The news from Blackhawks practice on Thursday morning was fairly surprising to some. Patrick Kane had left the center position on the team’s second line, where he has spent most of the season, to move back to Jonathan Toews’ right side.
In Kane’s place on the second line, between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, was rookie Marcus Krüger.
If you’ve been coming to this site for longer than 12 months you’ll know that I’ve been a big fan of Krüger’s for some time. General Manager Stan Bowman has also been a fan of Krüger’s game, saying last year that he might have been on the NHL roster early in the 2010-11 season if not for his contractual commitment in Sweden.
In 24 games this season in the NHL, Krüger has two goals and five assists. He is minus-four, and is winning 46.7 percent of his faceoffs (70/150). Beyond the box score, however, he has worked hard all over the ice, has shown a willingness to crash the net despite his slender frame, and has been a big part of both special teams in Chicago.
Krüger has absolutely earned this promotion from Joel Quenneville.
It also makes sense that, given his work on the defensive end of the ice, Krüger would get a chance at increased ice time and Quenneville would consider moving Kane off the dot and back to a place where he’s been so successful 0ver the last few years. The backcheck from Chicago’s forwards has been weak over the last few weeks, but Krüger has been more the exception than the rule.
Krüger’s promotion today of all days has to be recognized as two things: a well-earned move up the lineup, and a not-so-subtle manipulation of potential trade bait.
On Wednesday, the rumors that Anaheim would move Bobby Ryan hit a fever pitch. TSN’s Bob McKenzie went public, stating that the Ducks were looking for an NHL defenseman, a high pick and a second line center.
Two packages my sources have indicated could already be on the table are Cody Hodgson, Keith Ballard and a first from Vancouver and Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri and a high pick from Toronto. Both of those organizations desperately want Ryan.
With news on Thursday morning (Central Time) that the Ducks had made a move behind their bench, the assumption is that any trade of Bobby Ryan is off the table for now. Some outlets still believe he is on the market, while others are now taking the stance that a move higher on the food chain than coach (read: Bob Murray) would happen before Ryan is dealt.
As I said the other day, it’s doubtful that the Blackhawks would make a play for Ryan. But you have to also recognize that a package of Krüger with Niklas Hjalmarsson and a pick, especially if Krüger succeeds on the Hawks’ second line, stacks up well with either of the deals being rumored to be in play.
The front office has been overwhelming with their support of Krüger, and he has responded by continuing to show rapid growth at the NHL level while bouncing around the lineup. Krüger has legitimately earned a move up the roster.
If Krüger gets a few games under his belt between players the caliber of Hossa and Sharp, his game could slingshot to the next level offensively. Certainly moving him to the second line will do nothing but help Krüger’s development.