Friday, March 6, 2009
For the first time in some years, the Blackhawks were expected to be buyers at the March '09 trade deadline. The Blackhawks were looking for a solid face-off man. Discussions centered around possibly dealing winger, Dustin Byfuglien or defenseman, Brent Seabrook. As it turned out, neither were traded; rather, one of their stronger defensemen, James Wisniewski was swapped for Samuel Pahlsson from Anaheim.
When I saw who the 'Hawks had traded, I instantly thought, "Oh, that sucks". I liked James Wisniewski. Besides being a good defenseman, he had no qualms about roughing up opponents, and could score pretty well for a defenseman. Then I began to wonder why they chose him.
As it stands now, the Blackhawks are pretty deep at the defenseman position. They have quite a few young defensemen in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Cam Barker, and Matt Walker (not to mention their "veteran" off-season pickup, Brian Campbell). I thought to myself, "Why not Seabrook?" Although he's a good defenseman, Seabrook doesn't score nearly as often as Wisniewski does, so why didn't they deal him instead? And then it occurred to me...
Wiz spent a lot of time on the IR. He spent a good stint of last year's season on the injured reserve and missed a good portion of this season due to a knee injury. And I don't specifically remember ANY time when Seabrook was out with injury. With a big season at hand in which the Blackhawks have a strong likelihood of making the playoffs (they are currently 4th place in the Western Conference), the Blackhawks need to have players they can depend on.
I'm not positive, but I think Wisniewski probably had the same initial reaction I did. Wiz is leaving a team who sits at 4th place in the West and is heading to an Anaheim team that finds itself tied for 9th in the West (which, if today were the playoffs, the Ducks would not be playing). What's worse is that Wisniewski was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2002 and had to live through all the years that the Blackhawks never made the postseason. The first time that things look promising for them, he's thrust into a team that is in the same position that the Blackhawks had always found themselves in during previous seasons.
So, who is this guy they traded for? Samuel (Sami) Pahlsson. He's a center and a face-off man, which is what the Blackhawks were after. The Blackhawks seem to be highly touting the fact that Pahlsson was in the Ducks' lineup during their '06-'07 Stanley-Cup-winning season. This is the same thing they emphasized when they traded for Andrew Ladd (he played for the Hurricanes when they won the Cup in the '05-'06 season). However, they let Craig Adams go on waivers, who played on the same championship team as Ladd.
What scares me about Pahlsson is that he doesn't score. He has 15 points this season. To put that into perspective, only 4 of the Blackhawks current players (who have played at least 20 games with the team this year) have scored fewer. What's scarier? The highest number of points he's ever gotten is 26 (which was in '06-'07 when they won the Cup). One more scary point? Sure. He's only had one season where he's been on the plus side on his +/- rating.
From what I hear, the guy's pretty good at winning face-offs, which is important in maintaining puck possession. Plus, people are emphasizing that he's good for some veteran experience. We'll see how this all turns out (but not very soon since he is suffering the effects of mononucleosis), but right now, I'm not too optimistic.