I’m doing a daily review of each Chicago Blackhawks player and giving out grades based on performance during the 2013-14 season thus far. Today, we examine Kris Versteeg.
In 41 games with Chicago this year, Versteeg has compiled 7 goals and 14 assists. A 42-point pace over 82 games isn’t terrible in a vacuum, but for Versteeg it becomes somewhat disappointing when put into context. Specifically, he has spent a huge portion of his even strength minutes with Patrick Kane and received regular power play time.
Still, there is a factor that most fans have forgotten to consider in what have been mostly harsh criticisms of Versteeg. He is coming off an ACL tear, an injury that usually negatively affects players’ on-ice effectiveness for at least a full season after returning. This has as much to do with decreased agility as it does with confidence; the infamous case of Derrick Rose exemplifies the latter.
Giveaways, an aspect of Versteeg’s game that he has become notorious for in various NHL cities, are surprisingly not one of his problems this season. Versteeg has been noticeably lacking on the defensive side of the puck. He has been slow on the backcheck and relatively weak on the boards in Chicago’s zone. These deficiencies are probably conditioning-related, which in turn has a lot to do with the aforementioned ACL injury. While hockey fans always seem to default to “he must be lazy,” that is not the case; indeed, it rarely is.
Final Verdict: C-
He has performed a bit below expectations even after accounting for the health factor. It is likely that Versteeg will take a step forward next year.