With the season officially scheduled and committed to, the game is finally on. Now what? Our attention can now turn to our 2013 roster, and the challenges that await them.
Getting the roster squared away as quickly as possible is made even more pressing given that the Hawks begin the season with 8 of the first 10 games on the road which starts in LA, and is followed by Phoenix. They finish February with 7 straight at home. The road will be a tough one, but the Hawks stack up well enough against their division that I think anything could happen. Detroit and Nashville have suffered some losses, but we know that both of these teams are capable of winning with any roster. Columbus has also seen some changes, and I expect these changes to boost their success level. St. Louis should be a similar team from last year in terms of how difficult they are to play, which all comes together to make any predictions ill advised. We shall just have to wait and see.
I am most interested to see what the new roster in Minnesota means for the Northwest Conference. Vancouver is going to get a little more competition over there.
Onto the roster and chemistry equations for the foundation of the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks:
The camp roster consists of 26 players, showcasing the obvious names, which will also include Bollig, Carcillo, Kruger, Pirri, Saad, and Shaw. A couple of obvious names have been left out of this mix, including Hayes and Smith to name a few. Defensively, there are no surprises either, but the verdict is still out on what the future holds for a couple of them.
My prediction, or should I say hopes here, are that Saad and Pirri find consistent homes in the bigs. Kruger and Bollig will not, and I even have the suggestion to leave Bickell out of our mainstream conversations. His spot might very well fall so that Saad gets more ice. Plus, I am kind of over Bickell anyway. Not to beat a dead horse, but Kruger is just not the answer, and for many reasons, mostly including his skill level and playing style for the role he would fill. With the 2nd line center position open, Pirri fits the resume more clearly, plays more of a power forward roll, is a center by birth, and plays like he his bigger, even though he has nothing statistically on Kruger size wise. But, Q will most likely not share my decision making process.
We will watch the Shaw show as long as he can stay on the air, which will see him starting the season somewhere on the Hawks roster. More power to the spark plug. With Carcillo around, I see little to no room for Bollig.
I believe I have mentioned this more than a few times, but I think it is time to make some structural changes in the department of how the lines are formulated. It begins with evening the amount of action. Chemistry has seemed to be out of the equation for Q and how he throws players together. More than this, he has failed to allow the time needed for chemical bonding to occur. Not finding this last year, will cause a struggle this year that could have been avoided, but that doesn't mean the hard choices shouldn't be made.
My plan begins with taking Hossa off of the 2nd line, and placing him alongside Bolland on the 3rd. This is with the target of seeing this line on the ice more often. The reasoning follows a couple of paths, such as Hossa's age and history with injury, the chemistry Hossa had with Havlat in the past coupled with the same chemistry Bolland had with Havlat, and the lack of chemistry Hossa has with anyone else. Hossa and Bolland play a similar game. It would also be a move in the name of balance. Frolik is the most suitable candidate for the the left wing, even though he usually plays right, but the Hawks are full of right wings. Where he fits would be dependent on how well Saad shows (which plays into Bickell's future as well), and if Shaw is going to play 3rd line minutes. In this scenario, Saad and Frolik are interchangeable.
From here, I would look at the lines by two's. Hossa and Bolland would be a pair, Sharp and Kane, and then Toews and Stalberg. You might disagree with me, but Toews and Stalberg showed something that should have been given more thought. Toews makes any player better, and I think he is that rare breed that can find chemistry with anyone, but he understands Stalberg and knows how to use him more than any other player on the Hawks. Plus, their combined speed and power is something that would be hard to battle. Placing Saad here (given his power forward presence in the AHL, if it translates to the NHL) could build a power house without the need of over filling it with the names of Sharp and Kane. Again, I think Frolik's type of play fits well here too.
This leaves Sharp and Kane to bring scoring to the 2nd line. If Pirri can be a physical presence and win faceoffs, I know he has the skillset of a center to direct strong breakouts, and build puck possession in the offensive zone; the 2nd line could be looking pretty good. If he can't, then finding a 2nd line center from elsewhere, or waiting for another prospect will have to happen. I would also try to pair Seabrook with this line as much as possible.
I imagine Carcillo finds himself in the top 3 from time to time, but I hope it is fewer and far between. The most likely candidates for the 4th line are Mayers, Shaw, and Carcillo. Although, I do think Kruger can be effective here, if not just for his PK value.
There will obviously be a great deal of shifting with Q on the bench, and I would condone making small ones to pit the right players against the right teams, as some skill-sets par better against others. In the end, Hossa will stay on the 2nd line until he gets injured, because that is where the masses believes he should be, and Q has a very traditional hockey mind. The first line will be overloaded with names, and Stalberg will find himself on every line where he struggles to find a flow to his game, but will still net 15 goals in this shortened season.
The anticipation is killing me. We can talk defense another day, which does involve Hjalmarsson (IMO), pending cap issues. Approximately one week from today, the wait will end.