Sept 28, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ben Smith (28) during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks choices for Second Line Center

Dec 26, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Brandon Pirri (37) looks for the puck during the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Blue Jackets 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Tags: Ben Smith Brandon Pirri Chicago Blackhawks Marcus Kruger Second Line Center Trending

  • Giovanni Barricelli

    I don’t believe that Marcus Kruger IS the option at 2nd line center. I believe he will get “a look” at camp, …but that’s as far as that goes.

    With the recent signings of (LeBlanc, Kostka and Peckham) the Hawks aren’t done wheelin’ and dealin’. Neither of those guys are going to sign without the opportunity of making the big squad. Especially Kostka who played well in Toronto. So,….there’s another move to happen to bring one of those two on.

    Kostka is a puck moving defenseman, in the same mold as a Hjalmarsson, and Peckham is a true D-man like Brookbank, with a bit more grit. Don’t be surprised if Hjalmarsson get’s dealt, and this would open up further space for a UFA signing.

    Now, as for Pirri. I thought he should have made the team 2 seasons ago. He has proven his worth and with this being the last year on his contract (and other teams vying for him),…he is going to get a good look. He’s either 2nd or 3rd line center with Zeus flipping.

    Assuming J.Hayes makes the team and J. Morin makes the team, the addition of Pirri knocks down the cap space to $1,713,204 (assuming Bollig gets sent back down).

    That would ONLY allow certain combinations (without UFA’s of course).

    Morin, Hayes, Pirri, Danault, Smith.

    Morin, Hayes, Pirri, McNeill, Smith.

    Morin, Hayes, Pirri, Danault, Ross. (Ross only works with Danault, Bollig or Smith )

    Morin, Hayes, Pirri, McNeill, Bollig.

    Morin, Hayes, Pirri, Danault, Bollig.

    Morin, Hayes, Pirri, Leblanc, Bollig. (If Leblanc gets $1,138,205 or less)

    Morin, Hayes, Pirri, Leblanc, Smith. ( If Leblanc gets $ 1,150,705 or less)

    If Either Brookbank or Hjalmarsson get dealth, then we have a different scenario,…(the latter being more prolific).

    Possible line combinations?

    IF the Hawks start these lines:

    Left Wing – Center – Right Wing
    Bickell – Toews – Kane

    Sharp – Handzus – Hossa

    Saad – Pirri – Shaw

    (Saad and Bickell have switched…..Shaw back to Center, Kane and Hossa switched) Pirri and Handzus could…and often would switch, also.

    The 4th line could be tricky…If you keep Kruger at Center then here are a few options:

    Jimmy Hayes – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith (natural position is Right Wing)

    Kyle Beach – Marcus Kruger – Mark McNeill (Beach and McNeill being Gritty players and Right handed shot from McNeill.)

    Garret Ross – Marcus Kruger – Jimmy Hayes (RW his natural position)

    Phillip Danault – Marcus Kruger – Jimmy Hayes

    Phillip Danault – Marcus Kruger – Mark McNeill (I kind of like this one)

    Phillip Danault – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith ( Intriguing line to me. I like this one also.)

    Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – RW(Who cares? because I’d be pissed off with this scenario).

    and obviously a combination of these guys with Kruger as the main piece.

    IF….Kruger moves to WING?: Left handed shot….let’s put him at Left Wing.

    Marcus Kruger – Drew LeBlanc – Ben Smith/ Jimmy Hayes

    Marcus Kruger – Phillip Danault – Mark McNeill (interesting to say the least)

    Marcus Kruger – ( I don’t foresee Ross, or McNeill in the center position with Kruger as wing)

    Marcus Kruger – Teuvo Teravainen – McNeill (with speed and grit mix)

    Marcus Kruger – Teuvo Teravainen – Jimmy Hayes/ Ben Smith ( I don’t see this happening at all).

    I left out some players (Hayden and Hartman) because I don’t see any scenarios with them as of yet. I think their chance to make the team (either one) is very slim.