On the first day of free agency, Stan Bowman pulled off a series of free agent signings that sent Blackhawks nation into a frenzy.
After a very disappointing followup to their Stanley Cup campaign in 2009-2010, it was pretty evident what the Blackhawks needed to add. And they did it.
They locked up new franchise goaltender Corey Crawford and the breakout forward of the postseason Michael Frolik before going to work on the actual free agent market.
Seeking out cheaper, gritty options, the Blackhawks added the likes of Sean O’Donnell, Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, and Steve Montador to the team. With the exception of Montador, all of the new free agent signings agreed to one-year pacts.
The immediate reaction from many around the organization was a positive one. With an incredible core of skill players already established in Chicago, the team was able to add the sandpaper they were missing in the lineup in the previous season, which resulted in them backing into the playoffs as an 8-seed.
But after a strong start to the season, the Blackhawks have found themselves scuffling of late. The Hawks have lost five in a row, including an 8-4 drubbing at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, who have the Hawks’ number this season. That has led many to question the overall quality of this Blackhawks roster.
Do the recent struggles of the Blackhawks show that we might have overhyped or overestimated the crop of free agents that Bowman brought in? The short answer to that question is no.
As he usually does, Tab Bamford did a great job breaking down the Hawks’ signings this past summer in comparison to some of the other names that found new homes during the offseason. Names like Joel Ward and Max Talbot, who signed more lucrative deals with different teams, are on the list.
When you compare the signings of guys like Ward and Talbot, given the years and dollars they signed for, to the production that the Capitals and Flyers are getting from them, respectively, then it’s clear that the Blackhawks went the better route in going for cheap veterans on shorter contracts.
But then you have to look at the actual output of the guys that Stan Bowman brought in. Jamal Mayers has performed his role as a gritty, bottom six forward to perfection, even in the limited ice time he’s getting. Andrew Brunette has been a bit of a disappointment, but still has 19 points on the season. Carcillo had pieced together a decent season before stupidity and an injury ended his season.
On the blue line, Steve Montador has been decent, if unspectacular. Not that he was expected to be anything too flashy. But as questionable as his four-year deal might have been, given the market that was the NHL’s free agency period this summer, it’s proven to be a good signing to this point.
Sean O’Donnell hasn’t been great on the ice, but he was expected to be more of a locker room presence than anything, which he has. And then you have Sami Lepisto, who has been less of a factor than John Scott this season.
Overall, the Blackhawks’ summer signings have done exactly what they were brought into do. It’s not flashy, and it’s not always pretty, but they weren’t expected to be incredible talents to add to the lineup.
If you want to question the lucrative deals that Corey Crawford and Michael Frolik received, then there’s a valid argument. Crawford’s confidence is very low, and he’s been shaky throughout the year. Frolik might as well change his name to Casper, as he’s been invisible on the offensive end for the entire season.
The Blackhawks have the chops to be an elite team in the NHL. They just have to play like it on a nightly basis. I’m still in the camp that says there’s nothing to worry about this team. They’re just in a slump. That’s not to say there aren’t changes that need to be made, particularly on the blue line. But those changes will very likely come soon, and the signings that the Hawks made this summer will continue to fill their roles as they were expected to.