Heading into the summer, it was assumed that a few more players from the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks would be gone. And what happened was just that.
The Hawks traded all of Troy Brouwer, Tomas Kopecky (who was a free agent), and Brian Campbell over the summer, loading up on draft picks and hoping to replace each of them with cheaper veterans.
While the team has been doing just fine without the likes of Brouwer and Kopecky in the lineup, on most nights, they have been unable to replace the presence of Campbell on a blue line that has been struggling throughout the year, but especially lately.
The Hawks sent Campbell to the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Rostislav Olesz. It was a move purely motivated by money, as Soupy carries a cap hit over $7 million, while Olesz’s hit is roughly half of that. The financial side of the deal worked, as the Hawks have one of the best salary cap situations in the league.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty easy to see where the Hawks could end up regretting this trade. Campbell has proven he has the chops to be a no. 1 defenseman and has taken on an increased role with the Cats while Olesz is….in Rockford.
What the trade meant for the Hawks was more money to retain Michael Frolik and Corey Crawford, and a bit of space to sign guys like Steve Montador to that silly four-year contract he got. It also meant an increased role for Nick Leddy.
Leddy, for the most part, has proven that he’s capable of assuming Campbell’s old role as a no. 3 defenseman behind Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, especially in the offensive end. But his inexperience shows, especially when he’s paired with passive Niklas Hjalmarsson back on the blue line.
As of right now, the Blackhawks have one of the worst defensive units in the NHL. They’ve given up more goals than anyone in the league not named Anaheim or Columbus. Who knows where they would be if it wasn’t for a potent offense.
Obviously it’s easy for us to sit here and say why the Hawks might/do miss Brian Campbell. The team clearly misses his ability to move the puck more than anything, but his all-around game is also missed. The Hawks likely miss Brian Campbell, The Player very much. Brian Campbell, The Contract? Not so much.
It would be interesting to see how the cap situation would have worked out this summer had the Hawks held onto Campbell, rather than dumping his contract back onto Dale Tallon. But nonetheless, the loss of Campbell has recently amplified the Hawks’ need for help on the blue line as the deadline approaches, and might have left Stan Bowman with just a little bit of regret over dealing Campbell for nothing but a few bucks.