Chicago Blackhawks Have a Playoff Lineup Conundrum

By Paul Chancey
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is over. Now comes the fun part of hockey season (honesty and sarcasm intended) — the playoffs. The Chicago Blackhawks are set to play their arch-rival St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs, and there are a couple questions that must be answered. The one that will be asked today is, “Who should be in the Hawks’ lineup?”

The injuries to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane caused a few hands to wring. However, several Blackhawks stepped up in the meantime to take over for Kane and Toews, and one of them was Jeremy Morin. Morin had been “languishing” in the AHL‘s Rockford Icehogs for much of the season. “Languishing” is in quotes because ever since the trade of Brandon Pirri, he’s been the Hawks’ best prospect aside from a certain Finn. He’s scored four goals in five games and had a four-game points streak near the end of the season.

The other possible lineup issue is Joakim Nordstrom. Nordstrom has also been playing in Rockford, and he has gotten better since the beginning of the season. Nordstrom may be a center in the playoffs.

And then there’s Brandon Bollig. He’s had what could be considered a breakout year, but even he’s not sure he’ll get regular starts in the playoffs. Of course, I’ll bet that Bollig would relish a chance to face his hometown Blues in the first round, so he could make it into the lineup at some point.

Suffice to say, a lot of fans and pundits are asking for who should and who shouldn’t be included in the lineup. Head coach Joel Quenneville discussed the problem, saying that he liked having lineup controversies near the end of the season.

But neither of them are really guaranteed. Quenneville has made his preference for older players, such as Michal Handzus, clear. I have already stated multiple times that Handzus is too old and slow for the playoffs. His time is over. Unfortunately, it’s possible Quenneville will keep him in the lineup, despite the Slovak veteran’s poor play. He may be saying that he’s not ready to retire, but I say differently.

If there is such a thing as a “good problem”, this is it. The Hawks are deep, which should scare opponents, but it does present a conundrum that isn’t easy for Quenneville to answer. For the sake of opinion, Morin is more than ready and should play. As for Handzus, he should be given an honorable discharge at the end of the season. Give Nordstrom a shot, too. I’m not sure how well he’ll do, but it will be interesting to see.

Other than that, the Hawks’ lineup is set and ready to go.

Paul Chancey is a Chicago Blackhawks writer for Follow him on Twitter at @ChanceyPaul and add him to your network at Google+.

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