Blackhawks Banter: And the Year-End Awards Go To…

With our show aptly named Blackhawks Banter, it’s as though we were destined for frustration at the hands of the 2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks. Their slow start may have been expected, but that surprising push for the last playoff spot certainly was not. At the same time, seeing their production level off, as they landed outside the postseason picture, more accurately aligned with what most would have anticipated out of this year’s team.

Chicago Blackhawks Banter

It’s not to say that they failed, as their progress and development were on full display, especially through those more successful stretches. Even as they struggled, it became clear that this rebuild was on the right path. With that said, their campaign is now complete. Yet, our coverage is far from over.

We’re putting our best out there for Episode 28, with an overtime lineup that includes Shaun Filippelli (G), Gail Kauchak (F), Greg Boysen (D), and Brooke LoFurno (F). Be sure to tune in to the full episode when it drops to see if we’re any more effective at closing things out in the extra frame than the Blackhawks proved to be this past season.

In the meantime, enjoy this teaser of what to expect out of our upcoming show.

Borgström Signs for Two Years

In their second of two deals with the Florida Panthers leading up to the trade deadline, the Blackhawks acquired the signing rights to Henrik Borgström. He’s recently agreed to a new two-year deal, with an AAV of $1 million. The former first-round pick only accumulated 19 points in 58 contests with the Panthers since 2017-18. However, the 23-year-old has proven more productive overseas, earning 21 points through 30 games in the Finish Elite League this year.

Should Chicago fans expect the type of production he found in Florida, an upgraded pace like what he’s done in Finland, or an elevation he’s yet to reach throughout his pro career?

Gail

Let’s face it; no one really knows what kind of player Borgström will eventually become. He looked great in his college years at Denver but then struggled a bit in the NHL. Sometimes young players take time to find their way.

The good news is the Blackhawks’ European scouts seem to know what they’re doing. They’ve found a number of diamonds in the rough that have translated into very good NHL players. Let’s hope this is the case with Borgström. He’s got his college years and his time in Finland going for him, and perhaps it just wasn’t the right fit with the Panthers. And he went to high school with Kevin Lankinen! So there’s that!

But seriously, say what you will about head coach Jeremy Colliton. He might not have the NHL experience or the correct defensive system for his team. But he does seem to be doing a pretty good job of developing his younger players. Let’s see if he can do this with Borgström as well.

Greg

I think Blackhawks fans should have tempered expectations for Borgström, much like they had for Dominik Kubalik and Pius Suter heading into the previous two seasons. I am excited to see what he can do because of the recent track record of the European scouting staff.

If they see something in him that can translate at the NHL level, then I trust they are right. It will be interesting to see how things pan out for him next fall. The health of Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach will play a role in where he slots and who he plays with.

Brooke

The European leagues are a lot different from the NHL, so it’s hard to compare his two stats. But maybe he found more confidence with his performance overseas. With that, I think we should expect an upgraded performance at that NHL level, which is exciting for fans.

Shaun

When I started to dig a little deeper into this acquisition, why Bowman would target a player like this to help propel their rebuild made a lot of sense. Although Borgström’s stint with the Panthers wasn’t ideal, the offensive forward clearly has a lot to offer. This move includes a lot of upside potential.

In fact, Borgström was a 2018 Hobey Baker nominee, recognized as one of the best college players. It seems circumstance wasn’t on his side in Florida, as sometimes the player and city just don’t mesh. He’s now had a few more years to develop, which should work to his advantage. I expect him to reach new levels of production in Chicago.

Did Delia Do Enough?

Collin Delia had a rough start to the 2020-21 campaign, allowing five goals against in back-to-back losses in mid-January. He was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs in February, where things didn’t start ideally either. His play then improved and he was recalled to Chicago’s taxi squad in March. Yet, it still took nearly four months before he’d get a chance to redeem himself. He ended the year getting into four of their last five contests, earning a 1-1-1 record and a .924 save percentage.

Do you think his earlier performances are better aligned with what he’s capable of, or did seeing Delia’s improved play to end the year do enough to change your perception of his abilities?

Gail


Well. Goaltending is a league of its own. I’ll be the first person to say I really have no idea what makes a good or bad goaltender, much less a great one. But I will say Delia looked good in his final few games with the Blackhawks. He did that on the tail end of a season after he hardly played at all, which messes with the timing issues of any netminder. That’s pretty impressive.

Obviously, the Blackhawks went with Lankinen and Malcolm Subban because they liked the fundamentals they saw in the preseason and the first handful of games. But Delia worked hard, even under very un-ideal circumstances. I’m happy he got a chance to prove himself and hope that carries over to a fair competition in the upcoming 2021-22 training camp.

Greg

It’s tough to say if Delia did enough. We weren’t at practice to see how he was doing compared to the other goalies. The coaching staff thought he was the third-best netminder on the roster, and they were probably right. Things just didn’t line up for him. Lankinen and Subban got red hot as the Blackhawks were hanging onto a playoff spot, so there wasn’t a great time to get him back on the ice.

Collin Delia, Rockford IceHogs
Collin Delia, Rockford IceHogs (Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs)

In a normal season, he would have been the top guy in Rockford, putting in the work and getting better. This season just has to be scrapped and start fresh in the fall. He is far from the only young goaltender that had to go through the weirdness of this season.

Brooke

I think his late-season performances were aligned with his capabilities. He has NHL experience and as spectators, we saw before that he could make great saves and could steal games. It makes it all the more frustrating given that he was not used for so long. He reiterated that he is up to the task.

Shaun

It’s clear that the start of Delia’s season didn’t go as planned. However, we have to take into account that his play was basically in alignment with the team’s struggles as a whole at that point. Yet, while most of those involved were allowed to find redemption rather quickly, Delia was kept on the outside of that inner circle.

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Despite the irrationally long delay, it was nice to see him do as well as he did to end the year. With that said, while I don’t think his early-season results epitomize his ability, I’m not sure his stellar year-end showing is sustainable either. I feel like Delia’s play will average somewhere in the middle of those extremes, with a tendency to surprise in the right ways.

And the Award Goes to…

While it’s unlikely that we’ll hear many (if any) Blackhawks named in conversations surrounding the 2021 NHL Awards, that doesn’t mean there weren’t standout performances worthy of recognition. Being that our panel is experts on all things Blackhawks, having met here weekly to dissect every ounce of their season, who better to look to for helping determine those that deserve the brightest spotlights?

With every level of personnel in consideration (players, coaches, and management), who would be at the top of your ballot for each respective honour?

Most Improved Blackhawk

Gail: Connor Murphy
Greg: Adam Boqvist
Brooke: Vinnie Hinostroza
Shaun: Adam Boqvist

Most Reliable Blackhawk

Gail: Alex DeBrincat
Greg: Alex DeBrincat
Brooke: Connor Murphy
Shaun: Alex DeBrincat

Best Blackhawks Rookie

Gail: Pius Suter
Greg: Brandon Hagel
Brooke: Brandon Hagel
Shaun: Kevin Lankinen

Most Valuable Blackhawk

Gail: Patrick Kane
Greg: Kevin Lankinen
Brooke: Patrick Kane
Shaun: Alex DeBrincat

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek of what we’ll dive into on the next Blackhawks Banter. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel, like our Facebook Page, and follow us on Twitter, so you catch every new episode the moment they drop. You can also now listen to our show in podcast form on your preferred platform.

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