By Adam Hess
When the Blackhawks swapped defenseman with the Los Angeles Kings a few days before the NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring Christian Ehrhoff in exchange for Rob Scuderi, many fans and analysts questioned the motives behind the move for both sides. Chicago needed a legitimate fourth defenseman on the blue line, and Ehrhoff was no longer that sort of player, according to many.
However, after his first two games as a man of four feathers, Ehrhoff has already shown the kind of value he will bring to the Blackhawks.
In his first game with Chicago, last Wednesday against the Red Wings, Ehrhoff was very impressive. He looked strong with the puck, and made quick, smart decisions with it as well. His offensive instinct was obvious, and it was a welcome addition to Chicago back end.
He also made some strong defensive plays, including impressively closing off Wings forward Dylan Larkin, who won the NHL fastest skater competition at the All-Star Game, on a rush. He also controlled possession quite well, ending the night with the second-best shot attempt differential on the Hawks.
His second game saw him earn a bit more trust and ice time from head coach Joel Quenneville, as Ehrhoff played the third-most minutes among Chicago defensemen in last Thursday’s game in Boston. While the ‘Hawks fell in that one by a score of 4-2, and Ehrhoff didn’t quite control possession the same way he did the night prior, there was still a lot to like about his game in that one as well.
Ehrhoff was scratched for Sunday’s rematch against Detroit, but that scratch was hardly warranted. Ehrhoff did struggle in the possession game during Thursday’s matchup in Boston, but he was hardly the only Hawk that came out flat that night.
Listening to Ehrhoff speak last week, he was clearly annoyed with the situation he was in while playing with the Kings. He didn’t say much, but his attitude made it clear that he was happy to be out of LA, and is carrying a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he comes to Chicago, his fourth team in two seasons.
“It’s the same thing,” he told the Sun-Times. “You’ve got to know the guys and the staff, and it takes a little while. But this is a great team and a great group of guys, and they made me feel welcome from the start.”
That chip on his shoulder could end up being extremely valuable to the Blackhawks, as he will likely strive to show that he is still a solid defenseman capable of contributing to a winning team in the NHL.
While he may not have been the ideal solution for the Blackhawks blue line, Ehrhoff’s fit within the Blackhawks system is already obvious.
“The system, I think, is complementary to my game,” Ehrhoff said. “I just went out there and played the first couple of games, and it was a good start for me.”
His offensive prowess could end up being a huge addition to this team down the stretch and into the playoffs. While it’s still quite early in the “Ehrhoff Era,” if you will, the early returns are encouraging, and there is still a lot of potential for Ehrhoff to become a key contributor for this Blackhawks team.