Friday, May 24, 2024

Who Is The Blackhawks’ 2023-24 MVP?

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With the Blackhawks set to play the final game of their 2023-24 season on Thursday night, it’s clear this season wasn’t exactly what anyone had hoped for. Though the pieces are in place for a championship contender to be born in the next few seasons, this year’s team just didn’t have enough NHL talent to be competitive. Even in a year where the players weren’t exactly the class of the league, however, a few players stood out. Three names in particular played their way into consideration as the Blackhawks’ most valuable player.

Connor Bedard

While the superstar rookie isn’t my team MVP pick for this year, there’s no question what he’s doing is special. While playing in just 67 games, Bedard leads the woeful Blackhawks in points (61), goals (22), and assists (39). He also paces his team in shots and leads all forwards in ice time.

Additionally, when considering the amount of value each player adds, the morale Bedard brings to the table can’t be left out. To watch the 18-year-old face of the team is to look into the future, and he looks to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come.

However, Bedard’s benefit to the team is only on the offensive end. His -41 plus-minus is second-worst on the team only to Philipp Kurashev, who has played seven more games and is usually on Bedard’s line. That isn’t too much of a knock on the young rookie, as developing defensive wherewithal takes time and he’ll surely improve in that area in the future.

Jason Dickinson

One Blackhawk who has contributed on both ends of the ice this year is the team’s ultimate model of consistency, Jason Dickinson. Having played in all 81 games so far this season, Dickinson finds himself tied for the team lead in goals and fourth in points. But for all of Dickinson’s success on the offensive side, he’s perhaps even more effective defensively. The team’s third-line center has been consistently asked to skate against the opposing team’s top scorers and biggest stars. While drawing the toughest matchups, Dickinson has still managed to somehow log a plus-minus of +4, on a team with a goal differential of -110.

In addition to his offensive and defensive production, Dickinson is the Blackhawks’ top contributor in the faceoff circle. Chicago as a whole has only won 46.4 percent of its draws on the year, but that number would be a lot worse if it weren’t for Dickinson. The 28-year-old center has won 50.1 percent of his whopping 1,227 draws – beating out second-place Bedard by more than 700. Dickinson has been the calm in the storm all season, excelling in every aspect of the game.

Petr Mrazek

While the contributions of Bedard and Dickinson this year can’t be overstated, neither is the Blackhawks’ most valuable player. That honor goes to goaltender Petr Mrazek, who has nearly single-handedly saved Chicago from complete example all season.

The Blackhawks’ starting netminder has played in 56 games this year, the highest mark of his career and seventh-most in the NHL. While his numbers this year don’t exactly make him a Vezina Trophy winner, Mrazek has had zero help on the defensive end. The Blackhawks’ blueliners are certainly improving, but the 32-year-old goaltender has faced 363 high-danger shots, good for third-most in the league behind two goalies who have spent more time on the ice than he has. Mrazek has saved 303 of those chances, also good for third-most in the league. He’s being bombarded every night and still holding up.

Even the most casual hockey viewer can see the effect Mrazek has on the team on a nightly basis. A common sentiment after each loss in Chicago continues to be, “Without Mrazek, that could have been a lot worse.” The Blackhawks have mustered the second-fewest shots on goal by any NHL team, and the puck has constantly been in the defensive zone. Even with the pressure and lack of goal support, Mrazek has stood tall and avoided allowing any lopsided scores. I’d contend that the goaltender is responsible for as many as half of Chicago’s wins this year – not a huge total, but enough to make him easily the Blackhawks’ most valuable player.

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Southside Mike
Southside Mike
Apr 17, 2024 12:44 pm

Agree 100%. As much as I love Bedard and Dickinson, without some of Mrazek’s unbelievable efforts the season would have been far worse than it was.

Next year we had better see some drastic improvements over this past year’s futility. Davidson needs to wisely spend some of that salary cap space and bring in some younger FAs who will make a difference. That plus an influx of some of the talented prospects in the pipeline should make for an improved 2024-2025 season.

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