The Chicago Blackhawks have been looking for help at the center position for several seasons. Despite having several prospects in the system, management has chosen to attempt a position switch with one of their highly-regarded wings.
May I present the Jimmy Hayes experiment.
Hayes, who played 31 games in Chicago last season, has been to this point a potential power forward. The 6'5" former Boston College standout doesn't seem to have the physical nature to his game to make that a reality, though he has great hands.
With no NHL players due to the lockout, perhaps GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville are just wanting to tinker with the roster of the Rockford IceHogs and see if they can't create a solution to the middle of the 'Hawks second line.
That's where Hayes comes in.
Early last month, Hayes began appearing at center for Rockford. Despite having virtually no prior experience up the middle and with a host of center prospects skating with the IceHogs, Hayes has remained there since a November 9 contest in Grand Rapids.
Hayes has improved his skating in the offseason and does handle the puck with aplomb. In a dozen games at his new position, he has three goals and seven assists. For the season, Hayes has six goals and nine helpers and is a plus-seven in Rockford.
He also is not taking faceoffs.
Marcus Kruger, who was thought to be a candidate for the middle if and when the Blackhawks take the ice this season, has seen more time on the wing in recent games. Hayes is being given the opportunity to adjust to a new position. Is it at the expense of other players?
It appears to be that way.
The idea of Hayes at center seems to have a been fairly spontaneous one, since there was no inkling of such an position change in Rockford's camp this fall. Can we chalk this move up to the idle hands of Blackhawks management? Beats me, but it seems that Kruger should be getting those shifts in the middle.
Kruger and Brandon Pirri are the two candidates at center and both have had success in Rockford so far. Who knows how they are reacting to the brass playing Frankenstein with Hayes.
Rockford coach Ted Dent isn't really making the decisions in regards to his centers. This directive is coming from above. Will the experiment continue if there is a return of NHL hockey? More to the point, should it continue?