NOTE FROM BARTL: I’d like to welcome our newest member and resident statistician to the staff. He’ll be contributing to Cheer the Anthem when he gets free time. His stuff is good. You’ll read it.

Less of these getting to the goalie, please

If you’re a Twitter user, you’ve no doubt seen our staff of beat reporters for the Hawks respond to trade ideas from the fanbase. The inherent difficulty here is that most of us that follow the sport are just that: fans. The names that are suggested are more representative of a panicked Yankee fan dialing into WFAN asking if, “we can trade Swishah and a prospect for Longoria and Matt Moowah.”

I like to daydream too. Picturing Shea Weber, Ryan Suter or P.K. Subban in an Indian Head sweater looks great, but it’s simply not plausible. Instead, what I’d prefer to do here is suggest a real option that may not move your needle, but it’ll address a glaring weakness that the Blackhawks are currently saddled with. More after the jump.

First, let’s just get something out of the way. As most hockey fans know (but would prefer not acknowledge) right now, there’s impending labor strife awaiting us at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season. Unfortunately, this limits the trade market a bit. With uncertainty on the horizon, general managers will be hesitant to trade for players that are anything more than a rental right now. The inverse is equally true. The salary cap is woefully unclear (hard, soft, fitted, adjusta- wait, scratch those last two) and hockey related revenue is going to be a major sticking point for the next CBA.

So, with that in mind, it’s likely that general managers like Stan Bowman will be looking for short term fixes that address specific needs on their teams. At least, that’s what I hope is going through that strangely constructed and vibrantly reflective domepiece of our GM.

If we’re going to identify an area of need on this team, it begins with the blue line. You can argue that the Blackhawks have one of, if not the, best top pairing in the game today. After that? It’s looking like a lot of third pairing calibre players. This post would become far too many words if I listed the shortcomings of 3D through whatever we want to call John Scott and Sami Lepisto.

So where is our biggest weakness on defence? Get used to the charts people. I’m a visual guy.

Click to Embiggen

Quick side note: All this data is derived from the wonderful Gabriel Desjardins of Behind the Net.

The above chart shows the amount of shots a team is averaging on net while shorthanded. Unlike SOG, this is not a category where you want to have the highest number. Without going into detail on our goaltending situation, let’s just say that it would be wise if we made sure that Corey Crawford and Ray Emery didn’t see the most shots in the league while we’re a man short. Make sense? Moving on.

To remedy this problem, the Blackhawks need a defenceman that can bring that number down.

Enter Hal Gill. As Edzo would say… STOP IT RIGHT THERE! I know you’re probably chomping at the bit (if you’ve made it this far in the post without wanting to type me an angry e-mail, of course) to say that Hal Gill is just another of what we already have: a third pairing quality defenceman. When this subject was first brought to my attention I said the exact same thing. So, I’ll just ask that you hear me out on this and look at the numbers to understand why Gill makes sense.

The data at BtN only goes back so far so we’ll start in 2008-2009. That season the Montreal Canadiens were 8th in the league in SA/60 while shorthanded. Not bad, right? The following season they acquired Hal Gill and he immediately went onto the Habs PK where he led the team in TOI while shorthanded. The Canadiens SA/60 rank while shorthanded? Sixth. In 2010-11 they dropped down to 10th, however their shot total per 60 minutes only increased by one shot. It was just a matter of the teams below them getting better.

Let’s take a look at 2011-12 where Gill is 4th the entire NHL (behind Lebda who has 3 games played and Pronger who is out for the year) in shorthanded TOI per game. Basically, he’s 2nd in the league behind only Francois Beauchemin. If he hadn’t just signed an extension with the Ducks, this post would be about him and not Gill. To the chart!

Click to Embiggen

Montreal, despite being abysmal in the standings, is allowing the least amount of shots on net in the NHL this year while they’re shorthanded. That’s because all 6’7″ and 250 lbs of Hal Gill is parking his keister in every shooting lane he can find. You can debunk this theory a bit by noting that Carey Price is behind Gill and that plays in the heads of opponents when determining whether to fire a shot or not. The fact remains though, the Habs are allowing the least amount of shots on net and Hal Gill is spending the most time on the ice during that time.

Stan Bowman is notorious for acquiring lower level depth guys around deadline time and leaving the splash-making-future-mortgaging moves to other general managers around the league. I don’t think this year is going to be any different, especially with the CBA looming. Pierre Gauthier is likely to lose his job at the end of this season. Gill is a 3rd pairing defenceman on a team out of contention. He can likely be had for a 3rd round draft pick, or at worst, a 2nd rounder.

Our line of thinking may be tainted a bit by having to watch John Scott lumber around the ice for 5 minutes and change on some nights when it comes to large individuals playing hockey. Make no mistake about Hal Gill though. He’s large, but he’s got hockey skill and acumen. He can help this team in area where it needs it most and it can be done for a limited cost.