Are New-Look Chicago Blackhawks Still the Stanley Cup Favorites After Trades?July 11, 2015
We all knew Stan Bowman would have to make some moves. Despite winning a third Stanley Cup in six years, the same thing would have to happen to the roster that happened after their victory in 2010. Much of it would have to be moved as a result of salary-cap problems.
On Friday night, Bowman made what probably will be the last of his significant moves of the summer, trading, reported by the Chicago Tribune, veteran goal scorer Patrick Sharp and prospect defenseman Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Trevor Daley and agitating winger Ryan Garbutt, with Dallas retaining half of Garbutt's $1.8 million cap hit.
Since the Hawks lifted the Cup at the United Center in June, Chicago's roster looks significantly different.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford are still around and all might retire as Blackhawks. But gone are Sharp, Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and some prospects. Coming in are Artem Anisimov, Jeremy Morin, Marko Dano, Daley and Garbutt. The Hawks are roughly already 25 percent different to the Cup team they just were.
Can Chicago still be considered a favorite to win another Cup, which would be the first back-to-back victory since Detroit in 1997-98? Yes. I didn't like the Saad trade at first—not at all. But I have changed my thinking. You hate to give up on a 22-year-old forward with already proven talent, but Anisimov has real talent too and Dano has real promise.
And to get an established defenseman in Daley—plus a pretty effective grinding forward in Garbutt—was a better return for Sharp than expected. Johns is considered a decent prospect and might make the deal look really good for Dallas GM Jim Nill, but for now, Chicago gets guys who can play right away.
That's the key as to why Chicago has to still be considered the best team in the NHL. The Hawks didn't just get a few draft picks as part of their forced roster moves. They got no fewer than four guys who will be regular players for them, guys who now get to learn and get better playing next to Toews and Kane and Keith and Seabrook.
After the Sharp trade, Daley was immediately ripped on by many on Twitter for his alleged defensive shortcomings.
Trevor Daley's career even strength Corsi numbers are ... not good. pic.twitter.com/jificLieEU— Second City Hockey (@2ndCityHockey) July 11, 2015
But as longtime Dallas Morning News Stars beat writer Mike Heika noted this past season on Daley, he was told to be more of an offensive D-man by coach Lindy Ruff, so some of his Corsi-SAT numbers might have suffered from that. The flipside is that Daley put up a career-high 16 goals and 38 points for the Stars.
For years, Daley was taught to be a defensive defenseman and penalty killer. While playing on a roster with Sergei Zubov among others, Daley was a low-risk player who supported the skilled guys. But when Lindy Ruff came to the Stars last season, he saw in Daley a great skater who needed to use that skill. Ruff asked Daley to push the pace, join the rush, and try to outnumber the other team in the offensive zone.
The Blackhawks didn't need a shutdown defenseman. Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson do just fine in that department. Daley is a high-energy, physical guy with obvious offensive talent. He makes for a nice replacement for veteran Johnny Oduya, who now appears likely to leave as a free agent.
Bowman has long since made his own name as an NHL manager. He hasn't just been "Scotty Bowman's son" for a while now. He's made his bones, and he showed again in this offseason that he is not afraid of change.
That is another sign Chicago could actually become a real dynasty—until you win two championships in a row, you're not a real dynasty. Call them a hybrid, "modern-day" dynasty all you want, but it's still not a real one until there's at least successive championships in play.
The Hawks will be fine without Sharp, whose skills clearly were on the decline and carried too big of a contract ($5.9 million for two more years) at too old of an age (33). Sharp's own advanced-stat defensive numbers were nothing to brag about, and if there is one thing coach Joel Quenneville gets nervous about, it's forwards who don't play any defense.
Bowman did well to get as much as he did for Sharp. Unless Johns pans out as a prospect, the move is a puzzling one by Nill. The Stars are a team already loaded with high-paid offensive guys and two high-paid, No. 1-caliber goalies. But the defense remains a mess. Maybe Johns helps change that, but he has zero NHL experience.
Nill told the Morning News' Heika:
We have been looking for the right opportunity, and this was one where we were able to add a premier winger with great experience. Our ownership has made a strong statement that we want to win now, and I think we’ve really helped change some key positions.
Fair enough, but Dallas isn't winning anything with its current defense. Maybe signing Oduya would be a nice move by the Stars? It couldn't hurt.
Teams that don't change can atrophy fast in this league, especially now. The Blackhawks haven't just rested on their laurels this summer. They've continued to adapt, and even better days may be ahead.
Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him @Adater