Just when it looked like things were turning around for the Blackhawks following an ugly 0-8-1 skid, Jonathan Toews' "upper body" injury has been speculated to possibly be a concussion. Making matters worse, Toews was involved in a car crash this morning.
The crash was not considered serious, as Toews' Mercedes crashed into a steel beam around 11am this morning. Toews left in an ambulance, and fans were trying to get pictures, videos and autographs from the Hawks captain.
Despite the questionable actions of these bystanders, many Hawks fans are extremely concerned with the health of the team's captain and easily the most irreplaceable player on and off the ice. While the Hawks have tried a few different options at the top two center spots, none have worked.
Brendan Morrison was brought in to see if he could hold down the No. 2 center job between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, though he's been a scratch more than he's been dressed, and hasn't been the No. 2 center. Sharp has been tried there, though the broken bone in his wrist should be a deterrent. Marcus Kruger, Patrick Kane and Michael Frolik have also seen time at center with mediocre success.
One of the biggest options to replace Toews and cement the No. 2 center job came off the market, as the Los Angeles Kings traded Jack Johnson and a first-round draft pick to Columbus for Jeff Carter. Columbus also traded Antoine Vermette to the Coyotes for a pair of draft picks and goaltending prospect Curtis McElhinney. Tuomo Ruutu was extended for four more seasons by Carolina.
So who's left? Well, the Hawks will likely first look within the system. Brandon Pirri is tearing up the AHL right now, and has added weight. Pirri fought his way onto the Hawks opening day roster. Kruger and Kane have had some success at center, but none are really a viable 1A at center. As much as I'm a fan of Sharp, he shouldn't be taking faceoffs due to his wrist injury.
Saku Koivu, though his name has never come up in rumors to my knowledge, would seemingly be a perfect fit. A battle-tested veteran with far more left in the tank than Brendan Morrison, Koivu could easily be the second line center, and even fill in on the first line. Koivu has the left shot Hossa prefers in a center, and he's on an expiring contract.
Up in Winnipeg, Nik Antropov could be an option. Over the summer, Bowman searched to no avail for a physical presence at the No. 2 center job, instead breaking camp with Patrick Kane in that role—arguably the farthest thing the Hawks have in the system from a big, physical option. Antropov is in a rough slump, so his value is arguably down. Not an ideal fit, he's still 6' 6" and 245 pounds, and the lefty shot Hossa loves.
Derek Roy from Buffalo could be an option despite his lack of size. The playmaking center is stuck on the sinking ship that is this season's Sabres. While Ryan Miller's name has swirled a lot, it's more likely to see Roy or Paul Gaustad come over from Buffalo than Miller.
Mired in the midst of a highly disappointing season, the Capitals could surprise and sell this season. Brooks Laich could come over, though this is a long shot. However, he would solidify the No. 2 center spot for a half decade. His $4.5 million cap hit would likely mean someone would have to go over, probably Michael Frolik.
Finally, there's Matt Cullen in Minnesota. For a team that once held the NHL's best record, the winter has not been kind to the Wild, who currently sit at 12th in the Western Conference. Cullen's contract expires after next season, and his speed would be a huge asset on the second line.
All in all, Bowman needs to prove his naysayers wrong, and fast. This is a season with too much potential to be let slip away over the likes of someone like Shawn Lalonde or a draft pick.