Mar 2, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defensemanDavid Rundblad
(5) is pursued by Carolina Hurricanes left wingNathan Gerbe
(14) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-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…
From the 300’s at the Madhouse at Madison this past Sunday, the one good thing I saw in our beloved Chicago Blackhawk’s underwhelming performance against the New York Rangers was Kimmo Timonen and David Rundblad paired together on the third defensive string.
When our beloved Chicago Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman grabbed 39 year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen for a pair of draft picks at the trade deadline, there were certainly many in Hawks Nation that were scratching their heads. With the injury to Johnny Oduya and the inconsistent play of 36 year-old Michal Rozsival, bringing another aged veteran to the roster doesn’t seem to be the solution the Blackhawks need for their blue-line ails as of late. However, there’s one reason, and one alone why Bowman acquired Timonen: he’s a known quantity.
Despite his age, there’s no arguing Timonen is a highly-skilled player whose 15 year career includes five NHL All Star nods among many other distinctions. The full scope of what Timonen will bring to the Blackhawks at the end of his career remains to be seen, but there is one area in which this veteran can make an immediate impact.
With the injury of Oduya and the failed project of Tim Erixon, David Rundblad has had tremendous opportunity via increased playing time to make contributions to the Hawks’ defense. So far, he’s been able to hold his own for the most part, but on the eve of the playoffs and with question marks surrounding Oduya’s return (and Trevor van Riemsdyk’s for that matter), it would be a tremendous plus for the Hawks if Rundblad could get his game over the hump and become a truly consistent and reliable blue-liner.
I’ve said before and I’ll say again, a defenseman’s game reaches new highs when he is able to form solid chemistry with his line-mate. You only need to look at the first two D-lines of the Blackhawks at the start of this season for proof. The Hawks have already lost one promising defenseman in Nick Leddy due to the lack of a consistent blue-line partner (PS – funny how Leddy has a breakout season with New York Islanders once he’s finally part of a consistent defensive pairing), and Rundblad could follow a similar fate.
However, with the acquisition of fellow Scandinavian Kimo Timonen, Rundblad has a prime chance to bring his game to the next level. Rundblad was picked up by the Hawks for his offensive leanings as a defender, which is a role Timonen has embodied to a T throughout his career.
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Timonen recently announced that this would be his last season in the NHL, and that he’s entertaining the idea of going into coaching. In other words, Timonen has a lot of knowledge to impart, and who better to reap the rewards of Timonen’s substantial experience while he’s still on the ice than the 24 year-old Rundblad?
Unfortunately, the likeliness of these two skating together for a long period of time is minimal given Coach Joel Quenneville’s dreaded line blender is currently on liquefy. However, the Hawks have had tremendous success already this season pairing a proven veteran with a similarly-skilled up and comer (which was speculated by this mini-series, thank you very much): Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad.
As a strong two-way forward, Saad’s game improved immensely after being paired with the best two-way forward in the business. Whether Hoss was actively mentoring Saad is pure locker room lore at this point, but there’s no denying Saad’s game has hit new highs while playing in Hossa’s shadow.
Timonen has all but declared his willingness to be a mentor and like Saad, Rundblad should be placed in a position (on the blue line with Timonen) where he can take full advantage, not only for his own benefit, but for the Blackhawks’ as well.
FOR THE DAGGER!