Chicago Blackhawks – Part V playing GM with the forward positions and taking center stage


Chicago, IL — I said I would look at the Hawks if Patrick Kane were their 2nd line center. In this installment I will. Now while it is unknown as to the health status of Marian Hossa, it is  Hossa on the right-wing who would fit in best on this line in my opinion. I’m going to make the assumption that Marian Hossa return from injury because quit frankly that is what I want. Let’s take a look at options currently outside of the Hawks’ system.

UFA’s

LW – big name UFA’s Zach Parise, Alex Semin, Ray Whitney, Andrei Kostitsyn,

More likely –

  • Dustin Penner- LAK cap 4.250 solid two-way player who had pedestrian numbers in the regular season but really stepped up his game in the playoffs. Penners regular season numbers were lower than Bryan Bickells. His price tag maybe too high now that the Kings have gone this deep in the playoffs.
  • Travis Moen –mtl cp 1.5, same as Penner number were worse than Bickell during regular season
  • Ruslan Fedotenko NYR cap 1.4 ditto

RW – big names UFA’s Shane Doan, Ales Hemsky, Brad  Boyes

  • P.A. Parentau NyI cap 1.250, interesting 20 goal scorer would add offensive punch but the defensive part of his game is lacking but for the right terms and price he could be an interesting option.
  • Davey Jones avs cap 2.5 good numbers with 20/17 37 point totals. High s% of 14.7 so he could finish. Could be an interesting choice. He has size and is only 27 yrs old. Defensive part of game is the ? but then again Avs are not a good team. He is a consideration but is not better than Stalberg.

RFA – Jaime Benn LW Dal, Kris Versteeg RW FLA, S Kostitsyn LW NAS, James Neal LW PIT & David  Perron, LW STL; None of these will be leaving their teams maybe Kostitsyn but look for the rest to sign back with their current teams and with Kostitsyn being with Nashville they are not likely to want to deal with the Hawks.

Rick Nash wants out of Columbus 7.8 cap hit and Blue Jackets would want more than the Hawks would be willing to give in return. So enjoy all the Nash talk over the summer I do not see him coming to Chicago because the Hawks would probably have to give up a player from the core to get him and that’s not going to happen.

If I were Stan I would take a pass on all of these UFA’s/RFA’s and look either to my own bench or the youth that I had previously drafted as a solution. I think the Hawks have enough talent at wing to balance a line with Kane and Hossa. So who are these winged flyers that the Hawks could plug-in on that line with those two superstars? Let’s take a look

Blackhawks Prospects

Left Wingers

  • Brandon Saad – is probably going to make the Hawks and most likely going to see top 6 or even 1st line minutes. He has the potential to be a power forward. He had a monster year with the Saginaw Spirits where he logged 76 p – 34G/42A +35 in regular season then added 8G & 9A in the playoffs. He has a salary cap hit of 897k and is on a two-way contract. The Hawks will give him as serious look and every opportunity to make the team. I would put him as the front-runner of all the LW prospects unless there was a surprise in training camp.
  • Jeremy Morin – 4th overall in scoring on the Rockford IceHogs with 40P 18G/22A +9.  He is on a two-way contract for 886K til 2014. He is a hard-nosed scraper like Shaw.  He missed out last year’s camp and beginning of IceHogs season due to a concussion which had him sidelined for 9 months. It is Morins’ time to shine but he will need to really work to make the Hawks keep him. He was drafted in the 2nd rd by Atlanta in 2009 as part of Byfuglien, Eager, Sopel trade from the Thrashers. He has a good chance to make the team but there is a lot of competition and he has to really shine.
  • Kyle Beach – This could be Beach’s last stand to make the big club or be traded. Beach is a big body at 6”3” 208 lbs but has yet to crack the team with his inconsistency. Taken in the 2008 draft 1rd 11th overall Beach is on verge of being a bust unless he can impress in training camp this year. He is currently on a two-way contract for 1.170 and will be a RFA next year so the time is now to move him and try to get something for him if the Hawks feel he can not make the team.  Out for 5 months with shoulder injury but there is no denying his offensive potential whether it will ever be reached is the question. Beach’s size is a plus but in order to make the Hawks he will have to really play and impress the coaches like his hockey life depended on it. Because it does.

Saad , Morin and Beach will all be given a shot to make the team at LW. Out of the three I believe Saad has the best shot at making the team. He was not sidelined with injuries like Morin and Beach. Saad paired on a line with Hossa at RW and Kane at Center could provide enough power on that 2nd line. He has a solid two-way game. I know it is hard not to look over and see those two stars and just be in awe. Saad has to play like he owns that left-wing and not worry about who he is playing with. Play your game kid, be solid defensively and don’t turn the puck over in your end or in the neutral zone and the rest will come. Don’t worry about the offence. After all,  say what you want about Kane he is still one of the best set up men in the game and with him on your line you will get plenty of offensive chances.

Right Wingers

  • Ben Smith is the most likely to make the Hawks. Hampered by injuries, he only played in 38 games with 31p 15/16 +2. Still he had very good numbers considering his time. He has a great shooting percentage, highest on the team with 18%. If he is to make the Hawks he will probably be on the 4th line with Kruger centering. If any one should wear an Indianhead jersey this year it should be Smitty after he beat Sedin to bag that goal past Bobby Lou to send the Hawks to a game seven in 2011. Work your tail off boy because every fan in Chicago wants to see you wear that jersey next year.
  • Rustislav Olesz,   What to do with Olesz who has a huge salary 3.125 mil contract signed until 2014. The Hawks would love to unload this salary but can’t.  I don’t see any team taking him on. Remember he was part of the Brian Campbell deal with Florida Panthers. When the Panthers took on Campbell’s big contract the Hawks had to take Olesz’s contract which was still smaller than Campbells.  He was third on IceHogs last year in points with 41 points 17 G/24A  +7 in 50 games.  Good shooting % at 11 which speaks to his accuracy and finish. He has tons of talent and potential but seems to wither on NHL ice whether in Chicago or Florida.  He was drafted 1rd 7th overall in 2004 but has never reached that potential. Olesz is an offensive threat from anywhere on the ice, but he is streaky and his consistency could use work. I’m sure he will be brought into camp again this year. Now whether or not he stays that’s the question & whether or not the Hawks can move him that’s the bigger question. I think the Hawks will be stuck with Olesz so they need to try to get everything out of him they can. If he could come in & replace Kane at RW it could be a huge push for the Hawks but everything depends on Olesz.
  • Jimmy Hayes, 6’6 220 lbs out of Boston College is the big forward the Hawks need. He was taken in the 2008 2nd rd draft. He along with Andrew Shaw sparked the Hawks when they needed it most in 2011. The problem with Hayes was that he sort of dropped off towards the end of the season and in the playoffs was on the bench. Still Hayes has the size and good offensive instincts. He could be that big net front presence that has been missing from the Hawks.  He has the potential to be a 20+ goal scorer but has to work on overall consistency and come to every game focused and ready to drill the opponents. His size makes him very attractive and if he can’t make the Hawks he could be used in a trade.  He will have to come to camp prepared to battle.

While I think Olesz has more natural skill than Smith, I also think Smith will work harder and take advantage of every moment he has to impress the Hawks coaching staff. Out of these two I look for Smith to make the team but I wouldn’t discount Olesz’s skills. Jimmy Hayes’ size and offensive abilities could make him the most likely to make the team. Not all three of these will make the team so someone will be used in a trade with Olesz contract either Smith or Hayes will likely be used as trade bait or spend most of the year in Rockford. I see the options being  if Smith can’t make the club I would say he will be traded because of his RFA contract being up or Hayes seeing most of 2012-13 in Rockford. It all depends on who steps up in training camp and who wants it more.

The Blackhawks had a couple of UFA’s that are likely not to be returning. Andrew Brunette LW, 2mil salary cap hit showed last year he was too slow for this team and might retire. Brandon Morrison C 1.25 salary cap was virtually silent most of the time so don’t look for him to be returning to the Hawks. Just this week they signed Jamal Mayers RW for 600K which is pretty cheap. It was a little surprising given it is taking a roster spot and his sitting on the bench during the majority of the playoffs. It also could signal the Hawks are really looking to beef up on the forward lines. I’m not sure where this leaves Brandon Bollig  LW who is a RFA this year and as of yet is not signed. I personally would have went the Bollig route because of the age factor and I think Bollig has more offensive potential. I don’t see the Hawks keeping both. So maybe they will package Bollig in a trade.

Blackhawks wingers returning no matter what

Patrick Sharp is going nowhere except to Johnnys’ ice house for practices and the UC for games. While 2011-12 was not his best he was battling injury all year. Sharp is too valuable to give up and he is part of the core and signed through 2017.

So far I have not mentioned rookie sensation Andrew Shaw RW or Daniel Carcillo LW because these two will be dawning the red, black and white in Chicago for 2012. Daniel Carcillo was resigned by Stan Bowman to the surprise of many. Really it is not too surprising and he was signed pretty cheap. When the carbomb was in the Hawks lineup they were winning handily. It was when Carcillo went out on a suspension and eventual injury that the Hawks had problems. Carcillo is a gamble no question but, he can open up the ice for Kane or Toews and has some skill of his own especially if he is on a line with that kind of talent. Carcillo has a deceiving backhand and don’t discount his presence around the net. He also is solid defensively. In only 28 games he was a +10. He seems to have good chemistry with Kane on the ice.

He needs to just reign himself in and push his game to the edge but not over. If he can do that he may yet be Stan Bowman’s biggest coo. I’m a Carcillo fan, I want him to do well and I think he has the talent to shine but he must adapt his style of play to the new NHL rules with sheriff Brendan Shanahan if he is to really thrive. If he can’t he may find the NHL moving on without him. Carcillo is being given a golden opportunity here in Chicago. Can you image being on a line with Kane and Hossa or Toews and Sharp?  I just hope he can check himself and take advantage of this chance.  If he can it could pay huge dividends for both him and the Blackhawks.

Andrew Shaw what is there to say. This kid was like a dream come true for the Hawks last year. He is hungry, skilled and has the hockey IQ to again be an impact with this team. He is fearless and has the grit and the grind that this team needs. Look for him to spend time on the Bolland line in 2012. Look for him in the dirty areas around the net and in the corners. Shaw is a bargain with his entry-level contract of only 565K and the best part is he is signed until 2014. Welcome to the big leagues Shawzer you wear that warriors head well.

Blackhawks wingers that likely will not return or used for trade bait

Viktor Stalberg RW – cap 875K will be UFA in 2013, trade value could not be higher than it is right now. Half of Stalbergs’ goals were against CBJ but he has shown improvement. The question for Stan is was 2011-12 the tip of the Stalberg potential iceberg or did he just have an unusually good year? There is no question he has world-class speed but he does need to work on defensive parts of his game and he is still developing. He was 5th in point leaders on team but disappeared in PO’s 43 points 22G/21A +6. PO – 2 assists. Stalberg last year was like found money for the Hawks. I bet the Toronto Maple Leafs are kicking themselves now with the Versteeg trade. No Versteeg and no Stalberg. The 26ys old has good size and needs to use his speed and physicality more. In time with coaching and development on the defensive side of the puck, he could become a very solid two-way power forward. This makes him a valuable trading chip. I would listen to all offers since Stalberg will be a UFA next year and will probably be getting a hefty increase but I would not let go of him easily or without a lot in return if I was GM. His potential is limitless and I like him paired with Kruger on a line or possibly with Toews and Sharp on the first line which could bring his numbers even higher.

Michael Frolik RW– cap 2.33 hit is very very high for a 4th line winger. He was drafted in first round 10th overall as Jonathan Toews 1st rd 3rd overall in 2006. While it is not fair to compare the two it is human nature. To say Frolik has not reached his potential would be an understatement. Frolik was picked ahead of Claude Giroux can you imagine that. What I guess I’m saying is people saw something in Frolik but he has yet to deliver. Frolik was part of the Jack Skille trade with the Florida Panthers. He had 15 points 5/10 -10 during the regular season in 63 games played.  He stepped up in the playoffs with 2 goals and 1 assist and at the IIHF worlds. Maybe Frolik is on the verge of becoming an impact player and maybe not.  Frolik needs confidence & coaching on the defensive side of his game. He is only 24 yrs old decent size but needs to bulk up to be a power forward. Frolik’s contract could make him difficult if not downright impossible to move. The Hawks I think believed he would one day bust out into that 1st rd 10th overall pick player but it has yet to happen. I’m not sure what the problem is with Frolik but if I could move him I would. He may get a better opportunity elsewhere.

Byran Bickell LW – cap 541K will be UFA in 2013 needs to play more physical but is a steal and can still develop on the Bolland line. He ended the regular season with 24 points 9/15 -3 rating. He really stepped up in the playoffs with 2 goals and took his game to another level. He too is still developing and took a step back from the 2010 – 11 season where he had double the points with 43. The Hawks need to figure out why that happened. He is only 26 yrs old and with good size but must learn to use his size effectively. Look at Dustin Brown of the LA Kings. If Bickell could learn to use his size to finish checks and deliver legal big hits he could be a monster. He has a wicked wrist shot that is deceiving as well. I would keep him around especially on the Bolland line with Andrew Shaw. That line last year worked well together. I want more from Bickell, more goals, more assists, more hits, more takeaways because I know he can do it.

So if the Hawks go with Kane at center look for him to have Hossa on his right side to provide stability and a good two-way game. That leaves the left-wing open on that line. If this line is to succeed it needs a solid defensive player or some muscle in my opinion. Kane has to work on the defensive side of the puck and improve his skills here otherwise this line will be in trouble.

Saad, Morin, Beach, Carcillo, Bickell and Bollig are the options.  I don’t think they would put Sharp here because that would weaken the Toews line too much. Bickell will be on the Bolland line period. In my opinion out of all of these the most likely candidate is Carcillo because of his chemistry with Kane and he is NHL ready. He also could open up the ice for Hossa and Kane and get filthy in front of the net. The other alternative would be to have Saad on this line, which could make for a monster line if the kid can step up and not be star struck. There is no question Saad has more offensive potential than Carcillo but he also does not have the bite. It was that bite that the Hawks missed and have missed up front. My first option would be Carcillo then Saad unless in camp someone really shines.

Not all of these forwards will make the Hawks squad some will be sent back to Rockford and some traded. Finding the right balance and chemistry is elusive.  If there is one thing though that the Hawks should have learned since 2010 is how important the surrounding cast is and the balance among all four lines. If the Hawks are to regain their 2010 Stanley Cup winning form it is essential that all forward lines are equally capable of scoring as they are of stopping an opponent’s top lines.  There is no question the strength of this team is in its skilled forwards up front. This makes getting the lines right with the correct personnel I think imperative on them getting another cup.

In the next segment I will be taking a look at the defense and who is staying who is potentially going and who the trade partners could be and what we could get in return. Til then happy puck drops.

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