Will Artemi Panarin Be Missed In Chicago?
By Randy Holndoner
The Blackhawks’ upper brass said there would be changes. No one thought that Panarin was to be part of that. He was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets. For some, that sadness and anger lasted for a short time once they realized who the Blackhawks were getting in return for the Russian star, Brandon Saad.
But it is hard not to miss Panarin. The magic that he had with Patrick Kane was something that electrified crowds on a nightly basis. When the Blackhawks would start a play out of their own zone, both Kane and Panarin would be back deep, building speed as they got to their blue line.
Then, a defenseman would drop pass the puck to one or the other while both players built up speed to where they both cross the opposing line with little effort. Many times, shortly afterwards, the goal would end up behind the opposing goaltender.
One of the things that fans loved about Panarin was the way he would celebrate a goal. He looked
like a kid on Christmas morning when he saw presents sitting under the tree. His excitement was infectious with not only the fans, but with the players as well.
Panarin and Kane had a great relationship and new exactly where the other was on the ice. They would make cross-ice passes that would go through three players and hit their teammate’s stick in stride. This would mostly happen with Kane passing to Panarin for one of his patented one-timers.
Which brings up the point, what will happen to Patrick Kane?
Well, Kane seemed to do just fine for his first eight years in the league without Panarin around. Granted, his game went up another level with Panarin on the ice, but Kane has and will continue to find a way to get his points.
He makes every player on the ice better. His current linemantes are Ryan Hartman, 23, and Nick Schmaltz, 21. If this line can click, this will allow the Blackhawks to have a second scoring line that opposing teams will have a hard time containing.
So with Panarin leaving and Saad returning, what does that mean for the Blackhawks?
The return of Brandon Saad is a welcome for Jonathan Toews who hopes to bring his game back to where it was two years ago when Saad was traded to Columbus. In eleven playoff games after Saad left, Toews has scored one goal.
Saad’s game is different in Panarin in a few ways. Saad is very similar to Marian Hossa, a two-way player. Saad is 6’1″, 206lbs., whereas Panarin is 5’11”, 168lbs. Saad is also a year younger than Panarin which some do not realize. Also within the last two seasons, Panarin has only scored two more goals than Saad.
A big problem the last two years has been no net presence for the Blackhawks. No one crashing the net, or finding dirty goals. When the playoffs come around, the open ice is reduced, and many times, goals are at a premium.
Saad, while in Columbus, had a leadership role to help a young team become better. As he returns to the Blackhawks, his skills will only help on a team that has championship leadership throughout the roster.
Players like linemate, Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman, and John Hayden, have the potential to play the type of game that Saad does. As mentioned before, this is something that will be key for a lengthy run in the playoffs.
Chicago will miss the ‘Breadman’. He will always be a fan favorite and an NHL All-Star. But, as some will disagree, the Blackhawks are a better team going forward.