As of Wednesday, all signs point to the Blackhawks adding Ben Smith to their NHL roster within the next couple days.
The first was the placing of Rostislav Olesz on waivers. That move came as a surprise to very few, as it looks like Olesz is Rockford bound. However, that also led to the question of whether or not the Hawks would leave the roster at 22, rather than call up someone to ride the pine pony.
Then there was the fact that Smith was a healthy scratch for the Icehogs on Wednesday. Given his torrid stretch recently, there’s no other reason that I can think of for Smith to be scratched, other than for a callup.
But as popular as it might be with the fans, is calling up Ben Smith the right thing for the Blackhawks to do?
As it stands right now, their top six is locked in. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp are cemented in there, and it looks as if Joel Quenneville plans to keep Dan Carcillo and Viktor Stalberg up there for now as well.
On the third line, Dave Bolland isn’t moving, despite starting Wednesday’s victory over the Canucks centering the fourth unit. And it’s impossible to think that Michael Frolik would be moving down. To Bolland’s left, Andrew Brunette could stay, or Bryan Bickell could decide to wake up and rejoin the “Rat Pack”.
Essentially, what the Hawks would be looking at is calling Smith up to be a fourth line player, if he’s even in the lineup at all. With Brunette or Bickell on the fourth line, Jamal Mayers on the right, and Marcus Kruger in the middle, there looks to be no room for Smith. And it’s not as if anyone, save Bickell, is looking to relinquish their roster spot, especially with the team rolling.
Last year, Ben Smith was a great story. He proved he can hang in the NHL and is afraid of very little. His overtime goal in Game 6 of first round against Vancouver last season has left many clamoring for him to return to the lineup. But, at least as of right now, it’s not a fit.
Smith is doing well for himself in Rockford. He has 10 points in nine games, including six goals. With the Blackhawks’ lineup pretty well set for now, pending another injury, why call him up? Leave him in Rockford and let him get the playing time that he deserves.
It’s certainly a move that could make some sense down the line for the Blackhawks, if Bickell continues to perform poorly, or Stalberg falls off the face of the earth, but at this moment in time, it makes more sense for the Hawks to just leave Smith with the Icehogs, as painful as that might be for many to admit.