The Blackhawks’ need for a second line center is nothing new. It goes back a ways, even the year the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2009-2010.
That season, it was Patrick Sharp manning the middle on that second unit for most of the season. In fact, Stan Bowman made it a point to mention that when the Hawks didn’t pick up an impact center this past summer.
As we now sit in the middle of February, the Blackhawks’ nine-game losing streak notwithstanding, the team is still without a true option on the second line, and don’t appear to be close to finding one.
Marcus Kruger has been decent on that unit, depending on his linemates, but he continues to prove that he still needs to get stronger if he’s going to absorb top six minutes. Dave Bolland doesn’t win faceoffs consistently enough and that trade for Brendan Morrison is already looking pretty questionable.
Which raises the question as to why haven’t the Blackhawks put Patrick Sharp on that second line yet?
Sharp is one of the more versatile players in the National Hockey League. He’s a top wing in the league, but he can also be an above average center, when the situation calls for it. He typically hovers around 50 percent at the dot, finishing with a percentage of 48 in 508 draws in 2010-2011.
But if the Hawks are so desperate for help in the middle, why does Joel Quenneville continue to put him out on the wing? There’s only one real reason that comes to mind, and it’s quite obvious: his wrist.
Sharp injured his wrist against the Detroit Red Wings in January and didn’t return until the first game of this nine-game road trip for the Hawks. The wrist was/is fractured and could require surgery in the offseason, which has prompted rampant speculation as to whether or not Sharp is playing injured.
There have also been whispers that Sharp doesn’t want to play in the middle. There’s no doubt Sharp is more comfortable out on the wing, and he shoots the puck more than anyone when he’s there, but I doubt he’d refuse to play center if Q moved him there.
As of right now, the Hawks are able to get by with Kruger holding down that line, but that could be different come playoff time, especially considering that Kruger has been moved to the wing quite a few times in recent games. Of course, that’s assuming the Blackhawks are able to make the postseason at this point.