2013 (post-lockout): LW Brandon Bollig
This is weird that these guys are all turning up left wings, right? Anyway, Daniel Carcillo was also on this opening-night roster, but he held the tiniest sliver of value at this point (if you squinted; he had an assist in the opener, anyway). Bollig didn’t even have that.
Quenneville didn’t even ice him for six minutes in a game that saw the Blackhawks leading 4-0 just 1:16 into the second period. So why the heck was he on the roster? We didn’t receive an answer for this team, which was absolutely incredible in spite of Bollig, and we didn’t receive an answer for the other teams he made it on.
Bollig was thankfully dumped after the 2013-14 season, and after Bowman had given him a bizarre three-year contract. He set his NHL high in penalty minutes last season with Calgary at 103. Go, Brandon!
2013: D Michael Kostka
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Now, unlike many of the previous entries on this list, Kostka had some value. And he didn’t play entirely poorly with the Blackhawks. But they also didn’t really need him, unless they were just trying to increase their hair game.
Kostka saw a total of nine games with the Blackhawks in this season and was scratched for the opener. The Blackhawks were also icing Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank at this point. Where’s an unproven then-27-year-old defenseman to go in that lineup?
The final answer was to Tampa Bay, where he played 19 more games in 2013-14. He spent parts of last season with Ottawa, making little impact.
2014: LW Daniel Carcillo
The Blackhawks had just gotten out from under Bollig’s contract during this offseason, and they quickly followed by signing Carcillo. I hated the move, and I (rather pathetically) spent part of the season opener jeering from the cheap seats whenever Carcillo hit the ice (I was at the game in Dallas).
Thankfully he didn’t hit the ice much (playing just 4:43), but a TOI like that makes you wonder why he was on the roster to begin with. It was no secret he offered little in the way of offensive or defensive value. He was just filling Q’s desire for grit.
Carcillo, since his recent retirement, has turned into an advocate for the struggles players go through after leaving the game and while dealing with injuries like concussions. It’s made me change my views on Carcillo as a person, and I’m glad for that.
2015: RW Kyle Baun
Baun was essentially on this opening-night roster because the Blackhawks promised him playing time if he left college early. He got a couple games late in the previous season and did little in them. He somehow did even less in his short NHL stint in this season.
Baun was clearly not ready for the big show at this point, shown by Q keeping him under 10 minutes of ice time in the opener (the only Blackhawk who was). After two games, he was back in Rockford. He hasn’t done anything to prove he deserves to be out of Rockford, either.
Interesting fact, defenseman Ville Pokka was apparently on this opening-night roster. He’s listed as a healthy scratch on the Blackhawks’ website. I never realized he actually started the season on the roster — probably because I was concerned about the Cubs punking the Pirates in MLB’s postseason.
So, which odd player(s) will the 2016 opener bring us? Early returns show Brandon Mashinter or Jordin Tootoo are good options to take this “honor.” We can only hope neither of them sees the ice when the Blackhawks take on St. Louis on Oct. 12.