Jan 12, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) is congratulated by left wing Brandon Saad (20) and right wing Patrick Kane (88) for scoring a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Early, premature, and subject to change. The Chicago Blackhawks’ forward line combinations are all of these things, especially before training camp opens. However, it is a subject that will be discussed throughout the entire season and hopefully the playoffs, and it all starts here.
This is the most well-rounded line, on the Hawks roster. Offensively dynamic and as defensively stingy, and responsible as they come. This line not only does everything correct, but this line does it in spades. Expect high possession numbers, high scoring totals, and also expect this line to deployed just about anywhere on the ice, as it is Coach Q’s most reliable line.
The second line will most likely be centered by newly acquired Brad Richards, with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad as his wings. Kane and Saad showed remarkable chemistry during the 2014 playoffs, and that was with the frail and lumbering, Michal Handzus as their center. That’s where Richards comes in. A guy who, has offensive know-how and remaining skills to finally be theat elusive 2nd line center that the Hawks have sought for several seasons, now. Finally, Kane will get a chance to play with a center whose skills compliment his style. Richards should fit right in with Kane and Saad. This line, however, isn’t as balenced as the top-line. Defensively, this line might not be anything great, but they won’t be horrible either.
Defense isn’t what this line will be known for.
The 2nd line might be the most offensively dynamic/dangerous of all of the Hawks lines. A dangerous dynamic that vastly out-weighs any defensive short-comings. This line should be interesting to watch.
The third line will likely be centered by Andrew Shaw, with Bryan Bickell and either Jeremy Morin or Kris Versteeg. This line should be a solid, “gritty”, defensive line that is also able to generate a bit of offense, on it’s own. Shaw is scrappy and physical, but he can also score a bit too. He has cut down on careless penalties, dramatically, but it is an issue that sometimes still rears it’s ugly head. Bickell, the playoff superstar/regular season let-down has plenty of up-side to be a top-six forward, but his inconsistency lands him a bottom-six role. He can be very, very dangerous, but he can also be grossly unproductive. Versteeg will look to rebound after a disastrous ’13-’14 campaign. With more than a year removed from his knee surgery, expect him to have a better season, this year, or else his days in Chicago will be numbered. Morin more than played his way into regular status last season, and he will likely receive it this season. Morin is scrappy like Shaw, but more responsible about it, and he possess more offensive skills than Shaw. Morin will be one to keep an eye on, this season.
The fourth line will be centered by Marcus Kruger and whoever else makes the roster and is put on the 4th line, beside him. It will be interesting, but not that interesting. Kruger is a solid center, who gets most of his starts in the defensive zone, and makes the most of it. Kruger is a very defensive-minded center, as will be whoever plays alongside him, this season.
Keept in mind that training camp hasn’t started yet, which means Coach Q hasn’t fired up his “line blender” just yet. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out, but for now, these lines are a good base point.