- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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CHICAGO-- Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman describes new defenseman Sheldon Brookbank’s skill set as a departure from the style the Hawks usually employ on the blue-line.
Brookbank is not the slick, puck moving type, which means his focus is on defense. And that’s probably a good thing considering the Hawks ranked 22nd in goals against last year and 27th in penalty killing.
And as the lone newcomer to the team -- at least at this moment --Brookbank knows some eyes will be on him but downplayed the pressure.
“It’s strange,” he said Friday at the opening of the Hawks fan convention at the Chicago Hilton. “I was thinking about that today. I came in here and I was the only new addition. I don’t think there will be any real big pressure. It’s not like they are bringing me here to score 50 goals. I’m just here to play some solid defense.”
The Hawks tried a similar tactic last summer when they signed Sean O’Donnell, but his age (40) may have caught up with him as he had mixed reviews in the limited time he saw. Brookbank is younger (31) and moves quicker than O’Donnell. He knows he needs to help improve a porous penalty killing unit.
“Penalty kill isn’t just one guy, it’s the group of four and the goalie,” he said. “But I’m definitely going to try and help out with that and compete and make it tough on the other team’s power play.”
Unless the Hawks move a defenseman before the season begins, there will be plenty of competition for playing time. Brookbank joins holdovers Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Steve Montador and Johnny Oduya as mainstays while youngster Dylan Olsen is on the cusp. But most of those names are known for moving the puck not necessarily playing lockdown defense. That’s where Brookbank comes in.
“I knew hockey was a big deal here but (the convention) kind of opened my eyes even more,” Brookbank stated. “They say there are 10,000 fans, I feel like that’s how many we had in the stands at the Honda Center in Anaheim sometimes…The buzz there is like nowhere else in the league. I’m not going to take it for granted.”
Hawks fans might remember Brookbank’s name from this past season. He was one of the few players brave enough to drop the gloves with former Hawk big man John Scott.
“I don’t know if there was anything going through my mind there until his fist hit me a few times,” Brookbank said. “It wasn’t my smartest decision but I’m here to talk about it.”