If one thing was certain during the postseason, it was that the Chicago Blackhawks have enough talent to roll out two effective lines.
The problem comes from the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t had the depth to ice much more. Roll four lines, like Vegas? Forget it. That was not going to happen, and that lack of depth hurt Chicago.
As the old cliche goes, “next year will be different.”
It’s true though. Chicago’s depth will have improved.
An article from The Athletic by Scott Powers ranked 40(!) prospects in the Blackhawks system.
Some of these players will be a part of Chicago’s future, but they also include players like Dach and Boqvist who project to be future stars of the team.
Powers noted that Chicago has already begun making changes to the organizational depth.
What’s important to note is that all of the changes that have been made recently factor into the bottom-6, if for no other reason it’s hard to see how the top two lines change much by the opener for the 2020-2021 season.
You might be thinking, “who cares about the bottom-6?”
If you watched Chicago get bounced out of the playoffs by Vegas, then you’ll know why it’s so important to have four reliable lines ready to go every game. Chicago didn’t, and Vegas did.
There will probably be some trades made before the beginning of next season, but Chicago likely has a lineup almost ready.
According to CapFriendly, Chicago has quite a few players coming back next year.
Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf, Kirby Dach, Brandon Hagel, Alex Nylander, Alex DeBrincat, Matthew Highmore.
That’s 10 forwards, almost enough for four lines.
Zack Smith is being left out because he just seems like a good candidate to buy out. Otherwise, he could be back, so potentially 11 forwards.
Andrew Shaw may not be ready to start the season, so until a doctor says he can play, then count him out. Additionally, without digging much into the prospect pool, there might only realistically be space for a couple more players in the lineup, and those spots might already be spoken for.
Bowman’s recent signings of Cameron Morrison, Pius Sutter, and Matej Chalupa could be competing for spots in the line-up straight away.
There are players like Dylan Sikura and MacKenzie Entwhistle waiting in the wings. Entwhistle hasn’t been called up yet, but Sikura has. Sikura hasn’t produced much offense yet, but he’s not a liability when he’s on the ice. Both could also be options to fill out next year’s roster.
There’s also the upcoming draft and the possibility of trades. There will be more activity as Chicago further modifies their roster.
What this boils down to is competition and healthy competition. Players are going to need to start fighting for spaces, and even if someone like Nylander was given an extremely long leash, coach Jeremy Colliton has shown that he will bench players.
That’s not to say that there aren’t issues. A lot of the players that look like they might fill out the bottom-6 underperformed this year, or are untested in the NHL.
Concerns like these shouldn’t be dismissed, but there aren’t many roster spots to fight over, and the ones left will only go to the best players.
Most importantly, Chicago’s biggest problem wasn’t with the forwards, it was the defense. Seeing that the four forward lines are likely about to become deeper and more versatile is only a good thing for the team.
Will we be able to say the same about the defense by the season opener? Cross your fingers, but the bottom-6 is going to be better next year.