The Chicago Blackhawks have largely had the good fortune of stability so far this season. Yes, Corey Crawford is out right now, and other players have also had brief absences, but the team has been healthy enough and good enough that the team’s transaction sheet has been pretty light.
Here’s what we have in terms of NHL transactions so far this season:
- Jordin Tootoo was removed from LTIR, placed on waivers, and assigned to the AHL after clearing
- Crawford was placed on IR, and Jean-Francois Berube was recalled to replace him
For the most part, you’d have to say that’s a good thing. It’s an indication that the team has avoided major injuries and largely has a roster that it’s decided to keep plugging away at. If things got bad enough, we would’ve seen a trade, an AHL promotion, something by now.
But the Blackhawks have shown enough flashes to convince themselves this is a team worth trying to mold. The biggest problems will be solved internally if everything goes according to plan.
So we’ve gotten two months of Blackhawks hockey where the team has more or less stood pat in terms of roster construction. The only real changes have resulted from Joel Quenneville slamming that blender button to his heart’s content. And yet, even there, we’ve seen him ease off and stick to a lineup for a while.
Bowman is going to have to make moves eventually, though, because that’s what NHL GMs do during the season. Whether it’s the result of an injury, a trade offer that’s too good to refuse, or something else, the Blackhawks are going to find themselves doing something sooner than later.
What could that be?
- An AHL promotion of a player like Vinnie Hinostroza or Tomas Jurco, which could force the Hawks to put one of their own players on waivers, such as Jordan Oesterle
- A trade using some of the cap space freed up by Marian Hossa’s LTIR status
- A waiver claim of a depth player from another team
It’s hard to say exactly where the Blackhawks will go from here, but it’s clear that they’ve spent the first two months of the season in an evaluation stage. Some parts have been positive, like the progress we’ve seen from Gustav Forsling since early October. Other parts, like the reality that Brent Seabrook can no longer cut it in a top-pairing role or the constant streakiness of Richard Panik, have merely hammered home that this team has real flaws.
But they’ll do something eventually to try to address those issues. One guy who could help eventually is Dylan Sikura once his NCAA season is over. Bowman need to find more help elsewhere, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.