The Chicago Blackhawks will open the 2015-16 season with Teuvo Teravainen at left wing next to center Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa on the team's top line, head coach Joel Quenneville said Monday at the team's practice. He also said that "hopefully" the move will stick all season, which would solidify the Hawks' first line after the departure of Brandon Saad.
Teravainen, 21, emerged as a dynamic scoring option for the Blackhawks late in the 2014-15 season, then played a key role as the team won its third Stanley Cup in six seasons. During training camp and preseason, he's spent most of his time playing at center, his original position, but it appears Quenneville didn't like any of the alternative options he tried at first-line left winger to start the season. Instead, he'll turn to Teuvo.
The two players who saw the most time on the first line in the lead up to the regular season were 20-year-old Marko Dano and Andrew Shaw. Dano, who was acquired as part of the Saad trade, impressed early on but ended up getting reassigned to Rockford to open the season. Shaw just doesn't size up as a top-line player despite his many skills.
So this move ensures that the Hawks will be strong up front, with a first line featuring Teravainen, Toews and Hossa and a second line featuring Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. That's impressive, but undeniably leaves the team thin on the bottom-six, where we saw groupings of Bryan Bickell-Shaw-Kyle Baun and Andrew Desjardins-Marcus Kruger-Ryan Garbutt on Monday.
Those bottom two lines look weak, especially when it comes to offensive production, and probably won't cut it as the season wears on. That's where Dano comes in and presumably at some point he'll get promoted to give the third line a boost assuming Teravainen actually ends up sticking with Toews and Hossa.
For now, the Hawks are going to make sure they're strong up front and hope Shaw can settle down as the third-line center. It probably won't happen, considering we've seen this before, but things can always change quickly given Quenneville's propensity for mixing up lines. With guys like Dano, Jeremy Morin, Ryan Hartman, Mark McNeill and Vince Hinostroza in Rockford, plus Viktor Tikhonov in the press box, you'll probably see some different looks before things are through.