The Chicago Blackhawks have struggled greatly this season. They struggle to score. They struggle to play consistent D in front of the goalies. They struggle on the Power Play. They are missing Corey Crawford. The flames of blame have ignited. Is it General Manager Stan Bowman’s fault? Is it Head Coach Joel Quenneville’s fault? Why are the stars struggling? All of these certainly merit attention.
It’s obvious that the Core Stars are struggling. It’s equally obvious that the Hawks have found some young stars with great futures. When we look at the makeup of the team, we typically exam them in point production and advanced analytics in relation to what we know is good play around the league. For the purpose of this article, I would like to examine the players’ on-ice results in relation to their salary cap hit compared with the salary of their contemporaries. Non Movement Clauses and length of contract will not be considered.
Captain and Showtime
The best place to start is with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The two were a huge part of three Stanley Cups and certainly deserve compensation for their efforts. Hence, they
represent the largest cap hit in the league this year with a hit of $10,500,000. However, for the purpose of this article, the statistical data from this year will be the only concern. Nostalgia and compensation for years past will not be considered. So, are they living up to their contracts?
Through 53 games, Patrick Kane is 16th in the league in scoring with 53 points. Slightly down from his previous electrifying seasons, but still a point per game average. He has suffered from a nightly line mate changes, but the consistency with center Nick Schmaltz should only help moving forward. Jonathan Toews currently sits at 94th in the league in scoring. Yes, Toews’ game is well rounded; he’s good at the dot (when he gets to stay) and he’s good on the boards. But, a $10 million contract demands offensive production. He has 34 points, slightly more than half a point per game.
Taking Jonathan Toews current position of 94 and dividing by the number of teams in the league means, statistically speaking, that there are three players on every team more deserving of his enormous salary than he is.
By comparison, other players who are within $1.5 million of the Kane/Toews contract are:
Anze Kopitar: 15 th place with 55 points
Evgeni Malkin: 3rd place with 62 points
Alex Ovechkin: 11th place with 58 points
Sidney Crosby: 9th place with 60 points
Jamie Benn: 30th place with 49 points
P.K. Subban (defenseman): 53rd place with 41 points
Patrick Kane is certainly right in the mix with the others while Toews is a distant last place.
Brent Seabrook is currently the third highest paid member of the Blackhawks. His cap hit is $6,875,00 per year. Seabrook currently sits at number 347th place in the league in scoring. There are 76 defenseman who have more points than him, yet only three who have a higher salary. To be fair, Seabrook is a defenseman so we can’t only look at offensive production. However, his defensive play has been wildly inconsistent. He certainly doesn’t make up ground from his lack of offensive production with his defensive ability.
Duncan Keith is next highest defenseman on the Hawks with a salary cap hit of $5,538,462. He is 194th in points and has yet to score a goal. 37 defensemen in the league currently have more points than Keith. Again, scoring isn’t the main determining factor in the value of a defenseman, but Keith is known as an offensive defenseman who can move the puck. His offense can help drive this team. As for his defense, he too has been suspect at times. Poor decision making when it comes to passing and poor positioning have cost the Hawks numerous times this year.
By comparison, other defenseman near the same cap hit in scoring with their cap hit:
John Klingberg: 29th with 50 points- $4,250,000 cap hit
John Carlson: 56th with 41 points- $3,999,667 cap hit
Shayne Gostisbehere: 77th with 37 points- $4,500,000 cap hit
Drew Doughty: 78th with 37 points- $7,000,000 cap hit
Alex Pietrangelo: 90th with 35 points- $6,500,000 cap hit
Erik Karlsson: 91st with 35 points- $6,500,000 cap hit
Dougie Hamilton: 164th with 27 points- $5,750,000 cap hit
There are many more examples, but it is clear that both Seabrook and Keith are underperforming. Connor Murphy, who carries a $3,850,000 cap hit is also underperforming with a mere nine points. He has also been very inconsistent, earning a healthy scratch here and there. Of the group, Keith is least offensive as he is the most productive and has a much friendlier contract.
A Saad Transaction
Brandon Saad follows next with an annual cap hit of $6,000,000. Saad currently sits at number 197 in scoring with 24 points, less than half a point per game. Saad had eight points in his first six games, so that number has dropped as the season has gone on. This statistic hurts even more because the Hawks let Artemi Panarin go in the hopes that Saad could jumpstart Jonathan Toews. We miss Panarin’s scoring and Toews’ game has certainly not improved.
Other players around the league with similar cap hits are:
Phil Kessel: 2nd place with 65 points
David Pastrnak: 25th place with 50 points
Sean Monohan: 34th place with 47 points
Niklas Backstrom: 55th place with 41 points
Mark Schiefele: 70th with 38 points per game (only played 38 games- point per game)
Dustin Brown: 72nd with 37 points
Corey Crawford, like Saad, has a cap hit of $6,000,000. Without looking at comparisons, it’s clear that Crow is worth every bit of his salary. He single-handedly kept the Hawks in nearly every game he was in net this year. Crawford is tied for third in the league with a save percentage of .929 and a goals against average of 2.27. There are five goalies with a higher cap hit than Crawford: Tukka Rask, Braden Holtby, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne and Carey Price. Those are solid goalies and Crawford’s salary clearly deserves to be in that group.
Not an Arty Party
Artem Anisimov’s name has been mentioned a lot recently as someone who should be dealt by the Hawks. His NMC won’t allow this until June. So, are the demands to move him valid? Right now, Anisimov is 251st in the league in scoring and carries a cap hit of $4,550,000. He has 20 points in 43 games. Where does he stand with others who carry a similar cap hit?
Wayne Simmonds: 102nd place with 33 points and $3,975,000 cap hit
Max Pacioretty: 105th place with 33 points and $4,500,000 cap hit
Justin Williams: 106th place with 33 points and $4,500,000 cap hit
James van Riemsdyk: 110th place with 32 points and $4,250,000 cap hit
Bryan Little: 118th place with 32 points and $4,700,000 cap hit
This isn’t to say that Anisimov doesn’t score better than some others near the same hit, but it does show what a team can expect with the right choice for that cap hit amount.
The clear happy surprises for the Blackhawks this year have been Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat. Both carry a cap hit under a million dollars and are the second and third leading scorers on the Blackhawks behind Patrick Kane. Schmaltz is the 66th leading scorer in the league with 39 points. DeBrincat, the rookie, is the 92nd leading scorer with 34 points and two hat-tricks. Of note, both hirer than Captain Jonathan Toews. We may be able to throw Anthony Duclair into that conversation soon. He has averaged half a point per game in his first ten games with the Hawks. He has a manageable hit of $1,500,000 and the potential to be a really nice player.
Outside of the youngsters, Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford, from a financial standpoint, the Chicago Blackhawks are losing. The core players are underperforming and are not meeting the expectations that come with high salaries. The stats listed above are by no means complete; they are merely a snapshot of the league. The salary cap is tight, contracts are strict; GMs must have efficiency at every salary level to compete for the championship. Right now, the Hawks are a long way off.