Who makes the taxi squad for the Chicago Blackhawks?
Hockey is back on the menu! The Blackhawks, along with the rest of the NHL, will kick things off in mid-January, just a few weeks away.
There are some quirks to this season, and among them is the so-called Taxi Squad. Each team in the NHL will be allotted a group of players that can be placed onto a taxi squad, but who should be in this group for the Chicago Blackhawks? Is the taxi squad a good thing? The best place to begin is to explain what exactly the taxi squad is.
There was a great image tweeted out by CapFriendly (below) that outlines all of the useful information. However, what is most important here is knowing that there is a squad of players minimum four, maximum six. This particular point what makes this interesting for Chicago.
As a team that is currently rebuilding, it basically means that the roster is a little bigger. This changes the roster in a manner that might be much different than we all thought it would be. Chicago can sequester players they might want to play on the taxi squad, and the ranks of this group will probably be in flux all year. It’s almost just like carrying extra players with the team.
Who might be in this group? Off the top of my head:
- Kevin Lankinen
- Lucas Carlsson
- Brandon Hagel
- Brandon Pirri
For the Blackhawks who will be promoting youth and development as they seek to rebuild, it’s hard to see how having a taxi squad is going to be a problem. It might be an issue for Rockford, but for Chicago, it’s pretty much a win-win.
Where it might be weird is in goal. It might be a good thing to have all three goalies working with the NHL regulars, it might be better if Chicago could put a player they want to thrive in Rockford. Journalist Chris Johnston tweeted out this little clarification on the rules regarding the taxi squad. I know that when I saw what CapFriendly had put out, I had thought it sounded like teams needed to have three goalies, and indeed they do according to Chris Johnston from Sportsnet.
Mark Lazerus had also tweeted out a comment on this issue, and while he makes a good point, I don’t entirely agree.
Since Bowman said that the goalie competition would be between Subban, Delia, and Lankinen, then it’s assumed these are the Blackhawks goalies come opening night. Those are likely the three players for that position anyway.
However, in a 56 game season, the best thing to do would be to get all three as much playing time as possible and evaluate them at the end of the season. In my opinion, it would be unsurprising to see Matt Tomkins get a spot on the taxi squad and Lankinen hold down the #1 spot in net for the IceHogs.
The three goalie rule this year is going to be a weird one for Chicago in that it plays right into Bowman’s plan, but simultaneously doesn’t work. Players still have to go through waivers, for example, even if they are being assigned to the taxi squad, rather than the AHL.
It would probably be the best situation thing, but juggling all of this is going to be quite a feat as the season progresses. It’s great to have young guys around the vets, but it’s going to be hard watching prospects not play because they’re on the taxi squad, as opposed to piling up minutes in the AHL.
Where the taxi squad might prove even more interesting is for fringe players that wouldn’t necessarily benefit from being in the AHL. In this case, Nick Seeler comes to mind, but also Seabrook. Being on the taxi squad isn’t the same as being sent down to the AHL, but it is a way to keep Seabrook with the Blackhawks and off the roster.
The taxi squad provides teams with an interesting way of complimenting their roster from one game to the next while making sure the players in the AHL can maximize their time there. This is going to be an awkward season, but having extra players be able to join their respective NHL teams is a positive, especially for a rebuilding team like Chicago.
It will almost be a continuation of last season’s return to play rosters which included players who wouldn’t likely have played, but were able to participate with the team. This time around, I’d expect to see the players rotate in and out of games relatively frequently. It’s definitely going to be one of the things to keep an eye on as the season progresses.