Blackhawks breakdown:Niklas Hjalmarsson

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Blackhawks breakdown:Niklas Hjalmarsson

Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Niklas Hjalmarsson played in 69 games in 2011-12, scoring one goal with 14 assists for 15 points and finishing with a plus-9 rating. He averaged 20 minutes and 11 seconds per game, had 14 penalty minutes, 42 hits and 142 blocked sots. In six playoff games against the Coyotes his playing time dipped to 18 minutes and 10 seconds per game. He had one assist, five hits and seven blocked shots while finishing minus-3.

Boden's take: Hjalmarsson will turn just 25 years old in June, but as he enters his fourth full season, we probably have a pretty good idea who he is and what he provides. He sacrifices his body to block shots. At 6-foot-3, maybe we'd like to see him play a little more consistently physical against opponents, like he showed in glimpses against Shane Doan in the playoffs. But if he's considered a second-pair defenseman, would it be fair to expect a little more offensive bang for the 14 million the team invested in him to match San Jose's RFA offer sheet two years ago? He's halfway through that four-year deal now, and he has yet to top the 17 points he delivered in the 2009-10 Cup season, the three goals he posted the following season, or higher than a plus-13 rating.

Myers' take: One of the biggest questions regarding Hjalmarsson this season was, who was going to be his new partner and how would he adjust to him? Hjalmarsson had built up a great rapport with Brian Campbell the previous two seasons but had to get used to playing with someone else in 2011-12. He and Nick Leddy formed a good pair early. But as the season went on the defensive pairings changed -- as they and the forward lines usually do. Hjalmarsson had a few different partners, including Brent Seabrook during Duncan Keith's suspension. But he was sidetracked when he suffered a concussion in early February that cost him 13 games. Despite that, Hjalmarsson had a pretty steady, if not eye-catching, season.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Likely, more of the same. Hjalmarsson himself admits he'd like to provide more offense, and spent most of the first year of that deal pressing to do just that. I'm not sure how realistic that is. He's a regular on the penalty-killing units. He blocks shots, and somewhat overlooked is the fact that's he's also been paired for most of the past two seasons with a talented, but very "green" Leddy. Barring the addition of more veteran help on the blue line, he might very well have to help "coach up" Dylan Olsen next season.

If he can't supply any more offense, the Hawks need him to be more consistent and reliable in his own end, help the PK improve and look to play more physical with a body that goes through a lot of sacrifice as it is. This defense needs to be better next season -- whether it's in front of Corey Crawford in goal, or someone else. Others need to pitch in and take some minutes away from Keith and Seabrook. If it comes strictly from within the current defensive crop in place, Hjalmarsson will be among those who have to make it happen.

Tracey: Two seasons ago Hjalmarsson said he wanted to bring more offense to his game. It took him quite a while to get his first point last season and he finished with 15. Whatever offense Hjalmarsson adds, fine. But his defense is what he's getting paid for and he's still the best shot blocker on the team. If Hjalmarsson keeps focusing on that, and gets a steady blue-line partner this coming season, he should be fine.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Hjalmarsson's highlights above.

Previously: Duncan Keith

Up next: Steve Montador

Former Blackhawks D-man Trevor Daley reflects on bittersweet postseason with Penguins

Former Blackhawks D-man Trevor Daley reflects on bittersweet postseason with Penguins

Trevor Daley’s hearing the same chatter in the Pittsburgh Penguins this season as he did with the Blackhawks last fall.

“It feels a lot like when I started last year with Chicago, where a lot of guys were speaking the same thing: ‘We want to try to do it again,’” Daley said on Wednesday evening. “I felt I was in that situation with the same feeling with the guys around me, so it was an exciting time.”

Well, there is one difference this time around. When Daley was traded to the Blackhawks in the summer of 2015 he didn’t know that feeling of winning a Stanley Cup. Now, he does. After the Blackhawks traded Daley to Pittsburgh he became a key part of the Penguins’ run to their Cup triumph.

Daley fit in immediately with the Penguins because they all found common ground: he wasn’t the only one going through changes at the time. Daley was traded to Pittsburgh two days after the team named Mike Sullivan its new head coach.

“The way they were going with a new coach coming in, I think everyone was happy to have a fresh start, including myself. I felt I was in the same situation they were,” Daley said. “It all worked out obviously in the long run. But a lot for my success had to do with being on the same page as everyone else.”

Daley suffered a fractured ankle in late May, missing the rest of the postseason. But after the Penguins won the Cup in Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks, Daley, on the ice in full uniform and skates, was the first to get the Cup from captain Sidney Crosby.

“When you get to hoist that thing,” Daley said. “There’s nothing better than that.”

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The postseason was bittersweet for Daley, as his mother became ill with cancer as the playoffs began. She got to see Daley hoist the Cup on June 13. Sadly, she died on June 21.

“Pittsburgh was great to me. I got to go home in between series. When I had time off I got to see her and when I got hurt I got to spend more time with her. It did make it bittersweet,” Daley said. “Before she passed she would always say, ‘Why are you here? I want you to be playing.’ But under the circumstances, at least I got to say I got to spend a little more time with her.”

The Penguins are waiting for a few players, including Crosby, to return from the World Cup. Who knows how the season unfolds but much like last fall, Daley is part of the let’s-try-to-repeat talk.

“We’re excited for those guys to be able to have the opportunity they have [at World Cup]. We get to watch the best player in the world doing what he does, knowing he’s coming back to us,” Daley said of Crosby. “We’ve been enjoying it; we’ve been staying in touch with them while they’re gone. Most of them are back now. Those guys are going to be ready to go. They’ve already played some big games, so it’ll be good.”

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Brian Hoyer spent Wednesday’s practice as the presumptive No. 1 quarterback, sources said, and with Jay Cutler limited due to his thumb injury, the Bears began prep for the Detroit Lions next Sunday in Soldier Field with Hoyer getting more used to the offense that he has only sparingly run since training camp.

Some of Hoyer’s teammates spent Wednesday’s practice getting a little more used to him.

A veteran of 27 NFL starts, Hoyer doesn’t do things the way Cutler does them. He doesn’t throw as hard. He doesn’t throw as far. And he runs a sort-of hurry-up offense compared to Cutler.

“Hoyer has a real good sense of urgency to him,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “He’s more fast paced. He likes to quicken up things, whether it’s the cadence, the flow – he just has a real natural sense of urgency about himself.”

This involves more than just a feeling. The Bears ARE faster under Hoyer, based on one very unofficial measure, because game situations differ even though the Bears ultimately lost all three games.

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Based on snaps and time played, the Bears have run 2.2 plays per minute with Cutler. They have run 2.6 per minute, approaching 20 percent more, under “urgent” Hoyer.

The play rate, however, is not entirely on the quarterback. Like all teams, the Bears build tempos into their system, and defenses also dictate some of how the Bears elect to work.

Still, “Jay is more laid back, more relaxed, even-keeled,” Leno said, smiling. “But that’s just Hoyer, more sense of urgency."