The Chicago Blackhawks got their roster to 23 players, though one more will still need to go in the future
The day we’ve been waiting on since the start of training camp is finally here. The day the Chicago Blackhawks trimmed their roster to the opening night group. And it’s a pretty interesting combination.
Last week, I put together a post with my prediction for the opening night roster, at least from a forwards standpoint. Let’s see what I got right:
— Mark McNeill is out, hitting waivers for clearance to Rockford.
— Andrew Desjardins is not going to play opening night, though not as a healthy scratch. He was placed on injured reserve. His injury is not immediately clear.
And let’s see what I got wrong:
— Alexandre Fortin dazzled during camp, but the Blackhawks wanted to give him more time in the juniors. Tough call, but he is just 19. He’ll have more chances.
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— The Blackhawks actually parted with Brandon Mashinter. He, like McNeill, will have to clear waivers to return to Rockford.
In addition to those four moves, goaltender Ivan Nalimov was sent down as well. This is by far the least surprising move, as Corey Crawford and Scott Darling weren’t going anywhere.
Breaking down the moves
So let’s start with the waiver guys. McNeill … I just don’t know what he has left to offer this organization. He has continually been rebuffed for highest-league play, as he’s made just one start in the NHL after being taken in the 2011 draft’s first round.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Blackhawks try to move him prior to or at the trade deadline. McNeill is a career AHLer if he stays in Chicago’s system. Maybe he has more to offer somewhere else.
Now Mashinter, I’m pleasantly surprised to see he won’t be sticking around. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but he just offers so little offense. And that’s what the Blackhawks desperately need right now — not hits and really bad fights.
I really thought coach Joel Quenneville would platoon Mashinter with Jordin Tootoo, but I guess Q decided one tough guy was enough. That’s some progress with the old-school coach.
Fortin kind of became the darling (not Scott) of training camp, especially in the social media world. I was hoping he’d get a shot to slay some bums on the bottom six. But it wasn’t to be this time.
I don’t think the send down is any kind of slight against Fortin. I just think the Blackhawks want him to work a little more on his game before he makes his NHL debut. Still, that speed could have been a very useful attribute on the bottom six.
Desjardins was hurt in the Blackhawks’ preseason finale against St. Louis on Saturday. Being on IR means he’ll be required to miss at least seven days. And Desjardins’ cap hit still counts, as IR is not the same at LTIR. So hurry back, Desi.
What are the Blackhawks left with at forward?
All this means the Blackhawks are carrying 13 healthy forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders to start the season. Let’s start with the forwards. Here were the lines at today’s practice, courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus.
Richard Panik-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Tyler Motte-Marcus Kruger-Ryan Hartman
Vincent Hinostroza-Nick Schmaltz-Jordin Tootoo
That leaves Dennis Rasmussen as the odd man out. It also confirms the idea that Panik could open the season with the top line, that Hossa is sticking with the top line until Q is comfortable with other options, and that the second line will remain intact for the time being.
The bottom six is really interesting at this point. I am glad to see Motte playing with Kruger, as I thought they showed some good chemistry in camp. Hartman will serve the Shaw role, I suppose. So his job will be to bum-rush the net and screen the goaltender while Motte and Kruger try to make this happen, at least when they’re on offense.
Hinostroza and Schmaltz could be a fun combo, as Hinostroza’s speed with Schmaltz’s playmaking abilities offers potential. Tootoo is just going to need to do what Hartman does — get to the front of the net and try to bug the goalie. He doesn’t offer much else, offensively.
Da Windy City
From a defensive standpoint at forward, I think only the fourth line is really concerning. The top three lines each have at least one guy responsible enough to slow play going the other way. I’m not sure who holds that ability on the fourth line. Their zone starts should be heavily protected early, should that line stay for the season opener.
And what about Chicago’s defense?
The Blackhawks are going to carry eight defensemen, which I also didn’t think they would do. It’s a strange move, because it’s just going to create a merry-go-round of activity with the daily lineup.
Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell will be your regulars. Of course, Hjalmarsson will miss the opener due to suspension, so that shifts things for a game.
Q has said youngster Gustav Forsling would play if he stuck in the NHL, so I guess he’s your No. 5? Or Michal Kempny is? One of those two is your No. 5, and the other goes into a rotation with Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Rozsival, I guess.
I just don’t really understand why one of the defense spots couldn’t be freed up for someone like Fortin. I know Q loves TVR and Rozsival, and I know Rozsival wasn’t going anywhere since he’s on another one-year contract. It’s just a bit of a mess.
But at least the unit has improved from last season. It’ll be interesting to see where it, and the team as a whole, goes from here, with the opener just two days away.