The trade deadline had, in the past few years, been a quiet part of the season for the Chicago Blackhawks. But some unique circumstances in the 2014-15 season forced the hand of Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, leading him to pick up the phone and swing a trio of trades over the weekend.
Kimmo Timonen, Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins were all added to the roster, with some draft picks, prospect Klas Dahlbeck and fourth liner Ben Smith being sent out of town as compensation.
Timonen will help shore up the Hawks’ defensive depth, while the acquisition of Desjardins was largely a cap move made to allow top prospect Teuvo Teravainen to remain with the parent club.
But it’s the acquisition of Vermette that gives the Hawks better center depth that than they’ve had in recent years, and it’s that move which has this Hawks fan excited about one possible result of Vermette’s arrival: an offensive eruption from Jonathan Toews.
As the Hawks top center for eight years now, Toews has always been around the top of the team’s point leaders, tallying 493 points in his 548 games for an average of 0.9 points per game in his career. Perhaps his best numbers came in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 regular season, when he averaged over a point per game (48 points in 47 games) for the Stanley Cup champions that year.
His playoff numbers haven’t been quite as lofty, however. Since his Conn Smythe postseason in 2010, Toews has just 39 points in 55 playoff games (0.7 points per game). That was a noticeable drop from Toews’ numbers during the Hawks first Cup run.
In 2010, Toews led all skaters with 22 assists in the postseason and was one shy of Daniel Briere’s postseason high of 30 points. Those numbers were fueled by 13-game point streak that Toews assembled in the postseason, buoyed by a 5-point Game 4 in the Vancouver series.
That was a different Blackhawks team, though, because it had another center outside of Toews who could be counted on to handle the opponent’s top line in Dave Bolland. With Quenneville’s desire to get the best matchups for his team, he often threw out Bolland against Sedins Henrik and Daniel in the Vancouver series and against Joe Thornton’s line in the Western Conference Final with San Jose. With Bolland focused on the defensive matchups, Toews was free to focus on his offense, and a Conn Smythe performance followed.
In the four postseasons since then, however, the Hawks have not had a center capable of handling those tough assignments.
That’s where Vermette comes in.
He brings a defensive responsibility to the Hawks lineup that can matchup with the league’s best lines. And they’ll need it, with potential playoff opponents boasting players like rookie sensation Filip Forsberg in Nashville, offense dynamo Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis and all-around talent Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles.
But with Vermette taking those tough assignments, Toews can get away from those tough assignments and focus on putting pucks in the net in ways he hasn’t been able to replicate since the 2010 playoffs.
With Patrick Kane unavailable for the first few rounds of the playoffs with a broken collarbone, the Hawks need someone to fill the void left by one of the league’s best offensive talents. The Hawks added center depth could mean that much of that void is filled by the Hawks’ 26-year-old captain.