Why Michal Handzus' Role for Chicago Blackhawks Should Be Adjusted

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2014

Glue guys play an important role in the NHL. They are the players that don't necessarily score a lot of goals or pile up assists, but help their team with intangible characteristics.

Perhaps they are good guys in the locker room, play tough defense or can deliver a key bodycheck at the right moment. Having success in the faceoff circle is an indication that a player is a glue guy.

The Chicago Blackhawks are a team with a number of superstars. The names of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa roll off of any hockey fan's tongue. 

However, head coach Joel Quenneville knows that winning as a team takes more than superstars. It takes role players—glue guys—who do the dirty work.

Michal Handzus is supposed to be one of those glue guys. Handzus has been a bottom-six forward throughout the back half of his NHL career, which has seen him play in St. Louis, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Jose as well as Chicago.

The Blackhawks acquired him late last season because general manager Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville figured Handzus could provide them with a bit more grit, kill penalties and win faceoffs.

He played a role for the team down the stretch last year. He played 11 regular-season games and made a slight contribution with one goal and five assists. He made a more significant contribution in the team's 23-game run to the Stanley Cup. 

Handzus did not set the world on fire, but he scored three goals and eight assists in the postseason, including a short-handed goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.

That was the opening goal in a game that the Blackhawks needed because they were trailing in the series 2-1 at the time. They would eventually win Game 4 in overtime.

So when the Blackhawks lifted the Stanley Cup a few days later, Quenneville and Bowman had warm feelings about Handzus. He was back with the team in training camp.

Even though he has scored 20 goals just once since 2005-06, Handzus was given a prominent role. He spent quite a bit of time during the first half of the season playing with Patrick Kane, who appeared to be a legitimate challenger to Sidney Crosby for the Art Ross Trophyat least through December.

But as much as Kane was putting the puck in the net and setting up his teammates, it was not a good mix with Handzus. He was not helping Kane at all, no matter how many chances he was given.

Handzus, who will play in the Olympic tournament for Slovakia, has scored four goals and seven assists in 41 games for the Blackhawks this year.

He is a drain on the team, and no matter what kind of intangibles he brings to the locker room, he is not helping the Blackhawks on the ice as they try to defend their title.

Quite simply, Handzus is just too unskilled to play anything but a minor role in Chicago. The puck acts like a hand grenade when it is on his stick and he wastes opportunities.

According to Extra Skater, Handzus has a minus-18.6 goals for percentage, which is the second-worst number on the team. Handzus also has a minus-3.0 Corsi for percentage relative to the club's without him on the ice.

On a team that is challenging for the lead in the Western Conference, those are disastrous figures.

Handzus is averaging 13:30 of ice time per game. He should be playing no more than five minutes a game.

He's a decent faceoff man, averaging 49.0 percent at the dot. When the best thing you can say about a player is that he doesn't kill his team in the faceoff circle, that's cold comfort to his teammates and coaches.

The Blackhawks need glue guys, but Handzus should not be one of them. He makes too many mistakes and his negative play outweighs his positive contributions by a wide margin.


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