Not that I think Connor Murphy‘s injury will turn out to be a Wally Pip moment, because nothing really ever is. But it does open a window for the Hawks to try and get started on their future. And their future wears #27, at least on the blue line.
I’m sure the Hawks won’t call up Adam Boqvist to take Murphy’s spot. They’ll call up Dennis Gilbert because he’s the loyal foot soldier, and they can play him 12 minutes a night without scrutiny to not do a hell of a lot on the third pairing for three weeks. We’ll get more of Fetch Koekkoek, because he’s the new Rundbland and Stan is going to prove he knows what he’s doing no matter how much closer it brings us to the first instance in history of a goalie breaking his stick over his own d-man’s head on the ice. I know this, you know this.
But last night, as encouraging as it was at times, once again showed the speed deficit the Hawks have when it comes to the best teams in the league. If they red-line and play as if their pubic hair was on fire, they can almost keep up. But you can’t do that for 82 games. You can’t play that hard and that desperate, because you’ll be puddles and goo by February. You need more baseline speed.
And that’s what Boqvist is. And the defense, as strange as it might sound, could absorb him right now. Whatever they do, the clear answer is to move Calvin de Haan up to play with Duncan Keith, as de Haan can mostly emulate the safety net Murphy provides (though without most of the mobility). At the moment, that leaves Seabrook and Maatta together, which is still getting crushed even if Maatta has been better than we thought, and Gustafsson and Fetch for shifts that will have all of us walking funny and carefully to the bathroom.
Maatta and de Haan have definitely stabilized a defense that really had no other direction to go, as well as the Murphy-Keith pairing you just lost. But all it is is just defending. The Hawks don’t get up the ice any better than they did. They still need help with that. The only candidate for that is Boqvist. They need transition.
Pair him with Maatta. Let Seabrook and Gustafsson be on the third pairing, which as ugly as it might sound is better than the alternative. Maatta’s form this season at least allows for the possibility that he can be the free safety for Boqvist’s flaming guitar solos (there’s some mixed metaphors for you). It’s what the Hawks need.
We know thanks to DeBrincat’s bridge contract that the Hawks have basically zeroed in on the next three-four seasons–the length of Daydream Nation’s collective contract. Boqvist’s is already running. No waiting around. Let’s go.
-Which also means keeping Kirby Dach around. Does that mean he’s ready? No, it doesn’t. But I also don’t need too much more than the two games we’ve seen to know that he’s beyond the WHL too. And seeing as how Rockford isn’t an option…
One thing Dach is going to have to do better is get his legs pumping. NHL forwards basically spring for their entire shifts, and so far Dach has gotten caught gliding a little too often. That doesn’t mean he’s a loaf, as it’s probably more to do with him calculating what’s going on around him and then reacting instead of those two things folding seamlessly into each other, which they will. He’s going to have to map things out while moving full speed.
Dach being a bigger guy, it’s always going to look like he’s playing at a slightly slower speed because he’ll cover ground that much easier. His style is just going to look languid even if it’s not. I don’t need his legs to look like Road Runner, but they do need to move a touch more.
Still, the hands and vision and instincts are obvious. And if the Hawks are patient, I can’t see how after 30-40 games he won’t look like he belongs. And 30 games in the NHL have to be more valuable than 60 games in the WHL beating up on children because he’s that much more talented. That won’t really get him to move at higher speeds. So keep him here and get moving on these next three seasons. Let’s go.