Sep 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) checks Detroit Red Wings center Kevin Porter (28) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Defense rarely has been an issue for the Chicago Blackhawks in recent memory, with guys like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook holding down the front. Not to mention the dynamic Swedish duo of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya being able to matchup against any forwards in the league.
But going into the 2014-2015 season, the Hawks are still trying to figure out the back-end of their defense. Nick Leddy seems to be a lock to be the #5 d-man, although a trade could come at any point now and it would surprise anyone. So that leaves one spot up for grabs and a bunch of names fighting for it.
Obviously Michal Rozsival would be the first guy to mention, as he is making a ton of money and has been the #6 defensemen for the past two seasons. At his advanced age, he no longer has the speed (never really had it) to keep up for an 82 game season. At most Rozsival can give this Hawks team 60 games and that might burn him out for the playoffs.
The Hawks have David Rundblad, who they acquired last year from Arizona for a 2nd round pick. Rundblad hasn’t played much since coming to the Hawks, but if given the chance could probably play up to #6 d-man standards. He is also only 23 and still has room to grow.
Emerging from camp are two other options that the Hawks could weigh in Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Klas Dahlback, who was just recalled from Rockford. Both of these guys have had nice camps and have shown that they can handle the type of minutes that would be required to play alongside Leddy for a majority of the season.
The person who wins this job doesn’t have to be the next Drew Doughty, but they need to be able to handle the workload and just limit their mistakes. It seems as though, like usual, the Hawks might go with a duel-headed monster of Rozsival and Rundblad back there for the majority of the season. They haven’t asked the #6 defensive position to do much and these two should be able to get the job done.
It would be interesting to see a guy like Van Riemsdyk, who has impressed in camp, to get some a chance to prove himself alongside Leddy. A younger option that could skate and keep up with Leddy and the Hawks forwards would be able to add another element to an already deep Hawks team.
Limiting mistakes. That’s what whoever wins the #6 d-man job will have to do, along with staying out of Coach Q’s doghouse. The Hawks would be better off playing a younger, faster option that can keep up with the team and make the defense more fluid as a unit. Having three pairings that can play against anybody will make the Hawks even better and harder to beat come playoff time.