Question 1: A bottom-six forward would be useful. The defense is in a lot better shape than it was last season. Coach Joel Quenneville simply refuses to use the optimal blue line group. Goaltending obviously isn’t an issue either.
The Blackhawks haven’t scored a whole lot of late and have been extremely top heavy, showing the problem that plagued last season’s team still hasn’t been fixed. While youngsters like Vincent Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman and Tyler Motte have shown flashes on offense, most of the scoring is still being done by the top six — and that’s even with Jonathan Toews sidelined.
Jordin Tootoo and Andrew Desjardins aren’t going to score much, if at all (at least Desjardins serves a penalty-killing/defensive forward purpose), and neither is Marcus Kruger. Richard Panik‘s scoring has also slowed. The Blackhawks need to make a move for a bottom-six forward and slot him into the lineup for Tootoo.
Question 2: Everyone wants to say Steve Larmer, and no doubt his number should be retired. I think it will be sooner rather than later (unless he declines the offer?). Chris Chelios is another solid option. It’s not like he gave up on the Blackhawks and went to Detroit. Chicago moved him, and he had a huge impact there before he was traded.
So we look to recent names. Guys like Toews and Patrick Kane will find their numbers in the rafters (the team has quickly gotten past Kane’s 2015 offseason). Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and even Niklas Hjalmarsson could see their numbers strung up, too.
But I’d like to nominate an active player who is no longer in Chicago, and who’ll probably retire before any of the above mentioned guys (except maybe Hossa): Patrick Sharp. The Dallas Stars forward is going through concussion protocol for the second time this season, even seeing a specialist recently. Who knows what his career trajectory is now?
Sharp spent parts of 10 seasons in Chicago, serving as one of the first pieces of the team’s reboot to being a successful franchise. He was an important part of all three Cup wins in this era, tallying 511 points in 679 regular-season games and 80 points in 117 postseason games, including totals of 22, 16 and 15 in the Cup-winning seasons. Reward the handsome one.
Question 1: The Blackhawks losing Jonathan Toews to injury shows the value he brings to the team. Artem Anisimov is a nice second-line center, but he is not a first-line center.
Marcus Kruger, Dennis Rasmussen and Vince Hinostroza aren’t long-term third-line center players. At least as of right now. I still feel that the Kruger contract extension was too high and if Hinostroza can fill out his frame or Nick Schmaltz can develop at the center position, the Blackhawks might need to find a reliable guy who could make it as a second-line center on most teams, but would be a third-line guy on the Blackhawks.
Question 2: There is a reason that #Retire28 is a thing. Steve Larmer’s No. 28 is the next to be retired by the Blackhawks. Before 19, 88, 2, or any other number goes up into the rafters, Larmer’s 28 needs to be there.
One of the most consistent and hard-working players in franchise history, Larmer made the 1980s era Blackhawks engine go. Even Denis Savard himself says that without Larmer, he wouldn’t have been the player he was. No question, #Retire28.