Can Marian Hossa find the right fit to be more successful with the Chicago Blackhawks Next Year?
One thing we know for sure is that in spite of, or perhaps because of, their early exit, the Chicago Blackhawks will be hungry to form a strong team for next season. They will be looking to put together a lineup that can make a push for another Stanley Cup. 17 players currently have active contracts with the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2016-17 season, and one of those is veteran Marian Hossa. The question is, where will he fit into the team next year?
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Hossa had one of the worst years of his career in terms of offensive production. In 64 games played, he compiled 13 goals and 20 assists, for 33 points. These are his lowest career numbers since his first full NHL season with the Ottawa Senators (1998-99), where he tallied 30 points. For comparison’s sake, Hossa had 61 points in the 2014-15 season, and 60 points in the 2013-14 season. Now he did play in more games the last two seasons (82 and 72 respectively), but scoring half as many points in 64 games doesn’t exactly cut it.
With that being said, Hossa has become known over the years for being one of the best 2-way players in the game. Even with his offensive production slumping, his defensive contributions are still very valuable. He is very big and strong on the puck, and has excellent forechecking and backchecking abilities. Perhaps this is why Hossa started playing on the third line instead of the first line in the playoffs.
In the last three games of the playoff series against the St. Louis Blues, Coach Q moved both Hossa and Andrew Ladd (who also didn’t provide much offensive production) to the third line with Marcus Kruger. These three basically became the checking line against the top line that included Vladimir Tarasenko. From the limited time we saw them in this role, it appears they had some success. Hossa tallied 3 goals and a helper in those final three games. In the first four games of the series, he only managed one assist.
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In his team exit interview, Hossa talked about his transition to the checking line with Kruger and Ladd. “I feel like we had the puck all the sudden way more on our sticks. We played in the zone way more with the puck and we created more chances. There was some job to do, and it was more fun and I think we started playing better hockey”.
Fortunately for the team, Hossa knows how to keep his ego in check. When asked if he would be comfortable with that role for an entire season, he talked about how many times he found he had more ice time on the third line than he did playing on the first line. He indicated that he would work with Coach Q on what would be the best possible position for himself next year. His final statement was, “So playing with the great players on this team, I don’t mind (where I play)”.
Could Hossa’s third line playoff role be a pre-cursor of things to come next season? It certainly would be something to keep in mind. His defensive prowess could be very helpful in more of a checking/shut- down role. And playing against opponents who have less to offer defensively could give him and his linemates a chance to create more offensively. Hossa could be a huge weapon on the third line. And hey, it could open up a spot for a younger player that’s been biding his time to be a part of the top six (Teuvo Teravainen!).
Hossa is the ultimate team player, and a very smart player at that. I think he recognizes that he’s not the same player he used to be. But he still has a lot to offer. And he wants to be put in the best possible position to thrive and help the team. Wherever that turns out to be next year, Marian will embrace it. I feel he can, and will, make a big impact in the 2016-17 season. The Chicago Blackhawks are still very fortunate to have him.