Trevor van Riemsdyk surprised many by making the Chicago Blackhawks roster out of training camp. His addition led to the subtraction of Nick Leddy. Leddy was going to eventually command more money and it has been well-documented that the Hawks are against the salary cap.
The move was widely panned, but what fans and critics of the trade can agree upon is that van Riemsdyk has been a pleasant surprise through one month of the NHL season.
‘TVR’ has essentially filled the role that Leddy had as the stalwart on the third defensive pairing. Has van Riemsdyk been expected to drive play in the same mold as Duncan Keith? No, but he has been asked to maintain offensive pressure and be efficient in the defensive zone as needed. Nick Leddy was asked to do the same, but Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville apparently soured on the young blueliner.
Coach Q has used Trevor van Riemsdyk effectively through one month. TVR has been protected from overexposure, playing an average of 13:46 per game and no more than 19:00 minutes on any given night. TVR does not usually play on special teams which explains his lower time on ice. Third pairing D-men don’t usually play a lot as it is, and if Q keeps trusting van Riemsdyk then expect to see his average time on ice rise closer to 15:00 minutes.
Another reason for Trevor van Riemsdyk’s nice start is his usage. Chicago’s defensive zone start defenseman pairing is usually Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook would take the defensive draw, as well. Those four are not the set in stone that way as many fans have witnessed through the first month of the season. Keith and Seabrook have been playing together again for roughly one week. That being said, the other three defensemen that have suited up, TVR, David Rundblad and Michal Rozsival have the three highest offensive zone starts relative to their playing time, or Off ZS% Rel.
Rundblad’s Off ZS% Rel. is 20.96, Trevor van Riemsdyk is second at 9.00 and Rozsy is third with a 2.27. Quenneville is making sure that third pair is starting in the offensive zone with the hopes of maintaining offensive pressure. Their quality of competition is usually lower, as well. Little things like that can help the learning curve.
TVR’s zone starts have also helped him achieve the third highest Fenwick Rel%, or Fenwick For. According to war-on-ice.com, Fenwick For is a player’s on-ice Fenwick% minus the player’s off-ice Fenwick%; off-ice Fenwick% is the percent of unblocked shot attempts taken by the player’s team when the player is not on the ice (but in games where the player is in the lineup).
Duncan Keith leads Chicago’s defensemen at 3.41% Fenwick Rel%, which simply puts his FF% numbers in context with his teammates. Trevor van Riemsdyk’s Fenwick Rel% is 2.56. Thanks to War-On-Ice for compiling this and so much more information.
Numbers do not tell the whole story. Trevor van Riemsdyk has done so many little things well. He pinches to keep the puck in the offensive zone when it is warranted, he’ll skate the puck into the offensive zone to allow for line changes, make the easier pass that is available, clear the puck for defensive relief, and keeps his feet moving. It can be easy to be caught flat-footed at the offensive blueline and get blown past by a speedy forward. TVR is also doing this while playing with no permanent defensive partner. A few games together a pairing does not make.
The forward grouping have seen Q’s wrath for majority of the NHL season, but to have a higher level of consistency on defense can be the most important aspect of a team besides the person in net. Seeing Trevor van Riemsdyk take advantage of an opportunity on one of the best teams in hockey should make fans excited for the youth that Chicago possesses, as well as the talent associated with them.
Thank you to Jen Lute Costella for her guidance.