If Artemi Panarin replaced Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov replaced Brad Richards, then Andrew Ladd — acquired in a trade with Winnipeg last week — replaced Patrick Sharp.
That’s probably oversimplifying things a touch, but for the sake of doing just that, it’s the easy way of looking at the top two lines of the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks, compared to last year’s championship squad.
With that in mind, has anyone replaced Johnny Oduya on their top two defensive pairings?
Because that might be the biggest question for these ‘Hawks as they try to become the first team in the salary-cap era to hoist back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Trevor Daley couldn’t replace Oduya.
Neither could Rob Scuderi.
Trevor van Riemsdyk has drawn praise from coach Joel Quenneville, but van Riemsdyk is still just 24, with limited playoff experience. Perhaps he’s capable of carrying the load that Oduya carried in the spring, but the jury’s still out.
After van Riemsdyk, Viktor Svedberg, Erik Gustafsson, and Michal Rozsival are each probably best suited to bottom-pairing minutes, if they play at all.
That’s why the acquisition of Christian Ehrhoff from the Kings was such an interesting one, despite that particular deal flying mostly under the radar.
Ehrhoff, 33, is expected to make his Blackhawks debut tonight versus Detroit. The ‘Hawks are hoping he’ll be better suited to their attacking philosophy than he was for Darryl Sutter’s system in L.A.
“It’s probably just a style fit,” GM Stan Bowman told CSN Chicago. “It’s one of those trades that’s probably best suited for both teams. Ehrhoff just wasn’t a fit in Los Angeles, just like [Scuderi] didn’t work out here.”
“We like our D to join and get involved in the attack and he’s got that part of his game,” Quenneville said. “He can shoot the puck and defensively we’ll see how that goes, but we think he can help us in ways.”
Ehrhoff — whose most productive years came with the Vancouver Canucks, a team that played (past tense) a similar style to the Blackhawks — didn’t disagree with Bowman’s assessment.
“Obviously last year (with Pittsburgh) I had a tough second half with my injuries and that put kind of a question mark on me, and then this year the fit wasn’t great in L.A,” he told the Daily Herald.
Now, granted, Ehrhoff is long removed from his time in Vancouver. He was in his late 20s back then, right in his prime. It may turn out he’s not a fit in Chicago either. He’s definitely not going to directly replace Oduya, who’s more defensively inclined.
But if Ehrhoff does fit well, look out, because Chicago’s blue line — beyond the Big Three of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson — is the one potential weakness that a lot of people see on this roster.
And if it’s not that, there might not be one.
Blackhawks defensemen in last year’s playoffs, by total ice time