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Every Wednesday throughout the offseason, the CHGO Blackhawks crew will give their evaluations of the 2021-22 Blackhawks. We’ll be using our “feather system.” Four feathers = an A, three feathers = a B, and so on.
This week, we’re reviewing the seasons of goaltenders Marc-André Fleury, Collin Delia, and Kevin Lankinen.
Marc-André Fleury Analysis
Jay Zawaski: The whole “Fleury in Chicago” thing was pretty fascinating from start to finish. First, we had the rumors that the Blackhawks might want to trade for him. Then it happened, but Fleury wasn’t sure he wanted to keep playing. Then, Fleury decided he did want to play in Chicago, which was great news.
Suddenly with the additions of Fleury, Seth Jones, and Jake McCabe, people started to think the playoffs were a possibility. If things fell just right, you could see it happening. Then the season began and everything fell apart. The Hawks got out to a 1-9-2 start and Jeremy Colliton was fired. The season was lost almost as quickly as it started.
Fleury himself didn’t have the strongest start either. Sure, he wasn’t used to playing under such a chaotic “system” (if you can even call it that), but he was flat out bad to start the season. Once things settled down and the Hawks went to from awful to just bad, Fleury found his game. He kept the team in games they had no business being in, and was the singular reason for several Blackhawks wins this season.
Fleury eventually did what he was brought in to do. He solidified the starting goalie position and played like an All-Star for much (but not all) of the season. Now the Blackhawks have a second-round pick for future Jeopardy answer Mikael Hakkarainen.
Mario Tirabassi: Fleury coming to Chicago made it feel like this past season was supposed to end with playoff hockey. Obviously, it did not. While the move did not fit the narrative of “rebuild” or “youth movement” it made it feel like Chicago was “back.” While the start of the season was terrible for Fleury and for the team, he bounced back and did as well as he could for a Blackhawks team that did him no favors in return.
Greg Boysen: Acquiring Fleury showed that “he who shall not be named” had no real plan and was just spinning his wheels in the mud. However, it is hard to argue with turning a prospect who was never going to make the NHL into a second-round draft pick while getting 45 starts from a Hall of Fame goaltender. Fleury’s start to the season was awful, posting a .872 SV% and 4.63 GAA in October. He was able to right the ship but tapered off a bit during his last handful of games before getting traded to the Minnesota Wild. We learned to appreciate what he was able to do after the trade deadline.
Kevin Lankinen Analysis
Jay: Before the Blackhawks traded for Fleury, I was comfortable giving Lankinen the starting job. He was coming off a very solid rookie season (17-14-5, 3.01 GAA, .909 save percentage) and looked ready to take the next step. He still got plenty of opportunities this season, even with Fleury in the fold, but regressed in every category. His rebound control is a huge issue, and while late-in-season rebound struggles can be explained away by a glove hand injury, it’s been a problem that has plagued Lankinen since joining Chicago.
I would like to see the Hawks bring him back next season. He deserves another shot to prove he’s closer to the guy we saw in year one than in year two.
Mario: After a breakout rookie season in 2021, I expected Kevin Lankinen to improve and keep making steps forward, even as backup to Fleury. He took steps backwards this past season. He never looked consistent of confident. Injuries factored into those problems, but he never looked like the Lankinen who grabbed the starting job away from Delia and Malcolm Subban last year. He’ll likely be back next season to either prove it or move on.
Greg: If you are trying to come up with the most disappointing Blackhawk of 2021-22, Lankinen needs to be in the discussion. After securing the starting job the previous season, there were some high expectations, and he failed to meet any of them. The hand injury he suffered hampered his performance. I don’t think he ever fully recovered from it. He is rebound control was awful. He had trouble staying in the crease. His vision was terrible, and it caused him to fight off the puck. Even with all the struggles, I would have no problem with the Blackhawks bringing him back for one more season to see if he can figure it out.
Collin Delia Analysis
Jay: I really like Collin Delia as a guy. He’s super easy to root for, and has been nothing but a pro over the last few difficult seasons. Be it the signing of Robin Lehner, his season of not playing while on the taxi squad in the bubble, or the acquisition of Fleury, he kept showing up with a positive attitude. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t worked for him here. While his opportunities were limited, he didn’t do much to keep earning new opportunities. Professional hockey is a business, and while it’s easy to look at the stat sheet and say, “See! He didn’t get a chance,” the coaches see him every day in practice, in meetings, in warm-ups. Coaches have to make decisions on what they know. I wish Delia would have grabbed a job and ran with it, but he was never able to get that job done. I think a change of scenery will do him well, and I’ll be rooting for him all the way.
Mario: I’ve wanted Delia to get a real opportunity in the NHL for a while now. It will likely no longer happen in Chicago. He had some ups and downs both in the NHL and AHL in his time with the organization, but consistently having more ups than downs never happened. He had some hurdels to getting NHL time, but he also didn’t grab a strong hold of his NHL spot when given the chance.
Greg: Delia’s situation has been well-documented over the past three seasons. Some may say he was never given a fair shot with the Blackhawks, which might not be wrong. However, he never forced the team to give him more playing time through his play, much like Lankinen did in 2020-21. The biggest issue I have with Delia is his lack of progression. He is still plagued by the same weaknesses we’ve seen since joining the organization. He is another who struggles with rebound control and holding his net. A change of scenery will probably be the best scenario for the soon-to-be 28-year-old netminder.
The Blackhawks organization is full of holes, but no position is less certain than goaltender. Arvid Soderblom had a solid season in Rockford, but likely isn’t ready for a full-time NHL gig. Jaxson Stauber, signed out of Providence toward the end of last season, is years away. Drew Commesso, who is the biggest goalie prospect the Blackhawks have had since Corey Crawford, isn’t close to NHL ready. That’s why we’re all quite confident Lankinen will return on a short-term deal.
Meanwhile, if Kyle Davidson wants to get creative, he’s in a position to take a bad contract in exchange for some draft assets or prospects. Enter the Maple Leafs, who are likely looking to move out some money. Goaltender Petr Mrázek is under contract with a $3.8 million AAV for the next two seasons. He would be a perfect stop gap until Soderbloom, Commesso or someone else proves NHL ready.
Stay tuned to the CHGO Blackhawks Podcast for more player evaluations as the offseason grinds on.
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