Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Michal Rozsival Just Won’t Go Away

By Tim Lively
Apr 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) checks Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) into the bench during the third period at the United Center. St. Louis won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) checks Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) into the bench during the third period at the United Center. St. Louis won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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The elder statesman on defense is with us for another year

Amidst the higher-profile transactions that our beloved Chicago Blackhawks have executed thus far this offseason, one that has remained largely under the radar is that of Michal Rozsival, who signed up to skate for the ‘Hawks for yet other season for $600,000.

This came as somewhat of a surprise in the wake of the ‘Hawks inking another 37-year-old blueliner in former Blackhawk Brain Campbell, who despite his age can still command $5 million for his defensive services (he took a big pay cut to return to the ‘Hawks). So the question is why the Blackhawks would bring back Rozsival at all.

Certainly on paper, bringing back Rozy for another season makes sense. While he certainly has his critics, he has shown that on occasion he can come through, and after all, he did play a role (albeit a minimal one) in helping the Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015.

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Furthermore, $600,000 is peanuts for keeping a known-quantity defensive veteran with two Stanley Cups on his resume. At the end of the day after all, Rozsival adds depth to a once dangerously shallow blue line and at minimum serves as an insurance policy in the event of an injury to a starting defenseman.

After the 2013 season however, because of his age and lack of speed that often results in him committing questionable penalties, Rozsival’s continued inclusion in the Blackhawks’ lineup has had a polarizing effect on Blackhawks Nation. Even though he is likely to see a minimal role this upcoming season, his presence will continue to potentially bring more downsides to the ‘Hawks than benefits. Here’s why.

It’s been well established how competitive the Blackhawks are as a club, and opportunities to crack the roster from the minor leagues are few and far between. Even prospects who do have opportunity to hit the United Center ice have the smallest-of-small windows to demonstrate their staying power.

This has proven to be especially true for Blackhawks D-men. While by their nature defensemen take longer to develop, they can only be kept incubating in the minors for so long. To reach their full potential as players, they need a chance to earn their NHL stripes.

It should go without saying that Rozsival is not the future of the ‘Hawks’ defensive corps. Thus, while he may not be getting the same amount of ice time going forward as years past, he is still on the team, and still taking up a roster spot.

To put it another way, Rozy’s presence is potentially limiting the chances for the likes of Blackhawks’ defensive prospects like Ville Pokka or Erik Gustafsson from gaining their NHL chops.

While Rozsival may bring a certain degree of reliability to the blue line, this is being overshadowed by his very presence delaying the next generation of Blackhawks defenders from assuming their roles on the team, roles the ‘Hawks need them to effectively fill if the franchise wants to continue to be successful in the future.

chicago blackhawks
Jan 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Erik Gustafsson (52) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Now, in all honesty, on any other team’s roster the presence of a near-40 veteran well past his prime wouldn’t be any cause for concern regarding the team’s lineup, but other NHL teams aren’t afflicted by the Q-factor: coach Joel Quenneville.

Needless to say, Coach Q’s penchant for big-bodied, low-maintenance veterans is beyond well-known at this point in Chi-Town. The number of talented but young players Q-Stache has let fall through the cracks has nearly grown too large to count. This upcoming season however, because of the salary cap restraints, Quenneville will be forced to consistently play promising, yet less experienced forwards.

This may prove true when it comes to the Blackhawks’ offensive ranks, but the defensive situation may prove different because of the presence of Rozsival.

As a big-bodied, low-maintenance veteran, Rozy has been notoriously immune to Coach Q’s infamous doghouse, which causes concern because there is potential Rozsival may get the nod over defensemen who are still works in progress (Trevor van Riemsdyk) or are not yet known quantities (Michal Kempny).

This would prove detrimental to the team’s defensive chemistry, as it would sow resentment and distrust towards the coaching staff throughout the ranks.

Whether Quenneville actively advocated for the re-signing of Rozsival is unknown, but Rozy still being on the roster gives Q-Stache an opportunity to resume his old habits, an opportunity that would have been nonexistent had the Blackhawks’ brass decided to just let Rozsival walk.

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The contributions Rozsival has made to the Blackhawks over the years are certainly appreciated. Yet at some point Rozy needs to know when it’s time to ride off into the sunset, as this season, there is yet again potential for him to do more harm than good for the ‘Hawks.

FOR THE DAGGER!

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