Chicago Blackhawks’ Ideal Lines, Pairings, Goalies In Toews/Kane Era

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: Jonathan Toews
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: Jonathan Toews /
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ANAHEIM, CA – MAY 25: (L-R) Jonathan Toews
ANAHEIM, CA – MAY 25: (L-R) Jonathan Toews /

First line

Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Why mess with something that was never broken? The Blackhawks had to during the 2015 offseason when Saad’s contract demands were too weighty. With Hossa sidelined possibly forever with a nasty skin condition, this line might never get together again.

But it was a thing of beauty during the short time it was together. This was never more true than in the 2015 postseason. Ahead of it, coach Joel Quenneville‘s blender landed on this combination. Even the possibility of playing Toews with Kane couldn’t overshadow what this trio produced.

Toews potted 21 points, finishing behind only Kane in scoring for the playoffs. Hossa contributed 17 points, while Saad had 11 — eight coming in the form of goals. It’s unfortunate Q didn’t find this combination until the point he did. We could’ve had a few regular seasons of a truly dominant top line to lead the Blackhawks.

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Second line

Artemi PanarinArtem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Same idea with this second line as far as not trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was on the right side of the deal that sent Panarin to Columbus this offseason, but there’s no doubting he was the most thrilling linemate Kane has had in the Windy City.

While the two became a bit predictable toward the end of the 2016-17 season, they put on quite a show in their short time together. And Anisimov was the near-perfect center for them. Although he struggled at winning faceoffs, he could cover for the two defensively and run his large frame to the net to get dirty goals.

It’s true Kane could produce great numbers playing alongside anyone, but he seemed extremely comfortable with Panarin — and vice versa. And Anisimov was having a career season offensively in 2016-17 before suffering an injury late in the regular season. I couldn’t find a reason to break up this second line when putting together this team.

Third line

Andrew LaddBrad RichardsMartin Havlat

Now we’re heading into territory of guys being mixed and matched based on overall accomplishments. That creates this unique line that represents multiple points of the Toews/Kane era in Chicago.

Havlat was the established star brought in to serve as the team’s offensive leader while Toews and Kane adapted to the NHL. His first two seasons in Chicago were injury-marred, but he broke out in 2008-09 with a career-high 77 regular-season points before posting 15 more in the playoffs, including the overtime game-winner in the series opener against Calgary. He finished with 594 points in 790 regular-season contests.

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  • Ladd was also around during the first seasons of Toews and Kane. He had come from Carolina, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2006. He was never the biggest star in Chicago, but he was certainly a solid role player when the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010. He maxed out at 49 points in the regular season before being shifted to Atlanta in 2010.

    Ladd became the team’s captain as the Thrashers transitioned to being the Winnipeg Jets and hit a career-best 62 points in 2014-15. His return to Chicago in 2016 was certainly disappointing, but I like to think more about the 497 points in 847 regular-season games than that failed experiment.

    Richards was on the back end of his career when he got to Chicago, taking a major pay cut at one more shot at the Stanley Cup. It worked out, and Richards was the best regular center Kane had until Anisimov showed up.

    While Richards was really just a short-term solution in Chicago, you have to remember he’s a former Lady Byng and Conn Smythe winner who finished his NHL career with 932 points in 1,126 regular-season games. Why wouldn’t you take a guy like that on a fantasy team like this?

    Fourth line

    Teuvo Teravainen-Marcus Kruger-Robert Lang

    So this line is … interesting, I’ll admit. Some of you probably don’t know who its right wing is (I had forgotten about him).

    Let’s start with the more recent guys. Teravainen is the young Finnish star the Blackhawks had to package with Bryan Bickell in a 2015 trade to get the latter’s cap hit off the books. It was really disappointing to see Teuvo go before he had a chance to really break out in Chicago.

    He has just 82 points in his NHL career (regular season), but we all saw the talent and vision Teuvo had on the ice — especially during the 2015 postseason. I think it’d be wrong to leave Teuvo off this fantasy team, as he really seems to be growing into his own now as an NHL player.

    There’s no way I could leave Kruger off this team, either. He was just so impressive as a defensive center in Chicago, serving in the underappreciated but totally vital role through two Stanley Cup wins. I don’t know that the Blackhawks are guaranteed either one without his abilities.

    And then there’s Lang. He spent one season in Chicago (2007-08) and was in his late 30s by the time it came around. But he posted an entirely solid 54 points in 76 games for the forgettable first squad Toews and Kane were on. And he finished with 703 points in 989 regular-season games playing for eight NHL teams.

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    Lang is listed as a center, but since he’s a right-handed shot and I didn’t have room for another center — but also wanted him in the starting lineup for this fantasy team — I slotted him in here. I have no idea how this line would perform on the ice or what it’s true function would be, but … there you go.

    Press-box line

    Dave BollandAntoine VermetteAndrew Shaw

    The ultimate irritation line, perhaps? There’s a decent bit of offensive capability here — Bolland always seemed to come up with big goals (2013 Stanley Cup Final Game 6, for example), Vermette is a point shy of 500 for his career and Shaw can actually put the puck in the net when he isn’t acting ridiculous.

    But what this line would really be is one to annoy the opponent into submission — or into the penalty box. Bolland was nicknamed “The Rat” in Chicago, and Shaw was much like him in that regard. Vermette has a bit of a feisty side himself, shown when he randomly whacked a referee with his stick last season.

    If you’re looking for a “fire” line, this would be your trio.