Despite winning their second Stanley Cup title in the last four years, the Chicago Blackhawks head into the 2013-14 with a question that looks awfully similar to one they seem to have every year: who will serve as the pivot on the second line?
The Blackhawks have been searching for stability in the middle of that unit for what seems like ages. Michal Handzus did a serviceable job there in the second half of the year and in the postseason, but the Hawks have already come out and said that he’d serve as the fourth line center.
With Handzus on the fourth unit, and Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw locked into their spots on the first and third line, respectively, who will take over in the middle for the Hawks on the second unit? There are two favorites for the spot at this point.
One is Marcus Kruger. There are a few things working against Kruger. The first is that he has served primarily a defensive role in the last couple of years. We don’t know if he has enough offensive upside. And he can’t win a faceoff. But he is intelligent with the puck and could likely be a solid playmaker in the right scenario, which playing between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa certainly is.
The other candidate is Brandon Pirri. There have been whispers that the Hawks weren’t as high on Pirri as they had previously been, but the trade of Dave Bolland and quickly announcing Handzus as the man on the fourth line could mean the complete opposite. This is Pirri’s shot to prove he can stick. If he can, he knows how to handle the puck and is a solid playmaker.
There could be others that could be in the mix. Drew LeBlanc is one that comes to mind after signing a two-year deal. But at this point in time, Kruger and Pirri could be the two to see the longest look when training camp rolls around. But which one has the edge? Stay tuned.