One of the most talked about trades of the 2017 offseason was the Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks and Brandon Saad of the Columbus Blue Jackets trade. The trade led to many questions, and it will be a telling season for the Hawks. The biggest question is how well they will manage without him.
What the Hawks Will Be Missing
Panarin’s impressive debut in the 2015-16 season for the Hawks resulted in a Calder Trophy (beating 2017 Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid) as well as 30 goals and 47 assists. He excelled in his sophomore season with 31 goals and 43 assists. During his time with the Hawks, he was considered one of the team’s top players alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The Hawks will be missing not only one of their best players and goal scorers but one of the best in the league.
What About Kane?
Kane took home the Hart Trophy the same year Panarin won the Calder Trophy, proving their exceptional chemistry. They also formed a close friendship. Kane was “disappointed” when the trade occurred, according to NHL.com.
“I think I’d be sitting here lying to you if [I didn’t say] my first reaction was pretty emotional,” the Chicago forward told Hockey Central on Sportsnet. “A little bit of disappointment too, because obviously, we had that chemistry the past couple years.”
Kane’s game improved when Panarin came along hence his 2016 Hart Trophy win. However, with his success prior to Panarin, his loss will likely not be detrimental to Kane’s play.
Will Saad Replace Him?
Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp can fill the void left by Panarin in the upcoming season. Hemal Jhaveri of For The Win at USA Today argues that Saad is an upgrade from a two-way game standpoint.
“Saad is frequently acknowledged as one of the best two-way forwards in the game, something the Blackhawks sorely needed after getting pushed around by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.”
Saad’s two-way forward skills can benefit the Hawks in many ways, especially alongside noted two-way forward Jonathan Toews. When Toews and Saad play on the same offensive line, their chemistry is outstanding and they would be unstoppable together.
Will Sharp Replace Him?
Patrick Sharp played a critical role in the last three Stanley Cup wins for the Hawks. He had a bad year with the Dallas Stars in the 2016-17 season, but his long-overdue hip surgery will likely improve his form. He spoke with Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Any surgery has an impact on your body and how you’re going to respond to it. I knew with the 4-6 month recovery that was ahead of me, I wanted to take advantage of that [early end to the season]. I knew I felt good, but in fitness testing, I hit all my numbers I wanted to hit in the past as a Hawk so that just confirms how I feel on the ice.”
As for being a replacement for Panarin, Sharp isn’t as strong a player as Saad but he has a lot to offer. With a clean bill of health and reuniting the chemistry with former teammates, he will be a force.
With the loss of Panarin, the 2017-18 season will be a telling one for the Hawks. If they can manage without Panarin and get past the first round of the playoffs, it will be a success, but they have many challenges to face this season.