Tag Archives: Detroit Red Wings

The Potential Chicago Blackhawks Savior: Pius Suter

With injuries to Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews, Pius Suter has been an unlikely surprise for the Chicago Blackhawks. Suter, unrelated to the hockey royalty Sutter family, grew and played his junior career in Switzerland. While never drafted, Suter certainly hasn’t gone under the radar.

He has played internationally for Switzerland since 2013 and has been invited to NHL camps since 2017. The young center spent most of his Swiss career at ZSC Lions, a top player contributing goals, assists, and championships to the Zürich club. 

Pius Suter The Potential Savior of the Chicago Blackhawks

ZSC Lions

In the 2019-2020 season, Suter won the MVP award and recorded 30 goals and 23 assists. This season wasn’t a fluke for Suter, he previously led the team in assists with 28 in the 2017-2018 season, and was a big reason for the Lions winning the National League championship that year. Savvy hawks fans might remember one of the Lions who previously played with Chicago: Marcus Krüger.

Another big similarity for both the Lions and the Blackhawks is the celebratory goal music. Chelsea Dagger played all over Suter’s extensive highlight reel. In July 2020 Suter implemented his exit clause to join the Blackhawks on a one-year club-friendly contract. 

International and NHL Experience

Suter has been making waves in more than just the Swiss league. The lefthanded forward has played with and against some terrific talent in his nine seasons as a skater. Wherever he goes, Suter seems to find the back of the net. Having played internationally for Switzerland since 2013 he has collected 20 points in 33 appearances.

The most notable performance was in the 2018 Olympics. Against host country South Korea, Suter scored a hat trick in an 8-0 rout of their opponents. His experience has drawn attention from multiple NHL teams including the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders. The NHL invites and workouts motivated Suter to push his game to the next level. He finally earned himself a full-time opportunity for one of the original-six squads this season.

His Role for the Hawks

The Blackhawks had to search for alternative options filling out the roster after the open letter to fans declared the team was going to rebuild for the next couple of seasons. Suter was a low risk potentially high reward acquisition that was set to be featured on the backend rotation. After injuries and illness, two of the top centers were on the shelf his role was greatly expanded.

The constantly shifting first line for the Hawks featured Suter, Alex DeBrincat, and Patrick Kane against the Detroit Redwings last Sunday. It was a good night for the top line, two goals at even strength and one additional power-play goal, all scored by the Swiss native. It was the first hat trick by a Blackhawks rookie in the first six games of the season in over ninety years. 

Strengths

As a player, Suter is known for quick hands, wise decision making, and a nose for the net. When he has the puck, don’t blink. Most of his shots are likely to come off rebounds, redirects, and wristers. Very little of his shift time will be spent at the point, despite being under six foot most of his skating is done in the crease and slot.

When he does have the puck he is constantly looking up at his teammates or the net. Suter also excels at elevating the puck no matter what position his stick is in. While not the hardest hit shot, the puck jumps off the blade and catches most defenders and goalkeepers off guard.

Weaknesses

Where he will have to improve is in his strength and tenacity. In the young season, he won about 43% of faceoffs. A number that will need to boost if he wants to stay on in crucial situations. As the smallest center on the roster, he will have a target on his back as top teams will try to bully him off the puck.

It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks trainers and dieticians will try adding muscle to Suter’s slim frame or if they fear it will cost him his scoring and skating ability. The Blackhawks can afford to be more patient when it comes to their young players as opposed to years past. Expect to see much more Pius Suter on your television in the coming months.  

Rule Changes to Improve the NHL

A theme across a variety of sports recently has been new rules or ideas to make the games and leagues more appealing to fans. MLB has begun timing various parts of the game, cutting down on mound visits and mandating a minimum number of batters a reliever must face in an effort to speed up the product.

Every offseason it seems like the NFL has a new definition of what a catch. The idea of adopting the “Elam Ending” became popular in various NBA circles following the 2020 All-Star game.

On the most recent edition of the Luke & James Show, we were in agreement that the NHL could benefit from allowing the public to view what happens when on-ice decisions are subject to video review. That’s not the only rule change I would make.

Improving the NHL with Rules Changes

Make Every Game Matter

The NHL draft lottery gives the best odds to win the top pick to the team with the worst overall record. The era of rewarding teams for losing needs to end. I would continue to slot playoff teams in the draft by how they finish.

I propose ordering the non-playoff teams by comparing the percentage of games each earns points in games against the others. The team with the highest percentage gets the number one pick and continue in this fashion until the team with the lowest percentage is drafting one pick before the worst playoff team.

It’s important to note that the games that count toward this final percentage are only ones between non-playoff teams. I do not want to punish a team for being able to compete with the top teams in the NHL. Using the percentage of games a team gains a point is the best way to deal with the unbalanced schedule.

An eight-team division might have five playoff teams. If the rule was based strictly on the number of points, the three non-playoff teams would have fewer chances than other teams to move up in the draft order.

An Example

To give a better idea of how this would work, I compared the four teams in last place in their respective divisions. My math is based on if the season ended today. Under the current system, the Detroit Red Wings are a runaway favorite to have the best odds at the number one pick.

In my system however they are struggling, gaining points in just 12 of 34 games against other non-playoff teams means their percentage is 35.3. The Los Angeles Kings have played fewer games against non-playoff teams because of their division and conference, but have made the most of their chances. Their point percentage is 48.1% after picking up points in 13 of 27 chances.

The New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks give an example of how this type of race could be exciting. Points in 19 of 29 games gives the Devils a robust 65.5 percent. Like the Kings, the Blackhawks have done well despite fewer opportunities. Gaining points in 17 of 25 games against non-playoff teams checks them in at 68 percent.

Other non-playoff teams have to be calculated. But under my proposal, the Blackhawks would have the best pick of these teams, the Red Wings would have the worst.

Why This Should Happen

There are multiple reasons this would benefit the NHL. First, consider the glut of games at the end of the season for non-playoff teams where it is, unfortunately, in their best interest to lose. That’s not fun for fans. Under my proposal, fans of non-playoff teams would be able to root for their teams to win late in the season. It would also make games between non-playoff teams more important and hopefully increase attendance at these games.

Second, hockey is a physical sport with a drawn-out season. This proposal gives players a reward to continue to play hard throughout the year. If they come up just short of making the playoffs a high draft pick could be useful in multiple ways to help them make the playoffs the next year.

Finally, while hockey owners are significantly less likely to cut payroll and tank in the hopes of high draft picks, this proposal removes any motivation to do so. Every team is competing for something and quality players are being paid to play.

Do It NHL

Restructuring the draft order is beneficial to players and fans in the NHL. It can make owners more profitable. Being the first league to do this would make the NHL seem innovative.