Since he was signed as an undrafted free agent on June 26th of 1997, John Madden has played for only one team in the National Hockey League, the New Jersey Devils.
Going into last year, Madden was coming off an impressive ’07-’08 campaign that saw him register a career high in points with 43. As tends to happen with older players, his production level dropped off in the following season.
The 35 year-old Madden ended last year with a career low 7 goals. He did miss some time with injury, battling a foot injury in November that forced him out of action for 4 games. He also saw a major dip in his average time on ice. After consistently averaging over 18 minutes for the past four seasons, Madden only saw an average of 16:25.
One part of his game that didn’t suffer was his face-offs. Madden won 51.6% of his draws. That would’ve been good for second on the Blackhawks. (Technically, Sammy Pahlsson had a 53% succession rate, but that was in only 13 games. It was fairly well-documented last year the Hawks spent most of the year with exactly one guy who could consistently win face-offs)
He was actually having a pretty decent year up until February 17th. Until that point, he had 6 goals and 16 assists in 52 games. Not great, but ok numbers from a third line center. For whatever reason, in the span of the next 25 games, Madden notched only one more point, a goal.
In the Devils only playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, Madden saw his ice time average increase by two minutes and his production stay at the same level. He had only an assist in Game 7 to show for himself.
John Madden’s 2009-2010 will be a success if….
The Hawks penalty kill dramatically improves. Since he came into the league, Madden has always been known as an ace penalty killer. The Hawks last year were horribly inconsistent with their killing unit. They finished in the bottom half of the league at 18th place. Having Colin Fraser and Dave Bolland kill penalties will do that. Madden should stabilize the killing unit. He should also be good for at least a couple shorthanded goals. It’d really be interesting to see if Quenneville pairs him on the kill with someone like Patrick Sharp. That could really set off some fireworks.
He finds a happy medium. Two years ago, he set a career high in points. Last year, he tied his career low. I don’t watch enough Devils hockey to tell you why this happened. What I can tell you is that if his production falls somewhere in the middle of those two, then he will be the second best acquisition of the Blackhawks summer spending free-for-all.
John Madden’s 2009-2010 will be a disappointment if…
He’s only just begun to decline. Madden will be 36 years-old when the season opens in Helsinki on October 2nd. His career low in points last year is a definite red flag. He also ended up with the lowest shot total of his career, only hitting the net 132 times in 76 games. If he’s one step closer to the retirement home, then the Hawks will find themselves in quite the predicament: Keep playing the old veteran hoping that he may re-discover the magic, but in doing so, they’ll be denying the development of guys like Fraser and Jake Dowell or play the kids and risk getting massacred in the face-off dot and on the penalty kill.
He plays the role of invisible man in the playoffs. One of the main reasons Madden was signed was to give the Hawks a seasoned playoff veteran. As a man of many Cup runs with the Devils, he should help guide the Hawks during troublesome times. While the debate will rage on if experience means anything in the playoffs, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a player like Madden in the Hawks dressing room. What would hurt is if he’s nowhere to be seen or heard from during those times. Or if he just blows; that would suck too.
When the free agency period opened up on July 1st, Madden was one of the few guys I had targeted for the Hawks to acquire. He gives them a solid 3rd line center (for the whole season), he’ll kill big penalties, and he’ll win important face-offs.
Those were the three of the biggest weaknesses on last year’s team. Assuming Madden isn’t completely washed up (and I have no reason to believe he is), he should improve all three facets.
If he does, then at one-year, $2.65 million, he’ll be quite the steal.