Mattias Janmark hopes to earn bigger offensive role with Blackhawks
Janmark sought out the Blackhawks in free agency because of their aggressive, high-scoring approach. Now he must prove he can add to it.
Most people saw the Blackhawks’ high-risk, high-reward approach to hockey last season — 10th in the NHL in scoring chances but 31st in chances allowed — and grimaced.
Mattias Janmark saw it and grinned.
After five years with the Stars, who evolved into one of the league’s most conservative (but successful) teams, Janmark entered free agency looking for a change of scenery.
He found that in Chicago. And with the 2021 season underway, he’s hoping to earn the kind of opportunity he sought.
“The mindset over here on this team is a little bit more offensive, so that’s what I was looking for — just to get on a team with a little bit more of an offensive mindset to get my game going,” the Swedish forward said this week. “And then hopefully I can do good on the ice and be given more of an opportunity offensively, too.”
Janmark, 28, nonetheless hasn’t been slotted into that type of role yet, and it makes sense.
He stood out defensively in Dallas. From 2018 to 2020, opponents managed just 23.6 scoring chances per 60 minutes against Janmark, ranking 84th out of 522 forwards leaguewide.
That’s why the Hawks signed him and why coach Jeremy Colliton initially has slotted him on what ideally should be a “shutdown line” with Lucas Wallmark and Andrew Shaw. Janmark played 13:24 with no points in his first game Wednesday.
Janmark knows he can’t afford to sacrifice his defensive acumen. But he also has shown he can contribute on the scoresheet.
In his rookie season in 2015-16, he had 15 goals and 29 points. After missing all of 2016-17, he surged to 19 goals and 34 points in 2017-18.
Only in the last two seasons has Janmark’s scoring fallen off, thus labeling him a defensive specialist by default. He had just six goals each year and recorded 46 points in the two seasons combined.
Why did things go wrong? Janmark points to two reasons: a terrible start and a coaching change.
“The first half of two years ago was really bad, and I didn’t feel like I was creating at all,” he said. “Since then, I’ve regained a little bit more trust and I’ve created a lot of opportunities for myself but haven’t really been able to finish them off like I did before.
“Throughout that time, I’ve become a much more reliable and better player. But as far as the offense goes, I didn’t play too much power play or anything since the new coaching staff came in.”
In his first two seasons under the ultra-aggressive Lindy Ruff and then Ken Hitchcock, Janmark started 35% of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone and averaged 67 seconds of power-play time per game. In the last two seasons under Jim Montgomery and Rick Bowness, those stats fell to 31% and 29 seconds.
Even in the offensive zone, he was asked to take on more of a supporting role. The number of scoring chances for which he was on the ice stayed nearly flat, but his individual share of those chances fell from 25% to 21%.
With the Hawks, Janmark hopes to develop a better relationship with the coaching staff and show he can rediscover his scoring touch.
Despite a short offseason after the Stars’ Stanley Cup Final run, Janmark worked to improve his stick-handling and shooting — particularly trying to elevate his shots more — to prepare for the fresh start.
And it seems Colliton is already open to giving him the chance.
“He’s produced in the past, and he’d like to get back to that level of production,” Colliton said. “It’s all about who is able to drive play for our team. That’s who the ice time is going to go to. So it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.”