When the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup this summer, there was no doubt that a few players wouldn’t be back, as is the case every year. A couple of those players were expected to retire. One player that some had expected would call it quits was Michal Handzus. That wasn’t the case.
Rather than call it a career, Handzus, who was a key piece down the stretch for the Blackhawks, signed a new contract to return to the Blackhawks for another season. Acquired from the San Jose Sharks prior to last year’s trade deadline, there’s no doubt that having him around was a benefit for the Hawks en route to another championship.
Handzus filled a larger role than expected. He came in and did what was expected of him as far as his role, winning faceoffs and killing penalties, but he also spent time up in the top six, logging minutes between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. He’s continued to skate with them into this season.
But it’s time for that to come to an end. Though it’s still extremely early in the season for the Hawks, and the patented Joel Quenneville line shuffling hasn’t quite started up yet, it might be time to at least consider getting Handzus off of that second line, and away from two of the Hawks’ stars.
It isn’t that Handzus isn’t an effective enough player to skate with them. Quenneville could throw a cardboard box between a pair of players like Sharp and Hossa and that box would get at least 25-30 assists. Of course, that cardboard box would also likely skate faster than Michael Handzus.
That’s the main issue here. Handzus simply isn’t quick enough to keep up with the likes of Sharp and Hossa, and it’s holding each of them back. Two games is a small sample size, no doubt, but each game has represented an extremely quiet outing for each of Sharp and Hossa. Having to wait for Handzus to catch up is a reason why.
The Hawks would probably be better off skating somebody like Marcus Kruger up there in that role. He doesn’t have the offensive chops, but he’s quick enough and can help generate a strong enough forecheck that he wouldn’t hold the line back. It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out, but at this point, it doesn’t appear that Handzus will be skating with Sharp and Hossa for long, as his (lack of) speed is clearly an obstacle.