This afternoon, the ‘Hawks got James Wisniewski, Petri Kontiola, and a conditional draft pick, had Denis Savard take them upstairs, and got them the hell out of here. In return, the ‘Hawks got center Sami Pahlsson, minor league defenseman Logan Stephenson, and a conditional draft pick. When Pahlsson returns from a bout with mono and an abdomen injury, he’ll fill a crucial hole on the Blackhawks penalty kill and checking line.
In hindsight, the afternoon could be boiled down to this little throw away sentence from ESPN.com’s live deadline blog:
LeBrun (2:45 p.m. ET): Fifteen minutes from the deadline and we hear Chicago is still dabbling on a few offers for a center
This was before Dominic Moore, Pahlsson, or Nik Antropov had been traded. My best educated guess would be this: the ‘Hawks had an offer on the table worthy of acquiring any of the players. There was just too much smoke around Moore for the ‘Hawks not to be seriously considering him. Take a look at the running diary I had or Second City’s or Puck Daddy’s or ESPN.com’s. Each one of them, at some point, had Moore either coming to the ‘Hawks or in discussion with them.
Within the ‘Hawks war room, there was probably a big debate on which of the three to bring over. In the end, I have to believe that not only was Pahlsson the overwhelming favorite, but the ‘Hawks also wanted to get rid of James Wisniewski. If they really wanted to keep him, Moore and Antropov could have been had for draft picks. This of course brings up a whole list of questions.
Why get rid of Wisniewski?
It was pretty apparent to any astute Blackhawk follower, that at some point in the near future, the team was going to have to decide between Cam Barker and James Wisniewski. Both are restricted free agents this summer. Both play a similar game. Barker is bigger and Wisniewski is faster. Wisniewski is also a veteran of the operating room having already gone under the knife a couple times in his four seasons.
It was also readily apparent that Wiz found himself stuck in Coach Quenneville’s doghouse. He was a healthy scratch for two games in February. Even though he was averaging just over 19 minutes of ice time this year, Wiz found himself on the bench most of the time in close games. All of these reasons were why I predicted last night the ‘Hawks would look for a way to ship him out.
Of the six defensemen on the team, on his best day Wisniewski was probably the fourth best, and on his worst was the 6th. He was never going to be one of the top defensemen on the team. I thought Sam over at Second City Hockey really summed up the James Wisniewski Experience in a nutshell nicely so I’ll just let him explain it:
For me, you have to separate the idea of James Wisniewski from the reality. The Idea of Wiz is he’s a head-banging, forward crashing nutcase who can join the rush with a big shot and is a tough guy. The reality is that Wiz is a smallish d-man, who’s had multiple knee operations, who does have a big shot but takes forever to get it off and isn’t all that accurate when he does, who’s been way less physical this year and hasn’t fought once. He was playing on the 3rd pair and had a tendency to be a fire drill in his own end. So you essenitally gave up a 5-6 d-man.
Why Sami Pahlsson?
I must admit, at about 12:30 this afternoon, I had my first sip of the Dominic Moore Kool-Aid and it was delicious. There was no one else I wanted the ‘Hawks to acquire today. Then when reality started to set in that he was headed elsewhere, I utilized this great tool and looked up Moore’s career stats. Let’s just say if Moore was playing Major League Baseball, he’d have plenty of federal prosecutors wanting to talk to him.
When the journeyman Moore suits up for Buffalo this week, he will have already played for five teams in his five year career. Never once during that time has he ever accumulated more than 18 points. Of course, playing for a crap team in Toronto, he has blown up this year with 12 goals and 29 assists.
That brings me to Rule Number One of the NHL Trade Deadline: Never trust a player’s stats playing on a turd of a team. Anyone who has followed the ‘Hawks in the past five years should not have to be told about this. How have the great careers of Kyle Calder, Tyler Arnason, and Mark Bell worked out since being dealt or even the great Karl Stewart? Whoops, now I’ve done it, Barry Rozner will now weep quietly into his pillow tonight.
Ok, so that brings me to Pahlsson. The two most glaring needs of the ‘Hawks are someone to help improve the penalty kill and someone who wins face-offs. What an amazing coincidence, Pahlsson does both above average. Oh, and he’s 6″ tall and a big body, something else ‘Hawk fans have been clamoring for since training camp. When he recovers from mono and his ab injury, Pahlsson will fit right into the ‘Hawks line-up on their new and improved checking line.
Assuming Patrick Sharp fully recovers from his knee injury, he’ll find his spot on the line with Kane and Toews. The HaBolLadd line will continue to reak havoc on the opposition. The fourth line stays the same, and on the third line, Quenneville will have the choice of Pahlsson with Versteeg and Brouwer, or Versteeg and Byfuglien, whichever he wants. That ain’t a bad checking line right there.
With 208 goals, the ‘Hawks are currently fourth in the NHL in scoring. They have four guys with at least 20 goals and Versteeg and Bolland are flirting with the mark. Getting one of those guys to crack the barrier would give the ‘Hawks their most 20 goal scorers since the 1992-93 season. That is a solid 15 years of insufficient goal scoring. If there was a year when the ‘Hawks didn’t need a goal scorer, this is it. In fact, if I had to rank the two areas where the ‘Hawks needed the least improvement, they would be goal scoring and goaltending.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you, just know that the decision probably came down to Scotty Bowman and he doesn’t give a damn what you think:
“Scotty (Bowman) coached against him and thinks he’s a great shutdown guy,” said Hawks general manager Dale Tallon.
Does Pahlsson bring the ‘Hawks closer to a Stanley Cup?
He certainly won’t hurt their chances. After spending the first couple months of the season as a top 10 penalty killing unit, the ‘Hawks have dropped all the way to 17th. In their last 21 games, they’ve given up a power play goal in 15 of them.
In the playoffs, the last two teams standing are usually the ones with the best special teams on both sides. The power play, for the most part, has not been a problem all year. The same can’t be said for the penalty kill. I said in mid-February if the penalty kill wasn’t fixed, it could be the downfall of this team. Hopefully, the acquisition of Pahlsson will keep one of the weaker penalty killers (see Fraser, Colin or Versteeg, Kris) off the ice and help turn the unit back around.
Pahlsson also brings tons of playoff experience. It may not mean a whole bunch and I’m not convinced it does mean anything in the end, but it can’t hurt. While Pahlsson’s regular seasons stats are nothing to write home about (143 points in 544 career games), he seems to have a knack for coming up big in the playoffs (23 points in 64 games).
Why include Petri Kontiola?
Good old Petri got caught up in a numbers game with the ‘Hawks. Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland are the number 1 and 2 centers for the forseeable future. ‘Hawks brass apparently doesn’t believe in his ability to be a checking center so it’s pretty obvious, he needed to find a home elsewhere.