Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ 6 Questions Before 2016-17 Season

By Colin Likas
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Apr 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Ryan Reaves (75) and Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Mashinter (53) fight during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Tough Question: Do the Blackhawks carry two useless forwards?

We all know I’m talking about Brandon Mashinter and Jordin Tootoo here. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question because Q sees value in these guys that literally no one else does. And with the forward corps in a state of flux, there’s a chance both of them make the opening night roster.

What I think and hope will happen, though, is that some younger forwards impress in camp and force Q’s hand regarding these two. I think he’ll get put in a situation where he has to decide between keeping one of these guys tethered to the press box due to the quality of other, younger forwards, or allowing that one guy to get regular playing time in the AHL.

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Unfortunately, I think Q will choose the former option. Regardless of who impresses most in camp, I think Mashinter and Tootoo will both make the roster and split fourth-line starts like Rozsival and Rob Scuderi did for a while on defense last season.

Hopefully one of Mashinter or Tootoo has some kind of ridiculous breakout year (anything more than 10-15 points would do it) to at least slightly justify having them around.

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Dec 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) skates past Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin (33) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Easy Question: Will Kruger be better on offense?

I keyed in on Kruger specifically because he put up a goose egg in the goals column last season. Yes, he did miss half of the season due to injury, and yes we primarily expect defense-related returns from the Swede. But zero goals is tough to swallow for any forward.

I think we can expect a definite boost from zero goals and maybe a push toward his career high of nine. If Kruger winds up spending any significant level of time with Hossa, this could be more of a given. Even as he ages, Hossa knows how to set guys up for success. That alone could push Kruger to a few tallies.

And if Kruger doesn’t play with Hossa, he could still get tasked with herding some of the younger guns around the ice. The same younger guns who are going to want to impress Q to stay in the lineup, therefore pushing to create offense at every opportunity. That would help Kruger in the scoring department as well.

Next: Blackhawks Future Friday: Chad Krys

Ultimately, we know even a defensive forward like Kruger is better than a no-goal season. It wan an anomaly. He has the talent and on-ice drive to produce more, and we should expect that this season.

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