The Chicago Blackhawks are in a great spot when it comes to the center position.
Stan Bowman says so.
The fact that the 'Hawks skated with 11 forwards in their season opener, a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, suggests that Bowman's confidence may be a bit misguided. Tell me again why John Madden isn't worth a phone call, Stan?
It would be silly to panic after 60 minutes of hockey. The shorthanded Blackhawks had plenty of offensive opportunities throughout the contest. It just seems odd that Bowman would not be able to fill Joel Quenneville's lineup with an adequate number of centers for the first game.
Friday's centers were Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brandon Pirri, and...well, I guess Jamal Mayers. The fourth line was a potpourri all evening. By the third period, so was the rest of the lineup.
When the going got tough, it was back to Toews, Kane and Patrick Sharp on the first line. And so it will probably go all season. Kane and Marian Hossa generated some prime scoring chances (Hoss had eight shots on the night with Kane adding five), but Quenneville ended the experiment in the final 20 minutes.
And with that, we've back to facing questions in the middle one game into the season.
I would imagine that Kane will line up in the middle of the second line again in the home opener with the Stars. He played too well on the offensive end for the brass to pull the plug on the center experiment so soon.
It just seems odd that after the offseason and all the needs that were addressed, it still comes down to a simple truth. Chicago once again pinned the depth at center on a healthy Dave Bolland. Once again, Bolland is unable to play.
Quenneville was "optimistic" that the Rat could go Saturday night. Kruger's recall suggests otherwise.
The good news is that Bolland says the injury is not related to his concussion last spring or his surgically repaired back. The bad new is that it's a brand new condition to add to the list of maladies.
Brandon Pirri played well on the third line, assisting on Nick Leddy's goal. His reward for coming up and filling in? Bowman is sending him back to Rockford and has called up Marcus Kruger. If Pirri was the superior center of the two, and he was, why not let him start a second game?
Regardless of how the 'Hawks choose to plug the hole, there's still a hole. A guy like Madden could have very competently moved up to the third line and provided steady play, then anchored the energy line if and when Bolland returns.
Instead, Madden and other veteran options sit at home, and we wait for Bolland. Again.