Projecting a Patrick Kane-less lineup for the Blackhawks
Losing Patrick Kane isn't the end of the world for the Chicago Blackhawks, but it's really, really close. How might the Hawks survive without him?
In the coming days, there will probably be a wealth of panic pieces as they relate to the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps even more than they do to Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. This is one of those pieces.
While nothing has been confirmed yet by the organization, all indicates through whatever "sources" and back channels, Chris Kuc has reported that Kane could be out from anywhere from six to 10 weeks with what is being rumored as a broken collarbone (I swear, the one time a Hawks beat actually breaks news...). Some of the quotes from around the league have indicated it could be on the longer end of that, putting his return at any point this season completely up in the air.
It's not as if the Hawks were world beaters with Kane in the lineup. While he was still performing at a steady pace and accruing points at one of the top rates in the league, the Blackhawks have stumbled since the first of January. Defensive breakdowns and lack of contributions from the bottom six forwards in their lineup had them scuffling quite a bit. This takes that initial concern to another level.
In the coming days, you'll hear plenty about players that the Hawks could go out and acquire as a result of their sudden cap space that will result from a likely trip to LTIR for the Hawks' star winger. It was pretty questionable as to whether or not they'd pursue anyone before Kane went down, and it's highly unlikely they'll sell the farm in order to bring someone in that can contribute only this season while Kane's return is not even a guarantee. Perhaps a trade for someone like Antoine Vermette is more likely at this point, but we'll discuss those types of scenarios as the situation becomes more official.
Nonetheless, it's high time for the Blackhawks to begin to examine a life without Patrick Kane, at least for the next 6-10 weeks. It isn't terribly pretty, but the Hawks have the kind of depth that they can survive for a stretch in the regular season. If Kane comes back just in time for the playoffs and can shake off the rust quickly, then we'll talk about reviving those Stanley Cup dreams. At this point, though, the forwards in the lineup could shake out something like this:
|Brandon Saad||Jonathan Toews||Marian Hossa|
|Patrick Sharp||Brad Richards||Kris Versteeg|
|Bryan Bickell||Teuvo Teravainen||Andrew Shaw|
|Joakim Nordstrom||Marcus Kruger||Ben Smith|
There are certainly some interchangeable components of that lineup, but you have to figure that those dozen forwards make the most sense. Daniel Carcillo will probably work his way in there too, maybe even over Teuvo because that's what we've come to expect from Joel Quenneville at this point. Teuvo could potentially see time on the right side as well, especially if Q is hellbent on continuing to trot Shaw out as the third line pivot. Conventional wisdom, however, would indicate that the best situation for Teuvo is to consider rolling him out in the middle.
There is upside here. Teuvo was starting to find it prior to being sent back to Rockford. Kris Versteeg has bounced back completely. He'll have to take his game a bit higher. Patrick Sharp will need to find the stat sheet consistently. Marian Hossa doesn't have to score two goals a game, but he'll need to pot them with regularity. Bryan Bickell will have to demonstrate a semblance of consistency. None of these things out of of the realm of possibility, of course.
As a result, the Hawks aren't in a situation where they necessarily need to go out and get a forward. They have a competent forward group in place, even without Kane. Additionally, any forward trade would indicate that the Hawks are, in fact, trying to replace Patrick Kane. This is simply something that cannot be done. Put resources into acquiring defensive help, rather than looking up front.
Is this the end of the world? No, but it's close. If the Hawks can get Kane back in the mix by the time the postseason rolls around, perhaps even on the early end of that rumored 6-10 week mark, they could be in good shape when the playoffs begin. They have enough offensive firepower to get them through the remainder of the regular season. A defensive addition, and this team is capable of making it to that point. However, a playoff run without Patrick Kane is a playoff run without a Stanley Cup.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.