When I was a child, I had this one specific Spider-Man action figure that I loved playing with. Inside the creativity of my chilhood mind, that little Spider-Man was not just Spidey, but he was also a professional baseball/football/hockey player, soldier, what have you, depending on the day and my mood. But one day I dropped that Spider-Man action figure in a parking lot without knowing it, and he got run over by a car, and when I found him I was in tears. My mom loves to tell the story of me sobbing about Spider-Man and me declaring I had lost my “best friend,” as I put it through my tears. Now, dear reader, you are probably thinking “what the fuck is this guy is talking about this for?” Good question. My point is Gustav Forsling may need to be run over in a parking lot.
43 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 9 P
47.81 CF% – 43.73 xGF% [5v5]
It Comes With A Free Frogurt!
Listen, I am not trying to take an easy way out here — I have very little good to say about Gustav Forsling based on 2018-19. It honestly just feels like trying to make anything sort of positive sweeping declaration about his season would be either stretching the truth to an almost irresponsible extent. There are not many redeeming moments I can think of or point to that would give me reason to say, “sure, but look at that!” And the thing about it is, I can’t really for the life of me figure out why.
If there was any redeeming quality about Forsling, it’s that he has the tools to at least be a not terrible player. He has the stride. He has the hands. He has the vision with the puck. He can pass, skate, shoot, whatever. In a vacuum, it all looks like it’s there. Then you take it out of the vacuum, put him on the ice of an NHL game, and he’s like a 3-year-old trying to hit a pinata – either someone is losing an apendage or there will be guts spilled all over the floor, or perhaps both. I don’t know what it is about this young man in his own defensive zone, but he seems to have no clue what to do when it comes to playing defense. And as a, uh, defenseman, that’s a bit of a problem.
But again, if he was a baseball prospect, you’d grade most his tools in the 50-55 range, meaning average or slightly above. But the thing about tools is that without a proper toolbox (player) and tradesman (coaching), they’re going to go to waste. Forsling still needs to put it all together, and he still has barely played more than 100 games at the NHL level. But the time is quickly running out, especially if the Hawks pick Bowen Byram at No. 3 this year.
The Frogurt Is Also Cursed
So let’s talk a bit about what actually makes him so damn bad. As referenced above, Forsling is clueless as far as what to do on the ice in an NHL game, especially in his own zone. I’m not sure if the game is just too fast for him, but it kinda looks that way. He looks like he can’t fully process everything going on around him properly in real time, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record I again note that it’s particularly noticeable when he is in the defensive zone. To take it a step further than that, it almost feels like he’s altogether lost when the other team has the puck, regardless of where it is on the ice. He doesn’t pinch well in the offensive zone, he doesn’t position himself well in the neutral zone on the way back, which leads to bad positioning in the d-zone. It’s all ugly.
On top of all of that, the things that it appears in the vacuum he does well, like skate and pass, end up falling apart in practice. If you had an iso-cam on him, you might watch him grab a puck behind the net, skate it out and make a pass, and it would look fine. Again, the vacuum view is fine. Zoom out, though, and you’ll see the pass is across his own zone to the right wing on the far board and he’s trying to thread the needle between the two forecheckers. It’s another processing error, thinking he can do something that he cannot, that stems from not being able to keep up with the game mentally.
I had high hopes for Forsling from the moment he was traded to the Hawks because the reports seemed promising. At one point, and I am not proud of this, I said from what I had seen of him I thought he could be the next Duncan Keith. I walked that back quickly and said the next Nick Leddy. I wrote it in his 2017-18 player preview, and then in his review for the same season I remained high on him because the tools were still there. I don’t think I am wrong on that at all (save for the suggestion he play with Seabrook, because we all saw how that went). But again, Forsling is either not the proper toolbox to put those tools together, or CCYP is not the proper tradesman to put it together for him. But Quenneville wasn’t either, based on the usage. So who would be? At a certain point, the least common denominator is the player himself.
At this point, I cannot in good conscience pencil Forsling into any future plans for this team. I think his best value to the organization moving forward may be as a potential trade chip. That would require other teams to be willing to take on a bad player, but as long as Peter Chiarelli has a job you know there’s at least one team who fits the bill.