Could The Blackhawks Answer At 2C Be On The Roster Already?

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As the NHL trade deadline approaches, Blackhawks fans are squarely focused on the team acquiring a second-line center. But could the Hawks have an answer on the roster already?

Dave Bolland simply isn’t getting it done, offensively or in faceoffs. This season, Bolland is winning only 44.1 percent of his even-strength faceoffs, and his faceoff win percentage has dropped from 46.8 percent in February to 44.7 percent in March. And he hasn’t scored a goal in a month.

There will certainly be some names that are thrown around the trade rumors in the coming week. Dallas’ Derek Roy and Vernon Fiddler could both make sense on this Hawks roster, as could Washington’s Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks and Buffalo’s Steve Ott. It seems everyone has a favorite, as is the case every trade deadline.

The Hawks might not want to part ways with the prospects being asked for the player(s) they desire. Certainly the return Calgary received for Jarome Iginla could help bring the market down a little, but Iginla had all of the power in that scenario and Pittsburgh (and Boston and LA for that matter) knew they weren’t bidding against 28 other teams.

That won’t be the case for some of those other names.

If the Blackhawks aren’t able to make the right deal, should they consider moving Marcus Kruger back up to the second line when Patrick Sharp returns?

In 12 games in March, Kruger has three assists while averaging 13:32 of ice time, primarily as a fourth line center and killing penalties. Bolland, meanwhile, has five assists in 10 games in March while averaging 17:15 on the ice per night as the team’s second line center.

Only three Blackhawks forwards – Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad – are averaging more ice time per night in March than Bolland. All three of them are point-per-game performers over that stretch.

Consider for a moment these trends inside Kruger’s numbers.

He’s winning 48.6 percent of his even-strength draws this year, and his overall faceoff percentage has improved from 43.4 percent in February to 47.4 percent in March.

Kruger’s 47.4 percent at the dot in March compares favorably with the list of potential trade targets outlined above. In fact, it’s just behind Roy (47.6), who has nine points in March.

While Ott is winning 56.6 percent of his faceoffs this month, he has 23 PIM and eight points in 12 games. Ribeiro has 13 points in 13 games this month, but is winning only 39.3 percent of his faceoffs.

For the season, Kruger is averaging 1.57 even-strength points per 60 minutes, more than Andrew Shaw (1.34) or Bolland (1.23). When looking at potential trade targets, Kruger’s even-strength points per 60 minutes stack up well. Ott (1.49), Hendricks (1.23) and Fiddler (1.01) are lower, while Roy (2.25) and Ribeiro (2.24) came in with better numbers.

Digging deeper, though, we find that Kruger is having an interesting month at the dot.

Kruger has struggled the most in the offensive zone in March, winning only 17 of 39 faceoffs (43.6 percent). His work in the defensive zone is better (45.7 percent). But in the neutral zone, Kruger is having a very strong month. He has won 24 of 45 neutral zone faceoffs (53.3 percent) in March, a number that increases to 61.1 percent (22 of 36) if we remove a poor performance on March 1.

Kruger’s CORSI numbers indicate Kruger is doing more with less, and is actually generating more offense than Bolland.

Kruger’s on-ice CORSI (9.96) ranks sixth among Blackhawks forwards, while Bolland’s on-ice CORSI (-13.21) ranks dead last on the roster. Also, Kruger’s relative CORSI (4.0) ranks sixth among Hawks forwards; only Jimmy Hayes (-25.6) ranks lower than Bolland (-25.3) in relative CORSI.

One of the most telling differences between the two is where their 5-on-5 shifts start and end.

Only 35.8 percent of Kruger’s even-strength shifts start in the offensive zone, the lowest total on the roster; Bolland is currently only one spot ahead of Kruger, but starts 49.5 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.

However, Kruger’s shifts end in the offensive zone 52 percent of the time, a 16.2 percent jump. Bolland’s shifts end in the offensive zone only 45.8 percent of the time.

What does all of this mean?

Obviously the Blackhawks would like to have someone producing more offense as the center on the team’s second line than Bolland has to date, and clearly they need someone who can win faceoffs on a more consistent basis. But it might not be a terrible idea to give Kruger a shot in that role. He’s certainly earned it.

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34 Responses to Could The Blackhawks Answer At 2C Be On The Roster Already?

  1. John Bertoletti says:

    2ND LINE CENTER? IT’S TIME FOR STAN MIKITA!

  2. Sr. Brad says:

    Thanks Tab…that’s an excellent article on Kruger…and while I really like Kruger moving forward, he and Shaw should be asked to man the bottom 2 centre roles for the next couple of years. Asking Marcus to step into the 2nd role may be putting too much too soon on his young shoulders. Kruger is already a good player for the Hawks, but he isn’t a .8 PPG player and 50% face-off man, and likely isn’t going to be for at least another year or two.

    I recommended this move a week ago, and think this should happen until such time the Hawks can find a true replacement. Every week now Kruger is getting better at the dot…in fact, when Kruger loses a defensive zone face-off (which is happening less and less) he shows a lot of emotion, which this young Swede doesn’t do a lot of…so you know face-offs are on his mind.

    If the Bowman doesn’t make a move, this is what needs to happen IMO…Bolland can, and should, be moved down to the 4th line…you do NOT want to touch the chemistry of the 3rd line. Kruger always has done well with Sharp, and he just has to learn to adjust to Kane. Bolland will be fine skating 10 minutes a night between Frolik and Bollig.

    But I do hope Bowman reaches out and gets this 2nd line centre…it has now been 3 full seasons without one, and it’s killing us.

    Tab, what are thoughts on the Keith Yandle trade talks with the Hawks tonight…I have always really liked Yandle, and know he would be a key addition to the roster…sources are saying the Hawks are moving quickly to close on Yandle and Roy…your thoughts please.

  3. Tab Bamford says:

    re: Yandle rumors – they allegedly want Hjalmarsson, a young player that’s established AND under contract past this year, and a prospect. My questions surround the established player and the prospect. If the word “Saad” is mentioned, hang up the phone. Other than that…

    There is one issue/concern with a move for Yandle though: money. He has three more years on a deal with a cpa hit of $5.25M per. Next year, that’s $1.75M more than Hjalmarsson (potentially offset with the other roster player). But those next two years would require a couple subsequent moves that could be tough to swallow for many fans. But the reality is pretty simple: Yandle’s an elite defenseman who would help the Hawks’ PP a great deal.

  4. Drewp1033 says:

    20+ years ago Blackhawks had very solid star loaded lineup. Penguins had a best hockey player in the world+ on their roster. Regardless of all the possible trades hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself.

  5. Mike says:

    Tab, Agreed…..in the absence of a trade, give the job to Kruger. I think switching Bolland and Krugar is a good move for both of them. Is it a cup winning move? Maybe not, but the fans have to understand, there are real cap issues ahead. The Hawks need to look at the future at least as much as the present. The future is bright if Bowman is careful. People look at the Pens and say wow. Watch what happens after this season…….Hawks summer of 2010 comes to mind.

    The team as it sits is cup capable. But, like the streak, they need a good bounce here and there. The Hawks did not start the season as the best team in hockey, they are not the best team in hockey BUT they can win the cup. Chemistry will play a huge role.

  6. Mike says:

    Tab and everyone…..thanks for this blog and conversation. Down here in the south east hockey is a foreign language. Thank God for the package.

  7. Kurt says:

    What is the story with Sharp? Why isn’t everyon crying out to put him back at the C position? If memory serves me…. he was there during the SC run.

    I suggest moving Sharp to center may re-invent his career. His contract is clearly for what he WAS, not is. He is clearly having a down year, and that draws attention to his contract. Should he be considered a “core” guy? My opinion is NO. Wouldn’t getting rid of one big contract help the cap situation?

    I agree that Bolland is a great team guy and if not for his contract, I would never suggest a trade, but that contract is horrible. At 1.5 or even 2 per year, he is worth the dollars…. but at 3.5…yuk

    If the SB doesn’t solve the #2 center position with something different than #36…. 2nd round and out is the future.

  8. Tab Bamford says:

    Clearly Sharp doesn’t want to play center, Kurt. That’s the problem.

  9. Mike says:

    Kurt….whoa, I think your being a little tough on Sharp. Yes his season is down a bit (.75 points/game and a +7). But he is a valuable asset to this team. There are lots of teams who would like him. Not only is he dangerous with the puck but he creates space for Bolland and Kane and is responsible defensively. He kills penalties and is a good PP point man. Moving him to center would help the team now but IMO he is better at wing. Also IMO it would be better to give Kruger some time on the second line.

  10. jeff says:

    Kurt…have to agree totally on Bolland. 3rd line center and for $$ he gets his #’s aren’t their
    as far as yandle i’d like to see hawks use stallberg included with prospect.

  11. AdamRrr says:

    Kruger 2C? No. Keep him in 4th line role to fill important PK role with Frolik. The less you have to use your 1st/2nd line guys on PK, the better. Keep your 1st/2nd line guys rested for PP and Even strength goal scoring.

  12. Tab Bamford says:

    Question for AdamRrr: maybe it’s time for shut-down center Bolland to contribute in a shut-down role on PK?

    He’s averaging only 60 seconds per game short-handed, but has been passed in the rotation by not only Kruger and Frolik, but also Saad. Kruger’s the better 5-on-5 player and has been performing better lately; if they’re going to give Frolik a shot on the line with Toews & Saad, I certainly think Kruger’s earned the same respect (and the numbers clearly indicate he could be an improvement from what Bolland has been doing in that role).

  13. EbonyRaptor says:

    Yandle is a good young puck moving defenseman but the Hawks already have three PMDs on their roster (Keith, Oduya & Leddy) so Yandle doesn’t meet a need. Plus his salary would hurt the team because it wouldn’t be just the loss of the player(s) sent to Phoenix in the trade, it would also be the inability to resign a player or two this summer due to less cap space.

    If Phoenix falls out of the race before the TDL and decides to make players available, Vermette or Gordon are the players to target.

  14. John says:

    Some very interesting points… might not be the perfect answer, but I think there is more than enough evidence to show that Bolland is not getting it done. Kruger seems to get hit hard frequently so I would worry he would only be exposed to more of it. If he was able to stay ding free it just might be best option available for this year.

  15. BigSmokeJ says:

    I agree ER we don’t need another PMD, if they go for some backup we need a SAH defense man.

    Both of the players you mentioned are intriguing and the next few days will tell if the Yotes will be sellers. Not sure about Vermette’s salary and how that would effect signing players next year. But both are very good at FO’s.

    Does anyone know how well they skate? Can they keep up with Kane & Sharp? Do they bring some physical play. Don’t watch a lot of Yotes games.

  16. Vicki Worthington says:

    My only problem with Krueger is that he is pretty slight in build. One of the things that has been brought to the fore-front about this current Hawks team is size and ability to protect the puck. Krueger is fearless about entering the tough areas, but he gets knocked off the puck pretty easily due to his size. He goes right back, which says a lot for his toughness, but sometimes “size matters”!

  17. 'hawks58 says:

    Tab, I agree with this post wholeheartedly, but moving Kruger to 2C would facilitate a move to 4C for Shaw and there’s no way in hell that Q would put Shaw on the 4th line (though I think he would be a fantastic fit there and one of the best 4th line centers in the league).

    As for Yandle, trading Hjalmarsson for him is counterproductive IMO. You trade away your best defensive defenseman who is young and signed past this year at a reasonable price for yet another puck moving defensman who puts you into a tight cap situation next year.

  18. Mike says:

    Putting Bolland on the 4th line might just be the motivation he needs. Put him where he can do his best work, holding the other teams first or second line at bay. $3.375mm or not Q has to deal with the hand he has.

  19. wall says:

    Vicki- so you are telling me that my wife is a liar… she has told me several times that
    “size does not matter”!!! lol

    But I do AGREE Kruger is tough… but he is undersized and in the end NOT the man for 2nd line center… His other weakness is Finishing nice set-ups (from Kane)…
    so NO to Kruger as the Long-term answer for 2nd line center…

    I will say this about Kruger- he still gets hit a lot on boards but has improved ( last year the guy would use his neck/back as a bridge against boards… this will lead to a very short career in NHL)… he has minimized that move a lot…

    Hawks will not make cup run w/ out a 1 yr. rental!!!!

  20. RyanDale says:

    I think he ‘better’ be on the roster because SB isn’t going to do anything but go on to the playoffs as is. Personally I don’t feel we have a 2 and want a move for Ott(weeks ago) to help us win this year. I do not see us as champs without help. It blows my mind that we are 4 years down the road on this issue and NOTHING is ever done.

    Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result = insanity. Go Crazy SB

  21. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Tab I appreciate the advanced stats on Kruger. I like him but I don’t think he is good enough to be a 2C on a Stanley Cup winning team. I am excited to see how the Hawks play tonight against a down Ducks team, should be interesting

  22. Sr. Brad says:

    Vermette is a great option as the 2nd line Centre, if he is available. The Hawks should have got him from Columbus last year instead of allowing him to go to PHO. Vermette definitely has the skating ability to play on the same line as Kane…his contract is for $3.75 million (very close to Bolland), and he has won 606 faceoffs this year (Toews has won 643) and he has a FO% of 59.6 which is identical to Toews, which make them both tied for 2nd in the entire NHL…Vermette is 6’1″ 200 lbs…he has 8 goals and 7 assists and is currently a -4 playing on a line that doesn’t score many goals and defends the oppostions top lines. Vermette has the talent to put up 20 goals and 50+ assists in a full season playing with Kane and Sharp…he is only 30 years old.

  23. ozzzie19 says:

    Ott would be my pick of the bunch. I fear Kruger and Kane on the same line would represent a weak forecheck. I like Kruger, but he would need some strong wingers to be most effective at his game.

    I wonder if Buffalo would be interested in reacquiring Montador with Leopold and Regehr being UFAs. Not that he has much (any) value in a trade, certainly other pieces would have to go to BUF like perhaps Stalberg (assuming they want to get the first crack at resigning him), a Rockford player and a pick. Getting Ott would allow us to bump Bolland back to 3C and shift Shaw over to the vacated 3W. Then in the offseason we would have the center depth to be able to deal Bolland. If Leddy gets offer sheeted, then we would have the financial flexibility to be able to sign it and if he doesn’t get offer sheeted then we might have a chance to resign Bickell.

  24. Sr. Brad says:

    Ozzie, I like the Ott option as well, but I simply would not trade Stahlberg. There are rumours that Stahlberg hasn’t signed an extension because his agent is asking for outrageous money, so unless that scenario were true, we should keep him long term. It’s Bolland that needs to move, but because of the season Bolland is having (and his injury history) Bolly for Ott won’t get it done…but Bolly and one of our many very good prospects should.

    The bottom line is that there are pieces out there that will fit our 2nd Centre need, but the fact that NOTHING has happened to this point, to me, tells us that Bowman is likely, once again, not going to accomplish a thing…he has an overdeveloped worth of his prospects and covets his draft selections…that unfortunately won’t get a single deal done.

  25. Mox says:

    Tab,

    Gotta ask. Tad off topic here. Do you know this John Jaeckel guy that covers the Hawks on HockeyBuzz.com? And if so, is he even connected to the team at all. He spouts off some crazy rumors that seem to have zero traction. I always come here first for all things Hawks, but my work day can get boring. Gotta fill in the blank spaces.
    Thanks for the great work!

  26. Tab Bamford says:

    Mox: I have interacted with him on Twitter on a few occasions, but don’t know Mr. Jaeckel personally.

  27. Morrison says:

    *All roster players stay, unless its for Pavelski/Yandle types…
    When adding good players (Morrow/Igilna/Roy/Ribero) will strengthen are team, having 2 Centers good at faceoffs would be better & give us a Complete-Quality Depth.

    Vermette-is a 2-line player now
    Ott-checking & defensive foward, 4-line
    Goc-speed & defensive foward, 4-line

    I like the Vermette add (I like it a-lot), too have our 4-line be 36-16-67 is beautiful!

    *Absolutly have to, HAVE TO have 2 forwards that are good at faceoffs (phalson-09,madden-10,vermette/ott/goc-13&14).

  28. wall says:

    Vermette sounds like the best fit!!!!

  29. AdamRrr says:

    Answer: No. The billy bean statistical approach doesn’t work in hockey.

  30. Sr. Brad says:

    End of 2 periods against Anaheim, and Bolland, Shaw and Kruger have all had their share of problems against ANA…I have watched 3 games versus them, and ANA is a better hockey team…yes we are without Sharp and Hoss, but not in the first game.

    Kruger and Shaw are showing their age tonight, and Bolland is a mess. Bowman has done lots to help the Hawks but he is also directly responsible for this huge void at Centre…the Hawks have a chance to put ANA away for first in the conference, and we are not showing the man power to do so.

  31. pete says:

    We are missing Sharp and Hossa. With all our players we are better than Anaheim.

  32. raiger says:

    This article was a whole lot of stats, without addressing the real issues: size, grit, and physicality. Simply put, without adding some of these elements, this is, once again, a one-and-done team come the postseason (possibly a second round team if they get draw another “finesse” team in the first round).

    “The Streak” is over with, and anyone who has been a ‘Hawks fan for longer than this past season will know that this team, as built today, cannot make it through the physical Western Conference. Yes, they are missing Sharp and Hossa, but championships are not won with your top two lines. Until the oppositions’ D starts turning black and blue whenever they come through Chicago, no one should believe any of the hype. And, let’s not fool ourselves; with the number of one-goal games that were won during the streak, the Blackhawks could just as easily be battling it out for 6-8 in the West right now, rather than trying to hold on desperately to the top spot.

  33. nklnlkawj says:

    They need to sit Sharp down and tell him to shut up and play center. They won a cup with him there, he’s good in the spot, and having him on the wing just creates too large a hole on the team.

  34. HMwinsall says:

    I agree with Raiger We need size, grit, and physicality, without adding all of these elements, this is, once again, a one-and-done team come the postseason. We Need Dustin Byfuglien or John Scott. Bolland allows Kane and Sharpie to score, he is a great two player. The teams chemistry is perfect except we need a Biggin. Jimmy Hayes needs to step up!

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