Sunday, March 3, 2024

Blackhawks Scramble Defensive Roster With Series Of Moves, Aim To Reduce Scoring Onslaught


Before the young Blackhawks began the 2023-24 season, the expectation by many was that the defensive unit would be among the worst in the league. With a blatant lack of experience throughout the three lines, and not much star power to speak of, GM Kyle Davidson and his staff elected to address the offensive lines instead, kicking their defensive issues down the road.

Now just over a quarter of the way through the season, it’s officially time for Chicago to be concerned about its defensive lines. The team has allowed the third-most goals per game this year, a big reason why they’re tied for the lowest points in the NHL standings.

Jarred Tinordi

On Saturday, the Blackhawks finally decided to address their defensive woes by completely jumbling the bottom of the roster. The moves began when veteran D-man Jarred Tinordi was finally activated off IR. After missing the last nine games with an oblique injury, Tinordi will rejoin the team today in Winnipeg, likely pairing up with Nikita Zaitsev on the third line. He has one assist and 23 hits in nine games so far this year.

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Wyatt Kaiser

In a corresponding move, 21-year-old Wyatt Kaiser was sent down to Rockford. He’s coming off perhaps his worst game of the season, as he was directly involved in giving up a pair of goals against the Red Wings. However, he’s played a great all-around game throughout this season – one where it was unclear where he would start out. He has a rare positive plus-minus at plus-one, leads Blackhawks defensemen in rebounds, and is a good puck handler. He’ll undoubtedly benefit from a bit of time with the IceHogs as he gets the chance to get his confidence back up and play big minutes.

Louis Crevier

The Blackhawks’ moves didn’t stop there. In a shocking simultaneous move, the team recalled defenseman Louis Crevier, who will likely make his NHL debut sometime in the next few games. The Blackhawks’ 2020 seventh-round pick is most noted for his tremendous size, he’s 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds. With the IceHogs’ roster containing defensemen like Nolan Allan, Ethan Del Mastro, and Filip Roos, the decision to bring up Crevier is an intriguing one. He has five assists in 16 games this season, and the 22-year-old obviously boasts an excellent defensive reach. That combined with his defensive wherewithal makes him a looming, pesky presence for opposing offensive skaters.

Isaak Phillips

To make room for Crevier on the roster, the Blackhawks sent Isaak Phillips to Rockford, joining Kaiser. His demotion makes the recall of Crevier even more interesting, as he was putting together a string of solid games. He has three assists in nine starts and has been a staple on the third defensive line. The decision was likely made because Phillips would have been in and out of the lineup with Tinordi back, and the Blackhawks see him as a valuable piece of the club’s future.

It’s possible that the string of moves came because both the Blackhawks and IceHogs are in Winnipeg this weekend:

Rockford faced off with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL last night, with Chicago facing the Jets in a Saturday afternoon matinee.

The string of moves Saturday morning was certainly unexpected, but the team had to make some changes if this defensive unit is to improve. Crevier will get a chance to prove himself at the game’s highest level, and Phillips and Kaiser will head to Rockford to get more playing time and confidence before we inevitably see them both again.

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