It's easy to look at a Hawks team that has talent like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa and say that Coach Joel Quenneville has more on offense to work with than most other teams in the NHL.
Unfortunately, after the big four, the Hawks offensive depth takes a serious nosedive, and nothing makes this more apparent than the third line and the bottom six in general.
Once a strength of the Blackhawks, the 3rd line that consisted of Andrew Ladd, Dave Bolland and Dustin Byfuglien, so vital in the defeat of the Vancouver Canucks en route to their first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years is nothing more than a fond memory.
With Ladd and Byfuglien currently thriving in Winnipeg, Bolland now finds himself centering a third line that has seen its share of ups and downs the last two years. The 25-year-old is still solid defensively, even if his offensive output leaves a bit to be desired for a player that makes $3.5 million per season.
Bolland will certainly be needed come playoff time, but it would be nice to see jim turn up the volume with Patrick Sharp out for up to a month with an upper body injury. Regardless, as pedestrian as Bolland's stats appear this season, the real culprits in the bottom six are as follows:
Brian Bickell: After tallying 37 points in 78 games during his rookie season last year, many were expecting Bickell, a rock solid contributor on the 3rd line in '10-'11, to take the next step this season. Though he's been in both the top six and bottom six this year, many believed that he'd make more 3rd line magic with Bolland and Michael Frolik this season.
At worst, many hoped he would be as reliable as he was last season. Unfortunately, expectations can also breed disappointment, as illustrated by Bickell's staggeringly low 37-game output of 9 points to go with an equally disappointing -8 plus/minus rating.
Daniel Carcillo: Some fans feel vindicated for knowing it would end this way all along, and some feel suckered in to thinking that a guy brought in to mix things up in the bottom six had blossomed in to reliable protector on the 2nd line but, in the end, the man known as "Car Bomb" was exactly as advertised.
A loose cannon whose dirty hits routinely put his team at a disadvantage on a regular basis, and with his last vicious hit on Edmonton's Tom Gilbert netting him a 7-game suspension, one has to wonder if Stan Bowman took a much greater risk than Carcillo's small contract might have initially indicated.
Michael Frolik: This one is perhaps the most confusing (and frustrating). Call Bickell a one-year fluke and Carcillo a risk not worth taking, but Michael Frolik seemed to have all the promise in the world heading in to this season. $2.3 million on a three-year deal following a solid 38 point season seemed reasonable for a former 10th overall pick who, at 23 years of age, already has two 40+ point seasons under his belt.
Once thought to be on the verge of breaking out with more talent surrounding him in Chicago than with his previous team, Frolik nears the midway point of the season with five goals and six assists in 41 games played. Coach Quenneville and company must be tearing their hair out trying to figure out what line combination or coaching tactic will finally get the young Czech forward rolling again.