Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Biggest Underachievers so Far This Season

Michael GibbonsCorrespondent IIDecember 22, 2011

Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Biggest Underachievers so Far This Season

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    You would think a team that is on top of the league wouldn't have a lot of underachievers, but you would be wrong.

    Sure the Hawks have stars that are playing extremely well, but they are only covering for the weak links.

    The Blackhawks have four players in the top 10 on the scoring list and four in the top 20.

    Through the first 35 games of the season they have 22 wins. Their starting goalie has 13 of them while the backup has nine of his own.

    They are young, talented and want nothing more then to hoist the cup again at season's end.

    However if these five players don't step up they will have a very hard time doing so.

Ben Smith

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    Maybe expectations were just to high for Ben Smith.

    He got called up late last season and played extremely well scoring one goal in six games. Then came the playoffs when he scored three goals against Vancouver, including a game winner.

    Coming into camp this season it was expected that Smith was a near lock to make the team while others, like Viktor Stalberg, might be in trouble. However an injury late in the preseason probably cost him his spot.

    So fart his season he has played in seven games but unlike last season wasn't given the chance to skate on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

    And to be honest he didn't look the same.

    He has scored one goal and is a negative six on the year. Not exactly what we were expecting from the playoff hero.

    Now with the call up of Jeremy Morin, Smith has some competition when it comes to calling players up from the AHL.

    It would have seemed crazy to say this in May last year but is it possible at the end of this season Smith will still have more postseason goals then regular season ones?

Bryan Bickell

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    Is Bryan Bickell ever going to put it all together?

    Bickell has great size at 6'4" and a surprising shot, but it is looking like he may have had a career season last year.

    At the beginning of the season that third line of Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Bickell were terrific. 

    However since the calendar flipped from October to November it just hasn't been the same.

    Bickell has been a healthy scratch for six games so far this season and seems destined to go the route of Troy Brouwer.

    The Hawks never knew if Brouwer was a top six forward or a bottom six forward and that same can be said for Bickell. He has all the tools to be power forward but he isn't.

    The two points (a goal and assist) he tallied against Montreal on Wednesday were his first since October and his first multi-point game his March of last season.

    With seven points so far this season it is hard to imagine him reaching the total of 37 he tallied last year.

Michael Frolik

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    I was very excited over the summer when general manager Stan Bowman signed Michael Frolik to a three-year deal. However now I know why others weren't.

    Watching Frolik play it is hard not to cheer for the guy. He is always going hard, hustles and plays solid defense.

    However the guy cannot the puck in the net.

    After having back-to-back 40-point seasons with Florida, a lot was expected of him when he got traded to Chicago.

    During his first two seasons he scored 42 goals but since the start of last season he has only scored 16.

    He, like Smith, was the talk of the playoffs. Frolik tallied five points including a terrific penalty shot during the series against the Canucks.

    Maybe Frolik's struggles have to do with playing alongside Bickell and Smith as well as a banged up Bolland.

    Frolik has the potential to be a top six forward on his team but unless he starts putting the puck in the net he is going to find himself on the fourth line more often.

Brent Seabrook

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    If it weren’t for the next person on the list Brent Seabrook would have been the top guy.

    Maybe last season was a perfect example of a guy playing well in a contract year. While his 11 points in 31 games isn't awful, being replaced on the power play is.

    Both Nick Leddy and Steve Montador have surpassed him on the power play units and he is third on the team in points behind Duncan Keith and Leddy among the defensemen.

    His 48 points last season was probably his peak while the 30 points he like the year before is probably more the norm.

    However with his contract more should be expected from him and for starters that means playing well enough to stay on all the special team units.

    By the way his stats would have looked worse without those two points against Montreal. Without them he would have been tied with Dan Carcillo for 12th on the scoring list and fourth among the defensemen.

Corey Crawford

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    What happened to Corey Crawford?

    After a surprising rookie season and a fantastic opening month of the season things went down hill quickly.

    He just got his first start in 16 days the other night against Montreal and really opened the door for Ray Emery to steal his job.

    His benching this month had a lot more to do with Joel Quenneville riding the hot glove than Crawford's play.

    However that is not to say that Crawford has playing well. He hit a tough stretch of three games allowing 11 goals and led to him being pulled against the Coyotes.

    Emery has done a decent job, but if the Hawks have any chance of hoisting Lord Stanley's cup again it will be because Corey Crawford was in the net.

    Hopefully this win before the Christmas break is just what he needed to get back on track.

    However if it wasn't then Stan Bowman may have to add a goalie to the list of team needs, as they get closer to the trading deadline.