Last week coach Joel Quenneville talked of the Blackhawks’ potential roster, one whose bottom six had several one-way contracts and not a lot of vacancies for young players who may break through. How would those deals, the ones that would force the Blackhawks to potentially put veterans on waivers, impact their decisions?
“Hockey is always a significant part of it. The business part sometimes adds to it,” Quenneville said. “Sometimes – I don’t want to call it the deal breaker but could be one area that has a big influence on the decision. But we like to be making hockey decisions first.”
Considering how well some of the Blackhawks’ young on-the-bubble players are doing, the hockey and business decisions may be colliding very soon.
John Hayden has been outstanding since the start of camp and had another strong game (and his first preseason goal) in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday night. Alex DeBrincat has also been very good; Quenneville took a look at him on the third line with Artem Anisimov and Ryan Hartman on Sunday and could revisit that combo again soon. Vinnie Hinostroza is getting another long look.
The Blackhawks have two more preseason games to gauge what they need and want to do, and they’ll take advantage of as many games and practices to see what works best.
“We’ve got some ideas but I still think there are a couple of decisions that need to be made,” Quenneville said. “There’s gotta be personnel decisions, line combinations or defensive pairings that are still open, and there are spots that are open, for sure. I don’t want to put a quantity or number on it, but there is.”
Sure, there are definitely spots to fill on defense – possibly an extra one given Michal Rozsival hasn’t passed his training camp physical (upper body) and his status has not changed. But this is more about the forward lines, which have to weigh one-way contracts of depth veterans against young talent.
The Blackhawks always talk about having more grit in the lineup but the players who have had a mix of skill and grit (guys like Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Hartman, you get the point) have helped them garner the most success. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Blackhawks figure out a way to get these young guys in the lineup.
Quenneville’s always said he and the Blackhawks love tough decisions. Right now, they have some.