Blackhawks News

How to Fix the Chicago Blackhawks’ Defense

By Tim Lively

Oct 11, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman

Trevor van Riemsdyk

(57) and Buffalo Sabres center

Cody Hodgson

(19) fight for the puck during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Yes our beloved Chicago Blackhawks are 2-0 to start the season, and coming off a commanding win against the Buffalo Sabers this weekend. While it seems the Hawks’ offense is as high powered as ever thus far, the one maybe not-so-glaring flaw possibly in the making is their defensive third line.

Say what you want about Nick Leddy, but he was a loss to the Blackhawks’ defensive capabilities any way you slice it. Now the Hawks’ third defensive line is comprised of a potential four-man rotation of Kyle Cumiskey, David Runblad, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, and Michal Roszival.

So far, David Rundblad and Trevor Riemsdyk have started the first two games for the Hawks this season, and so far, so good since the Hawks are 2-0. Both have looked like who they are: young blue-liners with a lot of potential and needing the chance to develop.

Herein lies the concern however. One trend that I’ve noticed in the Hawks first two outings, as expected, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have logged lions’ shares of the defensive shifts, with Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson coming in as close seconds.

This trend concerns me because we all know Coach Joel Quenneville’s propensity for leaning heavily on his veteran players. However, this could really end up hurting the Hawks in the not too distant future. The only way a decent, and more importantly consistent, third blue-line pair can be established is by giving the third line decent amounts of ice time and consistent pairings.

This is certainly not an ideal situation, but now is the time for the Hawks to make the most out of it when the season has just begun and there is a large margin for error and experimentation. I really worry that Coach Q will keep the third whimsically shuffled throughout the season and never really come to trust any combination, all the while playing his proven defensemen like Keith 30 minutes per game. You don’t need Al Gore to tell you that that’s not a sustainable game plan.

Personally I’ve always been an advocate of bringing proven the defensive pairing of Klas Dahlbeck and Adam Clendening up from the Rockford IceHogs and allow them to get their NHL legs together, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

The bottom line is that the only way to see what young blue-liners Runblad, Van Riemsdyk, Cumiskey are really capable of is getting them ample ice time now when the Blackhawks can afford it. Let them get their novice mistakes out of their system when it won’t cost the Hawks dearly, like in the post season.