@MattWPokorny: Who do you think the Hawks should/need to acquire in order to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders? #HeyLaz #Blackhawks
Let’s preface this by pointing out that even now, as currently constituted, the Blackhawks are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. At the very least, they’re contenders to reach the Stanley Cup Final because the Western Conference is so underwhelming.
That said, the Hawks are hardly a flawless team. They’re still in need of a top-six winger (Nick Schmaltz has looked good next to Jonathan Toews of late, but it’s a very small sample size). They still could use one more bottom-pairing defenseman to either push or supplant Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny and Trevor van Riemsdyk. And they still need Corey Crawford to return to his pre-appendectomy form.
After hitting a home run with Antoine Vermette in 2015 and swinging and missing with Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann in 2016, general manager Stan Bowman has said repeatedly that he doesn’t expect to make any big trades before the March 1 deadline. As Joel Quenneville always says, we’ll see. But while Hawks fans dream of a Patrick Sharp reunion, the best option is Dallas’ Patrick Eaves. The 32-year-old veteran winger is having a career season with 21 goals and 14 assists. And he’s on a one-year, $1 million deal, which even the Hawks could afford.
Eaves might not be a splashy pick-up, but the Hawks probably wouldn’t have to give up a first-round pick or a super-high-end prospect for him, and he could be the kind of sneaky, low-risk addition that puts them over the top, like Michal Handzus was in 2013.
@GregBeebs: #HeyLaz How does Hossa feel about playing more of a shutdown role? I think 70-16-81 is as good a shutdown line as they’ve had.
Marian Hossa made it pretty clear in the preseason (and at the World Cup in Toronto) that he prefers to play in his usual spot on the top line, alongside Toews. And chances are, he’ll end up there by the time the games really start to count. But that third line of Rasmussen, Kruger and Hossa has been very effective in the short term.
@MarkLazerus #HeyLaz what’s the deal with Pokka? What could the return be if he was traded?
Ville Pokka simply doesn’t have a path to the NHL right now. Ahead of him are eight defensemen on the NHL roster, and Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg in Rockford, with other prospects on the way up. Pokka may have an NHL future somewhere, but it’s not in Chicago. But he’s only 22, and there’s still plenty to like about his potential. That makes him an ideal trading chip leading up to the deadline.
@DerekBundy: #HeyLaz, if you could pinpoint 3 keys to a stronger #Blackhawks playoff showing this season, what would they be? #strong
1. Crawford being brilliant, because great goaltending is always the best recipe for winning in the postseason.
2. Having a true four-line rotation. In 2010, 2013, and 2015, it was the Hawks’ bottom-six that separated them, not their top six. Every team that makes it far in the playoffs has a bunch of high-end skill guys. But when you can ice a fourth line like Marcus Kruger-Dave Bolland-Michael Frolik or a third line like Patrick Sharp-Antoine Vermette-Teuvo Teravainen, that’s how you win championships.
3. Getting lucky. If Brent Seabrook’s shot that rang off both posts late in the third period of Game 7 last year was a quarter-inch to the left, who knows how far the Hawks go? If Alec Martinez’s shot in overtime of Game 7 in the 2014 Western Conference final didn’t tick off Nick Leddy’s jersey, maybe the Hawks would have won three straight Cups. It’s a cruel game, and a bounce here or a bounce there can make all the difference.
NOTE: The Hawks recalled forwards Tanner Kero and Schmaltz from Rockford on Thursday, leaving Vinnie Hinostroza and Forsling with the IceHogs for the time being.
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