The Chicago Blackhawks have had many great players play for them but not many people talk about Brent Sopel and his importance.
The majority of Brent Sopel‘s career was spent with the Vancouver Canucks. Well, that may be true but some of the biggest impacts he had in the National Hockey League came with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was only three years but it was a three-year span that he took full advantage of. He was with the Hawks from 2007-2010. He was with them for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final which they would win over the Philadelphia Flyers in six games.
Sopel was one of those depth defensemen that was a perfect fit for a Chicago blue line that was so good. Players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Brian Campbell made up the top-four but a player like Sopel can’t go unnoticed. Sopel didn’t have great offensive statistics but they were good enough to complement a defensive play as a depth guy.
In 154 games with Chicago, he had three goals and 27 assists for 30 points. In 2010, the year that they won the Stanley Cup, he played in 22 playoff games where he had one goal and five assists for six points. Chicago would win the Cup and end a 49-year drought and Sopel was a big part of it. You need depth players like him to come in and do their jobs correctly in order to achieve that ultimate team goal.
Sopel was one of those players who was so dedicated to winning that he would do whatever means necessary. People will always remember a guy like Niklas Hjalmarsson for what he did in terms of blocking shots. Well, Brent Sopel was the same exact way. These guys were basically traveling goalies with much less equipment on which makes them that much more important.
The Blackhawks scored lots of goals but they were also very good at suffocating teams who were trying to attack in their zone. Sopel was a big part of that, especially in 2010 where the Hawks needed him the most.
Sopel along with Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers following that 2010 Cup because mistakes were made that made it where they couldn’t fit them under the salary cap. The Blackhawks did end up getting a draft pick from Atlanta that previously belonged to the New Jersey Devils where they selected Kevin Hayes. Hayes eventually walked as a college free agent to play with the New York Rangers so the trade wasn’t awesome for the Hawks in the end.
Either way, fans shouldn’t discount what Sopel did for them en route to their Stanley Cup drought ending. He wasn’t able to stay and help them win any more of their Cups but winning that first one set them off for a decade of dominance. Sopel’s ability to accept and execute his role was so big for this team at such an important time.