The Chicago Blackhawks are off to a decent start this season, but it’s their lack of consistency in the offensive end that has their offense as anything but a sure thing moving from game to game. Joel Quenneville has been tinkering with the lineup quite a bit, and isn’t anywhere near done.
The sending down of Joakim Nordstrom opens up an additional roster spot, and their lineup could take on another different form when they hit the ice on Tuesday night. One change that should be made is an increased role for center Brandon Pirri.
Coming into the season, Pirri was a player to watch. A point-per-game guy in the AHL, Pirri was expected to get a crack at the second line center spot in the preseason, but injury set him back and he never really saw that opportunity, leaving the role to the slower-than-molasses Michal Handzus. In his most recent callup, though, Pirri has been fantastic, albeit in a limited sample size.
Through three games up with the Hawks this time around, Pirri has three points in three games, including a pair of goals. His most recent outing featured a goal and an assist. He’s been called up multiple times in the past, but this finally looks to be the time where he’ll stick in the lineup. So much so that he should be given an opportunity on the second line.
The Blackhawks don’t have a wealth of options at that center spot on the second unit. Handzus is nothing more than a stopgap at the position until the Hawks find a better option. The cement in his skates holds back his wingers from reaching their offensive potential from game to game. There are no such problems with Pirri.
Quenneville has come out and said that his desire is for Pirri to work his way up and earn that spot. There’s no better way for Pirri to show that he’s earned it than giving him a crack at it and seeing how he fares. Get Handzus to the fourth line, limit his minutes, and give Pirri a shot. At this point, he may represent their best option in the middle of that second unit.