Maybe it was just the fact that he came so instantly with a nickname we could come up with, I rooted hard for Vik Rattlehead. But Vik is a harder study than most. It's so easy to notice speed. Anyone in the rink can look down and say, "Good christ, that guy can fly!". You don't need a scout's eye. The opposite is true as well. Anyone watching a game can see a player that can't move and say, "What, has he just been hit by a frost-giant?" (sorry, just saw Thor. Better than I thought it would be, actually). And because those skills are so noticeable, and Stalberg's skating standout so far over a great majority of players in the league, I think he gets scrutinized a bit more. We all assume because he's so much faster than everyone else, he should be better to. At least at times we do. Sadly, that's not the case. But it could be one day. And Stalberg will be one of Stan's tougher decisions this summer.
#25 / Left Wing / Chicago Blackhawks
Jan 17, 1986
|2010 - Viktor Stalberg||77||12||12||24||2||43||0||0||3||135|
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent, requiring a qualifying offer of $735K.
Positives: Well, uh, the skating I guess. Stals might be the fastest Hawk since...well I have no idea. Tony Salmaleinen never hit the ice so I don't really know how quick he was. Early in the year, Stalberg actually meshed quite well with Skille on the 4th line and the two of them caused some havoc with their, shall we say expressionist speed (very impressive but kind of all over the place). Rattlehead also showed a scoring touch and actually got himself promoted to the top line in November, where he netted that OT winner against the Ducks pictured above. When that didn't work, Stalberg was able to fit in on a 4th line role. When facing the bottom of the opponent's roster, they had no answer for his skating, and combined with Vik working as hard as possible, he at least created some energy. Tried to be as physical as he can at the end as well, but will clearly need to be putting in some time at CrossFit this summer (there's a plug for you, Kills).
Negatives: Well, he didn't do anything the two times he got promoted to the top line, with only a handful of goals on Toews's wing to show. Defensive prowess could really use some work. And for someone who's 6-4, he does get knocked around way too easily. Plus skating can be mitigated if it's never in the right direction, which Stalberg sometimes descended into. Had a habit of shying from contact as well, which won't endear him to many. And it took forever for Coach Q to warm up to him, as he was regularly down to eight minutes a night for at least the first six weeks of the season. Rarely used that frame to screen the other goalie, which should be one of his things, too.
Defining Moment: Has to be this. Displays all the tools you could ask for a winger, and yet it adds up to just short of enough. All encapsulated right here:
Outlook: As I said at the top, this will be one of Stan's tougher calls. It's really hard to give up on this package (by crackee?) at the age of 25. Yes there's the speed, but also the size (which there's still time to learn how to use) and a scorer's touch if not feel quite yet (the shootout goals exhibit this, as does his opening tally of the season against Columbus). Stals won't be that expensive, and at the very least could do wonders on a 4th line with Ben Smith and whoever at center (ChrisDruryChrisDruryChrisDruryafterbeingboughtout). It's unlikely that Stalberg will get a huge offer from somewhere else, but you never know. But if that doesn't happen, I think Stalberg should be kept at 4th line money for at least another season. If he plays higher than that, everyone wins.
Grade: C+. Hard to give him more than that. If his whole year resembled the beginning and end of the regular season, it would be higher. But there was that middle bit. And a guy who probably has top-6 talent finding himself on the 4th line, well, that's not a great season, is it?