Chicago Blackhawks Must Bench Michal Handzus
In Thursday night’s 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks delivered another disturbingly anemic offensive performance. At the head of the disappointment was Michal Handzus, who Joel Quenneville bizarrely decided to give 17 minutes of ice time — as much as Marian Hossa.
Handzus has been a complete non-factor on the offensive side of the puck all season long, and on the whole has performed dreadfully in 2013-14. He hasn’t scored a goal since December 27 — a stretch which spans 31 games — and has managed to register only a pathetic four assists in that period.
Four assists in 31 games would be weak production for a fourth-line grinder. For a player like Handzus who has been (inexplicably) spoon-fed regular minutes alongside the likes of Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, it is inexcusably atrocious production.
Quenneville has nevertheless chosen to continue using Handzus in a scoring role, as evidenced by the ice time distributions against Boston on Thursday. This decision was, to put it bluntly, egregious to an almost ridiculous degree; Handzus is likely the least able offensive player on Chicago’s roster.
Looking one statistical step further than goals and assists makes Chicago’s No. 26 look even worse. Handzus is the only forward on the Blackhawks’ roster not on the fourth line who has a negative relative corsi, and it is decidedly negative at that. When conflated with the fact that he starts more than 60 percent of his shifts in Chicago’s offensive zone, the advanced numbers are perhaps even more representative of Handzus’ utter ineffectiveness than his point totals.
Chicago has a number of issues to deal with at the moment, the absence of Kane being the largest one. Still, the negative impact of Handzus on whichever linemates he plays with has become painfully obvious, and the Blackhawks would be much better if they gave his ice time to the many other roster players who are more capable.
The man called “Zeus” has had a proud career that deserves respect, but Quenneville and the Blackhawks must unequivocally stop living in the past. Handzus has been a steadily deleterious presence on the ice all season long. A change is long overdue.