With training camp starting up in September, this Blackhawks fan has been trying to channel his inner Coach Q. These are my projected lines for the 2013-2014Chicago Blackhawks.
As with everything in life, we start at the top. The top line should remain the same from the Stanley Cup finals. Jonathan Toews is your center with Patrick Kane at right wing and Bryan Bickell at left wing. The chemistry this line had during last season’s playoff run was unstoppable. This is the line everyone in the NHL fears when they play the Blackhawks. This is a very easy decision for Coach Q. Coach Q will not mess with success.
After the first line, the choices for Coach Q become interesting. The second line has been muddied in confusion and speculation. The confusion is with the center position. Coach Q stated at the convention that Brandon Saad would get first crack it. Stan Bowman believes it will be Brandon Pirri. Pirri is a natural center who excelled at Rockford last season. Are you confused yet?
In my mind the choice will be Brandon Pirri. Pirri could be this season’s Brandon Saad. Coach Q should not make the same mistake with Saad as they did with Kane previously (Kane was moved to center and struggled). The line will be Brandon Pirri at center, Marian Hossa on the right wing with Patrick Sharp on the left wing. Pirri is the only mystery on this line filled out with veterans Hossa and Sharp. Pirri playing with Hossa and Sharp should take his game to another level just like Saad did last season. Pirri should be a Calder finalist this coming season.
The third line last season was combination of players varying throughout the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs. Staples from the third line and fourth line Victor Stalberg, Dave Bolland, and Michael Frolik are no longer members of the Blackhawks. This coming season the Blackhawks third line will be filled with younger players. My projected third line is Andrew Shaw at center, Ben Smith on the right wing and Brandon Saad on the left wing. This line will be quick young and highly skilled. Saad being moved to this line is not a demotion. Saad bring a speedy scoring threat to complement Shaw. Ben Smith is the wildcard on this line. In his very limited time with the Blackhawks, Smith has not faltered or waivered. He should excel on the third line.
The fourth line will be totally revamped this season due staples being traded. The fourth line will be once again centered by Marcus Kruger with Jimmy Hayes on the right wing and on the left wing Brandon Bollig. Kruger will be a floating center, spending time between the third line and fourth line this season. Kruger will be expected to provide more on the offense this season. Boling will be the muscle on this line with Hayes bringing skill and speed up from Rockford. Both Boling and Hayes have played with Blackhawks before. Boling received time with the fourth line during the Stanley Cup finals. He is a good role player and will fit well with the fourth line. Hayes hopefully will make a smooth transition from Rockford to the NHL.
On the bench and fellow fourth liners will be Michal Handzus and Jeremy Morin. Handzus was resigned to mentor the young kids from Rockford. In my mind, Handus is also a second line center insurance policy. Morin has the potential to play on all four lines. Currently he cannot be projected on a line by this Blackhawks fan. These projections could be spot on or they could be completely off base. We will have to wait and see.
With each passing day, the wait gets shorter and shorter.