The Chicago Blackhawks and coach Joel Quenneville have developed an excellent blend of veteran leadership with youthful energy and grit. Thanks to that, the team has won a Stanley Cup, retooled and won another championship all in a four year span. On a day-to-day approach, their personnel allows Quenneville the chance to delegate ice time based on performance and situation.
This has already been proven multiple times this season as the Blackhawks adjust to the rigors of an 82-game NHL season. However, the one player showing consistent mediocrity remains Michal Handzus. Regardless of whether he was on the second-line with Patrick Kane or centering the fourth-line, Handzus has struggled to generate any offense from the center position.
Handzus has failed to register a point since Dec. 28, and during that span of eleven games he has seen his ice time along with linemates Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg drop dramatically. Much like opponents on the ice, coach Quenneville is leaving Handzus behind.
Defensively, the story is a little better thanks to Handzus’ consistency developed during his 14 years in the league. Albeit underwhelming, at least the consistency is there. Despite having a minus-4 rating during the month of January, Handzus has an even rating for the season. He also has a 1.29 turnover ratio, albeit only having nine takeaways, and a faceoff percentage of 50.5. In addition, he has blocked 24 shots thanks to his time on the penalty kill. It’s not that Handzus is playing awful; it’s simply that the Blackhawks are very good, exacerbating the fact that he is only an okay player at this point in his career.
Many clamor for Brandon Pirri to be called up from the AHL in order to at least rotate in with Handuzs if not replace him entirely. While that not only would be difficult to do contractually, Pirri is still not as defensively sound as Handzus. Although there certainly is an upside, Handzus’ presence in the locker room and on the bench is invaluable. If the Blackhawks wish to make another playoff run they will have to use Michal Handzus, not Brandon Pirri. Consistency and minimal risk is the route best traveled in this situation as it should be for the rest of the season.
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