Before the Blackhawks' season began, we published a three-part series focusing on six players who needed to step up or reinvent themselves for this team to make a serious run at another Stanley Cup.
With the NHL season now at the halfway point, it's time to dole out midseason grades on those players.
Scouting reportBlackhawks vs. Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Center, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
The skinny: Ottawa is just 6-14-4 since its 8-3-5 start. The Senators have won their past two games, though, including a 6-3 triumph Saturday over Tampa Bay. Wheaton native Ryan Dzingel scored twice and goalie Craig Anderson, a Barrington High grad, made 45 saves in goal. Dzingel has 13 goals on the season. ... Mark Stone (17G, 23A) is Ottawa's leading scorer. ... Matt Duchene has 6 goals in 26 games since coming over in a trade from Colorado. ... Ottawa's special teams are among the worst in the league, ranking 26th on the power play (15.9 percent) and 28th on the penalty kill (76.1 percent). ... The Hawks are 7-2-1 against the Senators in the past seven seasons.
Next: Minnesota Wild at United Center, 7 p.m. Wednesday
-- John Dietz
These grades, it's important to note, represent all 41 games -- not just the first 10 or the last five. They also are based on whether or not the players are doing enough to help the Hawks go all the way -- and not just squeak into the playoffs.
Jonathan Toews: D+
If we were grading Toews over the past four games -- where he's racked up 7 of his 29 points -- the captain would certainly earn an A.
But that's only 10 percent of the season.
Too often, Toews has been stripped of the puck or failed to complete passes. And he's done nothing to ignite an abysmal power play.
Toews' possession numbers (57.0 Corsi in 5-on-5 play) are fantastic, but important stats such 5-on-5 goals (7) remain too low.
In the second half of the season, the Hawks desperately need Toews to play the way he did over the past week. If he can, it will go a long way in getting the Hawks back to the playoffs and -- more important -- playing the way they need to play to compete with Nashville, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Vegas and Los Angeles.
Super sophs: B+
The four young players we highlighted in October were forwards Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman and defensemen Gustav Forsling and Michal Kempny. Here's a quick look at each:
• Schmaltz got off to a slow start, but once he went to wing on Patrick Kane's line, things started flowing for the Wisconsin native. I wondered if he could score 60 points, and he's nearly on pace with 10 goals and 18 assists. Twelve of those points have come the past 12 games.
• Hartman had 9 points in the first seven games, then disappeared for about 24 games. Since getting scratched a month ago, though, he's back to playing with purpose and passion. He needs to keep it up and be more of a consistent scoring threat.
• Forsling was outstanding -- perhaps the best of this bunch -- for the first 30 games. The second-year defenseman hit a small roadbump, but now he's back with Jan Rutta. If they can rekindle their chemistry and shut down some top lines, watch out.
• Having played in just six of the past 23 games, Kempny deserves an incomplete.
Overall, this group has done what the Hawks needed by improving their overall game and -- for the most part -- affecting games in a positive way.
Brent Seabrook: C-
Seabrook hated the start to his season. Just hated it.
Even though he scored in the season opener, the veteran defenseman proceeded to post a minus-3 rating in a 5-2 loss to Minnesota in Game 5 and a minus-4 six days later in a 5-2 loss at St. Louis.
Things finally turned around in early November after Seabrook had a heart-to-heart with Hawks coaches about how he could be better.
"I just needed to get my feet moving better," Seabrook said. "Have a better stick. Have a better gap. Once I really started focusing on that, I started getting up in the play. And when I'm moving that's the big part of my game that helps every other part of it that makes me a better player."
Seabrook said that after a four-game stretch in December in which he took 17 shots on goal and recorded 2 assists.
Since then, though, the Hawks' alternate captain has just 5 SOG in the past eight games. He has 5 goals in his past 131 games (including postseason).
He's also on pace for just 20 assists, which would be his lowest total since 2008-09. He had 36 last season, and 35 for the 2015-16 season.
So while it's true Seabrook's defense has improved since that dismal start, he must start contributing offensively again for the Hawks to become a contender in April.
• Twitter: @johndietzdh