Over the course of the next month, Chicago Hockey Now will be profiling every Chicago Blackhawks player from the 2022-23 season. Today, will be forward Andreas Athanasiou. Yesterday’s entry looked at captain Jonathan Toews.
Games Played: 81
(Goals – Assists – Points): 20-20-40
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
The Short View
Athanasiou is only 28 but has an impressive resume to his name. On a rebuilding team, he fit in perfectly chipping in twenty goals and forty points for an organization that is clearly in rebuild mode for another several seasons. Athanasiou notched Chicago’s first goal of the season on a penalty shot against the team that drafted him, the Detroit Red Wings. From there, Athanasiou placed third on the team in points and tied for first in goals with Taylor Raddysh. Not bad for a $3M investment, especially since this was his best season statistically since the 2018-19 campaign where he had 30 goals and 54 points.
The Long View
Athanasiou has always been a speedy, offensive minded forward. For that, he contributes well on the opposing end. But often, that speed compromises his defensive play, which results in pucks in the back of the Blackhawks net. His dZS% was 43.5%, slightly higher than previous seasons, but showing that head coach Luke Richardson was deploying him to utilize his strengths. This is not a knock on Athanasiou at all–everyone has their roles to play and are stronger in certain areas. Using Toews and Kane as an example, Chicago relied on Toews to be a strong two-way forward while Kane was paid to score goals and generate offense. Athanasiou falls into the latter category.
How does this fit with the team? Barring a revolutionary change in team strategy, the Blackhawks are embracing a rebuild that will likely last a couple more seasons as talent develops and travels through the pipeline to Chicago. It’s a critical balance and if this is the road they take, Athanasiou seems a smart fit for a team that needs to ice a team, but is still eyeing the future more than the present.
But here’s something to consider. With the team stripped of the bulk of its scoring when Patrick Kane and Max Domi were shipped off, Athanasiou had 18 of his 40 points post trade deadline. Six of those were goals. He registered three points in the final game, including the shot that Toews redirected for his goal. Spearheading the offense without much around him, Athanasiou held his own rather well.
The Bottom Line
From all intents and purposes, Athanasiou played his role and played it well. Chicago will have plenty of cap space and if both sides are interested, a slight bump in pay for the speedy forward would help both parties. This of course is dependent upon how both view each other’s intentions.
Does Athanasiou want a chance to contribute on a winning team? He’s more of a top nine instead of a top six, but his speed is lethal when utilized well. The 28-year-old will get more minutes in Chicago, and maybe that’s more appealing. He averaged 16 on the nose which is over a minute more than his career average. For the Blackhawks benefit, if Athanasiou continues to post twenty goal seasons, he’s likely to get some attention at the trade deadline from a team looking for depth scoring.
It would likely be a one-year deal, two years, tops. But if both sides have mutual interest, Athanasiou and Chicago seems like a good fit for at least another season.