Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world is a Wings fan writing about a team being ‘done’? Well, it’s because I am simply unable to come to terms with the fact that the Red Wings aren’t able to contend this year, and won’t be able to contend for a few years at least.
Anywho, let’s start with that, effectively one-for-one deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brandon Saad for Artemi Panarin. Yes, I know, Brandon Saad is better defensively, and looking, almost, solely at that, this trade makes perfect sense. Identical cap hits, Saad having two years more on his deal. It makes sense.
Using this handy player comparison tool on Hockey Reference, we see that Artemi Panarin trumps Brandon Saad in every category except plus-minus. And Defensive Point Shares. But, here’s the thing, Panarin only trails Saad by two-tenths of a point in the category. So, while Saad is hanging back on defense until his team for sure has the puck, and Panarin is skating up the ice looking for a breakout pass, there isn’t that much of a discrepancy between the two. Panarin creates more opportunities by doing so, and he built up what was one of the best chemistries in the NHL with Patrick Kane.
Losing Panarin is going to hurt. A LOT. He finished 11th in points last season, just one out of the top-10, and boy are they going to miss that. Brandon Saad will help pick up some of the slack, obviously, However, where else does that scoring come from? Artem Anisimov, maybe? He’s been a consistent 40-point scorer since joining the Blackhawks. Nick Schmaltz, maybe? He earned 28 points in 61 games, a respectable return for the rookie. Playing in 82 games this year, the Blackhawks will look to him to pick up some of the slack left by Panarin’s departure, whether he likes it or not. Richard Panik could perhaps pick up some of that slack as well, however, he’s not been a consistent scoring threat. Whatever. Even still, someone who could potentially crash onto the scene is Alex DeBrincat. The 19-year old, former second-round pick has, quite literally, torn shit up in the OHL with the Erie Otters, but has yet to play a single NHL game. He’s a big unknown, and Chicago isn’t historically great at developing young talent.
Let’s be real briefly, Blackhawks fans. I have no freaking clue why this person used the clapping emoji… I really don’t. This isn’t a good lineup, even in the slightest. The first two lines are decent, but the third and fourth leave a lot to be desired. The same can be said about the defense as well. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are both getting up there in age now, and have already started to show signs of their play dropping off.
Now, I like Corey Crawford as much as the next guy, but I do think he’s majorly overrated. Crawford did get hurt early on in this past season, but after injury, he was pretty good. He did however, have the second lowest “Quality Start percentage” of his career at 52.7%, which hovers around league average, and I think that says enough. Crawford also had the second highest goals against average of his career, in seasons with at least 50 starts, and save percentage was, technically third lowest of his career, again in seasons with at least 50 starts. Placing him in the “Elite” goalie conversation is complete blasphemy, and I would hope that even any casual hockey fan would know that.
Now, let’s dig into their cap situation a bit. The Blackhawks are spending 27.987 percent of their cap on just Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. That’s a lot for a 23-man roster. Especially considering that they are a team that does in fact want to compete for a Stanley Cup perennially. Sure, they’re two of the better players in the NHL, but they will also be cap-strapped for the next 5+ years while the two are under contract. That’s not a winning formula, ask the Red Wings (I had to bring them up somehow, it’s what I do). Production will certainly fall, and Toews is already showing signs of doing so. They don’t have the money to build a strong roster around the two, and they’re going to need to sign cheap vets, again, not a winning formula, just ask the Red Wings.
Simply put, the Blackhawks lost their third best forward, second best if you’re feeling up for an argument, they’re cap strapped, and will be for the next five years, and they don’t have a great goalie situation.
May we also not forget that the Blackhawks have gotten bounced in the first round of the playoffs the last two years? Aging teams coming to the end of their run of being contenders, tend to do just that. They get sent home or to the golf course early because both fatigue and age catch up with them.
We’re not saying that they Blackhawks aren’t going to make the playoffs, or even not perform well in the regular season. But their run of being championship contenders has come to an end, and the Oilers and Maple Leafs are going to duke it out for years to come.