Chicago Blackhawks: Power Ranking the Team's Top 10 Players
When a team is as good as the Blackhawks are, despite a few bumps in the road throughout the course of a season, they must have a number of very talented players on their roster. And the Hawks do in fact have a number of talented players.
There is a core group of skaters that GM Stan Bowman has locked up for a number of years that have the potential to carry this team to success, but a few skaters can only take a team so far.
The Blackhawks have a number of role players who could take on much more responsibility in another organization, like we saw following the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup Championship.
Andrew Ladd, a member of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, was immediately named captain of the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) when he was traded prior to the '10-'11 season. Dustin Byfuglien shortly followed Ladd to the same organization, and he had an "A" on his jersey a number of times throughout the '10-'11 season.
There are still plenty of role players on the Hawks that make this team as successful as they are today, in addition to the team's core, and the Blackhawks wouldn't be nearly as successful as they are if Stan Bowman hadn't put the pieces of the puzzle together as well as he has over the last few years.
10. Dave Bolland
Dave Bolland most likely wouldn't have made it into my top 10 if these power rankings were based solely on his offensive production, considering the group of skaters and talent he is surrounded by.
Bolland has one of the more complete games compared to many of the players on the current Chicago Blackhawks roster. He is productive offensively and defensively, and it's his defensive ability, as a forward, that stands out over everything.
All it takes is one shift for Dave Bolland to make a play at the defensive end that will spark his teammates and lead to goals.
9. Niklas Hjalmarsson
Niklas Hjalmarsson is one of the Blackhawks' most dynamic defenders. He stands at 6'3", but you wouldn't be able to tell unless somebody told you because of how versatile his game is.
I don't think I've seen anyone in a Hawks uniform, or even in the NHL, get hit so hard that the glass needs to be repaired by rink officials more than Hjalmarsson has in the last couple of years. He's not afraid to take the big hit, and he doesn't make any premature decisions with the puck in order to avoid contact.
"The Hammer" sacrifices his body in more ways than one. Often times, when the Hawks are on the penalty kill, you'll see Niklas get on all fours and stick his face out as if he's asking the defender to slap the puck into his grill. All he's doing is helping his team in a shorthanded situation with no fear of losing a few teeth.
Next time you notice "The Hammer" on all fours, try telling me he doesn't look like a hyena about to attack on his prey. It's a beautiful sight.
8. Corey Crawford
Corey Crawford got snubbed from the 2010-11 Calder Memorial Trophy ballot for the NHL's top rookie, but he had a nice coming-out party against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals, despite being eliminated by the 'Nucks in seven hard-fought games.
Crawford started the 2011-12 NHL season off hot—he picked up right where he left off in 2011, but he's hit a few bumps in the road throughout the first quarter of the Hawks' campaign.
Goalies in the NHL are in a lose-lose situation. Most times when they win, they don't initially get the credit they deserve by the hockey world, except for by the experts. And when their team loses, the goalie is often the first one to get a finger pointed at, especially by the uneducated fans.
Well, Crawford is still young and has shown a number of signs that he has the potential to be the Blackhawks' goalie of the future. He may not be on top of his game at all times, but come playoffs, Corey will not be the reason for any failure by the Hawks.
7. Brent Seabrook
You can feel Brent Seabrook's presence every time he's on the ice. Unlike Niklas Hjalmarsson, you notice every inch of Seabrook's 6'3" frame, and quite often, his opponents feel the brunt of his size.
Seabs brings power to both ends of the ice, and although he doesn't score the most goals as a defenseman, he prevents plenty of scoring opportunities by the Blackhawks' opponents. His signature move is to sprawl his body to break up an opponent's odd-man rush, and more times than not, it works.
One aspect of Seabrook's game that I have a lot of respect for is his instinct to instantly defend his teammate. And most of all, he protects his goalie. He will always be one of the first players to get in the middle of a post-whistle scrum, especially when it's taking place in front of Corey Crawford's crease.
6. Nick Leddy
A lot could be said about Nick Leddy's game in 2010-11, as well as in 2011-12, except he'd be receiving many more compliments about his play this season compared to last.
Leddy played in just 46 regular season games for the Hawks last season, and he's already played in 21 this year. The one thing that really frustrated me about Leddy in the 2011 playoffs was his fear of taking any hit. That fear made him react prematurely with the puck, resulting in a frantic Blackhawks possession or turnover.
This year, Leddy has not only gotten more confident with the puck on his stick, but he's also embraced contact whenever he's had to. It looks like he put some muscle on in the offseason as well, which probably has had a big factor in his increased confidence.
The best part about Leddy is his age. He's only 20 years old, and he's made significant strides throughout his very short NHL career. Sure, he still has some areas that need work, but there's still plenty of time for him to improve.
Leddy has been, arguably, the Hawks' best blueliner through the first quarter of the season.
Don't be surprised when Nick Leddy's name is on Team USA's 2014 Olympic roster.
5. Patrick Sharp
Patrick Sharp is one of the Blackhawks' leaders, and Joel Quenneville recognizes that by the "A" Sharpy wears on his sweater on a nightly basis.
Sharp is often overshadowed by the razzle-dazzle highlight-reel plays performed by a number of his teammates throughout a given week, but that doesn't take away from the hard-nosed work ethic Sharpy brings to the ice night in and night out.
Sharpy may not make the beautiful plays, but his production adds up throughout the season, and he does it very quietly and professionally. He doesn't go out of his way to do more than he can. He takes advantage of all 45 seconds of every one of his shifts and plays it as if it's going to be his last.
He's not afraid to get his hands dirty in the defensive zone, either, or while fighting for a loose puck in the offensive zone.
Offensively, Sharp just shoots and scores. He's not called the Sharp Shooter for no reason.
4. Duncan Keith
I haven't lost faith in Duncan Keith, despite his sub-Norris Trophy year following the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship in 2010-11. Duncan had a heavier workload than average, considering he led the entire NHL in ice-time per game.
Duncan hasn't played his best of late, but no one's perfect. Everyone learns from their mistakes, and Duncan isn't an exception.
He still has that explosive speed that wins loose-puck races nearly every time he's in a foot race for the puck, and he certainly hasn't lost his shot from the point—he still fires that thing, creating scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Don't forget Keith was the 2010 Norris Trophy winner for the NHL's best blueliner. I know he hasn't forgotten that, and I'm sure he knows the level he could be playing at. He'll get there sooner, rather then later.
Don't start pointing your fingers at Duncan just yet, Hawks fans. Hockey is a team game. Duncan will get back on track. Just watch.
3. Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane has always been good, but he received a lot of scrutiny for his performance against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 playoffs, because of his inability to shoot the puck on net—something Hawks fans had never seen.
It's apparent that Kaner took all of that scrutiny to heart, because it's obvious he worked on his game in the offseason, following a first-round exit from the '11 playoffs.
Kane looks bigger, stronger and faster on the ice than he ever has, and his increased size and speed are complemented by his increased production.
Kaner has already scored 22 points in his first 21 games of the season, and it doesn't seem like he has any intentions of slowing down. I wonder what kind of effect Kaner dominating the center position has on his production? Something to ponder...
Patty looks like a whole new hockey player compared to his earlier years in the NHL, and he has the potential to take home some hardware at the end of the season at the annual NHL Awards.
#RickKaneSwag—A term I use on Twitter to describe Patrick Kane's actions/production on and off the ice.
Definition: Patrick Kane has always been a little boy compared to everyone he faces off against in the NHL, but now he is playing like a man. Rick Kane is someone no one wants to get in the way of, because it'll only end bad for the opposition.
2. Marian Hossa
Marian Hossa has been on an absolute terror throughout the first quarter of the Blackhawks' 2011-12 season.
As long as this man can stay healthy, the Hawks have a lot going their way because of what "Big Hoss" brings to both ends of the ice on a nightly basis.
Hossa takes advantage of his size and strength in the defensive zone in order to gain possession of the puck and lead a breakout into the offensive zone.
In the offensive zone, Hossa uses his size and strength to hold off defenders, set picks and control the puck in order to set up scoring chances for himself and his teammates.
"Big Hoss" has 23 points in 20 games. He's in the top 10 in the NHL in scoring, in addition to a few of his teammates (Kane, Sharp, Jonathan Toews), who aren't too far behind him.
Hossa is productive during even-strength play and the penalty kill, and he's especially effective when the Hawks are on the power play.
If Marian Hossa can play in 75 or more games this year for the Hawks, they have a great opportunity to make some noise and, maybe, claim the top spot in the Western Conference.
1. Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews has been the face of the Chicago Blackhawks' franchise since he made his NHL debut in 2007, and rightly so.
Captain Serious is exactly what his nickname says. Toews doesn't mess around on the ice. He's all business, and he'll do whatever he needs to do in order to provide his team with the best opportunity to win.
Toews does it all, offensively and defensively, and that's why he is the leader of the Hawks. He's not afraid to sacrifice his body, and he'll pass up a shot on net if he knows his teammate has a better scoring opportunity.
It's not about the individual numbers for Jonny. It's about the number in the standings column and the two points on the line every night the Hawks play. Toews is the most selfless player on the Hawks' roster, and that's a key quality in a team leader.