With the season just around the corner the Chicago Blackhawks have had an eventful training camp. Injuries have again become a concern as the Hawks have lost both Viktor Stalberg and Ben Smith for, what is likely, at least the month of October.
There are roster spots up front that could be filled by Brandon Pirri or Marcus Kruger, both of whom seem previously destined to begin the season in Rockford. Sami Lepisto does not look ready to contribute on a regular basis and we will soon find out who the backup goalie will be.
When the season begins, we will soon find out how deep the Blackhawks actually are. They will still be competitive early but as the season wears on, they may be a few players short of making a serious Cup run.
While it would be great if they could make a trade now, that is unlikely. Come late November or early December there will be holes to fill and the Hawks will more than likely need to make a move. Here is a look at some areas that could use improvement.
The second-line center position has been one of discussion around the Hawks organization for the last two seasons. During the summer is was assumed and expected that this role would be filled by a natural winger, Patrick Sharp.
Since Sharp's emergency appendectomy, that role may now be filled by Brandon Pirri or Marcus Kruger. The Hawks have even gone as far as try Patrick Kane at center. That likely will not last.
Kruger has had a disappointing training camp to say the least and while he does have limited NHL experience, he is much better served in Rockford for now.
In contrast, Pirri has been explosive and well deserving of a roster spot. When the season begins though, is Pirri the guy you can get a full season from, and is his young age and small frame ready for the wear and tear of a full NHL season? We'll see, but likely not.
There will be limited options at the trade deadline as a true number two center is extremely valuable. Still, the Hawks should do all they can to land this position. One player that may become available is the Minnesota Wild's Kyle Brodziak, who is in the last season of his $1.8 million contract. Come December, if the Wild look like sellers, which is possible, the Hawks should take note.
This may be a more realistic need for the Hawks. One reason is simply due to the fact that there will be more wingers available. If the Hawks are able to target a winger to fill a second- or third-line role, the coaching staff and management may feel better about their current options at center.
Though Ben Smith is a feisty hustler and a likable player, there is room for an upgrade. So too (minus the feisty part) can be said about Viktor Stalberg and there is a lot of concern about Bryan Bickell and what role he can play this year.
As early as mid-summer, journalists and bloggers brought up Shane Doan and the possibility of the Hawks making a bid to trade for him. Centers included, this should be the player that tops the Hawks' wish list. He is a leader, a loyal player, is experienced, a perennial 20- to 30-goal scorer and is sound defensively. A player like Doan could realistically fit in on any of the Hawks' top three lines and would probably be on the first or second.
The Hawks would have to give up perhaps a pick and some salary to accommodate the $4.5 million remaining on Doan's cap hit in the final year of his contract. If they can make the maneuver, this is a player that would look fantastic in Hawks uniform.
This may not be a trade scenario, but more or less a plead not to let John Scott be the 20th man on a regular basis.
I know in today's NHL, you need toughness and perhaps an enforcer, but isn't that why you went out and got players like Dan Carcillo and Jamal Mayers?
The Hawks like that John Scott plays both forward and defense and apparently he is a great guy. Unfortunately, he plays both positions poorly and unless he is punching somebody's lights out, he is a liability on the ice. He has been brutal all preseason and was minus-1 against the Capitals Sunday afternoon.
Sami Lepisto is a more skilled player than Scott, but he has also underperformed in camp. It is a decent idea to to have a defenseman on the bench as the 20th player in case a man goes down, but it has been done both ways.
For these reasons, it is not a horrible idea for the Hawks to pursue a veteran, perhaps one that does not have a contract to provide leadership and depth. I am not suggesting that the newly acquired player has to be the extra guy, but someone that would add more balance to the roster. A lower profile move may be in order.
Is it worth giving a guy like John Madden a call?
Other possibilities: Scott Hannan (Calgary Flames), Kyle Wellwood (Winnipeg Jets)
This is more of an "if" than anything else, but the goaltending situation in Chicago still has a lot of question marks. If Corey Crawford has a sophomore slump or God forbid, gets injured, what are the Hawks to do?
When free agency opened last summer, I was very hopeful that the Hawks would make a bid for Ty Conklin. They did not, acquiring Alexander Salak and giving a tryout to Ray Emery.
The likely thing the Hawks will do is sign Emery and have Salak start the season in Rockford. Despite Emery's suspect performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Hawks will need someone with experience. Salak needs some work in the minors.
Having Emery as the go to guy if something goes wrong with Crawford is not exactly comforting.
Of course this is circumstantial, but the last two seasons the Hawks ended up going with their "second option" for the majority of the season. Antti Niemi replaced Cristobal Huet in 2009-2010, and Crawford was given his chance last season when veteran Marty Turco failed to deliver.
One option if Crawford goes down or implodes would be New Jersey Devils backup Johan Hedberg.
Both he and Martin Brodeur are in the final year of their contracts, and Hedberg makes a relatively modest $1.25 million. If the Devils find themselves sellers with another tough season, this could make sense.
Keep in mind, this is only in the event of an emergency situation and we all hope, if called upon Emery would step up to avoid such a problem.