Chicago Blackhawks Roster Breakdown: The 4th Line

Now that the Chicago Blackhawks appear to have their roster set for the 2011-12 season, we can start looking forward to coach Joel Quenneville’s potential lines.

In this first edition of our series looking at the Hawks forward depth chart, we’ll focus on the fourth line for the coming campaign.

In a dramatic change from last year, the Blackhawks will actually have a bench with NHL veterans on it this year. With a full roster, and a number of prospect fighting for a roster spot, Quenneville will have to make a decision each night regarding who dresses and who doesn’t; last year, he and Stan Bowman had to figure out if they could afford to replace someone with a kid from Rockford on a few occasions.

A number of faces spent time on the fourth line last year, but the players with the most regular action at the bottom of the depth chart were Ryan Johnson, Jake Dowell, Viktor Stalberg and Fernando Pisani.

This year, it would appear that Stalberg will be back on the fourth line. He bounced anywhere between the second and fourth lines last year, scoring 12 goals with 12 assists while averaging 10:42 in 77 games last season.

It makes sense Stalberg, 25, would be on a line with another youngster from Sweden, center Marcus Krüger. The 21-year-old has been shown a great deal of respect by the Hawks front office, and appears to be in line to get every opportunity to play in the NHL on a regular basis; having someone on his line sharing a common native language will make his transition to playing in North America easier.

How the fourth line is completed will be anyone’s guess. Free agent addition Jamal Mayers would figure to be the best bet for regular ice time. Mayers, who will turn 37 on Oct. 27, had 124 penalty minutes and 14 points in 78 games last year, and can play center or wing. He’s a strong, physical veteran who should help some of the younger forwards on the roster find open space on the ice.

Also in the mix for fourth line will be free agent acquisitions Brett McLean and Daniel Carcillo, rookie Jeremy Morin and Rostislav Olesz, who was acquired from Florida in the trade sending Brian Campbell to the Panthers.

Because of his size – and contract – Olesz might be the most intriguing player on the Blackhawks roster this fall. Listed at 6’1 and 215 pounds, Olesz scored 14 goals in two of the last four seasons with the Panthers. He’ll turn 26 just a few days after Opening Night and has three more years with a $3.15M cap hit left on his deal. Olez missed the end of last year with a knee injury.

Carcillo played in only 57 games in Philadelphia last year, but still managed to earn 127 penalty minutes in limited action. In 133 combined games over the last two full seasons with the Flyers, Carcillo posted only 28 points while being whistled for 344 penalty minutes.

McLean signed a two-way deal, which makes sending him to Rockford an easier process than if one of the team’s veterans was sent down. He spent the last two years in the Swiss-A league, posting 60 points in 87 combined games. McLean has not played in the NHL since 2008-09, when he registered 19 points in 80 games with Florida.

Similarly, Morin could be a loser in a numbers game for the NHL roster to start the year. However, Morin missed the end of the year with concussion issues, and some time in the AHL might better serve him long-term than jumping straight into the NHL.

The Blackhawks have not replaced Johnson’s ability to win faceoffs, but have made significant additions to the team’s size and physical play by adding Mayers and Carcillo to the roster. They should have a better scoring ability on the fourth line this season, and won’t let teams push them around any more either.

12 thoughts on “Chicago Blackhawks Roster Breakdown: The 4th Line

  • July 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I hope to God they don’t put Morin or Kruger on the 4th line.. Neither one of them are 4th line players so you don’t put them there while they’re still developing.

    Thats how you ruin prospects

  • July 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm


    Where else would you put them??? With Kane and Toews? Let them be together and learn together it’s the best way.

  • July 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Jason, the best thing for them is to get first line minutes in Rockford, until they get an opportunity on the 1-2 line later in the season if/when an injury pops up. Giving them limited minutes on the 4th line is just not the optimal choice this season.

  • July 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I’d bet the farm Morin won’t be on the 4th line, ever. If he gets PT with the Hawks this year, it’ll be on one of the top 3.

    And I can’t see Kruger on the 4th line either, not if they want it to be a crash-and-bang line. I could see Smith/Mayers/Carcillo though. And Stalberg showed late last season that he can use his body better than expected, so he’s another option. Still can’t figure out what they’re going to do with Olesz. He’s going to be almost as controversial as Campbell.

  • July 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    As soon as I read the suggestion that Kruger could be on the fourth line, I had to decided that I needed to comment about that. Good thing Jay, Steve, and Cam beat me to the punch. Go ‘Hawks!

  • July 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    If I were a gambling man, Morin & McLean start the year in Rockford; that would serve both players best this year and long-term.

    As I continue with the series regarding lines to begin the season I’ll answer the comments/questions re: Krüger. I do, however, want to emphasize that these projections are for Opening Night, not April 10… Krüger might be centering higher than the 4th line in March, but he won’t be in October.

  • July 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Putting Morin and Kruger on the 4th line is a bad idea IMO. They have top 6 talent and need to play more than 10 minutes a night so 4th line duties would be detrimental for their development. I see both of them starting the season in Rockford to get more professional experience, and expect to see them called up during the season to fill in on the 2nd line. To me that’s the best case scenario…don’t rush along our prospects, get them more than ready on the farm so when they do come up they’ll be impact players, instead of plugs like we had last year!

  • July 25, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Practicing w/ guys like Hossa & Toews is detrimental to their development? wholeheartedly disagree. And while Morin & Kruger DO have top-six talent, they don’t have a top-six game yet. As I’ve said before, Morin probably starts the year in Rockford after missing a big part of last year, but Kruger (right now) is the 4th-best center on the roster. You’re also forgetting/ignoring the reality I previously posted: these lines are projecting Opening Night, not March or April… and Quenneville rarely skates the same lines from one period to the next, much less for an entire season.

  • July 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Practicing with the guys is one thing, but not playing quality minutes isn’t going to help them improve their games. I think you’d agree that if Morin and Kruger are with the Hawks, they won’t be slated for top 6 at this point in their development. Yes they’d get to practice with the big boys which does have some merit, but if they’re only playing 8-10 minutes a night on the 4th line, that’s not really what the kids need in order to improve, especially if they are considered to be top 6 prospects. The nice luxury the Hawks now have is the ability to not rush these kids into roles they aren’t suited for, and these two are NOT 4th line players, so in my opinion putting them there to play limited minutes in a crash and bang agitation role is not what the Hawks will want to do with them…I may be wrong, but to me that would make little sense.

  • July 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    To put these 3 as the 4th line is makes no sense. Meyer will center Carcillo and either. Stalberg, Olesz, Bickell or Smith.
    The Hawks added muscle this offseason because it 4th line had none. Now you have Kruger and Stalberg there. Neither are tough to play against. one will be there not both. The only way Kruger breaks camp is as a 2nd or 3rd line Center. That means Sharps at wing. Very Doubtful for October

    Practicing with Hossa & Toews is Beyond worthless. Have you ever watched one? The screw around more than they skate. Kruger needs to add weight and adjust to the North American games . You do that by practicing and playing in the AHL . To quote Allen Iverson… Practice… PRACTICE, Your talkin PRACTICE?

    Kruger, Morin, Possibly Smith could all start the season in Rockford. If Olesz and Stalberg have a good camp.

  • July 25, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Bang on, John-O. Couldn’t agree more.

  • July 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks Mike…

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