After over a year of widespread rumors and speculation, the Chicago Blackhawks were finally able to move veteran winger Patrick Sharp in a trade. In return for Sharp, the Blackhawks received a package from the Dallas Stars that included defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt.
Those two players appear highly likely to be virtual locks to crack Chicago’s opening night roster, so it’s important that Blackhawks fans are as well-educated about the newest members of the team as possible. As I did with Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano, I’ll be profiling both of the newest additions to the Blackhawks’ organization. I’ve already covered my thoughts on Trevor Daley, so this post will be devoted to Chicago’s newest bottom six pest in Garbutt.
Garbutt in Dallas
Garbutt is one of the best examples of a player who occupies the role of being a pest on his team in the NHL. With the Stars, Garbutt often lined up with Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel on what had to be one of the most annoying lines to match up against in the entire league. The trio infamously agitated the ever living hell out of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Game 3 of Anaheim and Dallas’s first round playoff series in 2014.
While Garbutt may excel in the role of a pest, to classify him merely as an agitator wouldn’t do him justice. He’s a solid hockey player as well. In his three seasons in a full-time role in Dallas, Garbutt paced for 23, 35, and 31 points over 82 games. That’s certainly not second line production, but it’s average to very good third line production depending upon his form for the year.
In terms of possession, Garbutt is neither a huge driving force nor a burden on his linemates. In 2013-2014, he was good for a +1.9% corsi relative, but during this most recent season he took a step back and wound up with a -2.4%.
Garbutt is roughly average in terms of size, standing six feet tall and weighing in at 195 p0unds. He’s a right-handed shot, and has proven capable of playing both the left wing and the right wing. So where will he fit in with the defending Stanley Cup champions? That’s an excellent question.
Garbutt in Chicago
At even strength, I’m going to assume that Chicago’s top six will consist of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Artem Anisimov. The other two spots will be occupied by some combination of Dano, Teuvo Teravainen, and Artemi Panarin. I highly doubt Garbutt garners serious consideration for a top six spot barring significant injuries.
While it looked for awhile that Chicago may have envisioned rolling three strong scoring lines with Teravainen centering the third unit, the acquisition of Garbutt casts some doubt on that idea. Unless they’re going to be grouped with a highly offensive winger, it’s hard to imagine that line being overly effective all over the ice. In that case, Panarin-Teravainen-Garbutt could make a lot of sense as a third line, but that would likely leave Bryan Bickell on one of the top two lines, which is something that I’m guessing the Blackhawks will want to avoid.
If Joel Quenneville wishes, he can slide Garbutt down to the fourth line. Assuming Marcus Kruger as the fourth line center, the potential duo of Kruger and Garbutt would give the Blackhawks two-thirds of what would almost certainly be the league’s best fourth line.
My final guess for the Blackhawks forward group is that it will shake out like this when healthy:
Teravainen – Toews – Hossa / Panarin – Anisimov – Kane / Dano – Shaw – Garbutt / Desjardins – Kruger – Tikhonov
Granted, it probably won’t matter as Quenneville is notorious for shuffling up his lines like with a high level of frequency, but I think that could be a good starting point. If there are chemistry issues, I think there are enough pieces there to move up and down the line-up until a set of good fits is stumbled upon.
While the even strength configuration of Chicago’s forward group is certainly interesting, the main area where Garbutt will be a huge help is on the penalty kill. According to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, there are 195 forwards who have played at least 100 minutes on the penalty kill over the past two seasons. Out of those 195, Garbutt ranks 32nd in shots against per 60 minutes, with a better mark than many notably elite penalty killers.
Garbutt comes out looking above average in terms of goals against when on the penalty kill as well, ranking 73rd in that regard out of the same 195. Though it’s worth noting that penalty killing forwards have far more control over shots against than they do goals against. Garbutt has certainly proven himself as an excellent penalty killing forward, and he’s sure to give Quenneville another great option when the time comes to kill off an opposing team’s powerplay.
On the whole, Garbutt combines old-school hockey’s aggression and grit with beyond adequate levels of the skill necessary to contribute in today’s NHL. In that sense, he’s close to the ideal player to have around as a winger in a contending team’s bottom six.