The Blackhawks Still Need A Center

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, 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.

17 thoughts on “The Blackhawks Still Need A Center

  • November 10, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    This is actually a good idea. Schmaltz has shown flashes but is far from any kind of consistent production at this point. His best stretch was that stint with Toews and Panik. Why not try and reunite that line and put Saad with Anisimov and Kane?

    Either way, without Schmaltz at center, we will have the puck more, because he won’t be taking faceoffs. Plus, his defensive shortcomings aren’t as harmful on the wing.

    Any combo of Schmaltz – Kane -Saad- Panik/Hartman at wing in the top 6, with Toews – Anisimov at center, might be a better thing than what we have been seeing.

  • November 10, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    20 19 14,
    8 15 88
    48 Highmore 38
    10 57 40
    Send Debrincat down and make move to 7 D.

  • November 10, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Anisimov is up to 52% at the dot this year, we’ll done Artem.

  • November 10, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    #Tab for GM

  • November 10, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Not a Center but this is fabulous news for the Hawks. This tweet :

    Steve Kournianos? @TheDraftAnalyst
    6m6 minutes ago

    #HE: Northeastern LHD Ryan Shea (CHI 4th/2015) is an absolute stud. He always offered pure offensive skill but his reads and game below the circles are excellent. Only a sophomore but he looks NHL ready to me.

  • November 10, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    One point about needing a Center.

    The Panerin trade has had a negative ripple effect that’s pretty mind boggling.

    #1) Saad is not scoring.
    #2) He has not reinvigorated Toews
    #3) The trade broke up the vaunted Panerin-Anisimov-Kane line
    #4) Kane has not been his usual offensive force since the Panerin trade.
    #5) Anisimov no longer looks like a #2 Center w/out Kane and Panerin as his linemates.

    That’s lot of tentacles to what seemed like the trade of a pure scorer(Panerin) for a power forward (Saad).

  • November 10, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Craig how do you think Panarin is doing in Columbus? That’s right they are Ass right now and he hasn’t done much.

    You say Sasd was brought in for Toews and that’s right and that line was going well and shouldn’t have been broken up. Btw Phil Kessel was brought in for Crosby as well and guess what he ended up with Malkin. Speaking of Crosby what has he been doing lately. He hasn’t scored in 10 games and McDavid hasn’t done much yet either and they are the two best in the world.

    I’m watching the pens caps game now and the Pens are pathetic.

  • November 10, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Also the caps PP hasn’t looked that great either. Jesus they have Ovie, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Karlson and Oshie talk about stacked and watched Ovie missed the net more times than Shaq’s free throws

  • November 10, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    my bet is Hjarlmasson can be traded back to the blackhawks…

  • November 10, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    This isn’t a novel premise — I was advocating this after the Hawks were eliminated by Nashville and throughout the playoffs and summer. Faceoffs remain an eyesore.

    On an unrelated note, Roszival must have passed along the incriminating photos of Q to Forsling, because unless he is injured, there is no way Q will ever healthy scratch him. Meanwhile, Kempny sneezes the wrong way and is back in the press box. There is something inherently wrong with this scenario. Kempny is farther along in his development and brings more to the table (he is physical, he can make rushes out of his own better, etc…) than Forsling, yet he continues to get his chain yanked.

    One would think Roszival would have passed along the Q photos to his countryman Kempny, but that wasn’t the case.

  • November 10, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Iceman your words are a stinging and valid commentary on Q and his stubborn ways. Time for a change of voice and perspective on this team
    He must go. No longer effective or gaining all-important buy-in with players. Great run but done. Like Ditka. It happens because its whats needed.

  • November 11, 2017 at 12:42 am

    Agree so obvious that Kempny is much more developed physically and way more ready than Forsling, but Q has decided that since a Little Gustav reminds him of his beloved Hjalmarsson, he is going to be the 2nd coming of NH.

    Btw, NH is physically broken down, Stan’s timing in trading him was not necessarily bad. NH is hurt and when healthy just looked average at best for Arizona. The problem is, in a defenseman deficient league, Stan did not get much of a return. Murphy seems to be in the Rundblad mold in that he was rushed to the NHL because he was a 1st round pick, not developed properly and now Q is going to tear down his confidence even further + Dauphin. Not enough if you ask me.

  • November 11, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Agree with the Kempny comments above-he should be playing top 4 minutes all the time. Some insight from Craig about a warrior-NH who gave his all for many years.

    (I think this can be said about the captain as well-his style of play along with winning three Cups has taken a toll-he showed his grit a couple of games ago, but it’s hard to do that game after, year after year–he takes too much of the heat-)
    he’s making 10.5 because he earned it and he’s not going to turn it down so we need to get use to it and move on. He will not show the results to merit that money-period.
    Can we get 88 out of his funk? He gets frustrated but he has 10.5 million (actually 13.8) reasons to fight thru it.

  • November 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Lots of good ideas. Have to try something. The way the Icehogs are playing lately you might as well shake up their line up too.

    The problem with bringing Hinostroza up is who gets sent down to open a roster spot? I believe Hayden, Schmaltz and DeBrincat are the only forwards who wouldn’t have to pass through waivers.

  • November 11, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Phillip Danault: 54% FO on the year, along with 10 points. The struggle for ONE MORE MERELY COMPETENT CENTER has been an issue for every non cup season for a decade, and he’s playing in MTL.

    I shan’t Wall on and on about this after every game, but every once in a while I get a chance to bring up the single worst Bowman move, and this was quite the opportunity.

    Lots of growing pains, and it’s a bummer that Schmaltz didn’t turn into a C in the offseason.

  • November 11, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Arty has similar/same faceoff %.

  • November 11, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Think it’s time to pull the trigger on Q and the staff. Not complaining but the cup run is over. Question is how do you go forward? Trade what you can for picks? Play kids and see what you have? Who’s even tradable? I don’t know but I’m thankful for the run and confident things won’t return to the dark ages of the pre Toews Kane era.

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