If you haven’t read part 1, then read Part 1. In part 2, we’ll grade the Blackhawks stars.
Same rules apply. There is no need to be upset.
This scale applies only for Part 2.
A: Has met (high) expectations, or surpassed them.
B: Has come close to meeting expectations.
C: Has not played to the ideal level but has still contributed well.
D: Has played at a level clearly below where he should.
F: Has been terrible.
Stat line (GP/G/A/P): 21/10/8/18
As one of the most vital players to Chicago’s puck possession system, Hossa’s expected to do a lot. He had a slow start to the season after missing most of the preseason with an injury, but has shined since then with 9 goals and 16 points in his last 16 games. He faces by far the highest quality of competition out of all Blackhawks players but nevertheless has excelled. He’s also tied for the league lead in +/- with a +16, although that stat’s importance is often disputed by fans. For all of Quenneville’s ridiculous line shuffling on the wings, Hossa’s been locked on the number one line ever since Joel went bananas some time early in the year around that fantastic loss to Tampa in which the Lightning didn’t have a shot in the entire first period.
The guy’s goalscoring ability has never been in doubt.
Not a problem.
Basically pulls a Giovani Bernard and covers the entire width of the playing surface. Then makes that pass.
Final Verdict: A-
Stat line (GP/G/A/P): 26/15/13/28
Kane is playing the best hockey of his life. Let me explain.
The 28 points in 26 games is nice.
It’s even nicer when you consider that Kane has put up those numbers even despite his teammates shooting the puck at an unsustainably pathetic rate when he’s on the ice.
Less than 8% of Chicago shots go in the net when Kane is on the ice at even strength. For comparison, that number was 11.67% for Kane during last season and 9.85% even in the worst statistical year of his career in ’11-12.
Kane’s actually been having a very unlucky year and has still managed to be the team’s most productive player. He currently has registered at least a point in 12 straight games, the second-longest streak ever by an American player.
Final Verdict: A+
Stat line (GP/G/A/P): 26/9/13/22
Sharp’s always been streaky, and began with 1 goal in Chicago’s first 11 games. But since then, he’s been typical old Patrick Sharp. That is to say, blasting half of his shot attempts 20 feet over the net and scoring on the other half. He forms the NHL’s single most dominant puck possession line in the NHL alongside Toews and Hossa, with all three in the top 30 in on-ice Corsi (see Part 1).
People also find him beautiful (1:42).
Some other highlights: 0:33 = NICK BOYNTON SIGHTING!!!!!! 1:20 = the only time in Joel Quenneville’s life that he didn’t speak in a monotone grumble. 1:37 = ANOTHER NICK BOYNTON SIGHTING!!!!!! 2:01 = Am I the only one thinking that NICK BOYNTON!!!!!! might be getting a disproportionately large amount of face time here? 2:19 = You may or may not detect a BOYNTON!!!!!!theme here. That’s also an atrocious goal song. 3:37 = Joel Quenneville shows surprising ability to both laugh and smile. And lastly, entire video = Brian Campbell acting incredibly awkward.
Completely forgot that I’m supposed to be grading Sharp.
Final Verdict: B+
Stat line (GP/G/A/P): 26/12/12/24
We’re all well-aware of how good Toews has been yet again this season so I’m not going to even get into that. Instead I want to attack a ridiculous myth that gets perpetuated ad nauseum by ignorant people.
That myth would be that Jonathan Toews is not an elite offensive player.
Explain how, please? Let’s take a look at some of the hilariously-easy-to-refute arguments people always put forth.
“He hasn’t put up a point per game season yet!”
Yes, people were still saying this after he had 76 in 80 games (’10-11) and 57 in 59 games (’11-12), because they’re actually that nitpicky. But hey, he had 48 in 47 last year! Ha.
“He doesn’t have any particular offensive skill that stands out!”
Yes he does. It’s called “scoring goals” – a strange concept that was first brought to the Americas by the Spanish. I’ll take a 40 goal per 82 game pace any day.
“He’s… well…. I just don’t like him!”
Toews has been Toews. I don’t need to say much more.
Final Verdict: A
Stat line (GP/G/A/P): 26/1/20/21
Keith’s ability to score goals suffered a tragic death during the 2009-10 offseason, but his defensive control, transition excellence, and general on-ice dominance are as evident as ever. He’s been very quietly putting together a Norris-quality season – so quietly that some hockey fans are forgetting about him altogether in Norris discussions and instead suggesting the Greatest Turnstile of Our Time as a candidate.
Yeah. Anyway, being Norris-worthy speaks for itself.
Final Verdict: A+
Stat line (GP/G/A/P): 26/1/13/14
Seabrook has been his usual consistent self playing alongside Keith. His quality of competition – like Keith’s – is good but not great, as Quenneville likes to deploy Oduya-Hjalmarsson as Chicago’s true shutdown pairing. The Hawks have dominated possession when Seabrook has been on the ice this season. He’s also putting up points at what would be the second-highest rate of his career, and has an impressive 10 assists at even strength.
There is bad to go with the good, however. I’m not sure exactly when it began – I noticed it last year as well – but Seabrook has developed a nasty tendency to make simply awful pinches, and often at the worst possible times.
That’s just one example, of course. I bring it up because it’s the most memorable. Watch Seabrook closely for a few games and you’ll notice it too. He does this more than any other Chicago defenseman.
Still, there’s no denying the possession numbers and production.
Final Verdict: B+
Stat line (GP/W-L-OTL/SV%/GAA): 23/16-4-3/.911/2.43
Crawford’s leading the league in wins, which is a mostly meaningless stat but sounds nice so I decided to throw it in here.
He was near the top of the league in most measurables until a recent bad stretch beginning November 10th against Edmonton.
No, he didn’t suddenly forget how to play. He’s fatigued. With Nikolai Khabibulin doing an exemplary job establishing himself as completely useless very early in the year, it became clear that Crawford was Chicago’s only real option. I don’t blame Quenneville and his staff for repeatedly starting him – their job is to win games, and even a dead-tired Crawford is better than Nikolai Lifeless Husk. We can’t hold Crawford’s unremarkable numbers against him completely. He’s had factors working against him that most other NHL goalies don’t have to deal with. It doesn’t help that Chicago’s team defense has been nowhere near the airtight unit from last season.
But of course, when you sign your goaltender to this kind of extension, you’re expecting him to play a lot.
Tough decision here. Trying to take both sides of the coin into account.
Final Verdict: B-
The Hawks succeed when their stars do. So – unsurprisingly, with the Hawks 18-4-4 – the performance of all of these guys grades out pretty well. I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts.
1. Tell off people that belittle Toews’ offensive game.
2. Salt on the napkin stops your water glass from sticking, and it is glorious.
3. When someone sends you an email and you take the time to read it, take the time to answer. Stop making me rage.
4. I enjoyed this, so I’m sharing.
And of course, because I’m a nice guy who says nice things because I’m a nice guy and I say nice things that are nice…
5. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving.
How nice. Happy trails to everyone.
Sean covers the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers and Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @seansarcu.