Is Hayden’s Grit & Speed What the Blackhawks Need?

Making the roster after training camp was the first step to John Hayden’s journey of the 2017-18 season as a Blackhawk. He proved himself worthy in training camp and during the preseason through his speed and the physicality that he brings to the ice. He is the first strong enforcer the Hawks have seen in a while, but is that what they need right now?

Training Camp

Like his teammate Nick Schmaltz, Hayden had a successful training camp. He was confident going in after his experience with the Hawks late in the 2016-17 season. He told Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune, “It was incredibly helpful,” Hayden said. “For me, the most invaluable aspect of that was meeting all the faces and coming into this training camp knowing all the players has helped. I play at this level. I contributed and want to keep contributing, so it’s my job to prove I can contribute the next couple (of) weeks.”

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Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times,“He’s had a good camp,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s a threat. He’s playing hard, trying to find a way to get more every single day.”

Hayden earned a spot on the Blackhawks roster after training camp and has played in every game so far this season.

What He Brings to the Hawks

Although former Hawk Andrew Shaw and current Hawk Ryan Hartman have had their fair share of fights throughout their careers, the Blackhawks haven’t had a strong enforcer in recent years. Hayden changes that. He proved his toughness in the preseason as well as the first few games of the 2017-18 season, including a memorable clash with Marcus Foligno of the Minnesota Wild.

The fight resulted in Foligno’s facial fracture. Hayden does not plan to tone down his style of play as he tells the Chicago Sun-Times,“In competitive games, fights happen.” Despite the nature of the fight, there is no bad blood between the two, “[I have] a lot of respect for him; no matter how competitive the game gets, you never want anyone to get hurt,” Hayden said after the morning skate Saturday. “I [wish] him a speedy recovery.”

John Hayden Zach Werenski
Chicago Blackhawks center John Hayden (40) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) chase the puck. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Hayden also brings speed to the lineup as he told Blackhawks TV during training camp: “As a bigger guy, I’m trying to be elusive and flexible. Whether that’s yoga or different flexibility stuff we do. It’s really important. You can’t just be big and strong and muscular, you’ve got to be able to move.”

With players like Connor McDavid making speed one of the most important traits to have as an NHL player, Hayden’s skill is valuable.

Is His Style What the Hawks Need?

After the first round exit from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Hawks are in desperate need of a strong physical force on the team. Since the Nashville Predators are a physical team, it made it much easier for them to sweep the Hawks. Adding more physicality to the lineup can help the Hawks in the regular season and the playoffs. The Hawks aren’t known for being physical and having a strong enforcer on the team could help the Hawks in the long run. Hayden is the enforcer they need to increase physical presence on the ice.

Joel Quenneville approves of this style of play to a point, as he told the Chicago Sun-Times, “Fighting is something that can evolve from the way [Hayden] plays,” Quenneville said. “He has to be willing. Sometimes you play a hard game and [with] the physicality, sometimes they just happen. I’m not saying fight or don’t fight, but sometimes those are the results.”

With Hayden’s style of play and speed, he is certainly valuable to the Hawks in the 2017-18 season. His physicality is something the Hawks need if they want to bring the Stanley Cup back to Chicago, and Hayden could definitely be the player to do that.