The Chicago Blackhawks are now topping the Power Rankings of Sports Illustrated and ESPN, the youngsters have won seven straight games and have swept the first half of their Circus Trip. The excitement surrounding the team is already at perhaps the highest point this organization has felt in nearly 20 years.
And now arguably the best, certainly the most accomplished, player on the roster will join the team for the first time.
On Wednesday night in San Jose, the Blackhawks will unveil their new toy for the first time. Marian Hossa will bear the Indian Head sweater in a game, as the Hawks play the Sharks in what could be a Western Conference Finals preview.
Hossa will play right wing on the Hawks top line, where Patrick Kane will move from right to left to accommodate the All Star. Jonathan Toews, who has been remarkable winning faceoffs this year, will center what could prove to be one of the best lines in the game.
But how much should the Hawks’ fans realistically expect from Hossa?
Last year, Hossa led the Western Conference Champion Detroit Red Wings with 40 goals, and pitched in 31 assists. Obviously, the reality that he’s missed 22 games will change his production this year, and it’s hard to imagine that he’ll step on the ice and instantly be a point-per-game performer.
Another reality for Hossa, though, is that he’ll be joining an already-dynamic offense.
With Kane leading the way, the Hawks are certainly not a team that’s only one line deep on offense. While the team’s leader, Kane, has just 23 points, there are 10 Hawks in double-digits. And that’s with center Dave Bolland on the injured reserve with six points in only 13 games.
Hossa was brought in because he’s a finisher; he’ll join a roster on Wednesday that has four players with at least 13 assists. Kane, Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp have consistently spread the wealth all season, but Kane being the only Hawks player with more than seven goals, there hasn’t been one player putting the puck in the net regularly.
The fact that the Hawks have as many players contributing as they do has been a blessing and a curse; teams haven’t been able to load up against just one line, but the Hawks haven’t been able to consistently turn to one or two players (other than Kane) to make something happen.
Hossa will now be looked at as potentially that guy in the offense.
As trade winds continue to swirl around the Hawks, names like Sharp and Kris Versteeg occasionally come up among the forwards while, more predominantly, the names of defensemen Cam Barker and Brent Sopel have been in the papers and blogs.
If the Hawks move a forward, it probably wouldn’t be until after the dust settles from Hossa being added to the lineup. If Hawks GM Stan Bowman saw reason to move a key contributor like Sharp or Versteeg, Hossa would have to perform well enough to justify the deal.
Because of the eventual deals the Hawks will have to make because of salary cap contraints, to say this Hawks roster is a finished product would be foolish. So trying to guess what the scoring dynamic will be on the roster in January, March or, gulp, June is impossible to do today.
One thing a fan can do, though, is look back at Hossa’s resume. He has been a part of some special lines; you would assume that of someone that was a key contributor on consecutive Cup Finals teams. He has also consistently produced everywhere he’s played.
So whether he’s playing next to Toews and Kane, between Sharp and Versteeg, or on the third line with John Madden and Andrew Ladd or Dustin Byfuglien, Hawks fans can rest assured that Hossa will put up numbers.
There should be some tempering of the expectations on Wednesday, as Hossa admittedly doesn’t have full strength in his shoulder yet. But as this season progresses, Hossa’s role on the Blackhawks will go a long way in determining not only who gets traded, but whether or not Hossa plays in the Finals for a third straight year.