Second line center candidates
With the offseason free agent frenzy still in swing for most NHL teams, the Chicago Blackhawks are done making free agent moves. This makes the Blackhawks fan base start to wonder how Coach Q will assemble his lines for next season. The biggest line question in my mind, is who is going to be play second line center?
Coach Q has to find a consistent second line center for this Blackhawks unit. Dave Bolland played there much of last season, but had many injuries hindered his play. Bolland is now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, so he is out. Michael Handzeus who was the second line center throughout most of the playoffs is rumored to be the fourth line center this coming season. The popular names are Brandon Pirri and Marcus Kruger.
Marcus Kruger should get the first shot because of his play in the playoffs last season, scoring a huge goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. Marcus Kruger was also the fourth line center last season. Brandon Pirri will get the next look because he is a center from the Rockford Ice Hogs and won the AHL scoring title. Stan Bowman wants to infuse some more youth on this team so Pirri figures to be on it regardless. Both Kruger and Pirri are solid choices for the position. I would not be sad if either got to center the second line.
I think someone who deserves some consideration and is very underrated is Ben Smith. Ben Smith according to Hockey future is “a versatile forward that can play well in any situation, at any forward position”. Don’t forget in Ben Smith’s small sample size with the team. He scored the game winning goal on Roberto Luongo to force a game 7 of the 2010-2011 Conference Quarter finals. Ben Smith also stepped in for Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Stanley cup Championship in 2013. Ben Smith did not shrink from the moment and played well in both high pressure situations.
I’m not saying Ben Smith is better than Marcus Kruger or Brandon Pirri, but he should at least get a look.