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Chicago Blackhawks: New Defensive Pairing Projections

By Andrew Facemyer

We Chicago Blackhawks fans always give coach Joel Quenneville a hard time. He’s always changing forward lines and defensive pairings after not even giving them a chance to play out. We never know what he’s going to do. You may think it’s quite hard to come up with the projected lines that Q will put on the ice next season. It’s honestly the easiest thing that you could do. Take a dart, and throw it at a wall with all the ‘Hawks players on it. Done.

After projecting the forward lines earlier this week, we’re now going to take a look at how the defensemen line up for the ’Hawks.

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Let’s recap the potential players that could be part of the ‘Hawks defense next season. Returning, we have Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk, David Rundblad and Michal Rozsival Only the first three saw any real minutes during last season’s playoffs, though Rozsival’s reason for not seeing more minutes was a serious knee injury. Rundblad and a healthy TVR managed to see some third-pair time during the regular season. The new additions that are set in stone include Trevor Daley. Unfortunately, that is it. On professional tryout contracts, we currently have Jan Hejda, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Kyle Cumiskey. Any one of these skaters could become a part of the ‘Hawks blue line next season, but that’s it. The ‘Hawks can really only afford one, and maybe not even that after Rozsival’s signing Saturday.

Please note that the numbering of the pair does not hold any significance to playing time, skill, etc.

Mar 29, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Michal Rozsival (32) stretches prior to the game against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Pair “1”: Duncan Keith (L) and Michal Rozsival (R)

Keith will play the most minutes this season without a doubt. This means that he will probably play with every single defenseman the ‘Hawks have at some point during the season. Playing with a guy like Keith would give one of the younger guys like van Riemsdyk or Rundblad a great experience. But Rozsival had some of his best play in 2014-15 alongside Keith, and the 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is a suitable “babysitter” for the aging Rozsival.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Pair “2”: Niklas Hjalmarsson (L) and Trevor Daley (R)

When the ‘Hawks received Daley, it seemed certain that Johnny Oduya was heading out the door. Unfortunately, this was a sad truth for the ‘Hawks faithful as Oduya signed with the Dallas Stars a few weeks later. Naturally, Daley is slated to fill Oduya’s large defensive shoes. While Daley is an offensive-minded defenseman, he’ll have the privilege to play along one of the best defensive defenseman in the league in Hjalmarsson. As long as their styles do not clash, we should be able to see a nice pairing in the works with these two. However, if Ville Pokka is deemed ready by the ‘Hawks this season, he may knock Daley out of his no. 4 spot given that he sees decent ice time.

Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Pair “3”: Trevor van Riemsdyk (L) and Brent Seabrook (R)

While I initially had Hejda slotting into the left side next to Seabrook, Rozsival’s signing changes that. Similar to playing alongside Keith, suiting up next to Seabrook will be beneficial for young guys like van Riemsdyk and Rundblad who are looking to learn and improve. Van Riemsdyk gets the nod over Rundblad, as Q seems to have more trust in the former. If the ’Hawks wind up wanting or needing to add another defenseman (which would be very difficult at this point), Hejda would be the best option.

As you may have noticed, I left out Rundblad. I think he will continue his role as the seventh defenseman and swap with both van Riemsdyk and Hejda. Although Rundblad was just signed to a contract extension, his play has not yet warranted a starting spot night in and night out.

These pairings will constantly change throughout the season, but this should be a good base for the ‘Hawks to build on.

Next: Blackhawks, Seabrook Close To New Deal

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