Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg gaining traction in his performance

The embattled forward continues to improve as he returns for another season in Chicago after a brutal 2014 postseason.

I will defend Kris Versteeg to the death.

If you follow me on Twitter, I don't think that idea is unknown to anyone. This essentially means that each and every time Versteeg does something right or impressive, I'm going to point it out. And more than likely, I'm going to shout his successes from the rooftops, while quietly slinking back into my cave during his failures. Regardless, his performance for the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night was definitely one that made even the most fervent of Versteeg haters quite happy.

Versteeg netted a pair of goals in the effort that we've been waiting for from this Hawks team, as they decimated the Montreal Canadiens by a 5-0 count. The two-goal effort took his season total up to five points, including four scores, in nine games on the year. Certainly a strong start, especially considering where he was just a few months ago. But his contributions aren't limited to his goal output. His possession numbers look quite good as well.

His Corsi% on the season is just a touch over 60. He's only finished with a relative Corsi in the negative twice, one of which came on Tuesday night, oddly enough. Other than that, he's been well into the positive in the Corsi department, despite bouncing all over the lineup, spending some time up with Jonathan Toews on the top line, and plying his trade deep down in the bottom six as well.

This is a nice turnaround to see from a player that was being driven out of the city as recently as this summer. In fact, there are plenty of fans who literally would have given him a ride to Calgary on their own dime. But the coaching staff and front office stood by him, and it's paying dividends.

The thing about Versteeg that's more difficult to measure with any sort of metric is his confidence. He seemed apprehensive in his first couple of games out, especially considering he started the season late due to injury. Once he got his legs under him, he's clearly gained confidence, which has translated to success on the stat sheet. And while we're not quite free of the questionable passes or foolish overstickhandling, his decision making has shown improvement here early on.

Like it or not, Kris Versteeg is an asset to this team, and he continues to prove it. He can play all over the lineup, as he has, and provide a source of secondary scoring, also as he has. With Patrick Sharp now out and expected to miss extended time, Versteeg will be leaned on more as that source of offense beyond the primary goal scorers. As his confidence continues to grow and his decision making improves, the consistency will be there, and perhaps at that point, Versteeg's true value will shine on through.

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.