The Most Disappointing Players on the Chicago Blackhawks So Far in 2014-15
The Chicago Blackhawks played ordinary hockey for much of the first two months of the 2014-15 season. However, when they were sent out on the road as a result of the annual Circus Road Trip in late November, Joel Quenneville's team found its identity.
Instead of languishing with a skein of mediocre hockey, the Blackhawks reeled off five wins in six games away from home. The most impressive victories were a pair of 4-1 decisions over the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. Those wins, in particular, served notice that the best is still ahead for this.
But there was some uninspired play earlier in the season, and there were several players who have not played up to expectations. In this piece, we look at those who have been most disappointing for the Blackhawks either through a lack of production or overall performance.
All Corsi figures provided by behindthenet.ca.
Marian Hossa is one of the core group of star players that allows the Blackhawks to claim their place among the elite teams in the NHL.
If the Blackhawks go on to win the NHL's Central Division or make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Hossa will no doubt play a huge role. Hossa, 35, is one of the best three-zone players in the league, and his game is complete because he is an excellent skater who works as hard on defense as he does on offense.
There have been no complaints about Hossa's effort this year; however, Hossa's production is not where it should be. Through the first 25 games, Hossa has scored three goals and 14 assists. His struggles to put the puck in the net have been an issue for the team, especially earlier in the season when the Blackhawks were having a difficult time scoring. Hossa is connecting on 4.0 percent of his shots on goal.
Hossa scored 30 goals and 30 assists last year. At his current pace, Hossa will score 11 or 12 goals this season. Hossa has not scored fewer than 20 goals in any full NHL season since 1998-99 when he was a 20-year-old player in his first full season with the Ottawa Senators.
Look for Hossa's goal-production level to increase dramatically from this point forward. He has a 22.46 Corsi On percentage, and that is more indicative of his overall play than his goal scoring this season.
Brandon Saad's situation is similar in certain ways to Hossa's. There is little doubt he is playing with maximum effort on an every-night basis.
He is one of the better skaters on an superb skating team. He uses all his energy to play defense, skate in the neutral zone and create scoring opportunities; however, he is not producing at quite the level that has been expected.
Saad is the Blackhawks' superstar-in-waiting, and many expected him to join Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith with his overall value to the team this year—perhaps not quite as good as those players, but certainly in their neighborhood.
So far, Saad has scored four goals and 12 assists in 25 games. These are not bad numbers, but they are not at the level the Blackhawks have been expecting.
Saad may need to play a more relaxed style in the offensive zone. Instead of taking the time to let the play develop, Saad regularly zips behind the net and looks for a teammate and attempts a pass.
There's nothing wrong with this move, but Saad doesn't have to do it every time. Saad scored 19 goals last year, and he should be a player that scores 25-to-30 goals in a season. He is going to have to pick it up considerably to reach that level.
Saad has a 5.23 Corsi On percentage, and that ranks 20th on the team. He should have the opportunity to raise that number from this point forward.
Here's a perplexing statement: Bryan Bickell is one of the most consistent players on the Blackhawks.
If that statement is correct, what is he doing in a story on the team's most disappointing players?
For the first part of that, look at Bickell's performance in recent seasons. He is one of the Blackhawks' least productive regular-season players. He has scored 29 goals since the start of the 2011-12 season through the end of last year, and his lack of finishing ability has been maddening to head coach Joel Quenneville and Blackhawks fans alike.
This year, Bickell has scored three goals and six assists, along with a 15.64 Corsi On percentage. Those production numbers are right on track or perhaps even a tad better than in previous years.
The Blackhawks would like to see the 6'4", 233-pound Bickell take on the role of a legitimate power forward who scores 25-30 goals and asserts himself physically, but that is likely just a pipe dream.
The Blackhawks are likely to put up with Bickell's ordinary play because he turns it on in the playoffs. He scored seven goals and three assists in last year's postseason, after scoring nine goals and eight assists in Chicago's championship run in 2013.
If Bickell ever fails to play productive hockey in the postseason, that's when they are likely to make a move with him.
Until then, they are likely to put up with Bickell's "consistency" in the regular season.
Brent Seabrook is a high-level offensive defenseman who has a heavy slap shot and a sweet wrist shot that are both capable of overpowering goalies. He loves to show that shot off, and it has paid huge dividends for the Blackhawks at key moments over the years.
During their 2013 Stanley Cup run, Seabrook scored the series-winning goal in overtime of the seventh game against the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semi-final. He also scored an overtime goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins that squared up that series at two games each.
Seabrook continues to fire away, and he has scored five goals and nine assists in his first 25 games, and that's excellent production for a defenseman. It's just one point fewer than two-time Norris Trophy winner and defense partner Duncan Keith.
However, Seabrook is not always as attentive to his defensive responsibilities. He has a minus-three rating, and that's perplexing. Keith, by comparison, has a plus-six rating. Seabrook also has a 14.67 Corsi On percentage, which ranks 14th on the team.
It's a small problem for the Blackhawks, considering how much Seabrook contributes on the offensive end. Like Hossa and Saad, the problem for Seabrook is not a lack of effort. He needs to rein it in just a tad, and his numbers should be fine.