In my three seasons doing this, I don't think I've written about a player more than 51 Phantom. Since his signing, few players have generated the debate quite like he has. And that's probably not going to change this summer. I have defended him until my vocal chords tapped out, and stared at strains of complaints about him until my brain dripped out my ear. Obviously, Campbell has his faults, but I thought for sure that the at-times haplessness of the Hawks defense in his absence the past two seasons would have quelled that. I, and he, should be so lucky.
#51 / Defenseman / Chicago Blackhawks
May 23, 1979
|2010 - Brian Campbell||65||5||22||27||28||6||2||0||1||84|
Why does he look six years old in that picture?
Positives: Plenty. When his music finally blared over the P.A. and he entered the ring a month into the season, for most of the year Campbell was just about the Hawks most consistent player. He led them in +/-, Behind The Net Rating, and was their leading penalty killer for a while too. In fact, in the first two categories he was among the league leaders. For a part of the middle of the season, it was Campbell and Seabrook finishing off tight games as Duncan Keith was out where the buses don't run. Phantom sacrificed some of his offensive game to be a more complete player, and this was the year that showed. But more importantly, at least to me, is that listening to Campbell talk after all those idiotic losses, it was apparent that he was the only player who got what the Hawks were pissing away. While Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, and others laughed off the idea of missing the playoffs, Campbell seemed to get what a dogfight the Hawks were in immediately and was imploring his teammates to notice as well. When Keith bus-tossed his teammates in Calgary, I briefly wondered why that "A" wasn't on Soupy's chest instead.
Negatives: The incessant hatred of his contract is one. Health is another. This is the second year in a row that Campbell couldn't break 70 games, and as important as he is that's a problem. His point-total will also make the uninitiated squeal, and he really should be bagging more than 27 points. Sure, there was the aforementioned sacrifice, combined with being relegated to the second power play unit because Quenneville just has to have a forward on the point on the top unit, added to the Hawks mostly-woeful passing this year making it useless for a late-charging defenseman, and you get this. Campbell could still get jumpy in his own zone when under intense physical pressure, but with the buzz being he had a broken bone in his foot late in the year, one might be able to understand why.
Contract Status: Echoing through eternity at a hit of $7.1 million
Defining Moment: Hard to think of one that stands out in a season of mostly excellent play, but we'll go with his goal in Game 4. Starting the rush, joining it, finishing it off. Vintage stuff, right? Remember when the Hawks did this all the time?
Outlook: It's going to be another summer of the meatballs eying that contract, getting loopy at the thought of the flexibility, the discovery that Campbell is not in fact 6-5 and doesn't eat people, and declaring that the Hawks must trade him. This idea has merit in time, but that time is not now. However much they build up Nick Leddy, he is simply not ready to shoulder the load that Campbell does. So much of the Hawks game is based on having two of the premier puck-moving d-men in the league on the ice for 2/3rds of every game at least, and Leddy just isn't ready to be that yet. He may be one day, but it is not this day. And Chris Campoli, while useful, just isn't ever going to be that. Perhaps the summer of 2012 would be the time to consider this if Leddy takes that leap forward. But John Cusack isn't wandering around my patio watching the world end this summer. Campbell is a valuable piece, and should remain so.
Final Grade: A-. Maybe a little strong, but on the wretchedly curved scale that were the Hawks this year, 51 Phantom stood at the top. Certainly their most consistent d-man all year, and aside from Crawford probably their most consistent skater over all. He'll probably never be truly appreciated in a town that immediately puts anyone under the crosshairs as soon as they sign a big contract (see: Boozer, Carlos), but that doesn't mean we can't.