This is the most important part that the Blackhawks have to focus on. As a young team, the players have to simply focus on one thing to worry about for the time being. Alex Debrincat and Kirby Dach will accompany Patrick Kane as the main offensive weapons, as will Dominik Kubalik. David Kampf needs to be a third-line center, responsible of taking on the opposition’s best offensive players.
Brandon Hagel has to be a swiss-army knife type of player, making an impact both on offensive production and physical play. Mike Hardman and Mackenzie Entwhistle should hit everything in sight while being capable to backcheck aggressively. And Reese Johnson has to be a pest or he won’t succeed in the league. He has established that he is a physical player, along with Hardman and Entwhistle. This fourth line would be the momentum makers, hitting everything and a line that won’t back down from the opposition.
For young players to develop, they have to be given a role. In doing so, these players train and do what they need to do to succeed in the role they were given. For example, Hardman and Entwhistle would get stronger while Kirby Dach would work on how he can be more dynamic in the offensive zone. Accepted roles establish the team, and each player knows precisely what they are responsible for.
The Chicago Blackhawks have to first learn how to defend properly to find success. They must establish a proper system and not allow 45+ SOG per game by blocking shots and passing lanes. They must also be relentless on the opposition, not giving up while there’s time on the clock, and keep coming at them on the forecheck. Hearing from the league “These guys just won’t give up…” is the identity the Blackhawks should look for.
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And they must focus on roles in order to develop into effective players. Skilled forwards will focus on improving offensively and not be a liability in the defensive zone. Depth forwards and shutdown defensemen will worry about playing sound defense and frustrating the opposition. The designated fourth-liners have to get faster and stronger, play like a human wrecking ball, and get in the face of the opposition.
In doing so, the Blackhawks should have a straightforward system with guys who are placed where they need to be to succeed. Their offense isn’t an issue, neither is the goaltending. It’s defensively where they had problems, and the struggle to find where players should be. Solving these problems could bring them a step closer to contention.