The Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks were really, really deep in 2009-10, outperforming other teams throughout the lines and defensive pairings they rolled out. Of course as everyone knows, cap realities have hit their bottom-six depth and third pairing defense this season…which is why they’re still fighting for a postseason berth, with half of a championship-quality roster.
|Best and worst Blackhawks by Even Strength Total Rating, 2009-10|
Yes, the bottom four there are the worst (remaining) Blackhawks. It’s hard to tell, with the positive ESTRs! And yes, Duncan Keith’s in the bottom four…but that’s among players still remaining on the squad this season.
It’s pretty amazing that Chicago’s worst (remaining) regular, Tomas Kopecky, was essentially a league-average forward. That’s how deep the Blackhawks were. On the other hand, it’s pretty amazing that coach Quenneville played him on the first line.
Another aspect worth noting are the players that were shipped out to alleviate the cap situation. GM Stan Bowman made the right decisions to keep and/or lock up his best players (all right, with the exception of Hjalmarsson, which was a mistake) and got rid of nice-to-have but not essential players like Kris Versteeg (+0.08), Andrew Ladd (-0.25), Dustin Byfuglien (-0.33), Brent Sopel (-0.41) and John Madden (-0.42). Almost perfectly played.
You might wonder where 2010-11 Hart Trophy candidate Jonathan Toews stood last season. It was right below the top-four cut, at +0.49 ESTR…on the strength of above-average offense.