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Chicago Blackhawks: Predicting Next Season’s Lines

By Gail Kauchak
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I can’t think of anything better to do on a hot summer day than to predict what the lines will be for the Chicago Blackhawks in October. One of the great things about being a Blackhawks fan is that you never really know who’s going to be out on the ice together. Our beloved man with the mustache, Joel Quenneville, just loves to change things up. So as a fan, predicting the lineup is like predicting the weather. You’re almost never right, but everyone forgives you because it’s so unpredictable!

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So let’s have some fun and make some projections! Even with Coach Q’s affinity for change, there are some variables that usually stay the same. For example, it’s pretty much a given that Jonathan Toews will center the first line, and Marian Hossa will line up on the right side. Ah, but who gets the coveted spot on the left? The two players that most commonly took that slot last year were Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp. But we all know they have moved on to different pastures.

So, let’s start by taking a look at who your true left wingers are left on the team. First we have Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg.  But wait, these two are front-and-center in the trade talks. Well, I don’t think they will both get traded. And I’m thinking because of his hefty contract, Bicks is going to be the hardest for Stan Bowman to deal away. My guess is that to start the season, Bickell will have a good chance at starting on the first line. He will be tasked with being a big body in front of the net, as well as finishing his checks and creating space for Toews and Hoss.

Moving on to the second line, it’s also safe to say that Patrick Kane will line up on the right side. Artem Anisimov is the newest center for the Blackhawks, coming over from the Columbus Blue Jackets. I believe his size and experience will beat out Teuvo Teravainen for the second-line center spot. Even if Versteeg doesn’t get traded, I still don’t see him on the second line. Instead I think left wing Artemi Panarin has a good shot at this slot. Panarin’s contract is contingent upon him making the team; otherwise he can head back to the KHL. This is why I think the ’Hawks are serious about getting Panarin up to speed, and it makes sense to put him on the same line as fellow Russian Anisimov.

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This would put Teravainen on the third line, and I’m anticipating in the center spot. Based upon seniority and Coach Q’s comfort level with him, I think Andrew Shaw will be promoted to the third line, at least for the start of the season. Left wing could be Versteeg, or perhaps the newcomer from the Dallas Stars, Ryan Garbutt. Garbutt’s style has been compared to Shaw’s; this could be fun if they were on the same line.

And now to take a look at the fourth line.  Oh please, hockey gods, make it happen that the Chicago Blackhawks re-sign Marcus Kruger! He is such a mainstay at the fourth-line center position. He’s built up some great chemistry with Andrew Desjardins, so I see Desi being put on the left wing moving forward. There’s a plethora of candidates for the final right wing spot. How about Marco Dano, or Viktor Tikhonov? Don’t forget Jeremy Morin or Corey Tropp.  I’m going to go with Dano.

So here are your starting forward lines, as I see them:

Bickell-Toews-Hossa

Panarin-Anisimov-Kane

Versteeg/Garbutt-Teravainen-Shaw

Desjardins-Kruger-Dano

Now let’s take a look at the defensive pairings. Well, you can’t go wrong with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. And then you have one of the league’s most underrated players in Niklas Hjalmarsson. Let’s put him with Trevor van Riemsdyk.  Come on TVR, it’s your time to shine! Finally, I’m going to slate Trevor Daley (from the Dallas Stars) and David Rundblad for the final defensive pairing. The good news is that with these combinations, all the players are on their natural side.

Keith-Seabrook

Hjalmarsson-van Riemsdyk

Daley-Rundblad

Now I understand we don’t even know the final roster yet, and for this scenario I have kept everyone in their natural and most comfortable position. Of course players can change sides, or be asked to play center when they usually play wing. It happens all the time. But to me this seemed like a good starting point. We shall see what Coach Quenneville and his staff have up their sleeves. What do you think, Chicago Blackhawks fans? What should the starting lineup be come Oct. 7?

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