Jun 292011

On Monday, Blackhawks television color analyst Eddie Olczyk was a guest on Chicago sports radio 670 TheScore discussing the team’s moves over draft weekend with hosts of the station’s midday show.

Olczyk joined hosts Dan McNeil and Matt Speigel, essentially, as you’ll read, to rundown outgoing Hawks’ defenseman Brian Campbell.

Regarding the interview, which you can find at 670thescore.com – I don’t know of any “fifth defenseman” around the league who led their team in ice time in 18% of the games in which they played (Campbell played in 65 regular season contests this past campaign) and was in the top three in overall ice time nearly 70% of those games.  Those are pretty impressive figures considering Campbell vies for shifts with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.  Either Olczyk is utilizing his active imagination or he says things like this to push the team agenda because he thinks it wins him points with those in charge.  And it probably does.

In understating Campbell’s value to the Blackhawks on the ice, the trouble Olczyk runs himself into is that he in the same breath underlines the reasons why Campbell isn’t so easy to replace effectively.

Campbell averaged 26 minutes of ice time during the Blackhawks’ first round series with the Canucks, second only to Keith (by thirty seconds).  Only Hjalmarsson and Keith saw more time on the penalty kill in the Vancouver series.

But what most everyone who heard the interview will remember is Olczyk’s out of line distinction of Campbell as a third pair defenseman, a role he was never cast in as a Blackhawk.  Especially since Dan McNeil, a once great local talk show host who now drives in shtick mode and should stick to staring at offensive linemen’s hips on Saturdays and Sundays, flippantly discarded Campbell as the same in a follow up question.  This you’d expect from the Blackhawks flagship radio station, not one without a stake in the race.

Also, as transcribed from the interview, Olczyk runs through his “greatest city in the world” and “organization that treats their players better than anybody” routine regarding Chicago and the Blackhawks.  Well, you tell me how long anyone can stand by the latter when your team’s top broadcaster and national spokesman and famous alumnus runs to a telephone to jump on sports talk radio and kick-in the kidneys of Brian Campbell on his way out the door to Florida?

That’s everything but high-class.

This interview took place a few hours prior to Bieksa re-signing with Vancouver.  And obviously (per Olczyk’s comments on Tomas Kopecky) before Kopecky was dealt to and signed with Florida.  Olczyk also shared his thoughts on the Troy Brouwer trade.

Dan McNeil:  How would you characterize (Brian) Campbell’s several years in a Hawks’ uniform?

Eddie Olczyk:  It’s a hard to take the cash out of it, Danny Mac.  I think that Brian Campbell was very serviceable on the backend.  I think, you know, the one thing he could do was skate the Blackhawks out of trouble in their own zone, which is difficult.  Its tough to find a defenseman that can do that and Brian Campbell had that ability – and also lug the puck up the ice offensively.  So from that aspect of it, uh, you know, he was really, when you look at his tenure here, pretty much a fifth defenseman over the course of the last three years.  And it’s tough to allocate all that money to a guy that’s not gonna play really in key situations; not gonna be out there at the end of games.

Look, he helped bring a Stanley Cup here to Chicago and I think that’s the way that you have to, uh,  think about him.

McNeil:  You know the more I think about it, the more it aggravates me that Dale [Tallon] spent all that money on him several years ago because you’re probably right on the money when you talk about his career.  It’s best summarized as being the fifth best defenseman on the team and 50 plus million dollars is a hell of a lot of money to commit to your fifth best blue liner.

Olczyk:  Well, look. When the Hawks brought in Cristobal Huet and Brian Campbell, I mean when you’re a team that, it certainly was on the upswing, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, because of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

You knew Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were on the verge of becoming elite defenseman.  And then with the whole philosophy change with John McDonough and Jay Blunk under the umbrella of Rocky Wirtz.

Everything was changing.  In order to play in good players, Danny Mac, you had to overpay them.  I don’t think there’s any doubt they had to do that to start bringing people into the greatest city in the world.  And things have changed, there’s no doubt about it.

But I think if you watch Brian Campbell over the course his career, I mean, his greatest asset, I talked about him, his skating ability, his ability to be able make plays offensively.  Defensively very average; wasn’t gonna be out there at the end of games, wasn’t gonna kill a lot of penalties.  Last year he did that because Joel needed that from him because of all the injuries and the players that have come and gone over the course of the last couple years.

But, look, when you’re in a situation when you need players and you want to change the, kind of the culture, like the Blackhawks did three or four years ago, you’re gonna have to overpay players to come to your team, or to come to your city.  That isn’t the case anymore. Because, this is a destination for any player that wants to be in the greatest city in the world and play for an organization that treats their players better than anybody.  And I think that is what the team has going for them, and obviously the success they’ve had in winning the Stanley Cup two years ago.


Matt Speigel:  So, Troy Brouwer is gone.  A very flexible, useful player for a few years and, uh, a lot fans a little upset about that.  Is what he brings something they can replace easier than fans might realize or how palpably with they feel the lack of Troy Brouwer?

Olczyk:  I think its an excellent trade when you take a look at what Stan Bowman and hockey operations got for Troy Brouwer.  I mean Brouwer is probably a legit 18 to 22 goal scorer.  A guy that’s gonna finish a lot of checks; isn’t overly fleet of foot.  Is he a top six forward?  Probably not.

But, I think he brings the dimension that the Hawks need.  And they have cap space now, uh, to be able to do that.  You’ve got some guys you need to sign.  You moved the Campbell contract out.  Troy Brouwer’s contract was up.  You have some restricted players that need to be signed.  You have some unrestricted guys.  It’ll be interesting to see what does a guy like Tomas Kopecky, would the Blackhawks want to bring him back at a reasonable price.  I though he had a very good season.

But Troy Brouwer brought that physical presence up front that the Blackhawks are lacking right now.  I think that’s an area of concern.  I think they need to get bigger.  I think they need to get heavier.  And there’s quite a few players out there that I believe would look beautiful in a Blackhawks jersey that play that particular role.  So, it’s a missing void but when you look at the philosophy of what’s gone on, I think it opens up some space and now you’re gonna need some players to fill that void.  Not only offensively, from Troy Brouwer, but probably more importantly that physical presence of a guy that would make teams pay the price when they’re playing the Blackhawks.

McNeil said replacing a guy like Brouwer would be nice, but more importantly, McNeil suggested, is acquiring a guy to fill the hole on the second defense pairing.  (I thought these guys just declared Campbell as a third pair guy?)

Eddie Olczyk:  I agree with you, Danny Mac.  When we talked, I guess it was a couple of week ago, you talked about needs.  To me, I don’t think there’s any doubt – a center icemen between Jonathan Toews and Davey Bolland.  But I agree with you.  I think they definitely need to get a physical presence, a heaviness, on that back end.  And yes, I mean, Kevin Bieksa is in play with a lot of teams.  He is coveted by a lot of teams and it’s gonna cost a lot of cash, but the Blackhawks have that.

(he rambled on about buy outs and options leading into July 1st… )

But, to answer your question long-winded – Absolutely, I think (Bieksa) would look outstanding on the back end because he does bring that nastiness.  And you gotta look at the way the team is built.  And you look at the dynamics.  Let’s look at the top four right now.  You have Brent Seabrook who is the most physical defenseman back there.  You have Duncan Keith, you have Nick Leddy and you have Niklas Hjalmarsson.  I think you need somebody like that (Bieksa).  But again, you know, there’s only so many guys like that and there are a lot of teams that are going to be vying for that type of player.


When asked about the Hawks pursuing potential UFA’s on Friday, mentioning Ed Jovanovski specifically, Olczyk responded.  “At a right number” “I think he’d be real serviceable as a 5 or a 6.”  He said he’d bring Jovanovski in, if the numbers are at 2 years, 3 mil range per.  But he also said the more pressing was need on blue line was a guy to fill 22-24 minute gap.  Hey, there’s that Brian Campbell spot again.


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  9 Responses to “Eddie Olczyk calls Brian Campbell a 5th defenseman; touts Bieksa”

  1. Wow, I think you totally missed Olczyk’s point (and I should say I don’t speak for Eddie, but this is just what I “heard” him saying). Eddie wasn’t saying Cambell was a third pair D, he was saying strictly defensively speaking, he was the fifth best. There were four other guys on the team that were called on to be the D-pair when it came down to it. How do you not agree with that? Yea, if Eddie said he was the third line D, I would totally disagree. I didn’t see him throwing him under the bus at all. Should he probably not say anything but, “he was a great guy and we will miss him”? Yes. But then what would you write about?

  2. Joe, a “5th defenseman” would be a “third pair” dman.

    Chris didn’t leave anything out of that part of the interview. Listen back or re-read it here.

    “I think, you know, the one thing he could do was skate the Blackhawks out of trouble in their own zone, which is difficult. Its tough to find a defenseman that can do that and Brian Campbell had that ability – and also lug the puck up the ice offensively. So from that aspect of it, uh, you know, he was really, when you look at his tenure here, pretty much a fifth defenseman over the course of the last three years.”

    Edzo didn’t quantify his statement. You’re just choosing to take it that way. If you “heard” it another way, perhaps you were listening to a different interview.

  3. You are right, he did say “pretty much a 5th defenseman.” I would have to go back and look over the Vancouver series, and see who was out there against the other teams top two lines, and at the end of games in order to say if he was really not out there at “key situations.” I am not trying to defend or change what he said. I just don’t see the part where he is totally ripping him or anything. He should have said something like, “when he was out of the lineup at the end of last year (2010-11), we didn’t play our best. And then he came back in the playoffs and made a difference.” (or something like that)

    I liked Brian Campbell, and I think he would still be a Hawk if he was under 4.5, but he wasn’t. He is gone now, I think we should move on.

    I definitely noticed him out there at the end of game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals!

  4. Now that I look at it Mike M, aren’t you reading something that isn’t there?

    How about this, can a 5th best D not pair with the 3rd best D and then that is the “2nd pair D”. I am just saying think about it and get back to me if you want…

    1st pair – #1 and #2
    2nd pair – #3 and #5
    3rd pair – #4 and #6

    So technically, you could have the “5th best defenseman” on the 1st pair D if you really wanted to. Pair him up with the No. 1 D.

    Just thinking out loud.

    • Basically from the midway point of the series on, Campbell was mostly paired against the Sedins.

      Joe, show me a coach playing the 5th best dman on his bench 26 minutes a night in the playoffs, and you’ve just shown me a coach who’s about to get his ass fired.

      I don’t know how anyone could logically question Campbell’s level of opposition when he averaged 26:26 of ice time in the Vancouver series, to Keith’s 26:55. Did I miss Cody Hodgson and Max Lapierre lines each skating 18 minutes a night?

      I’m not getting into another discussion with someone who’s trying to belittle Brian Campbell as defensively incapable or in need of a babysitter. There’s no basis or truth in that argument. He has his mental lapses, but so does everyone. Keith has them, everyone does. Campbell though is under a greater microscope because of that deal and typically doesn’t catch a break with the average fan. (now with 51 gone, there’s a greater weight on Keith. Let’s see how this works out) I like Hjalmarsson’s game a lot, but he had just as many lapses as Campbell, probably more, this past season. Campbell is perfectly adequate in his own zone. And that’s what you ask him to be given what he’s there for. He’s a little impatient at times with his gaps, and can get caught anticipating on assignments down low. That’s all fair. You’d like to see him more engaged in front of his own net, but Keith had the exact same issue this past season. But the great majority of the time Campbell is where he needs to be and working in all zones, his included.

      At least on my end, this post had nothing to do with an inability to “move on”. It doesn’t affect me one way or another. I haven’t had a chance to write this here, but to everyone I’ve spoken with privately over the past week I’ve stated this: At some point the Blackhawks would need to trade that contract. Actually, no matter how good Campbell was, you’d still have to. So, in my view, if the Hawks felt this was their best chance to deal it, then you have to accept that. You’d rather do it next summer, but you can’t predict next summer with no cba in place. The problem with it now is how you replace him. He was your best puck carrier. He’s a tempo changer. A tempo the Hawks want to set. Hjalmarsson can’t do it. Montador won’t. Campoli’s a level below. Leddy needs more time. The Hawks have a puck possession offense. By the very definition of their style, in no scenario can Campbell’s value be underplayed. If Leddy suddenly turns into Drew Doughty this fall, then problem solved. I don’t see Leddy being that good, at least for another year or two. He’s forced to do his on the job training at the NHL level. That can shake out a few ways. If your goal is to win a Cup this year, losing Campbell is a big blow to the Hawks’ overall approach.

      I like Montador and touted him at the deadline, but he’s a 5-6 guy (overall game) on a championship contender. What I like most about him is he plays it rough, yet skilled enough to move up and spot you minutes and not be out of place in the top two pairs and can play either special teams. However, if he’s playing more than 20 minutes in big games on the Hawks, you’re asking too much of him. Campoli has a good stick and covers good space but he’s still too easy to bait.

      I don’t know how long you’ve been coming here or other sites, or how long you’ve been paying close attention to the Hawks’ broadcasts, but Eddie Olczyk has exhibited a pattern of this behavior towards outgoing Hawks. Pat Foley and Olczyk have routinely targeted and ridiculed Martin Havlat in the two seasons since he’s been gone. It went on and on so vociferously that it got to the point when more people than just myself and the Fifth Feather were pointing it out the day after games. Its largely since stopped. My question is why is this even necessary? Havlat was knocked unconscious for several minutes in 2009 against the Red Wings. Somehow got cleared by a Hawks doctor to play 48 hours later (which was criminal and never should have happened) and went out to try to help his teammates avoid elimination. He would be a UFA two months later and had millions to lose potentially by playing. Yet on broadcasts six months later, Foley and Olcyzk are openly questioning Havlat’s manhood. Why? Do they think so little of their fan base that they believe they need to pound these guys into the ground on their way out so no one will miss them or think their favorite team’s GM made a bad move?

      The trouble is people buy that crap.

      • Excellent, Excellent post Chris. This is slightly off topic: but it appears the Hawks are more than willingly to play concussed players, which is obviously wrong. By doing so they risk severe, possibly career ending injury. We all remember what happened to Seabrook. It was totally obvious that he was concussed and yet they played him. You better believe that other players notice this.

        Olczyk should be ashamed of himself, but I doubt he is. As you point out, he has a pattern of this. The guy is practically worshipped by many Hawks fans, which allows him to spew this garbage. Again, this is noticed by other players. Not good.

        • Steve,

          The way the NHL handles concussions is very questionable. Dave Bolland is another one. He was walking around in a haze, in his own words, for days and failing the imPact tests after the Kubina elbow. Then one day he wakes up, feels great, takes the test and passes it. You’d have to go back and find it, but even shortly after he was back playing, he still admitted he was still getting better day by day. A doctor will tell you the brain needs time to heal. Its a brain bruise. The players want to play, so when they feel good they’re wanting back in. It’ll probably take time but hopefully doctors will come up with a better process. Right now athletes take Ritalin to help beat those tests.

  5. First off you are right, and I apologize. I said I had to go back and look at the tapes, and I did. I honestly did not remember who was playing in the “key situations” Olczyk was talking about. The problem was, I just wasn’t convinced in your article.

    Campbell was playing good D toward the end (he was getting better every game -2, -1, -1, 4, 1, 1, 0). In game 3, they started out with 2-8, 7-4, 51-14, with Keith against 17, and 7 against 22-33. (I did not watch the end, and I watched the home games because we get last change.) It did not stay that way in game 4 because of the 7 injury. In game 6, it was still 2-8 against 17, but it was 4-51 against 22-33. And, it was like that in OT, and it was 4-51 who were on the ice for the gwg. (I don’t want to complicate things, but maybe 7 was still injured.)

    So if you were to ask me now, after watching the games over, and reading your reply, I would agree with you that Eddie was off. You can’t say in any way shape or form he is the 5th best D. You could argue he was any where between 1-4 (crazy I know, but you could debate it), but most likely #3. After watching the games, I am a little concerned we are overrating 14. He nearly cost us game 6 in OT, and did turnover the puck in game 7 that cost us the series (but I don’t want to blame him for losing, and give him another chance.) Before waching the games, I would say you could argue that you value 7-2-4-14-51-8 in that order. I was way off with Campoli, what can I say.

    Maybe you are trying to keep it shorter, but it takes more evidence to prove a point (I just am like that), and that is more or less what your reply was. So, thank you for stirring the debate.

    Eddie Olczyk says stupid things sometimes, and we, the listener and Hawk fan is worse off for it.

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