Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Sci-Fi: Bring Up Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck

By Tim Lively

Nov 23, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman

Adam Clendening

(6) skates against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks Sci-Fi is a mini-series I’ll periodically be doing here on Blackhawk Up that is for fantastic hypotheticals. I consider the following speculation science fiction at this point because as of now, it’s pure fantasy, but who knows what the future will bring…

While our beloved Chicago Blackhawks have played very well as of late, we can’t let their recent success blind us from a weakness that needs to be addressed before it takes a serious toll on the team’s chances at making a deep playoff run. I’m talking here about the the Hawk’s third line defense.

With rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk on long term IR, Nick Leddy and Sheldon Brookbank gone, and David Rundblad and Kyle Cumiskey’s play not turning any heads, Coach Joel Quenneville has had no choice but to rely on Michal Rozsival to be the constant blue line fixture on the third line as he’s rotated the likes of Adam Clendening and now Klas Dahlbeck from the Rockford IceHogs.

While Rozsival certainly has great veteran know how and grit, and has been playing well recently, this current modus operandi is not a sustainable game plan for this NHL journeyman. It’s a sad fact, but at 36 years old, Rozsival just doesn’t have the legs anymore, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost count how many times he’s has been flat out beat at the blue line by a speedier forward, or has committed a dumb penalty after he’s been caught out of position.

At this rate, even when van Riemsdyk returns Rozsival will simply not have the energy to effectively help the Hawks make a successful run at the Stanley Cup in the postseason. It’s a scientific fact. Thus, it’s time for Coach Q to seek a more creative solution for the third line defense.

We all know in hockey that chemistry among offensive lines is critical for a team’s success. Well that’s doubly true for defensemen, because unlike their fellow wingers and centers, blue-liners only have one partner to form effective synergy with as opposed to two.

For evidence of this, you need only look as far as the Blackhawks first two defensive lines. It was proven through most of 2011 and 2012 that Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook’s production both take hits when they’re skating on different lines. As for Niklas Hjalmarsson, many in Chicago are quick to forget his role on the Hawks was regulated to little more than blocking shots with his then blue line partner, Brent Sopel, during the 2010 Stanley Cup season. It was only after being paired with seasoned fellow Swede Johnny Oduya that Hjalmarsson really hit his stride as one of the NHL’s premier shutdown defensemen.

The Blackhawks have been playing musical chairs with their third defensive line for several years now, and it’s already cost them Nick Leddy, who was never able to reach his full potential due to the lack of a consistent partner on the blue line. It doesn’t matter who the Hawks bring up from Rockford to fill in TVR’s spot because here’s the dirty little secret: Rozsival is not the long-term third line anchor and the Blackhawks’ brass can’t expect different results when they continue to follow the same procedure.

Dec 6, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman

Klas Dahlbeck

(44) blocks a shot on goal during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

So what’s the solution? Isn’t it obvious? It’s just a question of finally putting two and two together: put Adam Clendening and Klas Dalhbeck on the third defensive line.

Frankly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already, but once again it’s a safe bet that Coach Quenneville’s penchant for hanging his hat on established veterans rather than giving up-and-coming players are shot is to blame. However, this tendency of Coach Q’s has already come back to haunt him in the playoffs (see Corey Crawford, too many regular season starts), and it looks like he’s going the same route with Rozsival.

Yet again, it’s Q-Stache’s stubbornness that makes a potential solution to problem in the line up so fictitious at this point, and that’s what makes it such a shame, because instead of throwing darts at a defensive spot opposite a Rozsival on the fast track to fatigue, the Blackhawks have in their farm system a proven dynamic defensive duo.

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Hawks fans even vaguely familiar with the Rockford IceHogs know how much of an impact Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck have had in the AHL. The potency of their chemistry was summed up perfectly when they shared the Best Defenseman Award for the IceHogs last year. In fact, at first glance Clendenings and Dalhbeck’s dynamic is eerily similar to that of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, with the 5’11” 190 lbs. Clendening being the mechanical, offensive-minded blue-liner and the 6’3” 207 lbs. Dalhbeck assuming the enforcer role.

Clendening and Dalhbeck reached the heights they have in Rockford because they helped each other play their best hockey, so it should come as no surprise that their individual debuts with the Blackhawks were really nothing to write home about. These defensemen relied on each other in the AHL, and they should do so in the NHL. Not only would their proven chemistry remain intact, but playing for the Hawks as a tandem would ease their transition by allowing them to help each other shoulder the pressure. This would translate into the minimization of inevitable rookie mistakes.

The bottom line is everyone knows Clendening and Dahlbeck are the future of the Blackhawks’ defense, and that future is much nearer than many of us would care to admit. As far as I’m concerned, at this point in the season, especially with a very nice cushion of W’s under them at present, the Blackhawks have nothing to lose by putting Clendening and Dahlbeck together on the defensive third string and leaving them to their own devices. It will not only let the two young D-men get their NHL legs under them, but also allow Rozsival to rest up for the playoffs, where he’ll be needed most.

Again, it blows my mind this has happened already, but we all know anything is possible, and let’s be honest: the Blackhawks are just one injury to 36 year old defenseman away from this becoming a necessary reality.