As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare to throw out the welcome mat for Brandon Bollig and the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night, one of the more talked about players through the first pair of games is the forward that replaced the former enforcer: Daniel Carcillo.
The Hawks created quite the firestorm when they decided to invite Dan Carcillo to training camp at the tail end of it, after he was cut loose by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Carcillo didn't even make it through the weekend as a straight training camp invitee before he was offered a contract, playing for a bare-minimum $550,000 cap hit this season. But any amount of money for a player whose role is a questionable one would have set the fanbase into the frenzy that it did.
To a certain extent, the outrage was understandable. At the same time, though, it's important to acknowledge that the facepuncher role is going to be in the Hawks' lineup basically every night, as long as Joel Quenneville is behind the bench. He and Stan Bowman trusted familiarity over Brandon Mashinter, and that was all there really was to it. That acknowledgement helped to quell some of the initial outrage.
Through two games, it's almost impossible to not have overreaction to certain things, regardless of the sport. Yet, through the pair of Blackhawks' wins to this point, there has actually been quite a bit of a positive buzz generating around Carcillo, some of it coming from the very people that questioned the signing in the first place.
That positive buzz that he's sparked is certainly warranted; he's played extremely well through the Hawks' first two games. He scored in the Hawks' trouncing of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, has pushed the opposition on a strong forecheck, and has turned in some pretty solid possession numbers. He has a Corsi% over 67 percent through the first two, and an 8.9 relative Corsi.
All in all, there's reason to be impressed with Carcillo. However, it's important to take every small sample of solid work from the "enforcer" with a tremendous grain of salt. Throughout his career, there have been moments like this, while at the same time there have been moments like when he tried to maim Tom Gilbert, ending up suspended for seven games and missing several months with an injury sustained in the hit. This is still a player with a history of reckless play, and that stigma is going to continue to linger.
That doesn't mean we can't be impressed with his play early on. He'll go out every night and grind, maybe grab a couple of goals, and generate that forecheck he has to this point. However, as impressive as he may be, it's important to remember who we're dealing with here. If we're going to be impressed with Carcillo when he draws a couple of penalties, we're going to have to be mentally prepared to accept it when he commits a few terrible ones as the season wears on.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.