Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks: In Erik Gustafsson We Trust?

By Tim Lively
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Oct 30, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

Thus, unlike TVR, Gustafsson may very well be positioned as the anchor of a defensive third-line configuration the Blackhawks have used before; a possibility that has been made very real with the acquisition of Ehrhoff.

If you’ll recall, during his tenure with the ‘Hawks, young defenseman Nick Leddy was paired with the veteran D-men timeshare of Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank on the third line. While this combination didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it certainly seemed to get the job done during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

While Rozsival has his merits, it’s been proven at his age he’s not capable of shouldering starting duties on a regular basis. Thus, there’s a good chance Bowman brought in Christian Ehrhoff, an average veteran D-man that is simply going to provide a certain degree of stability at the blue line and not much else, to basically be Sheldon Brookbank 2.0, and revert back to a proven defensive formula on the third line.

Hence, this puts a decent amount of indirect pressure on Gustafsson to literally toe the line. While Ehrhoff and Rosival’s presence will provide a certain degree of stability, that’s all it will provide. The defense effectiveness of the third line will largely depend on Gustafsson’s talent and capabilities.

Now, there’s a good chance I’m being presumptuous here. After all, Gustafsson was inexplicably a healthy scratch for multiple games as of late, and given Coach Q-Stache’s well-established fondness for low-maintenance veterans, it wouldn’t be completely outrageous to see a Rozsival-Ehrhoff third line pairing, at least initially.

However given the disastrous results of the Rob Scuderi – Michal Rozsival pairing earlier this season, and the fact that Viktor Svedberg has been sent back to the Rockford IceHogs, suffice it to say Gustafsson is primed to assume a much larger and much more permanent roll on the Blackhawks’ blue line.

Only Gustafsson will be able to dictate how large that role will be…

FOR THE DAGGER!

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