At this year’s edition of the NHL trade deadline, the Chicago Blackhawks made two sizable splashes in an attempt to supplement their roster. At the heart of such attempts was the goal of maintaining their status as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference. While the Los Angeles Kings picked up the most sought after defenseman on the trade market in Andrej Sekera, General Manager Stan Bowman felt the need to match his conference rival tit for tat. Prior to the league’s trading deadline, he brought in veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who was poised to return from a blood clot issue that had held him out of action in Philadelphia for the entirety of the season. Additionally, the Blackhawks added versatile center Antoine Vermette with the hopes of solidifying their depth down the middle. With nearly a calendar month having gone by since these moves were made and with the playoffs right around the corner, it’s time to ask the question: how well are these two new players fitting in on the Blackhawks’ roster?
Since being picked up from Arizona, Antoine Vermette has struggled to find his grove in Chicago. In 13 games, he has yet to record a goal, but he has tallied three assists. For Vermette, three points in 13 games constitutes a significant drop off from the numbers he produced while a member of the Coyotes. In 63 games for Arizona this year, he recorded 13 goals and 22 assists for a total of 35 points. In those 63 games with Arizona, he picked up 85 shots on net. This comes out to roughly 1.35 shots on goal per game. In his 13 games as a Blackhawk, Vermette’s 17 shots on goal in 13 games played means he’s had roughly 1.31 shots on goal per game.
So in Vermette’s case, one could reasonably expect his production to rise when his shooting percentage comes back up to where it would normally be. Obviously he isn’t going to continue having this little success in converting his opportunities into goals, and his basically identical shot creation output suggests that he’s been playing better than 3 points in thirteen games would suggest.Kimmo Timonen has long been one of the more underrated players in the National Hockey League. This excellent Finnish defenseman had been consistently excellent on a yearly basis for the Nashville Predators and the Philadelphia Flyers before his career was derailed prior to this season due to a very unfortunate issue with blood clots. Timonen’s hard work coupled with some well deserved good fortune with healing has allowed him to work himself back into game shape, and the Philadelphia Flyers organization rewarded him by sending him off to a legitimate contender at the trade deadline in order to give him the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup before his retirement. The Chicago Blackhawks were the beneficiaries of this act of good will from their 2010 Stanley Cup Final foes, and they have and will continue to reap the benefits as they attempt to make another run at a Stanley Cup win in 2015.
Like his counterpart Antoine Vermette, Kimmo Timonen has undergone a serious adjustment period since being acquired by the Blackhawks. He has yet to record a point in thirteen games, and his even strength corsi for percentage since he came over is the worst among Blackhawk defensemen at about 43%. But as with Vermette, there is also reason to expect Timonen’s play to improve relatively quickly. From 2011-2014, there wasn’t a single Flyers defenseman with a better even strength corsi share than Timonen’s 54.07% mark. As Timonen gets back up to game speed, his possession numbers and raw production numbers should both come back to somewhat close to their regular levels.
Overall, it’s safe to say that the Blackhawks made the right decision in acquiring these players. No one could reasonably argue that they mortgaged the future in doing so. Additionally, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane having their new, north-of-10-million cap hits kicking in next season, the team will have to make some tough personnel decisions between now and the start of next season due to the salary cap. This could potentially mean that one or two core pieces such as Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, or Niklas Hjalmarsson could no longer be members of the team next season. As they are forced to move on from some established veterans, the window in which the Blackhawks are a legitimate contender will begin to close. To combat this, the best course of action is to surround the current group with more veterans such as Vermette and Timonen while they still have them, while simultaneously doing a good job with drafting and developing young assets to replace the old supporting cast as they begin to move on. It is because of this that going for it all now to maximize the chances of another championship before this happens has to be considered the right move.