Chicago Blackhawks 2021-2022 season review: Could Henrik Burgstrom be better used as a defensive striker?

It’s always easier to find out who the player is I can not an act.

Take Henrik Borgstrom, for example. Given that he turns 25 in August, it’s probably fair to assume that the Finn striker won’t become the attacking dynamo he was predicted to be when the Florida Panthers drafted him 23rd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Having played just 52 games last season while scoring just four goals and three assists for the Blackhawks, it doesn’t look like Burgstrom will become the player the Blackhawks were hoping to land in last year’s deal, either:

But Borgrstrom is still under contract with the Blackhawks for another season with a meager $1 million cap, which makes it look like he’d at least be considered for a spot on the roster with the 21-22 version of the team.

So, let’s see if there is something Burgstrom Can Do at the NHL level.

Much of the complete inspiration for this piece came from the tweet below, courtesy of a former occupant of this internet space:

And Phils was right: Borgstrom’s average of 1.97 predicted goals for 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time was 12 in the NHL among strikers who skated for at least 250 minutes last season (sample of 456 players).

Scroll down the list of every possession-based metric available in the Natural Stat Trick and you’ll find that Borgstrom’s “relative” stats are almost always positive: shots, goals, shot attempts, scoring chances, high-risk chances – all. The easiest summary of what it all means is that the Blackhawks had better disc possession – in terms of quality And the Quantity – When Burgstrom was on the ice. It comes even though Borgstrom has an offensive starting ratio of 39.5, the tenth among 15 Blackhawks forwards who skated 250 minutes in 5-on-5 last season.

JFresh Hockey’s Borgstrom player card, which uses data from Top Down Hockey, also supports the idea of ​​Borgstrom’s defensive prowess:

Better than the 99 percent of the league in equal strength defense? will play. This card also offers one more caveat to Burgstrom’s numbers: the quality of his competition is in the 45th percentile, which means that just over half of the league has faced more difficult opponents than Burgstrom did.

For another visualization of Borgstrom’s defensive effect, here’s a pair of heat maps from the Hockey Viz website. The first is with Borgstrom on the ice, when the Blackhawks predicted a target-for-average drop of about 20 percent:

When Burgstrom was on the ice, the teams had a lower shot rate than the most dangerous part of the ice, right in front of the Black Hawks’ net. Here’s what it looks like with Bergstrom on the bench:

(Side note: Here I’m going to take a minute and use it as another chip in mapping the data against the eye test. I’m sure I’ve been kidding a few times this season because I forgot that Burgstrom was in the team and didn’t think he had one trait worth mentioning. But this indicates there could Be something else worth exploring here. Not a guarantee, of course. It’s something, though, that’s better than nothing.)

It is also possible that these numbers are anomalous, of course. Borgstrom’s relative numbers were also below team averages during his 50 games with the ’18-19 Panthers in Borgstrom’s junior season. He’s started in the offensive zone 55.85 percent of the time that season, so perhaps Burgstrom could also be put in situations where attacking players are expected to thrive, but that may not be his strong suit in the NHL.

That doesn’t mean Borgstrom is worth studying long-term in Chicago either. Perhaps Borgstrom will be used in a defensive role next season and become good enough to be turned over by the Blackhawks on the deadline for selections and/or possibilities they stock as part of their planned rebuild. If not, Borgstrom’s contract will be terminated in 2023 and he will become a restricted free agent that Chicago could allow him to walk through. Minimal loss, if that is the case.

Whether it’s in the long run or until the next trading deadline, though, the Blackhawks shouldn’t rule out Borgstrom entirely just because he won’t light up the scoreboards for every game. There is more than one ice party where attackers can contribute.

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