Imagine how different the Blackhawks might look right now with an effective, proven finisher on Jonathan Toews’ right wing. Imagine how much better the power play might be with a big, strong body in front. Imagine how much improved their team defense might be with a Selke Trophy-caliber forward on the ice for 18 minutes a night.

Imagine how different this season might be if Marian Hossa were still in uniform.

“I mean, he’s Marian Hossa, right?” forward Ryan Hartman said. “He’s a future Hall of Famer and he’s scored over 500 goals in his career. He’s a guy that has the puck the majority of the game. He’s an outstanding player. Obviously, it’s good to have a guy like that in your lineup.”

The impact of Hossa’s de facto retirement (he’s sitting out this season with a skin condition, but nobody expects him to return next season at age 39) is immeasurable. Even at his age, he was one of the top two-way forwards in the league.

He scored 26 goals last season; only Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat are on such a pace this season. He was virtually impossible to knock off the puck in the offensive zone. He could chase down players half his age on the back-check, a safety net for forwards, defensemen and goalies alike. He killed penalties and played on the power play. And the ripple effect of removing him from the lineup is felt on every line.

So while Hossa’s departure was met with skepticism around the hockey world — the Hawks were in cap hell, Hossa’s actual salary on his back-diving contract dropped to $1 million this season, and it all seemed very convenient for him to go on long-term injured reserve — his absence is felt far more than his cap hit ever was. Besides, all the Hawks really did with that cap space was sign defenseman Cody Franson, who’s now in Rockford.