Chicago Blackhawks Second Line Situation: It's Not About the Offense

Michael WagnerSenior Analyst IFebruary 2, 2009

As many of you know, I have been one of the big proponents of acquiring a true second-line center for the Chicago Blackhawks, but after Saturday night's game against the San Jose Sharks I believe we need one more than ever.


Because the Blackhawks were terrible, absolutely terrible against the Sharks in the face-off dot. Aside from Jonathan Toews, who was 6-for-9 at the dot, the Blackhawks center-men were 4-for-28—an atrocious 14.2 percent.

Your eyes do not deceive you, the Blackhawks were that bad against the Sharks and it hasn't been that much better against even subpar teams.

For example, the Blackhawks center-men were 9-for-45 in the face-off dot against the Los Angeles Kings—a depressing 20 percent. This brings up the issue at hand, the Blackhawks do not just need an offensive center-man on the second line, but more importantly they need a center-man who is good at the face-off dot.

To me there are two players out there that would help and, for the most part, fit into the Chicago Blackhawks budget.

The first candidate to fill that second-line center position would be Antoine Vermette of the Ottawa Senators. Vermette fits the need for a center-man with a great face-off percentage, fourth among center-men in the NHL.

The problem with Vermette is his poor offensive numbers this season with only 18 points in 48 games.

Also, his price tag is a little steep for the Blackhawks budget. Vermette comes with a cap hit of $2.763 million while the Blackhawks only have $1.081 million available under the cap, so it is likely that salary would need to be moved or players would need to be sent to the AHL (Cam Barker?).

Even with Vermette's struggles offensively, he has shown in the past that he can be a 20-goal producer. You must also realize that Vermette is playing for a bad team and it is possible that a change of scenery would help improve his offensive numbers while still being effective on face-offs.

The second candidate for the second-line center would be New York Islanders center Doug Weight. Weight has had a very good offensive season, posting 33 points in 39 games, but he has been a little subpar in the face-off dot.

Weight's face-off percentage is 45.9 percent. Although it is not that great, it is better than any current Blackhawks face-off percentage.

He also has a very reasonable price tag with a cap hit of $1.75 million and it would be much easier to accommodate the current cap situation.

Weight has expressed to the media that he would prefer to not be moved at the deadline because in his words, "been there, done that." So maybe he won't be on the move. I'm not sure if he has a no movement clause, but if a team comes along with a good offer for Weight, he will likely be on the move.

Although I do like the point production of Weight, I like the face-off prowess of Vermette and the term of his contract, as he is under contract until the end of next season. Plus Vermette solves the most important issue with the Chicago center-men—the poor face-off percentage.

Does Vermette bring the veteran leadership that Weight does? No, but he has a great face-off percentage and plenty of upside in his still very young career. 

The trade deadline is fast approaching and if the Blackhawks plan on being contenders rather than pretenders they will need to address the poor play at the face-off dot and lack of depth at center. Whether that player is Weight, Vermette, or someone else, it is something that general manager Dale Tallon needs to address.