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updated: 11/9/2011 6:23 PM

It's debatable if Hawks are tougher to play against

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  • Scott Nichol of St. Louis and Viktor Stalberg of the Blackhawks during a 3-0 Blues win Tuesday night. The Blues outhit the Hawks 19-14 in the game.

      Scott Nichol of St. Louis and Viktor Stalberg of the Blackhawks during a 3-0 Blues win Tuesday night. The Blues outhit the Hawks 19-14 in the game.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Blackhawks were supposed to be a harder team to play against this season after general manager Stan Bowman went out and signed a handful of free agents who were expected to add grit and nastiness.

So far the results are mixed as the Hawks have been outhit in 14 of their first 15 games.

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The hits statistic isn't perfect. It can vary from building to building depending on how a particular stats crew defines a hit.

But what the stat does indicate is a level of engagement, and there have been way too many nights when the Hawks simply are not engaged as a team physically.

Six times already the Hawks have been credited with 14 hits or less, including Tuesday's 3-0 loss at St. Louis when they were outhit 19-14 by the Blues.

The only time the Hawks outhit a team was in their 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim on Oct. 25, and that was by a margin of 25-22.

Two of the free agents signed by Bowman over the summer, Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers, have done their jobs.

Carcillo leads the Hawks in hits with 33 despite appearing in only 11 of the 15 games. Mayers has 20 hits in limited ice time and has fought five times already.

Brent Seabrook has 31 hits to lead all defensemen by a wide margin. Bryan Bickell has 28 hits, although he is a team worst minus-6.

The rest of the Hawks' so-called physical players are failing to deliver. Steve Montador has 14 hits, Sean O'Donnell 13 and Niklas Hjalmarsson only 11.

Nick Leddy has more hits that Hjalmarsson with 14. So does Patrick Sharp (17) and Michael Frolik (13).

Sharp and Frolik should not have more hits than Hjalmarsson.

If Hjalmarsson has become a little gun shy physically since his suspension early last season for that hit on Buffalo's Jason Pominville, this has to change.

Hjalmarsson is 6-feet-3 and 207 pounds with little offensive game. He must be physical to help justify the $3.5 million he is earning.

Montador has shown none of the "edge" Bowman boasted he would bring when the GM made the veteran a "priority" to acquire ahead of July 1. Montador has looked shaky and unsure of how to play in the Hawks' puck possession system.

While it's still early, there are indications that signing Montador to a four-year, $11 million contract when it was unlikely he would get that kind of money and term anywhere else could wind up being a big mistake by Bowman.

While Bowman got a pass for trading away Brian Campbell and his $7.1 million cap hit because it freed up money to do other things, he took on nearly as much money ($5.85 million) in the contracts of Montador and Rostislav Olesz.

What are the Hawks going to do with Olesz anyway? He has appeared in only three of the first 15 games, adds little to the team, and has a $3.1 million cap hit for two more seasons after this.

The record is decent at 8-4-3, but with seven of their next nine games on the road, the Hawks' good start can begin to look ordinary quickly.

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