It has been a tough season for Chicago Blackhawks, to say the least, and as they sit headed into the All-Star break this team just doesn't seem right. Yes, they have the best power play in the NHL and have been given solid goaltending from rookie Corey Crawford, but there seems to be a missing link on this team and it's difficult to pinpoint.
Of course, the Blackhawks have not been the same on the defensive end. They have struggled mightily on the penalty kill and seem to lack the grit they possessed last season. So the question I would ask is what is general manager Stan Bowman going to do try and turn this team around?
Does he need to make a big trade, make a waiver claim, bring in some outcast from the KHL, or is it is simple as just looking into the minor league system? Whatever it is, this team is in need of some type of shake-up—and I'm not saying trade Marian Hossa or Patrick Sharp; it is more like possibly cutting some of the dead weight off of their roster.
Names like Jack Skille, Viktor Stalberg, Nick Boynton and John Scott come to mind as guys who really are having subpar seasons and in my mind might not be getting used in the correct situations. Guys like Skille and Stalberg are players who don't have a ton of grit in their game but game after game are put on the fourth line and lack the ability to get play in the tough areas.
Although I believe Stalberg and Skille play with a ton of skill, they just don't have that grit to go along with the energy you want out of your fourth line. With that being said, one way the 'Hawks could shake things up is sending either Stalberg or Skille down to the Rockford Ice Hogs.
Of the two, Stalberg would be the most probable to get sent back to the AHL as he is still on a two-way contract while Skille is on a one-way contract. Even though I think Stalberg is a much more dangerous player, he makes more money than Skille and his two-way contract allows him to be demoted to the AHL without having to pass through waivers.
So if Stalberg were to go down, who would the Blackhawks promote to take his place? Ryan Potulny? Kyle Beach? Rob Klinkhammer? Jeremy Morin? All four would have a valid argument for the promotion, Potulny has the most NHL experience, Beach would bring some needed grit to the lineup. Klinkhammer is your prototypical fourth-line grinder and Morin would bring a good mixture of skill and grit to the ice.
So of the four who do you choose?
In my mind it would be between Klinkhammer and Morin. Klinkhammer would provide the 'Hawks with a solid, defensive-minded bottom-six forward that would fit along side Dowell and Skille on the fourth line; however, in Morin you are getting more of a full package in that he can play at both ends of the ice but you would need to make room for him in the top nine.
Although I think Klinkhammer might be the best fit for Hawks' fourth line, Morin gives them another scoring threat in their arsenal and someone who isn't afraid to go into those dirty areas on the ice. I believe Morin is an upgrade on both ends of the ice over Stalberg and maybe would provide a jolt to the forward core.
Which Blackhawks prospect would you like to see in the NHL this year?
As for the Hawks defense, it is a bit of a quandary as defensive staples like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson are having off years but reserves like Jordan Hendry, Nick Boynton and John Scott are not helping the defensive problem.
Of the three, the two candidates to drop from the roster would be John Scott and Nick Boynton, the reason being that as of late Hendry has proven to be a solid defense partner for rookie Nick Leddy and has the versatility to play forward if needed.
The reason I have zeroed in on Boynton and Scott as the dead weight of back end is because the two of them have the biggest holes in their game as Scott's only skill is fighting and Boynton is unable to keep up with opposing forwards.
I could give or take either one because I doubt either will be seeing much playing time as it is, but the problem is that they are wasting a roster spot that could go to a young defenseman like a Shawn Lalonde or Brian Connelly and are just costing the Blackhawks cap space.
I would keep Scott on the roster because he has the ability to be inserted into the lineup to face opposing teams' heavyweights and can also play either forward or defense, neither of which he is particularly good at, but is willing to do either.
So I believe maybe it is time to waive goodbye to the grizzled Nick Boynton and welcome the added cap cushion and possibly a spot for a developing defenseman or another acquisition.
There is no way of knowing if the Blackhawks general manager has any tricks up his sleeve, but during this break might be the right time to consider a move or at least reevaluate the team that is taking the ice.
With the regular season starting back up on February 1, the Blackhawks are in need of some kind of spark. I would not be surprised to see Mr. Bowman make a move or two to re-energize the group. What those moves might be, no one knows; but all we do know is something has got to give or come the playoffs the Hawks might be on the outside looking in.