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2 Truths and a Lie

Blackhawks Two Truths and a Lie: Optimizing the Build Around Bedard

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The offseason trade Blackhawks fans expected didn’t quite come to fruition–yet. It started with a little ditty with Vancouver last night that netted Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty and a second-round pick. There has to be more, right, especially since Connor Bedard needs some help around him.

The trade market will be an important venue for the Blackhawks to make use of but free agency could have some interesting pieces and don’t forget about buyouts–which will be alive and kicking now. The steady drum beat of building around Connor Bedard has not only been here, but elsewhere. So this isn’t going to be a Blackhawks Two Truths and a Lie that rips off who should go where. It’s going to be more of a how a successful offseason can look in a variety of ways.

With that, we begin.

Truth: Bedard Needs Legitimate Help Up Front, Not Just Value Based Band Aids

With no disrespect to Mikheyev, he’s not the answer on a line with Connor Bedard. Maybe he finds some magic like Philipp Kurashev did, but the 29-year-old forward showed in the playoffs that sometimes there’s a little bit of snakebite to his game.

Boy, was that an issue for Chicago last season. Take your pick: Taylor Raddysh, Lukas Reichel, Seth Jones. Jones went on a tear to end the season while Raddysh’s bad luck just continued to haunt him. Reichel’s reboot helped him finish strong. So a guy like Mikheyev who in 11 playoff games couldn’t find the net and at an AAV of $4.75M found the back of the net just 11 times last year–that won’t do it.

I get the value based argument and you won’t find anyone who subscribes to analytics arguments chapter and verse more than your humble author. But sometimes, you have to go with the guarantees without having Peter Brand pointing to the board.

Enter a guy like Jake Guentzel. Want to beef up the top six and get that top line humming? What more do you need? He can be reportedly had for a mid-round pick and while term may be a sticking point, there’s also the chance he doesn’t even hit free agency.

Aside from Guentzel, there will be other options obvoiusly out there via trade or free agency. But what has to be measured out is just how important it is that a bonafide, 20+ goal scorer is acquired to pluck onto that line with Connor Bedard. Those concerned that Mikheyev is an attempt at that should rest easy. Kyle Davidson knows he has to load his top six with way more talent. Mikheyev will likely float between the second and third lines, which already improves the top nine.

Truth: More Scoring Will Be Needed From the Blue Line, Too

Yes, yes, and yes. It’s what makes the Jakob Chychrun rumors so interesting because he’s a tonic to what ailed the blue line all season. The Blackhawks blue line accounted for just 21 goals this season–where even San Jose had 29, eight better than Chicago’s total. Of those 21, Seth Jones had eight. Chychrun tallied 11 last season, which not only beats Jones, but combined with him, nearly accounts for the Blackhawks’ yearly total.

Chychrun will be costly, reportedly yielding a first and second-round pick or a top prospect. He’s only 26 so if the calculated risk is there to infuse his skillset to a team sorely needing scoring, there’s some major value there. But the other piece of it is that championship caliber teams need big time defenseman. The Artyom Levushonov debate starts there, a guy projected to be a top pairing dman down the road. So that could be another solution, too. But it also brings up one other interesting note.

Lie: Better Output Alone Will Improve the Blackhawks Fortunes

I took pause from Paul Maurice’s words following the Florida Panthers Stanley Cup victory in Game 7 on Monday. The Panthers toiled for years trying to find the big names to put it all together and it wasn’t until they committed defensively–and in terms of mindset. Recalling the summer he took the job to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, Maurice said this about the team:

“I kep telling my wife–these guys are different,” Maurice told Kaplan.  “It’s the way they treat each other. They love each other.”

It’s hard to stay focused on this part of it all because the Blackhawks have been bad for two long seasons. Injecting the team with top notch goal scorers surely helps with the bottom line and adding a few more wins to the record. But Davidson and his front office have the other side of finding those right guys that grow and learn together in order to string enough wins together for Cup glory.

I’m not trying to be pollyanna or try to discount the importance of goal scoring or top end skill. It all has to be there. But the stuff that can’t be measured with analytics–the heart, knowing the right things to say at the right time, or even just having the right voice to lead the charge matters so much down the road.

How many people bristled when Maurice was hired for the Florida job or when Matthew Tkachuk was acquired in that blockbuster trade? Fortunes changed even though so many weren’t sure it was the right move.

Two years later, it proved brilliant. It won’t always be sunshine and rainbows nor will every move work out. But that big component of building a locker room with cohesion and a clear goal started last year. With every addition Davidson makes, he’s trying to balance the skill piece along with the character and chemistry.

Seth Jones called them identity pieces back in April–knowing their roles and doing what it takes to fulfill them for the team’s success. It goes beyond just the goal scoring.

There’s plenty out there. Davidson will be doing his damndest to find them.

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