Hockey

High On The Hog: No Defense, Part One: The Draft

The key to fixing the Chicago Blackhawks, whatever side of the rebuilding question you reside, has to be the blueline. The defense has not been up to snuff for several seasons; this should not be breaking news to anyone. Fortunately, there’s a solution to what ails the Blackhawks. Draft and develop the back end and turn what is now a colossal weakness into a strength.

That’s all it takes…right?

This is going to be short and definitely not sweet, folks.

Chicago General Manager Stan Bowman does not have a strong track record in drafting defensive talent. Since he started making picks in the 2010 NHL Draft, he does have one decent stat line:

Games     Goals     Assists     Points     Rating

585            31          96              127          -35

Who is this mystery player? I’ll wait.

You won’t find this player because he doesn’t exist. The above numbers are the combined NHL numbers for every defenseman Stan Bowman has selected in the the last ten NHL Drafts.

Here’s the individual breakdown:

Player                          Games    G    A    Pts.    Rating

Klas Dahlbeck            170          6    17   23       -31

Stephen Johns           150          13  15   28       -6

Adam Clendenning   90            4   20   24       +11

Henri Jokiharju         76            3    19   22        -7

Carl Dahlstrom          60            0     9      9       +4

Justin Holl                  49            3     11    14      +10

Dennis Gilbert            15            0      2      2       -10

Adam Boqvist             14            1       2      3        -5

Blake Hillman              4            0      1       1        -1

Michael Paliotta          2            0       1       1        0

It will probably not surprise you that most of those 585 games are with other NHL teams. Only two of those players, Gilbert and Boqvist, are currently with the Blackhawks.

Dahlbeck is currently in the KHL. The oft-injured Johns hasn’t played for Dallas in nearly two years. Clendenning, who just got a call up to Columbus, is a good AHL player who just hasn’t been able to find the gear needed to stay in the NHL.

Jokiharju…well…let’s not talk about that right now.

In order to create a playoff-caliber defense, the Blackhawks are going to need to grow it themselves. Chicago doesn’t have the cap space to bring in a top-tier defense. Waiting for a free-agency solution to the Hawks problem is waiting for pigs to fly.

The three biggest defensive pieces of the dynasty came via the draft: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. The closest thing to a shut-down defender like Hjalmarsson (which I think Chicago needs two of to kickstart a turnaround) that Bowman has drafted are Dahlbeck and Dahlstrom. Combined, the two are not half the player Hjalmarsson was for Chicago.

“Drafting defenseman is hard”, you may say. “Bowman can just trade for the defensive prospects we so desperately need.”

Fair enough. Next time, I’ll take a look at the team’s recent history with obtaining that elusive impact defenseman. For now, I’ll give you room to breathe.

 

But What About The Hogs?

Rockford is at home Friday night, taking on the Iowa Wild. The IceHogs then head up to Manitoba Sunday for the first of two with the Moose.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for possible game updates this weekend and thoughts on the Hogs throughout the season.

 

 

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