Monday, October 2, 2017

Blackhawks Roster Breakdown: Forwards

by Gatekeeper

With opening night less than a week away, the Blackhawks are down to some tough decisions with their roster. We talked at length about the options on Tuesday night's Shoutcast, but there are some real questions. I'm going to break down some of the upcoming roster decisions or at least try to lay them out in a logical manner. This doesn't mean Joel Quenneville will decide to use the logical method. Lastly, we look at the offense:

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik

This is your first line, and it has been since the day the Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad back in June. We all know what we are going to get from Saad and Jonathan Toews. Richard Panik is a bit more of a wild card. No one believed me when I predicted that Panik could easily replace the 34 points that were sent to Montreal with Andrew Shaw. No only did Panik replace the points, but he eclipsed it. By a decent margin. He played all 82 games, and contributed 22 goals, 22 assists for 44 points. These are all better than Andrew Shaw has ever reached in his career. I don't expect that Panik will have 22 goals again, but it's really not all that unreasonable. With Saad on the other wing, Panik will have more room to work. As long as he is in the right place, he will have every opportunity to equal that 44 points. This line is light years better now than it was in April. Expect Jonathan Toews to have a bounceback typical Jonny Toews year, and for Brandon Saad to have a career year. Saad is coming off three straight 50+ point seasons, and this year will be no different. 60 points is not unfathomable.

Alex Debrincat - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane

I know, the Debrincat hater has him not only making the team, but playing in the top 6. If you look at the alternatives, there really aren't any. Unless they move Nick Schmaltz back to wing, no one else fits the position, and they certainly haven't been playing Schmaltz at center all preseason only to dump him back at the wing. I think Debrincat will hit the wall in ten games and they will need to re-adjust but, for the moment, it won't hurt to try this combo out to open the season. Speaking of Nick Schmaltz, this kid has impressed me. He was a pouty little brat, last season, once he was sent to Rockford and it rubbed me the wrong way. Granted he still has that pouty look on his face all the time, but his play has grow leaps and bounds. He was “good” last season, after he came back from Rockford, but this preseason he has been excellent. I would have never placed him at second line center, but that is where he has been the entire preseason. He has not looked out of place either. This makes you wonder what the future holds for new third line $4.55 million center Artem Anisimov. Patrick Kane is; Patrick Kane. I don’t want to say too much or the PC Police will come after me.

Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - Ryan Hartman

If we didn’t expect to have Debrincat or Schmaltz on the second line, we certainly didn’t expect to see Artem Anisimov on the third line. If Debrincat makes the team, I’m fine with Sharp on the third line, and if Debrincat doesn’t, then someone like Wingels or Hayden can slide up. Ryan Hartman is a perfect third line player and will have a solid year once again there. Anisimov is a perfectly fine third line center, but I have my reservations about paying a player $4.55 million for the next 4 years to play on the third line. At some point they have to investigate getting him to waive that no trade clause and clear that cap room. For the near future, he is perfectly fine in the third line role. Even if he can’t win a faceoff to save his life. Circling back to Debrincat, Quenneville toyed with playing him on this third line with Anisimov and Hartman, and I’m not a fan whatsoever. He is not really responsible defensively, yet, and he is not a player that drives possession by himself. He needs to be set up for his chances, by skill players. Anisimov and Hartman are good, but they are good straight line players. They are not going to set Debrincat up with beautiful passes, or dazzling moves. I cannot see this experiment working, and you are not putting him in a position to succeed based on his skillset.

Tommy Wingels - Tanner Kero - Lance Bouma
Tomas Jurco, Jordin Tootoo
, John Hayden,Vinnie Hinostroza

This fourth line is a complete mystery. You might as well just throw all the names in a hat and randomly pick them out. What you see above is not what I would select, rather what I think Quenneville and Bowman will decide. Tanner Kero is a fine, responsible fourth line center and should have that position locked down. Tommy Wingels, Lance Bouma and Jordin Tootoo are basically the same player in “small, medium, sort-of-large” sizes. If Quenneville wants to keep one of those three players as a 13th forward for the “grit”, that’s fine by me. Keeping all three is simply preposterous. My honest opinion is that they should keep Wingels and Hayden, waive Bouma or Tootoo, and launch Tomas Jurco into the sun. This is not the year to waste roster spots on players that you mistakenly signed or traded for. The problem with this entire scenario is that the Blackhawks rarely ever admit their mistakes, which means Wingels, Bouma, Tootoo, and Jurco will all make the roster. This leaves Hayden and Hinostroza heading due west to Rockford, even though John Hayden has done everything to make this opening night roster. We are only talking about 6-8 minutes a night for this line, but it is just not the best way to maximize your talent. There I go applying logic again. Please allow me to beat any logic out of my brain with a 2x4.


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