Well, here we are; September has arrived. You all know what that means: it’s almost time for training camp.
But we’re guessing you’ve been pining away for hockey for some time now. Considering that, we’re here to help. We’ll bring you a Chicago Blackhawks player profile (or two) a day. We’ll look at what said player did last season and what the expectations are for the 2014-15 season.
Ah, September, you’re back. A happy Labor Day to all, as the calendar turns over to the month synonymous with school’s start and training camp’s soon-to-be start.
Meanwhile, back at the home office, we’re also itching for hockey’s return and filling the void with Chicago Blackhawks player profiles. It’s Day 2 of our series, and we continue with one of the toughest players we know: defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
A LOOK BACK
Coach Joel Quenneville called Hjalmarsson a warrior a few times last season, and it was never more evident than in Game 2 vs. the Minnesota Wild when Hjalmarsson took a puck to the throat. True to form, he didn’t miss a shift. He didn’t talk for about two weeks — well, he tried not to, anyway — but that’s about all he avoided. Hjalmarsson continued to sacrifice himself for the good of the Blackhawks; he had 157 blocked shots during the regular season and 57 more during the playoffs.
But Hjalmarsson’s game goes beyond blocked shots. He and Johnny Oduya were so strong defensively that they became the Blackhawks’ shutdown pair, going against opponents’ top players on a regular basis. Hjalmarsson also set career highs in assists (22) and points (26) last season.
A LOOK AHEAD
Hjalmarsson’s future is as rosy as his present. He’s as much a part of the Blackhawks’ core as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and others and is now garnering more national attention for his game. Hjalmarsson always wants to add more offensive to his repertoire; that’s fine, but it’s not necessary. He’s carved his niche with defense and shot blocking, and the Blackhawks have benefitted greatly from those two assets.
We’ll see how things shake out with the Blackhawks’ salary-cap issues. Hjalmarsson will still be here but his partner Johnny Oduya could be a trade target. If Hjalmarsson has to adjust to a new partner, so be it. If he keeps doing his job as well as he did it last season, could Hjalmarsson be the next Blackhawks defenseman getting Norris Trophy mentions?
Coming tomorrow: Corey Crawford.