The signing of Dan Carcillo was met with mixed reactions from Blackhawks fans. That’s understandable, given his past antics on the ice.
Prior to signing with the Hawks, Carcillo was a guy who typically didn’t play above the fourth line, and was known more for his fists than anything else. Before this season, his career high for points was 24, which also came in the same season that he logged over 300 penalty minutes.
This summer, Stan Bowman made it perfectly clear what he wanted to add to a Blackhawks team that barely managed to grab the no. 8 seed in the Western Conference last year. He wanted to put a more physical team on the ice, something that looked to be accomplished with the likes of Jamal Mayers, Andrew Brunette, and Sean O’Donnell.
But late on the first day of free agency, the Hawks added Carcillo. And it’s a move that has panned out as well, if not better, than most of Chicago’s other offseason acquisitions.
After serving his two-game suspension stemming from an incident last year, when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, Carcillo debuted against the Winnipeg Jets, to almost immediate results.
Joining Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa on the second line, Carcillo added an assist to a 4-3 win, while also racking up four hits and a plus-2. That’s the type of performance the Blackhawks have grown accustomed to seeing from Carbomb in his 15 games with the club this year.
The most intriguing part of the addition of Carcillo is how little time he’s actually spent in the sin bin this season. Aside from that 21 penalty minute disaster of a 6-2 loss to the Canucks, he has just 13 penalty minutes on the season, and has only dropped the gloves twice.
It’s clear that Carcillo has shifted his focus from being an agitator and a goon to actually playing hockey. To this point, the results have been positive. Already with 7 points, Carcillo is well on his way to establishing a new career high in points, and possibly in games played. He’s also plus-10 for the season, playing predominantly in the top six.
That’s not to say there aren’t still agitator elements of Carcillo’s game. While he is focusing on his game more, he’s also proven to be a welcome physical presence in the top six, and has still displayed that ability to get inside the head of the Hawks’ opponents. But given the fact that Carcillo has contributed to the team, rather than detracting as many feared, the question becomes whether or not the Hawks could look to keep him beyond this season.
Among those that the Hawks brought in to add grit to the lineup, the 26-year-old Carcillo is, by far, the youngest. He’s also the only one who has played solid minutes regularly, only playing out of the top six for a brief time when he returned from that two-game suspension for his hit on Joni Pitkanen.
While I wouldn’t expect Bowman and the rest of the Hawks front office to act any time soon on a possible extension or new contract for Carcillo, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that the team could seek to hang onto him longer. His element is one that the Hawks clearly lacked last season, and he’s also developed strong chemistry with the team, Patrick Kane in particular.
Either way, it’s impressive the way that Carcillo had adjusted to his new role with the Blackhawks, and how quickly he has morphed from questionable addition during the summer to fan favorite barely over a month into the season.
Randy Holt is the NHL editor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.