Chicago Blackhawks' Brian Campbell celebrates go-ahead goal against Vancouver Canucks in 2nd period during Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Game 4 at United Center in Chicago, IL on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. (Scott Strazzante/ Chicago Tribune) B581209379Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS,  NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...  (hockey pro)

About This Time Of Night, 51 Phantom Gets To Feelin’ Right

This was just about the worst kept secret around here in a while. The only question for the Hawks and Brian Campbell was just how cheaply they could bring him back. $2 mildo and the answer is, “pretty fucking cheap.” I hope Beavis and Butthead in the booth don’t pull a muscle having to backtrack all the things they said about him since he left.

In case you don’t watch the Panthers much, and there really wasn’t much reason you should unless you’re demented like me, Campbell spent the past two years playing with Aaron Ekblad and the two of them basically kicked the competition’s nuts up into their throat. They were +5.2 and +5.7% relative in Corsi to the rest of the Panthers, with pretty evenly split zone starts. Gudbranson and Mitchell (for some reason) took on the toughest competition most of the time for the Cats, but Campbell isn’t going to have to worry about doing that here either.

If you don’t remember Campbell’s tenure as a Hawk, he was a second-pairing possession monster, which is exactly what the Hawks missed last year. Campbell does give Q some options. He can reunite him with Hjalmarsson, a pairing that went so well it was them closing out games in 2010-2011 when Keith couldn’t be arsed. When Keith was putting out major fires in the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, Campbell was dominating the Predators and Canucks (twice). Or if Q wants he can keep Keith and Hammer together to do the heavy lifting and Campbell can drag around the Food Bag. Either way, it keeps TVR as a third-pairing bum-slayer, which is all he’s ever going to be (and you have to squint a little to see that). Or if Kempny pans out he can do that as TVR and Rozie split time. This was last year’s biggest hole, and now they’ve filled it for just $2 million.

The financial aspect is glowing as well. It gives Kempny a year to come to grips with the North American game. Forsling and Pokka get another year to prove it and scratch out time on the third pair. There’s wiggle room for whatever extension Pantera is going to get after the season.

Are there concerns? Of course. It’s one thing to dominate possession in the Flortheast Division and another to do it in the Central. There aren’t heavy teams other than Boston in that division, whereas Campbell is going to have to deal with the Blues and Jets and Kings and Ducks and Sharks on the reg here. But Campbell can still skate, can still escape, and he can pinch the play in the neutral zone or start it from his own end with his feet. He also gives the 2nd power play unit a QB (even though it still should be the first because Keith just isn’t that good at it) and we saw what that can do when Richards was here. Of course, Q will outthink this to start the season, but that happens.

You can get away being a little short at forward as the Hawks still are with a very solid 1-6 blue line. They have that now, and Stan will once again get until March to figure out the forwards. By the time the spring rolls around, this signing alone should make the Hawks better than they were last spring.

White lightnin’ flashing across the Mississippi sky…

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