It’s been 16 games for the Blackhawks this season, and we’ve already discussed their issues.
In Philly, coach Joel Quenneville attempted his “nuclear” option of rolling out Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp with Jonathan Toews. It didn’t last through the first period.
If we assume a trade isn’t coming any time soon (it’s still Nov. 10), what can the Hawks do with their current roster to improve their offensive output?
Step One: move Nick Schmaltz off the dot.
Schmaltz is winning only 38.9 percent of his faceoffs to date. He can fly and clearly has a lot of offensive ability, but the move to center hasn’t been a good one (remember the Kane-at-center experiment?). But there’s a combination that could help the Hawks generate some offense.
- Put Schmaltz on the wing with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.
Last year in January, the Blackhawks’ hottest line was Richard Panik with Toews and Schmaltz; we wrote about it. That line dominated for a six week stretch while Kane skated with Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Toews and Schmaltz spent 318:40 on the ice together at even strength last year. During that time, the Blackhawks scored 18 goals and allowed eight. When Toews was on the ice without Schmaltz, opponents outscored the Hawks 30-29. When Schmaltz was on the ice at even strength without Toews, the Hawks scored the same number of goals (14) as their opponents.
More importantly, when Toews and Schmaltz were together the Hawks’ CORSI For % was 52.30 during 5-on-5 play. When Schmaltz was away from Toews at even strength, his CORSI For % dropped to 47.74 while Toews’ CORSI For % without Schmaltz was 51.46.
Slot Saad into that line in place of Panik and the Hawks could have a dangerous top line.
So what would the rest of the lines potentially look like?
- How about moving Anisimov back up with Kane and giving Ryan Hartman a shot on their left side?
Last year, Kane and Hartman spent only 75:09 together at even strength but their CORSI For % together was 54.23 and Shots For % at 56.76.
- How about giving Tommy Wingels a shot between John Hayden and Patrick Sharp?
Wingels is winning only 42.5 percent of his faceoffs but leads the Blackhawks win 49 hits and has a 49.51 SAT % this season.
- Lastly, bring up Vinnie Hinostroza and skate him between Richard Panik and Alex DeBrincat.
Hinstroza’s speed would be a difference maker on a line with DeBrincat and Panik, and could be a third or fourth line option depending on matchups.
These lines don’t leave any opening for Tanner Kero, who still has value but needs to get healthy. When he returns, he could skate with Sharp and Hayden and Wingels could move to the wing, bumping Lance Bouma from the lineup for a long time and possibly giving DeBrincat a night off or two.
We don’t know if these lines would work, but what we are certain of is that the mixes the Hawks have tried over the last couple weeks haven’t generated anything offensively.
What’s clear, however, is that the Blackhawks need another center who can win faceoffs at a better clip than 39 percent. Anisimov is up to 52 percent this season, but the drop off is significant after he and Toews.