Since our last post touched upon an event that has had much bearing on Marian Hossa, why not talk a little bit about the guy on the wrong side of some of the douchebagery seen throughout the league in the form of high hits so well discussed. After all, Hossa is not the type of player we would ever see delivering such a hit. His teamwork, all around work ethic, sense of pride in the game and clean play is a staple to consider when looking at his value to the Blackhawks. And it only gets better.
I recently read a post at Blackhawk Up that fairly adequately summed up the strength that Hossa brings to the game in only one paragraph. With the exception of naming him the most valuable Hawk (I think that would be JT), and referring to those who where against the releasing of Havlat as meatballs (not that it matters, but I was one of those meatballs, and still stand behind it for many reasons which I will not go into at this point because it really no longer matters), I believe it hits the nail on the head. Hossa is a largely valued asset to the team, and the Hawks need him.
Hossa lead the team in points, and maybe even more importantly power-play goals, as they were few and far between. This is made even more huge when considering that what he does on the scoresheet is not the most important element of his game. In fact, I have often made the argument that Hossa is not the smartest offensive player in the world, so scoring that much is really a testament to his play. What Hossa really brings and where he is really smart is in his 2-way hockey, an area the Hawks are in dire need of.
Hossa's most impressive moments come within the defensive or neutral zone. He is defensively well positioned, arguably the best back-checker on the team, and man is this guy strong. He never hits, but the way in which he rubs players off of pucks is even more effective, and for a guy with rock hard hands, he is a very difficult player to strip off the puck. These are 2 areas that are priceless to the current Hawks squad. They lack defensive pressure, and their game depends on puck-possession as a result. Hossa brings in large quantities to both of these. The man, can be quite the beast at times, an indestructible force of hockey skill which rivals any players past and present. But, there are soft spots in his current compete level, and we know all too well how destructible he can actually be at times.
A long career with teams who have gone deep has taken its toll, and now the Hawks could be looking at a different result from his game. Keep in mind that I do expect a full recovery, but we can't really plan for it either. More importantly, when he does return and whenever that is, I think the Hawks should keep his performances as a Hawk in perspective. Namely, we have yet to see much of him during the playoffs, and he does most of point production earlier in the season.
It is not surprising that he had his best year in an Indian sweater coming off an extended off-season for the first time in a while, but he still showed signs of fatigue in the final weeks of the regular season, and the games where he outright dominated became harder to find. Pure and simple, Hossa is not up for logging the type of minutes Q wants to use him for. Hossa, more than any other player, might benefit from a more rounded attack from a full bench. If he was used more efficiently early one, we might see more from him later, and even into the playoffs.
Even more important for me, when looking at this past season is that he showed signs of ignition in those later weeks when paired with Bolland. This couldn't have made me more happy, seeing that it was something I have been calling for since acquiring him. His recent injury has pushed this option even more into the area of things I find to be imperative. Hossa is a terrific shut-down player, and playing that roll, using strong defense to create offense is exactly what Bolland does, and what that 3rd line is expected to do night after night. Putting these 2 together seems to allow them more creativity, and time to focus on offense. Bolland can be an offensive machine if that was asked of him more. I think that with both of them on a line, it would allow Hossa to sit back a little more throughout the season, in the form of minutes logged, and physical pressure. Even more importantly, it would make that line very difficult to score on and a huge offensive threat at the same time.
Of course, the looming question is whether or not Hossa even plays, and if he does, when? It sounded pretty bad in the following weeks of his injury, but new reports sound more pleasing. It will have a large impact on the Hawks season either way, because he does happen to be one of the best weapons the team has. Hopefully Q can find a better way of using that weapon.