9:59 AM CDT, April 3, 2013
If I were a betting man, and I am, I’d wager the Blachawks will let today’s trade deadline pass without acquiring the true No. 2 center they’ve needed since they won the Stanley Cup.
I realize the Hawks made a move to acquire a center earlier in the week. But that was a niche deal, putting a Band-Aid on an owwie. Michael Handzus can win faceoffs, but with just two points this season, he apparently can’t do much after that. Think Sammy Pahlsson, part deux.
For those of you who weren’t on the bandwagon before Joel Quenneville joined Chicago’s Mt. Mustachemore of championship coaches, Pahlsson was acquired late in the 2008-09 season for the same faceoff-challenged reasons. The Hawks can’t play their beloved puck-possession game if they’re chasing the puck after every faceoff.
Pahlsson wasn’t a scorer. Neither is Handzus. If Handzus can win more than half of his faceoffs, he’ll be way ahead of every Hawks center except Jonathan Toews, but here’s the thing:
Handzus is the same defensive-minded move that Pahlsson was. It fills a need. But it doesn’t fill THE need, which is a No. 2 center, which might as well be the Holy Grail for Stan Bowman.
Bowman tried to sell us on Patrick Kane’s being a No. 2 center, even after Kane failed at that last season. Bowman is now saying he believes the Hawks have “done pretty good so far with that,’’ except that they haven’t.
Bolland is not a No. 2 center, he’s playing one line too high and it’s hurting the Hawks because he might be the best No. 3 center in the league.
I’ve heard the argument that Bolland was just fine when he was skating with Patrick Sharp, who has been out with a shoulder injury since March 6. Bad argument, and here’s why:
Your No. 2 center should be the reason a line works, not get pulled along because of someone else. See Jonathan Toews making a scorer out of an offensive stiff like Michael Frolik for details.
Here’s what gets me: Bowman has shown the smarts to acquire and retain defensemen to make sure that nobody is forced to play a role up. Think Nick Leddy as the No. 5 defenseman instead of a top-four guy.
But Bowman has not succeeded in filling the second-most-important offensive spot. Sharp said he has not been approached about playing center when he returns, which looks like Thursday against St. Louis. Sharp said he would play center if asked, because that’s the way Sharp does things.
But that doesn’t solve a lot. That isn’t the all-in move. Worse, I think the returns from injury of Sharp and Marian Hossa is becoming a convenient delusion.
“Some people would say those would be two nice trade deadline additions to have Hossa and Sharp come back --- that’s one way to look at it,’’ Bowman said. “We’ve played well without (Sharp) but we certainly played really well with him, too.’’
No, the Hawks have not played well without Sharp and Hossa. The Hawks have struggled to play above .500 without them.
Besides, you don’t look at them as new acquisitions to fill holes that their absences created in the first place. You look at them as part of the original foundation that still needed work.
When the Hawks were finding all sorts of ways to win, they were doing it with Sharp and Hossa, but they still had some shortcomings. Don’t shovel this stuff that two injured guys are coming back to make it all better. Instead, give me those two guys AND an addition. Specifically, a No. 2 center.
You, of course, want names. Derek Roy was a name, but Vancouver got him from Dallas this week. Hope he doesn’t score a big goal in a Hawks-Canucks playoff series.
There’s Steve Ott, who has just six goals, which is one less than Bolland, but he has more points and is a plus player on a big minus Buffalo team, while Bolland is a minus player on the Hawks.
And as long as Doug Wilson is holding a yard sale in San Jose, see what Joe Pavelski goes for. He has played right wing most of this season, but he has played more center in the NHL and seemed a wonderful No. 2 behind Joe Thornton.
There are many reasons not to make a big deal like this, and almost all of them involve money. I don’t expect any major upgrade to occur by the 2 p.m. CDT deadline today. I would love to be happily surprised. In fact, I’d pay for the bandwagon’s next tank of gas.
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