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, starting with Daley in this post and moving on to Garbutt in the very near future.
Daley in Dallas
Daley’s tenure of 11 seasons with the Stars was one of polarization and confusion. From 2007 to 2013, Daley’s offensive output from the blue line was remarkably consistent. His 82-game point paces from the seasons in that span read like this: 24, 27, 23, 27, 26, and 24. You’ll note that is a very small range. Over a six-year period, Daley never ventured from that neighbourhood of 23-27 points over a full season assuming health.
Then last season, he set a career high in goals with nine, and would have been on pace for 31 points had he remained healthy for the duration of the season (actual total was 25 points in 67 games). Then this season, Daley took yet another step forward when he again set a career high in goals, this time with 16, and was on pace for 46 points over a full season. Daley’s recent uptick in production appears to be fool’s gold, as the 6.5% career shooter fired at an absurd 14.2% clip from the blue line this past season.
So the offensive game for Daley was consistent. He was reliably a 23-30 point defenseman over a full season with the ability to get hot and outperform that under ideal circumstances. The defensive side of Daley’s game highlighted by puck possession metrics is where the debate about just how good this player is becomes an interesting one.
According to war-on-ice.com, of Daley’s ten full seasons in the NHL, only in two of those years did he post a corsi relative above zero. In 2008-2009, he was +0.5%, while in 2013-2014 he was +0.7%. All of the rest he comes out in the red. This past season, Daley posted the worst corsi relative of his career with an abysmal -9.2%. The picture being painted with regards to Daley’s ability to drive play does not look very pretty.
More specifically, let’s take a look at shot generation and shot suppression to see where Daley’s particular strengths and weaknesses may lie. According to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, there are 118 defensemen who have played at least 4,000 minutes at even strength over the last five years. Out of those 118, Daley ranks 79th in shots for per 60 minutes and 112th in shots against per 60 minutes. Again, these numbers reflect very poorly on Daley’s ability to help his team generate offense while suppressing the offense of his opposition.
The Daley Show in Chicago
While I was very impressed with the acquisitions of Anisimov and Dano in the Brandon Saad deal, I’m much more hesitant to commend Stan Bowman for bringing in Daley. There’s not much doubt in my mind that Daley is at least a capable NHL defenseman, but the situation for him in Chicago seems less than ideal. Here’s what I mean:
As per General Fanager, Daley is owed $3.3 million dollars for each of the next two seasons. He’s 31 years of age, so he’s certainly not going to magically get better, and in my mind, it seems unlikely that he proves to be worth that cost. Further, the Blackhawks already have the top half of their defense signed, sealed, and delivered with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. The now-confirmed departure of Johnny Oduya to Daley’s former team in Dallas complicates things on the defending champions’ blue line.
The second pairing of Hjalmarsson and Oduya, along with their elite ability to shut down opposing forwards’ offensive games, was something crucial to Chicago’s success. Now, who slides in next to Hjalmarsson to help him face his highly challenging competition? I certainly would hope it would not be Daley, given his struggles on the defensive side of the puck. David Rundblad certainly isn’t capable of playing on a shutdown pairing, and neither is Trevor van Riemsdyk (though I guess of the three, he would be the best candidate).
Much was made during the Stanley Cup run of how unreliable Chicago’s bottom pairing was. To win the Cup, they needed every second they could get out of their rock solid top four, which now has a gaping hole that I don’t think this acquisition fills at all. I’m not really sure if there’s any hole that Daley fills for Chicago. Ideally, he’ll serve as the #5 defenseman and play on the bottom pairing with van Riemsdyk or Rundblad. At least that’s better than what they were running as a 5/6 duo in the playoffs, but is fixing that problem really worth opening up that gaping hole next to Hjalmarsson in such a crucial role? I’d argue that it obviously isn’t, but with the reality of the salary cap world, Bowman may not have had all that much of a choice in the end.