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How Smart Shopping by Kyle Davidson Boosts the Blue Line Now & Later

Davidson saw the inconsistency from the blue line. He answered with smart shopping that could help for this season–and beyond

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The second Kyle Davidson added veteran Alec Martinez to the blue line, it was clear he meant his word when he talked of improving the team. Not only was he going to make sure scoring would be in added in the way of Tyler Bertuzzi, he needed to fortify the blue line, too.

After all, it was a tough season for the backend of the Blackhawks lineup. From injuries to rookies learning on the fly to a lack of scoring goals, the defensive corps was tested beyond every stretch of the imagination. So Davidson went to work–and now there’s depth that can fight back against another injury bug if it bites again.

So here’s a deep dive and another season post mortem–this time on the blue line and how smart spending by Davidson could build the blue line into a force for years to come.

Blackhawks Struggles Centered Around a Lack of Consistency

We covered this one yesterday with the Blackhawks offense being historically bad. But when it came to the other side of the ice, it was often the victim of a lack of scoring and a lack of depth. For starters, a look at what the lineups looked like in the midst of a seven-game losing streak:

The blue line, more anywhere else, was a merry-go-round of players sliding in and out of the lineup. To wit, 12 different Blackhawks suited up on the blue line and of those 12, ten played 20 or more games. The other two? Filip Roos who notched just four games and Ethan Del Mastro, who had a cup of coffee with two games near the end of the season.

The ten players who played above that 20 game threshold? Two were rookies Kevin Korchinski and Alex Vlasic. Wyatt Kaiser, another rookie, totaled 32 after a stint in Rockford to reboot. Here’s the interesting part: the only three who played as close to a full slate of games were Korchinski (76), Vlasic (76), and Seth Jones (67). From there, it was a rotation of different players on any given night to try and fight the storm.

Jaycob Megna was picked up off waivers and finished with 44 games. Louis Crevier and Isaak Phillips filled in before completing their respective seasons in Rockford. Nikita Zaitsev is in the KHL after playing 38 games. Jarred Tinordi has yet to sign with a team and he recorded 52 games. Connor Murphy finished with 46 games after missing three months.

So the blue line was by committee this season–only three defensemen able to record 65 or more games–which is just half of a full corps. Injury to one or two is one thing. But having just three players–with two being first-year players having to shoulder the load for a season?

It’s a miracle the Blackhawks didn’t lose more games and why Kyle Davidson went to work.

Kyle Davidson Grabs Two Veterans To Begin Fortifying Things

It’s not to besmirch the names of those who filled in because they did so admirably. But the compete simply wasn’t there night in and night out to get the Blackhawks over the hump. They finally strung a winning streak together in December. They wouldn’t do it again until March–and it never exceeded two games. A team that cannot string together more than two wins–in three months at a time–is playing on their heels from the opening faceoff.

Despite a pipeline oozing with talent, Davidson went to free agency to start patching the gaping holes. He picked up Martinez and TJ Brodie, who along with Jones, Vlasic, Korchinski, and Murphy, fill out the top six. Kaiser is likely the seventh defenseman. He also didn’t break the bank for either Martinez or Brodie, offering just a year at $4M for Martinez and two years at $3.75M AAV for Brodie.

Both are pro’s pros and will not only buy time for younger players, but bring the skill piece in that lacked at times with the merry-go-round last season.

Now, it doesn’t mean that a Del Mastro or perhaps a Nolan Allan is blocked. If anything, as Davidson attested to, it’s more time for players to be ready for when they’re needed for a far longer duration in Chicago.

“I don’t see anyone being blocked, especially to the point of development being hindered here,” Davidson said.  “If players are ready, especially young players are ready and they’re ready to come in and elevate the group, more so than a player who’s in a spot, then we’ll make the decision on how to best find a role for them and find that.”

It can’t be argued with. The pure numbers of games played speaks to the struggles Chicago had last season. Davidson addressed it with a pair of signings that should hold the fort down–until the younger players are ready to take over the next decade–and as Kyle Davidson likely hopes for–beyond.

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