Here we are in the middle of December, without hockey. There’s not even an official plan to return to the NHL. However, recent reports suggest that this may change soon. Even in the absence of the greatest game in the world, my dear Blackhawks are always in my thoughts. One area I’ve been thinking about lately is the power game.
With the 2021 team in the reconstruction phase, the results on the ice will not be good. Instead, the focus is on developing young players in the team. Ian Mitchell’s arrival on the Blackhawks’ blue line will undoubtedly make her name in the game, but today I want to focus on another young defensive player: Adam Boqvist.
Adjustment to table
Photo : Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Now in his second season in the NHL, Boqvist will have to work hard to meet the hype that surrounded him when he was selected eighth overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Anyone who watched the Blackhawks last season knows that Boqvist will have to make adjustments in his zone to become a more reliable defender. Although I can dissect this subject in detail, the focus today is on Boqvist’s offensive game, and more specifically on the power game.
Since Boqvist is a defensive defender who moves the puck in attack, the Blackhawks probably consider him their best quarterback in attack. I am here to announce that the process must begin on the first day of training camp, when it takes place.
The 2019-20 NHL season has been a period of adjustment for Adam Boqvist. Between his stay in Rockford, limited minutes due to his performance and a strong start to the playoffs, it was clear that Boqvist was still trying to find his place on the NHL ice.
The starting defender has played an average of 2:10 TOI on the power play last season, so it’s not that he didn’t get his assignments. Erik Gustafsson, however, took his place in the first group of powerplayers before finding a new home in Calgary on the deadline of the exchange.
Photo : Calvin Kuo/AP
Even with the departure of Gustafsson it was clear that Jeremy Colliton still had reservations about Boqvist’s abilities when Duncan Keith took over the role of quarterback in the first round of the playoffs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The Blackhawks shouldn’t even have come near the playoffs. So, when they last finished in the Western Conference in the post-season of the expanded 24-team NHL, they might as well have been in a better position to make a difference.
It was fun for four games against Edmonton in early August, but now it’s in the rearview mirror. In the future, development should be an important goal for the Blackhawks.
Anticipating growing pains
It is clear that Adam Boqvist is far from being a finished product. Defenders generally go through a longer development process than their first-line counterparts, and Boqvist is no exception. Off-season practices and training are certainly an important part of this process, but it is during the NHL games that growth will be crucial.
Photo : NHLB Black Sharks/Twitter
The Blackhawks themselves said they were committed to the development of their young players and would make mistakes. If they keep their word and give Adam Boqvist the keys to the best playing unit, he will inevitably pass the puck over the blue line, make unfortunate passes and miss matches that would otherwise give him a great chance to score. These cases will probably occur more often than we would like, but that’s okay. It is an essential part of the development process.
Allowing the 37-year-old Duncan Keith to lead the best unit in the game may result in more goals in the near future, but that doesn’t make up for the Blackhawks in the big scheme of things. I even consider it an obstacle to the development of one of the most important young players. It doesn’t have to be a Duncan Keith session. The veteran blueliner has already played a key role in the development of Adam Boqvist and will continue to do so for the next three seasons unless he is traded. Still, it’s time for Keith to pass the torch, especially as there will be less time for a smooth transition when the NHL moves to a shortened 56-game season in 2021.
Photography : Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
In summary: The Blackhawks are expected to place Adam Boqvist on the first block of the power play quarterback as soon as the team reaches the ice to prepare for the 2021 season. As long as he learns from his inevitable mistakes and works with the coaching staff to correct those mistakes during the season, the Hawks won’t have to worry about inadequate power play statistics in 2021. Mr Boqvist’s vision and decision-making process will continue to develop, which remains an important speciality in the long term.
The Blackhawks say they’ll miss the boat again. In the coming seasons they will miss more targets than they hit. But if they really intend to build a winner in the future, they can take steps now to help them return to a team that is always competitive.