Chicago Blackhawks Player Evaluations: Marian Hossa

Now safe from buyout, Slovakia-born winger can focus on continuing 2013 success

 Throughout the month of July, Madhouse Enforcer will be taking a look at various members of the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can they improve upon next season? We’ll answer all those questions and more in the lead-up to Blackhawks Convention, which starts July 26th.

Today’s second featured player is forward Marian Hossa.

The Good:

If there was any player in the NHL that the lengthy lockout that wiped out nearly half of the season benefitted, it would be Hossa.

After suffering a concussion at the hands of Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres during the 2012 playoffs, Hossa was able to take the extended offseason and fully recover from his injury. Fully healthy at the start of the campaign, Hossa lit the world on fire, scoring four goals in the Hawks’ first two games and playing a prominent part in their 24-game point streak to begin the season.

In addition to his exploits on offense, Hossa also continued to embrace his role as one of the team’s best defensive forwards. His ability to hold onto the puck under duress has always been praised by hockey experts, but in 2013 he really made big strides forward in his ability to forecheck effectively against the opposing team’s forwards.

The results are most clearly shown when taking a look at advanced metrics. Hossa’s On-Ice Corsi (a measure of the number of shots taken and allowed when a player is on the ice) was the best among the forwards on the team, at 15.89. His PDO (a measure of puck possession) of 1049 was also second best behind only Viktor Stalberg.

In an age when forwards are increasingly being scrutinized for not playing effective defense, Hossa has adapted his game well to the increased demands on his position. It was a huge benefit to the Hawks, and they’ll need more of the same from him next season to defend their title.

The Bad:

As players get older, they become more susceptible to injury, and Hossa definitely falls into that category.

He missed 25 games in his first season with the Hawks, and 17 the season after that. After only missing one regular season contest in 2012, Hossa was bitten again by the injury bug in 2013, missing eight contests and one playoff game.

Obviously, an inability to stay healthy for a veteran forward is admittedly a quibble, but so is another criticism of Hossa, which is that he can be a streaky player at times.

During this shortened season, Hossa did curtail that habit a bit, only having one pointless stretch of four games on his resume. He’ll need to continue that consistency moving forward for the Hawks.

Best Game of 2013:

There’s something to be said about a great performance in a series clinching game, and Hossa definitely had a great game for the Hawks in Game 5 against the Minnesota Wild.

In that contest, Hossa picked up two goals and an assist, and ended up with five shots on goal in a 5-1 Hawks romp. The outburst helped him to finish the five game series with three goals and three assists, to go along with 16 shots on goal.

He would struggle to find his scoring touch periodically during the postseason, but in that game, it was on prominent display.

Outlook for 2013-14: 

With the drama of whether or not the Hawks would buy out his massive contract behind him, Hossa can get back to focusing on getting healthy after yet another injury-tinged season.

It will be interesting to see in the early going if his decision to skip back surgery to fix an ailment he suffered during the playoffs (which ultimately cost him Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final) will come back to bite him, but knowing Hossa’s track record with the Hawks, it’s likely that he will get off to yet another hot start.

The question then will be whether or not he can sustain it. He has a tendency to disappear for stretches in the offensive categories, and while his defense and forechecking ability both remain on display even if he is struggling to put the puck in the net, it would be nice to see Hossa get a bit more consistency in his game.

Even if he doesn’t, he is still clearly one of the team’s top six forwards, and will remain so for several years to come if he can remain healthy. His veteran presence will help in a locker room that is likely going to be seeing some added youth injected into it this season following the departures of Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik, and his two-way intensity should carry over to those guys as well.

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