Lost in the luster of Sam Gagner's rare and remarkable 8 point game this week, was that the Chicago Blackhawks were on the receiving end. This team 2 years removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup has now lost 5 straight and looks lost out on the ice. In an 8-4 rout, Toews, Kane, and Keith all had even +/- ratings with Bolland, Shaw, and Leddy bottoming out with -3s. This is a team that had a goaltending controversy earlier in the season when Emery was hot and Crawford was average, now both guys suck. So they didn't want to pay Antti Niemi (the goalie who actually won the Cup) $3.8M per season and they shipped him off so that they could pay Corey Crawford $2.6M? Not a bright move.
Do they miss Brian Campbell? There's no doubt they were happy to have Florida relieve them of his massive $7.1M contract (and the next 4 years of it for a 32 year old), considering Campbell's contract was a major contributing factor to Niemi and Byfuglien being moved out of town after their championship. However, Campbell is having an all-star season and is a big reason that Florida is competing for a playoff spot. Is he earning $7 million dollars? Maybe not, but he's a useful component and an excellent puck moving defenseman.
Ultimately the Blackhawks are 29-17-7 and 11 PTS ahead of the 9th place team in the west in February. They will make the playoffs; Toews, Keith, and Kane are outstanding players who will challenge for individual awards for years to come. But this team is not nearly as good as they were 2 years ago, and should not be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The fact that the struggling Edmonton Oilers just lit them up like a Christmas tree, and a mediocre player like Sam Gagner went on a run where he seemed to produce a goal every time he touched the puck; I wouldn't be in a rush to draft Blackhawks in my playoff pool.
For the record, I completely disagree with Sam Gagner getting all 3 stars, even for the best offensive game since the 80s. Eberle and Hall each had 4 points and made significant contributions to Gagner's output. ESPN's boxscore awarded Hall the 2nd star and Eberle the 3rd, which was the correct move.