On Friday night, the Blackhawks acquired a veteran center.
No, Brendan Morrison isn’t going to step in and become the 60-point second center that fans were craving, but the ripple effect on the rest of the roster could prove to be a positive.
After the trade, GM Stan Bowman said he was excited to have “another established, legitimate center” on the roster. Chicago’s depth is clearly improved with this deal, and Brian Connelly was never going to see the NHL as a member of the Blackhawks organization. But where does a guy averaging under 14 minutes a night find himself on the Hawks’ depth chart?
Since Patrick Sharp went down, the Blackhawks have been living with Dave Bolland as the center on the second line. In the eight games since Sharp left the lineup, Bolland has found his offensive game, scoring six goals and adding three assists while winning 52.1 percent of his faceoffs.
Morrison, 36, is also winning better than 50 percent of his faceoffs this season and is a sound defensive center who has some offensive upside despite missing the beginning of the season because of a torn ACL from last year.
Obviously Marcus Kruger and Jamal Mayers have also seen extensive time at center this year. Mayers has been outstanding as a fourth line center, winning 55.5 percent of his faceoffs. Kruger, on the other hand, has won 45.7 percent of his faceoffs this season. Either one could move to a wing position, but faceoff numbers would indicate that Mayers should stick as a center if the choice is between them.
When Sharp returns from injury, we might see one of two plans take shape.
Option One: Sharp returns skating opposite Marian Hossa with Bolland staying put as the second line center. Morrison could move into the third center position, with Kruger skating as a bottom-six wing and Bryan Bickell finding somewhere else to play hockey.
Option Two: Sharp returns and moves back to center (where he should have been since October) with Hossa and someone from the current roster skating at the left wing. Bolland returns to the third line, and Morrison and Mayers skate together on the fourth line. Kruger is back at a wing, and Bickell is still going away.