Our next stop on the hindsight circuit brings us to Chicago’s two young Swedish defensemen, Gustav Forsling and Carl Dahlstrom. Let’s do these bad boys one at a time.
41 Games, 3 Goals, 10 Assists, 13 Points, -2, 8 PIM
48.9 CF%, -6.8 CF% rel, 44.54 xGF%, -8.9 xGF% rel, 51.67 Zone Start Ratio
With what appeared to be a mostly patchwork blue line group heading into the 2017-18 Blackhawks season, it seemed to make sense that Gustav Forsling would get a really fair shake at proving his worth in the NHL. Some might make the case that he did get that shake, but those some would be wrong. Yes, Forsling spent a good amount of time at the NHL level last year – playing in half the games definitely strikes one as a fair shake. But the big number that sticks out there is the 51.67 Zone Start Ratio. For a player of Forsling’s skillset, that is entirely too low, even as a defenseman. Barely having more than half of his shifts start in the offensive zone screams misuse.
Add in the fact that he was saddled for much of the season with Jan Rutta, which we covered yesterday, and you have another example of the miscasting. The root of that misuse is that Joel Quenneville seems unable to see Forsling as anything other than what he isn’t, which is to say that Q sees his lack of pure defensive d-zone instincts, physicality, and overall boring defensive play and has thus far tried to coax him into developing that side of his game rather than really accentuating what he does well. Which is really strange, because it seems to me that what Forsling does well is almost exactly what the Hawks blue line really needs.
Forsling has the most beautiful skating stride on the team, sees the ice with enviable vision and anticipation, can drop a puck on his teammates tape nearly as good as anyone else on the team, and he can combine all of that moving full speed up the ice with the puck on his tape. We’ve been clamoring for Keith to have a mobile partner who might be able to cover up for his freewheeling and loss of mobility, and it seems like Forsling might be the right fit. Even if his defensive instincts are not exactly high level, he can get himself back in coverage well enough to break up or delay any rush enough to let the other four guys get back. No, it’s not the ideal scenario because it’s not Erik Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but he’s got the shell basics outline of the game those two play with still plenty of potential to be tapped into.
In a perfect world, Joel Quenneville realizes that he already has defensemen with skill sets more geared toward what he’s tried to get Forsling to do these past two years, and finally starts letting my special boy (yes, I am still giving him that title) off the leash a bit to play a style that fits him best. That might be with Keith, maybe with Murphy, it could even be with Seabrook if the Hawks and Seabs can get on the same page with a role like Sam outlined the other day. That’s the best and maybe only way you’re really gonna see what you have in the Fors.
But this isn’t a perfect world, so Quenneville will do the same shit for the third year and hope it works this time – something something definition of insanity – before Forsling gets sent back to A in January again. Hooray.
11 Games, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, -2, 0 PIM
52.29 CF%, -5.29 CF% rel, 46.7 xGF%, -6.55 xGF% rel, 46 Zone Start Ratio
There isn’t too much you can glean from just 11 NHL games for a young defenseman, especially one who was in just his second year in North America. Dahlstrom has his good and bad moments, which is really shitty analysis, but again, it was just eleven games. What more do you want from me?
Digging into the pairings a bit, Dahlstrom spent more time with our ginger darling Connor Murphy than other blue-liner while he was in Chicago, with those two racking up 50:31 of ice time together at 5v5, or about three-to-five games worth of being a pairing. Dahlstrom only played about 120 5v5 minutes total away from Murphy. They posted a 52.53 CF% together, which was better than either of their marks away from each other, though Murphy had significantly more time without Dahlstrom than vice versa, and I don’t read anything into it for #5. But what it does show for Dahlstrom is that he has the goods to play at an acceptable level in the NHL if paired with a good partner.
Overall, I don’t really know what kind of future Dahlstrom has in Chicago. You have the obvious three of Keith, Nacho, and Murphy that will be hear for the long run, plus Rutta and Oesterle who if here will probably get minutes from this coach. Then you have Forsling, Jokiharju, and Ian Mitchell that the organization appear to be very high on. On top of all that, consider that you’re probably adding at least one or two high-level guys – one NHL d-man via trade or free agency, and ideally a top d-man prospect with the lottery pick – and you have a whole hell of a lot of guys in front of Dahlstrom. But besides that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?
In all seriousness, the bottom pairing and depth d-man spots should be wide open for competition in camp next year, and Dahlstrom will likely be given the same shot as anyone to earn one of those spots. It’ll be up to him to do so.