The Chicago Blackhawks have had a fantastic season to this point. There’s no disputing that.
A large part of the reason for that success is the improved play of the blue line. Those improvements came despite minimal changes to the personnel on the blue line, with the exception of the short/cheap deals for Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival.
Initially, it was assumed that the two would rotate in as the sixth defenseman until Steve Montador was healthy again. That’s essentially the way it has played out, only we don’t know how long until Montador will return after his supposed conditioning stint in Rockford (if he returns at all).
But as far as Brookbank and Rozsival go, there’s really no question of how the two should be inserted in the lineup. There shouldn’t be a rotation of any sort between the two. Rozsival should be the sixth guy in the lineup on defense on an every game basis. Starting right now.
Rozsival hasn’t been immune to the occasional defensive breakdown, but he’s been very solid for the Blackhawks this season. And much more consistent than Brookbank.
He’s appeared in 14 games on the year, to Brookbank’s 16. He has seven points on the year and is a very solid plus-11. Though you have to consider those 14 games a small sample space, Rozsival’s Corsi is looking very good, at 16.2 right now. Brookbank in contrast to that, is well into the negative. Brookbank has also demonstrated something of a penchant for poorly timed penalties this season.
Brookbank’s play has been a bit shaky throughout the season, and it has been more noticeable as the season has gone on. Rozsival isn’t perfect, but he’s less prone to making errors in his own end and actually helps out in the offensive end. Which is why the Blackhawks need to seriously consider having him in the lineup every night, and making Brookbank a press box regular.