Chicago Blackhawks: Will they stay or will they go?

I know, I know a bad reference to a song, but which UFA’s and RFA’s will be back?

This is the biggest offseason in a while for the Chicago Blackhawks and they have money to spend in free agency but first they have to bring a few players back. Let’s starts off with the UFA’s.

UFA’s:

Marcus Kruger

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Marcus Kruger is known as penalty killer, faceoff master and a great defensive center. Last year, Kruger couldn’t find a role under Jeremy Colliton. He recorded four goals and eight assists in 74 games. Despite being a defensive forward, Kruger recorded his lowest Corsi for percentage (47.6) and a disastrous 35.2 xGF% (expected goals for percentage). If you want to learn more about advanced analytics I have an article on that. Not to mention he struggled at the faceoff dot (48.1%). Kruger had a down year by his standards and he is going to be turning 30 years old. I think that makes the Blackhawks decision easy and they don’t re-sign him.

Chris Kunitz

Chris Kunitz was brought in last year as a bottom six forward and as a mentor. While he was a great mentor to the younger guys (Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Henri Jokiharju and etc.) he wasn’t a very effective on the ice. He only recorded five goals and five assists in 56 games. In the season prior, Kunitz produced 13 goals and 16 assists in 82 games and was probably expected to put up similar numbers. With Kunitz turning 40 years old in a months I don’t see the Blackhawks re-signing him.

Cam Ward

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Cam Ward did his job last season. He was brought in to be a backup and to fill in for Corey Crawford if he got injured. In 29 games last season, Ward had a 16-12-4 record. He also had a .897 save percentage, 3.67 goals against average and a -14.68 goals saved above average. While those stats don’t look great the Blackhawks defense was bad last year. He kept them in games multiple times. He also helped Blackhawks goaltending prospect Collin Delia throughout the year. With, Ward, turning 35 years old this year and Collin Delia taking over the backup spot, I don’t see Ward coming back.

Andreas Martinsen

Andreas Martinsen is a forward who has something most ‘Hawks forwards don’t possess. Size and physicality. He is 6’3″ and 230 pounds. Martinsen was sixth on the Blackhawks in hits last year with 83 hits and only played in 24 games. He is a black hole offensively, only recording a goal and three assists this year. I could see Martinsen coming back for cheap because he provides that physicality that the Blackhawks lack.

RFA’s:

Victor Ejdsell

Victor Ejdsell is a 24 year old center/winger. He was supposed to be a part of the Blackhawks future but elected to return to Sweden after a disappointing 2018-2019 campaign with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. He recorded 12 goals and 17 assists in 61 AHL games last year. By many, he was projected to be in the NHL this year. Ejdsell is expected be qualified in case he ever comes back.

Brendan Perlini

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Brendan Perlini is a 23 year old winger. According to Scott Powers of The Athletic the Blackhawks have already sent a qualifying offer to Perlini. Perlini is a former 12th overall pick from 2014. He’s inconsistent but when his scoring is on it is on. He has a great shot, decent offensive skill and good size at 6’3″. He struggles with his consistency, work ethic and speed. After scoring 12 goals for the Blackhawks I see him coming back.

John Quenneville

John Quenneville is also a 23 year old winger taken in the first round of the 2014 draft. He is also expected to receive a qualifying offer. And yes (John) Quenneville is a cousin to former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. Quenneville, has shown extreme offense skill and has produced in both the AHL and WHL, but has struggled to score at the NHL level. With Bowman, saying he is going to re-sign (John) Quenneville I fully expect him to come to Chicago.

David Kämpf

David Kämpf is a 24 year old Czech center. He posted 4 goals and 15 assists in 63 games with Chicago last year. Kämpf had 31 takeaways and six giveaways last year as well. He played a lot on the penalty kill and was a great two-way forward in the bottom six. He has arbitration rights, but I expect him to be back as Jeremy Colliton played him on the second line before.

Dylan Sikura

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The Canadian center, just turned 24 years old. He posted eight assists in 33 games. Despite, not being the offensive dynamo Dylan Sikura was expected to be, he has been an excellent two-way forward. In those 33 games, Sikura, posted a 54.55 xGF% and added 23 takeaways to seven giveaways. Sikura has gotten very unlucky and I expect him to be back.

Luke Johnson

The 24 year old American center put up an assist with the Blackhawks through 15 games last season. Luke Johnson is more of a defensive forward. He had 31 hits last season, but also posted an atrocious 35.71 xGF%. I do expect him to be back as he produced offensively in Rockford.

Anthony Louis

Anthony Louis is 24 year old American center. He is an Illinois native and is also listed at 5’7″. This past season he scored 12 goals and assisted on 22 more in 74 games. He was not tendered and isn’t expected to get an offer from the Blackhawks.

Spencer Watson

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The 23 year old Canadian winger didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Chicago Blackhawks. After a disappointing season in Rockford recording one goal and two assists in 10 games it isn’t surprising to see Spencer Watson not get a qualifying offer. I wouldn’t expect him to re-sign

Blake Hillman

Blake Hillman, a 23 year old American left-handed defenseman, spent his season with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. While Hillman has been known as a defensive defenseman he struggled to put up points. He only scored one goal and had three assists in 54 AHL games. He didn’t get a qualifying offer and isn’t expected to return to Chicago.

stats from: Elite Prospects, Hockey-Reference, Natural Stattrick and Corsica

cap info from: CapFriendly

Feature Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and Hendrik Seis

Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers: Did They Win Or Lose The Carter And Richards Trades?

Following a stunning sweep to Tomas Kaberle and the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers decided to move on from their two superstars. Despite acquiring young pieces, how did the Flyers still manage to lose the trades long-term?

The 2010-11 Flyers Season & Playoffs

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The 2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers season saw the impressive debut of 22-year-old goaltending prospect Sergei Bobrovsky (54GP-28W-.915SV%), and the continuation of the hit-or-miss Michael Leighton/ Brian Boucher backup tandem.

A 23-year-old Claude Giroux led the Flyers with 76 points. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, both aged 26, topped 60 points. Veterans Danny Brière and Scott Hartnell provided solid supporting roles (68 and 49 points respectively).

Coming off a third-place finish in the regular season, the Flyers defeated Thomas Vanek and the Buffalo Sabres in a hard-fought seven games. Poised to make another deep playoff run, the Flyers looked to beat the less productive Boston Bruins. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the Bruins swept the Flyers in a stunning turn of events.

The Carter Trade

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Fast forward to the National Hockey League entry draft in 2011, a day in which the Flyers, amongst some unfortunate rumours combined with the playoff loss to Boston, traded captain Richards and leading goal-scorer Carter.

Carter was moved to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who finished 24th in the NHL and were looking for a superstar to play with Rick Nash, in exchange for Jakub Voracek and the 8th & 68th overall picks in the  2011 draft (Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins respectively).

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, Carter did not enjoy his experience in Columbus, only playing 35 games with the team (and recording 25 points!) before being moved to the Los Angeles Kings (who would go on to win the Stanley Cup).

Both Voracek (595GP-501P w/PHI) and Couturier (568GP-336P w/PHI) have become core players for the Flyers, with Voracek hitting the point-per-game mark twice in his career. Cousins is also a solid bottom-six forward and is currently playing for the Arizona Coyotes.

The Richards Trade

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Richards, who had an unfortunate off-ice reputation, was traded to the Kings as they were gearing up for a deep playoff run, in exchange for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 2nd round pick. 

Schenn, who was the Kings’ 5th overall pick in 2009, was an exceptional scorer in the Western Hockey League and become a core member of the Flyers until he was dealt in 2017. Simmonds was a fan-favourite at forward for the Flyers and also a solid producer until he was moved at the 2019 Trade Deadline. The second round pick was moved along with a third round pick to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Niklas Grossmann. The second round selection was used to select Devin Shore (who was later traded for Andrew Cogliano) and the third round pick was sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins with Brenden Morrow for Joe Morrow and a fifth round pick. The third round selection was used on Jake Guentzel.

Richards was a key member on the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup winning roster, alongside other former Flyers Justin Williams, Simon Gagne, and Carter.

Outcome and Mismanagement

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My personal belief (as I stated on episode 6 of the Religion Of Hockey Podcast) is that the Flyers did very well in both deals, as Philadelphia acquired several long-term core players in the deals. However, coming off a Stanley Cup Final run in 2010 and a second round appearance in 2011, the Flyers were in no position to sell and could have potentially won a championship with prime Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, seeing as how far the Flyers got before the pair hit the age of 26.

The two trades weren’t exactly wins in hindsight either. Although the Flyers received several young players that became core pieces on the team for many years, they also happened to move other core players too early.

  • Schenn, who was a consistent 40-50 point player, was traded to the St. Louis Blues at the age of 25 in June of 2017 after missing the playoffs.
  • Simmonds, who was a solid 40-60 point player, was dealt to the Nashville Predators at this year’s trade deadline at the age of 30.
  • Voracek has been a target of trade rumours for a couple of years now despite being arguably the Flyers’ best player since arriving in Philadelphia.
  • Bobrovsky was a good goaltender who was dealt to Columbus in 2013 at the age of 24 after a poor sophomore season. He would win two Vezina trophies for being the NHL’s best goaltender within five years of the deal.

The Flyers had been a hit-or-miss playoff team since trading Richards and Carter and throughout the entire tenure of Simmonds and Schenn, with little effort placed on targeting useful depth to support the core. This lack of depth most definitely hurt the Flyers’ place in the standings and created the illusion of a poor team. Such an illusion led management to focus and act on the wrong parts of the roster, a trait of Flyers management that had been present before and continued through the Paul Holmgren/Ron Hextall era.

Conclusion

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The trading of 26-year-olds Carter & Richards and, oddly enough, the trading of 25-year-old Schenn represents the lack of direction found in Flyers management, with an indecisive focus on the teams’ future as either a rebuilder or contender. I personally hope that the Flyers, with new General Manager Chuck Fletcher, are able to set a long-term goal and actually follow through with it. Flyers fans have been robbed of two potentially fantastic winning scenarios due to a crazy lack of direction.

 

Statistics and resources retrieved from eliteprospects.com, NHL.com, hockeyreference.com, & hockeydb.com

Featured Photo Image Credit: Nikos Michals

 

 

WHL Report: Four Teams Fighting For the Remaining Playoff Spots

WHL Report: Four Teams Fighting For the Remaining Playoff Spots

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, there’s still a lot to play for, as a couple of teams sitting outside of a playoff spot still have a chance to earn their way into the postseason.  With only spot available in each of the conferences, it is do-or-die for four teams who want to get into the playoffs.

Eastern Conference: Red Deer Trying to Hold Off Brandon

Out in the Eastern Conference, a duo of clubs have an opportunity to clinch the last Wild Card spot. Coming out of the Central Division, the Red Deer Rebels currently sit four points ahead of the Brandon Wheat Kings. While these two teams will not meet in the final weekend of the regular season, Both teams will be keeping a close eye on one another.

Red Deer Just Needs One

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The Rebels have not struggled as bad as Medicine Hat has as of late, however Red Deer at one point was one of the hottest teams in the WHL. However, lackluster play over the past few months have seen Red Deer drop out of the top-three. It did not help when they lost six in a row at the end of January into February, losing 11 of 12 in that time span. It also did not help that the team right above them in the standings, the Medicine Hat Tigers, beat the Rebels on Wednesday night to clinch one of the two Wild Card spots.

The Rebels will have to play Lethbridge and Kootenay this weekend, as the Hurricanes visit Red Deer on Friday, while the ICE host the Rebels on the final day of the regular season on Sunday. The Hurricanes have won three of the five meetings against Red Deer this season, including shelling the Rebels with a 6-2 win on February the 1st. The Hurricanes have been on a storm surge of sorts, as they have won 11 of their last 13 games.

Red Deer has a little more favourable odds against Kootenay, as they have won all five games this season against the ICE, with two of them coming in extra time.

Brandon Clinging To Hope

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The Wheat Kings have really battled throughout the season with the best in the East Division. However, a slow second half to the season has pushed them out of the top-three, and outside the playoff picture all together. After a six-game win streak in the middle of February, including an overtime win over the dominant Prince Albert Raiders, Brandon has only won one out of their last eight games. This includes losses to Medicine Hat and Red Deer, teams they were trying to stay in front of not too long ago.

If there is a glimmer of hope for the Wheat Kings, it is their opponent this weekend. The Regina Pats will meet with Brandon for a home-and-home this weekend. It has been a tight set of games between the two, as each team has won three of the six meetings this season. Yet, the Pats are heading into the weekend riding a seven-game losing streak, with their last win coming on February 22nd.

My Pick

Even though Brandon has an opportunity to sweep the weekend against Regina, it is hard to see Red Deer losing to Kootenay on Sunday, giving the Rebels the final playoff spot in the East.

Western Conference: Kamloops Surging Towards Kelowna

The U.S. Division has dominated the West this season (with the exception of Vancouver). So much to the point that five teams from the States have already punched their tickets to the postseason, including Tri-City and Seattle owning the two Wild Card spots. The one spot remaining sits in the B.C. Division, as the Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets are neck-and-neck heading towards the end of the regular season.

Kelowna Holding On by Their Fingertips

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A month ago, if you had said the Rockets would be one point away from falling out the playoffs, you may have heard a chuckle or two. At one point, it looked like Kelowna would be able to steer clear of Kamloops. However, it has been a tough go as of late for the Rockets. They are 1-2-3 in the month of March, and have been mediocre at best since the trade deadline. It has been a roller coaster of a second-half for them. They have been on an odd pattern of wining a game, losing two in a row, win a game, lose three in a row. Sitting only point ahead the Blazers, Kelowna will need a big weekend to lock up the last playoff spot in the B.C. Division

However, they will have to do so in a home-and-home against the Vancouver Giants, the best team in the Western Conference. It is almost funny how good the Giants have been compared the rest of their division, as they sit 28 points ahead of second-place Victoria. Home ice certainly has not helped the Rockets this season against Vancouver, as the Giants have won all four meetings at the Prospera Place, outscoring the home team by a combined score of 11-2. The lone victory Kelowna has picked up against Vancouver was back on January 27th at the Langley Events Centre.

Coming in Blazing

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If you want to talk about a team playing playoff hockey during the regular season, look no further than the Kamloops Blazers. After losing six of seven games as February turned into March, the Blazers kicked it into high gear, and have reeled off four in a row to put them back in the hunt for the postseason. This includes a sweep last weekend over third-place Kelowna, and 5-1 and 8-0 thrashings of Spokane and Victoria, respectively. By far the hottest team in the West, Kamloops are right on the coattails of the Rockets.

They will have a home-and-home to end the regular season, and it will be against the Prince George Cougars. The Cougars will finish last in the Western Conference for the second season in a row, however they are coming off a win over Portland. Kamloops is 6-1 this season against Prince George, despite the Cougars winning the last meeting back on February 22nd.

My Pick

It is hard to see Vancouver fall off the run they are on against Kelowna, and Kamloops has handled the Cougars easily throughout the season. Kelowna may earn a split against the Giants, but I see the Blazers jumping into the final playoff spot with a sweep over the Cougars.

stats from WHL.ca