Carl Soderberg comes to Chicago after previous stints with equally young teams in Arizona and Colorado. | Ross D. Franklin/AP
Soderberg’s role in the Avalanche’s turnaround between 2016-17 and 2017-18 gave him valuable experience he can now use to help the Hawks. Carl Soderberg has been “old” by NHL standards for most of his NHL career.
A star in the Swedish leagues throughout most of his 20s, Soderberg didn’t jump across the Atlantic to become a full-time NHL forward until the 2013-14 season with the Bruins.
Four games into that season, Soderberg turned 28. Now he’s 35 and entering his eighth NHL season.
“My role in NHL for a while [has been] playing against top lines,” Soderberg said Monday in his first comments since signing with the Blackhawks on Saturday. “Chipping in offensively, helping the team, scoring some goals. Hopefully that’s what I can do this year too. I’m looking forward to the start.”
Soderberg’s relatively advanced age hasn’t impacted his performance thus far. He’s been remarkably consistent statistically, scoring between 35 and 51 points in all but one of his seven seasons.
The only time he didn’t was 2016-17 with the Avalanche, but the experience and perspective he gained during that extremely trying season will still benefit him with the Hawks now.
That Avs team was a disaster, finishing last in the league with a 22-56-4 record. Soderberg, age 31 at the time, only contributed to those struggles with a mere 14 points and a minus-26 rating in 80 games.
The rest of the roster was loaded with other underperforming, over-the-hill veterans, including 39-year-old Jarome Iginla, 36-year-old Francois Beauchemin, 35-year-old Rene Bourque, 33-year-old Fedor Tyutin, 32-year-old John Mitchell and 30-year-old Blake Comeau.
The Colorado franchise’s outlook couldn’t have looked much worse.
But just one year later, it couldn’t have looked much better.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Carl Soderberg, seen here battling with Brandon Saad in 2018, experienced a massive transition during his stint with the Avalanche.
The 2017-18 Avs erupted as the NHL’s biggest surprise, climbing to a 43-30-9 record — nearly doubling their 2016-17 point total — and qualifying for the playoffs.
The youth movement that completely turned around the team was led by 22-year-olds Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Zadorov (the latter of whom will reunite with Soderberg in Chicago this season), 21-year-old Mikko Rantanen and 19-year-olds Samuel Girard and Tyson Jost.
Soderberg, then 32, suddenly became the oldest man on the roster as the Avs jettisoned all of their aging dead weight from the prior season. And he bounced back personally, tallying 37 points in 77 games.
So Soderberg clearly knows plenty about rebuilds, even as an older player. That’s why he still has a lot of faith in this Hawks team in transition.
“I know it’s a rebuilding team, but it goes quick,” he said. “In Colorado, a couple years ago we were rebuilding too, and now it’s one of the [top] contenders in the league. So it goes very quick. Hopefully this year is going to be our year.”
The Swedish center was part of an equally young, future-looking Coyotes team this past season. He tore up the Hawks in particular, recording one goal, three assists and nine shots in the three Arizona-Chicago matchups.
And while he sat idle as a free agent for several slow months this autumn, it sounded like that was largely his own choice.
“I had a pretty good season last year, so I pretty much knew a couple of teams were going step up late and give me a couple of offers,” he said. “I didn’t want to sign before we knew the whole setup, where it was going to be.
“It was never a question for me. I wanted to play in the NHL and I was very happy when Chicago called me.”
Soderberg will have to first win a job in what could be a surprisingly competitive training camp battle, because what this Hawks team lacks in top-six talent it makes up for in bottom-six depth.
But if — or when — he does, his negative impact on the Hawks’ average age metric should be more than compensated for by his rebuilding experience.
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