The Blackhawks Are Exceeding Expectations, But Who Gets the Credit? Part II: Defensemen and Goalies

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The Blackhawks Are Exceeding Expectations, But Who Gets the Credit? Part II: Defensemen and Goalies

Chicago Blackhawks

We started our grades of the Blackhawks through the first month of the season with the coaching staff and forwards earlier this week. Now, let’s turn our attention to the back end.

The Blackhawks’ organizational depth is on the blue line, but they’re rolling with a group primarily made up of veterans thus far. Like the forward group, expectations were low for this group based on the makeup but things have been better than we thought they would be at the start of the month.

Seth Jones: C

Jones is still among the NHL leaders in ice time and has had both good and bad moments early in the season. A broken thumb suffered in Buffalo might cost him most/all of November, so the rest of the group is going to be asked to pick up the slack. As the most expensive defenseman on the payroll and longest-signed player in the organization, we’d like to see fewer bad moments but he’s been better in Luke Richardson’s system.

Jake McCabe: B-

McCabe missed the start of the season because of back surgery that was supposed to cost him a month of the season; so missing three games wasn’t all that bad. He’s been solid since returning to the lineup and has worked himself back into top-four minutes. The Blackhawks want McCabe to be physical and he’s done that; he has 16 hits and 15 blocked shots in six games.

Connor Murphy: B

Through nine games, Murphy leads the Blackhawks with 25 blocked shots and has also been credited with 18 hits. After missing the end of last year because of injury, he’s come back as a guy who can skate 20 minutes per night. Like Seth Jones, he’s been better in Richardson’s system than he was in whatever Colliton was doing.

Jack Johnson: B

If I told you in September that Johnson would average 20:02 per game — the second-highest total on the team — and wasn’t a massive liability doing that, you probably would have logged off and asked what I was drinking and/or smoking. But here we are with Jack skating on the Blackhawks’ top pair many nights and doing an okay job at it.

Jarred Tinordi: A-

How the heck am I giving an A- to a guy the Blackhawks grabbed off the waiver wire just before the season began? Because he was an afterthought in the Rangers’ organization and came to Chicago, jumped into a second-pair role and has done exactly what the Blackhawks asked him to: hit people. He leads the team with 34 hits (14 more than anyone else) and has been the physical force the Hawks wanted/needed on the back end.

Caleb Jones: C

Jones has done a good job at many of the things Richardson has asked him to do. And I would argue he’s shown development in many areas on the ice. But there are still areas where he struggles. If we factor in that he’s on a one-year deal that’s not expensive, this is about what the Hawks paid for. As the depth in Rockford shows itself to be ready for the NHL and Ian Mitchell returns from injury (hopefully soon), Caleb is going to need to continue showing improvement so he can either stay in the lineup in Chicago or find a role elsewhere.

Filip Roos: Incomplete

Roos has appeared in five games, so I could give him a grade — in theory. And he picked up his first NHL assist already, so that’s a plus. But I was excited to see him make the NHL roster (even if the possibility of him having to return to Sweden was a significant reason for that). I think there’s a lot of potential with Roos that could help the Blackhawks blue line this season and into the short-term future, but he needs to get on the ice to show it.

Petr Mrazek Blackhawks

Petr Mrazek: B

Go ahead and point out that it’s moderately inconsistent of me to give Mrazek a grade for three games but not give one to Roos for five, but here’s my reasoning: if you look at the back of Mrazek’s hockey card, you’d know injuries are part of the deal here. It’s a reason Toronto couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. And that’s why I said in my preseason predictions that Arvid Söderblom would lead the goaltenders in wins. But Mrazek was pretty good before his groin injury showed up again. So I’m giving him a B with the caveat that the grade is based on (predictably) limited games.

Alex Stalock: A-

Stalock wasn’t even in the NHL last year. Health concerns made his contract a shock, especially to those of us who thought Söderblom was ready for a bigger role in the NHL. But he’s stepped in and been way better than advertised. Stalock boasts a .914 save percentage and 2.95 goals against average in six appearances. He can be a wild card when he wanders out of the crease to play the puck, but that’s part of the adventure.

Arvid Söderblom: A

I wanted to see Söderblom take the job and run with it in training camp, but the addition of two veterans via free agency made that a hard thing to do. So he went to Rockford to start the regular season despite having the best performance in the preseason of the three guys who saw action. He got his first start after Mrazek got hurt and was stellar.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab