Blackhawks Centre of Attention

The Blackhawks continue the streak and have their eyes on the prize against the Sharks on Friday night. The prize being a page in the history books as the most games played gaining consecutive points to start a season at 17.

The incident that has the Blackhawks attention after the battle with the Canucks is the Jannik Hansen hit on Hossa. The word came down from Shenaniganhan that Hansen will receive a 1 game suspension for his careless act. Whether there was intent there or not, no one will ever know; well all of us except Ms. Cleo or JoJo and her psychic alliance.

Most of the media has centered their attention on this winning/point/can’t stop, won’t stop string of games this Chicago team has put together since this lockout lifted. They will now be tested potentially without the likes of Marian Hossa for a TBD amount of time, Seabrook (who’s singing Soprano) and Corey Crawford with his Upper Bobby Ryan injury.

However, this blogger has fixated his attention on that of the centre… position that is. Your centres last year consisted of the same recipe you see today with a little less Jamal Mayers twist, sans Brendan Morrison and thank the Lord, sans Kane. Don’t get me wrong, Kane was fine in the pivot but is elite on the wing. Seriously would Kane have flourished like he has this year force fed as a centre? Doubt it.

It is not easy to play in the middle in the NHL, I’m just basing this on assumption, I’m not an NHL centre, I just play one on TV. For this reason, I was willing to cut Andrew Shaw a break moving from his time at wing last year as he looked a little lost like John Locke at the start of the season. He is now currently sporting a 48% faceoff winning percentage, good for 2nd on the team and has settled in nicely on the 3rd line.

I was a strong advocate of trying Dave Bolland (for an extended period please Q) on the 2nd line and specifically wanted to see what he could do with Sharp and/or Kane. The line isn’t perfect but rivals any other team’s secondary scoring. It was the progression of young Marcus Kruger, that made it more plausible that this was going to be the year that Bolly finally got a look on a line other than the 3rd. Kruger, however is looking great in a lesser 4th line & top PK unit role in the 2013 season, the latter is taking more pressure off of the other guys than one may think. Kruger is clipping away at a 2:47/game SH TOI (up 105% from 11-12) while Toews and Bolland have been able to rest a little more with the time going down 10% and 23% respectively.

So let’s recap:

-        Toews is Toews

-        Bolland could be the future 2nd line centre fans have been asking Bowman for

-        Shaw is Bolland-lite

-        Kruger is a wizard in a child’s body with great potential, a little like Harry Potter

 

The dynamic has changed so much for Quenneville this year down the middle. There shouldn’t be any reason to wonder, outside of Q’s stubbornness and the poor faceoff prowess (yes, the Hawks who are not named Toews still can’t win a draw) that you should be questioning the coaches’ decision to play any line, anytime. Along with the depth on the wings, all of these centres are extremely responsible in their own end; especially when you promote one of the best shutdown 3rd line centres to the 2nd line.

THIS, is a huge reason for Q’s change of heart to role the lines the way he has done to date this season. But… BUT, what happens when Bowman has to make that call to Rockford for a temp?

Martin St. Pierre is not going anywhere outside of the Rockford team bus.

Brandon Pirri is not going anywhere because he’s not a “Q player” it appears but he has great upside.

Jimmy Hayes is not a centre… stop trying to force that and let the kid play his game.

Rob Flick is your future 4th line centre in 2 years.

… and if we want to look at potential impact C’s in the future:

Mark McNeill might end up being a better winger, he definitely has the size, just needs to be consistent as a pro next year.

Philip Danault is a favourite of mine (not going to hide it) as I’ve seen him live and watched him closely in the Q and for Team Canada; he is a coach’s dream with the skillset and motor he brings to every single game.

 

The Hawks are in a good spot right now but a David Steckel/Nate Thompson type player would be a great add come deadline time. Not saying those guys per se, but a centre who can win important faceoffs is vital to the Hawks playoff success.

Ok, I can’t say centre anymore.

 

Ty’s Tidbits

- UPDATE: Marian Hossa is on the ice today (2/21). I repeat he is on the ice. Great news for him personally and for the Blackhawks organization.

- There was a lot of chatter over the Blackhawks/Canucks game with fans from outside of the team’s fanbase commenting on this rivalry. I’m sorry, this matchup has nothing on the current beef the Flyers and Pens have with each other. The Flyers hung on to win 6-5 Wednesday, which was highlighted by plenty of extra-curricular activity.

- I mentioned this on the ol’ tweet machine on Tuesday night but I’ll reiterate; if the Hawks had Carcillo in the lineup on the top line instead of skating Saad there, the outcome could have been different. Yes, Hossa still would have been hit but Carcillo wouldn’t have let Toews be the one to approach Hansen after the hit. He would have nullified the PP (that did nothing most of the night) but also could have set the tone moving forward in the game.

- Kevin Hayes suspended indefinitely? Ruh oh! http://www.uscho.com/2013/02/15/boston-colleges-hayes-suspended-indefinitely-for-violation-of-team-rules/

 

 

Ty Cam out!
@tycam

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About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.

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  1. Sean Kelly says:

    Rob Flick is a big body and you will be excited when he moves up to the adult table. “Upper Bobby Ryan Injury” is just another example of the wittiness that keeps me coming back to this blog. As a CBJ fan…this blog makes me sick. You are lucky we are friends.

    • I’m a big Flick fan – I know you watch him a lot in the Memorial Cup Sean. Him and Shaw actually had some nice battles.

      To me, he’s everything you want in a 4th line C.

  2. Steven says:

    The Achilles heel of the Hawks is not the center(centre for the folks north of the border)position. What is needed is someone to fit into the Andrew Ladd rule. Not Ladd per say. He’s never coming back, but someone who’s willing to go into the corners and to the front of the net every game.

    My favorite prospect is naturally playing in the W, McNeill who I’ve seen play in person. In two years will be watching Mark digging in the corners with the best of them.

    • Thank you for acknowledging our Centre spelling Steven. haha.

      Couldn’t agree with you more on the type of player in need. With that being said, if you bring in an impact player someone has to go to open up room:
      Stalberg? Saad (back to the minors?), Frolik?

      I know arguments can be made for all three of these guys but simple math tells me if the Hawks want to get tougher, someone needs to start packing.

  3. Steven says:

    Somebody will be shipped out.It all depends on the dance partner and their needs on who heads out the door.

    Let’s just cross our fingers and hope that Bowman the lesser has the stones to make the deal.

    • Good one Steven! We’ll see about that. He’s been pretty gun shy in the past.

      It would be a shame if he didn’t pull off the right deal to improve this team for the playoffs.

    • New To Hockey says:

      I would have to say that Stalberg is the most likely to go. Stan blows Saad in the media so much I would think he’s untouchable. Shaw and Bickell are two of the few gritty players right now. If the team looks to move for more grit, I don’t see them moving either.

      • Ty Cam says:

        I agree. Stalberg also would garner the most return. I would hate to see him go but with him being a UFA next year, I am think he is the perfect candidate to acquire some grit.

        Just for fun:

        ~ Stalberg for Z. Smith (OTT): I know his name has been brought up in JJ’s blogs but he is a C/W that is young gritty and can score the odd goal… all for $1.9 mil/year.

        ~ Stalberg & Leddy for Ryan Jones & Ryan Whitney (EDM): unlikely that a young, up-and-comer trades with inter-conference but I hear Ryan Jones might not have a spot with the plethora of talent up front and Whitney has been a healthy scratch multiple games this year. All four are FA next year (Leddy the only RFA).

        Add in picks and prospects where you see fit but it’s deals like this that could add to the physicality to this team, even if it means giving up some younger, promising talent; Bowman must look at options like this.

  4. New To Hockey says:

    I’m excited about the pipeline at the middle (avoiding nationalized spelling that way) forward position.

    Danault was awesome in the WJC. I haven’t seen his numbers this year, but I know in years past he was a machine at the dot (over 60%).

    McNeil has some nasty. He could easily be a Bickell with the “on” switch thrown every night.

    Flick will end up being a fan favorite along the lines of Burish, IMO. He’s all effort and that flying blonde mop of his brings to mind Clay Matthews.

    • Ty Cam says:

      I can’t WAIT to see Danault in the Indianhead. He is currently 54% at the dot in the Q for the year and sits in top 10 in assists.

      I was a huge fan of Brouwer and feel like he is the exact guy that the Hawks need right now. However, trading him for the pick that became Philip Danault makes me OK with that trade. He is a player you win with and every team needs.

      I hope you’re right about McNeill. That kind of attitude will be welcomed with open arms in Chicago.

      I think you’re right with Flick. Fans will love him and love him even more if he grows those golden locks back!

      • New To Hockey says:

        Flick cut his hair? Last I saw I was out in Rockford the week after Christmas and caught the game with Eli. He still had the long hair then.

  5. Great point, I have mixed feelings about the issue

  6. Justin says:

    Hawks and canucks have a good rivalry but there isn’t the hatred like the flyers/pens.. when u have the best players in the world like sid/malkin/giroux taking cheap shots instead of playing hockey u know they hate each other.. also the games have been rollercoasters.. no lead is safe and all hockey logic and basics r thrown out the window its iust end to end making for great entertainment..

    • Ty Cam says:

      You won’t here a complaint from me with that Justin.

      Hawks vs. Oilers tonight… should be a fast-paced match. Chicago better be prepared.

      NEW blog to follow tomorrow.

      Cheers,
      Ty