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updated: 1/9/2018 6:52 AM

As midterm grades reflect, some key Blackhawks still struggling

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  • Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews would be the first to admit he needs to play better for the team to contend for the Stanley Cup. He only has 7 goals in 5-on-5 play midway through the season.

    Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews would be the first to admit he needs to play better for the team to contend for the Stanley Cup. He only has 7 goals in 5-on-5 play midway through the season.
    Associated Press

 
 

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.

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.

While Nick Schmaltz got off to a slow start, he has managed to collect 10 goals and 18 assists midway through the NHL season.
While Nick Schmaltz got off to a slow start, he has managed to collect 10 goals and 18 assists midway through the NHL season. - Associated Press
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.

Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny has played in only 6 of the past 23 games.
Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny has played in only 6 of the past 23 games. - Associated Press

• 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's defense has gotten better as this season has moved along, but he is on pace for just 20 assists this season.
Brent Seabrook's defense has gotten better as this season has moved along, but he is on pace for just 20 assists this season. - Associated Press
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

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