Recently, the Blackhawks began their preseason training to determine who would, and would not be on the roster for opening night. It was the first time people were able to see the new additions to the team in action and get a sense of what the team was actually going to be like. However, it has also raised a lot of questions because of some peculiar line combinations.
One of the most bizarre things the Chicago Blackhawks have done is to create what is almost certainly the shortest top line in the NHL. At first, I had thought this was just an experiment, something to play around with, and players would be rotating into various spots in the lineup so the coaches could get a sense of which players were best matches for one another. Unfortunately, some of these lines might stick, such as the aforementioned “short” line.
Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane have been centered by Tyler Johnson on the top line. This is bizarro world hockey, but it looks like the coaches may actually give this a shot. The other day I had joked about this line because I couldn’t see how it would actually be a trio that would see ice time in real competition, and for a variety of reasons.
It’s still the preseason so it may just be something that lasts until the puck drops on opening night. Here’s a tweet from Scott Powers of The Athletic sharing the roster from the first scrimmage:
During a scrimmage, this line was actually a thing, and preseason games are starting this week.
With that in mind, future potential topline center Kirby Dach hasn’t seemed to have found a spot for himself in the lineup. If Toews is healthy, it’s hard to imagine him not playing in one of the top two spots at center, but after that? Dach seems like he would be the logical choice, but since Johnson is playing top-6 minutes, who knows?
Again, there haven’t really been any firm decisions yet on the lineup, but Dach not necessarily having a fixed spot is odd. Tyler Johnson is 31, and clearly a placeholder for the team until a prospect can step up. Kirby Dach is 20, and probably the number one center of the future. Whatever Jeremy Colliton is up to, it needs to ensure Dach has every opportunity to grow as a player. That means a fixed spot in the lineup.
Finally, what is going on with Dylan Strome? Strome looks to be buried so far down the depth chart, you have to wonder where he fits at all. Chicago didn’t acquire Henrik Borgstrom from Florida by accident. After Toews and Dach, they’re going to want him to succeed. Does that mean Strome centers the fourth line? Probably not. Maybe at wing on another line, but if so, with who? Strome just looks more and more like a candidate to be traded as other players enter the Blackhawks’ talent pool.
Some of these questions will be resolved fairly quickly as the team starts deciding who is going to play where. Especially with games coming up this week!