The trade deadline has passed and the Blackhawks have made some solid moves over the last few weeks. They acquired a legitimate 1LW in Andrew Ladd, solidified their bottom six with Weise and Fleischmann, and swapped Scuderi for Ehrhoff. With these additions the Chicago Blackhawks are set to win another Stanley Cup and become a true dynasty team.
Hitting and fighting is something that has always been part of the game. However, this also resulted in a long list of hockey players whom careers have ended due to concussions: Chris Pronger, Marc Savard, Eric Lindros and Derek Boogaard to name a few. I won't go into details regarding the risks after having a concussion but a player can be scarred for life: Belak, Boogaard and Rypien (may they rest in peace) allegedly even took their life while suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
. While there is no proof in the Boogaard case that it was suicide (it may have been an accidental overdose) in the other two cases it was highly probable the players suffered from depression due to post-concussion syndrome.
You may ask where I am going with this. Let's take a look at the most frequent Chicago Blackhawks lines during the home game against the away game against Detroit last night (courtesy of LeftWingLock). The game ended in 5-2 for the Blackhawks, despite missing some key guys to injuries or visa trouble (Hossa, Weise):
The roster shown above consists mostly of players who think about moving the puck before hitting or assaulting someone. Certainly there are some big bodies present (which they mostly acquired for the play off run) but there is no Raffi Torres, Zac Rinaldo or Brooks Orpik on this team. Overall the Blackhawks are a fast skating and puck moving team which makes them a lot of fun to watch. They don't take cheap shots or use other foul tactics to dominate their opponents. As a true European, and thus soccer fan, the Hawks remind me of FC Barcelona (but sans whining and diving).
This is further shown when we take a look at statistics like the number of PIMS the Chicago Blackhawks got: Toews is leading the Blackhawks with 44 PIMS, ranking 97th in the NHL. Chicago is also in the bottom 5 in the total number of hits this season (courtesy of Sportingcharts), with some fairly brutal teams in the top 5 who need to compensate for their lack of skill (my own Senators and Blue Jackets):
The most important thing is that the style of Chicago works. The Blackhawks have won 3 cups in the last 6 years and went all-in to claim number 4 this year. The Blackhawks becoming a dynasty shows other teams the way: puck moving hockey players are more important than physical bodies in hockey nowadays. Physical play belongs in the NHL but it is mostly melancholia about the past. We all love a huge check but I still see way too often scary hits from behind and boarding penalties. Concussions were a commodity in hockey but should not be part of the future.
Some action was taken the last decade to decrease the number of concussions but more debate is necessary going forward. One can point out the fact that the last 5 years there were no serious injuries but with current rules it is only a matter of time until we see a career ending hit again. Too many head injuries could damage the beautiful sports of hockey long term as public opinion will turn against the sport. The Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup 4 times in 7 years, with their style of play, is a step in the right direction.
Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: I wrote this article a couple of years back, some changes were made to make it up to date. I’m no expert in writing in English so tips are most welcome.