Even In Success, Center Depth A Concern For Chicago Blackhawks

By Randy Holt
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Bolland is injured again. Yes, the sky is blue and water is wet.

After playing in 82 games last season, Bolland has already experienced injuries twice this season. The first one required him to miss only a game, and the second one leaves him with day-to-day status. Regardless of how long it keeps him out, two injuries for a guy who carried the injury-prone label into last year is not good.

Which raises the question of the center depth for the Chicago Blackhawks, once again. Just because this team is off to the best start in the history of the NHL doesn’t mean that the questions over their depth in the middle simply went away. They’re still there, especially when an injury takes place.

Right now, the Hawks only have four guys really capable of playing center on the roster, if you want to include Andrew Shaw, who has been much better of late. Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger are the other two, obviously. Which means that injuries in the middle are bad. Which is a completely obvious statement.

Which means that when someone goes down, like Bolland has twice this year, the (lack of) depth gets exposed. And the Blackhawks don’t have anyone really capable of filling in, unless you count Jamal Mayers, who no one actually wants to count.

If Bolland is going to miss multiple games, the Hawks could make a move to call up someone from Rockford. Perhaps Brandon Pirri would get a shot in that situation. He’d probably be the first. Or the Blackhawks could mistakenly attempt to transition someone to center (Brandon Saad). Or they could simply move Patrick Sharp to center, whether he likes it or not.

No matter how long Bolland ends up being out, and he may be back in action as soon as Sunday, or he could be out until the end of next week, the Blackhawks need to address their center depth. That’s not to say that they need to go out and acquire a top flight center capable of playing on the second line. Bolland has proven he can do that.

But they do need to take a long look at their personnel, both in Chicago and in Rockford, and consider adding someone capable of playing in the middle, in the event an injury takes place. At every other position, they have an emergency fill in. Even in goal, Ray Emery has shown he can actually play in several consecutive games if he has to. Should something bad happen to a center, though, the Hawks could find themselves in trouble.

Or they could sit on their hands and hope that Brandon Pirri could step up if they need him to. Neither would be a surprise.

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