.3 mil, such as Patrik Berglund ($1.2 mil), Jussi Jokinen ($1.7 mil), and Brenden Morrow ($4.1 mil). Keep in mind I only looked at stats, not so much importance to the team. So, let's say Cole gets a deal around $2.5 mil cap hit.
Combined, this line (had they played together) would've accounted for 69 goals, 81 assists, and 150 points, a very respectable total for a second line of forwards.
A line of Cole at LW, Hossa at RW and centered by Peverley will be an outstanding complement to the top line of Toews, Kane, and Sharp.
The salary cap for this line will run Rocky Wirtz's check book about $9.1 mil for next season:
Cole: $2.5 mil
Peverley: $1.325 mil
Hossa: $5.275 mil
Total so far: $25.6 million
Offense: Line 3
The third line will feature three players who have played for the Blackhawks for a combined 350 NHL games.
Playing LW will be Bryan Bickell, who played in his fourth season with the club, but his first with a consistent job on the team. Bickell played 78 games this past season, registering 17 G, 20 A, 37 pts, and 178 hits, finishing plus-six on the season. Not a bad season, especially for a guy making just over half a million. Bickell is known for his bruising style of play, but also for his quick release, blistering shot, often catching goalies off guard.
At RW will be Baby Jagr, Michael Frolik. Frolik was acquired last season in a trade with the Panthers that sent him and Alexandre Salak to Chicago for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan. In my opinion, this was highway robbery on the part of the Blackhawks, who acquired a backup goaltender and a top-six forward on most teams for Jack Skille (a third-line at best) and two prospects.
Last season was Frolik's third in the NHL, and the first season in which he did not register 20 G. I believe that is due to his movement between teams and having to adjust to a new system. In addition, he will not be expected to produce on a nightly basis like he was in Florida. He did register 11 G and 27 A in 80 games last season, but had a tremendous series against Vancouver, registering two G, five P and finishing plus-three. Frolik will hopefully be a Blackhawk for a long time to come.
However, his contract is up this year, requiring another guess on my part. Last season, Frolik made $1.275bmil, and I can see his contract going as high as $2 mil for next year. Any higher and I think Bowman walks away from the table.
Finally, this line will be centered by our very own Rat, David Bolland. Last year was the year of the Rat, as Bolland continued his style of shut-down play, helping to cause Vancouver's scoring machine to come to a screeching halt during the four games he played in the playoffs. He missed a significant amount of time last season due to his injury-prone back and a concussion caused by an elbow for Pavel Kubina. He did register 37 pts in 61 games, but finished plus-11 for the season.
Dave Bolland is known for his ability to get under the skin of opposing team's top lines and preventing them from scoring as much as they'd like or are used to. He will continue this style of play, as long as he can stay healthy.
These three players accounted for 43 G, 69 A, and 112 pts last season, which is quite a bit for a third line. This will be a physical line and will be effective at shutting down top lines, while doing a little bit of scoring, too. This will make the Hawks one of the deeper teams, at least through the top three lines.
This line will cost the Hawks approx. $5.92 mil for next season:
Bickell: $541 k
Bolland: $3.375 mil
Frolik: $2 mil
Total so far: $31.52 mil
Offense: Line 4
The fourth and final line for the Blackhawks will consist of players we have seen before: Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, and Troy Brouwer.
Brouwer has been an odd entity during his tenure, being exposed to many ups and downs. Last season he registered 17 G, 19 A, and 36 pts, while registering 261 hits and a minus-2. He is a very physical presence, but he may leave the team if the offer given him this year is not what he is looking for.
His career has been on the rise the last couple years, but he may have plateaued. His contract is up, and if he wants anything more than $1.5 mil Bowman should walk away. He is a good player, but the Hawks do not necessarily need him. This is unfortunate, because I happen to be a big fan of Brouwer.
Kruger was brought over from Europe at the end of this year, and looked good, however he is still adjusting to the game a la North America. He is getting there, however. He will be a decent fourth-line center for the Blackhawks this year. I toyed with the idea between him and Ryan Johnson, considering Johnson was very good on the PK and in the faceoff dot this year. During his seven regular season games, he finished at minus-four, but finished plus-two and with one A for the playoffs.
Ben Smith looked very good for the Blackhawks at the end of the season, and was almost the hero of the playoffs, scoring big goals when the Hawks needed them. He had one G in six games of regular season and three G during the playoffs. He plays bigger than he is, and is not afraid to bang bodies. I like to think of him as a less violent Ben Eager who uses his head more.
This line should provide good depth for the Blackhawks, should it be called upon for big minutes. Like I said earlier, other players considered could be Ryan Johnson as well as Morin or Pirri from Rockford.
This line will cost $3.2 mil for next season:
Smith: $812.5 k
Kruger: $900 k
Brouwer: $1.5 mil
Total so far: $34.73 mil
Defense: Line 1
Just like the first offensive line, is this any surprise? Duncan "No Teeth" Keith and Brent Seabrook have been the heart and soul of this defense for a couple years now.
Keith had the pinnacle of his career during the Cup year when he won the Norris as the best defenseman in the league. This year, he started slow and never got to where he was during the Cup run. Keith had 45 pts this year and 45 hits during 82 games, finishing minus-one for the season.
He is an All-Star-caliber defenseman, and will be on this team for many years to come. He is not a very physical player, but can jump-start a rush and bring the puck up himself, as well as a great playmaker.
Seabrook, on the other hand, is more of a stay-at-home bruiser and had a career year this past year. He was the most solid player all season long on this defensive corps, compiling a record of 48 pts, 154 blocked shots, and an astounding 227 hits, while finishing even on plus/minus. He is a great player and will be a good mentor to the up-and-coming defense players, especially Nick Leddy.
This line accounted for 93 points, 272 hits and played every game this season. Keith played part of the season with rookie Nick Leddy, and Leddy adjusted well to the game.
This line will cost the Hawks $11.338 mil next season:
Keith: $5.54 mil
Seabrook: $5.8 mil
Total so far: $46.1 mil
Defense: Line 2
The second defensive line will consist of Brian Campbell and Chris Campoli. Campoli, acquired for a song from Ottawa, is right up there with the Frolik/Salak deal for best trade of the season for Chicago. Both of these defensemen play well.
Campoli came to the Hawks at the trade deadline but played very well, benefiting from the change of scenery. He was hated for a little while by bandwagon fans as "costing them the playoffs" for his turnover that led to the OT Game 7 winner. However, he was playing with a badly injured knee and toughed it out for his team. That's what we like to see!
Campoli is a solid, stay-at-home defenseman who is good at breaking up plays with his stick and out-letting the puck to an available winger or center for the rush up ice. That being said, he is very reliable. His contract is up this year, but I predict a contract in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.
Campbell, while being the target of ridicule because of his sky-high $7.14 mil salary, is an outstanding puck-moving defenseman with quick feet and is a good PP quarterback. Last year was a good year for Campbell, as he finished with 27 points, 101 blocked shots, and an astounding plus-28. As previously stated, he is making $7.14 mil a year for the foreseeable future.
This line will cost Bowman $8.64 mil this year:
Campbell: $7.14 mil
Campoli: $1.5 mil
Total so far: $54.71 mil
Defense: Line 3
The third and final pairing for the Blackhawks will consist of Jordan Hendry and Nick Leddy. Leddy was acquired from Minnesota in the trade that sent Barker to the Wild. Hendry missed a significant amount of time last year with a knee injury, but should be ready to go for this season.
Leddy is a very quick puck-moving defenseman, like a younger version of Brian Campbell. He has outstanding puck sense and very good vision on the ice. Keep an eye out for this player to be very, very good in the next couple of years. Leddy registered seven pts in 46 games this year, but should pick that up as he gets better and moves up in the ranks.
Hendry has been a D-man with the organization since '07, usually playing approximately 40 games/season. He is a good third line D, tallying one G last season in 37 games.
This line will be relatively cheap for Bowman, coming in at $1.72 mil:
Hendry: $600 k
Leddy: $1.12 mil
Total so far: $56.43 mil
The pipes will be taken care of this year by rookie standout Corey Crawford and Alexander Salak.
Crawford played outstanding last year, and should've been considered for Calder honors. He finished the season with a 2.30 GAA and a .917 SV percentage (ninth and 19th in the league among goalies playing 20-plus games). He played phenomenally this year and will be a fixture of the goaltending corps for years to come. He played in 57 games, posting a 33-18-6 record.
Salak was acquired in the previously mentioned trade that brought us Frolik. He has been playing in Europe and has two NHL games under his belt, playing 67 minutes with a .850 SV percentage. He needs some work, but will work very well with Crawford.
All in all, the goaltending corps will not be terribly strong, but Crawford will be a great anchor and Salak should pick up the game very quickly.
The goalies will cost Bowman $3.28 mil:
Crawford: $2.6667 mil
Salak: $600 k
Total so far: $59.706 mil
All in all, the Blackhawks do not have the Cup, but it could very easily be back in Chicago very soon. This roster would be as deep and skilled as any in the league, and could bring the Blackhawks some more Stanley Cup glory.
We have currently used $59.7 million in cap space, leaving us with $2.29 mil to acquire some more talent if Bowman wants, but it would be wise to keep in mind that Patrick Sharp's contract will be up after this season and will definitely be getting a raise, otherwise he may take his talents elsewhere.
A thanks to Committed Indians, since the initial ideas for Peverley and Cole came from them.
Thanks for reading everybody! Let me hear the comments! Go HAWKS!